Breathe, p.2
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       Breathe, p.2

         Part #1 of Sea Breeze series by Abbi Glines
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Chapter One

  "Mom, are you going to work today?" I rolled my eyes at my very pregnant mother who lay sprawled out on her bed in her panties and bra. Pregnancy made Jessica an even bigger drama queen than before having unsafe sex with another loser. She moaned and covered her head with a pillow. "I feel awful, Sadie. You just go on without me. "

  I'd seen this coming a mile away before school even let out. The last day of school landed yesterday, but instead of being able to go out and be a normal teenager, Jessica expected me to make the money. It was almost as if she'd planned on me working in her place all along.

  "Mom, I can't just go to your work place and take your position. They won't be okay with your seventeen-year-old daughter doing your job. " She pulled the pillow from her face and tossed me a sulk she'd perfected years ago. "Sadie I cannot continue cleaning house with my stomach the size of a beach ball. I'm so hot and tired. I need you to help me. You always figure stuff out. " I walked over to the window unit and turned it off.

  "If you would stop running the air at a continuous sixty-eight degrees, we might be able to get by on less money. Do you have any idea how much it costs to run a window unit all day long?" I knew she didn't know, nor did she care, but I still asked. She grimaced and sat up. "Do you have any idea how hot I am with all this extra weight?" she shot back at me.

  It took all my restraint to keep from reminding her she hadn't used a condom. I bought them for her and made sure her purse always contained several. I and made sure her purse always contained several. I even reminded her before she went out on dates. Remembering who the adult was in our relationship could be difficult at times. Most of the time it seemed to me our roles were reversed, being the adult however did not mean she made smart decisions because Jessica simply did not know how to be responsible.

  "I know you are hot, but we can't spend every dime we make on the air conditioner," I reminded her. She sighed and flopped back down on the bed.

  "Whatever," she grumbled.

  I walked over to her purse and opened it up. "Al right, I am going to go to your job today, by myself, and I hope they allow me inside the gate. If this doesn't work, don't say I didn't warn you. Al I am qualified for is minimum wage jobs, which won't pay our bills. If you would come with me, I would have a better chance of landing this position. " I knew as I spoke the words, I'd already been tuned out. She'd worked for two months and managed to keep the job.

  "Sadie, you and I both know you can handle it by yourself. " I sighed in defeat and left her there. She would go back to sleep as soon as I left. I wanted to be mad at her, but seeing her so big made me pity her instead. She wasn't the best mom in the world, but she did belong to me. After I got my clothes on, I walked past her room and peeked through the door.

  She softly snored with the window unit once again cranked to sixty-eight degrees. I thought about turning it off, but changed my mind. The apartment already felt warm, and the day would only get hotter.

  I stepped outside and got on my bike. It took me thirty minutes to get to the bridge. The bridge would take me into the exclusive island connected to Sea Breeze, Alabama. The island wasn't where the locals lived, but where the wealthy came for the summer, which employed full staffs. Jessica managed to snag a job as a domestic servant at one of the houses making twelve dollars an hour. I prayed I would be able to take over her position without a hitch.

  I found the address on her employee card I'd retrieved from her purse. My chances on getting this job were slim. The further I peddled onto the island, the larger and more extravagant the houses became. The address to my mother's place of employment landed three more houses down. She would, of course, have to work at the most extravagant house on the block, not to mention the very last one before the beach itself. I pulled up to a large ornate iron gate and handed Jessica's ID card to the guy working admittance. He frowned and gazed down at me. I handed him my driver's license. "I'm Jessica's daughter. She is sick, and I am supposed to work for her today. " He continued to frown while he picked up a phone and called someone. That wasn't a good thing considering no one here knew I was coming in her place. Two large men appeared and walked up to me. Both sported dark sunglasses and reminded me of players who should be wearing football uniforms on NFL teams instead of being dressed in black suits.

  "Miss White, can we see your bag please," one of them said rather than asked, while the other one took it off my shoulder. I swallowed and fought the urge to shudder.

