Home » » REASON TO BREATHE BY REBECCA DONOVAN: 23. Silence

REASON TO BREATHE BY REBECCA DONOVAN: 23. Silence

23. Silence

I remained silent in the passenger seat. I couldn’t even bring myself to
look at him.
Evan drove to the end of my street before he asked, “How are you?”
“Humiliated,” I answered, looking out the window.
The quiet settled in again for a few minutes before he asked,
“Are you mad at me for checking on you?”

“You shouldn’t have,” I answered honestly.
“You’re not going to tel me what happened, are you?”
“I can’t. You saw more than enough.”
He puled into the same drugstore parking lot as before, and parked
the car.
“Evan, I realy don’t want to talk about it,” I insisted, finaly looking at
him.
“That’s what’s bothering me. Why can’t you trust me?” His troubled
eyes searched mine for an explanation.
“That has nothing to do with it.”
“That has everything to do with it,” he said emphaticaly. “I thought we
were past that.”
“I’m sorry you thought that,” I said stoicaly. He puled back as if my
words burned him.
“So, you don’t trust me to know what’s going on with you at home?”
After hesitating for a moment, he added, “You never planned to let me
in did you?” His voice grew stronger as he spoke, almost angry.
I couldn’t find the words to agree with him, knowing it would only
make him more upset.
“What was I thinking?” he asked himself in a whisper. “I thought you
were stronger than this.” His words bit, and my heart flinched. “I can’t
believe you let them treat you like this.”

After a minute of unreturned response, Evan murmured in sinking
disappointment, “You’re not who I thought you were.”
“I knew that,” I whispered.
“So I don’t realy know you, do I?”
I shrugged. He exhaled quickly and shook his head, frustrated with my
unwilingness to answer.
“Does Sara?” he asked. “Do you trust Sara more than me?”
“Leave her out of this,” I shot back.
“I don’t get it,” he said to himself, looking at the floor. Then he turned
to me and asked, “Does he hurt you?”
“George?” I questioned, shocked by the accusation. “No, George
wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Then, she just doesn’t like you, is that it?” he pushed.
“Evan, I can’t and don’t want to talk about what happens behind the
closed doors of my house. And you’re right, I’m not that strong, and
I’m not the person you thought I was. But I’ve been trying to tel you
that al along. I’m sorry that you’re disappointed now that you finaly
figured it out. But I’m never going to be able to tel you what you want
to know.”
His face turned red, but I wasn’t certain what emotion fueled the heat.
“I’d realy like to get to school now,” I demanded.

Evan puled out of the parking lot, and we drove the rest of the way in
silence.
The silence lasted for a long time.
Sara tried to talk to me about it, but it took me a week before I could
repeat the words said in the car that day. She never brought it up again
and tried not to mention him at al.
We co-existed within the same hals of the school and the wals of our
classrooms. We didn’t speak to each other, even in Anatomy class
where we sat a few feet apart. In the rest of our shared classes, we sat
at opposite ends of the room.
This didn’t mean I didn’t notice him. I noticed him until I convinced
myself that I couldn’t anymore. I accepted the truth that I’d been
avoiding al along – it could never work. It never had a chance. My
aching heart had a hard time giving up hope, but I found a way to tuck
that deep inside as wel. I faded into the wals like I had before Evan
Mathews walked through the doors of Weslyn High - except, I didn’t
completely disappear. The week after Thanksgiving, when I was
caught up in being angry and disappointed with Evan – angry that he
forced his way in and disappointed that he didn’t like what he saw
when he got there
– I was taken by surprise.
“I know what you probably think of me,” Drew Carson said, joining
Sara and me at our lunch table that Wednesday afternoon. I glanced
from Sara to Drew, not understanding what he was talking about or
why he was sitting at our table.
“At Jake’s party,” he explained, “I saw how you looked at me before
you left. I’m not like that.”

“Realy, then why were you there?” I was too annoyed with thoughts of
Evan to hold back my candor. “Isn’t that what al the guys were there
for? You even admitted you’re friends with Jake.”
It was obvious he wasn’t expecting my biting words either, but he
didn’t give up.
“You’re right, I knew what went on. But whether you want to believe
me or not, that was the first time I’ve shown up at one of his parties.” I
let out a skeptical laugh. Sara remained stil, like she was watching a
movie, her wide eyes shooting back and forth between Drew and me.
“I swear I only knew about them because Jake kept asking me to go.
But I didn’t give in until that night. But only because I heard you were
going to be there.”
He saw my eyes cringe in disgust, and quickly added, “I just wanted to
talk to you, honest. Like I told you that night, I should’ve talked to you
before then.” I didn’t respond.
“I was hoping to convince you to give me a second chance, that’s al. I
don’t want you to think I’m that guy.”
Before I could say anything, he got up from the table. Sara was left
staring at me with her eyebrows raised. I read her thoughts, sighed in
exasperation, and left the table as wel. It wasn’t worth discussing.
I missed the fal awards night because I was officialy grounded. Sara let
me know that she, Jil and I were next season’s captains of the girls’
soccer team. She also told me I was chosen as the team’s MVP, along
with making the Al-State and Al-American teams. There was a dinner
in January recognizing the athletes. I knew I wouldn’t be attending
that either.

