Out of breath, p.49
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       Out of Breath, p.49

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 50

 

  ‘Anyway, he told me about his dad, always putting business before everything else. I knew that. I mean, look what he did to you. ’ My face tightened. ‘Sorry, that was a bad thing to say …’

  ‘Just keep going,’ I encouraged, not wanting to dwell on the fact that Stuart Mathews didn’t like me.

  ‘He was dating this girl, which made me want to throw up. But then you should’ve seen his face when I told him about Jean-Luc. So I guess we were both pretty stupid. His father kept dropping hints that Jared and this girl had a great future ahead of them together. Jared kept shrugging it off. But that’s what Stuart wanted, and so did the bitch in the photo. I should’ve known she was a conniving whore-bag when I saw that she was friends with Catherine Jacobs, who’s the biggest skank of them all. ’

  Sara noticed the colour drain from my face.

  ‘They didn’t date, Emma,’ Sara assured me in a rush. ‘Okay?’ I nodded, my skin still crawling at the presumption of them being intimate in any way.

  ‘She wanted in, and Stuart was giving her an in, scoring a pretty sweet deal with her father while he was at it. She made certain she wore her grandmother’s ring on her left hand at the party, and Stuart arranged for the reporter. The news of an ‘engagement’ was leaked upon sight of the ring, and it took Vivian a week to clear it up – but only after it was printed, thanks to Stuart’s influence. He’s such a dick. ’ Sara clenched her teeth in disgust.

  ‘I’m so glad Vivian forced him to leave. And, Emma, she was so upset after what he’d done to you. My mom told me she and Vivian went to lunch last summer, and you came up. Vivian always questioned whether she did the right thing by keeping Evan close to home, away from you. But she blamed Stuart for his part in your leaving. ’

  I fought to keep my face even while she spoke, but my breath rippled with emotion. ‘What now?’

  ‘So … we’re together. And it’s amazing!’ Sara practically bounced on the bed. ‘Em, I was so paranoid to think that we wouldn’t be able to handle the distance. I mean … he’s it. He’s the only guy that makes me feel like I could do anything, and that I’m the most important person in the world. I’d never been in love until I met him. And I haven’t loved anyone since. ’

  She emanated happiness, and it looked beautiful on her.

  ‘That’s the best story you’ve ever told. ’ She jumped up from the bed and hugged me, catching me off guard. I wrapped my arms around her, squeezing just as tight.

  ‘Now, tell me about you,’ Sara insisted, trying to be serious, but joy soaked through her like light. ‘What happened with Cole? What did he say?’

  ‘Nothing,’ I shrugged. ‘He left a note. ’ I turned from her and started towards the bathroom. ‘I should dry my hair. I think the guys are waiting on us. ’

  ‘Emma,’ Sara chided, following me into the bathroom, ‘I’ll dry your hair. You talk. ’

  I sighed, sitting at the vanity while Sara reached for the round brush and hairdryer. ‘There’s not much to say. It was only two sentences. You know I’d asked him to leave before I hurt him, so that’s what he did. He wasn’t going to let me hurt him. ’

  ‘Shit,’ she replied. ‘He knew, Em. He knew as soon as Evan stepped off that plane that it was over. ’

  ‘Evan?’ I questioned in surprise. ‘I’m the reason he left. ’

  ‘Whatever,’ she said dismissively. ‘You don’t always have the clearest perspective on things, Em. Either way. He left, so how are you?’

  I averted my eyes. ‘Fine. ’

  ‘What?’ she demanded. ‘Are you upset that he’s gone?’

  ‘I hate how it ended,’ I admitted. ‘He was a good guy. Really. ’

  ‘I know,’ Sara acknowledged. ‘I liked him. ’

  I nodded. ‘I knew it was going to happen. I knew there would be an end eventually. I just didn’t want it to get … complicated. ’

  ‘Yeah,’ Sara scoffed. ‘If you don’t want complicated, then stay away from guys. ’

  I made a face at her advice.

  ‘Now what about Evan?’ she continued. ‘How have you been getting along? Was it weird to be alone with him here last night?’

  I shook my head, trying to keep my body temperature from rising. But the heat rushed to my cheeks anyway.

  Sara switched off the hairdryer. ‘What happened?’ I glanced up, and she was staring at me with large eyes. ‘Did you have sex with him?!’

  ‘What?! Omigod, no!’ I answered quickly, my entire face now red. ‘We’ve been talking, that’s all. And … well …’

  ‘Emma,’ Sara said in her familiar lecturing tone. ‘What did you do?’

  ‘He stayed with me, in here, last night,’ I explained quietly. ‘We talked until we fell asleep. ’

  ‘And you didn’t exactly sleep on opposite sides of that huge bed, did you?’ She knew the answer when I couldn’t meet her eyes. ‘What’s happening between you two?’

  ‘I’m not sure,’ I answered honestly. ‘We really are just talking. And it’s good, I guess. It’s honest, anyway. And I cry way too much. It’s kind of pathetic. ’

  ‘I’m sure it’s not pathetic,’ Sara comforted me. ‘You probably haven’t cried enough in your life, so you’re making up for it. ’

  ‘Great,’ I grumbled, wishing I knew how to find the off switch again. ‘But –’

  ‘Are you almost ready?’ Evan hollered into the room.

