My Last Breath 

Prologue

“The preacher’s ready. Come on, love.”

Melanie turned to face her mother and draped the tiny black veil over her face before she exited the back of the car.

Shakily, she stood and looked around at all the people in the wooded cemetery.

“No, Mama. I can’t do this. I can’t even breathe.” Sobs began slowly, then continued forcefully, but her mother held her arm and led her along toward the rows of chairs in front of the casket as she cried.

“You can do this because you have to,” her mother said as they approached the dark box, walking past her friends and family members, who’d parted and taken their seats in order to allow her access through. But the sight of it was too much for her and she dropped to her knees.

“No!” she cried out, dropping her face, placing her hands above her on the smooth, shiny wood, then moving her fingers to grip the flag that had been draped across. “This can’t be real,” she continued, tears dripping from her cheeks and pounding onto the grass below. “Come back to me. I don’t know what to do.” Her sobs worsened, pleading for anything else in the world to be a reality, except this.

Chapter 1

“Melanie? Are you ready? My sister isn’t going to wait all night!” Amber hollered, as she put the finishing touches on her makeup.

“Almost ready! Give me two minutes!” Melanie hollered back. Knowing she was going to be meeting college guys that night, she wanted to be sure she was looking her best. One last touch to her mascara and lip gloss, then a tug on her halter top and a toss at her loose curls, and she was on her way.

 “Where are we meeting Kaylee?” Melanie asked as they hurried out the front door.

“There’s a bar that my brother and some friends of his like to frequent when they come into town.”

“Your brother… as in the one who’s about to graduate from Yale?” she asked.

“Yeah, James. He’s really smart and he’s been attending Yale for some kind of smart guy thing, but he’s really nice and totally down to earth. Don’t feel intimidated by him,” Amber said.

Melanie let out a “Huh,” but just got into the front seat of Amber’s car and fastened her seatbelt, readying herself for their pre-graduation celebration.

Amber’s older sister, Kaylee, and a couple of her friends were waiting outside in the smoker’s section of the Atlanta bar when they arrived.

“Hi!” Amber waved as they walked up.

“Hey! Everyone else is inside, but I’ll take you in and introduce you to them,” Kaylee said as she tossed her cigarette down and walked inside to the far corner of the bar where her brother was waiting with some friends.

Amber and Kaylee were average southern girls with enough sass to melt molasses in a northern winter, but they were also sweeter than sugar, like typical southerners, which drew Melanie to liking them.

Melanie had grown up a spoiled, upper-class, northern girl with a lot of sophistication and charm, always attending garden parties of her mother’s, and yacht club events for her father’s pharmacy, until their divorce moved her to the heart of southern living with unsophisticated honky tonks everywhere and not a sushi bar for as far as she could see. Plus, now she was adjusting to life in a split home, which only made everything worse. But the sisters’ happy-go-lucky attitudes— which were much different from her own, as she was used to being reserved in nature, mostly—were keeping her satisfied.

Amber was lively and outgoing, cheeky and lippy, and Kaylee was snarky and sarcastic. Melanie, however, was raised to mind her manners. And it seemed like everyone down here behaved like they just walked out of a barn. Tonight, Amber was wearing cut-off jean shorts, an old tank top which was tied up in a knot on the side, and cowgirl boots, and she had her shoulder-length brown hair with highlights, pulled up in a messy bun on the top of her head, and was wearing far too much make-up. Kaylee, similarly, was in jean shorts but had on a t-shirt with the University of Tennessee logo on it. But her brown hair was a little longer and was pulled to the sides of her head in two pigtails. Looking at the sisters, Melanie was feeling very out of place in her strappy satin tank and jeans, but also by having her brown hair down and curled nicely.

“This is my sometimes boyfriend, Willis, and he’s also my brother’s best friend,” Kaylee started introducing around the table, pointing to each person respectively. “Y’all know my sister Amber. This is Melanie. Melanie, this is everyone. And that’s my brother James,” she said, ending on James when she finished introductions.

Melanie waved, looking around to each person, but her gaze rested on James as his was on her. When everyone scattered to the restrooms or the pool tables, and she took a seat on the bar stool a few places down from him, he was sure to take notice.

Enjoying the pretty image that she was, certain he wanted an introduction, he grabbed up his whiskey sour and headed her way.

 © 2018 Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved

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