Sequel: Black and White
Status: complete;;


chapter eleven;;

I sighed and burrowed deeper into the blankets; I was technically awake, but I kept my eyes closed so that I could enjoy the feeling of having a warm, cosy bed ー my warm, cosy bed ー beneath me. I'd only been home for a couple of days, so my mother was allowing me to be lazy. Was I taking full advantage of it? Absolutely yes, I was, and I didn't feel guilty about it, because I knew by tomorrow, at the latest, she'd expect me to act like a part of civilised society. I was nineteen, fresh off an overseas tour, and ready to be as lazy and unproductive as I was allowed to be.

Sunlight streamed through the window, landing in thick horizontal stripes across my bed. Birds chirped and flitted around in the trees outside; the telltale sounds of the garbage truck making its rounds outside was barely enough to frustrate me. Not today, I thought, smiling to myself. I dozed off a bit as the morning stretched on. Eventually, I opened my eyes, stretched every muscle possible in my body, and then collapsed into the mattress. Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, My Chemical Romance, and Green Day stared down at me from the posters on the pale blue walls, separated by photographs of the band at several gigs, friends I'd grown up with, and postcards I had gathered on our tours of the United States. I knew if I looked down at the floor, the white carpeting would be cluttered with clothes, suitcases, and books, and the white paint in the closet would be covered with various messages from my bandmates ー all souvenirs of big dreams and even bigger ambition. The notes still made me smile as I remembered the day Jem, Alan, Brett, and Amber had written them (even though Brett had no idea why we were even doing it, as evidenced by his I feel dumb but uh... let's go!) My mom had threatened to paint over them hundreds of times since then but never followed through. I had a feeling that she still wouldn't even after I finally moved out.

I shoved the blankets back and padded leisurely down the hall to the bathroom. My feet made soft pit-pat sounds against the hardwood floor, and I did a little hop over the squeaky plank right outside the guest room. I stopped at the door; the room beyond stood as barren as it always had. It wasn't until I was almost thirteen that I figured out why my parents had bought a three-bedroom house when a two-room would have been enough for the three of us. The spare one had been designated as the nursery; closest to the master bedroom, it would have been perfect for a baby's room. My mother had wanted so badly to have another child, wanted to give me a sibling so much, she could nearly taste it. She'd convinced Patrick that it was the perfect house, and he'd given in to her easily enough. Unfortunately, a new baby was never conceived. After the first three years of trying with no success, Patrick began staying away from his family; most of the time, he didn't come home for days on end. My mother always told me he was working hard to provide for us, but at nineteen, I knew her words for what they were: lies, so that I wouldn't hate my father, so I wouldn't have any hard feelings toward him. Unnecessary precautions, if I was to be honest, but I appreciated her for her effort. It wasn't hard to figure out that Patrick had been sleeping around in the last year before he abandoned us and eventually found that living a double life was nothing like the movies, so he came home late one night, packed his things, and was gone from our lives.

I jerked awake. My five-year-old brain struggled to figure out what had woken me up. Then I heard it again: loud banging coming from downstairs. I made sure Bun-bun was tucked under my arm then hurried out of my bed and down the hall to the staircase. Daddy came into view first. He set two suitcases down by the front door and turned. That was when he caught sight of me standing at the top of the stairs.

"Go back to bed, pumpkin."

"Daddy? Where are you going?"

"I said go back to bed, Erin."

"Are you leaving, Daddy? Can I go, too?"

"No, you have, you have to stay here with your mommy."

My chin wobbled, and I stumbled down a couple of steps. "But why are you leaving? Don't go, Daddy, why can't I go?"

"I have to, Erin. Please go back to bed."

With that, he gave Mommy a mean look, opened the door, and carried his belongings outside. I raced down the stairs as fast as my little legs could carry me and out onto the front porch. There was a car sitting out front, its lights on and engine rumbling; Bun-bun fell from my arms when I ran to the front gate as it started driving away, down the sidewalk as I yelled for Daddy to come back. I tripped and fell over a crack in the sidewalk, sobbing when the car disappeared around the corner and I realised Daddy wasn't going to turn around. Mommy picked me up, and I cried into her shoulder as she carried me up the stairs to my room, tucked me into bed again, and sat beside me. She'd brought Bun-bun back in, and though he was a little dirty, I clutched him tightly to my chest and let Mommy run her hand over my hair. I wanted to ask her all the questions that were running through my mind, but I was scared that saying them out loud would make everything more real, more terrifying, and it would make it true that Daddy wasn't coming back. I eventually fell asleep with Mommy by my side.

I turned away from the empty room and the memories it brought with it, closing the door on the dark emptiness. I'd long ago become accustomed to the ache of not having my father around, but that didn't mean I wanted to continuously relive the moment he left. After using the bathroom and washing my hands, I headed downstairs and set to work brewing a pot of coffee. A note was pinned to the fridge with the magnet I'd made when I was in third grade; my gap-toothed smile stared back at me, and I huffed out a laugh before pulling the paper off. Meatloaf for dinner. Get beef out around 2, please. Love you! I set the note down and made my way to the cupboard for a mug.

The quiet of the house became overwhelming rather quickly as I stood at the kitchen sink and stared out the window. I sipped at my coffee, watching the old couple across the street putter around in their garden. Finally, I grabbed my phone and opened the messaging app.

To: Jem-Jam When are we recording again?

From: Jem-Jam We've only been home 3 days. Chill, killer.
From: Jem-Jam Nah seriously tho. Alan just asked me the same thing. Band meeting at 1??

