“And you realized to get that, you had to start to feel again.”
“I guess so.” It’s oversimplified. But isn’t everything?
It occurs to me that I have other questions that are in need of simple answers. Questions that my therapist may be able to put to rest. I sit up, and meet him face-to-face. “I’d been okay without playing people anymore. Why did I decide that I had to play the game to get close to Alayna?”
He steeples his fingers and rests his chin against them. “Why do you think?”
“Because I didn’t know any other way to relate to people.” It’s the reason I’ve clung to, anyway.
“I imagine there’s truth to that.” He thinks for a moment. “And you liked to do it, Hudson. Maybe you don’t anymore—it sounds like you’ve overcome that addiction—but you did. The rush it gave you was a substitute for the real emotions that you’d buried inside. You manipulated Alayna because a part of you wanted to.”
It’s hard to hear, and I start to object. But then I stop myself. Because he’s right. There was a part of me that wanted exactly that. Wanted to feel the racing of my heart as I attempted to guess how she’d behave. Wanted the reward of predicting her. I’d felt a rush the moment I’d seen her, and the game was the way I knew to recapture it. That thrill had quickly been replaced with the thrill of falling in love.
But that first yes—when I’d told Celia I’d play—that was wrong. I had no excuse. I was to blame.
Dr. Alberts recognizes my thought process. “Acceptance is the first step to moving on, Hudson. It’s why you could never fully recover before—because you never really accepted the blame for your actions. This is great progress. Talking about it, sharing what you’ve done with those close to you will help as well. I recommend you work on that next.”
Since he has no patients scheduled after me, Dr. Alberts lets me stay for two hours. Since we’re in his office and not mine, no one interrupts. I forget about work. I concentrate on me. With his help, I work through many life-long questions I’ve had about myself. It’s eye-opening. Liberating.
The one thing he can’t answer, though, is the one thing I want to know most: Is there any chance Alayna can ever forgive me?
On Wednesday, Mirabelle stops by my office. I’ve cancelled most of my non-urgent appointments, so I’m available to see her. I ask Patricia to send her back.
My sister’s face is serious. I know it’s not her health—she would have called if there were any new threats to her or the baby. I have to assume she’s here about Alayna.
“I’m guessing you’ve talked to her,” I say as she settles into the armchair in my seating area.
Her brow furrows. “Talked to who? Mom?”
“No, I meant Alayna.” I grab a bottle of water from my mini-fridge and hand it to her before taking a seat on the couch. “Aren’t you here about her?”
“I am now.” Her eyes narrow mischievously. “What’s going on?”
I’ll have to tell her eventually. But I don’t know if I can talk about it. Not yet. I scrub my hand over my face. “Forget I said anything.”
“Uh, that’s not happening.” She leans forward and places her hand on my knee. “Hudson?” I shake my head, but, as always, she reads me. “Oh, God. What happened? Tell me.”
“She…” I take a deep breath in and blow it out before I can go on. “She left me, Mirabelle.”
“No way.” She studies me. “You’re serious.”
How I wish I wasn’t. “I told her everything she wanted to know, and she left me.” It’s no easier saying it this time than it was a moment ago. My voice catches on the words. Not only am I now able to feel, but it also appears that I’m unable to keep my feelings hidden.
“I’m sure you’re overreacting. People fight. You’ll get past this.”
I don’t want to argue with her. I’d rather let her hope for the best. I’m still hoping, after all. So I simply say, “Anything’s possible, I suppose.”
“But you don’t really believe that.” She tilts her head and stares at me with sympathetic eyes. “Oh, Hudson, what happened? Maybe I can help.”
I know she can’t help, and that’s why I don’t intend to tell her. But then I remember what Dr. Alberts said about opening up to those close to me. To see progression in my therapy, I have to work for it. And I want to see progression. I don’t know if there’s any chance at all that Alayna and I can be together again, but if there is, I know that I need to be the best man possible. The best me possible.
So, for the second time in two days, I tell the story. It’s harder to share with Mirabelle. She doesn’t hide the disappointment in her features. She frequently brushes tears from her eyes, but she listens without interrupting.
When I’m finished, she lets out a breathy sigh. Then she says, “Fuck you, Hudson.”
I’m surprised—not because I don’t deserve the cursing, but because I didn’t expect it. Not from her.
“I love you. I really do.” Her voice is heavy with emotion. “And I’m always going to be here for you, but you really f**ked up this time. And if you don’t recognize that, then there’s no hope for you.”
I bow my head. I can’t look at her anymore. Her disapproval hurts almost as much as Alayna’s. “I recognize it. Fully.”
She won’t look at me. “That’s something at least.”
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done.”
“I don’t doubt it.” There’s a bite to her words. They’re pointed and sharp. They leave marks on me.
I always thought of myself as well-armored. Nothing could get in. And now when I really look, I see the scars. Feel their jagged edges across every inch of my body. Can everyone see them? Can Mirabelle?
I’m broken and mangled, but it’s suddenly important to me that she knows I’m trying to stand again. “Losing her, Mirabelle, it’s…it’s hitting bottom. I’m seeing Dr. Alberts again. I tried to change when you sent me before, but now—now I want it.”
Finally, she looks at me. There’s an edge of kindness in her gaze and a pinch of pity. “I’m glad to hear that, Hudson. I really am. I only want the best for you. And I sincerely believe you can be a different man if you want to be.”