Out of breath, p.13
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       Out of Breath, p.13

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 13

 

  ‘Wow,’ I gawked. ‘You grew. ’

  ‘Or you shrunk,’ he replied with a crooked grin. ‘Let’s go. ’ He nodded towards the house.

  I turned and examined the obstacle course between the deck and the bar across the room. There was a lot of movement with the dancing and arms swaying – it was going to take a lot of concentration. I took a deep breath in preparation.

  Cole grabbed my hand, and I looked up at him in surprise.

  ‘You look like you could use some help. ’

  ‘Yes, that I do. I definitely need help. ’ Cole escorted me through the obstacles without incident, and I emerged on the other side unscathed. I considered raising my arms in victory, but he still had my hand, and I didn’t think he would join me.

  ‘Emma!’ TJ hollered joyously when he spotted me.

  ‘TJ!’ I returned enthusiastically.

  His expression changed, and he appeared perplexed. ‘Are you leaving?’

  Without my realizing it, Cole had directed us towards the front door.

  ‘See you later, TJ,’ Cole said to him, opening the door for me to pass through.

  ‘We’re leaving?’ I questioned in confusion, as TJ said, ‘Later, Cole. ’

  That’s when I picked up on it. ‘Wait. You know them?’

  ‘Yes. And yes,’ Cole responded patiently as we continued along the walkway to the street. ‘My dad has a house down the road. ’

  ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ I griped, frustration pushing through the calm. Why was this happening to me? This had to be a sick and twisted joke. ‘Of course you know them! Of course I had to come to this party. You probably know him too, right?’

  ‘You mean –’ He opened his mouth to say his name and stopped when I cut him down with my glare. ‘I’ve met him. ’

  I screamed up at the sky, ‘Fuck you, karma!’

  But I couldn’t yell and walk at the same time, so I stopped. Cole looked on in baffled amusement.

  ‘Fucking stupid karma,’ I grumbled under my breath with my arms crossed.

  ‘You’re seriously pissed off?’ he chuckled.

  ‘Shut up, Cole,’ I snapped. ‘Fucking karma. ’

  ‘You’d better stop telling karma off, or she’s going to kick your ass. ’ He laughed.

  ‘Oh, she can bring it. Come on!’ I screamed at the stars. ‘Give me everything you’ve got!’

  The corner of Cole’s lip rose. ‘Okay, champ. Calm down. ’

  I suddenly felt drained. With my shoulders curved forward, I sat down on the side of the street.

  ‘What are you doing?’ Cole enquired, towering over me.

  ‘I’m tired,’ I moaned, drawing up my knees and plopping my head down on my folded arms.

  ‘Come on,’ Cole encouraged, offering me his hand. ‘We’re almost there. And then you can pass out. ’ I took his hand, and he lifted me from the ground. My footing faltered, and I grabbed on to his arm.

  I continued walking with my head slumped against him, holding myself up with his arm. I was so tired … and dizzy. The ground wouldn’t stay still, and it was messing with me. I bit my lip, concentrating. Then I realized I couldn’t feel my lip, which made me think of kissing.

  ‘Cole?’

  ‘Yes, Emma. ’

  ‘Will you kiss me?’

  ‘Uh, no,’ he responded bluntly.

  ‘But I want to know if you can feel my lips,’ I urged impatiently.

  ‘Still, no. I’m not kissing you. ’

  ‘Why?’ I sulked.

  There was silence for a minute. Then he said, ‘Because I’m not even sure I like you. ’

  ‘Good reason,’ I noted sleepily. ‘But you don’t have to like me. You just have to kiss me. I can’t feel my lips. ’

  ‘Stop biting them,’ he instructed. I blinked heavily and noticed we were walking towards a house.

  ‘Cole?’

  ‘Yes, Emma. ’

  ‘I’m sorry I’m a bitch. ’ He took out a key and unlocked the door. I was having a hard time holding my body upright. ‘And I’m sorry you don’t like me. ’ He opened the door.

  ‘There’s a spare –’

  But I was already moving towards the couch that I’d zoned in on when he’d opened the door. I fell on it with a heavy sigh and let the world spin me to sleep.

  8

  Capturing the Silence

  I MOANED AS THE SOUND OF METAL CLANGing reverberated through my head. ‘Sorry,’ I heard a male voice say.

  Fuck!

  I squeezed my eyes shut and ran my hands along my hips – exhaling with relief when I felt fabric. Peeking out from under my lashes, my face pressed against a pillow, I noted a blue fuzzy blanket laid over me. Beyond the foot of the couch was an open kitchen, and him, with his back to me. The taste of tequila still lingered in my mouth – probably seeping through my pores as well.

  I pushed myself up to sit, expecting pain, but it didn’t come. Instead a swirl rocked me. I blinked, trying to focus. The stark white room forced me to squint against the intense brightness.

  ‘Hey,’ Cole greeted me, busy with something in the kitchen. ‘Hungover?’

  ‘No,’ I rasped, running my fingers through my hair, feeling one side all pushed up. I attempted to smooth it down and tuck it behind my ear. ‘I think I’m still drunk. ’

  Cole chuckled. ‘I wouldn’t doubt it. I’m making pancakes, if you want some. ’

  I looked around the small open space, with its wall of shelves filled with books, pictures, boxes and ocean paraphernalia. There was an oversized beige chair, complementing the couch I had awoken on. Behind the couch was a square wooden table with a couple of chairs. The kitchen was separated by a peninsula that had three wooden stools pushed against it.

