Authors: Sara Marion
Breath of Life
By Sara Marion
Breath of Life
Text Copyright © 2013 Sara Marion
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
Cover design © Arijana Karčić, Cover It! Designs
Editing by: Erica Cope, Andrea Lauppe, Sarah Rios, and Nicole Brown
Find out more about the author and upcoming books online at:
To my family. I wouldn’t be where I am without you or your support. I love you all.
“Do you know why you are here?” Dr. Keeler asked.
Paxton watched her lean back in her chair as she always did. Paxton never said a word during any of her sessions. She knew why she was here and she didn’t want leave. The world was an ugly place and she had seen enough. She witnessed countless acts of violence in her job. She saved people that sometimes shouldn’t have been saved and she lost ones that shouldn’t have been taken. She had seen families broken up over senseless things and she grew tired of the darkness she saw day in and day out. Paxton sat quietly in her chair knowing that she was locked away in a safe place. She didn’t want to go back into the cruel world she left, the one where God disappeared on her. She looked at the doctor, gave no sign of breaking and then she continued looking out the window. She hadn’t spoken a word to anyone in nearly five months.
“Paxton,” Dr. Keeler cleared her throat, “I can’t help you with anything unless you talk to me, to someone. We have been meeting for four months now. I know a little of what you been through from talking to your friends,” she paused. “I have also talked to Jack.”
Paxton’s eyes darted back to Dr. Keeler at the mention of Jack’s name. Dr. Keeler noticed the reaction.
“Jack is worried about you,” she continued. “He wants you to get better.”
Paxton kept her eyes on Dr. Keeler. She knew Jack was out of the picture. He wouldn’t check on her, not after everything that has happened. Jack was long gone as well as her best friend, Ella. Duke was the only one who seemed to care about her after she screwed everything up, but he hadn’t come to see her since she’s been here.
Dr. Keeler was just looking for a reaction, a break in her silence but Paxton would not give into it. It would ruin everything she built here in the institution over the last five months. After all, she took enough psychology classes to know how to fake a psychotic break. Trauma filled her life and she had more than enough excuses to become insane, fractured or not all there. Dr. Keeler’s sighed. It broke up Paxton’s thoughts which would probably be for the best.
Jack was a button for her, most of her past was. She ruined so much in the last year or so that it was hard to think about anything without feeling guilty about something. If Dr. Keeler kept pushing, Paxton would lash out in anger. She needed to remain in control. This is the only thing she could control. She would not lose it.
Dr. Keeler continued to study her. Paxton ignored her as she always did and looked around the office. It was neat and orderly. Everything was in its place. The desk was tidy, the bookshelf had books aptly arranged and pictures of her and her family hung around the office. There were a couple of floor plants by the window and a couple of smaller plants on end tables. It reminded Paxton of her own office. Well, what used to be her office before she lost everything.
“You know,” Dr. Keeler began. “I think that it’s time we try something else, something to remind you of what’s waiting for you when you get out of here because I know you don’t belong in here.” She stood up and headed to her desk. She picked up the receiver and quietly said something to whomever was on the other line. Paxton watched her carefully. She came back and smiled. “I think this is something you need.”
Paxton rolled her eyes and looked back at the window. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Dr. Keeler walking towards the door. She knew that her curiosity could get the best of her and she could ruin the world she built around herself. Paxton couldn’t figure out what Dr. Keeler was trying to do but whatever it was, Paxton would have to mask her reaction. She couldn’t afford to slip up now.
The door quietly shut. Hushed voices behind the door peaked Paxton’s interest. She quickly turned and wondered who Dr. Keeler was talking to. She hoped it wasn’t her mother because their relationship had gone down the drain over the last year. She shook her head not wanting to think of that but she was curious as to who was behind the door.
The doorknob turned, she quickly returned to looking out the window. Her nervousness grew, but she tried to show no outward signs as she heard several footsteps on the hard wood floors. Paxton willed herself not to turn around and see who it was. She steeled herself as Dr. Keeler came into view.
“Paxton, someone came because they were very concerned about you,” Dr. Keeler said softly.
Paxton remained still. She tried to keep her calm demeanor showing. She concentrated on the window while keeping her eyes relaxed. This was her first visitor since she arrived at the facility. No one came to see her. She saw Dr. Keeler motion for her visitor to come closer in her peripheral view.
“Hey, Tiger,” Jack said softly.
Paxton stiffened as she heard Jack’s voice. She hoped no one noticed her reaction, but to keep the façade going she stared at the window a moment longer. She turned slightly and looked at Jack while trying to remain indifferent on the outside. She was taken aback at how he looked, but attempted to keep her gaze impassive.
