Home » » REASON TO BREATHE BY REBECCA DONOVAN: 14. Hol ow

REASON TO BREATHE BY REBECCA DONOVAN: 14. Hol ow

14. Hol ow

I woke up gasping, drenched in sweat. I slowly roled on my side, trying
to orient myself as I sat on the edge of the bed, breathing heavily. My
turtleneck was sticking to my enflamed back, and al I could feel was
the burning. I slipped into the bathroom with the sound of the TV in
the kitchen, where I’m sure George was drinking coffee and reading
the paper.
I slowly peeled off my turtleneck, revealing the swolen red striations of
different lengths sprawled across my back. Most of the marks were superficial,
with a few scabbed over. The lashes were thin, but the sweling
made them appear so much worse. Pushing away the sorrow, I
eased into the shower, wishing I could wash away the pain along with
the sweat that stil clung to me from my nightmare
I stayed in my room for the remainder of the day. I forced myself to focus
on homework assignments I had yet to complete. It alowed the day
to slip by, but my lack of concentration made the work twice as long to
finish.
I heard Carol and the kids return in the early afternoon. I stayed out of
sight until I was startled by the door opening and found Carol standing
in its frame.
“They need to know you’re okay, so be happy to see them,”
she said coldly. “Come eat.”
After alowing the paralysis to wear off, I walked to the dining room.
“Emma!” Leyla greeted me with a huge hug. I didn’t flinch against the
stinging pain when I bent over to put my arms around her.
“Did you have fun at Nanna’s?” I asked. Leyla responded with a jubilant
recolection of her time at Janet’s house. My eyes caught Jack’s and
I smiled at him reassuringly. He cautiously examined my smile,
determined it was genuine, and smiled back. I could see the light in his
eyes again, and I smiled bigger.
“We went to the aquarium today,” Jack announced, adding to Leyla's
exclamations about sharks and starfish.
I sat in my seat and focused my attention on their stories while I ate
the meal George had prepared. I didn’t look at Carol or George
throughout dinner. After everyone left the table, I performed what was
expected of me. The entire time, I couldn’t escape the empty feeling in
the pit of my stomach. When I finaly went to bed, I lay awake, thinking
about what was going to happen in the morning. I tried to remember if
I knew where the bus stop was, fearing Sara wasn’t going to be waiting
for me.
~~~~~
Sara wasn’t waiting for me. As happy as I was to see his car, it meant
that I’d hurt Sara even more than I could have imagined, and that was
crushing.
I opened the car door to Evan’s warm smile. “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” I offered a smal smile in return. “Thank you for picking
me up. I realy appreciate it.” I was filed with his intoxicating clean
scent upon entering the car. Not a bad way to start the morning.
“Not a problem,” he returned casualy. After a minute of driving, Evan
finaly said, “I was hoping to see you at the library yesterday. I had a
great plan to cheer you up.”
I bit my lip. “I am so sorry. I completely forgot. It wasn’t the best
weekend of my life.”
“I understand,” he replied. “You seem a little better today.”
“I’m okay,” I said quietly. Knowing Sara wasn’t able to be in the same
car with me meant that nothing about me was okay. My chest hurt
with the thought that she might not forgive me.
“How was the game on Friday?” I asked, attempting to sound
interested.
“Weslyn lost, but it was close.”
“Did you end up going to the dance?”
“No, I met my brother and some of his friends in New York. We went
to a bar to check out this local band.” Then he continued to tel me
about his night and that I’d have to look up the band to download a
few songs. I tried to be attentive to his story, but I became more distracted
the closer we got to school.
I’m not sure how much of what Evan said I heard, because I was
snapped back to the confines of the car when he said, “I have to find a
way to get you to New York.”
“What?! No - there is no way I’m going to New York.” Then I looked
over at him and his lips were pressed into a devious half smile. “Nice.
That’s exactly what I need in the morning – a heart attack.”
“I was just seeing if you were paying attention,” he said, stil smirking.
After a short silence, he consoled, “I promise it wil get better.”
I knew he was promising something he knew nothing about, but I
forced an appreciative smile anyway.
The hals seemed so long and crowded today – it felt like it took forever
to reach my locker. My heart was thumping loudly when I rounded the
corner, but it sank when I saw that there wasn’t anyone at the locker
next to mine. I gathered my books and slipped into homeroom without
looking at anyone. I sat in the first available desk and waited for the
daily announcements and attendance so I could begin my excruciatingly
long day. I couldn’t bring myself to look around the room to see
if Sara was there.
