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Breathing 02 - Barely Breathing

Rebecca Donovan

  Barely Breathing

  by Rebecca Donovan




  Rebecca Donovan on Kindle

  Reason to Breathe

  Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Donovan

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior written permission of the author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Table of Contents


  1. Try Again

  2. Fireworks

  3. Still Loved

  4. "Home"

  5. People Change

  6. Lifestyles

  7. Social Life

  8. Intensity

  9. Just Not Right

  10. Distraction

  11. All Better

  12. "F" Valentine's Day

  13. Overreaction

  14. Under the Surface

  15. Another Chance

  16. Ready?

  17. Freaked

  18. Story Time

  19. Waiting for Friday

  20. No Such Thing as "Normal"

  21. Drama

  22. Inside Out

  23. Boundaries

  24. Happy Birthday

  25. All Over Again

  26. Disappointment

  27. Lines Blurred

  28. To the Extreme

  29. Fatherly Advice

  30. Unexpected Future

  31. What If

  32. In the Woods

  33. Consequences

  34. Confessions

  35. Everyone Hurts

  36. Restless

  37. Into a Nightmare

  38. Covering Up

  39. Breathe for Me

  40. Honest Truth

  41. Power of Suggestion

  42. Something To Hold On To

  43. Spontonaeity

  44. In the End





  Six months ago, I was dead. My heart didn't beat within my chest. Breath did not pass between my lips. Everything was gone, and I was dead.

  It's not easy to think about, not existing―despite how much I fought to be forgettable all those years. So I've chosen not to think of it at all.

  My therapist asked me to write down my thoughts and feelings in this journal. After months of avoiding the assignment, I figured I should try it once―then maybe I could finally get some sleep. I'm doubtful, but I'll try anything.

  I don't honestly remember what happened that night. I get glimpses and moments of panic in my nightmares, but the details evade me. And I'm not looking to fill in the blanks.

  I woke up in a hospital bed, barely able to talk, with dark bruises on my neck. There were bandages wrapped around my wrists to protect the raw skin. A sling supported my dislocated shoulder, and a cast concealed my ankle after reconstructive surgery. I don't know what I went through to end up that way. All I care about is that I'm breathing.

  The police asked questions. The doctors asked questions. The lawyers asked questions. Whenever they'd start to talk about the details, I'd close them off, or leave the room. Evan and Sara promised to keep the details from me as well. They weren't there that night, but they were in the courtroom for the entire trial―as brief as it was.


  It’s so hard to even write her name. She pled guilty. I didn't have to see her. I didn't have to testify. I didn't have to listen to the witnesses’ testimonies. They summoned Sara and Evan, and I couldn't be there for that either―even though the lawyers requested my presence.

  And George... from what little I overheard, he was there that night. He was the one who called the ambulance. They didn't press charges. I begged them not to. Leyla and Jack need their dad. And now… Now I don't even know where they are. I hope they remember how much Sorry. I can't. It hurts too much to think about them.

  Sara and Evan have barely left my side since that night. I've tried to assure them that I'm okay, but they just have to look at the circles under my eyes to know that I'm not. In truth, I don't want to be alone.

  There was some press, but it was a closed trial, and the records are sealed because I'm a minor (I'm pretty sure Sara's father had some influence over that too) ―so there wasn't much for the papers to write about.

  The town exploded with news of the attempted murder, and you can only imagine what it was like to return to school, or to be seen anywhere in Weslyn. Whispers. Pointing. Eyes following me everywhere. I've become a morbid celebrity―the girl who survived death.

  Even the teachers treat me differently, like they’re waiting for me to shatter. The small group that confronted me that day are especially wary. Their interference is what put the whole ordeal in motion. They'd made a call to the authorities before speaking with me, and then called George when I left the school.

  Carol must have found out about their call to George, or maybe someone from the state contacted her to look into the allegations. Either way, she was desperate for me to disappear ―forever. But it doesn't matter what made her do it. She can't hurt me now.

  I do hurt. I'm not going to deny that. Especially since no one will ever see this journal. My ankle will probably never be the same, and will remain a constant reminder of what I went through. I fought to recover, and despite the anticipated outcome, I returned to the soccer field four months later. At the beginning, I would cry in the shower after each practice and game. The pain was almost unbearable. But now I barely notice it.

  Nothing looks the same anymore. Nothing feels the same. I'm not sure how to explain this to Sara and Evan. I don't know if they'd understand. I'm not sure that I do.

  She wanted me dead.

  I keep telling myself that's she's gone. She's in prison where she can stay for as long as forever, as far as I'm concerned. But I don't feel safe. Especially when I close my eyes each night and she's right there waiting for me.

  I need to get out of Weslyn. Away from the stares. Away from the shadows that continue to haunt me. Away from the pain that paralyzes me when I least expect it. Six more months and all of it will be gone. I get to start again, with the two people I love most in the world.

  Then again, my life is anything but predictable, and a lot can happen in six months.

