Reason to breathe, p.28
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       Reason to Breathe, p.28

         Part #1 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
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Page 28

 

  When we arrived at school, we were greeted with homemade banners and flyers displayed along the halls, wishing the girls’ soccer team luck in the championship game. Our lockers were decorated with streamers and glittery letters with a message of encouragement along with our jersey numbers. Instead of groaning as I had at the sight of the glittery mess, Sara shrieked with excitement.

  “I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day,” Sara exclaimed. “I can’t wait for tonight!” I was trying to figure out how I was going to get through the day as well. It was hard to focus knowing the game was approaching, and the excited energy wasn’t helping - it felt overwhelming and disorienting. I wanted to slip into an empty room, with music blaring in my ears, to gather myself.

  Then it only got worse. During morning announcements, we were informed we’d be getting out of our last class early to assemble for a pep rally in the gymnasium for the soccer team. My mouth dropped as I heard Sara holler with enthusiasm, joined by the rest of the room.

  “Looking forward to the game?” Evan asked while Ms. Abbott handed back our latest writing assignment.

  “I think I’m going to throw up,” I confessed and dropped my head onto my folded arms. Evan chuckled.

  “Don’t worry, you’ll be great,” he assured me.

  “I wish everyone would treat this like every other game and stop acting so insane,” I said, facing him with my head still resting on my arms.

  “Not to add to your nausea, but I don’t know if I can go to Jake’s party tomorrow night. ”

  “What?!” My head shot up. The exclamation came out a little too loud, turning a few heads. Ms. Abbott continued handing back papers, unfazed by my disruption.

  Evan looked around and waited until no one was looking before he continued.

  “My parents are making me go to dinner with them,” he explained, annoyed. “It’s being hosted by one of the partners, and we have to put on appearances. I don’t have a choice, I’m sorry. ”

  The thought of going to a party with just Jason and Sara did not appeal to me. I didn’t want them to feel obligated to entertain me when I knew they’d want alone time. That would mean I’d have alone time, which terrified me.

  That thought must have translated on my face because Evan said, “Don’t worry. I’ll see what I can do. ”

  “It’s okay,” I said, trying not to sound as disappointed as I was. “I understand. ”

  I had to survive History and Chemistry, not only with nausea from the approaching game, but also the building anxiety of going to Jake’s party without Evan. I decided I needed to shake off the distraction of Jake’s party and stay focused on the first hurdle – winning the game.

  Evan met me outside of Chemistry with a mischievous grin on his face. I approached him cautiously.

  “I’m afraid to know. ”

  “I think I’ve figured out a way to help us both get through tomorrow night. ”

  “How?” I asked, still afraid to hear his plan.

  “You can come with me to the dinner – “

  Before he could continue, I took in an audible gasp of air. He pressed his lips together at my reaction.

  “It won’t be that bad,” he comforted. “It’ll get you warmed up for the party. You can be my excuse to get out of staying the whole time, and then we can go to the party together. ” I wasn’t sure what was more terrifying, going to a party practically alone or meeting Evan’s parents and being surrounded by adults who’d expect intelligent, coherent conversation.

  “Maybe I’ll beg Sara to stay home and watch movies instead,” I whispered, trying to breathe evenly.

  “I knew it was a long shot,” Evan said quietly, looking away. “I hate these dinners - having to pretend to be the perfect son to the perfect parents, while talking to pretentious people gloating about their accomplishments. I thought it might not be so miserable if you were there too. ”

  I didn’t say anything as we found our seats for class. Evan sat quietly next to me. I kept glancing over at him throughout class. He looked… sad. I didn’t like seeing his drawn mouth and his slumped shoulders. It was obvious that this dinner was Scott’s party for Evan. I didn’t know how I would have gotten through that night if Evan hadn’t been there.

  I took a deep breath and swallowed my stomach, digesting what I was agreeing to do. I felt nauseous at the thought of meeting his parents, but my chest warmed when I looked at Evan, knowing I was doing the right thing.

  “I’ll do it,” I said when the bell rang at the end of class.

  “What?”

  “I think that it’s a good compromise. ” I tried to sound confident. “I’ll go to dinner with you, and you go to the party with me. ” He examined me cautiously, making sure I was serious before he let the smile release on his face.

  “You know I’m making out in the deal, right?”

  “Whatever,” I said dismissively. “I still owe you for Scott’s party. But I have to warn you, I’m not great with small talk, so I may end up embarrassing you. ”

  He laughed. “I don’t think that’s possible. Besides, you’ll find you won’t have to do too much talking. This crowd loves to talk about themselves, so all you have to do is stand there and nod politely. Don’t worry; I won’t leave you alone with any of them. ”

  Just before we entered the Art room, Evan stopped to face me.

  “Are you sure you want to do this?”