  ‘We’ll be right out,’ Sara answered, turning on the dryer to finish my hair. ‘This conversation isn’t over. ’ She gave me a stern look, and I nodded meekly.

  Sara walked out of the bedroom before Emma with a smile on her face that wouldn’t quit. I glanced over at Jared, who stared at her with an I’ve-been-hit-on-the-head-with-a-hammer look on his face. Their reconciliation was bound to make things a little awkward around here, especially when Emma and I didn’t even touch … except when we went to sleep.

  ‘We need to talk,’ Sara said between her smiling teeth.

  ‘What did I do now?’ I asked. She looked behind me, and I turned to find Emma with her leg bent behind her, using the wall as support to slide on a pair of dress sandals – her feet still covered in bandages. The white shorts were short enough to show off the legs that made me weak. I realized I was staring when her cheeks glowed red, and she smiled at me awkwardly.

  ‘Uh, ready?’ I confirmed, noticing that Jared and Sara were already at the door. I reached out to grab her hand, but caught myself and ran it along the side of my khakis instead, hoping she hadn’t noticed. Maybe inviting her wasn’t the best idea. It felt like a date, and despite the connection we were feeling, we weren’t ready for that. I started for the door as she grabbed a sweater out of the closet.

  ‘You look nice,’ she said, turning me around. ‘I like that shirt on you. ’

  ‘Thanks,’ I responded, completely taken by surprise. ‘You look … amazing. ’

  She smiled shyly and said, ‘Thanks,’ as she walked by me out the door.

  ‘Sweet Scout,’ Jared admired, climbing in behind the driver’s seat. ‘What year is it?’

  ‘Sixty-nine,’ I responded, waiting for Emma to climb in so I could close the door behind her. I noticed Sara’s eyes scrunch slightly, like she was trying to figure out the same thing Emma had earlier. I decided to let Emma tell her about me transferring, not certain what her reaction would be. Sara wanted Emma to be happy, but I knew she was still worried about her. I didn’t know if she was still concerned about my motives, or just the emotional turbulence that had swept into Emma’s life this summer. Either way, I knew I was part of it.

  If I’d heeded Nate’s warning about his Satanic tweener cousins, I would never have exposed Sara and Emma to them. I don’t know how, but somehow we survived dinner without anyone ending up stabbed in the eye or floating face down in the pool, although I could tell by Jared’s menacing glare that he was thinking it. We escaped as soon as we could, making an excuse about a movie. Nate and the guys disappear
ed to a party to save themselves.

  ‘I think I have barbecue sauce on my back,’ Emma said as we drove home. She was trying to wipe it off her shoulder blade, but was unable to reach it. ‘I didn’t know anyone could be so annoying. ’

  ‘Dude, I am never having kids,’ Jared declared. I glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed Sara staring at him. He quickly added, ‘Like that. Those two kids were hatched by gremlins, I swear. ’

  I reached over and ran my finger across the brown streak on Emma’s back.

  ‘Thanks,’ she said, turning her head to look out the open window.

  ‘What time are Serena and Meg arriving tomorrow?’ Sara asked. Emma turned towards her, and I grinned at the flush of colour that my touch had caused.

  ‘Late tonight. So we won’t see them until the morning. James is supposed to be coming too,’ Emma told her, then appeared alarmed when she noticed my expression. ‘What?’

  I shrugged innocently, but couldn’t keep from smirking as we pulled into the driveway. This only made her redder. I exhaled a quick laugh.

  ‘Just tell me,’ she demanded. ‘Did that little brat write his initials on my back or something?’

  ‘No. ’ I shook my head.

  ‘But he was trying to look up your shorts every time he purposely dropped his fork under the table,’ Jared shared.

  She looked to Sara for confirmation. ‘Did he?’

  ‘He tried,’ Sara affirmed, ‘until I dug my heel into his hand. I think I may have scarred him for life. ’

  ‘Nicely done,’ Jared said proudly. He pulled her into him and kissed her on the forehead. I looked away from the mirror. Their couple status was definitely uncomfortable to witness.

  ‘Sara, you’re cruel,’ Emma accused playfully.

  ‘Yes, I am,’ Sara gloated, causing Jared to laugh loudly.

  When we entered the house, Sara announced, ‘We’re going to bed,’ practically dragging Jared up the stairs behind her.

  Emma and I exchanged glances, very aware that they were not going to sleep. And just to make it obvious, Sara leaned over the railing at the top of the stairs and said, ‘You may want to put on music, or the TV, and turn it up. ’

  My eyes widened as Jared laughed, trailing after her.

  ‘Wow,’ I said, ‘that was …’

  ‘Awkward,’ Evan finished for me. ‘Uh, so …’

  ‘Want to go for a walk?’ I suggested. We both looked down at the Band-Aids on my feet.

  ‘What if I built a fire on the patio instead?’ Evan suggested.

  I glanced at the clock – it was later than I thought. And in truth, I really didn’t want to talk, which I knew would happen if we sat out on the patio.

 
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