I did see Sara as the day progressed. Her vibrant red hair was easy to
spot amongst the other bodies occupying the hals. She was usualy
walking alongside Jil or Jason. So, I knew she was in school; however
she chose to place herself in a space other than where I was. I watched
her from a distance, wishing she would look at me and know how
sorry I was. But I couldn’t tel her since she wasn’t there to listen.
Evan accompanied me to every class, even the ones he wasn’t in with
me. My heart would have been fluttering uncontrolably by his constant
presence if it hadn’t already sunk into my stomach. At first, he tried to
pre-occupy me with superficial conversation about topics I couldn’t recal
even if I tried. Once he realized I wasn’t listening and was just nodding
politely, he stopped trying to distract me.
I was too consumed with my own remorse and misery to consider how
he must have felt walking alongside a shel of a human being. I wasn’t
whole; the guilt was eating away at me – slowly devouring my insides.
When we left Journalism with Sara’s presence stil burning beside me,
Evan said, “Let’s get out of here.” Was it the end of the day already?
“You can’t be here anymore. Let’s get your things and we’l go to my
house and hang out.”
Registering what was happening, I asked, “Don’t you have soccer practice?”
I knew coach had given us the day off, planning to work us hard
for the next three days before our game on Friday
– but I was pretty sure the guys stil had practice since their game was
on Thursday.
“I told one of the guys to tel coach that I have a doctor’s appointment.”
I couldn’t come up with a reason to reject his invitation. I folowed him
to my locker and threw books in my bag, not paying attention to
whether I needed them or not. Then Evan led me to his locker where
he grabbed his things.
I didn’t remember driving to his house. The next moment I was aware
of was when we slowed down to pul into his driveway. I looked
around, dazed, wondering where my thoughts had taken me in the
time it took us to drive here. Did Evan try to talk to me? Did I answer
him?
“We’re here,” he announced. The way his voice cut through the air let
me know we’d driven in silence, and perhaps I’d falen asleep.
I took a deep breath and got out of the car. Before I took a step toward
the house, I said, “Evan, I’m not sure you realy want to hang out with
me today.”
He stopped on the steps of the porch. “Of course I do. Come on.”
I wanted to force myself to put up a pleasant pretense so that his efforts
to cheer me up wouldn’t be completely lost. I searched within the
shadows but couldn’t find a persona that was remotely convincing. I
decided to do my best not to be completely devastating.
Evan grabbed two bottles from the refrigerator and continued down
the long hal which opened up into a brightly lit space containing a piano
and a built-in bookcase. Besides some large planted trees, there
wasn’t anything else in the window encased room except for a set of
winding wooden stairs that led to a landing overlooking the perimeter
of the room.
I folowed Evan up the stairs into a door off of the landing. The dark
room was much smaler than Sara’s, but stil twice the size of mine –
and with it’s own bathroom. Overlapping images of athletes and musicians
covered the wal behind his bed. A simple black desk with a roling
chair was set in the opposing corner – above it hung a board with pins
securing snapshots of friends and creased concert tickets. The queen
sized bed filed the center of the room with the headboard set against
the wal. A tal bureau displayed a flat-screen television, and a closet ran
along the same wal as the entrance. The bed and tower of drawers
were stained a deep espresso, adding to the darkness of the space.
Evan set his backpack next to his desk and pushed a couple of buttons
on his laptop. Music hummed through the speakers that were suspended
in each corner of the room. The soothing acoustics and rhythmic
melodies filed the bedroom.
“Sorry, I don’t have anywhere to sit besides the bed,” he said, offering
me one of the bottles of soda he had in his hands. I remained stil inside
the doorway. My heart found a rhythm from within the cave
where it was held captive. Sit on his bed, realy? I slowly walked over
and sat on the edge of the bed, not ready to commit to putting my legs
up.
Evan propped up one of his pilows against the headboard and sat next
to me on the deep red comforter. I knew I had to move further onto his
bed in order to face him. I pushed my shoes off and shuffled towards
the foot of the bed, sitting opposite of him with my legs crossed beneath
me.
“I don’t like seeing you upset,” he finaly said.
“Sorry,” was al I could find to say, looking down at my hands.
“I wish I could do something to make you feel better. Can you tel me
what happened?” I shook my head. Silence folowed for a minute as the
comforting tunes continued in the background.
“Sara wil talk to you again,” Evan said as if it were a fact.
“I don’t know if she wil,” I whispered. My chest ached thinking about
why she may not. “I said some pretty terrible things.”