Soon after, the letters from the coleges started to arrive. I suspected
there would have been phone cals as wel, but our number was
privately listed, and only a hand ful of people in the world were privileged
enough to have it. Carol dropped the pile of packets on the floor
of my room each day. There were letters from coaches and athletic directors,
hoping to set up a time for me to see their campuses and meet
with them in the spring. I didn’t know most of the coleges were interested
in me until I received the letters.
This burst of mail gave me that something I needed to keep me looking
forward, instead of continuing to be mired in the present. As long
as I had the hope of escaping, I was convinced I could recover from
Carol’s glares and Evan’s avoidance. I had to have something to hold
on to as I hung from my ledge.
I didn’t receive as much grief as I expected from my basketbal coach or
other teachers for taking the week off. I was technicaly supposed to try
out for the basketbal team before being placed on the roster, so Coach
had me “try out” during a couple of study periods during the week. He
deemed that it qualified me to start as point guard. I was expected to
fil the position, so it wasn’t a controversial decision.
Sara played voleybal during the winter, so Jil drove me home on the
nights Sara had practice after us. Jil was happy to drive me, however, I
got more out of our time together than I was prepared for. She was a
little too up to date on the latest gossip, eager to contribute to its circulation.
I realy didn’t want to hear it.
“Did you know that Evan went on a date with Haley Spencer on
Saturday?” Jil asked after my first official practice with the team on
Monday – perfect example of why I didn’t want to hear it. “I realy
thought you and Evan were going to be together. What happened?”

I shrugged, unable to speak. Haley Spencer, realy? A hot flash of anger
and jealousy streaked through my body. I forced it away as fast as it
made its appearance.
When Sara picked me up the next morning, I confronted her.
“You knew about Evan and Haley, didn’t you?”
Sara pressed her lips together and exhaled, contemplating what to say.
“I didn’t think it was worth getting you upset over. Let me guess, Jil
told you, right?”
“Sara, I was going to find out eventualy, and it would have been so
much easier coming from you.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.” Then she glanced at me, trying to read my
face. “I bet he did this to get to you.”
“He can do whatever he wants,” I huffed. “I realy don’t care.”
“Sure, whatever you say,” Sara said, mocking me. “Em, even I’m upset
that he went out with Haley Spencer. Come on, Haley Spencer - could
he have picked any one more shalow and superficial? She’s the exact
opposite of you.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she bit her
lower lip.
I snapped my head over to gape at her. Her eyes softened as she
offered a silent apology. She and I both understood the truth in her
statement, and that truth turned in my stomach the entire ride to
school. That was the day I finaly returned Drew Carson’s peace
offering.

Drew had been persistently, but subtly, trying to get me to talk to him
again since that day in the cafeteria. During lunch and at the end of
the day, he made sure our paths crossed. He’d glance at me and say,
“Hi, Emma.” I would ignore him and keep walking. Until the day I finaly
responded, “Hi, Drew.” The sound of my voice stopped him midstep,
causing the person folowing him to the cafeteria to walk right into
the back of him. I let out a smal laugh and kept walking. I didn’t see
him again until I was walking up the stairs from the locker room to go
to the gym. He was outside the gym’s entrance talking to another guy
when I caught his eye.
“Good luck in your game today.”
I hadn’t noticed him at first. I was too consumed by my thoughts of the
game to notice anything. Hearing his voice snapped me back into the
hals of the school with the sneakers squeaking and the dribbling of
basketbals coming from the gym. That’s when I saw Drew standing by
the entrance. The guy he was talking to said he’d see him later and left
us alone.
“Thanks,” I responded. “What are you guys doing for practice today?”
“We’re practicing tonight, after your game,” Drew explained.
“I’m thinking about showing up early so I can watch.”
I wasn’t sure what to think about his interest in our game. Was he
coming to show support for our team, or was he coming to watch me?
“How do you think you’l do? I heard you’ve missed some practices.”
My face turned red at this acknowledgement. “I was able to go over the
plays with Coach Stanley, so I’m pretty sure I’l be fine.”