  I stood up and shuffled over to the sliding glass doors to admire the ocean view, then opened the door and walked out onto the wooden deck. The clouds hung low over the water, casting gloom over the barely visible islands that lay in the distance. Wrapping my arms across my chest, I braced myself against the chill of the breeze. I closed my eyes and breathed in the damp air, settling the dizziness.

  Cole stepped out and stood beside me, placing his hands on the railing, watching the seagulls flying across the water before landing on the beach, scouring for food.

  ‘Crappy day,’ he observed, glancing at me. I turned towards him, blinking lazily through the clouds in my head.

  ‘Feels like me,’ I groaned, earning a grin. He went back inside while I continued to stare out at the dark water. There was something inviting about the rhythmic surf intermingling with the grey sky. I wanted to float along its surface, breathe in the mist.

  When I looked back into the house and saw that Cole was preoccupied with cooking, I crept down the steps, easing over the rocks that were smooth and cool under my bare feet, until I reached the coarse sandy beach. The bordering houses were dark and seemingly unoccupied.

  I stared out at the water, and my heart convulsed. I took one more glance at the house without seeing a sign of Cole. Releasing a settling breath, I slipped out of my capris and peeled off my top, dropping them on the sand along with my bra and underwear. Before I could change my mind, I waded into the frigid water until it pushed up against my thighs and dived beneath an oncoming wave.

  I broke the surface, gasping at the freezing cold water. A wave crested above my head, and I ducked under it, re-emerging on the other side. All around me the fog was thick, blending the surrounding houses into the shadows. I lay back on the rolling surface and kicked my feet, pushing further away from shore. My thoughts were quiet as the water lapped around my ears, dissolving the world around me. The buzz in my head was replaced with a calming hush. Nothing mattered.

  Some rational part of me knew I needed to get back before the water sucked me under – but I stayed on the surface a little longer, not wanting to give up the stillness. I tried to imagine what it would be like to let it swallow me up, and surrender to the si
lence forever.

  With a quivering inhale, I slipped under the water. A wave captured me and pushed me to shore. I broke through the surface and inhaled the cool air, filling my lungs. I continued to glide towards shore with the waves, until my knees scraped along the sand.

  ‘Are you insane?’ Peyton scolded, standing on the beach, holding a towel in her hands. ‘Your lips are purple, and you’re naked. What the hell are you thinking?’

  I glanced around before I stood up, making sure it was just the two of us.

  ‘Right now?’ I paused. ‘Nothing. ’ Then I smirked, which irritated her more. I took the oversized beach towel from her and wrapped it around my shivering body. Even with the towel, my muscles were rigid, aching with cold. Peyton picked up my clothes when we approached them.

  ‘I brought your bag, so you can put something dry and warm on,’ she explained.

  ‘You brought my bag?’ I looked over at her, and she averted her eyes.

  ‘I was hoping you could stay here and let Tom and I have some time alone for a day or two,’ she replied sheepishly. I raised my eyebrows. ‘Cole doesn’t mind, despite how strange you’re being. ’

  ‘He thinks I’m being strange?’ I enquired curiously.

  ‘No, but I do. He just said that you were trying “something new” and handed me a towel. ’

  I laughed.

  Before we entered the house, Peyton stopped me to make certain I had covered everything I needed to cover, since Tom was sitting on the couch. I rolled my eyes, and brushed past her into the house.

  ‘Your bag is in the bedroom on the right,’ Peyton informed me.

  Tom asked, ‘How’s the water?’ as I passed behind the couch.

  ‘Shut up, Tom,’ Peyton snapped. Cole was leaning against the counter, watching me. I glanced at him, and my mouth shaped into a subtle grin as I entered the bedroom and shut the door.

  I stayed under the shower’s hot stream until I finally defrosted. My grogginess had dissolved in the waves. I took a deep breath, satisfied with the invigorating clarity the experience had unleashed. When I walked into the kitchen, dressed and with dry hair, I could feel my skin glowing.

  ‘Hungry?’ Cole asked as I seated myself at the island.

  ‘Starving. ’ He set a huge plate of pancakes in front of me.

  I looked around the small space and realized we were alone. ‘Where’s Peyton and Tom?’

  ‘They went back to her place,’ he answered, washing a bowl in the sink. ‘Was it everything you expected?’ Cole glanced back with a gleam in his eye.

  I swallowed a mouthful of pancakes. ‘What’s that?’

  ‘Skinny-dipping. ’

  I shifted uncomfortably on the stool. ‘It was better,’ I replied softly. I heard him release a breathy laugh without turning around.

  Cole selected some music and disappeared into his room to shower.

  The fog had thickened outside. I was suddenly very aware that I was going to be spending the entire day with Cole in this house … alone. I looked around and realized there wasn’t a television, so I considered shutting myself in the spare bedroom to read all day. That’s when I noticed the boxes of puzzles stacked on one of the shelves. I’d never done a puzzle before, and I was intrigued by the thought. It seemed like a thousand pieces would be distracting enough. I wouldn’t have to think about anything other than finding the right ones to fit together.

 
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