Out of breath, p.54
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       Out of Breath, p.54

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
Page 55


  ‘No. ’ I sighed.

  ‘Then what’s going on?’

  I stalled a moment. ‘Do you remember in high school when you asked me if I thought I’d have sex with Evan, when we first started dating? After you asked, that’s all I could think about, because you made me think about it. ’

  Sara started laughing. ‘Yeah, that was hysterical. You couldn’t even function around him for like a week, and I was convinced your face was going to remain red forever. ’

  ‘Yeah,’ I mumbled. ‘Anyway …’

  ‘Wait, did you have sex with Evan?’

  ‘No,’ I shot back loudly.

  ‘But you want to?’ she blurted again, not allowing me to explain.

  I buried my face in the blanket and screamed in frustration.

  ‘Omigod, you do,’ Sara concluded. ‘Wow. I didn’t think you two were there yet. ’

  ‘We’re not really anywhere … yet,’ I argued. ‘It’s just … well, he won’t be sleeping in here any more. ’

  Sara produced a wide smile. ‘Right. ’

  ‘Sara, stop looking at me like that. ’

  ‘You two are ridiculous. Figure your shit out so you can get on with your lives together already. ’ She gave me a weirdly sympathetic look, then got up from the bed. ‘The girls will be here soon. We figured we’d spend the day on the beach. ’

  I nodded faintly, still stunned by how forward she was with things that I still couldn’t admit to myself.

  And just like that … we were back in high school again. I couldn’t look at Evan, or be within three feet of him, without my body kicking into hyper-alert. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, even when he was standing right in front of me. And, basically, my conflicted brain wasn’t capable of doing anything about it.

  ‘Emma?’ I called to her again as she stared off in the distance. She blinked her eyes, snapping out of it.

  ‘Huh?’ She gazed up at me with her brown eyes wide and cheeks pink.

  ‘The girls were looking for you,’ I told her. ‘They’re in the kitchen getting lunch together. ’

  ‘Okay, thanks,’ she said quickly, shifting her eyes away from mine before slipping off the hammock. She ran her fingers through her hair to flatten it, still unable to look at me. I watched her curiously as she entered the house.

  ‘Emma,’ Sara said impatiently, ‘go shower and then come help us. ’

  ‘I’m going,’ I heard Emma reply.

  As I walked into the house, I could hear the sound of the cabinets closing in the kitchen.

  ‘They’re going to be okay, right?’ Serena asked.

  With the music playing in the living room, they obviously hadn’t heard me come in. Not sure what to do, I turned and started for the stairs.

  ‘They’ll figure out they can’t live without each other eventually,’ Sara concluded. They were oblivious, not realizing that their voices carried through the kitchen opening, echoing off the tall ceilings. They had no idea how well they could be heard out here.

  ‘Really? You think they’re going to forgive and forget?’ Meg questioned sceptically. ‘I think they’re only going to keep hurting each other if they can’t just be frickin’ honest. Emma’s two steps from going over a cliff if she doesn’t open up and let someone help her. ’

  I grabbed the railing as I tripped on a step.

  ‘That’s not true. She’s getting better. I can tell,’ Serena said passionately. ‘Besides, it’s obvious they love each other. I mean, look at them. She was only half a person when they were apart. She’s different now. ’

  ‘And what happens if he doesn’t forgive her? And ends up walking away?’ Meg challenged.

  ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ Jared asked from the top of the stairs. I stared up at him and clenched my teeth, silently begging him to keep his mouth shut. We both overheard Sara say, ‘I wish we could force them to be completely honest with each other. ’

  Jared laughed. ‘You’re listening to them talk about you. Nice. ’

  I rushed up the stairs, convinced they’d heard him. ‘Shut up, Jared. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. ’

  ‘Yeah, right,’ he chided. ‘You were totally eavesdropping. But I don’t blame you. I mean, if they were talking about me, I’d absolutely listen. Wait. Were they talking about me?’

  ‘No,’ I said, with a shake of my head. ‘You’re evidently not as fucked up as Emma and me. Besides, I wouldn’t stick around to listen to Sara go on about how incredible you are. ’

  ‘She said that?’ He grinned proudly.

  ‘No,’ I scoffed.

  ‘If you’re done eavesdropping, I brought that huge duffle bag with the sports gear that you asked me to bring. Wanna toss a football around or something? I think James is out on the beach already. ’

  ‘Sure, but let me see if the girls are all set first. ’ I headed back down stairs noisily, so that this time they knew we were coming.

  The girls were eerily quiet when I poked my head into the kitchen. ‘Need any help?’

  Meg and Sara kept their expressions neutral, but Serena’s eyes sparkled mischievously. I looked at her questioningly. A smile broke across her face, which prompted a sharp elbow jab from Meg. ‘Ow! What was that for?’

  ‘No, we’re all set for now,’ Sara told me. ‘You guys can bring everything out in a little bit. ’

  ‘We’ll be on the beach,’ I said, leaving them to continue contemplating our fate.

