Authors: Erika Trevathan
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College
SPEED OF MY HEART
Copyright © 2013 by Erika Trevathan
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
Ugh, it was time to bite the bullet and get my daily dose of bugs, dirt and scorching sun out of the way. If I didn't love my grandma to death, I'd mow the whole blasted garden down and buy my veggies at the local grocery store; like most people living in the twenty-first century. Gardening was
my idea of fun.
Throwing on a pair of cutoff jean shorts and a pink tank top, I grabbed some flip-flops from the closet and did a quick survey of my bedroom. The white bedspread sprinkled with small pastel flowers was tidily made. The hardwood floors were completely clear of everything, except for the large cream rug that sat in front of my bed. All of the brushes and bottles of makeup were organized neatly on my vanity. If there was one thing my Type A personality couldn't stand, it was clutter.
Satisfied that all was in order, I slipped on the flip-flops and went to work pulling my long brown hair into a ponytail. I jumped when the buzzing of my phone broke the quiet of the large farmhouse I lived in with my grandparents.
Without even checking the display screen to see who it was, I answered. "Hi Sadie, what's up?"
It didn't take a rocket scientist to know who was on the other end of the line. Sadie was my best friend and also very predictable. She called me every morning as soon as she woke.
As was usual for her any time before eleven in the morning, she sounded irritated. "Didn't you get my text message last night?" she demanded.
I tried to stifle a sigh, but it burst out anyway. "No Sadie, I didn't even check it. I was at the dance studio until late, and then crashed in my bed as soon as I got home."
There were always a gazillion text messages from Sadie at any given time; most were completely random and unnecessary. I was convinced that the girl texted with every breath she took.
"Really, Mara. You need to start checking your text messages more often. This one was really important," she complained. Sadie sounded even more irritated than usual this morning.
I shook my head, smiling. I was used to her antics.
Without giving me a chance to respond or get a word in edgewise, she continued to chatter away. "I ran into Marcus last night while Jack and I were eating at the Chinese restaurant downtown. He asked what you were doing, and of course I blew him off. There's no way in hell I was telling that jerk anything about you. I don’t know what he’s doing back here anyway. I mean, I thought he's been leaving you alone lately?"
As usual, she asked questions without waiting for answers. "Anywho,” she hurried on, “Jake finally had to run him off just so that we could finish eating." Jake was Sadie's boyfriend and a good friend of mine. Like most people close to me, he couldn't stand Marcus.
At the first mention of Marcus' name I had frozen; barely registering the rest of what she was saying and feeling like the floor had been snatched out from under me.
Marcus was my ex. I had been in a relationship with him for over a year before finally splitting the previous fall. It took less than two months to realize the guy was controlling and abusive. It took the next six months to get up the confidence to break things off. The final straw was when he shoved me at a party; right in front of Sadie, Jack, and a dozen other people, causing me to slam into a wall and knocking me unconscious. When I woke, I found that Jack had beaten the crap out of Marcus and threw him out. Jack had been dialing the police when I came to and begged him not to.
I think everyone is entitled to a few stupid decisions in their life, and I'm pretty sure I used all mine during my relationship with Marcus. Not having Marcus charged with his assault on me was definitely one of those stupid decisions.
After a few days and some prompting from Sadie, I finally came clean that the bruises I always had were
due to my habitual clumsiness.
During the next week, I ignored the texts and phone calls from Marcus and hoped he would just leave me alone. He finally showed up on my front porch, demanding my grandpa let him talk to me. I watched from the hallway as my grandfather came back to the door with his shotgun, pointed it right at Marcus, and warned him that if he ever stepped foot around me again, it'd be the last time.
I hadn't heard from Marcus since. And according to rumor, he'd left Russell Springs to move in with a cousin living in Ohio.
It had been smooth sailing since.
I gulped and tried not to panic. "I haven't heard anything from Marcus since he left Russell Springs. Maybe he was just asking about me out of curiosity or politeness?"
Even I didn't believe my own words. When it came to me, there was nothing polite about Marcus Harrington. The guy always had an agenda where I was concerned.
