Out of breath, p.35
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       Out of Breath, p.35

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 35

 

  Emily,

  Maybe you’ll finally read this letter. After all, it is the last.

  You should have discovered by now what you did to me. Yes, you did this to me. I couldn’t stand the pain any more. The pain of being alone. The pain of being ignored and not being loved by my only daughter. The pain of losing the only person who ever truly loved me, because of you. The love that you destroyed the day that you were born.

  You should never have been born. You have only caused pain in the lives of everyone you’ve touched. Even the lives of those two innocent children who tried to love you. Look at who you’ve become. How can you stand to even look at yourself in the mirror, knowing all the destruction you’ve caused?

  You killed me with those cold, hateful words you said to me. You killed me with each letter I sent that you never answered. How could you be so cold and hateful to your own mother? I’ve given you so much, and it didn’t matter to you. I was never good enough for you. Now you’ll have to live with yourself, knowing that the reason I can’t go on living is because of you.

  Love,

  Your mother

  I swallowed in disgust. ‘No,’ I said, my tone urgent. ‘Emma, no, no. ’ I shook my head in disbelief.

  I sat down next to Emma, but she still didn’t respond. Her limbs trembled and her teeth chattered. I dropped the letter to the floor, not wanting to touch the vile words scribbled across the page.

  I slid my arm around her and pulled her in to me. She collapsed against my chest, and I held her tight. ‘Don’t listen to her,’ I begged. My vision blurred. ‘Don’t listen to her, Emma. Not a single word. ’ But she couldn’t hear me.

  23

  Silent Pain

  ALL THAT ESCAPED HER WERE RHYTHMIC breaths. She couldn’t stop shaking, no matter how tight I held her. She didn’t resist when I eased us onto the bed. Leaning back against the padded headboard, I shifted her onto my chest, and secured her in my arms. ‘Emma, you have to know that every word was a lie. Don’t let her hurt you,’ I pleaded, my lips brushing against her hair.

  She just continued to quake. I felt like I’d been stabbed in the chest with a flaming torch. I hated that selfish, vindictive woman. She made sure her final act was to crucify the one person who had ever tried to love her repeatedly. I inhaled deeply to push my contempt away. It wasn’t what Emma needed right now.

  We stayed like this, wrapped in silent pain, until I heard the front door open.

  ‘Emma?’ Sara called out. ‘Evan?’

  I opened my mouth to call to her just as she appeared in the doorway. She eyed Emma lying on my chest in my arms and glared at me. ‘What are you –’ She stopped, her eyes narrowing as she examined Emma more closely, then walked cautiously towards us. ‘What happened? Emma?’ Sara looked up at me in alarm. ‘Evan, what happened to her? What did you do?’

  I shook my head at her accusation. ‘There’s a letter. It’s on the floor somewhere. ’

  Sara warily took her eyes off us and searched the floor, bending down to pick up the piece of paper. I couldn’t watch her read it.

  ‘Fucking bitch!’ Sara exclaimed, startling me. I looked down at Emma. Still locked against me, she didn’t flinch. ‘How could she –’ Sara crumpled the paper and stormed out of the room. I heard drawers slamming shut as she muttered, ‘That fucking bitch,’ over and over again. I smelled smoke and knew exactly what she’d done.

  Sara appeared back in the room, crawling onto the bed on the other side of me so she could see Emma’s face. She leaned close to her, peering into her blank eyes, and ran her hand along her cheek.

  ‘Emma,’ she soothed, ‘she was an awful person, and all she wanted was to hurt you. You can’t let her. Em, you can’t let her. You’re so much stronger than that. I know you are. Please, Emma. ’

  Sara pursed her lips and tears filled her eyes. She redirected her gaze to me and said, ‘She can’t believe it. Evan, we can’t let that woman break her. ’

  ‘I know,’ I said quietly, running my hand along Emma’s back.

  Emma jolted under my touch. I tilted my head to see her face. ‘Emma?’

  She inhaled a sob, her chest heaving. Pulling away from me and curling into a ball, she screamed, ‘No!’

  Sara froze in stunned silence.

  ‘No! No!’ Emma balled her fist and punched the mattress repeatedly, her eyes squeezed shut as she screamed the words over and over again. ‘No! No! No!’ She burst into hysterics, crying so hard, her whole body convulsed. Sara looked at me, fear flashing across her face.

  I leaned over and gently gripped her shoulder, ‘Emma. It’s okay. ’

  ‘No, it’s not,’ she cried. ‘She’s dead! She’s dead!’ She collapsed against the bed and sobbed uncontrollably. Then uttered weakly, ‘My mother’s dead. ’

  ‘Oh, Emma,’ Sara gasped, kneeling on the floor next to the bed, her face twisted in pain as she helplessly witnessed her best friend’s suffering.

  I curled in behind her and held her close, absorbing the spasms of her sobs. She clenched my arm tightly, as if I could keep her from being pulled under.

  We didn’t say a word. Sara and I stayed by her and let her cry for the mother who didn’t deserve her. I knew she was mourning her loss, probably for the first time since she’d learned of her death. All I wanted to do was protect Emma from everything that hurt her. It was reminiscent of the night she cried in my arms as she relived her father’s death. I couldn’t ease the pain then, and I knew I couldn’t do it now. And even though I’d failed time and time again, it wasn’t going to stop me from trying.

