Out of breath, p.46
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       Out of Breath, p.46

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 47

 

  ‘You never did anything. Unfortunately, you didn’t fit the image of the girl he wanted for me. ’

  ‘But Catherine did?’ she mumbled under her breath.

  My back tensed at the mention of her name. I pressed my lips together, remembering again that Emma had seen the photo in the paper. I connected with her troubled brown eyes and answered calmly. ‘Yes. ’

  She flinched.

  ‘It’s not –’

  ‘I don’t want to know,’ she blurted. ‘I can’t …’ Emma pulled her legs in to her, moving as far away from me as she could. She knew there was more to that picture than just me obliging my father. I bowed my head and said, ‘I never dated her. ’

  ‘I really don’t want to know, Evan,’ she begged, her voice a whisper.

  I didn’t want to talk about her. Not now. Not ever. I wanted to forget about everything that had happened after I left. I wished we could just start over again, and let it all go. But I knew that was impossible. I knew I’d have to confront my demons eventually – I couldn’t keep running forever.

  30

  Choices

  I LAY ACROSS THE LOVE SEAT WITH MY FEET propped on the arm, not really watching the movie that played on the giant flat-screen suspended above the fireplace. I looked over my shoulder at Evan, asleep on the couch.

  I was trying so hard to be okay. I didn’t want to be that girl, drifting in the water, lost and alone, wishing the tide would pull her out to sea. I was fighting to move forward, struggling to be better. But I didn’t know how.

  Evan stirred, and I looked away from him, pretending to watch the movie.

  ‘Hey,’ he rasped, sleep heavy in his voice. ‘You’re still awake?’

  I tilted my head towards him. ‘Yes, I am. But you fell asleep. ’

  ‘I did,’ he admitted groggily. ‘So movies don’t put you to sleep any more?’

  ‘They still do,’ I said, grinning slightly. ‘I haven’t really been watching, though. ’

  ‘What’s keeping you awake?’

  I spun myself around to face him.

  ‘This has been the most intense two and a half weeks of my life … ever,’ I confessed. ‘And considering my life, that’s saying a lot. ’

  I leaned over and clicked off the television.

  Emma continued, ‘I guess … I’m overwhelmed and … scared. ’

  ‘Scared?’

  Emma looked down and started fumbling with her fingers. I wanted to invite her to sit with me, so I could be closer to her. She seemed too far away on the love seat. But she was even further away in her thoughts, and I wanted to know where she was and how to get her back.

  ‘There’s this letter, sitting on my bed,’ she explained, her voice unsteady. ‘I’m pretty sure it’s from my grandmother, and I don’t want to open it. ’ She closed her eyes to hide her emotions, and I slid down the couch to sit across from her. When she opened her eyes again, they flickered with distress. I fought the urge to reach for her hand.

  ‘Your grandmother?’ I questioned, not aware she had any family other than George and the kids.

  ‘My father’s mother,’ she explained weakly. ‘She disowned him when I was born, because he and Rachel were never married. ’

  I tried to keep my expression smooth as she shared one more thing she’d kept from me.

  ‘Evan, I’m not strong enough to read it, to listen to her blame me for the loss I caused her sons. I can’t handle one more person telling me that I should never have been born, or that I’m not worth being loved. I just … can’t. ’

  I took a breath, fighting to appear calm for her. These were the insecurities that fed on her over the years, embedded by the women who I despised more than anything. These were her darkest secrets, and she was finally letting me see them. I wasn’t about to let someone else hurt her.

  ‘I’ll read it for you,’ I told her. ‘If it’s bad, then you won’t ever have to see it. And if I think you can handle it, then I’ll give it to you. ’

  ‘Okay,’ she replied with a quick exhale, trying to breathe away the anxiety. She continued to twist her hands when I stood up. I started towards the master bedroom and glanced back to find her following me.

  My hands were trembling, and I didn’t know how to make them stop. I was going to let him go into the room and read it alone, but then I couldn’t. I had to be there, to watch his reaction, even if he told me I couldn’t read it.

  Evan flipped on the light, and I slid onto the bed. He sat on the edge, holding the heavy linen envelope in his hand, and raised his eyes to meet mine. I bit my lip and nodded, encouraging him to open it.

  He slid his finger under the seal and pulled out the letter. The paper was thick and folded precisely in half. I could see enough to tell that it was handwritten. As Evan’s eyes moved along each line, down each page, my heart pounded impatiently.

  ‘It’s not what you think,’ he said. ‘But it’s still going to affect you. Would you like me to read it to you, or would you rather read it yourself?’

  I hesitated before answering. ‘I’ll read it. ’ I held out my hand. ‘But stay. Please?’ Evan scooted beside me, my shoulder pressed against him.

  I took a deep breath and unfolded the paper.

  Dear Emily,

  I hope this letter finds you well. I apologize that our first encounter must be so impersonal, but I thought it would be best under the circumstance. My name is Laura Thomas. I am your paternal grandmother.

