Hudson (Page 104)

Hudson (Fixed #4)(104)
Author: Laurelin Paige

I pause. “Yes. I think I am.” Because Alayna seemed like she was going to be okay. And that’s what matters most to my happiness. Still, until she asks me not to, I’m going to keep trying for another chance.

By the time I’m in my car, I’ve already bargained with myself regarding giving Alayna space. I can’t stay completely away, and though that’s perhaps the last thing she needs, I know she can understand being all-consumed. I decide that I can physically keep my distance, but only if I’m with her in other ways. A list of gifts is already forming in my head.

Most anything I’ll need can be ordered online, but there is one purchase I need to make in person. I head directly to Tiffany’s. Alayna said no to my first proposal, but I still have every intention of one day making her my bride. When I have the chance to ask again, I’ll be prepared. I purchase a three-carat brilliant cut diamond flanked by two baguette stones in a platinum setting. As soon as I see it, I know it’s hers. It’s beautiful and precious, just like she is.

That night, I start my gift giving. I have the Kindle delivered to her at work. She may hate it. She may give it away. She may throw it to the ground like she did her phone.

Or maybe she’ll accept it. Maybe she’ll even love it. I don’t know. I’ve never so easily second-guessed myself. Like everything new Alayna has taught me, this is another new concept—how to grovel.

When a text comes through a short while later, it’s her cell number. I close my eyes and say a silent wordless prayer before opening up the message.

Man, ur quite the talker. This is Liesl, btw.

I’m disappointed and confused for a moment. What did she mean by talker? Then I realize she’s referring to all the texts I’ve sent. Has she read any of them? I ask.

No. But I read a few. 🙂

I don’t care that she did. I’ll shout my words from the top of the Empire State Building if there’s a chance Alayna will hear what I have to say.

While I have Liesl’s attention, I take the opportunity to ask more about Alayna. I saw her today, but I want to know really. How is she?

Good. Considering. She won’t use the vibrator I offered.

I chuckle. And then I’m thinking about sex with Alayna. Missing it. I’ve tried not to let those thoughts enter my mind. We spoke to each other through our bodies, and remembering her beneath me, her mouth on me, her tongue sliding against my own—it adds a deeper level to the constant pain I feel for her. I’m hard at the memories, but I won’t touch myself. I’ll suffer because I know that beating off will only increase the loneliness.

Ignoring the ache, I concentrate on my texts. Is she eating? Sleeping?

She eats. She drinks. A lot. But that’s getting better. She’s sleeping on my couch. It’s a futon.

So we’ve both been sleeping on the couch. Somehow that gives me comfort. Are you home? Can you take a picture?

A few minutes pass, and then an image of a thin, worn mattress shows up on my phone screen. A message follows. You better not want this for something kinky.

Nothing kinky. And thank you. I just want to know where she’s spending her time. I want to be able to picture her as she sleeps.

If that’s not completely psycho, I don’t know what is.

I stare at the image a moment longer. I have the idea for my next gift now. I’ll order a new mattress for her. And one for me, just so I can feel we’re connected in our sleep.

Another message comes through. R u going to keep texting her?

I am. Do you think that’s okay? God, when did I get so needy?

Yeah. I do.

She sends another right away. I’m putting this down now. So u can go back 2 ur pining. I’ll try not 2 read 2 many of ur messages.

I know Liesl is on Alayna’s side, but I let myself think that maybe it’s also our side.

I’m restless before I even attempt to sleep. It’s the couch and the sleeping alone. I haven’t slept well in days.

Tonight, I decide to try something different. I pull out my iPad and look for a radio station. I tend to usually listen to the classics—Mozart, Brahms, Wagner. Alayna, on the other hand, loves to listen to modern songs, songs with words, music with a beat. Tonight I want to listen to what she’d be listening to if she were here. Something like it, anyway. I don’t know which label best describes what she usually plays so I select one at random from the Adult Contemporary section.

I don’t pay too much attention to the first song that plays—it’s halfway over and I’m settling in with my pillow and blanket. But the second song comes on, and I’m caught up in it immediately. The piano is lonely, haunting. A male tenor enters with the melody. It’s simple. Bluesy. Soulful.

And the words…

They tell the story of a man who’s drowning in his love for a woman. Drowning, but he can still breathe fine. The woman’s flawed, but to him, she’s perfect. She makes his head spin. She’s distracting and inspiring. And he’s so enamored with her that every part of him loves for every part of her. It’s a song about being open, about having no barriers. About loving with “all of me” and asking for “all of you” in return.

It’s everything that I feel for Alayna. Everything I want to say to her.

I sit up and look at the artist’s name and song title. John Legend, “All of Me.” I purchase the album and put the track on repeat. I have it memorized before I fade to sleep.

As I straddle the line between consciousness and unconsciousness, I decide that tomorrow I’ll go back to Tiffany’s. Alayna’s ring needs an inscription, and I know just what to say.

***

Sunday, she starts returning some of my texts. I’m elated, but I think I manage to keep my cool.

I continue sending her daily gifts, reminders from our relationship. I leave each one on her desk for when she arrives at work. Thursday, though, I leave nothing. Instead, I come into The Sky Launch during her shift and take a seat at the end of the bar. She barely speaks to me, but I’m happy just to sit and watch her. It’s meant to be reminiscent of the first time I spoke to her. The night before her graduation.

It seems like a lifetime ago now. So much has changed, and yet so much hasn’t. Her smile still lights up my world. Her eyes still draw me in and keep me hostage. She still is the most intriguing thing I’ve ever encountered.

I nurse a Scotch for an hour. Finally, I leave her an envelope with a hundred and a gift certificate to my Poughkeepsie spa. Then I leave.

I’m halfway to the parking garage when she calls after me. My heart pounds against my chest as I wait for her. I’m worried about the reasons she wants to talk to me. Also, I’m so f**king happy that she wants to talk to me.