Out of breath, p.24
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       Out of Breath, p.24

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 24

 

  ‘Yeah, right,’ he scoffed. Then his attention was drawn towards the red hair that weaved through the crowd.

  ‘Are you going to talk to her?’

  He glared in response.

  ‘What the hell do I say? Besides, this isn’t exactly the best place to talk. ’ I knew exactly what he meant. His eyes continued to follow her. As if sensing him, Sara looked up and they made eye contact. Jared looked at her dumbly. I nudged him to pursue her, but she whipped herself around and strode aggressively in the opposite direction.

  ‘That went well,’ I said sardonically.

  ‘Shut up,’ he muttered. ‘Emma was looking for you. As soon as she saw Mom and me, she looked for you. So what are you going to do?’

  ‘I don’t know yet,’ I admitted, still searching the faces for the girl who had broken my heart.

  Once I saw Vivian I knew he’d be here. I shook my head and paced the office. I couldn’t go back out there. Not until I knew Evan was gone. I felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest. I looked down at the silver box I’d tucked under my arm on my way out of the room.

  ‘What the hell is he doing here?’ I asked the object. The panic continued to build; I couldn’t calm down. I could hear people talking on the other side of the door, and recognized the funeral director’s dreary tone. Not wanting to explain why I was in his office holding my mother’s ashes, I rushed to the closet behind his desk and hid inside.

  I held my breath, waiting for the voices in the office to disappear. When the light clicked off and the door closed behind them, I exhaled and rested against the wall. I reached above my head and found a string. An exposed bulb illuminated the long, narrow closet. My jacket, along with Sara, Anna and Carl’s, hung on the metal pipe secured into each side of the wall. At the far end was a stack of brown-metal folding chairs. My feet bumped the tote bag on the floor.

  ‘I might as well,’ I murmured. ‘I mean, it is your memorial. ’

  I slid down the wall and kicked off my shoes. The glass I’d emptied in the parlour had taken the edge off. But it wasn’t enough. I unscrewed the bottle.

  ‘Cheers, Mom. ’ I tapped the metal box with the bottle before taking a large swig and embraced the swirl that rocked through my head.

  I stared at the shiny silver container, taking a few more gulps of the numbing elixir.

  ‘Did you really hang yourself?’ I paused as if she’d really answer. ‘Why? Why would you do that? Were you really that unhappy?’ I released a heavy breath and rested my arm on the top of the box. ‘Well … I hope you got what you wanted. I hope the pain’s gone. ’

  ‘Sara,’ I interrupted her while she was speaking with some parents I only recognized by sight. ‘Do you have a minute?’

  Sara excused herself and approached me. ‘What is it?’

  ‘Have you seen Emma?’

  Sara stopped to think. ‘Umm … not in a while, actually. She was supposed to go in the kitchen to get something to eat. But that was like a half hour ago. ’

  ‘Where do you think she is?’ Sara avoided my eyes, which made me even more concerned. ‘Sara, do you think she’s okay?’

  Sara couldn’t look at me. Instead she started scanning the thinning crowd.

  ‘I’ll look in the kitchen,’ she told me. ‘Let me know if you see her. ’

  Sara was more concerned than I was anticipating. I didn’t know why, but I knew we needed to find Emma before anyone else did.

  ‘Cole!’ I exclaimed loudly when he answered the phone, my voice echoing in the enclosed space. ‘Oops, that was loud. Shhh!’ I pressed my finger over my lips.

  ‘Emma? What’s going on? Where’s Sara?’ He didn’t sound too happy to hear from me. I wondered if he was still mad at me.

  ‘I don’t know,’ I answered simply. ‘She’s out there somewhere. Cole, are you still mad at me?’

  ‘What?’ He sounded confused. ‘No. But right now I’m worried about you. Where are you?’

  ‘In a closet. With my mom. We’re drinking. ’

  Cole was silent for a moment. ‘Umm … what did you say?’

  I started laughing. ‘That did sound funny, huh?’

  ‘Emma, where’s Sara?’

  ‘Do you not want to talk to me?’ I asked in confusion. ‘Why do you want to talk to Sara?’

  ‘I’m kind of going crazy, because I’m in California, and I have no idea what you’re going through right now. And the fact that you’ve locked yourself in a closet to drink doesn’t sound good. ’

  ‘Omigod, is the door locked?’ I asked in a rush. I reached up and turned the handle and cracked the door slightly. ‘It’s not locked. ’ I laughed.

  ‘Emma. ’ Cole sighed. ‘I can be there tomorrow. ’

  ‘No!’ I shouted back, then said firmly, ‘I don’t want you here. You don’t belong here. I don’t belong here. I’m stuck. I’m stuck in yesterday, and you’re tomorrow. And I’ll see you in two more tomorrows. Okay?’

  ‘I have no idea what you just said. ’

  I leaned my head against the wall with the phone pressed against my face and the nearly depleted bottle between my legs. ‘Cole. ’

  ‘Yes, Emma?’

  I closed my eyes, and I couldn’t open them again.

  ‘Emma?’

