Out of breath, p.51
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       Out of Breath, p.51

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
Page 52


  Serena pounced. ‘Why? What happened?’

  I couldn’t help it – I glanced at the door – and even though I couldn’t see him, I knew he was listening.

  ‘Umm … I don’t know really,’ I answered evasively, trying to keep my voice quiet. ‘We’re … talking. ’

  ‘There’s more than talking going on,’ Sara said. ‘I mean, I saw you guys last night at dinner. ’

  I swallowed. Please let me vanish right now. Please!

  ‘Has he kissed you?’ Serena demanded.

  ‘No,’ I answered quickly, trying not to think about the kiss he’d given me on the top of my head last night. My cheeks flamed in betrayal.

  ‘Are you lying?’ Sara accused. ‘Did you kiss him and not tell me?’

  ‘I swear, I didn’t kiss him,’ I answered adamantly.

  ‘So how do you feel about him?’ Meg asked. The girls quieted, leaning closer in anticipation. And I could have sworn the door opened wider.

  ‘I’m not sure how to answer that,’ I said honestly, resigning myself to the conversation … and Evan listening. ‘It’s been intense. A lot’s happened, and I’m just trying to figure things out. It wouldn’t be fair to either of us to start anything without fixing what went wrong to begin with. ’

  ‘And what was that?’ Meg asked.

  ‘Me,’ I answered quietly, unable to look at any of them. ‘He doesn’t trust me. And I have to earn that back if I want to try again. ’

  ‘Do you – want to try again?’ Serena asked excitedly.

  I didn’t want to answer this question, so I said, ‘I’m not ready. ’ It was the only thing I knew to be true. ‘Okay. What are we doing today?’ I did my best to sound cheerful as I redirected the conversation. ‘I have to kick you guys out in a minute, because I really have to use the bathroom. But what’s the plan, so I know what to wear?’

  ‘We’re going shopping,’ Sara announced. ‘And don’t you dare sulk. You need some dresses. ’

  ‘I disagree, but … whatever. ’

  Meg stood, ‘Hurry up and get ready. We’re going to brunch before we shop. ’

  Serena hopped off the bed and followed after the girls. She turned to me before she left and said, ‘I like him, Emma … a lot. And I think you know exactly what you feel for him. Stop fighting it. ’

  She shut the door behind her, leaving me staring.

  The bathroom door eased open, and Evan stepped into the room just as I threw a pillow at him.

  ‘Hey!’ He caught it with a quick laugh. ‘What was that for?’

  ‘You didn’t have to listen, Evan!’ I hissed, trying not to raise my voice.

  He chuckled. ‘You were talking about me. Of course I was going to listen. ’

  Her face was flushed all the way down her neck.

  ‘They’re relentless, aren’t they?’ I noted with a shake of my head. ‘I’m glad I’m not a girl. ’

  Emma whipped the blankets back and got out of bed. ‘I can’t believe you heard that. ’

  It was hard not to laugh at her dramatic reaction. ‘You knew I was listening, Emma. And it’s nice to know they don’t hate me. ’

  ‘Why would they hate you?’ she asked. ‘You didn’t do anything wrong. ’

  I shrugged. ‘I know, but they’re protective of you, and if they didn’t like me it would suck. ’

  She grinned. ‘Why do you want their approval?’

  I’d said too much. ‘No reason. ’

  ‘Liar. ’

  ‘I’m going out through the patio to take a walk on the beach,’ I announced suddenly. ‘We don’t want them to see me sneaking out of your room, do we? They may think we kissed or something. ’ She threw another pillow at me.

  ‘Shut up, Evan. ’ Her cheeks were bright red.

  I laughed, picking up my camera from her dresser.

  ‘Have fun shopping. ’ She stuck her tongue out at me just as I took the shot. I smiled at her small tantrum as she shut the bathroom door with force, adoring the fiery side that I had a tendency to bring out in her.

  I was surprised that the girls hadn’t spotted my camera on the dresser or my bag sitting on the chaise. They were probably too intent on drilling Emma to even notice.

  Easing the gate open, I peered around the corner of the deck to make sure no one was outside. I quickly crossed to the steps and reached the beach just as I heard the screen door sliding open.

  ‘Hey!’ Sara called out, stopping me in my tracks.

  I reluctantly spun around, knowing I’d been caught.

  ‘You just came from Emma’s room, didn’t you?’ she accused, her hands on her hips. I shrugged guiltily. ‘Evan, can we talk?’

  ‘Sure,’ I said with a heavy breath.

  Sara hopped down the steps, and I began walking alongside her, bracing myself.

  ‘Did anything happen between you and Emma while I was away that I should know about?’

  ‘No,’ I answered. ‘Nothing you should know about. ’

  ‘Evan –’ she scowled – ‘you know I just want to make sure she’s okay. ’

  ‘I know, Sara. I do. I heard everything. ’

  ‘Why did you stay in her room? I don’t understand what’s up with you two. ’

  ‘Neither do I,’ I replied. ‘And I’ll tell you the same thing Emma did – we’re just talking. That’s it. And I have no idea where it’s going, but please don’t force her to figure out what she feels for me. I don’t want to push her away again, especially when I’m getting to really know her for the first time ever. ’

  Sara drew her brows together. ‘What does that mean?’