My eyes brimmed with tears that I tried to blink away. Evan scooted
toward me and placed his warm hand on my cheek, brushing away the
escaped tear.
“She’l forgive you,” he said lowly. He puled me towards him and put
his arms around me. I buried my head in his chest and released the
seeping tears. After a time, I colected myself and puled away.
“How is it you always see me at my best?” I asked, trying to smile, feeling
emotionaly exposed.
“It’s not a bad thing.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but decided to leave it alone.
“Can I use your bathroom?”
“Sure.”
I entered the smal bathroom with the pedestal sink, toilet and glass
enclosed shower, closing the door behind me. I rinsed the emotions
away, splashing my face with cool water. I took in the light brown eyes
looking back at me and urged myself to recover. After drying my face
with a towel, I inhaled a calming breath before opening the door. It
didn’t hurt that the breath contained Evan’s soothing scent.
Evan was sitting against the headboard again, flipping through channels
on the flat-screen.
“Stil haven’t unpacked?” I asked, nodding toward the boxes marked
“Evan’s room” that remained unopened under the empty built-in
bookcase, and another box beneath the only window.
“Getting there,” he replied casualy.
“How is it that the rest of your house looks like people have been here
for years, and you can’t finish putting away a few boxes?”
Evan let out a quick laugh.
“We have moving down to a science. My mother plans out in advance
where everything is to be displayed, stored, and hung; then they hire
the same moving company we’ve used for every move. They not only
pack and move us, but then unpack us when they arrive. We walk in,
and this is already done. The only thing they don’t touch is my stuff.”
“And…” I pushed for him to explain the reason for his taped boxes.
“Wel… I haven’t decided if I’m staying.” Something shot through me –
I couldn’t tel what it was, but it felt a little like panic.
“Oh,” I murmured.
“Do you want to watch a movie?”
“Sure.” I walked around to the vacant side of the bed and propped the
other pilow up to sit next to Evan.
He found an action movie he had saved in his digital movie library. I
didn’t last very long before my eyes became heavy. Being miserable
was exhausting. I surrendered to their weight and drifted to sleep.
“Emma,” Evan whispered in my ear. It took me a minute to comprehend
that his voice was real. “Em, the movie’s over.” His voice sounded
too close.
My eyes popped open. My head had slipped into the holow of his
shoulder, with his arm resting on the top of my pilow. I pushed myself
up to sit on my own, stil trying to blink the sleep from my eyes.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to sleep through the entire thing.” I stretched my
arms over my head, expecting to be sore or stiff –
surprised to find that I wasn’t.
“It’s okay,” he said with a laugh. “I think you drooled on my shirt
though.”
My mouth dropped open. “I did not.”
“I’m just kidding.” He laughed louder.
“You’re such a jerk,” I declared, throwing my pilow at his head.
Evan took the pilow and swung it back at me. I jumped up, standing
on the bed, and grabbed the pilow from behind him. I swung it, connecting
with his back. He tackled my legs out from under me, and I
toppled on the bed, igniting my back. He proceeded to pelt me in the
face with a pilow.
“That’s cheating,” I murmured from under the pilow, trying to dismiss
my discomfort. “No tackling.”
“You can tackle,” he defended.
“Fine.” I charged, pushing him onto his back with al my force and sat
on his chest, pinning down his arms with my knees, connecting his
face with the swing of a pilow.
“Uh, playing dirty,” he grunted as he flipped me over, easily sliding his
arms out from under my weight. He was poised over me with his
hands on either side of my head, his body stil, between my knees. He
held himself above me, looking down with a smirk. I could feel his
warm breath on my face, and the burning along my back disappeared.
We both recognized at the same time the close proximity of our bodies
and that neither of us was holding a pilow. I stopped breathing, looking
up at him with wide eyes, watching his smirk slowly disappear.
“Want to play pool?” I asked, quickly roling out from under him as he
fel to his side. In a continuous motion, I stood and grabbed my shoes
before leaving the room. Evan looked after me from his bed, stil
propped up on his side as I scurried down the stairs.
He sauntered into the kitchen with his cheeks flushed.
“Want a bottle of water?” he offered, casualy opening the refrigerator.
“Sure,” I said, unable to ignore the fire engulfing my back from the
pilow fight. “Do you mind if we play darts instead?” I asked. While his
back was turned, I washed down a few ibuprofen that I had stuffed in
my pocket.
“Works for me,” Evan commented, studying my face for a moment. I
grinned before he saw the pain dart across my eyes. He grinned back
and I folowed him to the garage.