Sadie huffed into the phone. "Come on, Mara. If Marcus is back here and asking about you, it's not a coincidence. He knows you don't want to see him. I'm just saying: be careful. I don't trust him for obvious reasons."
I caught my reflection in the vanity mirror hanging on the wall opposite me and noticed how wide and frightened my eyes looked. It had been so long since I'd seen that haunted look on my face. Even after a year, just the mention of Marcus' name could take me right back to that terrified girl from a year ago.
I took a fortifying breath, trying my best not to give away just how much Marcus being around terrified me. "Thanks, Sadie, for letting me know. I don't trust him either, but don't worry. I absolutely have no plans to see him or even talk to him," I promised.
With all thoughts of Marcus locked securely in the back of my mind, I walked across the thick green grass of my grandparent's front lawn, trying to ignore the harsh midday sun beating down on my bare back. The spaghetti strap tank and cutoff jean shorts I was wearing did little to ward off the sun’s scorching rays, but I didn't plan on staying outside for much longer. I had spent the entire morning helping my grandmother tend to her garden; weeding, fertilizing and trying and failing at giving even one-fourth of the tender loving care she managed to give to it.
God, how I despised gardening. I hated the bugs, dirt, heat and all of the time and attention it required. My grandma called gardening therapeutic and relaxing. I called it torture, but tried my best not to let it show. I'd do anything for her and that included suffering through an activity I despised on a daily basis. Personally, I'd rather be at the dance studio, spilling my heart and soul into pirouettes and sweeping leaps than covered in dirt. One day, I hoped to open a studio of my own and spend my career helping to ensure little up-and-coming ballerinas felt same way I did. That seemed so far away though, when I still had my entire college career left to navigate.
I sucked in a harsh breath when I felt the jagged edge of a random pebble beneath my barefoot. Leaning down, I lifted a tan leg and removed the small, offending stone from the bottom of my foot and tossed it aside. The last thing I needed was to slice my foot open on a rock. Pointe shoes could be brutal enough as it was.
I should have learned after eighteen years of living on my grandparent's Kentucky cattle farm that I shouldn't walk barefoot across their yard. It was forever scattered with pieces of gravel that had been misplaced by vehicles coming up and down the properties long, winding gravel path.
I walked the remaining few steps and climbed onto the large front porch of the white clapboard house that I'd called my home since I was a toddler. I loved its airy feel, its floor to ceiling windows and the way the hardwoods creaked when you stepped on just the right board. Even better, I loved the smell of cherry pies and biscuits baking, and the smell of butter beans and fried chicken cooking. There was no one in Russell County that cooked better than my grandma, and I couldn't imagine anywhere else could ever feel like home the way that this house did. But, since I'd graduated high school just weeks ago, the idea that I’d soon be calling somewhere else home was becoming more and more of a reality.
I plopped down on the wooden swing mounted at the far end of the porch just in time to see my grandpa's black Ford truck barreling down the driveway. I watched as he hopped out of the driver's seat with all the spryness of a man half his age and strolled up the steps. It was hard not to cringe when he stopped halfway up to lean over the rail and spit chewing tobacco behind my grandma’s favorite rose bush. I was glad she was inside and hadn't seen him. She would have had a fit.
"Ugh, Grandpa," I moaned. "That stuff is disgusting, and bad for you. When are you going to give it up?"
"Well, hello to you too, Mara,” he greeted me. “I've been chewing tobacco since I was fourteen years old. I don't suppose I'll ever stop at this point.” He made his way over to the swing, sitting down next to me and stretching his long legs out in front of him. For a man in his sixties, he was still extremely handsome. He had dark hair with a scattering of gray, caramel skin that came from a lifetime of working outdoors, and kind, clear blue eyes. He was the only father I could remember and was the standard I held any guy I dated to. Unfortunately, I hadn't run across even one that came close to meeting it.
“I’m surprised you're not at the studio,” he asserted.
