Cheryl Renee Herbsman Breathing

ISBN 13: 9780142416013


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9780142416013: Breathing

Savannah would be happy spending the summer working at the library and reading. But then she meets Jackson, who Savannah's convinced is the one. At first it looks like she's right. He abides by her mama's strict rules and stays by her side when she is hospitalized for severe asthma, which Savannah believes is improving only because Jackson is there. But when Jackson is called away to help his family, Savannah has to learn to breathe on her own, both literally and figuratively.

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About the Author:

Cheryl Renee Herbsman lives in Northern California.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33




Published by Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


First published in the U.S.A. by Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009



Copyright © Cheryl Renée Herbsman, 2009

All rights reserved



Herbsman, Cheryl.

Breathing / by Cheryl Herbsman.

p. cm.

Summary: With a new boyfriend, asthma attacks that come when least expected, and a pesky younger brother, fifteen-year-old Savannah’s summer vacation takes many unexpected twists and turns.

eISBN : 978-1-101-02244-3

[1. Dating (Social customs)—Fiction. 2. Asthma—Fiction.

3. Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 4. Interpersonal relations—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.H4311Br 2009





Set in Minion

To Oded,
for always holding the dream.


And to Maya and Jonah,
our dreams come true.


Strange feelings come over me sometimes, kind of like déjà vu, only before it happens. It’s sort of like I know what’s heading my way, but not really. I reckon some folks would find that peculiar, but I’m used to it by now. Up out of nowhere came the feeling this very morning that this’ll be the summer I remember as the one when everything changed.

But first off, let me loop back around and start at the beginning. Savannah Georgina Brown is the name my mama chose for me, according to her family’s tradition. At the moment I came slithering out of her body, she cut on the radio and named me for the first word she heard—as if it was a sign from above. That’s how her kin have chosen their babies’ names going back for generations. Apparently, when I was born, the newsman was going on about a tornado that was hitting Savannah, Georgia. But Mama thought naming me Savannah Georgia Brown would be tacky. So it’s Savannah Georgia Brown. Like that’s so much better.

I’m just relieved I didn’t come out one second sooner, or my name might have been Tornado Brown. Or what if that durn storm had been headed towards Augusta or worse yet, Macon! Alls I can say is thank the Lord it was a tornado and not a hurricane—’cause them hurricanes always end up with old lady names like Henrietta or Pearl.

My daddy gave me my last name—after himself, of course—Brown. That’s about all I got left of him, that and a pair of lungs that quit on me every time the wind blows. The way Mama tells it, my asthma started the very day he left us. Supposedly his name is Booker Bo Brown III, and those who know him call him Trip. Sadly I can’t count myself among them, seeing as how he tripped right on out of our lives when I was barely out of diapers.

“Savannah!” Mama’s hollering at me now.


“Where in the you-know-what is your brother at?”

“How should I know? Am I his keeper?”

“Damn right you are! Now hustle on down to the beach and tell that boy to come do his chores like I asked him. I’ve got exactly ten minutes to get my butt to work ’fore they fire my ass. I haven’t time to be chasing him all over tarnation!”

“Like I do?” I mutter. “Why’s it always me has to be on him?”

Mama’s been fired from near about every job in town. Aside from being consistently tardy, which she just can’t seem to help, she has to miss work a lot. They don’t take too kindly to that. It ain’t as if it’s her fault.

“Did you hear me, girl? Now quit running your mouth and go on after your brother!”

“Yes, ma’am.” I guess I’m headed to the beach. Least I can take my bike. By the time they’re going into the tenth grade, most girls think riding a bike is dumb or babyish, but not me. I love riding fast and free, wind blowing in my ears. I could ride all day if Mama would let me. It don’t take but five minutes to get down to the beach the back way.

Anyhow, like I was saying, my daddy cut out on us when I was three, right after Dog was born. Dog’s my little brother. Mama named him Dogwood after the tree that was blooming outside her window when he was born. After my close call with the tornado, and with my daddy on the verge of leaving, that’s how scared she was to see what sign the heavens might send. Personally, I think the radio would have been a better bet. I mean, dogwoods are pretty and all with their tender white flowers reminding you that spring is nigh, but nobody calls my brother anything but Dog. Can you imagine? He thinks he’s got the coolest name on God’s green earth. I tell you what—I feel sorry for him come fall when he hits the seventh grade and comes to find out it’s one big joke. What kind of sane person wants to go about with a name like Dog? At least he ain’t a girl.

