43 | Break/Broken

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I couldn't breathe

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I couldn't breathe.

It had been hours and I still couldn't. Not even Michael's soothing hand on my back could coax me into drawing in a breath that would completely fill my lungs. Between the sobs and shuddering exhales, it was a mystery that I still had anything left to give.

"Whatever this is about," he murmured, his voice just a distant whisper, "it's going to get better. I promise you it will, sugartits. I know it."

But his words only made it worse.

I wasn't even sure why he was here. I could remember fumbling for my phone a while after Sebastian had left, barely able to think due to everything swimming in my head. Jude was number five on my speed dial and the one I had expected to show up on my doorstep after receiving my tearful request for company. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to find a sleepy eyed Michael instead -- my speed dial number six.

But I hadn't complained. I was just grateful to have someone. Anyone.

Had this been any other time, I would have shuddered in disgust at the thought of having his hands on me, but they were welcome there today. I was seated on the floor in front of the couch, my shoulders hunched and my fingers buried in my hair. Michael was beside me, his touch alternating between my back and my damp cheeks, either encouraging me to breathe or wiping away the stray tears.

Crying was the last thing I should have been doing. It was a weakness I seldom allowed myself to experience, no matter how great the pain. I had broken bones, torn ligaments, and bruised every inch of my skin before, but this was different. This was one ache that couldn't be fixed with stitches and a couple of pain pills. Only time could begin to heal it.

"Whatever this is about," Michael said, "I'm sure it's not worth crying over."

He was right.

I pulled away from Michael's touch and used the hem of my shirt to wipe my face. In that moment I was thankful I had never worn much makeup, because I was sure I would have looked much worse than I already did.

"There we go." A glance to my left saw a hint of a smile back on Michael's mouth. "I knew you'd surface eventually. And it only took you..." He glanced at his watch. "Wow, only an hour. Last time I had to comfort a girl, it took three days. Then again, I had to do a lot more than just wipe away tears and snot. Let's just say it was more of a hands on job."

"I don't want to know," I snorted, particularly glad for his company now. Maybe crude jokes and stories of his past escapades were what I needed. "Thanks, Michael."

He nodded and leaned back against the couch, dragging a hand across his short cropped hair. "Now, are you going to tell me what this is about? It's not every day that I get a phone call from you of all people at three in the morning, begging me to come over. You're lucky you're dating my best friend, because I wouldn't do this for most girls."

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