His black hair had grown longer, almost brushed against his shoulders. His blue eyes were as piercing as ever. She felt her breathing quicken as he started at her. She noticed the stubble on his jawline, the one that he liked to keep somewhat clean shaven. He never let it get as long as he had it now. She wanted to reach out and touch him. The urge was overwhelming.
Paxton saw Jack lift his hand from the back of the couch. Her eyes widened as he tried to reach out to her. She jumped up quickly from the couch and stepped away. If he touched her, she knew she would unravel. He was her weakness and she would melt into his arms. She would break down and everything she built would crumble to pieces.
“Paxton please sit back down. He won’t hurt you,” Dr. Keeler ordered.
Paxton looked over to her. Dr. Keeler had never seen her move or react to anything since they started meeting. She searched Dr. Keeler’s face to see how badly she just screwed up. She felt trapped in the world she created but she hoped that she didn’t completely dismantle it. She slowly returned to the opposite end of the couch.
Memories of her last encounter with Jack flooded her.
She remembered Jack slamming the door in anger. She fell to the floor sobbing. She knew her actions had consequences but she didn’t think she would have to face them. She cried for hours waiting for him to come back. When he didn’t walk back through that door, she knew she just threw her marriage down the drain.
Paxton remembered her mother wrapping her arms around her and wiping her with a tear-stained face. She stayed with her mother for two months. When her mother had enough of her wallowing, their relationship took turn for the worst. She started blaming Paxton for everything that went wrong in the previous six months. Paxton couldn’t believe that her mother was starting to turn on her just like everyone else seemed to do.
Paxton had lost her faith in everything around her. She was angry at the world. She blamed God and refused to go to church. She argued with her mother when she tried to drag Paxton to church. She told her mother that she couldn’t believe in a God that would turn His back on His people when they needed Him most. She couldn’t believe in someone that would put so much hatred and misery in the world and allowed bad things happen to good people.
After a week of her mother berating her, Paxton came up with the idea of checking herself into a mental institution. She thought nothing bad could happen in a controlled environment. She told her mother about her idea but that only led to another argument. Her mother didn’t agree, saying she was only thinking of herself. She told Paxton she needed to be an adult and accept that the world around her was a direct result of her actions.
Paxton shut herself away after that, her mother was right. It was her fault, everything that has happened over the last year was. For the next two weeks, Paxton went on auto-pilot as she fell into her silent world. She stayed in her room, barely ate, and let everything slip further away from her. Her mother came in to give her food but she never said a word.
Eventually, she noticed Jenny’s worried look. Paxton’s clothes were beginning to hang on her and she knew that her mother would soon give in. Her mother couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of letting another daughter slip away, a possibility she would have to bury her own child. The night her mother finally gave in, Paxton remembered ignoring the calls that came on her cell phone. Six calls, six messages from the one person who hadn’t completely given up on her. Paxton didn’t want Duke to interfere with her decision. Duke was Ella’s husband and Jack’s best friend. She didn’t want him tangled up with her mess any longer.
Jack brought Paxton back to the present as she felt his hand wrap around hers. “Tiger, I know that you probably don’t want me here right now, but I miss you. I have been thinking about you, about us...about what we used to have.”
Paxton stared at her hand in Jack’s. It felt foreign but at the same time it felt familiar and right. He came back for her. After all these months, he came back for her.
He is the one of the reasons you are here,
her conscience broke in.
Why after all this time is he coming back?
She remembered the last thing he said to her.
‘I hate what you have become. You disgust me and I never want to see you again. You are
to me now.’
After he spat out those words, he turned and walked out of her life. A sudden surge of anger came through Paxton as those words floated through her head. She jerked her hand away.
“Get out.” Her voice was quiet and scratchy, probably because she hadn’t used it in months.
“Get. Out.” She said more forcefully and stood up. She saw the shock on Jack’s face. “Why did you bring him here?”
“He is here to help,” Dr. Keeler said calmly.
“Help?! Get him out now. He has no right to be here!” Paxton said as she went to the window.
She was shaking. She couldn’t look at the two of them right now. Paxton was angry that Dr. Keeler brought Jack here without even telling her or asking if it would be okay. Paxton couldn’t understand how he could help her.
Jack stood up and started for Paxton. Dr. Keeler grabbed his arm and shook her head at him.
“Let’s leave her be. I will have someone escort her back to her room. She has had enough for today," Dr. Keeler quietly ordered.
Jack watched as Paxton was led away by two orderlies a few minutes later. She didn’t fight but he saw that she was upset, angry. He hoped that he could coax Paxton out of her silence but he did not expect the reaction she had. Each step she took away from him, he wanted to go after her, tell her how sorry he was.