  1. Try Again

  It’s just a dream. I recognized the thought, trying to pull me out of the hands that drug me to the darkest depths of the water. But panic overshadowed the rational thought, and I kicked as hard as I could. It’s just a dream, my voice echoed through my head again, trying to wake me.

  I looked down into the murky water, my breath burning in my lungs. The hands were now long, jagged claws, and as I kicked, one claw pierced my ankle, anchoring me under the water. A dark cloud surrounded me as the blood oozed around its nails. I struggled against it, but it only tore deeper into me. A rush of air bubbled around me as I screamed in pain. I was about to inhale my death when something pressed against my face.

  It didn’t feel like a dream anymore.

  I shot up with a gasp, the pillow falling from my face. Disoriented and panting, I searched the room. Sara stood frozen by her bed, her eyes wide and mouth open.

  “I’m so sorry,” she muttered. “I thought I heard you talking. I thought you were awake.”

  “I’m awake,” I ex
haled quickly. With a deep breath, I pushed the panic away. Sara remained stunned even after I’d recovered.

  “I shouldn’t have thrown the pillow on your head. I’m really sorry,” she frowned guiltily.

  What are you talking about?” I brushed off her apology. “It was just a dream. I’m fine.” After another deep breath to ease the shaking, I pulled back the covers. They clung to the layer of sweat covering my body.

  “Good morning, Sara.” I said as normally as I could.

  “Good morning, Emma,” she finally returned, forced out of her guilt-ridden stupor. And just like that, it was over, thankfully. “I’m going to take a shower. We have to hurry. We’re leaving in an hour.” She grabbed her things and disappeared.

  I’d been trying to prepare myself for this day for over a month. It didn’t matter. I was still freaked just thinking about it. And now it was here.

  I collapsed back on the bed and stared up at the white glowing skylights that lined the ceiling, the morning sun hidden behind the snow.

  I looked around the room that had no true connection to me―the large flatscreen hanging on the wall, and a vanity in the corner, lined with makeup that had seen way too many makeovers at my expense. There were pictures of laughing friends taped to the mirror, and vibrant art adorned the walls. No reminder of my life before I came here. It was the place where I’d been hiding ―hiding from the judgment, whispers and stares.

  Why was I here? I knew the answer. If I had the choice, I’d never leave. It’s not like I had anywhere else to go, and the McKinleys wouldn’t turn their backs on me. They were the only family I had, and for that I would always be grateful. But that wasn’t completely the truth. They weren't the only family I had.

  So when the phone rang while Sara was in the shower, I sucked in all the courage I could gather, put the phone to my ear and said, “Hi.”

  “Oh! You’re there,” my mother exclaimed, completely taken by surprise. “I’m so glad I was finally able to catch you. How are you?”

  “I’m fine,” I replied, my heart stammering in my chest. “Um, so you have plans tonight?”

  “Just a party with some friends,” she replied, sounding just as awkward as I felt. “Listen. I was hoping we could try, you know... I mean, I live pretty much in Weslyn now if you ever decide you’d like to...”

  “Yeah, sure,” I blurted, before I lost my nerve, “I’ll live with you.”

  “Oh, um, okay,” she responded in strained excitement. “Really?”

  “Sure,” I answered, trying to sound sincere. “I mean, I’m leaving for college soon, so better reconnect now than when I’m across the country, right?”

  She was silent, probably digesting that I'd just invited myself to move in. "Uh, yeah, that sounds great. When are you thinking?"

  “Since I go back to school on Monday, how about Sunday?”

  “Meaning, this Sunday? As in, three days from now?” There was no hiding the panic in her voice. My heart skipped a beat. She wasn't ready to take me back, was she?

  “Would that be okay? I mean, I don’t need anything, just a bed, or even a couch. But if it's too much... Sorry, I shouldn't have―”

  “No… no, that’s perfect,” she stumbled. “Um, I have time to get your room ready, so… sure, Sunday it is. I live on Decatur Street. I’ll text you the address.”

  “Okay. I’ll see you Sunday then.”

  “Yup,” my mother replied, the shock still lingering in her tone. “Happy New Year, Emily.”

  “You too,” I returned before hanging up the phone. I stared up at the ceiling. What did I just do?! What was I thinking?

  I grabbed my things and walked past Sara into the bathroom, trying to control the panic rising inside of me. By the time I emerged, I had come to terms with it. It was what I had to do.

  “So, I have something to tell you,” I began, sitting on the stool next to Sara while her mother, Anna, poured herself a cup of coffee. “I spoke to my mother this morning...”

  “It’s about time,” Sara interrupted. “You’ve only been ignoring her for like six months.”

  “What did she have to say?” Anna encouraged, ignoring Sara's outburst.

  “Well... I’m moving in with her this Sunday.” I held my breath as I watched the news sink in.

  Sara's spoon clanged inside the cereal bowl, but she didn't say a word.

  “What made you decide that was the best thing to do?” Anna asked calmly, diverting attention from Sara's silent disapproval.

