Authors: Rebecca Donovan
Tags: #teen abuse, #teenager romance, #teen fiction young adult fiction romance, #suspense drama, #teen drama, #teen novel
by Rebecca Donovan
Rebecca Donovan on Smashwords
Reason to Breathe
Copyright © 2011 by Rebecca Donovan
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
. My eyes swelled as I swallowed against the lump in
my throat. Frustrated with my weakness, I swiftly brushed the tears
that had forced their way down my cheeks with the back of my hand.
I couldn’t think about it anymore - I would explode.
I looked around the room that was mine, but
had no true connection to me - a hand-me-down desk with a
mismatched chair against the wall across from me with a three
tiered bookcase that had seen too many homes in too many years next
to it. There were no pictures on the walls. No reminder of who I
was before I came here. It was just a space where I could hide –
hide from the pain, the glares and the cutting words.
Why was I here? I knew the answer. It wasn’t
a choice to be here; it was a necessity. I had nowhere else to go,
and they couldn’t turn their backs on me. They were the only family
I had, and for that I couldn’t be grateful.
I lay on my bed, attempting to divert my
attention to my homework. I winced as I reached for my Trigonometry
book. I couldn’t believe it was sore already. Great! It looked like
I’d be wearing long sleeves again this week.
The aching pain in my shoulder caused the
images of the horrific exchange to flash through my head. I felt
the anger rising, making me clench my jaw and grit my teeth. I took
a deep breath and allowed the dull wash of nothingness to envelop
me. I needed to push it out of my head, so I forced myself to
concentrate on my homework.
I was awoken by a soft tap at my door. I
propped myself up on my elbows and tried to focus in my dark room.
I must have been asleep for about an hour, but didn’t remember
“Yeah,” I answered, my voice caught in my
“Emma?” the small cautious voice called out
as my door slowly opened.
“You can come in Jack.” I tried to sound
welcoming despite my crushed disposition.
His hand gripped the doorknob, as his head -
not much taller than the knob - peaked in.
Jack’s enlarged brown eyes scanned the room
until they connected with mine - I could tell he was nervous about
what he might find - and smiled at me in relief. He knew way too
much for his six years.
“Dinner’s ready,” he said, looking down. I
realized it wasn’t the message he wanted to be responsible to give
“Okay, I’ll be right there.” I tried to smile
back to assure him it was okay. He walked toward the voices in the
other room. The clatter of platters and bowls being set on the
table along with Leyla’s excited voice awaited me down the hall. If
anyone were to observe this routine, they would think this was the
picture perfect American family sitting down to enjoy dinner
The picture changed when I crept out of my
room. The air became thick with discord with the crushing reminder
that I existed, a blemish to their portrait. I took another deep
breath and tried to convince myself I could get through this. It’s
just another night, right? But that was the problem.
I walked slowly down the hall and into the
light of the dining room. My stomach turned as I crossed the
threshold. I kept my gaze down at my hands that I twisted in
anticipation. To my relief, I wasn’t noticed when I entered the
“Emma!” Leyla exclaimed, running to me. I
bent down, allowing her to jump into my arms. She gave me a tight
embrace around my neck. I released a breathy grunt when the pain
shot up my arm.
“Did you see my picture?” she asked, so proud
and excited of her swirls of pink and yellow. I felt the glare on
my back, knowing that if it were a knife, I’d be incapacitated
“Mom, did you see my drawing of Tyrannosaurs
Rex?” I heard Jack ask, attempting to distract the attention away
from my disruption.
“That’s wonderful, honey,”
praised, redirecting her attention to her son.
“It’s beautiful,” I said softly to Leyla,
looking into her dancing brown eyes. “Why don’t you go ahead and
sit for dinner, okay?”
“Okay,” she agreed, having no idea that her
affectionate gesture had caused tension at the dinner table. How
could she? She was four, and to her I was the older cousin she
idolized, while she was my sun in this dark house. I could never
blame her for the added grief her fondness for me caused. The
conversation picked up and I thankfully became invisible once
After waiting until everyone was served, I
helped myself to the chicken, peas and potatoes. I could sense that
my every move was being scrutinized, so I kept my focus on my plate
while I ate. I knew that what I’d taken wasn’t enough to satisfy my
hunger, but I didn’t dare take more.
