Out of breath, p.42
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       Out of Breath, p.42

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 42

 

  ‘I’ll be back tomorrow. I’ll stop by when I arrive,’ I informed her. ‘I’m sorry about your grandfather, Sara. ’

  ‘Thanks, Evan,’ she replied.

  ‘Talk to you later. ’

  As I was about hang up I heard, ‘Hey, Evan?’

  ‘Yeah?’

  ‘I know it’s really not my place to ask you, but … is everything okay between you and Emma? I mean … I know it’s not okay, but you’re not going to stop talking to her or anything, right?’

  ‘No,’ I answered, perplexed by the question. ‘Uh … why would you think that?’

  Sara released a heavy breath. ‘Never mind. ’

  ‘Wait, did she say something? Does she think I’m upset with her?’

  She hesitated a moment. ‘Not really. I guess … I just have this weird feeling. I’m sure it’s me being overly protective as usual. I’ll be back on Thursday. I’ll see you then. ’

  Sara hung up before I could question her further. I knew I’d screwed up when I didn’t get to see Emma before I left, and for not saying anything after she confessed the other night. Sara’s worried tone ate at me. Something wasn’t right with Emma, I knew it too.

  I made a call to Nate before returning to the table, asking him to stop by and check on her. He didn’t understand why I was asking, but he promised to do it anyway.

  ‘Everything all right?’ my mother asked as I sat back down at the table, replaying everything I did, or didn’t do, the night Emma came over.

  I redirected my attention to my mother, whose eyes were narrowed in concern. ‘I’m sorry. That was Sara. Her grandfather passed away, so she’s with her family in New Hampshire. ’

  ‘Are you serious?’ Jared interjected. ‘Gus died? Man, I loved that guy. ’ He glanced between my mother and me, then blurted, ‘I’ll be right back. ’ I saw him pulling his phone from his pocket before he was a foot from the table.

  ‘Why was she contacting you?’ my mother pursued, always observant of my subtle reactions.

  ‘I have Emma’s phone, so Sara hasn’t been able to get in touch with her, and she was wondering if I had. She didn’t know I was coming here. No one knew but the guys,’ I explained. Before Jared returned and before my mother could enquire further, I had to ask, ‘What did the letter say?’

  My mother’s blue eyes flinched ever so slightly at the question. ‘Which letter are you referencing?’

  ‘The letter Emma gave to you before she left. I found the envelope. And whatever it said convinced you to change the course of my life. So what did the letter say?’

  My mother paused thoughtfully. ‘It was given to me in confidence. It’s not for me to reveal the content. I’m sorry. ’

  My mother had always had strong principles, and as much as I admired them, at times they could be very frustrating. ‘I understand. ’

  Jared pulled his chair back and sat down again.

  ‘So how long do we have you?’ my mother enquired.

  ‘An hour,’ Jared answered, appearing anxious.

  ‘Please express my condolences to Sara and her parents,’ my mother requested before taking a sip of her wine. Jared nodded, but refused to look at me.

  ‘Well, since our time is short, let me share with you the reason we’re here,’ my mother announced. ‘I have decided to sell the house in Weslyn. ’

  Jared didn’t react. He wasn’t expected to, since he didn’t spend much time there. This statement was directed towards me. Jared was just a buffer for when I said, ‘You can’t. ’

  My mother remained perfectly poised. ‘I am buying a place in the city, and that house is simply too big now that the two of you are away,’ she explained patiently ‘I’m sorry, Evan. ’

  ‘No. ’ I shook my head adamantly, my voice rising slightly. ‘It’s the only place that’s ever felt like a home to me. You can’t sell it. ’

  ‘Evan –’ Jared said in warning, not approving of my tone – filling his role perfectly.

  As I paused to collect myself, my mother remained still, silently observing, as she did so well. We’d moved many times throughout my childhood. I never became attached to a house, or friends, with the exception of Nate and the guys.

  My parents had offered the private boarding-school option that Jared had chosen so he could continue school with the same group of friends. But I liked to travel, and I didn’t want to leave my mother alone. Everything changed when we moved to Weslyn.

  I couldn’t lose the memories I’d made in that house. The thought of never seeing the oak tree again, or walking in the meadow along the brook, was too difficult to fathom. I knew I didn’t have Emma, and I was uncertain if that would ever change. But I still couldn’t let her go, and that’s what I felt would happen if the house was sold. Like everything between us would be erased.

  There had to be another way.

  ‘Would you consider letting me buy the house?’ I asked.

  ‘Evan, dear, you don’t have access to those funds for another fourteen years,’ my mother reminded me, her expression sympathetic. ‘It wouldn’t be possible sooner without your father’s permission and a –’

  ‘I know,’ I interrupted. I could already hear his condescending words. ‘But what if we set up payments, or …’ She remained quiet. I knew this was not a decision she was willing to support. At least not tonight.

