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Breathe, Page 2

Abbi Glines

  “This is his summer home. He will be arriving with his parents and brother any day. Can you handle this?”

  I simply nodded, unable to form words from the shock of seeing Jax Stone's face on the wall.

  Fran moved again, and I followed her into the library “He’s the reason teenagers are not hired. This is a private escape for him. When he was younger, his parents insisted he take a break each summer and spend time with them away from the bright lights of Hollywood. Now he’s older and still comes here for the summer. He leaves now and then to go to different events, but for the most part, this is his getaway. He brings his family with him since they don’t see each other much during the year. If you can’t handle it, you will be fired immediately. His privacy is of utmost importance. It’s why this is such a high paying job.”

  I straightened and grabbed the bucket I’d been using. “I can handle anything. This job is more important to me than a teenage rock star.”

  Fran nodded, but from her frown, I could see she didn’t believe me.

  I focused more energy into my work. At the end of a long day, I listened while the quiet, frowning Fran reported to Ms. Mary. She believed I would be a good worker and I should be given a chance. I thanked her and Ms. Mary. I should be able to save enough money for the fall when my mom would have the baby, not work, and I would be back in school. I could do this.

  Yes, Jax Stone was famous, and his incredible steel blue eyes made my heart flutter. I made myself admit that much. However, it wasn’t just because he happened to be one of the most beautiful creations known to man. Everyone knew beauty ran only skin deep. I assumed the shallowness leaking out his veins would be so revolting I wouldn’t care if I cleaned his house and passed him in the halls. Besides, guys were a species I knew nothing about. I never took time to talk to one even when they did their best to talk to me. I’ve always had bigger problems in life, like making sure we ate and my mom remembered to pay our bills.

  When I think of all the money I'd wasted on the condoms I shoved in her hands and purses before she went out with the countless men who flocked to her, I really had a hard time not getting angry with her. Even in thrift store clothing, she looked gorgeous. One of her many disgusting men told me I inherited the cursed looks. From her blond curly hair to her clear blue eyes and heavy black lashes, I somehow managed to get it all. However, I lacked the one thing I knew would save me from certain disaster, I actually appeared rather dull. Something my mother loved to remind me of, yet instead of being upset by it, I held onto it for dear life. What she thought would be a downfall to my character, I liked to think of as my lifeline. I didn’t want to be like her. If having a dull personality kept me from following in her footsteps, then I would embrace it.

  The apartment we lived in for almost five hundred a month sat underneath a huge, old house. I walked in to find she wasn’t inside. With only four rooms, Jessica couldn’t have gotten far.

  “Mom?” I got no answer.

  The sun was setting so I stepped out onto what Jessica referred to as a patio. If you asked me, it was really more like a small piece of slab. She stood out in the yard with her increasing stomach on view for all to see, in a bikini I’d bought at a thrift store a few weeks ago. She turned and smiled. The sick façade from this morning no longer appeared on her face. Instead, she seemed to be glowing.

  “Sadie, how did it go? Did ol’ Ms. Mary give you a hard time? If she did, I sure hope you were nice. We need this job, and you can be so rude and unsociable.”

  I listened to her blabber on about my lack of social skills and waited until she finished before I spoke. “I got the job for the summer if I want it.”

  Jessica sighed dramatically in relief. “Wonderful, I really need to rest these next few months. The baby is taking so much from me. You just don’t understand how hard it is to be pregnant.”

  I wanted to remind her I’d tried to keep her from getting pregnant by sacrificing food money to buy her some stupid condoms, which didn’t help at all! However, I nodded and walked inside with her.

  “I’m starving, Sadie. Is there anything you can fix up real fast? I am eating for two these days.”

  I’d already planned what we would eat for dinner before I got home. I knew Mom was helpless in the kitchen. I somehow survived the first eight years of my life on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Somewhere around the time I turned eight, I realized my mother needed help, and I began growing up quicker than normal children. The more I offered to take on, the more she gave me. By the time I’d turned eleven, I did it all.

