Chapter Description: It isn't just Anna in the nursery suffering. Ryan hs his own troubles. With rumours of him being "pussy whipped" spreading amongst the students he has been made an outcast in a country where making connections is priority number one for the students. However, with Anna in the nursery perhaps there is a way for Ryan to get back into everyone's good books...
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Ryan was sat alone in the cafeteria. Around him there were lots of loud and obnoxious males comparing their stories of conquest or talking about whatever they had been doing on their last night out. There was no one at Ryan’s table and he was eating his way through an apple at the end of his lessons. He would be going to pick up Anna in just a few minutes.
On a personal level Ryan couldn’t care less that he was seen as bit of an oddball. He had heard the whispers about him, the rumors that he was a soft touch and that he was “pussy whipped.” More than once Ryan had walked past other men and found them stopping whatever they were saying and watching as he went by. He thought most of them were annoying at best and insufferable at worst so eating alone didn’t bother him.
On a professional level Ryan was panicking. These people, as awful as they were, would be the future of business, industry and politics. They were the children of the elite, his own father had spent a minor fortune sending him here expecting his son to come back with the knowledge and contacts to be a future leader. To be a pariah among these people threatened to strangle his hopes of a career before he could even start.
Ryan really, really wanted to go into business. As much as he disagreed with his father in pretty much every aspect of his life he had to admit that he loved business. It had been all he ever wanted to be. When other little boys wanted to grow up as superheroes or astronauts Ryan was having pretend boardroom meetings with his stuffed toys.
In his weaker moments Ryan wondered if this was all worth it. He considered that maybe he was wrong and that the other men had it all right. There were times where he felt like he was giving up everything he ever dreamed of for no reason. When he thought about that he felt shivers go down his spine.
Shaking his head Ryan tried to get such thoughts out of his head. He was right and the rest of the country was wrong… right?
Ryan was saved from further rumination about his status by a most unexpected voice. Looking up from the table Ryan saw Paul standing in front of him along with some of the other guys he used to hang around with. Ryan hadn’t spoken to any of these men for quite some time, to see them all standing around him now was both unusual and a little intimidating.
“May I sit down?” Paul asked indicating the chair on the opposite side of the table.
“Of course.” Ryan replied as he sat up straight in his seat. He wasn’t sure what was going on and it was putting him on edge.
“We heard about Anna.” Paul smiled, “It took you long enough but I’m glad to hear you’ve caught on. It’s better late than never to grow some balls.”
“Well, actually I-…” Ryan started as Paul’s friends laughed.
“We’ve decided to give you a second chance.” Paul said. He held out his hands like he was being magnanimous.
“Oh, right…” Ryan said. Now it all made sense. They thought he had chosen to send Anna to the nursery as a way to punish her or something.
“Welcome back to the fold.” Another of the men said with a confident smirk.
This seemed to solve Ryan’s problems. If they believed he had “grown some balls” then he wasn’t going to correct them. If there was any way he could have both his wife and career he wasn’t going to turn his nose up at it. He didn’t feel comfortable though, it felt like there was something wrong or more to be said.
“Anna told me Jane was in there.” Ryan tried to sound casual as he tried to find out if there was a way to save the woman.
“Yeah, I sent the paperwork off this morning.” Paul sniffed. It didn’t seem to bother him at all that he was sending a woman to Finishing School, “As soon as it’s processed she’ll be off.”
“An eligible bachelor again.” Another of the guys said prompting some laughter. Ryan felt unwell.
Ryan realised that he was better than these people regardless. He occasionally had dark thoughts about what might happen if he acted more like Paul and treated Anna how Sallas said she should be treated but he would never actually do it. He would never do something that could hurt a fellow person like that. As he watched Paul casually sitting amongst his friends after sending a woman to be essentially tortured Ryan felt nothing but loathing.
Despite all of those negative feelings Ryan couldn’t hide the fact that he was also thrilled. If they truly thought he was like one of them perhaps his future wasn’t dead in the water after all. Maybe there was still a way for him to get everything that he wanted.
“It’s your turn to host the big end of week party by the way.” Paul said after a few seconds, “Well, technically it was last week but you were, you know, persona non grata.”
