Out of breath, p.6
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       Out of Breath, p.6

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
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Page 6

 

  ‘Umm … stage diving,’ I answered without thinking. I really didn’t have a ‘new things’ list. I was making it up as I went. But now that I’d said it, I actually wanted to try it.

  ‘Nice. You’ll have to let me know when so I can witness that. ’

  ‘We’ll see,’ I answered, not wanting to commit to seeing him again, no matter what he looked like. When he turned his head in the other direction, I slipped away. I heard Peyton call my name, but I ignored her.

  When I squeezed my way to where we’d left Serena and Meg, they were nowhere to be found. I scanned the crowd and spotted them by the pool, then ducked into an apartment and grabbed something grape-flavoured and bubbly. I could barely feel the Tickle, so I figured I was still safe.

  Meg saw me at the top of the stairs and waved. I nodded and followed the line down the steps. When I reached the bottom, an arm swept around my waist and pulled me to the side.

  ‘Hey, gorgeous,’ Gev murmured in my ear, kissing my neck. ‘I was hoping I’d see you again. ’

  ‘Uh, hi,’ I stuttered, my entire body stiffening at his touch. I looked around in a panic, but I couldn’t locate Meg or Serena. Then Meg’s spirals came into view, and I connected with her. Her eyes flipped from me to Gev, and she pushed through faster, not caring that she was pissing people off.

  ‘So, how are you?’ I asked, my voice cracking slightly.

  ‘Sober,’ he complained. ‘I’m going up to get a drink. Wanna come?’

  ‘Emma!’ Meg exclaimed, her bright smile not entirely masking the concern flashing in her eyes. ‘There you are. We thought we lost you. ’ She noticed Gev’s arm around my waist and the tightness in my shoulders as he squeezed me against him. ‘Hi. I’m Meg, and this is Serena. ’ Serena just nodded and didn’t even bother faking a smile.

  ‘Gev,’ he responded. ‘Guess I’ll find you later,’ he said, kissing my cheek before disappearing up the stairs. I tried to smile while swallowing the sour taste of disgust that rose in the back of my throat.

  ‘Are you okay?’ Meg asked, taking me by the hand and leading me away.

  ‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ I responded meekly, taking large gulps of the purple stuff from the cup in my other hand.

  ‘He’s awesome-looking,’ Serena noted from beside me. ‘Too bad he’s a complete dick. ’

  I laughed, almost spitting out my drink.

  Meg smiled. ‘We won’t let him near you,’ she promised, stopping near the pool.

  ‘Hey!’ Peyton exclaimed dramatically when she found us a few minutes later. ‘Em, why’d you take off like that again? Seriously, I think you should give Cole a chance. ’

  ‘He’s not my type. ’

  ‘Wait, are you talking about the guy you’ve been trying to set her up with for like forever?’ Meg clarified.

  ‘Uh, I just met him at the New Year’s party,’ I countered.

  ‘But I’ve been wanting you to meet him for way longer. ’ Peyton sighed. ‘I need an in with Tom, and they’re never apart, so I figured you’d be a good fit for Cole. ’

  ‘You obviously don’t know me very well. ’

  ‘Come on,’ Peyton said, sulking. ‘Cole is everyone’s type. ’ She eyed Serena in contemplation and corrected with, ‘Well … except for Serena. He’s lacking the freak factor. ’

  ‘Fuck you, Peyton,’ Serena bit back.

  Meg laughed at their banter. They were always throwing snide comments back and forth. I sometimes wondered if they liked each other at all.

  ‘Seriously, Em,’ Peyton continued. ‘He’s gorgeous. He’s intelligent. He’s a surfer. ’

  ‘I don’t go for the surfer type. Just drop it – okay?’ I felt a sudden twist in my chest and swallowed the last of the alcoholic grape soda to be rid of it. ‘Um, I could use another drink. Anyone else?’

  ‘I’ll go with you,’ Serena offered, leading me towards another apartment. ‘She’s just being selfish as usual,’ she consoled. ‘Don’t let her force you. ’

  ‘I’m fine,’ I said quietly.

  I waited for Serena on the balcony while she got our drinks. I kept scanning the crowd around me, fearful of running into Gev again. She returned a few minutes later and handed me a red plastic cup.

  ‘Jack and Coke,’ Serena explained.

  I took a sip, and my stomach lit up. ‘Whoa. ’ I shivered. ‘That’s strong. ’

  ‘Sorry. ’ Serena grimaced. ‘I didn’t make it. Do you hate it?’

  ‘It’s not my favourite,’ I admitted as my mouth filled with saliva, ‘but I’ll drink it. ’

  We noticed Peyton and Meg dancing in a crowd by the pool.

  ‘Great,’ Serena grumbled and directed me to stand on the outskirts where it was less crowded. I leaned against the rough exterior of the building, under the overhang of the balcony, slowly sipping the Jack with a touch of Coke. The Tickle was turning into a slightly dizzying haze.

  ‘Someday we’ll go to a party where there’ll be music we can dance to,’ Serena promised. ‘This music is shit. ’ I laughed.

  Two guys came up behind Meg and Peyton, pressing up against them and putting their hands on the girls’ hips. Peyton turned around with a flirtatious smile and swung her arms around the guy’s neck. Meg scooted away from the other guy, and he eventually got the message and disappeared into the crowd. I grinned in amusement.