  After what transpired in Weslyn, George thought it was best to move here to live with me in Florida. I was pleased, since I had not had much time with my grandchildren. The circumstance surrounding their relocation was unfortunate, but I was determined to make them feel loved and welcome all the same.

  During this time, the children spoke of you often. They asked about your well-being and when they would see you again. As you can imagine, it is a sensitive subject, and something we could not knowingly answer. George has avoided addressing any questions pertaining to you, and I, unfortunately, do not know you well enough to answer them myself.

  Jack, in time, has ceased his questions. However, Leyla has persisted, constantly creating drawings for you, and has even begun to make up stories about you to her teachers and classmates. Both children have been under the care of a wonderful therapist to help them adjust to a life without their mother, and the therapist is concerned.

  I have asked if it would be beneficial to request communication with you, and the suggestion was encouraged greatly. George does not know of this correspondence, and would not favour this idea. But Leyla is very important to me, and you, Emily, are very important to her.

  So, I am kindly asking if you would consider reacquainting yourself with your cousins. We could begin by correspondence, either written or electronic. Then perhaps we could work up to phone conversations, and in time, if you are willing, visits.

  I will understand any reservations you may have regarding this request. I am sending this in the best interest of Leyla. You are welcome to respond to the email or mailing address printed at the bottom of this letter.

  Cordially,

  Laura Thomas

  I folded the page in half and set it on the table next to the bed, my hands continuing to shake. I leaned against the pillow and let the sterile words of my grandmother sink in. She wasn’t contacting me because she wanted to meet me, or because she was sorry for missing out on so much of my life. After the sting of that abated, the true message tore at my heart.

  I could tell Emma was trying to fight it, to lock out the emotion that was making her chin tremble.

  ‘It’s okay,’ I consoled her. ‘Just let it out, Emma. ’

  She collapsed, leaning into me, and I pulled her against my chest. She didn’t sob like I expected, but her cheeks were slick with tears.

  ‘I miss them,’ she finally murmured, her voice broken. ‘I miss them so much. All I ever wanted was for them to be happy. ’

&nbs
p; ‘I know. They miss you too. Em, that just means they love you as much as you love them. ’

  I held her while she cried for them. When she’d caught her breath, she eased away, wiping her flushed cheeks.

  ‘I don’t want to cry any more,’ she said, blowing away the tears. ‘It feels like all I’ve been doing is falling apart and crying. ’

  ‘You can’t keep it all inside, Emma. Cry. Scream if you have to, but don’t let it destroy you. I wish you wouldn’t underestimate your strength. ’ I raised my hand to the side of her face and ran my thumb over her damp cheek.

  ‘Thanks,’ she said, attempting a smile – meeting my eyes and lingering until I felt the compulsion of our connection in every part of my body. I let my hand fall, needing to look away from her before I did what I wanted to do. Emma turned and pushed the decorative pillows to the floor, adjusting a pillow and lying down on her side, facing me.

  Evan followed my example and knocked the small pillows on his side to the floor before shifting down to lie across from me.

  ‘Feeling any better?’ he asked, his silver-blue eyes focused on mine, trying to see inside. I didn’t look away to hide my conflicted emotions. I let him in.

  ‘I don’t know what to do,’ I said, tucking my hands under the pillow. ‘I want to see them so bad. But I’m afraid it will make things worse. I need to think about it. ’

  ‘Okay,’ he said quietly. I could tell there was so much more he wanted to say.

  ‘You want to tell me to do it, don’t you?’ I prodded. ‘That seeing Leyla and Jack is the right thing to do, and that there’s nothing I could do that would hurt them more than ignoring this letter and staying out of their lives. ’

  A grin crept across Evan’s face. ‘Didn’t have to tell you that, did I?’ He laughed when I reluctantly smiled. ‘Either you’re really good at reading my mind, or you already knew what you wanted to do. ’

  ‘Okay, you can stop talking now,’ I admonished, trying my best to stifle a smile. ‘But I really don’t want to cry any more. It’s so exhausting. ’

  Evan laughed. ‘I understand. But I’m here if you need to. ’

  ‘Thanks. ’ I smiled gently. ‘And if you ever need to cry …’

  Evan started laughing. Evidently, the thought of me consoling him was comical.

  ‘What?! You don’t cry?’ I shot back, shoving his shoulder.

  ‘Have you ever seen me cry?’ he asked with an oversized smile.

  ‘Once,’ I answered automatically. His grin faltered and we stared at each other, lost in the memory of that night. The night in the meadow under the stars. The night we asked each other for forgiveness. The night I gave him everything.

  I held my breath, unable to look away from the intensity in his eyes.

  ‘Yeah, once,’ I murmured, still connecting with her, refusing to look away. My eyes drifted towards her lips and my heartbeat picked up its pace.

  Her eyes were wide and uncertain.

  I was about to lean towards her when she asked, ‘Will you do something with me tomorrow?’

 
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