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Authors: Cathrina Constantine

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BOOK: Don't Forget to Breathe
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Chapter 9

“But those stories are for another day.”

Henry’s jaw slumped. “You mean you’re going to leave me hanging like this?”

“Exactly.” I loved the cute, vexing look on his face and produced a gotcha smile. “I have to get home. My dad was mad last night when I came in so late.”

He took out his cell and checked the time. “It’s only eleven o’clock.”

“Time flies when you’re being scared to death.” We turned the corner onto Westgate. “You picking me up in the morning?”

“Yep, seven-thirty.”

I waved goodbye and entered my quiet house. Toeing the heels of my yucky sneakers, I walked into the kitchen and stopped.
Crap
—Dad’s upper body was sprawled over the kitchen table. Not good. He instantly popped up. His back hitting the chair, it rocked slightly. “Where the hell have you been? Two nights in a row.” Bloodshot eyeballs fastened on me. “I let you run wild after your mother died. You think I’m blind? All the drugs you were using, getting plastered to forget. I figured you needed privacy and time to heal, but now I’m reining you in kid.”

“What’s gotten into you?” I tugged out of my hoodie clipping it to a peg behind the door. “I left you a note.” The piece of paper was crumpled in his fingers. “It’s not that late, Dad. Barely eleven.”

“I don’t care,” he slurred, either from being drowsy or drunk. “I need to know where you are, who you’re with. You got that?”

“I’m almost seventeen.”

“Don’t pull the age card on me.” He rose and wobbled, definitely drunk. “If you live in my house, you follow my rules. Got it!”

Whoa, since Mom died he’d changed, and booze only made it worse. “Got it.” It was better to agree than to disagree when he was like this. “I’m going to bed.”

Striding by, he circled my arm with his fingers. “Who were you with?”

“Just Henry.” His whiskey breath stung my nose.

“I don’t like him snooping around here.”

“He’s my friend.”

“I don’t like him.”

“You don’t even know him.” His drunken eyes watered. “Dad, why don’t you go to bed? We can talk about this tomorrow.”

“There’s no debate. You mark my words.”

“Okay. Fine.”

“What do you mean by that punkass remark?”

“I’m not being a punkass. I said okay. I understand.”

He freed my arm and staggered to his bedroom. His volatile behavior had been getting unpredictable, one day caring and the next hyper. I couldn’t handle his changeable personalities. If Mom were here—but she wasn’t.

I went into my bedroom, trying not to think about it.

Forty-five minutes later, I ballooned back the covers. Ready to snuggle into bed when I heard a tap on the window, I couldn’t believe it. Henry was pestering me again. I switched off the lights and hoped he’d get the hint. He didn’t.

Minutes of consecutive tapping, I grumbled and kicked off the covers. Garbed in a skuzzy tank top and tiny boxer shorts and cussing under my breath, I zipped up the blinds and froze.

In all his glory, inclined on my house—Becket Kane.

Glad for the dark room, I hoped he couldn’t see my grunge look. With a flip of his hand, he instructed me to open up. I leaned into the glass and made another mental note—lubricate window frame. It grated up a few inches.

The wind had kicked up, and his golden hair pranced about his head. He said, “May I make an observant suggestion? You should ensure the blinds are completely closed before changing your clothes.” His mouth stretched nicely into his cheeks. “I tried not to watch, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t peek.”

Mortified—where’s the cape of invisibility when I needed one?

He shoved long strands of hair out of his eyes. “Reggie gave me your cell number, but I couldn’t get through.” A lightning bolt split the sky and thunder roared, the clouds decided to burst and a mantle of water flooded down.

I weighted my shoulder into the frame and tugged the glass up. “Get in before you get drenched.” In a graceful swoop, Becket was in my bedroom and he helped me shut the window from the sleeting raindrops.

A waterslide of unruly hair dripped into his eyes. “Thanks, but I’m getting your floor wet.” His hands thrust the hair off his forehead plastering the strands to his head.

I raced to the chair and gathered my comfy robe and chucked it in his direction. He caught it and looked at me with an amused glitter in his eyes. “What do you want me to do with this?” he asked. “I’m not wearing your robe.”

Switching on the light, I said, “Use it to wipe up the floor.” I tugged at my top and boxers hoping they’d magically evolve into something tolerable.

I tried not to gawk as he mopped his face with my robe, then he crouched to the floor to suck up the water. Rising to his full height, I felt dwarfed, and my room suddenly became extra small. He bunched my robe into a ball.

My attempt to sound carefree was pitiful. “I didn’t expect to see you so soon.” And took the robe from his hands and threw it on the floor next to the doorway.

“Ah, she speaks.”

Becket appeared unruffled, like jumping into a girl’s bedroom window after midnight was common. He gave my room a once over, his eyes landing on me. “Clean.”

After Mom died I inherited her clean freakdom and took that as a compliment. “Want to sit until the rain subsides?”

“In your bed?” He purred with sarcasm. “Leo, what kind of guy do you take me for?”

“Um…chair. Sit.” Words ejected from my mouth as heat torpedoed into every nook and cranny of my body.