  They were intimidating, big, and didn't appear to trust me. I wondered if I seemed dangerous to them, al five feet six inches of me. I glanced down at my skimpy white shorts and purple tank top and wondered if they considered the fact it would be impossible to hide weapons in this outfit. I thought it somewhat strange the two big guys were reluctant to let me in. Even if I happened to be a threat, I do believe any one of them could have taken me blindfolded with their hands tied behind their back.

  The image popped into my mind and made me want to laugh. I bit my bottom lip and waited to see if dangerous little me would be al owed entrance into the bigger than life iron gates.

  "You're free to go, Miss White. Please take the servants entrance to the left of the stone wall and report to the kitchen where you will be instructed how to proceed. "

  Who were these people who needed two men the size of Goliath to guard their entrances? I got back on my bike and rode into the now open gates. Once I made it around the corner of lush palm trees and tropical gardens, I saw the house. It reminded me of houses on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I would've never guess houses like this even existed in Alabama. I'd been to Nashville once and seen houses similar in size, but nothing quite this spectacular.

  I composed myself, pushed my bike around the corner trying to not stop, and stare at the massive size of everything. I leaned my bike against a wall out of sight. The doorway for the servants was designed to impress. At least twelve feet tall, a beautiful y engraved letter S adorned it. Not just tall, the door was real y heavy, causing me to use all my strength to pull it open. I peeked inside the large entry hall and stepped into a small area with three different arched doorways to choose from ahead of me.

  Since I'd never been here before, I didn't know where the kitchen might be located. I walked up to the first door on the right and looked through the opening. It appeared to be a large gathering room but nothing fancy and no kitchen appliances, so I moved on to door number two, peeked inside, and found a large round table with people sitting around it. A large older lady stood in front of a stove unlike any I'd ever seen in a house. It was something you'd find in a restaurant. This had to be the place. I stepped inside the arched opening. The lady standing noticed me and frowned. "Can I help you?" she asked in a sharp authoritative tone even though she kind of reminded me of Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith show.

  I smiled, and the heat rose, threatening to spike out the top of my head as I watched all the people in the room turn to face me. I hated attention and did whatever I could to draw little to myself. Even though it seemed to be getting harder the older I got.

  Anything which encouraged people to speak, I wanted to avoid the possibility if I could. It's not that I'm a recluse; it's just the fact I have a lot of responsibility. I figured out early in life friendships would never work for me. I'm too busy taking care of my mom. So, I perfected the art of being uninteresting.

  "Um, uh, yes, I was told to report to the kitchen for further instructions. " I quietly cleared my voice and waited. I didn't like the once over the lady shot me, but since I was here, I had no choice but to stay. "I know I sure didn't hire you. Who told you to come here?" I hated all those eyes on me and wished Jessica hadn't been so stubborn. I needed her here, at least for today. Why did she always do these things to me?

  "I am Sadie White, Jessica White's daughter. She. . . uh. . . wasn't well today so I am here to work for her. I'm. . . uh. . . supposed to be working with her this summer. " I wished I didn't sound so ne
rvous, but the people stared. The lady up front frowned much like the way Aunt Bea looked when someone made her angry. It was tempting to turn and run. "Jessica didn't ask about you helping her this summer, and I don't hire kids. It is not a good idea with the family comin' down for the summer. Maybe during the fall when they leave, we can give you a try. "

  My nervousness from being the center of attention immediately disappeared, and I panicked at the thought of my mom losing this income we so desperately needed. If she found out I couldn't work for her, she would quit. I pulled my grown up voice out of the closet and decided I needed to show this lady I could do the job better than anyone else. "I can understand your concern. However, if you would give me a chance, I can and will show you I am an asset. I will never be late to work and will always complete the jobs assigned to me. Please, just a chance. "

  The lady glanced down at someone at the table as if to get an opinion. She moved her eyes back up at me, and I could see I broke through her resolve.