  I pressed my mouth into the best fake smile I could and said, “Of course I do. ” When I saw the relief in his eyes, I found that I didn’t need to fake it.

  I told Sara the revised plan during lunch.

  “No way,” she gasped. “You’re going to meet his parents?”

  After thinking about it for a minute longer, she added, “You know I don’t believe you when you say you’re just friends. You have a thing for him, whether you’re ready to admit it or not. ”

  “Sara,” I exclaimed with fiery cheeks, “you don’t know what you’re talking about!” I couldn’t cool my face for the rest of lunch. It didn’t help that Sara kept a stupid grin on her face the entire time, fueling the fire.

  “You have to promise me that you’ll keep your thoughts to yourself when we’re around him,” I begged.

  “Em, I would never say anything about how you feel about him,” she promised.

  “How you think I feel about him,” I corrected. But I couldn’t argue my point beyond that.

  I was so overwhelmed I could barely sit through Journalism class. With Sara’s provoking smile on one side and Evan’s heart stopping grin on the other, my head was spinning. I couldn’t deny how I felt every time I was around Evan. But I’d convinced myself that being friends was what was best. I knew what was best, right?

  I couldn’t think of him as any more than a friend. I had too much to lose. Why did I let Sara get to me? I didn’t have any serious feelings for him, right? There was no way…

  I watched while Evan listened to Ms. Holt’s review of the current assignments. I traced the profile of his straight nose with his distinct cheekbones, down to his chiseled jaw. His perfect lips were separated slightly as his steel blue eyes glanced from Ms. Holt down to his notebook, where he would occasionally jot down notes. I followed the tight muscles that extended down his neck, concealed under the blue sweater that hinted at the contours of his chest. I was breathing slowly, unable to redirect my eyes. My heart murmured softly in my chest, releasing a tingling that sent goose bumps along my arms.

  Evan glanced at me, and I quickly turned my head, my cheeks warming. I knew he didn’t know what I was thinking – I didn’t know what I was thinking – but I didn’t want him to catch me staring. Seriously, what was I thinking? I could not have feelings for Evan! What was going on?! My mind unraveled as images of our time together flashed through my head. I finally gave in to what I’d been trying to ignore for the past month. I took a gulp of air as I finally faced the truth – I was in love
with Evan Mathews.

  “Are you okay?” Sara whispered. “You look freaked. ”

  “Ms. Holt,” I interrupted with an unsteady voice. The whole class turned to look at me. “Uh, Sara and I have to leave now so we can get ready for the pep rally. ”

  Before she could answer, I stood with my books in my arms, heading out the door. I turned when I got into the hallway, urging Sara to hurry up as she slowly gathered her things.

  “What is wrong with you?” she demanded when we walked into the girls’ bathroom. I checked the stalls before answering. Sara followed my actions with a worried stare.

  “I am freaked,” I admitted in a loud whisper. “Sara, I can’t believe I like him. ”

  “I’m not following,” she replied with narrow eyes. “And why are you whispering?”

  “You’re right. I like Evan a lot more than a friend,” I sighed.

  “You are just now realizing this?” she almost laughed.

  “Shut up, Sara,” I snapped, still whispering. “This is horrible. I can’t feel this way. And you can’t tell me you don’t understand why I’m so freaked. ”

  She absorbed my desperate words and took a long breath.

  “I know why you think you can’t date him. But I think you’re only hurting yourself more if you try to deny how you feel. ”

  “Besides, how do I know he feels the same? I can’t tell him. Then it would be so weird, and we wouldn’t even be able to be friends. ”

  Sara shook her head and grinned, “You are such an idiot. Of course he feels the same way. I can’t believe how blind you are. Are you worried that if you dated him, she’d find out?”

  “If she ever found out I was dating someone, I’d lose everything. She would never let me out of the house. And he can never find out what it’s like for me! I can’t do this. ”

  “No, you can’t do it,” she agreed firmly. “I’m already going against everything my gut is telling me by keeping your secret. I’m not going to let you risk it more by pissing Carol off if she found out about Evan. ”

  I wasn’t expecting Sara to say this. I knew she was right, but my heart still sank.

  “I don’t want you to have to give him up, so we’ll just have to figure out a way for you to remain friends – nothing more. Maybe you shouldn’t spend time alone together. ”

  “I have to this weekend,” I huffed, now even more tormented by the thought of going to dinner with him. “But Sara, if I can’t be alone with him, then I shouldn’t be friends with him. You can’t chaperone to make sure he doesn’t stand too close. Just help me keep my head on straight, that’ll be enough. If I can’t handle it, then I can’t be around him anymore. It’s that simple. ”

  “We can do this,” she assured me, unable to contain her grin. “Although I’ve wished for forever that you guys would hook up. ”

 
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