After a few rounds of practice, my thoughts drifted to the unpacked
boxes in his room.
“I thought you liked it here?” I watched him hesitate before throwing a
dart.
“What do you mean?”
“You said you didn’t know if you were staying, and that’s why you
haven’t unpacked.”
Evan stopped before he threw the last dart, and turned to face me.
“Are you worried you’d miss me if I left?” he asked with a wry grin.
I raised my eyebrows in disapproval – I refused to answer.
“I like it here,” he finaly said, after tossing his last dart.
“Honestly, I’ve never completely unpacked anywhere. I stil had unopened
boxes after living in San Francisco for over two years.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, stopping to think about it. “Maybe I was
never completely convinced I was going to stay – and look, I was right.
You didn’t answer my question – would it bother you if I left?”
I shrugged, “I’d survive.” I smiled, giving away my inability to be
serious.
“Now you’re the jerk,” he said, smirking back. “Don’t worry; I won’t
throw darts at you.”
The rest of the afternoon passed with darts and foosbal, alowing my
back to cool to a simmer. Evan stil won every game; but he appeared
impressed when I didn’t lose by much. I kept my sorrow at bay while
in his company, thankful he helped me escape the rest of my day at
school. It was so hard to be there with Sara, knowing she was so angry
with me. But it was harder to go home. My smile faded when I got into
his car. Evan noticed my solemn transition, but he didn’t say anything
to distract me from my silence as I braced myself for the tension that
stil festered in my house.
“I’l see you tomorrow,” he said softly, as I opened the car door. I nodded
and then stopped to look at him.
“Thank you for today.” I offered him a smal smile. He lightly smiled
back.
“Whose car was that?” Carol questioned as soon as I walked through
the door.
“Sara’s car is getting a tune up,” I lied; a spasm of anxious nerves shot
from my stomach through my chest, fearing she’d see right through it.
I kept walking to my room without hesitating before I could find out.
~~~~~
I was greeted with the same mixed feelings of seeing Evan’s car when I
walked down my driveway the next morning. The improbability of
Sara forgiving me was sinking in. I was so very cruel; how could I
blame her. Besides, why would she want to put up with my insane life
anymore? I wasn’t sure how I was stil coping.
I knew I’d never be able to confide in Evan the way I did Sara. I was
stil struggling with alowing him to be as close as he was. I suppose I
was selfish to think that Sara would always be there. We came from
two completely different worlds, and the reality of these differences
was unavoidable. It was only a matter of time. Evan alowed me to
grieve without much intervention. He escorted me through the bustle
of the hals to each of my classes, and somehow, I got through the day.
The teachers’ incoherent lessons hummed in my ears. The minutes
crept, and the holowness grew. Sometime during the day, Evan disappeared
too. I almost didn’t notice until I rounded the corner to my
locker and saw him standing in front of it with his back to me.
Evan was talking to someone. He seemed realy upset. Then I saw the
red hair shaking back and forth. My feet kept me moving forward
against my wil. I couldn’t hear their voices, but her face looked so sad.
Evan’s hands were pleading.
Then I heard, “Sara, please tel me what happened. She’s devastated,
and I need to understand why.”
“If she hasn’t told you, then I can’t.”
Her eyes caught mine. I froze a few lockers away, unable to process
what was happening. Sara closed her locker and rushed away. Evan
slowly turned to acknowledge me. I examined him with narrowed
eyes, trying to understand.
“Why did you do that?” I accused, horrified.
“If you only knew what I’ve seen for the past two days, you would have
done the same thing.”
I stil didn’t understand. His intrusion rocked me, and I needed to get
away from him. I turned and dodged my way through the crowd, my
books stil clutched to my chest.
“Emma, wait,” he pleaded, but he didn’t come after me. I ducked into
the bathroom and found an empty stal. I pressed my back against the
partition, remembering Sara’s sad expression. I alowed the tears to
burn down my cheeks while the scene replayed in my head. I didn’t
know why I wasn’t relieved that she hadn’t told anyone about my situation
- maybe because I never thought she would.
As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t be angry with Evan. I didn’t like
that he upset Sara, but I knew it wasn’t his fault. He realy had no idea
what he was walking into. Could I continue to alow him to be a witness
to my misery without an explanation? Knowing I wouldn’t ever tel him
what came between Sara and me and that I could never confide in him
if something were to happen to me again, only left me with one answer.
I needed to give him up. I struggled with the decision, but it was
something I always knew I’d have to do.
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