Out of breath, p.33
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       Out of Breath, p.33

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 33

 

  That girl was once full of life and confidence, even if she had a hard time seeing it herself. I had always known it was there. It was what had attracted me to her in the first place. And now … I couldn’t see it.

  I was starting to wonder who the girl was that had landed in California over two years ago, and who she’d left behind in Weslyn.

  Everyone began to leave about a half hour later. The girls were driving back to Palo Alto before heading to see their families. Sara, Cole and Emma were about to leave for the house when I asked Emma, ‘Will you go for a walk with me?’

  I looked at Cole, who waited for me to answer, his eyes hardening when he looked back towards Evan.

  ‘Come on, Cole,’ Sara said, intervening and grabbing his arm. ‘Walk me home. ’

  I followed Evan to a set of stairs that looked more like a two-storey ladder. I held on tightly to the weathered wooden railing and took each step cautiously towards the beach. Evan walked down them as if he were walking on flat ground, and waited for me to catch up at the bottom.

  ‘Serena likes you,’ I said, shoving my hands in my sweatshirt pockets with my head down as we began our walk. ‘If I didn’t know her boyfriend, I’d think she had a thing for you. ’

  Evan laughed. ‘I’m sure he’s an interesting guy. ’

  ‘You have no idea. ’ I chuckled.

  ‘She’s probably the most optimistic person I’ve ever met,’ Evan said, glancing at me quickly. ‘I like her attitude. She’s not who I’d imagine she’d be just by looking at her. ’

  ‘I know. ’ I grinned. ‘That’s why she’s so great. ’

  We continued to walk along the beach, towards Cole’s house, which was just around the next bend.

  ‘Nate called me earlier. Since I’m here, he and the guys decided to come down early. They want to throw a party next Saturday, so they’ll be arriving on Friday. ’

  I nodded, not certain why this mattered, until he continued with, ‘But I was hoping we could still have the two weeks, like we originally agreed when I thought they wouldn’t be here. ’

  I stopped walking, causing him to turn to face me.

  ‘You don’t hate me yet, do you?’ Emma asked, her face suddenly drawn.

  ‘I still have twelve days,’ I quipped, not wanting to see that look on her face any longer. ‘Why don’t you give me another reason why I should?’

  ‘This isn’t a joke to me, you know. ’ She sounded agitated. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at me with the wind whipping her hair in her face.

  ‘I know you’re serious. I just wish you weren’t. ’ Shifting my tone, I repeated: ‘So tell me, why should I hate you, Emma?’

  The anger I had at the sight of his grin dissipated when I looked into his flickering smoky-blue eyes. My heart twisted as I took a breath. I needed him to listen. I had to force him to understand why he needed to leave me alone, to move on with his life without me.

  ‘I left you. ’ He flinched. ‘I left you in that house, alone and hurt. I ignored you when you called for me. Because I heard you. I did. But I didn’t stop walking. I left you alone when you needed me, and I never looked back. ’ My eyes stung as the image of him on the floor, barely conscious and beaten, flashed through my head.

  Emma was fighting to remain composed, but her voice shook as she delivered the last few words – which was the reason I could never hate her. Because I could see that what she’d done, the choices she had made, were destroying her.

  I was pulled back into that night. The fury that pushed me to take a swing at Jonathan, which only escalated with each ensuing blow exchanged between us. The look in her eyes when he knocked her back onto the floor. And then there was a shooting pain through my head – just before there was nothing at all.

  ‘Hate me, Evan,’ she begged, her lower lip quivering. It was difficult to watch the guilt shredding her to pieces. ‘Please, just hate me,’ she begged.

  ‘I have twelve more days. ’ I forced myself to say this calmly as she twisted my heart a little more. I was still trapped in that memory. I hated him. I hated him for manipulating his way into Emma’s life and convincing her to trust him. For being who I always wanted to be for her. For standing in front of Emma’s wall, the one I was just beginning to break through. Waking up alone and hurting everywhere didn’t even come close to the torment I’d felt when I was convinced that she’d chosen him. ‘Where did you go when you left me?’ I needed to know about the rest of that night, even though the outcome would never change.

  ‘That’s your question?’ she asked, appearing confused. I nodded.

  ‘Umm …’ I swallowed hard and pulled away from the torture reflected in his eyes, even though he remained calm and composed on the outside. He was there in that house, bloody and broken. Exactly where I’d left him. I fought back the emotion that clawed up my throat.

  ‘I drove. I don’t know where I went, but I just kept driving. ’ I took a breath, remembering the hysterics I was in as I sped through the back roads of the quiet town, screaming at myself for what I’d done. Tears flooded my eyes with the memory. But I blinked them away. I didn’t deserve his sympathy

  ‘I eventually made it back to Sara’s. She was freaking out, thinking something awful had happened to me. ’ I paused again as my voice cracked. ‘Anna was so upset. She couldn’t understand what I was saying because I couldn’t stop crying. ’ A tear slid from the corner of my eye. I wrapped my arms around my waist to ward off a shiver.