  I eyed the dress Sara had hung on the back of the bathroom door. I used to enjoy raiding Sara’s closet and letting her style me – as terrifying as it was at times. But now it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t the same. I hadn’t worn a dress since that night – except to my mother’s funeral. And considering I could barely function, I didn’t exactly have a choice.

  I knew she was trying to reach me, to make me better somehow. ‘Oh, Sara. ’ I sighed, pulling it off the hanger. ‘I’ll wear the dress. ’

  After drying my hair and tugging the short skirt one more time, I found the girls in the kitchen.

  Sara’s eyes lit up when she saw me – and that look was worth the discomfort.

  ‘So, what do you need me to do?’

  ‘Take this out to the table,’ Meg instructed, handing me a pitcher and cups.

  ‘Hey,’ Jared said from the patio door. ‘Sara, I got your text. What do you need help with?’

  ‘We’re getting ready to eat, so can you and the guys bring everything out to the table? And can you put the umbrella up?’

  ‘No problem. ’

  I walked up the stairs after Jared told us lunch was ready. I just about fell over when I saw Emma leaning up on her toes, helping Jared secure the umbrella with the pin. She was wearing a white strapless dress with yellow flowers printed on it. I ran my eyes down her slender arms, extended above her, to the soft angles of her shoulders. The fabric clung to her curves until it flared out to reveal the length of her sculpted legs.

  I finally got ‘Do you need help?’ out of my mouth. But they were done. Emma turned towards me; her cheeks flushed with colour and she smiled slightly. I grinned and got caught in her eyes before I heard Jared say impatiently, ‘Evan? Hello? Go inside and get food. ’

  ‘All right,’ I said. ‘I like the dress,’ I whispered as I passed her. She ran a hand down its skirt, trying to add another inch to its revealing hemline.

  ‘Evan, bring out the tray of sandwiches,’ Sara instructed. Each of the girls passed me with something in her hands. By the time I’d returned with the tray, there was only one place left to sit – and I shouldn’t have been surprised that it was the one next to Emma.

  If this was their way of backing off, the girls needed a few tips on subtlety.

  Emma leaned away from me when I sat down. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye, and she kept fidgeting, like she was nervous to be near me. It reminded of that time in high school …

  I started laughing.

  ‘What’s so funny?
’ Serena asked.

  I shook my head. ‘Nothing. Would you mind handing me the pitcher?’

  We were clearing the table after lunch when his chest brushed against my back as he leaned over to pick up the bowl of chips.

  ‘Excuse me,’ he said in my ear, sending a thrilling shiver down my spine. I glanced over at him, and he grinned that amused grin that sent a shot of adrenaline straight to my heart. I leaned away, needing space between us before my knees gave out. He smiled wider.

  ‘Are you going tell me what’s so funny?’ I asked.

  ‘You,’ he answered and walked away.

  I scowled and watched him as he left, not liking his answer.

  ‘What’s wrong?’ Meg asked, following my gaze. I shook off her question and handed her a stack of plates.

  When the girls came back out, Sara was gripping the handle of a small metal case. Evan exited with James and Jared a moment later, spinning a football on his palm.

  ‘You girls want to play football?’ Evan offered.

  I opened my mouth to accept, but Sara intercepted with, ‘No, you guys go ahead. We’re having girl time. ’

  ‘Girl time?’ I questioned warily.

  ‘Yes,’ Meg replied. ‘Pedicures. What colour polish do you want, Emma?’

  I watched enviously as the guys continued down to the beach, Jared jogging out for a pass.

  ‘How about pink?’ Sara suggested.

  ‘I don’t do pink any more,’ I blurted quickly. And Sara knew this.

  ‘Maybe it’s time you gave it another try too,’ she said, looking me directly in the eye.

  ‘I think you would look good in pink,’ Serena noted sweetly.

  ‘I think you would look good in colour,’ Sara said, directing her attention to Serena. ‘Would you please let me do a makeover for you?’

  ‘No thanks, Sara,’ Serena replied. ‘I’m fond of my monochromatic individuality. ’

  Sara sighed. ‘Will you at least let me paint your toes red?’

  ‘Yes, that you can do. ’ Serena smiled.

  ‘How about purple for me?’ I suggested to Meg, who was filtering through Sara’s caddy of polish. ‘And, Sara, who brings a box of nail polish on vacation?’

  ‘What are we doing tonight?’ Meg asked.

  ‘Let’s see if the guys want to hang out,’ Sara said. ‘We can play cards or something. ’

  ‘Or we could play truth or dare!’ Serena suggested.

  ‘Because we’re twelve?’ Meg responded, shooting her down.

  ‘Why not poker?’ I offered, sitting back in the lounge chair to give Meg access to my toes.

  ‘Oh, and Meg, I’ll do your toes. Emma sucks at it,’ Sara announced.

  She was right. I couldn’t paint my toes without getting it on the surrounding skin, no matter how much I concentrated. I could paint the smallest details of a tree on a canvas, but I couldn’t master my toes – as pathetic as that was.

  ‘What about strip poker?’ Serena chirped.