Chapter 3

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"Sidney. Sweetie, I need you to try and slow your breathing."

The words were barely audible over the sound of my wheezing. My hands shook, tears falling from my eyes; this entire experience felt violating. The gravity of the situation had set in once I'd gotten inside the apartment. Leading me to lay on my floor and breathing like I'd run five miles. My chest pain grew the more I tried to gain control.

"I...I'm trying." The words only came out when I forced a long, slow breath.

Jamie sighed, a sound that conveyed her underlying frustration with the situation. I could so clearly see the expression she was making, as if she was in my apartment and not just on the phone with me. My immediate reaction to apologize profusely kicked in, but I couldn't form a single word before shutting down.

"Don't you dare utter a word about being some sort of burden either." She'd spoken out before I could even open my mouth to speak.

Even with the way I felt, I managed a small sort of laugh that held little humor. Jamie foreseeing my next statement was kind of sad, though I guess it's also sad I'd be saying it at all. I needed to stop doubting the help my friends willingly provided, especially in a case like this. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I plummeted back into this deep state of shock.

Rolling off my side, I laid on my back, directing my gaze towards the door in a reassuring check that all three of my locks were in place. I gained the smallest amount of comfort from it, but the door wasn't indestructible. Images of it being broken down or just the thought of someone knocking on it restarted the deep fear, any progress made going down the toilet. My chest heaved, breathing sporadic, and then out came the sob I'd been holding in. Though I'd been crying for a while now, no real sound had escaped; my body had finally caved.

"Slow your breathing, love. You need to let it out, but you don't need to pass out right now. You need time to process and get somewhat calm." Jamie spoke again, her tone soothing and worried.

To utter a word felt impossible, so I stayed quiet. The sounds of my labored breathing and distress would let her know that I hadn't passed out. With my eyes closed, I tried to focus on something else, the noise from Jamie's TV finding me and helping me redirect my mind. As I kept my thoughts focused there, it helped, but my breathing remained sporadic. My head still pounded, but the sound of my sobs dispersed. My eyes opened, and I stared at the ceiling, watching the fan spin, as I reached a point where I could speak.

"I hope that's the last wave." A deep exhale escaped me, my body shuddering.

"Me too. It's late, and you need to sleep without fear your life is threatened."

I nodded, though she couldn't see it. A grunt was the verbal response I chose to give. My gaze flickered to the door again, ensuring that the locks were all in place helped my own sanity.

"You should get some sleep. I'll be fine." The way I spoke wasn't the most convincing, but, then again,I lacked the energy to fake an upbeat attitude. She stumbled to speak her opposition but then let out another sigh. Gaze venturing to my digital clock, I saw it was nearly 1:00 A.M.. She had class tomorrow, and I knew she couldn't stay on the phone all night to keep me company.

"You call me if something seems off. I don't care about if it's just paranoia. Stay in your apartment, keep the doors locked, eat something, and get some sleep."

The way she spoke was in a no-nonsense, motherly tone. Even if I knew I wouldn't comply with some of her demands, I wouldn't say that out loud. Speaking out in opposition would rile her up, which could only be placated with humor. Neither of us was in the mood to joke and laugh, not even to lighten things.

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