  Eventually, the sobs tapered off and her body uncoiled. I felt her back expand against my chest as her breathing deepened.

  Sara looked up at me and whispered, ‘She’s asleep. ’ I nodded, suspecting as much. Sara slowly stood up, her body stiff from kneeling as she stretched her arms over her head.

  She started towards the door and turned back. ‘Evan. Come on. ’ She jerked her head towards the door impatiently.

  I hesitated, not wanting to leave. But it was evident Sara had something to say that she didn’t want Emma to overhear. I eased my arm out from under her, flexing my hand to get the circulation flowing. Emma’s body shivered when I moved away. I tucked a blanket around her, reluctantly shutting the bedroom door behind me before following Sara into the living room.

  Sara paced back and forth, her red lips pressed tight. She stopped when I walked further into the room. Her anxiety could’ve knocked me over. ‘Evan, I’m scared. ’

  I waited, hoping she’d explain.

  ‘You have no idea what she’s been like for the past two years,’ Sara continued in a rush. ‘She is barely holding on, and I’m so afraid that letter may have pushed her over the edge. ’

  ‘What are you afraid she’ll do, Sara?’ I questioned. ‘Turn to alcohol again?’

  Sara’s eyes flickered thoughtfully before she collapsed on the couch. ‘I don’t know how to describe it. ’ Her voice was quiet and hesitant. ‘She’s just been … existing since she left Weslyn. There’s no … light in her eyes. No purpose. No drive. She used to push herself to be more, to want more, and now … now she’s barely living. ’ She paused to look at the bedroom door, her eyes watering. ‘I feel like I’ve gradually been losing her. Like she’s slipping away and I can’t hold on. I’m scared that she’s going to push us all away for good. I know it doesn’t make complete sense, and I don’t know how to explain it. I’m just scared. ’

  I sat down in the chair across from her. ‘What happened to her, Sara?’

  Sara looked across at me with sorrow-filled eyes. ‘She left you. ’

  My face twisted in confusion, but before I could speak, Sara said, ‘I truly don’t understand why she left, Evan. You’ll have to ask her. ’

  The sound of the front door opening interrupted us. Sara and I both turned as Cole walked in. He was wet, in a pair of board shorts.

  ‘Hey. ’ He nodded towards us
, looking around. ‘Where’s Emma?’

  Sara and I looked at each other, releasing a simultaneous breath. She finally said, ‘I’ll tell him. ’

  I nodded and stood from the chair, not wanting to watch his reaction, whatever it was. So I escaped to the deck, closing off Sara’s voice with the sliding glass door.

  I stared out at the volatile waves and inhaled deeply, exhaustion overwhelming me.

  The glass door opened, drawing my attention. Sara stepped out to join me, breathing in the salty air as I had, like it could somehow revive her.

  ‘He went in to see her,’ Sara told me. She leaned against the railing next to me. After a moment of listening to the ocean, she said, ‘I’m sure that it’s hard for you, to see them together. ’

  ‘But they’re not really together,’ I countered.

  ‘Still,’ Sara said, ‘she’s not with you. So no matter what, it must be hard. ’

  ‘I didn’t come here to get her back, Sara. I was being honest about that. I spent the last two years trying to understand what she was thinking; what happened; why she walked away. I need answers. That’s why I’m here. ’

  Sara leaned on her elbow to face me. ‘I don’t believe you. ’

  I was shocked by her comment. ‘What?’

  ‘Evan Mathews, you can tell yourself and everyone else that you’re here to get answers, for closure. But the truth is, you love her. You have always loved her. You will always love her. You’re here because you can’t walk away. You saw how broken and empty she was back in Weslyn, and you had to follow her. You’ll never be able to let her go. You’re here because … it’s where you belong, with her. ’

  My chest tightened; I felt like she’d just delved inside me and sifted through to find what I couldn’t admit this entire time. I couldn’t speak. I looked out at the water and pulled in a deep breath. I turned from Sara and went back into the house, needing to check on Emma.

  Cole sat on the chair, having put on shorts and a T-shirt, and was rubbing his hands together and bouncing his leg nervously.

  ‘You okay?’ I asked him.

  He nodded, but the edgy shift in his eyes indicated otherwise. I continued past him and into the bedroom. Emma was still curled up tight in her sleep, twitching every so often. I sat on the bed next to her, smoothing her hair away from her face.

  ‘I’ll stay with her tonight,’ Sara said from the doorway. ‘You don’t have to worry. I’ll be here. ’

  I left Emma in her haunted sleep and walked into the living room. ‘Cole, do you mind if I sleep here tonight? On the couch?’

  I could tell he didn’t know what to make of this. But he shrugged and said, ‘Yeah, sure. ’

  I woke up in the dark. I could hear breathing beside me. My entire body ached, and my head was groggy, like I’d taken cold medicine.

  Then I remembered. I clenched my teeth, trying to maintain even breaths. I could still feel the weight of the letter in my hands, the words stabbing me in the heart, twisting the blade.

 
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