Out of breath, p.25
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       Out of Breath, p.25

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
Page 25


  ‘Vodka happened,’ I grumbled. ‘We found her passed out in a closet. ’

  ‘Holy shit. ’ Jared gawked, remaining a step behind me as I climbed the stairs. ‘And you thought bringing her here was the best idea?’

  ‘It’s only one night. ’ I waited for Jared to open the door, but he just stood there and stared at me. ‘Come on. Open the door. ’

  He shook his head in disapproval. ‘I can’t believe you’re carrying Emma into our house … passed out. ’ Jared pushed the door open and followed me into the room, flipping on the lights.

  ‘You sound like Sara,’ I mumbled, then added, ‘who is staying here too. ’ I grinned, awaiting his reaction.

  ‘What?’ Jared’s eyes stretched wide. ‘Evan, are you fucking serious?!’

  ‘Fold down the bedding,’ I instructed with a light chuckle. ‘Now you’ll get the chance to talk to her. ’ I gently laid Emma on the crisp white sheet.

  ‘This isn’t exactly how I’d prepared to talk to her. ’

  Emma’s black skirt spread on the bed, and I noticed the large bandage below her right knee. Blotches of blood were seeping through. I remained standing above her, scanning her body for other injuries with a knot in my stomach.

  ‘And you kidnapping Emma wasn’t the best way for you to talk to her,’ Jared snapped.

  I leaned over and brushed the hair from her cheek, then eased the covers over her unmoving body.

  ‘I didn’t kidnap her,’ I countered, facing my brother. He led the way out of the room. I glanced back at her one more time before turning off the light and shutting the door behind us.

  ‘Yeah, because I’m sure if she had a choice, this is exactly where she’d want to wake up,’ Jared scoffed.

  ‘I couldn’t let her sleep in that sleazy motel on the outside of town. It’s not exactly the safest place to stay. ’

  Jared laughed at me. ‘I think she’d prefer it. ’

  ‘Shut up, Jared. ’

  ‘Evan? Did I hear you?’ my mother called to us from below the landing. She must have been in her office when we’d arrived.

  ‘He brought Emma here,’ Jared blurted. I whipped my head towards him and glowered. I would have shoved him if our mother wasn’t watching.

  ‘Evan, could you please come downstairs?’ she requested quietly, but with a seriousness to her tone that made my back straighten. Jared shot me a now-you’re-going-to-get-it look. I swore under my breath as I passed him.

  I followed my mother into the kitchen. She might have only come up to my chest, but she had a way of reverting me back to a five-year-old boy with a single glance.

  ‘Have a seat,’ she encouraged, standing before the kitchen counter. I settled on a stool and set my hands on my thighs, preparing for whatever disapproving lecture she was about to unleash.

  ‘Why is Emma here?’ She studied my face carefully. I knew the only way through this was to be honest.

  ‘Sara and I found her passed out in a closet. I couldn’t leave her there. And Sara didn’t want to upset her mother. So I brought her here. ’

  My mother nodded thoughtfully. ‘And what’s going to happen tomorrow when she wakes up?’

  I swallowed and shrugged. My mother shook her head.

  ‘Evan, it’s important that you realize what you’ve started. This one decision is now going to force you to make a succession of harder decisions. ‘

  ‘I don’t understand. ’

  ‘You had to intervene when you saw her like this. I understand that. But what’s going to happen when it’s time for her to board the plane back to California? Are you going to be able to let her go, not knowing what will happen to her? You need to think this through. ’

  I nodded slightly, weighing her words.

  ‘You have a decision to make. And this time … it’s yours to make. I won’t stand in your way. ’

  A tap at the door drew my mother’s attention. I jumped up from the stool. ‘It’s Sara. ’

  I pushed the door open for her, and Sara came in, wheeling two suitcases behind her, with a garment bag draped over her arm and a large canvas bag hanging from the other shoulder. I took the bags from her and set them on a dining-room chair.

  ‘Sara, love,’ my mother greeted her with a warm smile. ‘I understand you’ll be staying with us this evening. ’ She rested her hands on Sara’s shoulders and leaned in to kiss her cheek.

  ‘I hope you don’t mind. ’ Sara smiled at my mother, flashing me a dagger-driven glare out of the corner of her eye.

  ‘Not at all. You are always welcome here,’ my mother assured her. She then turned towards me, her sharp blue eyes connecting with mine in warning. ‘Evan and Jared will get you anything you need. ’ As if on cue, Jared appeared in the doorway. ‘If you would excuse me, it’s getting late, and I’m going to my room. ’

  My mother approached me, and I leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. ‘There’s not just your life to consider,’ she whispered in my ear before leaving, patting Jared on the cheek as she passed him.

  When she was out of sight, Sara snapped impatiently, ‘Where is she? I want to see her. ’

  ‘She’s upstairs,’ I informed her. She stormed past me, not giving Jared a second glance as she whisked by him.

  I followed her with a sigh. ‘Get the bags,’ I told Jared, who shot me a look, but continued into the kitchen to retrieve the girls’ luggage.

  ‘What happened to her leg, Sara?’ I asked before Sara could open the door.