“Oh…” Ryan felt himself deflating a little, “I don’t know, could we postpone it a couple of weeks?”
Ryan’s suggestion was feeble and as he looked around he saw the other men looking at him with furrowed brows. The laughter and joy was gone and now Ryan saw what they were really thinking. They were suspicious. He was being given a second chance to prove himself but it was obvious he was on a tightrope. Ryan had wanted to delay things to give Anna time get prepared but now he saw that wasn’t an option.
“You know what…” Ryan smiled, “It’s fine. End of the week. Looking forward to it.”
“Good man.” Paul said with an approving nod, “Look, we know things have been a bit… tense recently. But it’s nothing that can’t be forgiven, eh? See you around.”
Ryan nodded and smiled something that he hoped looked genuine as the other men walked away. As he watched their backs retreating he realised how tense he had been for the whole time. He relaxed and tried to take a couple of deep breaths.
For all the happiness he felt that he was being accepted back into the fold it was all cancelled out by anxiety and fear. He knew Anna would not like this news and how could he really blame her. After the week she was having he was sure the last things she would want was to have to host a party. That wasn’t even mentioning that Ryan knew what these parties were like. He’d been to many before he had been ostracized. It was full of debauchery and as the men got drunker, rowdier and less inhibited it was usually the woman that was made to suffer unwanted advances. Things always felt like they had the potential to get really dark.
Ryan pushed his food away as he picked up his bag and left the table. He had to pick up Anna and he would welcome the walk giving him a chance to think. The air was cold but thanks to Sallas’s warm climate a cool evening meant little more than putting on a small jacket.
The walk to the nursery was short and Ryan had been so zoned out he had hardly registered his progress towards it. He was surprised when he looked up to see the nursery door right in front of him. He pushed the door open and walked inside, it looked the same as each of the previous days but this time Anna was waiting for him, she was standing as close to the door as Ryan supposed she could without getting in trouble. As soon as she saw him she walked over to stand next to him.
Ryan wasn’t exactly sure how to broach the subject of the party. Anna was quieter than usual which he guessed meant that she had had a bad day. That said he would certainly need to say something to her. He waited until they had got home and she had been able to have a shower.
“So… Paul spoke to me today.” Ryan began. Anna looked suddenly interested and Ryan realised she thought he might have news to save Jane, “It isn’t about Jane.”
Anna became decidedly less interested. Ryan took a deep breath.
“It looks like I’ve been invited back into the fold.” Ryan said with a small smile.
“That’s good.” Anna replied cautiously. Was Ryan crazy or did he get a hint of sarcasm behind the words?
“Yeah…” Ryan grimaced pre-emptively, “I have to host the weekend party.”
“Ryan…” Anna threw her head back.
“I know, I know.” Ryan said, “Look, I didn’t really get much say in the matter!”
“Did you try “no”?” Anna asked. There was no hiding the sarcasm behind those words.
Ryan had to admit that he hadn’t. All he had really suggested was delaying the party and even that had foundered under the merest resistance. Anna didn’t understand the pressure on him to agree though. He really didn’t have a choice, it was the only way he would have a chance at having a promising future which in turn would surely help out Anna.
“Jesus, Ryan, this week of all weeks?” Anna looked angry.
“I know it’s hard...” Ryan said softly.
“Do you?” Anna asked. She was definitely angry, “Do you know how hard it is? Going to that nursery every day, being humiliated, and seeing your friend just waiting to be sent away? Do you?”
Ryan sighed. He didn’t mean to imply it wasn’t very difficult for Anna and he knew that she knew that as well. By the time she had finished talking she had run out of steam, the pressure that had been threatening to burst out had dissipated.
“I’m sorry.” Anna said quietly, “It’s just been a tough day.”
“Want to talk about it?” Ryan asked.
“No.” Anna replied before her shoulders slumped and she felt a tight know of emotion in her throat, “Yes.”
Ryan sat down on the couch and patted the seat next to him. He was pleased to see his wife walk over and sink down into the seat. She leaned sideways against him and put her feet up on the couch cushions, her hear still had a faint smell of the shampoo she had used that morning. She didn’t immediately say anything. Ryan was about to prompt her when he heard her sniff loudly, she was shaking a little as she tried to hide her crying.
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