  ‘I told them that I needed to leave. That I couldn’t stay in Weslyn. I hated it there, and I was leaving on the next flight out. Anna eventually calmed me enough to talk me into waiting a day or two, to see if I’d change my mind. But I didn’t. Two days later I was on a plane to California. Sara tried to convince me that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. She didn’t speak to me again for two months. ’

  Emma opened her eyes, and another tear rolled down her cheek. ‘Does that answer your question?’

  I nodded once, watching in silent agony as the light in her eyes faded into darkness. Her pain was all that remained, and I had to look away, unable to witness the suffering without wanting to touch her.

  I cleared my throat and took in a breath of the ocean air to clear the ache away. ‘Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s about as much honesty as I can handle today. ’ I attempted to smile, but it fell quickly as he continued to scrutinize me. He was so intense in his stillness, I had a hard time looking him in the eye.

  ‘Bye, Evan,’ I said, turning away.

  ‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ he assured me, his voice strained. I didn’t respond. I could feel him watching me as I walked down the beach.

  When I got to the deck Cole was sitting in a chair with his feet propped on the railing.

  ‘Hi,’ I said, sitting down next to him.

  ‘Hey,’ he responded with a small smile. ‘How are you doing?’

  I shrugged. ‘Okay. ’

  He scanned my face for all that I wasn’t saying. ‘Do you want to go surfing again tomorrow?’

  ‘Uh, actually, do you remember that friend I tried to help?’ I asked, staring out at the water. I gripped my phone in my pocket, still not having heard from Jonathan after I’d called and then texted him from the restaurant yesterday. Talking about him with Evan last night made me think about the night I’d gone in search of him. I couldn’t stop wondering where he was now and what he might be going through.

  ‘Yeah,’ Cole responded hesitantly.

  ‘I think I need to try again,’ I murmured, glancing at Cole.

  He peered into my eyes before asking, ‘Where are you going to go?’

  ‘New York. But it’s not going to go over well with Sara. ’

  ‘Why?’ he questioned. ‘She doesn’t like this friend?’

  ‘Not exactly. So … would you cover for me?’ I requested, a twinge of guilt flashing across my face. ‘I have to do this. I need to at least try. ’


  ‘How long will you be gone?’

  ‘Truthfully, I’m not sure,’ I answered. ‘I’m leaving tomorrow, and hope to be back in just a couple of days. But I guess it depends. ’

  Cole was quiet for a moment. ‘Yeah, I’ll cover for you. Want me to drive you to the airport?’

  ‘Yes. Thank you,’ I replied, my voice soft.

  We returned our focus to the ocean as the day faded around us – the sun sinking further off to our right, leaving a trail of gold with smears of pink and purple stretched across the horizon. The lights from the oil rigs twinkled in the distance, and the sound of the surf was hypnotic. We were once again wrapped in our silence, which used to be so comforting. On the inside, a storm was swirling, uncovering memories and feelings I’d buried over two years ago. My eyes trailed down the beach towards the large house on the cliff. I knew it was only going to get worse.

  22

  Taking Me with Her

  THE SUN WAS RISING SOMEWHERE BEHIND the hills, but it still hadn’t cut through the clouds that had settled on the beach. As the fog lingered over the water I wrapped the blanket tighter around me to fend off the cool morning air.

  The yearning for sleep still clung to me. I’d been restless throughout the night, disturbed by the shouting and crying in my head. Eventually, I’d slipped out of bed to relieve Cole of my tossing and turning.

  My eyes ached with fatigue as I spotted a silhouette coming into view along the beach. I tried to focus through the thick haze. Someone was running along the water’s edge. Just the thought of exerting that much energy exhausted me.

  As the runner neared the house he began to slow down. He hesitated, then began jogging my way. I froze, trying to be invisible in the fog, but he knew I was there.

  As he came closer, I squinted in confusion. ‘Evan?’

  ‘Hi,’ I answered, not certain if I should’ve just kept jogging and left her alone. But I wanted to know why she was up. She peered down at me, wrapped in a blue blanket pulled up to her nose.

  I smiled at the sight of her hair all pushed in different directions. I was still getting used to the short hair. I had to admit I didn’t mind it – the length accentuated the exotic shape of her eyes.

  ‘I knew you were a morning person, but this is ridiculous,’ she said.

  I laughed at her comment. ‘I couldn’t sleep. Thought running might … help. And I know you’re not a morning person; you pretty much despise any time with an “a. m. ” after it. ’

  ‘I couldn’t sleep either. ’

  ‘Nightmare?’ I asked without thinking, knowing that was the reason I was running into the fog, and away from the panic that had awoken me.

  Her eyes darted away and she shrugged evasively. I assumed it was my fault she was out here and not still wrapped up in the covers … next to Cole. I forced my shoulders to relax. I’d sworn I wouldn’t think of them together, even after the not-so-pleasant details Peyton planted in my collection of unwanted thoughts.

 
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