  I considered how to explain it. ‘Emma’s not the same as she was a couple of weeks ago. Her eyes aren’t vacant any more. She doesn’t look like she’s about to break apart at any second. I can’t really say what happened, but she’s finally opening up and –’

  ‘Becoming the Emma we used to know?’

  ‘No. ’ I shook my head. ‘She’s not her either. I don’t think she’ll ever be her again. But I think she’s trying to heal, to be better. She’s letting me in, and she’s never done that before. She’s actually trusting me, and I don’t want to lose that because she’s afraid of what might or might not happen between us. I know you care about her, and so do I. But I’m just asking you to back off a little. Let us figure it out. ’

  ‘Do you trust her?’ Sara asked.

  I stared out at the ocean as we continued to walk. ‘I want to,’ I answered. ‘I really want to. ’

  ‘But you don’t,’ Sara concluded, hearing the reluctance in my voice. ‘That’s not right Evan. You need to trust her enough to tell her what you went through when she left. If you don’t tell her, then you’re doing the same thing she did to you. She should know. ’

  ‘She’s already about to collapse from all the guilt that’s been dumped on her her entire life,’ I argued. ‘She already knows I have nightmares. That’s enough. ’

  Sara’s eyes tightened slightly. I hoped she wouldn’t ask …

  ‘But you can’t expect her to open up and trust you with emotions and thoughts she’s probably never expressed before, and then not trust her in return. ’

  I hated it when Sara was right.

  I about freaked when I saw Evan and Sara returning together. She knew he’d been in my room. I could tell when she shook her head at me as she climbed the steps to the deck. I sunk down in the chair, averting my eyes. I didn’t get a chance to ask Evan what they talked about before he, James and Jared left for Nate’s to help set up for another of their infamous parties.

  When I returned from shopping with the girls, we spent the day on the beach. I threw on a pair of jeans and a tank top, along with my black Converse for the party. Sara scanned me up and down.

  ‘We just bought some amazing dresses today, and you’re wearing this? What am I going to do with you?’ she sighed.

  ‘Love me for who I am,’ I replied with a smirk.

I do,’ Serena chimed in.

  ‘Serena, don’t encourage her,’ Sara said. ‘Besides, your wardrobe consists of black … and black. ’

  I interceded. ‘I think Serena is very fashionable. ’

  ‘So do I,’ Serena added defensively.

  ‘Okay, I apologize, Serena. You do know how to mix up your black. But I’m sorry, Em. You need an intervention. ’

  ‘Did James take your car, Serena, or did they go in the Scout?’ Meg asked, avoiding any contribution to the attack on my fashion sense.

  ‘Whose car is that anyway?’ Serena asked. ‘It’s pretty cool. ’

  I hesitated, not wanting to answer her. Sara’s eyes tightened when I spent way too much time tying my shoes.

  ‘Emma Thomas, talk,’ she demanded impatiently.

  ‘It’s Evan’s,’ I muttered, slowly standing up.

  ‘I was wondering when we went to dinner last night,’ she said. ‘But why would Evan need a car in California?’

  The fact that I was holding my breath said everything. ‘No way. ’

  ‘What?’ Meg demanded, completely confused.

  ‘Yes!’ Serena practically leapt. ‘He’s staying!’

  ‘He’s what?’ Meg questioned, gawking at me.

  ‘Evan transferred to Stanford,’ Sara stated, still staring at me. I nodded tentatively, waiting for her to explode. ‘Of course he transferred to Stanford. ’

  ‘Why did you say it like that?’ I questioned.

  ‘Because, it just makes sense,’ she said, nodding slowly. ‘The conversation my mother had with Vivian last summer, about whether she should’ve allowed him to go to Stanford when he wanted to. She also said that she wasn’t going to stand in his way this time, like he was going. But that was last year, so when he didn’t switch schools last fall, I didn’t think too much about it. ’

  ‘So, he’s been planning to move here for a while now?’ Meg concluded.

  ‘It was his first choice,’ I explained.

  ‘So were you,’ Sara said, interrupting my breath. ‘Don’t look at me like that, Emma. I think he would’ve come out here sooner if his parents hadn’t basically locked him up. ’

  ‘What are you talking about?’ I demanded.

  ‘They didn’t allow him access to his money,’ Sara explained. ‘He didn’t have a car on campus. They essentially put him under state arrest. ’

  ‘They wouldn’t let him travel?’ I asked in shock, knowing how much that must have pissed him off. Evan travelled. That’s what he did, every opportunity he had. So to be confined to Connecticut must have felt like prison.

  ‘Not for a while, I guess. Not until last summer, from what my mother told me. ’

  Wow, I mouthed. I’d interfered with his life so much more than I’d intended.

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