“I believe it,” he said with a smile. “I’l see you after your game.” I
smiled back.
It was impossible to deny that Drew was incredible looking, with his
boyish face and deep dimples. It was easy to get lost in his breathtaking
tranquil green eyes. They peeked out from under his black hair,
which always looked like he just came from the beach. Knowing how
much he loved to surf, he probably had. I stood in the doorway staring
after him, even after he was out of sight.
“Emma, you ready?” Jil asked when she walked past me, snapping me
out of my daze.
“Yeah, ready.”
Just as he promised, Drew was waiting for me after I grabbed my
things from the bench.
“Good game,” he congratulated me. “You have a great outside shot.”
“Thanks.” I took a swig of my sports drink before gathering my gear
from the bench.
“I’m glad you’re talking to me.”
“I figured everyone deserves a second chance.” I grinned, and he returned
the expression.
“I should get to practice.” He nodded toward the court, where some of
his teammates were dribbling and taking shots. “I’l talk to you
tomorrow?”
“Sure.”

With that second chance, Drew Carson would change everything. The
rest of that week, I found our paths crossed more often. I invited him
to sit with us during lunch, which I thought was going to cause Sara to
fal out of her seat. We found a few minutes to talk before or after our
practices. Then I discovered he was actualy assigned to my study period.
As a senior privilege, if any of the students had study as their first
or last class, they could opt to come in late or leave early. I never saw
Drew in study, because he hadn’t been there. But after we started talking,
he decided to show up.
Sara didn’t say anything about my sudden interest in Drew. She was
friendly and accepting of his presence during the times that she and I
usualy had alone. I hoped she found his company as refreshing as I
did. Drew was charming – helping me to recover my smile.
When I saw Drew at the end of each day, it was a way to recuperate
from being exposed to Evan’s evasive presence al day. It was easy to
carry on conversations with him about anything and everything, but
never anything too personal. He didn’t push me to reveal more about
myself than I was wiling to share, which was a comforting relief. When
I was with him, I found myself laughing realy, honestly, enjoyably
laughing. He was a breath of fresh air after the heart wrenching storm
that had engulfed me. When I was with Drew, I wasn’t thinking about
Evan. I couldn’t keep the two images in my head at the same time, so I
pushed Evan’s out. I started not to notice where Evan was, and I didn’t
flinch at the sound of his voice as often. I wasn’t alowing space for him
anymore.
Instead, I found myself focusing on Drew, who responded with ful attention.
I didn’t expect it to be the same, and it wasn’t. My heart didn’t
flutter or murmur whenever Drew sat next to me. It stayed deep within
my chest, thumping at its consistent pace. I wasn’t disappointed – I
was relieved.

I didn’t talk to Sara about Drew, and she didn’t ask. But I wasn’t expecting
her to reaction when I asked if we could meet him at a bon fire
on a private beach after the game that Friday.
“Em, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she insisted. “Maybe we should
stay in and watch movies. It’s only been a few weeks since the incident
with Carol. You’re lucky she’s letting you stay over again.”
I knew there was something more to her hesitation than she was
admitting.
“Sara, are you teling me you don’t want to go to this bon fire?
I’ve heard who’s supposed to be there, and it’s a pretty decent list.”
“Yeah, me too,” she admitted reluctantly. “Em, you promise you won’t
do anything stupid, right?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked, offended.
“I haven’t said anything because I think you realy do like him, but I’m
worried about where you’re headed with Drew.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I denied, but I had a feeling I knew
where this was going.
“Just don’t do anything you typicaly wouldn’t if you weren’t trying to
get over Evan.”
I didn’t say anything. She knew I understood what she meant. Sara
agreed to go to the bon fire after my basketbal game Friday night, and
I convinced myself that I didn’t do anything that weekend that I didn’t
want to do. That was until I heard the accusations of what I did out
loud.