  With the noodles boiling and the meat sauce simmering, I went to my room. I slipped out of my work clothes and into a pair of cut off thrift store jeans, which happen to be the core of my wardrobe, and a tee shirt. My wardrobe was simple.

  The pan in the kitchen with the noodles in it whistled letting me know the food needed to be checked. Jessica wasn’t going to get up and check things out anytime soon. I hurried back into the small kitchen, took out a spaghetti noodle on a fork, and slung it at the wall behind the stove. It stuck. It was ready.

  “Really, Sadie, why you toss noodles on the wall is beyond me. Where did you get such an insane idea?”

  I flipped my gaze up and over at Jessica. She kicked back on the faded pastel couch, which came with the apartment, in my bikini.

  “I saw it on the television once when I was younger. It has stuck with me ever since. Besides it works.”

  “It’s disgusting is what it is,” Jessica mumbled from her spot on the couch.

  She couldn’t boil water if she wanted to, but I decided to bite my tongue and finish with dinner.

  “It’s ready, Mom,” I said as I scooped a pile of spaghetti onto a plate, knowing she would ask me to bring her one.

  “Bring me a plate, will ya, honey.”

  I smirked. I was a step ahead of her. She rarely got up these days unless she absolutely had to. I slipped a fork and spoon onto the plate and took it to her. She didn’t even sit up. Instead, she placed it on the shelf of a belly she’d developed and ate. I placed a glass of sweet iced tea down beside her and went back to fix my own. I’d worked up an appetite today. I needed food.

  * * *

  Chapter Two

  I didn’t have to be searched, and I was even given a card to show at the gate when I arrived from here on out. Things went much smoother. Fran even smiled at me once. After lunch, Ms. Mary sent me to the third floor, which housed most of the bedrooms. It was easy to forget whose house I cleaned. I had no friends to tell about the job. Not thinking about the fact I stood in the rooms where the hottest teen star in the world would be sleeping all summer wasn’t really so big of a deal. I stepped into his bedroom and spun around. This wasn’t a typical teenage boy’s room. It seemed so comfortable it struck me as odd.

  One wall displayed bats and balls signed with different signatures while some just looked well used. Jerseys he must have worn during childhood hung on the walls proudly. I could easily picture the little boy I’d seen in the pictures yesterday wearing these and playing city ball just like an ordinary kid. I went for a closer inspection and found pictures under each one of the teams he’d played on. In the earliest ones, I struggled to figure out which little boy was the now famous rock star. After he appeared to be ten or eleven, I identified him easily. The jerseys and pictures were in year order from about kindergarten until age thirteen, and then they stopped. It would have been about a year or so before I remembered hearing his name the first time on the radio. He seemed to lead a normal life up until the time a record label discovered him.

  The wall space above his bed set the room apart from an ordinary teenage boy’s room. Guitars of every shape, size, and color hung on the walls. Many were autographed; some sparkled with newness. One appeared to have real gold on it, which wouldn’t be surprising at all if it did. I got on my toes and examined it more closely. It said Fender on it. I continued examining the signatures on the more expensive guitars. I ran my finger over the
name Jon Bon Jovi and smiled. Apparently, even rock stars have idols. In the center of them all hung a small, worn guitar. The fact it hung in the center of this collection made it obvious this must have been the first and most loved.

  I peeked back at the door to make sure no one stood outside, and then went to stand under the small guitar I imagined had started it all. I wasn’t a crazy fan but seeing something responsible for spurring a dream seemed almost holy in a way.

  My cleaning cart sat untouched in the doorway, and I knew I needed to get busy. I didn’t want to learn new, personal things about him. I wanted him to stay shallow and untouchable in my eyes. Knowing he once was a cute, little boy with dark brown curls and a smile that would one day cause a frenzy made him seem more real and not so godlike. I needed to keep my interest in him to a minimum. I quickly went about the room dusting and sweeping, and then I mopped the expensive hardwoods. I decided I’d better get through with this room quickly before I came across anything else that’d have me picturing him as the little boy in the photos. I focused my thoughts on my future and blocked out all thoughts of Jax Stone.

