Pushing the Limits

By: Brooke Cumberland




He’s my art professor.

I’m his student.

With an electric connection and undeniable chemistry, I know it won’t be long until one of us cracks.



When the opportunity arises to pose naked for the entire art class, I can’t help the thrill of knowing he’ll be watching me.

While they all look past me with their eyes narrowed and concentrated, drawing only the lines and angles of my body, he sees right through me down to my vulnerability.

He sees more than just the physical aspects—he sees me.

That’s when I see the struggle in his features as he tries to stay in control.



How do we keep our distance when everything seems to be pulling us together?

What feels so right can only go wrong if we keep pushing the limits.





“I’d rather lose myself in passion than lose my passion.”

—Jacques Mayol








PROLOGUE

ASPEN



I step through the doorway, immediately hit with the mixed aroma of mildew and lavender from all the flower arrangements. I narrow my eyes, trying to adjust to the dim lighting. It’s eerily quiet, the service not due to begin for another hour.

My mother was hysterical all night long, crying in her room. I heard her through the bedroom door, but I didn’t go to her. I couldn’t.

I know she blames me.

Mom hadn’t said a word to me all morning, so I asked my older brother, Aaron, to take me early. I wanted to see Ariel before everyone else starts arriving. See her one last time.

I walk down the short hallway and into the room her service is being held in. Chairs are all lined up perfectly, row by row. The room will probably fill up quickly with family and friends, all coming to give their condolences.

I swallow as I step closer, her casket already open. I notice faint music playing overhead through the speakers. It’s meant to sound soft and soothing, but I don’t know how anything can soothe away the ache burning in my chest.

I glance around and notice the walls look as if they were painted a hundred years ago. The faded beige carpet is almost nonexistent. Flowers surround her on one side and a table of vanilla scented candles on the other. Nothing in this entire room represents her except the collage board of pictures she had hanging in our room. She made it two summers ago and had been adding photos of her friends and us ever since. It captures every part of her personality.

We lived on farmland with only fields surrounding us. No neighbors or friends to play with meant we’d learned to entertain ourselves. I remember the day she got a new camera for Christmas and immediately started taking pictures—of everything. We’d giggle and snap pictures of each other, torment Aaron and take his picture when his girlfriend was over, and take about a hundred photos of our pets. I smile at the memories, but at the same time feel like crying because now there won’t be anymore. The memories we made the last fourteen years are all I have left of her.

When Pastor Jay asked us to bring in our favorite pictures of her, I knew immediately she’d want these. I step closer and examine them, even though I’ve looked at it every single day for the past two years. Somehow today, it looks different.

There’s the one of us standing in front of the middle school on our first day of seventh grade. We were assigned different homerooms and weren’t happy about being apart. Another one shows us with our dog, Fudge, the first day we brought him home from the shelter. We’ve only had him for six months now. He was a rescue, and she said she knew he was the perfect fit for our family.

After tracing the lines of each picture, I slowly walk to her casket. I pleaded with my mom to let her wear her favorite purple dress, but she refused. She said it was an ‘occasion’ dress, AKA—a happy occasion. Instead, she picked out a dark, navy blue dress that she absolutely loathed wearing. My lip curls up on one side thinking how much she’d hate wearing this dress right now. She hated wearing dresses, in general, but now, oh, she’d be so pissed. Part of me wants to laugh at the irony, as the other part wants to rip it off her and sneak the purple dress on.

I glance down at her, curling my fingers tightly around the edge of her casket. She looks flawless, almost like she’s just sleeping. Even looking at her right now, seeing that she isn’t breathing anymore, it hasn’t all sunk in.

Top Books