She stares at me like I’ve turned into a talking fish. I have no idea what she’s going to say next. I know she’ll have an answer. There’s not a time in my life when my mother hasn’t had a response to something that was said.
There’s a knock at the door and I startle. It might be one of the neighbors. Maybe they heard me yelling and are checking to make sure everything is okay. “Saved by the knock,” I mutter under my breath. I open the door, putting a mental wall up to make sure I can deflect any well-meaning attempts to make sure we’re not murdering each other in here.
But it’s not a neighbor. It’s Hudson.
Hudson is here. He’s standing in a bright blue button-down that makes his eyes stand out even more by contrast, and he’s holding what might be the biggest bouquet of roses that I’ve ever seen. I don’t realize that my jaw has dropped open until I try to speak. “What are you doing here?” I’m absurdly glad to see him. Even after everything I told him about not being ready, his face is the most comforting thing in the world right now.
“I wanted to prove to you that I want more than what we have right now. That I don’t care who you are outside the club.” He says that last part very quietly. “But I heard yelling. Are you all right?”
I push the roses aside and wrap my arms around him. He’s surprised, but he hugs me back. “I’m so glad you’re here right now.”
“Are you all right?” he asks again.
“My mother and my sister are here,” I say softly. “I haven’t told you anything about my family, but to say that we don’t get along might be an understatement.”
Hudson smiles. “I’d still like to meet them.”
“It’s your funeral,” I say as I step back and take his hand to pull him into the house.
Catherine is standing in the hallway, gaping. I don’t know how to introduce Hudson. We’ve never really defined the terms. ‘Boyfriend’ feels too simple, and yet if I introduce him as my ‘lover,’ my mother will have even more of a fit. But Hudson takes care of it for me. He reaches out and shakes Catherine’s hand. “I’m Hudson Carlisle. It’s nice to meet you.”
My mother steps out of the kitchen, and the height difference is comical. She’s even shorter than me. “And you must be Mrs. Everett.”
“I am,” she says coldly. “Who are you?” Even though he’s just introduced himself.
He gives her a dazzling smile. “I’m dating your daughter.”
Catherine gives me a look. “I knew it.”
My mother is still frowning. “It’s nice to meet you, Hudson. Unfortunately, you’ve come at a bad time. We were just having a serious discussion with Christine about her future, so I think it’s best if you come back another time.”
“Mama,” I say. “This is my house. You can’t ask people to leave. Hudson, I don’t want you going anywhere.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He winks at me, but I can see the worry in his eyes, the disapproval at the way they’re treating me.
“Anything you were going to say to me, you can say in front of him.”
She sniffs, offended. The only thing worse than her daughter having such a terrible life would be discussing our ‘dirty laundry’ in front of strangers. “No, thank you.”
“Well, in that case,” I say, “you guys should probably get going. If you leave now, you’ll get home in time for a late dinner. Hudson, their bags are in the guest room, will you help with them?”
“Of course.” He sets the roses on the table in the kitchen and sets off into the house as if he’s been here a million times and knows exactly where the guest room is.
Mom’s face is bright red. “You’re kicking us out?”
“I’m shortening your stay. You don’t approve of me or my life here, and I’m an adult. I don’t have to host hostile people in my house. I love you, mama. You’re family. But I want you to think long and hard about what I said, and why you never think anything I do is all right. After you think about that for a while, then we’ll talk.”