“You kissed Drew Carson?!” Evan practicaly yeled as he stood next to
me at my locker.
It took me a second to believe he was standing next to me, forget about
talking – wel, yeling at me. His face was flushed, and his jaw was tight.
He leered at me from behind my locker door, holding it open with his
hand. I glanced around the empty hals to see if anyone heard him.
“How did you hear about that?” I asked. Not only was I stunned to see
Evan at my locker, but I was shocked that Drew had said anything.
“Don’t worry I didn’t hear it from Drew, he doesn’t talk. But his
friends do.” He was fuming and seeing his reaction only ignited my anger.
What gave him the right to be upset with me?
“I’m surprised you could hear with Haley Spencer’s tongue in your
ear,” I shot back. His face turned a different shade of red as the surprise
reflected in his eyes. “Yeah, I heard about that too.”
“It’s not what you think,” he explained, stil angry, but the bite was absent
from his tone. “We went out once.”
“Oh, is that why I saw you together at the bon fire?!” I yeled back.
Now, I was the one infuriated as I recaled the image of Haley nuzzled
into Evan’s arm across from me at the bon fire.
“You were there?” he asked, dropping his attack.
“I left pretty much after I saw the two of you. So don’t you dare try to
make me feel anything remotely like guilt for kissing Drew.” The heat
spread across my face as I abruptly closed my locker, holding my backpack
and duffle bag in my hands.

“But you hardly know him,” he rebutted. “What, you’ve talked to him
for a week and that makes it okay to kiss him the first time you see him
out?” His voice escalated again.
“Oh, and you’re so much better?! Had you ever talked to Haley before
you did whatever you did with her at Jake’s party that first weekend?”
His eyes widened as he leaned back from my blow, confirming what
Haley had told me earlier that day.
“Yeah, it was realy great to hear it from her too, Evan,” I snapped, trying
to hide the hurt in my voice, while recaling her snide remark about
how interesting it was that she and I were seeing the guys that we met
at Jake’s party. I thought I was going to fal over when the words came
out of her mouth before she walked away with a smug grin.
Evan struggled to find the words. “I didn’t do…” His eyes pleaded. “It’s
realy not like that. Can I explain?”
“No.” The edge dropped from my voice, releasing the anger with it. I
became emotionless, pushing away the pain and sadness that
threatened to seep up from where I hid them. “I don’t want to know.”
I walked past him towards the stairs.
“I trusted you,” Evan belowed, as the distance grew between us. I
stopped and turned back around. He walked towards me until we were
only a foot apart. “I trusted you, and you couldn’t trust me.”
I stared back, watching the hurt reveal itself in his eyes. My heart
ached in return.
“I unpacked for the first time ever – for you. I was honest with you
about everything – even with the truth about how I felt about you. I’ve

never been that honest before. I trusted you.” His voice drifted into a
whisper as he leaned closer to me. “Why couldn’t you trust me?”
I swalowed the lump in my throat with tears weling in my eyes. My
heart reached for him, begging me to touch him, as I absorbed the
pain in his stormy eyes. The seconds lasted for what felt like minutes,
and then I tensed my body and walked away. I went through the doors
leading to the stairs and hurried down them.
“I’m stil in love with you,” he yeled from the top step. I froze as the
first tear roled down my cheek. “Please don’t walk away from me.”
The tears streamed silently down my face - I couldn’t move. My heartbeat
thumped forcefuly in my chest, and for a second, I almost turned
around. Then the image of Evan and Haley together in front of the bon
fire, with his arm around her shoulder, flashed through my head, and I
found my feet moving in a rush down the stairs.
I made it through practice that afternoon, although I don’t remember
much about it. Forcing myself to dribble, pass and shoot kept me from
replaying the confrontation with Evan. By the end of practice, I was
too exhausted to think about anything. As I was heading to the locker
room, the junior varsity guys started warming up on the court for their
game. Drew waited for me at the end of the bleachers, in front of the
entrance to the guys’
locker room.
“Can you stay for my game?” he asked.
“Sorry, I don’t think so,” I admitted with a frown. “Good luck though.”
“Wil I see you tomorrow night after your game?”

“Yeah, I’d like that. I just have to check with Sara to make sure she
doesn’t have anything planned.”
“One of the guys from the team is having a few people over and I’d like
it if you and Sara came too.”
“I’l see,” I promised, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it since I
had to be home by ten.
Before I realized what he was doing, he leaned over and kissed me
softly on the lips. My body stiffened, as I remained stunned, unable to
breathe for a brief moment. Drew looked up and said,
“Hey, Mathews.”
“Hi Drew,” Evan returned with a bite. I only caught a glimpse of the
bag over Evan’s arm as he walked past us toward the locker room.
My heart crashed into my stomach. Did Evan just see Drew kiss me?
“I’l see you tomorrow.” Drew smiled and brushed his hand along my
cheek.
I nodded and forced the faintest hint of a smile. He walked through
the doors to the locker room after Evan.
I knew what Evan just witnessed between Drew and me, especialy
after what had happened at my locker, was worse than anything I’d
seen between him and Haley. I suppressed the twisting storm of guilt
that threatened to consume me. I waited until I was alone in my room
that night before I unleashed it and cried myself to sleep.
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