Found in You


Found in You: Page 45



I desperately needed insight.

She didn't answer on her first ring so I did the hang-up and return call thing several times. In the midst of my fourth redial, my phone buzzed.

"Did you get my text? I'll be at the Waldorf this afternoon. Need to see you."

Goddamn Brian. I hadn't responded to his earlier message. How fitting was it that I had to deal with him today of all days?

"Text me when you're in. I'll come by."

I pushed Send then tried Celia again. This time she answered right away. "Hey, it's Laynie. Are you busy?"

"Uh, sort of. What's up?"

"I, um, need to talk." My voice cracked.

"Oh, no! What's wrong? You sound like you've been crying."

I hadn't been crying-I was crying. "I'd rather talk in person. Are you free to meet up?"

The elevator doors opened in the lobby of Pierce Industries. Dammit. Now I was surrounded by people. I hid my hair over my face, wishing I had my sunglasses, and hurried to the main doors.

"I could do later. Like, this afternoon. Would that work?"

"I don't know." I couldn't comprehend the next fifteen minutes, let alone hours ahead of now. "Let me think. I have to see my brother. Sometime this afternoon. Even though I don't want to. I don't know." I was repeating myself, my mind a fog.

I stepped out onto the street and walked until the glass doors turned into wall. I slumped against the brick. "I'm not really able to make any decisions right now."

"Okay, I get it. You're upset." Celia seemed distracted as she spoke. "You said your brother's in town? Brian? Is he staying with you at the penthouse?"

"God, no. The Waldorf. It's Brian's favorite place in the world."

"I'm doing a design install in the foyer at Fit Nation on Fifty-First. There's a coffee shop next door. How about we meet there around two? You'll be close to the Waldorf, as well."

Even though it was hours away, I felt better. Not great, but better. "Perfect. Thank you, Celia."

"Anytime."

I glanced at the digital clock before pocketing my phone. It was a little after nine. It felt like I'd packed a whole day into a short morning. Whatever I would do for the next few hours was beyond me.

"Ms. Withers?"

I looked up to find Jordan standing at the curb with the Maybach.

"Mr. Pierce suggested I drive you somewhere. To the penthouse or the club, perhaps?"

That was Hudson. Always looking out for me, even when I wanted nothing of the sort. It was actually a relief to have Jordan there. I'd been so muddled that I hadn't thought to text him for a ride.

With a reluctant gratefulness, I climbed into the back seat. "I don't want to be at the penthouse. The club, I suppose."

I spent the rest of the morning shuffling papers around in the office and staring at the blinking cursor on my laptop. I couldn't seem to get my mind to concentrate on anything. In the past when I felt stressed and unsettled, I resorted to old habits, fell into obsessive behaviors. Those patterns calmed and relaxed me with their compulsive nature. But instead of feeling the need to act, I felt the need to shut down-curl up in a ball and sleep until I felt nothing.

Fuck, I was screwed up. Still. I'd felt cured with Hudson, but I still didn't know how to handle emotions. I didn't know what normal people did when they hurt. I regretted missing my group session the day before. I needed it now.

Or at least I needed Lauren-my favorite group leader.

In the evenings, Lauren volunteered to lead Addicts Anonymous and some other groups at a Unitarian church nearby. I'd attended faithfully for years, only recently slipping into a part-time goer. But I hadn't found Lauren at Addicts Anonymous. I'd originally met her at Stanton Addiction Center, a rehab facility where she worked as a counselor during the day. I'd been a patient for a short time after I'd violated my restraining order with Paul. Brian, decent lawyer that he was, had been able to negotiate that instead of jail time.

It was a quarter to noon. If I hurried, I could probably catch her on her lunch break.


I texted Jordan and within twenty minutes I'd made it to the center.

I checked in at the front desk and got a pass to the staff wing. After finding Lauren's office dark, I went to the lunchroom for employees and spotted her with a group of orderlies laughing around the pop vending machine.

