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Authors: KK Hendin

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Heart Breaths

BOOK: Heart Breaths
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Heart

Breaths

 

KK Hendin

 

Copyright 2013 © KK HENDIN

 

ISBN-13: 978-1492947974

ISBN-10: 1492947970

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.

 

Trademarked names appear throughout this book. Rather than use a trademark symbol with every occurrence of a trademarked name, names are used in an editorial fashion, with no intention of infringement of the respective owner’s trademark.

 

The information in this book is distributed on an “as is” basis, without warranty. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this work, neither the author nor the publisher shall have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Cover Design: Hafsah Laziaf

Copy Editing: Sarah Henning

Formatting: Caitlin Greer

For anyone who’s loved and lost and had to start again. May you have the courage and heart to keep going.

Everyone who terrifies you is sixty-five percent water.

And everyone you love is made of stardust,

and I know sometimes

you cannot even breathe deeply and the night sky is no home,

and you have cried yourself to sleep enough times

that you are down to your last two percent,

but nothing is infinite,

not even loss.

You are made of the sea and the stars

and one day you are going to find yourself again.

 

–Finn Butler

Chapter · One

 

 

It had been seven hours and fourteen minutes since I completely and utterly lost my mind. Since I shoved everything I could fit into my car, returned my keys to the landlord, and drove. All I wanted to do was drive—drive until my tires ran flat, get a new pair, and keep going. Drive until I couldn’t drive anymore, until the allure of wherever I was became stronger than the urge to bury my head in the sand and never, ever come out. Far enough away that my memories would all magically fade away into a bizarre kind of nostalgia, the kind that only comes from knowing how bad things sucked. The kind that only happens after blacking out.

I don’t know when I realized there were beaches again. It was miles and miles of mindless driving. No GPS, no phone, and no map—I was probably heading south. It would have helped to read road signs, but when everything goes, everything goes. I pulled into a rest stop and stumbled out of the car, cramped from sitting hunched over the wheel for seven hours. It was a testament to how far gone I was at this point—I had driven over seven hours without stopping. Normally, all it took was two minutes of driving before the panic attack would hit.

Welcome to Virginia Beach! A garish sign proclaimed. Well, that would explain the location bit, I thought as I walked blindly to the bathrooms.

I barely recognized myself in the mirror. Then again, it had been years since I recognized myself at all. Swiping the hair out of my face again and pulling it into a ponytail, I made a face at my reflection. If Mother knew I was walking in public with my hair looking like this, she would be so horrified her Botoxed forehead wouldn’t be enough to hide it. I don’t know which one she would find worse—showing emotion or my hair. It was a tough call. Shaking off thoughts of my mother, I trudged out of the restroom and into the main convenience store.

“Well, hi!” sang a cheery voice from behind the counter as I walked in, surveying the store. “How can I help you?”

Nobody could help me. Especially not some random cashier in a gas station store on the side of the highway. “I’m fine, thanks,” I mumbled. “Just looking.”

“Well, let me know if I can be of help,” she answered, returning to her magazine, long nails clicking as she flipped the pages.

Food, I thought. I should eat.

M&Ms.

“What are you doing?” I giggled, squirming.

He smiled, mischief written all over his face. “I’m in the mood for chocolate,” he said, dropping an M&M into my belly button. “I think I’ll go on a treasure hunt.”

No chocolate.

Grabbing a bag of potato chips and a map of the area, I paid and quickly left the store, heading for the parking lot.

A wolf whistle came tumbling toward me as I walked toward the car. I rolled my eyes and snickered to myself. Girls around here must be pretty ugly if I was getting wolf-whistled. There was nothing remotely attractive about the defeated zombie I’d become. Bags so bad it looked like I had rubbed purple eye shadow to my cheekbones. Hair that decided to give up on living—if the rest of me had, the hair wasn’t going to be any different. I hadn’t slept normally in months and I hadn’t eaten a full meal in years. I looked like the poster child for starving white children.

