Found in You: Page 32
It bothered me that there might be something about the situation that I didn't know, that Hudson hadn't chosen to share. But maybe Celia was simply making up excuses, not ready to let her parents know the truth. "Like I said, I don't know what I trust."
I cringed at her use of my name. No one called me Alayna but Hudson. It wasn't hers to use. It was his.
The door swung open behind us and someone walked in. We were both quiet until the woman took an empty stall.
"This is a bad time. But you have my number. Call me if you need anything. To sort things out or just to talk."
I hesitated. The evening had shown me many things, one of which was how easily keeping secrets could tear Hudson and me apart. I didn't want to keep lying to him. Perhaps this was a good opportunity to end my friendship with Celia. Maybe even come clean about our lunch dates thus far.
Seeming to sense my reluctance to "kiss and make up," Celia put her hand over mine. "I want things to work out for Hudson more than you can imagine. Believe me."
Celia gave one more sparkling white smile before exiting the restroom.
I pulled my phone out from my bra and considered deleting her contact info. It was certainly the safest. But, on the other hand, she'd been helpful to me providing insight that I lacked.
And she was important to Hudson. I didn't want to cause problems by being a divide between them.
Funny. The old me would have done just that. The old me, the one before therapy-that me would have made Hudson choose. Her or me. Now, as nice as it sounded to be free of the Werners, I had no desire to force an ultimatum.
And besides being incredibly unrealistic and unhealthy, I was pretty sure Hudson would never go for it.
It was only seconds after Celia walked out and I had stowed my phone back in my bra when Mira stepped into the vanity from the stall area. Since no toilets had flushed recently and I hadn't heard any running water, I realized she must have been standing around the corner for a while. Her face was more serious than I'd ever seen, and something about her expression made me feel unexplainably guilty.
"Hey," I said, trying to shake the strange feeling.
She pierced me with her brown eyes. "You were talking to Celia."
"Yeah." I put my hand on the vanity counter for support even though I hadn't done anything wrong. We were at a family get-together, eight of us in total. Should I really not be expected to talk to one of the other guests? To my boyfriend's only friend?
"I don't think you should do that anymore." Mira's voice was even and absent of any chiding.
She softened as she stepped toward me, her regular bubbly persona returning. "She's your competition, Laynie! I mean, Hudson is totally into you and no one but you, but Celia is after him. She's pictured herself married to him for so long, it's a done deal in her head."
"I know, I know." A strange pang of pity washed over me. Maybe Celia really didn't want Hudson, and everyone just kept saying that she did, accusing her of something that she'd long past outgrown. I knew how that felt. To be thought still crazy long after I'd gotten better.
Swallowing, I voiced the defense that surprised even me. "She says she doesn't, though. Want him, I mean. She really seems like she might be over him. She's been really supportive, actually."
Mirabelle fluffed the back of her bobbed hair. "Okay. Maybe that's true. I might be overreacting. But I've known her my whole life, and she hasn't always been the best person."
I could imagine what it looked like to Mira, when Hudson had left Celia heartbroken and devastated. To the young impressionable teenager that Mira must have been, it would be easy to blame Celia for the awfulness that had surrounded Hudson. Especially with her as devoted to her brother as she was.
But she was a grown-up now. She had to see the story was bigger than she'd once thought, even if she didn't know the details. "Hudson hasn't always been the best person either," I reminded her.
Disappointment flashed across her eyes.
"I'm not saying that I'm not for Hudson. I don't care what he's done or who he's been. Truly." I would stand by him no matter what shit he'd gone through, just like he stood by me and all the shit I'd done. "It's only that we've all been worse people." Except probably Mira. "At least, a lot of us have been worse people," I amended.
"I'm sure that's true." She stepped toward me, placing her hand lightly on my arm. "But, don't feel like Celia's your only resource, okay? If you need to talk, Laynie, call me. Or better yet, talk to Hudson."
My head was throbbing with all the back and forth-accuse Celia, defend Celia, trust Celia, don't trust Celia. Truth was, the only person I really needed to defend was Hudson. The only person I needed to trust was him.
Yes, he was the one I should turn to when I needed someone to talk to. He was the only one who mattered. The only one who knew how to calm me down. "I'll talk to Hudson. Good idea."
She grinned. "Sometimes I have them. Good ideas. Pregnancy brain and all."
Suddenly, I felt like I'd been away from Hudson for entirely too long and I ached to see him. The ache dissipated the moment we came out of the bathroom, and I found Hudson waiting, his posture strong and one hundred percent male, his eyes blazing at the sight of me. It never failed to make me weak in the knees.
With a wave, Mira headed toward our table on the heels of Celia. She must have lingered after leaving the bathroom. I had to guess she talked to Hudson. Which was fine. Totally fine. Expected, even. It wasn't her he was waiting for. It was me. Always.
Hudson took my hand when I approached him. "Are you ready to go?"
Despite not having finished my meal, leaving sounded heavenly. "I thought you'd never ask."
"Then let's get going." He seemed distracted as he pulled me toward the front of the restaurant, but who wouldn't be after the evening we'd had.
We'd nearly made it past the host's desk when Sophia stepped in front of us. "Were you planning on sneaking out without a proper goodbye?"
I rolled my eyes. But Hudson, level and controlled as always, merely raised a brow. "Were you waiting here to attack me in case I was?"
Sophia frowned, her Botox'd forehead barely moving. "Of course not. I stepped away to call for my car. It's impolite to do such things at the table." Her tone was chiding. As if it had been Hudson wrapped into his phone all evening instead of her other son.
Hudson's grip tightened on my hand. "I already said goodbye to you, Mother."
"You did." She nodded at me. "She didn't. In fact, I don't remember her saying hello."
My stomach tightened and a thousand harsh responses crossed my mind in the matter of half a second. Taking my lead from Hudson, I chose to remain cool. "Neither did you."
"No, I didn't." Her smile was tight, but her eyes brightened. Suddenly I understood that she enjoyed sparring with me. If I were smart, then I wouldn't react. That would take away her reward.
But perhaps I liked the banter as well, the challenge similar to a good game of chess. "Actually, I thought that was very clever of you, Sophia. The evening went fairly well when we were pretending each other didn't exist. Don't you think?"
"Thank you. It was purely unplanned, seeing as how I didn't know you were coming until an hour before when Hudson called to tell me." Sophia was teasing me, trying to rile me up by letting me know I hadn't been on the guest list. It would have been a brilliant play if I hadn't already known.
I played it smooth. "Oh, you did call, H? I thought you were leaving it as a surprise."
"Yes, I called while you were dressing. I decided that Sophia might be better behaved if she was prepared." Hudson fell right into my game. Though he preferred to keep me sheltered from his mother's antics, he was generally amused by the way I handled her.
Her back straightened, a direct contradiction to the way she must have felt, her move having been countered so effortlessly. "Yes, it did work out well. I'll remember the ignoring tactic for next time."
My turn. "Then you've finally accepted there will be a next time?" Check.
Her smile widened as if I'd walked into a trap. "I'm nothing if not realistic, Alayna Withers. The question remains how many next times there will be. I'm in Hudson's life permanently. Are you?"
My composure faltered, my shoulders tensing, my body preparing for a fight.
Hudson stepped in. "Mother, stop it. It's your birthday. Happy day to you. If you're miserable, it's only because you won't let yourself enjoy anything." He let go of me and hugged Sophia awkwardly, giving her a dry peck on the cheek.
For the millionth time, I wondered at the relationship between mother and son. It had taken far less for me to cut off my brother. Of course, that had only been two days before.
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