Out of breath, p.36
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       Out of Breath, p.36

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
Page 36


  You should never have been born. You have only caused pain in the lives of everyone you’ve touched.

  My mother had confessed some terrible things in the past, usually induced by the effects of alcohol. She had always known what to say to hurt me. But these words … They were what she wrote before she killed herself. These were the thoughts that carried her to her grave. And she didn’t just want to hurt me, she wanted to take me with her.

  Now you’ll have to live with yourself, knowing that the reason I can’t go on living is because of you.

  A breathy sob escaped.

  ‘It’s okay,’ he whispered softly, moving closer to pull me in to him. Pressing my face against his chest, I inhaled his soothing scent, letting the tears pour out and soak through his T-shirt. I sobbed in gasps as he held me, my heart aching so bad I wanted to pull it out to make it stop.

  ‘Emma, we’re here,’ Sara said from behind me, her hand rubbing my back. ‘It’s going to be okay. We’re here for you, and we’re not going anywhere. ’

  Sleep eventually tugged at my punctured heart, and I drifted off into the darkness.

  I looked around the dark room, still unable to sleep. Emma breathed into my chest, and Sara was curled up behind her, with her hand on her back. Emma would flinch and release a moan every once in a while. I could only imagine what tortured her in her dreams.

  Leaving them to sleep, I slipped out of the room and back to the couch that I hadn’t slept on. The door to the guest room remained closed, with Cole shut behind it. I sat on the couch and stared out at the dark in a daze, waiting for the sun to brighten the sky.

  Sara emerged from the bedroom a couple of hours later, as the beach was finally coming into view beneath the blanket of fog. She yawned and stretched her arms over her head, looking exhausted.

  ‘Is she still sleeping?’ I asked, trying to decide if I should go back in there so she wouldn’t wake up alone.

  ‘If that’s what you call it,’ Sara mumbled, her words wrapped in another yawn. She noticed my indecision. ‘Evan, she’s asleep. You don’t have to go back in there right now. Let’s make some breakfast or something. Aren’t you supposed to be an awesome cook?’

  ‘Yeah, sure,’ I replied, standing and twisting my body to stretch out my back. ‘I’ll make something. ’

  I remained buried within the blanket but shifted my eyes up at Sara as she sat next to me on the bed. Moving even slightly hurt … everywhere.

  ‘Are you hungry? Evan made omelettes. He could make you one,’ she offered gently.

  I tried to shake my head, but wasn’t sure if I actually did. I returned to staring at nothing. I was infested with blackness, scorching and marring my insides, feeding on the guilt and hate that had taken root so long ago. It intertwined with every cell, and there was no hiding from it any longer. I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move without triggering an unfathomable pain that would leave me begging to end the suffering, just as my mother intended.

  ‘She’s just staring in there. It’s like … she doesn’t even see me. I don’t know what to do,’ Cole said, sitting in the chair, rubbing his hands together as he looked straight ahead. His voice sounded anxious and panicked. ‘What are we supposed to do?’

  Sara glanced worriedly from Cole to me. We had agreed to let Emma mourn. To let her come to terms with her mother’s death as she needed to. But she was closing off, not eating, not talking, and we were all at a loss as to how to reach her.

  ‘Uh, I’m gonna … I’m gonna go out for a while,’ Cole announced, looking at us guiltily. ‘Will you be okay if I do that?’

  Sara nodded, and he looked to me. I offered a quick nod as well. He grabbed his keys and disappeared out the front door.

  Sara continued to stare at the door after he left. ‘I feel bad for him. He had no idea what he was getting into with her. This kinda sucks. ’

  ‘Kinda?’ I countered, raising my brows. I didn’t want to feel sorry for Cole. It was evident that he was in over his head. But that only confirmed that he shouldn’t be with her.

  ‘What do we do, Evan?’ Sara asked, exhaustion weighing in her voice. ‘How do we get her back? Should we take her to the hospital?’

  I let out a breath and shook my head, feeling just as defeated. ‘It’s been two days. Let’s give her another day, and then we’ll decide. ’

  Sara rubbed her eyes. ‘I wish we could remind her how strong she really is. ’

  Then it hit me.

  ‘I got it,’ I declared, my chest lightening with this revelation.

  ‘What?’ Sara’s head jerked up.

  ‘I’ll be right back,’ I told her.

  I held on to the only thing I had left … hope.


  Waiting for Her


  Her eyes opened, barely. She squinted up at me without a word, without showing any inclination to get up.

  ‘I’m serious,’ I said a little more firmly. ‘You need to get out of bed and come with me. ’ She just lay there, staring at me like she didn’t understand a word I said. ‘Either get out of bed, or I’m carrying you. ’

  Her mouth dropped open. At least I knew she’d heard me.

  ‘Why?’ she croaked hoarsely.

  ‘Because I’m going to help you,’ I explained. ‘But I can’t do that until you get out of bed. ’

  Her eyes moved in contemplation. It was the most reaction we’d gotten out of her in days, other than crying.

  ‘You’re not going to leave me alone until I get out of bed, are you?’