"Hey, girl." She stepped away from her friends when she saw me to give me a hug. "I was disappointed when I didn't see you yesterday at group."




I smiled tensely, eager to get her alone. "Sorry about that. Stuff came up."

"The fact that you sought me out here leads me to believe that it wasn't good stuff."

"Some of it was. Very good stuff. And some of it definitely not good stuff." I glanced toward an empty table in the back of the room. "Do you have time to talk?"

She held up the brown paper bag she'd been clutching. "As long as you don't mind me chowing down while you do."

"Chow away."

I didn't talk until we were seated at the table. Then, I filled Lauren in on the highlights of the past week-the shift in my relationship with Hudson, moving into the penthouse, seeing Paul again, the secrets I'd kept, and finally, what Hudson had done regarding David. I was quick about it, knowing that Lauren's lunch was only an hour. When I was done, I felt worn out, like I'd been throwing up for the last thirty-five minutes.

Lauren took a napkin and wiped her mouth, her lunch long finished now. "Well, that's quite a week of events. What have you learned by saying all of that out loud?"

This was one of her favorite therapy techniques-turning a venting session into an opportunity for self-examination. "I don't know." I was out of practice at this. I took a deep breath and thought a moment. "I see my culpability in Hudson's betrayal. I kept secrets from him first." It was difficult to admit, but crucial. How could I expect him to think that being honest and upfront was a must for me? I certainly hadn't demonstrated the same to him.

"Very good. What else?"

God, wasn't that one enough? I searched for more. "I've realized I don't know how to handle my feelings. I used to cling and obsess when I felt off. What am I supposed to do instead?"

"Exactly what you're doing. You deal with them constructively." Lauren sat forward, her hands clasped on the table in front of her. "Listen, honey, being healthy doesn't mean you don't feel things anymore. You will always feel things-good and bad, depending on the day, depending on the minute. That's called life. Being healthy is talking your emotions out, writing them down, realizing that you don't have to do anything to change them. Sometimes you just have to ride them out."

"Well, that sucks."

"Doesn't it?" She sat back in her chair. "There's something else I want to point out that I don't know if you're seeing."

Lauren usually avoided highlighting issues that her clients hadn't stumbled onto themselves. She believed that if someone couldn't yet see the forest, then they weren't ready to deal with it. If she was pointing it out to me, it had to be vital. I wrung my hands in my lap. "What's that?"

"Hudson-I don't know him personally, but his behavior sounds familiar."

For a minute I wondered if she'd encountered him at some point in therapy of his own. I knew barely anything about his treatment programs. I guessed it was possible.

But then I realized what Lauren was getting at. I felt the blood rush from my face. "You mean, he sounds like me. Like me in the past."

"Jealous, manipulative, deceitful." She ticked them off on her fingers, one horrible adjective per digit.

Hearing the words on her lips made my gut clench. "He's really not like that. You're making him sound worse than he is." Reducing Hudson to such vile behavior was wrong. He was so much more.

"I'm not making him sound like anything. Those are attributes you used to use to describe yourself in therapy." Lauren cocked her head. "Why do you think you were that way?"

A wave of memories cloaked me, things I'd rather not remember about myself, emotions I'd felt, motives for my behaviors. I always hated wading through the remembering to get to the learning. It made me nauseous and light-headed.

I closed my eyes to ground myself. "Because I felt unloved. Because I was desperate to get the guy I wanted. Because I didn't think there was any other way to get noticed."

"Do you think those might be the same reasons Hudson's done what he's done?"

I opened my eyes. His words from earlier replayed in my head. I'm merely staying committed to my plan-to you, Alayna. Everything I've done has been to protect our relationship and our future.

I had no doubt that he'd meant it. That he honestly believed he was doing what was best for us. It wasn't the right action, but his intent was decent. Moving, in fact. Was that a good enough excuse for what he'd done?

Lauren read my thoughts. "Look, I'm not validating his behavior

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