  “Sadie, are you finished yet? The family has arrived, and we need to exit to the servant’s quarters,” Fran said from the doorway.

  I placed my cleaning supplies back on the cart and headed toward the door where a very nervous Fran stood. “Sure, just finished up.”

  Fran nodded and headed toward the back elevator in which house staff traveled from floor to floor without being seen by the family. Fran hurried inside as it opened, and I started to follow when a bottle of glass cleaner fell off the cart. I reached for a small rag and picked the bottle up from the floor. I wiped up the spill the best I could.

  “Hurry, please,” Fran called in an anxious tone from inside the elevator. The family must be headed upstairs.

  I stood up, and a tingling sensation raced through the hairs on my neck. Startled, I turned and saw him standing there watching me. It wasn’t the cute little curly-headed boy but instead the famous rock star. I froze unsure of what to do since my presence being acknowledged this soon wasn’t something Ms. Mary wanted. A smile broke across his ridiculously sexy face, heat burned through my cheeks, and I glanced away and pushed the cart into the elevator.

  He didn’t appear to be angry that a teenage girl worked in his home. His smile seemed more amused. Fran frowned when I glanced at her, but she said nothing. I put my cart away and went to report to the kitchen since I no longer worked upstairs. Ms. Mary stood with her hands on her hips, waiting on our arrival. A silent conversation seemed to take place between Fran and Ms. Mary. After Ms. Mary nodded, she reached for something on the table and handed me folded black clothing.

  “Everyone wears uniforms while the family is in residence. Also, you won't be cleaning the house anymore, but you will help me in the kitchen and help Mr. Greg in the gardens. However, tonight I need you to serve supper. Mrs. Stone has requested all servers seen by family and guests are attractive in appearance. William, the young man I hired to assist Marcus in serving the family, called in sick about ten minutes ago, and you are all I got. You've proved to be a hard worker, and you seem to be serious about this job. Your age concerns me since the master of the house is around your age and is an idol in most girls’ eyes. My gut tells me that means little to you. I hope you continue to show such maturity.”

  I didn’t really know what to say after that mouthful from her, so I only nodded.

  “Good. Now, you're to wear this every day. I'll have two more made in your size, and they are to be left here each night to be washed and pressed. Make sure you continue to enter at the same location and immediately change in the laundry room. Now, I need you to help me begin preparing for the evenin' meal before you put these on. You gotta be tidy and clean when you serve.”

  For the next two hours, I chopped, sliced, stirred, and stuffed all types of meats and vegetables. By the time Ms. Mary told me to get changed and tidy up my hair, exhaustion already filled my body. I changed into the black skirt, which hit right above my knees, and the white button up shirt with a round collar. I put on a black apron over my shirt and skirt. Pulling my hair loose, I piled the curls up high on my head. I washed my face and hands and sighed at the face mirrored back at me. My mother’s face landed me a job as server tonight, but my reserved personality gained me Ms. Mary’s trust. Where my mother’s eyes sparkled with mischief, mine stayed serious and guarded.

  Jax Stone’s smile in person dazzled me as much as it did on the millions of pictures I’d seen in magazines and on posters. However, it didn’t mean I would be silly enough to be attracted to him like the rest of the world. With a deep breath, I opened the door and went back to the kitchen where Ms. Mary stood waiting.

  “Okay, now, remember, you set this in front of Master Jax at the exact moment Marcus here,” she waved to a tall young guy I’d not met yet, “places Mrs. Stone’s in front of her. They will be the only two at the table tonight. Mr. Stone and Jason will be arriving tomorrow. So tonight, you two will be the only two serving.

  “Make sure you stand back quietly behind Master Jax while he eats and follow Marcus’s lead. He'll help you with anythin' you aren't sure about.”

