Needing something to occupy my time, I’d resorted to joining Mirabelle in my mother’s room as Sophia made her presentable for the evening’s rehearsal.
Chandler leaned against the doorframe. I could sense he was on the verge of giving up but not quite. “No one will miss me,” he said quietly.
“I’ll miss you.” My mother didn’t even try to make it sound like she meant it.
My brother and I exchanged a glance. I wasn’t close to Chandler—eleven years of separation made it difficult, not to mention I wasn’t the type to bond. But we were still family, and in that we shared the basest parts of our existence. We had the same parents, the same upbringing. We both knew that he could sneak away from the dinner and our mother would never notice.
Mirabelle knew this as well. Having remained quiet for the bulk of the conversation, she spun to face Chandler now. “I’ll miss you! So for one night, Chandler, can you forget about your friends and stay? For me?”
There wasn’t a person in the world who could say no to Mirabelle Amalie Pierce. The subject was dropped. Chandler left the room with a huff, but he’d stay for the night’s extravaganza.
It occurred to me that Mirabelle could have simply asked him to stay from the very beginning and saved the entire debate. I supposed she’d been giving Sophia a chance to be the mother. It was amazing, really, that she continued to do so. I started to wonder what it would take for Mirabelle’s faith to be broken and then caught myself. Those were the kind of thoughts that led to experiments. And no matter how desperate I was for a fix, I wouldn’t play on Mirabelle. I couldn’t.
I forced myself to concentrate on the scene at hand for distraction. Mirabelle sat at the vanity, my mother stood behind her, working on her hair. She was even, near as I could tell, sober. A memory flashed through my mind, or rather a collage of memories. Times that my sister and I had sat around my mother’s feet as she primped in front of that same mirror. She’d sit there for ages, dolling herself up. I’d watch as she applied her rouge, plucked her eyebrows, straightened her hair, and every time, I’d think how beautiful my mother was.
Though it had been a frequent occurrence, I’d seemed to have forgotten. Those had been good moments. There had been good times.
The memory inserted a warmth to the present, like a light had been focused on us, brightening the ordinary moment into something meaningful.
“Good thing your hair only hits your shoulders. We’d never get ready in time otherwise.” Even my mother’s complaining seemed less dreary.
“I should have cut it. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about this at all. I’m thinking I’ll get a pixie as soon as the honeymoon’s over. Thoughts?”
I bit back a smile. My mother hated short hair on girls.
“Are you trying to kill me?” But I noticed the hint of a smile on Sophia’s lips as well. “I still don’t know why you didn’t hire someone to do your hair and makeup tonight.”
Mirabelle shrugged. “I didn’t think I’d need to get made up tonight. I’ll have enough of that tomorrow.”
I studied her in the mirror, and I saw her lie. She’d hoped for this—for Sophia to insist on making her up instead. She remembered those times too, and Mirabelle, forever romantic that she was, had hoped to recapture it. She’d succeeded.
Perhaps I owed my sister’s optimism more credit.
“Thank you for being here, Hudson,” Mirabelle said when she caught my eye with her reflection. “It means a lot that you can share this time with me.”
Normally, I’d shrug her off. But the nostalgia made me strangely willing to chat. “I have to admit, this isn’t my thing. Yet, I’m glad I’m here too.” I hadn’t realized it until just that moment. She didn’t need to know that.
My mother took a strand of Mirabelle’s hair and wove it around the curling wand, seemingly oblivious to our conversation as she concentrated on her work.
“I’m sure you have a spiel waiting on the tip of your tongue, though,” Mirabelle said, touching up her lipstick. “How love is a myth and marriage the bane of all evil.”
I chuckled at the accuracy of her statement. “Not to mention that you’re barely old enough to drink. Quite young to be signing off your entire life.”
Her face fell slightly. She’d wanted me to deny my disdain for the practice of romantic union, and I’d enforced it instead. Oh well. It was honest. What was I supposed to do? Lie?
So I wasn’t the type to put on niceties. But I could find another way to be supportive. Mirabelle had always been a bit of a Pollyanna. She’d make the best of anything. Maybe marriage actually would work for her. “I trust you know what you’re doing, Mirabelle. Don’t mind me.”
“I usually don’t.” Her grin was back, and I felt my shoulders relax. I hadn’t even realized I’d been tense. “And I do know what I’m doing. Adam is the best thing for me. He makes me happy. I make him happy. You know. It’s all a bunch of happy.”
Blah, blah, blah. It was what all the lovebirds said. Then a bump in the road, and everything fell apart. Love was so easily manipulated. So easily redirected. How could it ever be real? How could anyone be willing to give up their life for something so unreliable?
How could Mirabelle?
She must have read my thoughts in my expression because she added, “I mean, I know it won’t always be top of the world. There will be hard times. But none of that matters as long as we have each other.”
“Excuse me while I roll my eyes.”
“You won’t know until you find it yourself, Hudson.” She was the only one who ever spoke like I might find my own one true love. It was kind of charming, actually.
“But did you have to get married? Couldn’t you shack up together for a while first?” Like, until the euphoria faded, and she realized the ridiculousness of the notion of happily ever after.
“Nope. I have to get married.” She widened her eyes as she applied mascara to her lashes.
“Mirabelle!” So my mother was listening.
“Is there something you aren’t telling me, little sister?”
Mirabelle laughed, pausing her makeup application. “I’m not pregnant, you ass. I’m in love. And yes, I still have to get married. Because when you love someone,” she met my gaze in the mirror and said without a flicker in her confidence, “their world interests you more than your own. So much so that you disappear into them, and the only choice you have is to merge your life with theirs. Because otherwise, you cease to exist at all.”