  I walked into the hotel room, dropped my jacket on the chair and loosened my tie. I sat down on the bed and propped my feet in front of me. I wasn’t ready to give up the house in Weslyn – or what was happening between me and Emma. She was just beginning to open up, and I was slowly finding a way to trust her again. The threat of losing the house made it clear that I couldn’t be without her. I couldn’t let her go.

  A vibration came from her phone. I walked over to shut it off, and the screen lit up to reveal a list of missed calls and texts. They were mostly from Sara, which was understandable. But the one that kept me staring, unable to blink, was the one that just said, Emma?

  I knew it was none of my business. I didn’t have any right to pry, but I pressed the message, and the previous one showed up under it. It was longer. There was only a phone number across the top, but I knew exactly who it was from.

  Got your messages and texts. Sorry – life is complicated right now. Unfortunately we can’t go back and change things. Wish we could. I do forgive you. I miss you. Would give anything to hear your voice right now. Won’t be able to contact you again after tonight. Phone will be disconnected soon. Please say you forgive me? It would help to know you do. Emma, you deserve to be happy. You deserve to be loved. Hope you believe it.

  I wanted to delete it. I wanted to delete him. But I couldn’t. I held down the button to shut the phone off.

  I didn’t know what hurt worse. That she’d reached out to Jonathan, asking for forgiveness. Or that she didn’t want that from me – insisting that I hate her. Why would he need to be forgiven? What happened between them?

  Now I had a choice. I could let her push me away, fearing she’d continue to hurt me. Or I could fight for us. Convince her that we were worth it. Any pain she could inflict would never come close to the pain of being without her. I could never give up on her … on us.

  27

  Gone

  I STARED OUT THE WINDOW AT THE GREY shroud lapping against the glass. I didn’t know what time it was or how long I’d been on the couch. I’d been held captive by the sharpness of tongues that slit my veins with loathing and tainted my blood with hatred.

  You’re a worthless pathetic tramp.

  I shrank away from the disdain that haunted my soul. But I couldn’t escape the relentless barrage of maliciousness. No matter how hard I tried to shut them out, their voices were all I could hear now. The scars may have healed, and the bruises faded. But the claws of hate and rejection dug deep within my flesh and never let go. Every spiteful sentiment struck with more force than the most violent of blows. Each degrading remark and est
imation of worthlessness broke me in half.

  You are not important.

  There’d been a time when I was almost convinced that my accomplishments and determination would silence their malice. But I’d given up. I couldn’t say the exact moment that it happened. Perhaps it was the second I’d abandoned Evan, leaving him beaten and barely conscious on the floor. Or it may have been before that. But now, in my isolation, the whispers found me.

  You don’t care about anyone other than yourself.

  I stared out into the distance, beckoned by the roaring of the waves, the only sound loud enough to mask what were now sickening screams. I walked down to the beach, through the haze of clouds that swept against my skin.

  You took him from me.

  I stood at the water’s edge, enraptured by the fury rushing to shore. The rolling wave cresting before crashing in on itself in a maddening tumble, sweeping under my feet, pulling me into the shifting sand. The rippling surface seduced with its curling fingers, tempting me.

  You can’t honestly think he cares about you.

  Tears filled my eyes, slipping over my lashes and down my cheeks. I was so tired of fighting. Tired of hurting. Tired of the guilt that would never release me, and the regrets that could not be changed. I didn’t want this life. There were only so many times I could hear that I should never have been, before I wished it to be true.

  You should never have been born.

  I took a step and began walking towards the grey horizon that seamlessly melded with the dark water. My chin quivered as the tears washed over my face. Turbulent waves pushed me back towards shore, but I forged ahead. I dived under them, letting the cold seawater soak into my trembling skin, into my bones, until I was numb.

  Don’t you realize how much you hurt me?

  I swam past the breaking point to where the water rocked, bobbing me along its surface. I floated on my back, balanced on the hands of the rocking sea with my arms spread wide. Everything became still, and all I could hear was my breathing. I allowed the silence to subdue me. The pain dissipated through my fingertips into the water, carrying the voices with it until I was drained, and all that was left was … me. Accepting the fate that had finally caught up with me, I inhaled my final breath, and then I was gone.

  Curling into a ball, I let myself sink beneath the surface. I closed my eyes as the water filled my ears, magnifying the stillness.

  All I had to do was give up.

  Give up.

  The words echoed through my head, begging me.

  Breathe, Emma. Just give up, and … breathe.

  My lungs demanded the air within reach at the surface. My heart fought for each beat. It refused to surrender to the calm I sought beneath the water. The desperate thumps stammered against my chest. Within the silence, his words were as clear as if they were being whispered in my ear.

  Hold on to this life, Emma. You’re so much stronger than you think you are.

  And I knew. I didn’t know how to give up.

  Peace awaited me with a single breath. But I couldn’t give up. It wasn’t who I was. This may not have been the life that was meant for me. Perhaps I was never supposed to be. But while I existed, I would fight for every breath that kept me alive.

 
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