Virginia Beach. Like Florida but up north, was how Liz described it. But unlike the busy Florida winters, it was the end of January and there was nobody here. I flipped through the map, looking. Nothing seemed like a good resting place.

I sighed.

Starting the car, I merged back onto the highway. It was going to be drive until you can’t keep your eyes open, I decided. Or drive until my nervous system realized what I was doing and proceeded to freak out. Whichever one came first. I flipped on the radio in search of something loud enough to drown out my thoughts. The more obnoxious and mind-numbing, the better. It’s not the same thing, blasting country music.

They say you can’t escape the consequences of your choices. But damn if I was going to try.

The sun was a long-distant memory as I drove across the bridge. I had just enough energy to get from my car to a bed—as long as that bed wasn’t too far away.

Apparently, I had picked the wrong place for finding a nearby bed.

The road kept going—and if there was any civilization, it was hiding away from the miniscule amount of streetlights that barely lit my way. It was a good thing the car had good headlights; otherwise I probably would have driven into the water I could hear rushing underneath the sound of the wind.

This is the road that never ends, I thought as I drove on, trying to not fall asleep at the wheel. That was the last thing I needed—to have some gruesome car accident in the middle of nowhere, and have my body eaten by wild animals. Whatever wild animals lived here.

Wherever here was.

My stomach twisted at the thought of that horrifying crunch of metal, at the shriek of brakes. No. Not again. Nothing was going to happen. I turned up the radio. Nothing but static. Apparently, I had left any and all signs of civilization. Maybe I should just pull over to the side of the road and sleep here.

A dim light in the distance was the only thing that kept me from pulling to the shoulder, screw the consequences.

As I drove closer to the light, I heaved a sigh of relief. It was a crappy motel. With a vacancy sign. Thank God… maybe. But it was a crappy motel in the middle of nowhere, so maybe it would be a better idea to sleep in the car.

The closer I got to the crappy motel—whatever it was called—the more details I noticed through my sleep-fogged eyes. It was a small building, quirky and beachy, with faded paint and an old roof. The outside of it looked like it hadn’t been redecorated since the ’80s, if that. The vacancy sign was flickering, the lights broken in about half of the letters. Crappy Motel was at the edge of what kind of looked like some sort of civilization. Good. If anything happened, I could scream loud enough that hypothetically someone would hear me.

Pulling into the parking lot, I parked the car and stumbled slowly to the entrance.

“Can I help you?”

I nearly jumped out of my skin as a shadow loomed behind me. I turned around to see what looked like a homeless gorilla dressed in a wife beater and a pair of faded shorts.

Oh, ew.

“Uh, I was looking for the owner of the motel,” I said stiffly.
Please don’t be the owner, please don’t be the owner, please don’t be the owner. Please please please…

“That would be me, dear.”

Yay.

“And what can I do for a pretty girl like you?” he asked, walking toward the front desk.

“Uh, I’d like a room for tonight.” Preferably with a padlock. On the inside of the door.

“Smoking or non-smoking?”

“Non-smoking.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have any non-smoking rooms,” he said, peering down at the computer screen.

Then why bother giving it as a choice?

“Smoking is fine then,” I said, too tired to care. So my lungs would get a little blacker. But maybe I would see a bed at some point before I fell asleep standing up.

“How many nights?” he asked, typing something into the computer, glancing at my license and credit card.

“One for now,” I said, swaying with exhaustion.

“Room twenty seven is available. Would you like me to take you there?” he asked, leering at me.

“No thanks, I’ll find it,” I said, pretty much grabbing the room key out of his hands. “Thanks.”

“Breakfast is served from seven to eight thirty,” he said, looking at my chest.

“Breakfast?”

“Coffee. There are places to eat a real breakfast in town.”

“Okay, great. Thanks.” I backed out slowly. Going back to my car, I grabbed a duffel bag, locked the doors and trudged to room twenty-seven. You can’t fall asleep yet, Maddie, I told myself firmly as I struggled to unlock the door.

“Come on, come on, come on,” I hissed at the door, jiggling the key.

