Out of breath, p.29
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       Out of Breath, p.29

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
Page 29


  ‘Yeah, I talked to him last night. No one will be at the house, but I know where the key is, so it’s not an issue. ’

  ‘Good luck,’ Jared offered, leaning in for a quick embrace and smack on the back. He looked at me again before getting in his Volvo with a short laugh and shake of his head.

  I didn’t try to find the girls. I knew we’d be on the same planes together all the way to Santa Barbara. I’d made sure of it after I saw their itinerary hanging on the McKinleys’ refrigerator. What I didn’t know was where they were staying while in Santa Barbara … or who else would be there.

  ‘Nate’s house is down the street from Cole’s,’ I told Sara, my nerves wreaking havoc. I thought I was about to be sick all over again.

  ‘What?!’ Sara exclaimed, drawing the attention of the passengers seated around us. ‘Why didn’t I know this until now? And how do you know this?!’

  ‘Uh … I ended up at a party at Nate’s over spring break, the week I spent with Cole. He kind of got me through a night of tequila when I found out I was at Evan’s best friend’s house. ’

  ‘Holy fuck!’ Sara gaped. ‘I’m trying to get over the fact that this is the first time I’m hearing this. But … holy fuck. So … Cole knows Nate?’

  ‘Cole knows Evan,’ I admitted, staring out the window.

  ‘No. Way!’ she gasped. ‘Emma, this –’

  ‘Is going to be the worst summer of my life,’ I finished, thumping my head against the glass.

  ‘We don’t have to stay,’ Sara suggested. ‘Maybe we head back to Palo Alto when Cole goes back for the summer quarter in a couple of weeks. ’

  I sighed, disappointed that I might not have the quiet summer alone with Sara I’d hoped for. ‘Maybe. ’

  ‘We’ll get through it,’ she assured me. I didn’t really believe her.

  When we rolled to a stop on the landing strip at the small airport, the passengers started to stand and grab their bags. Sara and Emma were seated a few rows ahead of me, so they were off the plane before I was. I adjusted my backpack on my shoulder as I walked across the pavement towards the canopied baggage claim. I breathed in the warm air. I’d missed California.

  Sara’s hair was hard to miss. I caught sight of the girls just as I heard, ‘Hey, Emma. ’ I stopped short, nearly making the guy behind me run right into me.

  Emma approached him, and he leaned in to kiss her.

  ‘Oh, fuck. ’ I stopped breathing for all of a minute, then eventually found the strength to keep moving towards the baggage area, unable to avoid them in the small space.

  ‘Evan?’ I looked over and Cole was eyeing me curiously. ‘I didn’t know you were coming back too. ’

  ‘Hey, Cole,’ I responded, trying to keep my voice even and pleasant. ‘Yeah, I’m spending the summer at Nate’s. ’ I looked from him to Emma, who wouldn’t meet my eyes, and said, ‘I didn’t realize you and Emma knew each other. ’

  Cole’s brows twitched, starting to put this entire scene together. ‘Yeah,’ he said, picking up her bag. ‘We do. Uh, you need a ride?’

  ‘What?!’ Emma blurted, her cheeks crimson.

  ‘He’s staying right down the street. So … do you need a ride?’

  ‘Sure,’ I responded, surprised by his nonchalant demeanour. I glanced at Sara and thought she was about to fall over.

  Cole slipped his arm around Emma’s shoulder, and she jerked her head up in surprise.

  This was about to be the worst summer of my life.


  Give Me a Reason

  I SLAMMED THE CAR DOOR AND YANKED my bags from the back, practically knocking myself over. I stormed to the front door and turned the handle. It was locked. Of course it was locked! I tapped my foot impatiently and waited for Cole, who was taking his frickin’ time walking over from the car.

  I stared at the door. I didn’t look at Cole, who had betrayed me again during the drive by inviting Evan over for burgers. I didn’t look at Evan, who accepted without hesitation. And I didn’t look at Sara, who couldn’t seem to keep her mouth from dropping open every time the guys spoke to each other, like they were great friends and couldn’t wait to catch up. I just stared at the door and waited for it to open.

  When Cole finally unlocked it, I cut him off and rolled my suitcase into the spare room. Sara scooted after me.

  ‘Umm … are we sharing this room?’ she asked, examining the full-size bed and flipping her eyes back towards me in confusion.

  ‘Uh …’ I fumbled.

  ‘Emma. ’ Cole poked his head into the room. ‘You can put your stuff in my room. ’

  My breathing faltered. I nodded and rolled my suitcase back into the open living room.

  ‘Want a beer?’ Cole asked Evan.

  ‘Sure,’ Evan responded casually, looking around, running his fingers along the puzzles on the bookshelf.

  Unable to stand seeing him touch the boxes, I tucked my suitcase by the kitchen table and continued out onto the deck, turning a chair around to sit facing the water with my arms crossed.

  ‘Hey,’ Sara said cautiously, sliding the glass door closed behind her. ‘I’m sorry this … sucks. ’

  ‘That’s an understatement,’ I said between clenched teeth. ‘Why is he here? Why couldn’t he have stayed away …’ I clamped my eyes closed. ‘This can’t be happening. ’ My world was so far off balance, I could barely stand upright.