He stifled a grin and shoved off his jacket and sneakers. Hearing my intake of breath, Becket smirked. He raised his arms expressing innocence. “They’re wet and dirty. Don’t have a conniption. I didn’t want to get mud all over your floor.” In stocking feet he padded to the chair and sat. “Relax, Leo.”

Ashamed by my timid-ass stupidity, I backtracked and sat on the edge of the bed. I crossed my ankles and noticed his gaze traveling the length of my legs.

“Nice.”

“Nice what?”

“Legs, you have nice legs.”

“Thanks.” Flattery will get him everywhere. I lifted my knees up to my chest and held them in place with my arms. Aware of my self-consciousness, his lips spread in a rakish smile.

Following a clumsy silence, I said, “The rain will let up in a minute.”

“In a hurry to get rid of me?” His eyes were cool and alluring, fringed with black lashes, abnormal considering the paleness of his hair. No wonder every girl in school drooled when his name was mentioned.

“It’s late,” I said for no reason other than to break the awkwardness.

He blasted me with a righteous smile. “Have to get your beauty rest, eh?” His smile contagious, I countered with a grin. In a detached manner he shelved his right leg over his left by the ankle, looking completely laid-back. “You should smile more often, it suits you.”

Knowing full well my hair was in chaos, I scuttled fingertips into my head, quelling the rats nest.

“Like I was saying before the storm,” he said. “I tried calling you—”

“I lost my phone.”

His chin lifted in a partial nod. “After I dropped you at home I meant to make a specific date for that cup of coffee and it’s been bothering me.”

“If you really want that cup of coffee, it’s too late now.”

“You’re getting the sarcastic gist.” He scratched his nubby chin. “Tomorrow, after school.” Becket, embodied with self-confidence like he knew my answer would be a dreamy eyed yes.

“Can I let you know tomorrow?” I sucked at my puckish reply.


Tomorrow
?”

“Yes, tomorrow.” Hah…he assumed I’d be all over it. A trifle victory. “I have second period lunch. Can you meet me in front of the cafeteria around 11:30? I might have cheerleading practice.”

His eyes narrowed, mulling it over. “Sure. That can happen.” Moving his lean legs to the floor, he stood and slipped his arms into the sleeves of his jacket. “The rain is letting up. I’d better get out of here so you can get some sleep.” He wedged on his sneakers.

I joined him by the window, but kept a fair space between us. Before I had a chance to grip the sill, he beat me to it. He veered toward me and tilted close, his breath touched my cheek.

“Sorry for this impromptu visit. But to tell you the truth, I kind of liked it.”

Mesmerized by his eyes, my body quivered from head to toe, I thought for sure he was going to kiss me. Instead, he swerved to the window and was gone in a heartbeat.

 

Chapter 10

I had to call Nona, Becket Kane was juicy news.

“Damn.” I didn’t have a cell phone. Checking the digital clock, my body waned in tiredness. As a substitute to reaping a tête-à-tête with Nona, I decided to slip into bed. My juicy news would have to hold until tomorrow.

I rolled from one side of the mattress to the other claiming my comfort zone. From a fetal position to my back, side, stomach, the room felt oppressive. Dragging myself to the window I thrust it open a few inches and watched my reflection smearing in the dark glass from the onslaught of water. I leveled the blinds to the sill, and thanks to Becket, doubled checked for any peep holes and hopped into bed. I conked out instantly…

 

Lucien Court. Across the street, the scorched cavity of the old Perkins house. My eyes drift past the Lucien Estate.

Standing at my front porch. Sunshine sparkles on dollops of red.

In the kitchen. Carrot shavings. A pot on the stove furling steam.

“Mom?” Nothing.

In the living room. A trail of red on the staircase.

Apprehensive toe steps. A storm of panic.

At their bedroom door. It glides open.

A body—fanning hair— blood—puddles and puddles of blood
!

Arms band me. Thrashing. My nails claw flesh, screaming. A sweaty palm filters my cries. Oh my God— I know who it is…

 

“Leo.” Dad rocked my flaying body. “Leo. You’re alright. It was a dream.”

Winded, my eyes widened to a bleak room. Feeling like a ball of sweat, I pronged fingers over my temples sweeping layers of hair. “Dad,” I squeezed his name past the lump in my throat, “I’m okay.”

“You haven’t had one of these in months.” He held me by the shoulders and examined my face.

“I know.” My senses reeled still smelling blood. “I walked by the house yesterday.”

“Why?” His glum eyes were on the verge of watering. “I told you never to go there.” Dimness shadowed his face, looking old. Skin sagged beneath each eye, his cheeks sunken from lack of nourishment.

“I didn’t go inside. But the side door
was
open.”

“Open? It should’ve been locked.” His hands dropped from my shoulders and crammed them into his hair. “Maybe the realtor had been there. I’ll have to call and find out.” Jittery fingers then scraped at his neck looking agitated. “I better get ready for work. Are you sure you’re alright?”

I nodded then twisted to read the clock, and groaned. Time to get up.

