Out of breath, p.28
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       Out of Breath, p.28

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 28

 

  ‘Feeling any better?’ Sara asked as she reached the top of the stairs.

  I nodded, my mouth full of the greasy burger that I could’ve sworn was the best thing I’d ever tasted. I wiped the ketchup from my lip and took a sip of the soda.

  ‘I’m sorry,’ I told Sara as she sat down next to me.

  ‘For what?’ she asked, like she had no idea what I was talking about.

  ‘Are you serious?’ I scoffed. ‘I’ve been a selfish lunatic the past two days. And you’ve had to drag my sorry ass around the entire time, taking care of me every minute. I’m so sorry that I’m an awful friend. ’

  Sara shook her head, nudging my shoulder with hers. ‘You needed me. And I was there for you. It’s that simple. But I’d prefer it if you didn’t drink … ever again. ’

  I laughed lightly. ‘I will never touch vodka again, that’s for sure. ’

  ‘Me neither. ’ Sara smirked. ‘And I’m sorry about … you know …’ She eyed me cautiously, having a hard time finishing. ‘About what I said at the hotel … and staying at Evan’s. ’

  ‘We don’t need to talk about it,’ I told her, taking another bite of the burger, unable to stop wondering where he was. Whether he’d stayed and was downstairs, or if he’d already driven home.

  ‘Thanks. I really appreciate you helping me out,’ I said before hanging up. I turned to find Jared behind me.

  ‘Who was that?’ he enquired, eyeing the untouched plate of food Anna had handed to me when I arrived. ‘Are you going to eat that?’

  ‘Go for it,’ I encouraged him. ‘I’m surprised you’re here. ’ I diverted the conversation from his initial question.

  ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ he asked, sitting down at the glass-topped table on the enclosed porch, stuffing his face with garlic bread.

  ‘That you’re in Sara’s house,’ I clarified. ‘That’s … bold of you. To show your face here. ’

  ‘I think her dad was about to slam the door when he saw me. ’

  I laughed.

  ‘What, do you think you’re going to earn points by sticking around and helping them clean up?’

  ‘I’m not going to push it,’ he said, working on the lasagne slice.

  ‘So … do you mind driving me to the airport tomorrow?’

  I crumpled up the paper bag and rested my head back against the couch.

  ‘There you are,’ I heard Anna say from the landing. I turned my head to find her walking towards us. ‘Sara, could you give us a minute, please?’

  My stomach swirled uncomfortably at her request.

  ‘I’ll be downstairs,’ Sara told me, letting her mother take her place on the couch.

  ‘Come here, Emma. ’ Anna invited me to lean against her, her arm spread wide. My heart twisted as I leaned in to her, allowing her to wrap her arm around me. I inhaled her elegant floral scent and closed my eyes as she ran her fingers through my short hair. ‘You’ve had a hard time the last couple of days, and I’m so sorry. ’

  I swallowed, unable to form words.

  ‘We’ll take care of you,’ she murmured into the top of my head, kissing me gently. ‘I think you should talk to someone about what’s going on inside of you, though. I can only imagine what you must be feeling. ’

  I remained silent, not at all tempted to explore the explosive range of emotions shredding my insides.

  ‘I worry about you all the time,’ she continued. ‘I don’t know how to make you feel safe. And as a mother, that’s all I ever want for you and Sara. For you to feel safe and loved. ’

  ‘I do,’ I whispered. ‘I always do when I’m in your house. ’

  ‘I wish you could feel the same when you leave it. ’

  We sat in silence for a moment longer, my head resting against her chest, listening to her heart. Her thin arms held me with a strength that did make me feel safe and loved within them.

  ‘Can I ask you something?’ I said in a hushed tone.

  ‘Of course,’ she encouraged me.

  ‘Did she … did she really hang herself?’ I closed my eyes, bracing for her answer.

  ‘Yes, she did,’ Anna answered, gentle but firm.

  ‘Where?’

  ‘At the house on Decatur Street. ’

  Air rushed from my lungs. ‘From the banister?’

  ‘Yes. ’

  My chest felt tight, like there wasn’t any room left to breathe. Like I was suffocating in pain.

  ‘Did she suffer?’

  ‘No,’ I heard Anna whisper, her voice breaking.

  I pulled back to look at her, and tears trailed down her face.

  ‘Why?’ I asked, my eyes stinging with each blink.

  Anna’s just shook her head. ‘I don’t know. She didn’t leave a note. But even if she had, I don’t know if she’d ever be able to truly explain why she chose to end her life. I’m so sorry, Emma. ’

  ‘Thank you,’ I replied, my chin quivering. Witnessing Anna’s pain was almost too much to bear. ‘You were always so good to her … through everything. And thank you for everything you’ve done the past week. I know I haven’t been much help, and I’m sorry. ’

  ‘Do not apologize,’ Anna insisted, wiping her cheeks and blowing out of her pursed lips. ‘Carl and I care about you. And we’ll help you through this. ’

  ‘Thank you,’ I repeated.

  ‘Do you have to go back to California tomorrow?’

  I nodded.