  Sara leaned against the railing in front of me, sliding over so I could still stare at the waves rushing towards shore.

  ‘Why did you automatically go into the guest room with your things?’ she asked.

  I looked up at her in surprise.

  ‘I, uh, that’s where I stayed before,’ I explained. ‘We don’t … sleep together. Sara, we’re not dating. You know that. ’

  ‘Right. ’ She nodded. ‘It didn’t look that way to me at the airport. ’

  I didn’t really even remember what had happened between Cole and me at the airport. I’d been way too consumed by the awareness that Evan was somewhere behind me.

  ‘Maybe you should –’ Sara stopped. Her head jerked to attention.

  ‘I should what?’ I asked in confusion.

  That’s when I heard, ‘So why weren’t you at the funeral?’ I practically choked.

  ‘She didn’t want me there,’ Cole explained, still remaining much more relaxed than seemed reasonable. ‘I wanted to be there, but I respected her wishes. So I stayed here. ’

  I nodded.

  ‘And I take it you were there?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows slightly.

  ‘I was,’ I answered. I hadn’t let Emma’s wishes keep me from attending.

  ‘And she was a mess,’ Cole concluded, like he expected as much.

  ‘That’s one way of putting it. ’ I nodded carefully, wondering exactly where this conversation was headed.

  ‘They’re talking about me,’ I sputtered in disbelief. ‘Why are they talking about me? Don’t they know I can hear them?’

  ‘Shh. ’ Sara hushed me, listening intently.

  ‘Is that why you came back with her?’ Cole asked Evan.

  I couldn’t move. Every cell in my body anticipated Evan’s response.

  ‘I had plans to spend the summer here,’ I told him, evading the entire truth. ‘I just thought I’d come a little early, that’s all. ’

  ‘Really?’ Cole returned sceptically. ‘Look, I know you have a history with Emma. I get it. She was a mess at the funeral, and you’re worried about her. It makes sense. And I also know you didn’t realize I’d be here for her either. But I am, so you don’t need to be. ’

  I took a swig from the beer bottle and glanced out at Sara and Emma on the deck. I caught Sara’s eye, and she dropped her gaze quickly, appearing to be in conversation with Emma.

  ‘Shit,’ Sara muttered. ‘Evan just caught me listening. ’

  ‘I can’t believe we are listening to this. I mean, this shouldn’t be ha
ppening. He shouldn’t be here. They should not be talking about me. Shit. Don’t they know I can hear them?’ I squeezed my fists, my pulse racing.

  ‘I’m not going to interfere,’ I said, turning towards Cole. ‘I just … was hoping to … get closure. Things didn’t exactly end well between us. ’

  ‘I figured as much,’ Cole said with a shrug.

  ‘She told you?’ I looked at him curiously, wondering exactly how much Cole knew about Emma and her life in Weslyn. I couldn’t figure out how close they were; their body language was all over the place. But I hadn’t come here prepared for her to be involved with anyone.

  ‘Not exactly. ’ He laughed lightly. ‘Let’s just say I figured it out. ’ He paused. ‘So, does she want you here?’

  I hesitated, knowing that I could make things difficult if I said the wrong thing.

  ‘I never asked her,’ I replied honestly. ‘We didn’t have an opportunity to talk when she was in Weslyn. ’

  ‘Then maybe you should ask her,’ Cole advised, his forehead creasing in warning. ‘And if she doesn’t want you here, you need to leave her alone. ’

  ‘Emma, where are you going?’ I heard Sara yell from the deck. I immediately headed towards the glass door.

  ‘Don’t they know I can hear them?!’ I screamed, stomping down the stairs and practically tripping over the rocks in my haste to escape their conversation.


  My feet pressed defiantly into the sand, leaving a dent in the firm surface with each forceful step.

  ‘Emma, wait!’

  My heart beat frantically. I shook my head.

  ‘Please, Emma!’

  I whipped around, the wind blowing my hair in my face. ‘Leave me alone, Evan!’

  ‘Come on, Emma. Please. Stop,’ he pleaded, jogging to catch up.

  ‘You’re not supposed to be here!’ I yelled at him, my eyes filling with tears.

  I stopped. A tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. She was so tense, she was practically shaking.

  ‘I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was coming,’ I said. ‘I should have. ’

  ‘You should be back in Connecticut!’ she yelled at me. ‘You shouldn’t be here at all! Just go back! Just … go away. ’ Her voice faltered as the strain of emotion broke through.

  I closed my eyes. Her words were difficult to swallow.

  ‘I can’t,’ I said, my voice almost lost in the wind gusting off the water. ‘Not yet. ’

  ‘You’re supposed to hate me!’ I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing or my body from shaking. ‘Why don’t you hate me, Evan?!’ My lip quivered.

  He appeared … crushed by my explosive words. Evan’s chest caved slightly, and his eyes twitched in pain. Hate you? he mouthed.

  I collapsed to the sand and stared at the ocean with my knees hugged to my chest, my face slick with tears.

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