***

We arrived at school with minutes to spare. “Want to do some Halloween planning after school?” Henry inquired.

How should I break the news—
just blurt it out
. “Henry, I’m going for coffee with a friend after school. So don’t wait for me.”

Removing his glasses, he squinted like what I’d said didn’t register. “You going with Nona?”

Why did I feel this was complicated? “Er…no. A different friend.” We trudged into school with the rest of the herd, he frowned.

“Who? Those cheer girl airheads? Marcy, Stephanie?”

I knew why it was complicated, mainly because Henry liked me more than just a friend. I went for it, “Becket Kane asked me to go for coffee after school today.”

His face screwed up. “Kane? That quarterback dude?”

“That’s the one.”

“You’ve got to be joking?” Henry halted. His nose scrunched like he whiffed something foul.

Guilt and anger roiled into my chest. “Why would I joke about it?” Students gaped at us as they stormed by.

His head hung in dejection like he was walking to the gallows. “See ya…” He rounded the corner leaving me behind to feel—
what
?

An arm encircled my lower back. “Hey, Leo.” Nona gifted me with a bubbly smile. “Did you tell your father about your phone yet? I didn’t want to upset him with a late night call, and I was dying to talk to you.”

“I wanted to talk to you too.” Forgetting about Henry, all guilt and anger dissolved. “You’re never going to believe what happened—”

“Wait, girl—me first.” Nona shed a strict eye and I buttoned my lips. She glimpsed the crowded hallway, then summoned me to the side lockers. “I finagled some information from Reggie. And guess what he told me?” Riding up on her toes like an excited child. “C’mon, guess?”

“Reggie revealed—” putting fingers to my temples like I was reading her mind— “that Becket asked him for my cell phone number,
because
, he was going to ask me to go for coffee after school today.”

Her entire face knotted. “How’d you know that? Reggie gave Becket your cell number before picking me up for the movies last night. But then I explained to Reg that you lost your cell. Reggie texted Becket your house phone num…” Her eyes lit up. “He called you at home?”

“Nope. He never called me.” I grinned, liking this game.

A heedful pucker to her lips, she said, “So, you’re not going for coffee, and, he never called?”

“We’re definitely going for coffee.” I snickered at her look of befuddlement and alleviated her musing. “Becket came to my house.”

From befuddlement to surprise, she yelped, “
Really
!”

“Actually he came to my bedroom window.”

“Tell me more, this is good stuff.”

Nona wouldn’t be so psyched if she knew Henry had been clambering in my bedroom window. In her eyes, Becket was acceptable. “It was kind of awesome.” Depicting my late night visitor and my making him wait snub, Nona ate it up.

“You are going to go?”

“I’m still thinking about it.” I sounded sanctimonious.

“Oh, you’ll go,” she said, certain, adding a positive nod. “You can’t pull the wool over these honey browns. I know you better than you know yourself, hun.”

Her mothering splintered my smart-aleck bravado, turning somber. “I had another one of those dreams last night.” My best friend’s cheerful features faded.

“I prayed you were over that hump.” She embraced me, patting my back. “Leo, I wish I could help. Maybe you need to see the psychiatrist again.”

“Hell, no! Psychotherapy and the anti-depressants didn’t agree with me.” On the brink of tears, I countered, “You’re my psychiatrist.”

After she pulled back, I played with a loose strand of hair. “Something changed this time. The dream didn’t end like it usually does.” I ran a finger under my nose. Don’t get emotional, keep your head together. “After I was grabbed from behind…I remember cutting into their arms with my fingernails trying to get away. And then…I thought I knew who it was.”

Nona’s eyeballs popped out of their sockets. “Who…who was it?” she whispered.

“I knew who it was in my dream. As soon my eyes opened, I forgot. It’s like I blacked it out all over again.”

***

By lunchtime I was behind schedule and wondered if Becket had waited, or thought I stood him up. Turning the corner, I couldn’t miss him. Tall and imposing, his back leisurely fixed on the wall, a swarm of girls surrounded him. He’d been smiling at Marcy, the captain of the cheerleading squad.

Then, as if he sensed my approach, his eyes flicked in my direction. Making up for my tawdry appearance from the previous night, I primped just for this reaction. I deemed he liked what he saw. Secure in a form fitting red-knit jumper and paisley print tights with my black ankle boots, I dressed to impress.

Shrugging from the wall, the girls followed his gaze.

“Hey,” I said. “Sorry I’m late.”

“No problem. I had company.” The girl’s dispersed with a glare of inquisitive glances. Becket was quick to say, “You don’t have cheerleading practice.”

“I don’t?”

“Marcy just informed me.”

My eyes darted to Marcy in the cafeteria. She’d been keeping an intense eye on our conversation. “Okay, then I wouldn’t mind going for coffee.”

“I’ll meet you at the gym.”

“The gym?”

“Yes, the gym.”

“Sounds wonderful,” I voiced with the pretense of social etiquette. He sauntered off.
Wonderful
?—I said wonderful, what a moron.

 

BOOK: Don't Forget to Breathe
12.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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