  Sara paused. I could tell she wanted to tell me, but she fought with what to say. She ended up just shaking her head dismissively and opening the door. Without turning on the light, she sat down on the edge of the bed next to her best friend. I watched from the doorway as she ran her hand over Emma’s short brown hair soothingly.

  That’s when Emma stirred and rolled over. I remained perfectly still as she squinted her eyes up at Sara. ‘Hey. ’

  ‘Hey,’ Sara said in return, smiling gently down at me. ‘How are you feeling?’

  ‘I think I’m drunk,’ I slurred, blinking the sleep out of my eyes, trying to focus, but the vodka was making it difficult.

  ‘I think you are too,’ Sara nodded. ‘Not a good day for you, huh?’

  ‘Not a good life. ’ I chuckled humourlessly. I pulled the sheets up to my nose and inhaled. They smelled so good. So … clean. I sat up in a panic.

  The dark room started to fall into shape around me. I looked down at the white bedspread with the pink flowers.

  ‘Oh hell no!’ I yelled. ‘Sara, what the fuck am I doing here?!’

  ‘Relax, Em. ’ Sara tried to calm me, setting her hands on my shoulders to settle me back into the bed. ‘It’s just one night. ’

  ‘Oh, no, no, no,’ I repeated, shaking my head. The room started to spin, and I couldn’t hold my head up any longer. I collapsed back against the pillow. That’s when I saw his silhouette at the door. ‘I’m not supposed to be here,’ I cried. ‘I’m not supposed to be in yesterday. ’

  ‘I know,’ Sara whispered gently, smoothing my hair behind my ear. ‘It’ll be okay. I’m right down the hall if you need me. ’

  I fought to keep my eyes open, to insist that she take me away. But I couldn’t think. I needed to stop the spinning. I shut my eyes.

  Sara sat by Emma’s side for a moment longer to make certain she was truly asleep. Then she whipped around and stared at me angrily. I ducked back into the hall.

  Sara closed the door behind her and turned towards me. ‘I told you this was a horrible idea. ’ She ran her hands over her face, suddenly looking exhausted. ‘Why did I let you talk me into this? This is the last thing she needs. ’

  ‘The last thing she needs? What the hell happened to her, Sara?! How could you let her drink?!’ I spat fiercely.

  ‘What? I know you’ve taken the last two years out on me, but don’t you dare blame me for this! If you brought her here to get back at her in some way, then we’ll leave! I wo
n’t let you fuck her up any more than she already is, Evan!’

  I bowed my head. ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. ’ I inhaled deeply, trying to calm the anger that kept my muscles straining. ‘And I’m not doing this to hurt her. ’

  Sara released a tense breath.

  ‘Has she talked to you about it?’ I asked cautiously. ‘Rachel’s suicide?’

  ‘Does she ever say anything?’ Sara countered with an exasperated sigh. ‘And we haven’t told her the details yet. She wasn’t exactly … with it when I picked her up from the airport yesterday. ’

  ‘So this drinking thing isn’t new?’ I enquired, studying Sara’s blue eyes as she avoided mine, seeing more than she was saying. ‘Do you think she has a problem?’

  ‘A drinking problem?’ Sara shrugged. ‘Evan, Emma has a life problem. ’ She shook her head and started to turn away. ‘I shouldn’t be talking to you about this anyway. ’

  ‘Why not?’ I challenged her. ‘Why can’t I know? Don’t I deserve at least that much? Tell me what happened to her, Sara!’

  Sara looked back over her shoulder, her sad eyes brimming with tears. ‘She’s just … broken. ’ Her voice cracked. ‘And I’m not sure how to help her. ’ She turned away with her shoulders slumped forward, disappearing behind the guest-room door. I remained standing in the hall, looking after her, allowing everything she’d just said to echo through my head.

  My fists clenched, I fought the pain and anger coursing through me. I turned towards Emma’s door and set my hands on either side of the door, bowing my head. ‘I don’t understand. Why’d you leave with him, Emma?’ I whispered, then walked towards my room at the end of the hall.

  I lay on my bed most of the night with my hands folded behind my head, staring at the dark ceiling, trying to decide what I was going to do when the sun pushed us all into a new day.

  I squinted my eyes open. The room was still dark. I considered closing them again, but I had to go to the bathroom. I groaned and pushed the thick blankets back. I was in Evan’s house. In the guest room with the flowers. Shit. I groaned again and eased out of the bed. My feet pressed against the cool wooden floor.

  I knew exactly where the bathroom was without having to turn on the light, although my legs weren’t very steady with the vodka still pumping through my system.

  When I came back out, I stared at the bed.

  How’s your knee?

  You did not come in here to ask me about my knee.

  I could practically feel his hand slide across my leg.

  There was no way I was getting back in that bed.

  I crept along the floorboards and eased the door open, peeking out into the hall. It was dark and quiet. I paused in front of his door. My heart convulsed at the sight of it.

  ‘I shouldn’t be here. ’ I muttered as I continued past it and down the spiral staircase.

  The stairs creaked on the other side of my door. I sat up and listened. She was awake. I slid off my bed, careful not to make any sound. I thought I heard her talking, but it was so faint I could have imagined it.

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