  I heard him through the fog, but I couldn’t find him. ‘Emma?’

  ‘Emma?’ Sara whispered into the office. Light seeped out under the closet door. ‘Shit. ’

  I followed her into the room, shutting the door behind us before flipping on the light. I was suddenly concerned about what we were going to find behind that door.

  Sara opened it and then shook her head. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. ’

  I stood behind her, and it took me a moment to interpret what I was seeing. Emma lay slumped against the wall with what was left of a bottle of vodka spilled on the floor next to her and a cell phone in her hand.

  ‘Is she drunk?’ I asked in shocked disbelief.

  ‘I told you she was different. ’ Sara leaned over and pushed the hair out of Emma’s face, tucking it behind her ear. She removed the cell phone from her hand and listened.

  I could only watch; I was having a hard time coming to grips with this image. My brow furrowed with the roll of anger rippling through me.

  ‘Hello?’ Her eyes widened in surprise when she heard a voice on the other end. ‘Cole. Hey. Yeah, I found her. ’ She listened. ‘She’s … passed out. But I’m going to take her back to the motel now, and I’ll have her call you in the morning. ’ She hung up the phone and tossed it in the blue striped bag that was on the floor.

  ‘Shit,’ Sara muttered again, inspecting Emma’s limp body. ‘How the hell am I going to get her out of here without my mother seeing this?’

  ‘Did you just say you were staying in a motel?’ I asked. ‘Why aren’t you staying at your house?’

  ‘Because Emma wants nothing to do with Weslyn. ’ Sara’s answer made perfect sense, but it still felt like someone had punched me in the gut. ‘She had a hard enough time being here, obviously. ’ She waved her hands over her.

  ‘She’s not staying at a motel, especially that dive along the highway, if that’s the one you’re talking about. ’

  Sara flashed her eyes up at me in frustration. ‘Do you have a better plan? Because I can’t let my mother know she did this. She’d lose it. ’

  ‘She can stay at my house. ’ I said it before I’d really given it much thought. ‘She can stay in the guest room. ’

  ‘No. Way,’ Sara retorted firmly. ‘That is the worst idea ever. ’

  ‘If you want my help getting her out of here, then she’s staying at my house. ’

  ‘Evan, why would you want that?’ I didn’t say anything. But after seeing Emma like this, I knew there was more going on than I understood. I was already about to split open with the questions that I’d been left with two years ago, and this was more than I could handle.

  Sara didn’
t push for the answer that I didn’t have. She kept shaking her head, at a loss for a better plan.

  ‘Then I’m staying too,’ Sara insisted.

  ‘Fine. You can stay in the other guest room. ’

  ‘And you know she’s going to be beyond pissed off when she wakes up,’ she warned me.

  ‘I think where she wakes up will be the least of her worries. ’ I nodded towards the passed-out girl on the closet floor, unable to connect her to the girl I used to know. It seemed impossible they were the same person.

  ‘Pull my car around to the back,’ I instructed. ‘Come in and get us when the path through the kitchen is clear. I think most people have left by now anyway. ’

  Sara stared at me, the disapproval heavy on her face. ‘One night, Evan. That’s it. ’

  I shrugged. ‘Fine. You’ll have to convince her to stay with you tomorrow, because that motel’s not an option. ’

  Sara reached out and took the keys from my hand. She walked forward a few steps, then hesitated, turning back to take the silver box with her.

  I leaned against the doorframe, listening to the deep breaths pass through Emma’s full lips. I wasn’t prepared for any of this.

  ‘Emma, what happened?’ I pulled out my phone to check the time, waiting for Sara to return, and stared at the unconscious girl on the floor with a disgruntled breath.

  ‘We’re all set,’ Sara declared. I turned away from the unrecognizable figure. Sara picked up the shoes and retrieved the bag from the closet. I knelt down next to Emma, sliding an arm beneath her thighs and wrapping the other around her ribs. Her body fell into me, her arm dangling by her side. I stood, the movement not stirring her at all. Sara tucked the skirt of her dress in between my arm and her legs before leading me out the door.

  I could feel her breath against my neck and my shoulders tightened, not comfortable having her this close to me. I swallowed against the tension in my jaw and followed Sara quickly through the kitchen into the cool spring night.

  I set her on the passenger seat, and Sara closed the door. ‘I’m going to the motel to get our bags. I won’t be long. ’ I shook my head with a half grin, knowing she didn’t want Emma to wake up without her there.

  I sat in the driver’s seat and looked over at her again. The pale light of the night softened the lines of her face, reminding me of the girl I once knew. She could have easily been just sleeping, hiding her haunted eyes under her lids. Watching her peaceful face, something roused inside me, and I knew I was in trouble.

  16

  Yesterday

  ‘COULD USE A LITTLE HELP HERE,’ I HOLLERED through the screen door. I heard loud footsteps approaching from inside the house.

  ‘What the hell?’ Jared exclaimed.

  ‘Just open the frickin’ door, Jared. ’ He propped the door open and let me pass.

  ‘What happened?’ he asked, following me through the kitchen.

 
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