  ‘I’m getting another drink,’ Serena announced. ‘Will you be okay here, or do you want to come with me?’

  The party was now at capacity, and I didn’t want to fight through the crowd. ‘I’ll wait. ’

  ‘Don’t go anywhere,’ Serena stressed. I nodded and took another sip. She glanced back a few times on her way up the stairs, making me roll my eyes.

  ‘I found you,’ Gev announced, appearing in front of me out of nowhere. He leaned in and pressed his lips to mine. I froze, not returning the kiss. He pulled back, confused. ‘Are you mad at me?’

  ‘Uh, no,’ I responded, not expecting the question.

  ‘Is it because I passed out on you last time?’ he continued. ‘You know, before we could have sex. I promise not to drink that much tonight. ’

  My breath stilled, and I stared at him. We didn’t have sex. Oh. Dear. God. We didn’t have sex!

  ‘No, that’s not it,’ I said, feeling my shoulders ease up. ‘I just think you got the wrong impression. ’

  ‘Ah. ’ Gev nodded in understanding. ‘You’re not that into me. ’

  ‘I’m not into anyone,’ I stressed, not wanting it to sound so harsh. ‘Don’t take it personally. ’

  ‘Not a problem. ’ He shrugged. He really didn’t take it personally – he honestly didn’t seem to care at all. ‘Well, have fun, and if you ever need to relieve some of that tension, find me. ’

  ‘Uh, will do,’ I responded flatly, watching him walk away.

  ‘Oh shit, Em,’ Serena groaned. ‘I’m sorry! I totally forgot about Fuckhead. What happened?’

  ‘We didn’t have sex,’ I told her.

  ‘Well … obviously,’ she replied. ‘I mean you’re in the middle of a party. ’ Then she examined me. ‘Oh! You meant … before?’

  I nodded. I’d held on to the guilt so tightly, I was having difficulty letting it go. But I couldn’t deny I felt a hell of a lot lighter learning it had never happened. Or maybe the Jack was starting to kick in. I spotted Meg still dancing along the pool’s edge and smirked.

  ‘Watch this,’ I said to Serena, dropping the empty cup on the concrete and shimmying my way towards Meg. Her back was towards me as I glided up behind her. Just as I was within reach, she turned towards me and smiled. Then she saw the devilish gleam in my eyes and her mouth opened in surprise as I pushed her over the edge of the pool. Just as I let out a triumphant laugh, she grabbed my wrist and we both crashed through the water’s surface.

  ‘This makes us even,’ Meg sputtered, blowing water from her lips and grabbing the pool’s edge.

  ‘For now,’ I jeered
.

  Everyone was looking at us, some in amusement, others in annoyance. When we dragged our wet bodies from the pool, we discovered Peyton glaring at us with her arms crossed. ‘Let’s go,’ she snapped. ‘They’re kicking us out. ’

  ‘Why?’ Meg laughed in confusion. ‘Because we were in the pool?’

  Peyton released an exasperated sigh and stormed off towards the gate.

  ‘I guess the building manager doesn’t care about the parties,’ Serena explained with a smile, ‘but he doesn’t want to put any extra effort into cleaning the pool, so no one’s allowed in during the parties. ’

  The crowd parted to let us pass, staring and snickering. When we made it to the sidewalk, we heard the announcement, ‘No one is allowed in the pool! If anyone else goes in, the party’s over. ’

  Meg and I started laughing.

  ‘Well, you definitely made an impression,’ Serena said, laughing alongside us.

  ‘I can’t believe you did that,’ Peyton scolded. ‘You promised!’

  ‘Meg promised,’ I countered. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t get your car wet. Do you still have the trash bags in your trunk?’

  ‘Of course,’ Peyton said, annoyed. ‘I still can’t believe you got us kicked out. ’

  As we were peeling off our wet jeans and socks to place them in the trash bag, Serena announced, ‘So, good news! Emma never slept with the sleazebag!’

  ‘What?!’ Meg and Peyton shot out in unison.

  ‘He passed out before it happened,’ I explained, averting my eyes.

  ‘I don’t understand,’ Peyton said, shaking her head. ‘How did you not know?’

  I looked at her without understanding what she was asking.

  ‘I mean, couldn’t you feel that you didn’t?’ She sighed. ‘Wow, Em. You’re seriously clueless. ’

  ‘Peyton!’ Meg reprimanded as we entered the car.

  ‘I’ve only had sex once,’ I defended. ‘I had no idea I was supposed to be sore every time. ’

  This made them all laugh. ‘Not … sore,’ Serena tried to explain. ‘But you definitely can tell when someone has trespassed. ’

  ‘Serena!’ Meg said, her mouth dropped open. ‘That sounds so … awful. ’

  ‘I get it,’ I stated quietly, not wanting to reflect upon my first time any more than I wanted to think about what I’d almost done with Gev.

  ‘Oh, by the way, Em – I gave Cole your number,’ Peyton announced. Everyone in the car was suddenly quiet.

  ‘What the fuck, Peyton!’

  4

  Blind Leap

  AS MY HANDS SEARCHED BLINDLY UNDER the bed for the shoe I’d been frantically trying to find, I caught a glimpse of a photo half hidden beneath my nightstand. I remained on my knees, staring at his face, unable to touch it.

 
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