I didn’t listen to the words coming from
mouth as she went on and on about her trying day at
work. Her voice raked through me, making my stomach turn. George
responded with a comforting remark, attempting to re-assure her as
he always did. The only acknowledgement I received was when I asked
to be excused. George looked across the table with his ambivalent
eyes and dryly granted my request.
I gathered my plate, along with Jack and
Leyla’s, since they’d already left to watch TV in the living room.
I began my nightly routine of scraping plates and placing them in
the dishwasher, along with scrubbing the pots and pans George used
to prepare the dinner.
I waited for the voices to move into the
living room before I returned to the table to finish clearing.
After washing the dishes, taking out the trash and sweeping the
floor, I headed back to my room. I passed by the living room with
the sounds of the TV and the kids laugher in the background. I
slipped by unnoticed, as usual.
I lay on my bed, plugging in the ear buds to
my iPod, and turned up the volume so my mind was too preoccupied
with the music to think. Tomorrow I would have a game after school
that would keep me late, missing our wonderful family dinner. I
breathed deep and closed my eyes. Tomorrow was another day – one
day closer to leaving this all behind.
I rolled on my side, forgetting about my
shoulder for a moment, until painfully reminded of what I was
leaving behind. I shut off my light and let the music drone me to
I grabbed a granola bar on my way through the
kitchen with my duffle bag in hand and backpack slung on my
shoulder. Leyla’s eyes widened with delight when she saw me. I went
over and kissed the top of her head, making a conscious effort to
ignore the penetrating glare I was receiving from across the room.
Jack was sitting next to Leyla at the island eating cereal - he
slipped me a piece of paper without looking up.
“Good Luck!” was written in purple crayon
with an adorable attempt at a soccer ball drawn in black. He
glanced at me quickly to catch my expression, and I flashed a half
smile, so she wouldn’t pick up on our interaction. “Bye guys,” I
said, turning toward the door.
Before I could reach it, her cold hand
gripped my wrist. “Leave it.”
I turned towards her. Her back was shielding
the kids from witnessing her venomous glare. “You didn’t ask for it
on your list. So I didn’t buy it for
. Leave it.” She
held out her hand.
I set the granola bar in her palm and was
instantly freed from her crushing grasp. “Sorry,” I murmured and
rushed out of the house before there was more to be sorry for.
“So… what happened when you got home?” Sara
demanded in anticipation, lowering the volume of the fast beat punk
song when I entered her red convertible coupe.
“Huh?” I responded, still rubbing my
“Last night, when you go home,” Sara prompted
“Not much really - just the usual yelling.” I
replied, downplaying the drama that awaited me when I got home from
practice yesterday. I decided not to divulge more as I casually
rubbed my bruised arm. As much as I loved Sara and knew she would
do anything for me, there were some things I thought best to save
“So, just yelling, huh?” I knew she wasn’t
completely buying it. I wasn’t the best liar, but I was convincing
“Yeah,” I mumbled, clasping my hands
together, still shaking from her touch. I kept my eyes focused to
the side, watching the trees fly by, broken up by the oversized
homes with their landscaped lawns, feeling the crisp late September
air whip against my flushed face.
“Lucky for you, I guess.” I could feel her
looking at me, waiting for me to confess.
Sara turned up the music, recognizing I
wasn’t going to give her more, and started yelling while thrusting
her head to a British punk band.
We pulled into the school parking lot,
receiving the usual turning of heads from the students and the
shaking of the heads from the faculty. Sara was oblivious, or at
least acted like she could care less. I ignored it, because I
really could care less.
I slung my backpack over my left shoulder and
walked across the parking lot with Sara. Her face beamed with an
infectious smile as people waved to her from across the parking
lot. I was barely noticed, but I wasn’t bothered by the lack of
recognition. It was easy to be overshadowed by Sara’s charismatic
presence with her mane of gorgeous fiery hair that flowed in layers
to the middle of her back.
Sara was every high school boy’s fantasy, and
I’m sure some of the male teachers’ as well. She was startlingly
attractive and had the body of a swimsuit model, filled out in just
the right places. But what I loved about Sara was that she was
real. She may have been the most desired girl in school, but it
didn’t go to her head.
“Good morning, Sara” could be heard from just
about everyone we passed as she walked with a bounce of energy
through the junior halls. She’d return these welcomes with a smile
and a similar greeting.