I shrugged. "I'm leaving soon. I stayed a little longer than I had intended helping grandma with the garden. She tries to do way too much by herself." And no amount of pleading would sway her from planting the large garden behind our house every year.
Grandpa laughed. "Yes, she does. But don't you ever try to tell her that. She'd have your hide."
I joined in laughing. "No, I know better than to do that." My grandma was surely the most stubborn woman I‘d ever met.
We both stopped laughing abruptly when grandma stuck her head out of the screen door.
"Alright, you two. Enough of that laughing and carrying on. I've got ham and collards, and some lemonade and cookies waiting inside," she said temptingly.
That was enough of an incentive to have both of us on our feet and heading toward the kitchen before she could even finish setting the lunch plates down. A round, wooden table occupied the corner of our roomy farmhouse kitchen and I followed my grandpa over to it, sitting down. Once the three of us were seated, we automatically bowed our heads as my grandfather led us in saying the blessing. When we finished, my grandmother dished out big helpings of food onto our plates. I was never able to finish the huge amounts she served up. And because of this, she was constantly worrying that I was too skinny. While I
very slender, it came from hours and hours of dancing and conditioning daily. I ate plenty; I just burned off plenty too.
My grandmother glanced at the clock on the wall above us.
"Mara, are you planning on going to the studio today?” she asked worriedly. “It's almost two o'clock and it takes you half an hour to get there.”
I just smiled back at her. I made the trip to the dance studio daily and was well aware of how long it took to get there.
"I don't want you leaving late at night by yourself," she continued. "There are just too many crazy people in this world."
I knew she was thinking of Marcus when she said that. She had always been a worrier, but after Marcus' abusive personality came to light, she worried even more; perhaps even questioned my taste in men. Hell, my stint with Marcus had
questioning my taste in men.
"I'm planning on it," I assured her. "And I'll be fine. I promise. I'll even call when I'm on my way home."
She shook her head, tsking. "I just don't like it. A young, pretty girl like yourself wondering around a big city like that at night all alone." As usual, my grandpa kept quiet, preferring to hold his opinion for only the most extreme of cases. He'd been married to my grandmother long enough to know that it would do him little good to argue with her.
I bit my lip to keep from reminding her that Jamestown had a population of 80,000; hardly a big city. Though, I guess in comparison to Russell Springs, where we lived with its population of 13,000, Jamestown
big. From the time I had turned three years old, my grandparents had been driving me to dance classes at Jamestown Elite Dance. When I became old enough to drive myself; I relieved them of that duty. My grandma almost had a nervous breakdown the first time I drove the thirty miles to the studio by myself. Even though I was driving a very dependable vehicle: a brand new white Honda I had gotten for my sixteenth birthday.
Thankfully, my parents had prepared for the worst before their deaths, and had left specific trusts for me to receive at different milestones in my life. There had been one set aside for a car, and I was grateful that I hadn't had to work through high school like a lot of my friends had to pay for it. The final installment of the money they’d left for me would come when I turned twenty-five, and would be just under a million dollars. Quite frankly, I had no idea what I would do with all that money, but it felt good to know that I had a cushion in life. My father had owned a law firm before his death and my mother had stayed at home with me. That was before they met an eighteen wheeler head-on during a weekend getaway together. They never knew what hit them. I had barely been a year old at the time, so I only knew my parents now as the beautiful, dark haired couple in the portrait above our piano. As a young girl, I used to imagine what it would have been like had they still been alive. I still did from time to time, but mostly I just thanked God for wonderful grandparents that were willing to fill their roles.
After helping to clean up the lunch dishes, I hurried to my bedroom to change. I slipped on a pair of black spandex shorts over light pink, footless tights and a black leotard. I then pulled my hair into a bun and surveyed myself in the full length mirror hanging on the back of my bedroom door. I'd inherited my green eyes from my father. And my grandparents had always told me my mother had the same light scattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. It was nice to know that I’d inherited a little something from each of them. At least I had that.
Grabbing the bag that held my pointe shoes, I sailed out the door into the afternoon sunshine, yelling a goodbye to my grandparents.