She’s said these words to me before, in every nightmarish imagining I’ve had about telling her the truth. It’s why I’d hid it for so long. Because these words seemed inevitable.
Yet I can’t accept it. It hurts too goddamned much to let this be the end. “Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that.”
“What is it exactly that you don’t want to hear, Hudson? That I can’t forgive you? I can’t.” She’s trying to hurt me now; I feel it. “I can’t forgive this. Ever.”
I also know she means it. Still, I reach for her. “Alayna, please!”
She kicks at me, screaming words that bruise and break me. She tells me we’re over. She tells me she can never trust me again. I have no hope—I’m already destroyed—but I keep fighting. Keep protesting. Keep promising my love. I’ll do anything to fix this. Anything to take this back.
But each time I reach for her with words or my hands, she pushes me away. Shoves me down. Do I really expect anything different? I’ve seen love deteriorate before. I’ve watched it unravel before my eyes. This is something I know. It’s the thing I’ve always been good at—destroying the fairytale of happily ever after.
Love doesn’t bear all. Love doesn’t endure. Love ends. It always, always ends.
For all that I’ve destroyed—in my past, with Celia, here today in Alayna—my curse is that my love alone goes on. My whole life I was empty. Now I’m full. Overflowing with love and anguish. Hers and mine. They are so completely entwined, so thoroughly mixed in each other that I don’t believe they’ll ever be separate. I love Alayna Withers. And each drop of that love is so laced with pain that it travels through my veins like acid, burning and scarring me from the inside out.
There’s nothing more I can say. There’s nothing more she’ll hear.
There’s a knock on the door, and David sticks his head inside. He ignores me and directs his focus to Alayna. “Are you okay, Laynie?”
She’s honest in her answer. “No. I’m not okay.”
It’s her cue for me to leave. But I try once more, unable to let go of her. “Alayna…”
With a simple shake of her head, she ends it. Ends us.
“I’ll leave.” I long for her to stop me. She doesn’t.
I turn to David. “I’m sorry to put a damper on your party. Thank you for looking out for her.” Though it pains me, I’m grateful that she has someone to care for her when I leave. She’s strong, I know. But I can’t bear for her to be alone. Like I’ll be.
I look at her one last time. I’m buried under an avalanche of regret. I can barely move, barely breathe under its weight.
Somehow, though, I manage to turn away. Because that’s what she wants. And after all that I’ve taken from her, this I can give her—I walk out the door and leave.
The only thing that keeps me alive for the next few days is my commitment to making sure Alayna is surviving. I spend Monday morning getting the battery charges against Alayna dropped and finalizing details over GlamPlay with Norma. I’ve kept Jordan on duty, watching Alayna from afar in case Celia decides to try anything, and I check in with him often. I order a Kindle and start loading Alayna’s favorite books on it, so she’ll have something to do besides obsess and be sad. Those are my tasks this time. I’ll obsess about her instead of the other way around. I’ll be sad enough for both of us.
I call Liesl. I’m grateful to find that Alayna’s with her and not with David. I don’t give excuses. I don’t beg for another chance. I tell Liesl truths—that the police aren’t looking for Alayna, that her job is secure, that she can stay at the penthouse, that I’m here when she wants to talk. That I love her.
Liesl seems to care enough about Alayna to let me talk, though she scoffs at my proclamation of love. “She doesn’t want to hear that,” she says.
“It doesn’t make it any less true.”
I eat, but only because I need energy to keep fighting for Alayna. I don’t bury myself in Scotch, tempting as it may be. I’ll be no good for her like that. I don’t sleep. I ache. I feel. I try not to drown in my emotions.
When the pain gets too unbearable, I remind myself that hers is worse. I try to embrace the misery. It’s justice for what I’ve done. Consequences.
And I text her. I’m sure she’s not reading my messages, but it feels good to say the things that I want to say. I send so many that it seems our roles have reversed—I’ve become the stalker. I’m the one who can’t help myself. I tell her anything and everything.
I miss you, I say.
I heard that Phillip Phillips song on the radio today. You make it so easy…
Jack asked about you. You should call him sometime. I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.
And so many times just, I love you.
God, I really f**king love her.
Tuesday, I call Dr. Alberts for an appointment. He says he’ll see me that day with the same conditions as previously given—I have to meet him at his office instead of mine. I agree.
It’s easier to talk to him now than it was before. Alayna opened gates in me that can never be closed again. I tell him everything. “She taught me how to feel,” I say, my eyes fixed on the smooth surface of his tray ceiling. “She taught me how to have emotions.”
Dr. Alberts doesn’t see it the way I do. “She didn’t teach you. You always knew how. You worked hard all this time trying to forget that. But you were never incapable. You created blocks when you were young to deal with the heartache that surrounded your family life. You didn’t feel because it was easier not to. It was a coping mechanism.”
I work my jaw as I consider this. There are memories that creep up on me sometimes, very specific ones from my youth, where my feelings are so bright they show through in my mind like a color. Reds and purples and greens. They’re few and far between, but they’re there. Were those remnants of the days before I learned to cope?
And if so, why didn’t Dr. Alberts say this to me before? I ask him.
“You weren’t ready to hear it. The question is, why do you think that you decided to let yourself now? You saw this woman from afar, and immediately, you were ready to take the first steps. Why?”
I’m certain Dr. Alberts isn’t the type to accept love at first sight as an answer. Honestly, I’m not either. I take a second to figure out what the answer really is. “She was familiar,” I say, finally. “I recognized that she’d struggled. And yet she’d come out okay. It was beautiful about her, and I wanted to get to know it more. I wanted that for myself.”