  ‘I know,’ she responded with a saddened understanding. ‘But will you consider speaking to someone, like I asked?’

  I nodded again, knowing that I wouldn’t.

  ‘I appreciate everything you did today,’ Sara said to me as she sat down beside me on the large wraparound sectional in the McKinleys’ entertainment room. ‘I know it was hard for you too. ’

  I sat quietly for a moment. ‘Yeah, it wasn’t easy,’ I answered carefully. ‘So will you do one thing for me in return?’

  ‘What’s that?’ she asked, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.

  ‘Let Jared and I drive you two to the airport tomorrow. ’

  Sara stared at me, trying to figure out if there was a hidden agenda behind my request. Of course there was.

  ‘Why?’ she asked suspiciously.

  ‘I just want to make sure she’s okay before she leaves again. ’ It was a fairly honest answer.

  ‘I guess,’ she answered hesitantly. ‘But Emma and I sit in the back … alone. ’

  I was trying hard not to smile. ‘That’s fine. ’

  ‘What are you doing here?’ I heard Carl practically growl at the bottom of the stairs. I trotted down the last flight and stumbled over a couple of steps when Evan came into view. His eyes drifted up towards me, at first in alarm, but when he saw that I’d caught myself from falling, his lips spread into that heart-stopping grin – the one he’d greeted me with at the bottom of these stairs more times than I could count.

  ‘Hey,’ he said, his eyes flicking away as I continued to gawk at him.

  ‘What’s going on?’ I asked, my attention diverted to Carl, who looked just as surprised as I was to find Jared and Evan in his doorway.

  ‘Our bags are in the sitting room,’ Sara announced as she hopped down the stairs, ignoring my scrunched eyes and her father’s questioning expression. ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you, Dad. You don’t need to drive us to the airport. ’

  ‘I can see that,’ he responded, still wary. ‘Are you sure?’

  ‘Yeah, it’s fine,’ Sara said lightly, kissing her dad on the cheek with a smile. Then I heard her lean in and tell him, ‘It’s just a ride to the airport. ’

  He kissed her back, then redirected his attention to Jared, his eyes narrowed in warning.

  Jared smiled uncomfortably and rushed past him to retrieve our bags.

  ‘What the frig are you thinking?’ I murmured to her as she slung her carry-on tote over her shoulder.

  ‘It’s a ride, Emma. Don’t worry
. It won’t even be an hour. ’ She smiled assuredly, but my insides curled into knots, knowing something was up.

  I slipped by Evan, and followed Sara out the front door after hugging Anna and Carl goodbye.

  The colour had returned to her face, and although any expression in her eyes was still elusive, she looked … beautiful. I had a hard time keeping the smile off my face when she practically fell down the stairs upon seeing me. It was one thing to convince myself I was over her and needed to move on, but it was another thing when she was standing right in front of me.

  The drive to the airport was quiet, so I selected music to fill the silence. I noticed Sara watching Emma out of the corner of her eye when I turned towards Jared. Sara was worried. There was something I didn’t know, something Sara wasn’t telling me. Was I really ready for this … even if I ended up hurting worse in the end? But then again, I didn’t think that was possible.

  My eyes kept drifting to the back of his neck, tracing his neatly trimmed hairline. He’d shift slightly and steal glances at Sara, and I’d catch a glimpse of his perfectly chiselled profile, with his long slender nose, angled cheekbone and defined brow. My heart would convulse, and I’d quickly look away to keep the heat from rising in my cheeks. I could survive this for one hour … maybe.

  When we pulled up along the kerb at the airport, Jared and Evan got out to help remove our bags. That’s when I saw the other bags stacked in the trunk.

  ‘Are you kidding me?!’ I practically yelled at Sara, convinced that she was in on this. She stared back at me just as confused.

  We both turned towards Evan, glaring at him accusingly.

  ‘I told you this was a bad idea,’ Jared murmured. ‘You seem to be batting a thousand with those lately. ’

  ‘Shut up, Jared,’ Evan said under his breath, before shrugging towards Sara and I. ‘What? I’m spending the summer with Nate in Santa Barbara. ’

  Sara’s mouth dropped open. ‘Are you serious?’

  ‘What’s the big deal?’ he questioned, feigning innocence. ‘You’re going back to Palo Alto, right?’ I knew he wasn’t being completely honest. He was a terrible liar.

  Sara huffed and grabbed her bags. ‘Come on, Emma. ’

  ‘This can’t be happening,’ I said to her, rolling my suitcase after her.

  ‘Don’t worry,’ she assured me, ‘it’s going to be okay. ’

  ‘Smooth,’ Jared teased, shutting the trunk as the girls stormed off. ‘Could you have been any more obvious?’

  ‘Well … they’d find out eventually, wouldn’t they?’

  ‘Do you have any idea what you’re getting yourself into?’ he asked, shaking his head.

  ‘Not really,’ I confessed, even after spending the entire night convincing myself I was doing the right thing. ‘But I never do when it comes to her. So why should that change?’

  Jared sighed. ‘I’ll be there in a couple of weeks. Did you tell Nate you were arriving early?’

 
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