  "Ok, Sadie White, your chance starts now. I'm going to team you up with Fran here who has been working at this home as long as I have. She'll instruct you and report back to me. I will have you an answer at the end of the day. Here is your trial, Miss White; I suggest you don't blow it. " I nodded and smiled over at the now standing Fran. "Follow me," the tall, skinny redhead who appeared to be at least sixty-five years old said before she turned and left the room.

  I did as instructed and didn't make eye contact with any of the others in the room. I had a job to save. Fran walked me down a hall way and past several doors. We stopped, opened one, and stepped inside. The room contained shelves of books from the floor to the ceiling. Large, dark brown leather chairs were scattered around the room. None faced each other or looked to be used for any type of visiting or socializing. The room was clearly set up to be a library. A place where someone could come, find a book, and lose themselves in one of the large cushy chairs. Fran swung her arm out in front of her gesturing to the room with a bit of flair. It surprised me coming from the older lady. "This is Mrs. Stone's favorite spot. It's been closed off all year. You will dust the books and shelves, clean the leather with the special cleaner, and Windex the windows. Vacuum the drapes, clean, and wax the hard woods. This room must shine. Mrs. Stone likes things perfect for her sanctuary. I will come get you at lunchtime, and we will dine in the kitchen. " She walked to the door, and I heard her thank someone. She stepped back inside pulling a cart full of cleaning supplies. "This will have everything you need. Be careful with al framed artwork and pieces of art. I warn you everything in this house is very valuable and must be treated with utmost care. Now, I expect you to work hard and not waste any time with foolishness. " The tight-faced Ms. Fran left the room. I circled around, taking in the extravagance of my surroundings. The room wasn't real y big; it just seemed full. I could clean this. I hadn't been asked to do anything impossible. I went for the dusting supplies and headed for the ladder connected to the bookshelves. I might as well start at the top, since dust falls.

  I managed to get everything dusted and the windows cleaned before Fran returned to get me for lunch. I needed a break and some food. Her frowning face was a welcome sight. She moved her gaze around the room and nodded before leading me back down the same path I'd taken this morning in silence. The smell of fresh baked bread hit me as we rounded the corner and stepped into the large bright kitchen. Ms. Mary stood over the stove pointing to a younger lady who wore her hair in a bun covered with a hair net just like Ms. Mary.

  "Smells good, Henrietta. I believe you've got it. We will test this batch out on the help today, and if everyone likes it, you can take over the bread baking for the family's meals. " Ms. Mary turned, wiping her hands on her apron "Ah, here is our new employee now. How are things going?" Ms. Fran nodded and said, "Fine. " Either this lady didn't smile much or she just didn't like me.

  "Sit, sit, we have much to get done before the family arrives. " I sat down after Fran did, and Ms. Mary sat trays of food in front of us. I must be doing something right since Fran directed her words in my direction. "Al the help eat at this table. We all come at different shifts for lunch. You may choose what you want to eat. " I nodded and reached for the tray of sandwiches and took one. I took some fresh fruit from a platter.

  "The drinks are over there on the bar. You may go choose what's there or fix something yourself. " I went over and poured some lemonade. I ate in silence while I listened to Ms. Mary direct the lady she called Henrietta. They seemed to be making bread for tonight's meal. Neither Fran nor I made any attempt at conversation.

  After we were done, I followed Fran to the sink where we rinsed our plates and loaded them into the large dishwasher ourselves. Just as silent, we returned to the library. I was a little less nervous now and more interested in my surroundings. I noticed the portraits as we walked down the hall way. There were portraits of two very cute little boys. The further I walked, the older they seemed to get. Toward the large opening we would cross going to the library, an oddly familiar face smiled down at me from a life size painting. A face I'd seen many times on television and in magazines. Just last night during dinner, he had been on television. Jessica watched Entertainment Daily during our meal. Teen rocker and heartthrob Jax Stone was one of their favorite topics. Last night he'd been on the arm of a girl rumored to be in his new music video. Fran stopped behind me. I turned to her, and she seemed focused on the portrait.

  "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 wil 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 bill s. 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 real y 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 actual y 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 h
aving 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 real y 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? 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 real y 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.

  "Real y, 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.

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