I’m almost down to the beach. We live in an itty bitty town on the Carolina coast. Hardly nobody even knows it’s here—unless they need some gas or a bite to eat, and get a little lost. Not like one of them tourist towns where all the beachgoers end up.

Summer is about the only time of life worth discussing around here. The rest of the year is one big blob of boredom getting in the way of summer vacation. Our town is so dead in wintertime you’d have thought the whole lot of us had got up and took off for some revival meeting or something. Dead as a dang doornail.

I get to the beach, and there’s Dog wrestling in the wet sand like a young’un half his age—I swear! “Dog! Get on up outta that mud! Mama says you best get on home and do your chores.”

“Has she left for work?”

“Yes! Now git!”

“Then how’s she gonn’ know what time I come in?”

He has a point. “Just see to it them chores get done ’fore she gets home.”

He’s already back to wrestling with his sidekick, Davis Wilson, AKA Dave. It ain’t exactly a fair fight, since Dog is big for his age and thick like a football player, while Dave is more of your basic runt. Dog and Dave have been best friends as long as I can remember. They’re like twins, but from different mothers. They were born one day apart and have spent near about every day since then together. Mama and Gina, Dave’s mom, have traded off babysitting since the very beginning.

Once we got big enough not to need a grown-up looking after us, it became my job to watch Dog and Dave in the summers. But this year, Mama and Gina are letting them be out on their own, long as they stay out of trouble. I reckon they’re hoping the boys will keep each other busy enough that they won’t find their way into too much mischief. Some of their friends go to day camps, but others are in the same boat as us—not having enough money for such things. So they’ve got plenty of kids to hang around with.

I’m fixing to sit down on the dry sand and enjoy the sun on my face when I spy this surfer I’ve been keeping my eye on the last couple weeks. He’s got short-cropped hair and sea-green eyes. He is so cute.

He looks right sad, though, standing by his board near the shoreline, staring off like there’s something waiting for him out there in the water. Lord have mercy, he must have sensed me watching him. He’s looking right at me, his eyes connected to mine like he knows me, even though we’ve never spoken a word. I’m getting all flushed, like I’m the one who’s been in the sun all afternoon without protection instead of my stupid brother.

Goodness, I’m smiling at him. How can you not when someone looks at you like that, his eyes all shiny like he’s glad to see me? Whoa man, I’m getting worked up. My face must be red as a hornet’s hairy behind. I’ve got to turn away. Not that I want to—I don’t—but I mean, I have to. John Brown it, where is my bike? Okay, I caught my breath, I’m going to look back at him. Hell in a handbasket, he’s gone.

I think I’ll head down the beach a ways, see if I can’t see where he got off to. “Dog, I’m warning you!” I yell. That ought to suffice. Anyhow, as I was saying, Mama and Gina have been friends ever since they were both working at the Piggly Wiggly. They kept on trading babysitting even after Mama got fired and started working at the Hardee’s. That was quite a few jobs back. Now she’s at the Family Dollar Store, which is two towns over. They’d have made her a manager by now if she was more dependable. But like I said, it ain’t like it’s her fault.

I got serious asthma, and sometimes it gets real bad and I need to go to the hospital, which is a ways from home, and when it’s real, real bad Mama’s got to carry me clear out to Wilmington for the right doctors. She may leave us alone at home near about every day, but she don’t never leave me at the hospital by myself. Mama don’t trust them folks any further than she can throw them. When we go in, her little notebook comes out, and down go all the doctors’ orders and nurses’ names, all to make sure nobody gives me the wrong medicines or nothing.

Maybe her bosses would be more understanding if she’d just tell them why she’s not coming to work. But she says she don’t want nobody pitying me, that she’s had enough pity to last her a lifetime and just can’t take no more. Course she won’t ever explain what pity it is she’s speaking of, no matter how many times I ask her.

Since my asthma started the day my daddy left us, Mama always used to say as soon as he’d come back I’d be free of it. She don’t say that no more, though. For a long time, I dreamed about trying to find him. What father could refuse a daughter who can’t breathe without him? But in time, I came to find out that this here’s a mighty big world. And even if I did track him down, he ain’t coming back. He don’t care nothing about me, and he never will. He’s been gone twelve years with nary so much as one single solitary phone call. No matter. I’ll find my own cure. I don’t need him for nothing.

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