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Barely Breathing, Page 2

Rebecca Donovan

Page 2


  After a day of being prepped and primped from head to toe in Newport, I was exhausted, and we hadnt 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 dont understand why youre moving in with her," Sara reprimanded out of nowhere as she smoothed the brush over my lids. "Couldnt you start with. . . uh. . . talking first? I just dont 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 its important to me. Its not like youre losing me or anything. And if its horrible, Ill move back in with you. I feel like I should give her another chance. "

  Sara sighed dramatically. "I still dont think its a good idea, but…" she paused a moment, "youre one of the most stubborn people I know, and if this is what you want to do, I know I wont 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 shed better not do anything monumentally stupid like she did when she left you with psycho. "

  I grinned, adoring Saras protectiveness. "Thank you. So. . . how do I look?"

  "Amazing, of course," Sara gloated, taking in her masterpiece. "Im going to put my dress on, and then well 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 dont 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 didnt need much convincing.

  "What do you think? You havent 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 dont tell me youre going to sleep with him," I begged.

  “Relax. I won’t,” she said with a roll of her eyes. "But it doesnt mean we cant 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.

  Sara handed me my jacket and the bag that held Evans gift. "Your parents are letting me move in with her," I announced.

  "Well, then I guess its official. " Sara held the door open for me to follow.

  "I guess so," I returned, my stomach flipping with the realization.

  I thought my knees might give out when we rounded the corner into the main lobby and I saw the back of the black tailored jacket. My eyes trailed to find his usually tousled light brown hair neatly swept to the side in a more distinguished look. He was caught up in a conversation with his brother and didn’t notice as we approached.

  Evan stopped mid-sentence when Jared’s mouth dropped open. Jared was in trouble, and it was written all over his face as Sara sauntered toward him.

  I couldn’t feel my legs moving as Evan turned around. My heart stopped at the sight of his smoky blue eyes, and a rush of heat filled my cheeks when his mouth formed that perfect smile. It had only been two weeks since hed left for his skiing trip, but for some reason it was like I was seeing him for the first time all over again.

  “Hi,” I whispered. He stepped up to take my hand, our connection unbroken since our eyes first met.

  “Hi,” he responded, still smiling. He tilted his head down to kiss me, but Sara interrupted.

  “We need to go or we’ll be late. ”

  “Sure,” Evan replied, instantly snapped back to the bustling lobby of formally dressed people, most likely attending the same event. He helped me slip on my jacket. I slid on black leather gloves in preparation for January’s freeze and took his hand again.

  “What’s that?” Evan asked, gesturing toward the bag.

  “A surprise," I grinned, having waited so long to give it to him it was killing me.

  “I have one of those too,” he smirked, holding the door open for me.

  “One what?”

  “A surprise,” he revealed, smiling wider and sending another rush of color to my cheeks.

  I ducked into the limo and slid in beside Sara, since she was sitting across from Jared. Evan was forced to sit next to his brother, leaving my hand empty. I glanced across at him, and we silently exchanged the I wish I were sitting next to you too look.

  The limo pulled into a circular cobblestone driveway, and the driver came around to open the door. The restaurant resembled a mansion more than a dining establishment, with multiple eaves and glowing windows on each level.

  We were escorted to a private patio that was glassed in for the winter season, offering a spectacular view of the dark rolling ocean.

  “Wonderful! You’re here,” Vivian greeted brightly with open arms. She gripped each of her sons by the shoulders as they bent to kiss her on the cheek, then admired Sara and I after the guys helped remove our jackets.

  “Exquisite,” she declared, wrapping us each in her signature brief embrace with a brush of her lips on our cheeks. “Come. Sit down. ”

  Stuart remained unmoved. Not giving us a glance since our arrival. He stoically gazed out at the ocean holding a glass of ice, filled with caramel colored liquor.

  At Vivian’s insistence, we each found a seat. I made certain to sit next to Evan at the rectangular table, with Jared and Sara across from us and Vivian and Stuart at each end. Evan took my hand under the draped table, instantly calming my nerves.

  The polite small talk began. I tried my best not to participate unless a question or comment was directed my way, and of course each time it was, I usually had my mouth full or was in mid-gulp. Sara pressed her lips together to keep from laughing, which only made me squirm uncomfortably.

  After surviving th
e anxiety inducing dinner, I excused myself to use the restroom and promised to meet Evan in the foyer.

  It was a struggle to hold the chiffon over my head so it wouldnt fall in the toilet. I was standing outside the bathroom door, smoothing the layers back in place, when I heard, “I don’t want to talk about this again. ”

  I remained still. Not sure if I should continue around the corner, or wait until they were done. I was thankful I decided not walk in on, “She’s not your future, Evan. It’s about time you realized that. I won’t allow you to pass up on Yale to follow a girl, especially that one, across the country. ”

  “It’s not your choice to make for me, Dad,” Evan bit back. “I don’t expect you to understand. ”

  “Stuart, what are you doing?” Vivian beckoned from afar. “We’re going to be late. ”

  I remained still, having collapsed flat against the restroom door with my heart pounding and my mind racing. What just happened? I knew Stuart was withdrawn, but I had no idea it was because he didn’t approve of me. His reaction sunk in, and my lip quivered.

  I bit my lip, taking a deep breath to compose myself. Then I walked around the corner and forced a smile when I saw Evan waiting for me with my jacket over his arm.

  “Are you okay?” he asked, inspecting my face. I pushed my smile wider with a nod of my head. I slipped my arms into the jacket with my back toward Evan, afraid he could see right through me.

  Evan held the door open and allowed me to lead the way to the limo. Sara and Jared were across from us, lost in conversation about who they deemed to be the best guitarist.

  Evan took my hand. “Are you shaking?”

  “It’s cold,” I lied, wanting to roll my eyes at my involuntary “tell”. Evan wrapped his arm around me to warm me up. I eased away the nerves, nuzzling into him.

  “Wow,” Sara admired the up lit mansion as the limo slowly crept in line with the others. A streak of nerves twisted my stomach. I felt like I was nearing the head of the line for a death defying rollercoaster ride.

  “They’re just people,” Evan assured in my ear, probably noticing I wasn’t breathing. I exhaled to relax my shoulders, squeezing his hand.

  Just people soaked in jewels of every color or poised in tailored tuxedoes, full of judgment and snide comments, I thought. We made our way through the glitz covered bodies shimmering in the candlelight. The voices swirled in time with the smooth jazz band in the ballroom.

  Everywhere I looked, I was struck by more brilliance.

  “Mrs. Mathews, this is incredible,” Sara gawked. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful. ”

  “I’m not so sure my sons would agree,” Vivian replied with a sparkling smile. My cheeks grew warm when Evan squeezed my hand. “This did turn out more spectacular than I could have hoped. I am so happy to have you all here with me. I need to greet a few more guests, but I will be expecting a dance later, Evan. ” The corner of her mouth rose as she met her son’s eyes, and she glided away in the antiqued ivory dress that floated around her. Vivian was picturesque sophistication with her blond hair swept back into a French twist. I admired how collected she always remained, even in a setting that was completely overwhelming to me.