The door creaked open, and I stumbled in. Flipping the light on, I shut the door and locked it firmly behind me. Grabbing the chair that was near the bed, I pushed it against the door. I wasn’t taking any chances with Creepy Perv Owner of Crappy Motel.

The room smelled faintly like smoke, and with all of my being, I hoped the sheets were washed. I yanked off my clothing and tossed them onto a small wobbly chair in the corner of the room. Reaching into my duffle bag, I pulled out a faded T-shirt, one of the few I had managed to keep. I flipped off the light and collapsed into bed, hoping that I wouldn’t wake up covered in lice and bed bugs.

The sound of moaning and a creaking headboard woke me up the next morning.

My heart started to pound and I tried to remember how to breathe.

How could they?

Again?

I shot up in bed and looked around wildly. It was bad enough the first time it happened— did they have to rub it in my face and betray me again, knowing full well this time that I was right next door?

The voices filtered through the very thin walls. “Chuck! Chuck!”

I sagged back down onto my bed, trying to calm down, and not cry again. I had done enough crying.

It wasn’t
them
. I was in some creepy motel in the middle of nowhere somewhere near a beach in the south, and Chuck and his girl were having hot monkey sex on the other side of the wall.

It wasn’t them. I was too far away to hear them through walls. The only place I heard them was in my memories. Checking the battered radio clock on the table, I realized that I had slept for the better part of the night. It was a relief—I hadn’t slept this much in forever.

Maybe there was something about this place. I looked around the room and wrinkled my nose. Hopefully it was the whole town, village, whatever—and not just the creepy motel. I got dressed, packed up my things, and walked out to the car.

“Well, good morning.”

I whirled around.

It was the weird guy from the night before.

“Hi,” I said, gripping my duffel bag.
Yeah, right, Maddie. If he’s going to want to rape you or something, a duffle bag isn’t really going to stop him.

“I hope you enjoyed your night here last night,” he said, leering at my chest again.

“It was great.” I inched toward the car. “Thanks for the room.”

“Will we be seeing you later this evening?” he asked, scratching himself absentmindedly. Ew.

“I’m not sure. I was actually going to be dropping off the key after I put my things in the car. I don’t know what my plans are going to be for the rest of the day, and I only paid for one night.” Reaching into my pocket, I took out the key and thrust it at him. “Thanks so much,” I said as he took it, bewildered. “I had a great stay.”

“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself,” he said. “You’re always welcome back.”

“Uh, thanks,” I said as I managed to open the trunk of my car and shove in my duffle bag. Slamming the trunk shut, I walked toward the driver’s seat, more than eager to put a little space between the two of us.

You can do this again, Maddie.
I stared down at the wheel of the car and tried to block the faint sounds of screaming echoing in the back of my mind. Nobody’s going to hurt you. Nothing’s going to happen. You’re going to drive to the little town and walk when you get there.

Why did a five-minute drive terrify me so much when a seven and a half hour drive didn’t even cause me to bat an eyelash?

Pulling out of the parking lot, I drove toward civilization. I still didn’t know where I was—and hadn’t remembered to ask Creepy Perv Motel Guy… or not that I hadn’t remembered to ask him, I didn’t want to. Part of me felt like if I would know where I was, I would start freaking out again. If I didn’t know where I was, the rest of my memories wouldn’t be able to find me either.

And all of a sudden, there was a sign, welcoming me to the town of… I wasn’t going to look, I told myself as I very firmly turned my head away from the sign.

I could hear her laughing at me, and at my petty immaturity. “Get out of my head,” I hissed.

I drove slowly through the town of wherever, scanning the streets for somewhere to eat, and somewhere to leave my car while I did. Honestly, it looked a little bit like it was out of a picture book, or travel guide of some sort—one of those places you know exists, but don’t really think is real. It was a beach town—but one that hadn’t been spoiled by every tourist trap known to mankind. It was as if the whole town came together and decided not to let any large-scale consumerism move into their neighborhood, and I for one, was thrilled. Rolling down the windows, I slowed the car down so I could check out the little main street, Oceanfront Lane.

BOOK: Heart Breaths
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