  I turned my full gaze on Marcus who seemed to be only a few years older than I was, probably college age. His sandy blond hair and smiling green eyes immediately relaxed me.

  He held out his tanned hand and grinned. “Marcus Hardy.”

  I slipped my hand into his, and he shook it. “Sadie White.”

  He nodded, still grinning, and reached for his tray, “I saw your brave performance yesterday as you secured your job here. It amazed me how your eyes went from nervous to determined in less than a second.” He picked up the tray in front of him, and I smiled and lifted the tray set before me.

  “You will follow me...since I will be serving Mrs. Stone’s food.” He gave me a wink before turning and heading for the entrance to the dining room.

  The large room wasn’t new to me. I’d scrubbed the floors in there that morning. Marcus took his place behind Mrs. Stone, who sat with her back to the entrance. The natural alarm in my body alerted me as I walked around to stand behind Jax, who sat at the head of the table. I looked to Marcus to guide me. He nodded, and we set the salads down at the exact same time. I stepped back. Marcus nodded his head for me to stand beside him, so I did.

  “I still don’t see why Dad is making Jason go to the interview at Yale if he doesn’t want to go there.” Jax voice sounded so smooth it seemed almost unreal.

  I felt as if I’d walked into a movie, and I stood watching the scene before me.

  “Your brother doesn’t know what is best for him. He has the brains to be more than just Jax Stone’s younger brother. He can make a name for himself if he will just focus on it instead of spending so much time fiddling with the stock market. His head for numbers is being wasted.”

  Jax’s eyes gazed up at me and seemed to smile before directing them back down at his mother. “You both are going to push him away. You’re right, he is smart and doesn’t need you to think for him.”

  Mrs. Stone let out a short, hard laugh. “And you wouldn’t be where you are today if I hadn’t pushed you so hard. All you wanted to do was play baseball with your buddies and play in a silly garage band with absolutely no talent other than yourself.”

  Jax sighed, took a drink of his ice water, and turned to his mother. “Enough, Mom, don’t start talking bad about the only real friends I ever had.”

  Mrs. Stone leaned back, and Marcus touched my hand to draw my attention back to him and the reason we were in here. We stepped forward and, at the same time, removed the salad plates from in front of the Stones.

  “May we get you something other than water to drink with your meal?” Marcus asked with a charming southern drawl.

  I found eyes once again watching me. I fought the urge to allow my eyes to shift back in Jax’s direction and to those eyes.

  Mrs. Stone sighed. “I suppose one gl
ass of Merlot won’t hurt me.” She glanced over at her son and straightened her napkin in her lap as if trying to decide. “Bring me a glass of the best Merlot we have in the cellar.”

  Jax leaned back, and I could see he still watched me. So, I took a calming breath and looked at him.

  “If I could have a glass of Ms. Mary’s sweet iced tea please.”

  I nodded and kept myself from returning his smile.

  “Yes, sir,” Marcus replied. He stepped back and waved his hand so I would lead the way back to the kitchen.

  I exited the large dining room and immediately took a deep breath. I hadn’t realized how nerve wracking this would be. As soon as we entered the kitchen, Marcus smiled at me.

  “What? Did I screw up?”

  Marcus shook his head, and a blond lock of hair fell into his eyes. “No, you were great. Now let’s get the crab bisque out there before Ms. Mary has a fit.” He turned toward the housekeeper. “Ms. Mary, we need Merlot from the cellar.”

  Ms. Mary handed him the already opened bottle along with a glass. “I already figured as much, and here’s Jax’s sweet tea.”

  “I’ll deal with the drinks,” Marcus said.

  I was too grateful to ask why. I just nodded and followed him back down the hall toward the dining room. Right before we reentered, Marcus glanced back at me. “Ignore his watching you. You’re a treat to the eyes. I can’t blame him, but if you want to keep this job, try to become invisible.” He winked then opened the door.

  My goal in life was to become invisible. I thought I’d been attempting to do just that. Apparently, I needed to try harder.