  ‘Nope,’ I answered, trying not to smile, even though it was getting harder. ‘Trust me, Emma. ’

  She thought for a moment, took a deep breath and pushed the blankets back. This time I couldn’t conceal my satisfaction.

  ‘Don’t look all proud of yourself,’ she grumbled, sliding her legs over the edge of the bed. I let out a quick laugh at her feistiness. It was a good sign, or a better one anyway.

  ‘Do you want to shower or anything first?’ I asked. Her hair was all knotted up on one side, and there were pillow crease lines on the side of her face. She’d been wearing the same clothes for two days, so I figured she’d want to feel … clean.

  ‘Nope,’ she said stubbornly. ‘You want me to get up, this is how you get me. ’

  I released a smile. ‘Okay, then. Let’s go. ’

  I turned towards the door.

  ‘We’re leaving?’

  ‘Yeah. Are you sure you don’t want to wash up or brush your teeth?’ I suggested one more time.

  She eyed me thoughtfully, trying to figure out what I was up to. I smiled wider and Emma’s eyes narrowed. ‘No, I’m fine. ’

  Her defiance made me laugh. She was never one to be told what to do, and that was one of the reasons I –

  I turned towards the door, cutting that thought off before it had a chance to finish. It wasn’t why I was here, and I had to keep reminding myself that – though it wasn’t as easy to believe now.

  Emma shuffled behind me. Her movements were stiff, probably from being twisted up in a ball for so long. We passed Sara in the living room, reading a magazine on the couch. She was trying so hard to appear casual, but I knew better. She was a wreck on the inside.

  ‘Have fun,’ she chimed with a smile.

  Emma gave her a sideways glance. ‘Of course you’re in on this. ’

  I looked to Sara with a grin. The worry surfaced in her eyes for that second. She obviously wasn’t as confident as I was that this was going to work.

  The light felt too bright when I walked out the front door, even though it was dusk. My entire body felt like it had been frozen and it was now slowly thawing. My head was still stuffed with cotton, and I felt so tired I could’ve laid down on the sidewalk and fallen asleep.

  I rolled my eyes at the grin Evan couldn’t seem to lose, despite every glare I’d shot at him. I didn’t know why I was agree
ing to this. But then again, I did. Because he’d asked me to trust him. And I’d never said no before.

  I plopped down on the front seat of the convertible, and Evan shut the door after me. We drove the two minutes to the other house in silence. With Evan in the lead, glancing over his shoulder every so often, I dragged myself through the garage and up the stairs.

  We continued to the second floor of the house and stood outside a closed door.

  ‘Close your eyes,’ he requested with a permanent grin.

  My brows pulled together. ‘Are you serious?’

  ‘Yes. ’ He nodded. ‘Close your eyes. ’

  I sighed and closed my eyes. A moment later I could feel fabric being wrapped around them.

  ‘Really?’ I shot at him in disbelief. Evan laughed. I would’ve rolled my eyes again if they were open.

  ‘Trust me,’ he said again. I stilled with those words. His words. My heart pounded faster just hearing them.

  Evan took hold of my hand. His hand was warm and strong, wrapping mine within it. He gave it a small squeeze before saying, ‘Okay, take a few steps forward. ’

  I allowed him to guide me, unable to control the fit going on inside my chest.

  We passed through the doorway and I led her to the centre of the room before letting go of her hand to shut the door. I waited a moment before I murmured quietly over her shoulder, ‘Breathe, Emma. Take a deep breath. ’

  She paused a moment, not understanding. Then I watched as she inhaled through her nose, filling her lungs while expanding her chest. She hesitated, as if she were surprised. Then she breathed in again, and the most stunning smile emerged on her face. It was the best reaction I could have hoped for.

  Emma pulled the bandana down, and it fell around her neck. She took in the room around her and turned to me. For the first time, I swore I saw a hint of light in the soft brown of her eyes.

  ‘Thank you,’ she whispered.

  I nodded, the lump in my throat making it challenging for me to speak as well. I swallowed and said, ‘Let it all out, Emma. Find your way back to us. ’

  Emma smiled brighter, causing me to do the same. ‘Okay,’ she said, and turned from me. I went back out the door, leaving her in the room.

  I bit my lip as a tear slipped down my cheek. I inhaled, absorbing the calming scents once again. I had no idea how he’d done it, how he’d gotten the room to smell like it did, but it made my heart swell until I felt like it might burst.

  Sitting on the stool, I studied the blank canvas, remembering his words. Let it all out, Emma. Collecting myself with a quick breath, I twirled the paintbrush thoughtfully in my hand. The rest of Evan’s words settled within me. Find your way back to us. And a warmth spread through my body. I knew exactly what I was going to paint. I picked up a tube of paint, squirting the green along the palette.

  I glanced around and noticed the small cooler with bottles of water and the tray that held a sandwich, a granola bar, and an apple. On the desk were a clean clothes to change into. My chest fluttered – a sensation I hadn’t felt in … years. At the same time, my stomach rumbled, and I picked up the granola bar as I continued to squirt colours on the palette. All I wanted to do was lose myself in the strokes of my brush. Gain control over the chaos that was tearing me apart. And find myself in the one place I would forever feel safe.

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