  “She’s my mother,” I shrugged. “I’m leaving for college soon, and I don’t think I’ll have another opportunity to try to fix us. I haven’t exactly been fair to her, and she keeps trying to connect, so I thought this was the best way to do it.”

  Anna nodded, considering my explanation. Sara stood up and briskly walked to the sink to drop her bowl in, still unable to look at me.

  “Well, Carl and I will need to talk about it since we were given guardianship until you’re eighteen. And I’d really like to meet her before anything's final. Okay?”

  I nodded, not expecting Anna's answer. I wasn't used to having a parent actually care about me, so I didn't really know what to say.

  “I understand why you want to do this,” Anna assured with a soft smile. “Let us just talk about it first, that's all.”

  "Thanks," I accepted. "It would mean a lot to get to know my mother again."

  Sara stormed up the stairs without a single word. I exhaled deeply before following her up the stairs.

  "Okay, say it," I demanded flatly while Sara shoved items into her overnight bag.

  "I don't have anything to say," Sara quipped. But she did; it just took a three hour car ride to the hotel and a day of primping before it came out.

  After a day of being prepped and primped from head to toe in Newport, I was exhausted, and we hadn't even gone to the party yet. Or maybe it was the drama of the impromptu decision to move in with my mother that drained my energy. Either way, I was having a hard time looking forward to tonight.

  "I don't understand why you're moving in with her," Sara reprimanded out of nowhere as she smoothed the brush over my lids. "Couldn't you start with... uh... talking first? I just don't like it. She left you, Em. Why go back?"

  "Sara, please," I implored quietly, "I need to do this. I know it seems messed up to you, but it's important to me. It's not like you're losing me or anything. And if it's horrible, I'll move back in with you. I feel like I should give her another chance."

  Sara sighed dramatically. "I still don't think it's a good idea, but…" she paused a moment, "you're one of the most stubborn people I know, and if this is what you want to do, I know I won't be able to talk you out of it. Um, you can open your eyes now."

  I stretched my eyes open and blinked, the mascara sticking along my lashes.

  She deliberated, finally conceding with a roll of her eyes, "Fine. Live with her. But she'd better not do anything monumentally stupid like she did when she left you with psycho."

  I grinned, adoring Sara's protectiveness. "Thank you. So... how do I look?"

  "Amazing, of course," Sara gloated, taking in her masterpiece. "I'm going to put my dress on, and then we'll be ready to meet the guys in the lobby."

  I picked up the note that had been waiting for us when we returned to the hotel and ran my thumb over the elegant script.

  Dear Emily and Sara,

  I am thrilled that you have arrived safely and hope you enjoy your afternoon together. I am looking forward to seeing you this evening for dinner. I have arranged for the car to pick you up along with Evan and Jared at 6:45pm for our 7:00pm reservation.

  I have no doubt that you will enjoy all that has been planned this evening!


  Vivian Mathews

  "I hope I don't embarrass her," I hollered through the bathroom door.

  "Stop being so nervous," Sara returned. "Vivian really wants you there. This is important to her. She even convinced Jared to take me so I could be
here with you."

  I grinned, knowing that Jared didn't need much convincing.

  "What do you think? You haven't said anything about how you look."

  "Oh, uh," I stepped in front of the full length mirror, and my lips curled up naturally. There was a slight resemblance to the girl who preferred jeans and a ponytail, the girl who still couldn’t conquer applying makeup on her own. Her light brown eyes glistened under a shimmer of pink and dark lashes. And her full lips, veiled with gloss, were smiling back with cheeks of red.

  I turned to the side and the layers of chiffon flowed beneath me. My fingers traced the soft pink embroidered design on the champagne corseted top. Sara chose the same shade of pink to weave in my hair, resembling an inset headband, with a pile of soft curls artistically stacked at the nape of my neck. I picked up the finishing touch from the dresser and secured it around my neck, allowing my fingertips to brush the sparkling diamond as I did the day he’d given it to me.

  As Sara stepped out of the bathroom, I turned toward the door with my cheeks aglow, ready to thank her for her ingenious transformation, but I was held speechless at the sight of her. The sapphire blue dress skimmed her body, brushing her curves in a shimmering dance. Large curls of red traipsed over her right shoulder. She looked… worshipable.

  “Jared is in so much trouble,” I gaped. “Sara, you look amazing.” I wasn’t sure why I was so in awe. She was the most desired girl in school for a reason, but I guess I forgot that most of the time because she was just Sara to me. There was no denying her modelesque figure and Hellenic beauty now.

  Sara smiled vibrantly, revealing perfect white teeth behind her glossy red lips. “Maybe he is.”

  “Sara, please don't tell me you're going to sleep with him," I begged.

  “Relax. I won’t,” she said with a roll of her eyes. "But it doesn't mean we can't have fun."

  My phone beeped, distracting me from her comment. Spoke with Carl and we called Rachel. She’s sweet, and I believe she wants this too. Meeting her on Saturday, but it looks like everything’s all set for Sunday.