Hudson (Page 99)

Hudson (Fixed #4)(99)
Author: Laurelin Paige

“I do.” I want it retrospectively. Why couldn’t I have been a different man before I met Alayna? If I’d tried harder to change before, then could I have been ready to meet her as my best self?

It’s hopeless to dwell on what-ifs. Yet they sneak in anyway. I let my head fall back and close my eyes.

Mirabelle moves to sit next to me. Without saying a word, she runs her fingers through my hair. It’s soothing. Hypnotic.

I swallow past the tight ball in my throat. “I f**ked up, but I genuinely love her.”

“I know.” Her voice is gentle now. “She’s not the only reason you want to change, is she?”

“Possibly.” It’s not the right answer, but it’s the truth.

Mirabelle’s hand only pauses for a half-second before resuming her calming strokes across my scalp. “Because I don’t know that you can win her back. This is…it’s bad, Hudson. There may be no moving on from this.”

I force a laugh. “The queen of love-conquers-all has doubts? Man, I’m really f**ked.”

“I’m just being honest.” She leans her head against my shoulder. “And I want you better with or without her.”

I can’t imagine a without her. Even while we’re apart, she’s still so present in my life. I know what Mirabelle means, but I simply can’t let myself think like that. “It won’t be a problem. I won’t ever stop loving Alayna. I need to be ready in case she ever changes her mind.” When she changes her mind.

“Hudson. I’m so mad at you.” Mirabelle sits up and punches her fist into my chest. It’s a heavy enough hit, though I barely feel it through the pain that already encompasses me. I wish she’d hit me again, actually. Wish she’d beat me to a pulp.

She doesn’t. Instead, she lays her palm flat against me and lays her head back on my shoulder. “And I’m so heartbroken. For both of you. I love that girl too, you know.”

“I know.” I’m not usually the type to cuddle up with my little sister, but I don’t know who I am “usually” anymore. So I wrap my arm around her tiny frame and pull her in closer. We sit like this, both of us mourning our loss.

Then she bolts up. “Ah, shit! My opening! Laynie’s supposed to be a model. She’ll probably back out now.”

“If I’m there, yes, I’d bet she does cancel.” I’d thought about this. There’s nothing I haven’t thought about regarding Alayna. But my next words are not premeditated. “I won’t come.”

Mirabelle looks at me, seeming to gauge my seriousness. When she realizes that I’m completely genuine, she says, “I know I should try to argue, but honestly? I don’t want to. Don’t hate me.”

“I understand. She’s your model. You need her. I know she wants to be there for you. So please, let me back out.” I also hope it’s something that will get Alayna out of her shell. Something that will remind her how to keep living. It’s not about Celia winning or losing anymore—Alayna has to survive because I will not be the person who destroyed her.

“Okay. I’ll let you back out. You’re banned from the premises on Saturday.” The gleam in her eyes says she understands the entirety of my motivation. “I mean it though. You can’t change your mind and show up.”

“I won’t. Scout’s honor.” Like I was ever a scout. Like I ever had honor.

I reach up to erase the smudge her earlier tears have left under her eye. I’m suddenly moved by this beautiful creature. Besides Alayna, she’s the one person who has been able to see something more in me than what I put on display. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never told her as much.

So I tell her now. “I could never hate you, Mirabelle. I love you. I want you to be happy. I want you to be proud to be my sister. As proud as I am to be your brother. You’ve often been the only support I’ve had. The only one who’s believed in me. I hate that you’re looking at me now with disappointment.”

Her eyes well, but she smiles. “I’m disappointed, Hudson. I am. But it doesn’t mean I’m not proud to be your sister. I love you, too. Don’t give up on her. More importantly, don’t give up on yourself. I never will.”

She hugs me, and I let her.

For a few minutes, anyway. I’m the one who pushes out of her embrace. It feels too good, and feeling good is not on my agenda. My mind wanders back to the person it never really leaves. “Alayna might still back out of the opening, you know. Even without me there.”

“I know.” Her tone says she’s not concerned. If anyone can convince Alayna otherwise, it’s Mirabelle. “I’m going to think optimistically. And I’m going to be optimistic about the two of you too. I don’t think I’ll let her know that I know what happened. She could be really embarrassed about this. Maybe she’ll feel more comfortable if she isn’t worried about what I think about it all.”

“That’s insightful.” I hadn’t even considered she might be humiliated. But of course she is. She’d been duped by an ass**le. “I’ll support however you want to play it.”

I cringe at my choice of words. “I’ll support whatever you say, I mean.”

She catches my correction. With a sad smile, she reaches up to tousle my hair. “You’re a good guy, Hudson. You did a really shitty thing, but you’re still a really good guy.” A tear slips down her cheek. She wipes at it with zest. “God, I have to get out of here. I’m too hormonal for this crap.”

“You’re fine.” I stand though and help her up beside me. Then I remember, “But was there another reason you came by?”

“Oh yeah. There was. There is. I’m telling you—hormone-brain is crazy.” She shifts her weight onto one leg and bites at her lip. “Anyway, I hate to bring this up after all that you’re going through, but there’s something important, and I need your help.”

I hate that she’s nervous about asking. Doesn’t she know I’d do almost anything for her? “Of course. What is it?”

“It’s Mom. She’s in trouble.”

Now I understand her hesitancy. “She’s been in trouble for a long time.” Longer than any of us.

Mirabelle nods. “And we haven’t been there for her. It’s time that we are.”

“Are you staging another intervention?” The look on her face answers the question for me. “Ah, you are.”