To: Jem-Jam Works for me, see you then

I added a ridiculous amount of kissy-face emojis before sending the message off. I carried my coffee up the stairs, past the wall of all of my school pictures, and into my bedroom. After changing into a pair of grey skinny jeans (Amber had gotten me hooked on the damn style of pants) and a tight, bright goldenrod Def Leppard shirt, I hurried down the stairs to shove my feet into a pair of beat-up Vans, grabbing my bag and car keys on my way out the door. My truck started up with a grumbling roar, and I grinned brightly at the sound. It was an older truck, but it ran like a beauty; there was no way I would ever willingly sell the gorgeous midnight-blue pickup I'd bought from our 75-year-old neighbour a couple years ago.

I jammed my sunglasses onto my face, waved to the old couple, and pulled out of the driveway. A laugh bubbled out of me when I caught sight of their contemptuous looks, most probably at the noise my truck made.I made one quick stop at the gas station a few minutes from the house to grab a soda and some candies. The drive to the high school was full of music and memories. I hadn't been this way in a long time. I parked in front of the building thirty minutes later and headed inside after locking the truck. As was my luck, the principal was the first person I saw.

"Well, well, Miss McCarty. It's been a while."

"Hi, Mister Laramie. Yep, almost two years."

"Did you ever get your diploma? Oh, wait, no. You dropped out at the end of your sophomore year."

I gritted my teeth and forced a smile. "No, unfortunately, no diploma, but I did get my GED and now I tour all over the world making music and a helluva lot more money than you do, so honestly? I'd have to say I'm doing a lot better than you thought I would."

I pushed past him and started toward the English department. I stopped by my old locker ー 215 ー and ran my finger lightly over the cool metal. They'd buffed out and painted over the initials I carved into it my first day of school, but that was okay. Maybe some other kid could do the same in the future. The door to my mother's classroom was closed, and through the glass, I could see her standing by the dry-erase board in the front of the room. Her lips were moving, but I couldn't hear what she was saying through the door; judging by the fact that no one had anything on their desks, the period was almost over, so she was most likely giving last-minute instructions. I knocked twice on the door and entered without waiting for any acknowledgement from Mom. Whispers immediately began racing through the room; my mother shook her head with a smile.

"Well, I suppose that puts an end to me trying to teach anything new today."

"I grabbed those caramels you like?" I announced apologetically, and she didn't hesitate to reach a hand out and wiggle her fingers.

I passed the baggie over and hopped up to sit on the edge of her desk. My fingers immediately made their way to the cup of paperclips; I listened idly as my mom spoke to her students, twisting and hooking paperclips together then undoing my work. The bell rang after a few minutes, but not one student moved. They were all staring at me with wide eyes. I rolled my eyes, grabbed a caramel from the bag, and pressed a kiss to my mom's cheek. As I walked backwards toward the door, I told her about my plans to go over to Jem's house that afternoon. She nodded, waving me off so that maybe the teens would leave.


I smirked at my reflection in the mirror then sighed. I might have looked hot, but I wasn't really feeling it. I'd had a weird dream last night, and I woke up feeling like something was missing, something important. I checked out my outfit again ー black skinny jeans that were tucked into the top of my heeled ankle boots, a black off-the-shoulder crop top, and a white tank-top underneath. Sighing, I slipped my necklace around my throat, settled the arrow and heart over my the centre of my collarbone, and stabbed a pair of large hoop earrings through my ears. After swiping on some lip gloss, I rushed downstairs, pulling my hair into a loose braid as I went. My mother looked up from her spot at the dining table where she was grading papers.

"Be careful, Erin. Remember, if you're going to drinkー"

"I know, I know. Drink, don't drive. You won't be upset if you have to come pick me up at four-thirty in the morning, but you'll be damn well pissed if you have to go identify my body at the morgue at four-thirty in the morning."

She smiled and gestured me closer. I leaned down to press a kiss to her cheek. "Stay safe. Tell everyone I said hi."

"I will. Love you!"

The party was already in full swing by the time I pulled up between a Jeep and a Camaro in the front yard. I tucked my wallet under the seat, checked my makeup in the visor mirror, and pushed my door open. I slipped out of the seat and slammed the door shut behind me. A group of drunken dancers latched onto me as I attempted to bypass them. I laughed and let myself be moved to the thumping music until I got to the far end of the group, then I disentangled myself and moved on.

Garrett cheered loudly and pulled me into a tight hug as soon as he saw me stepping into the house. I ducked past a handful of scantily-clad girls, pushed my way through the mass of gyrating bodies to the kitchen. Chase had just finished filling a red plastic cup with Jack Daniels and Coke; I grabbed it from his hands with a bright, innocent smile when he turned around.

"Oh, holy fuck, Erin! You're lucky I didn't swing first, ask questions later!"

"It's wonderful to see you, too, asshole," I said while embracing him tightly. "Thanks for the drink!"

He smacked my ass as I walked away, and my laughter was swallowed up by the loud music. I moved to the beat of the song that was playing on my trek to the backyard. I loved going to the parties that Garrett and Chase threw, but staying inside, especially on gorgeous end-of-summer nights, just always seemed so stupid. Besides, the backyard was by far the best thing about the house. I came to a stop at the edge of the deck and gazed around, trying to determine who I should speak to first. Hot breath swept along the back of my neck when a low voice whispered in my ear.

"You're too pretty to be alone."

I turned on my heel, ready to yell at someone, but my jaw dropped. I let out a disbelieving laugh. "Harry! Oh, my Gods! I didn't think you'd be here. You ass!"

"What?" he said with a cheeky grin, feigning innocence while I wrapped my arms around his neck.

"You told me you guys you couldn't make it because you're in the studio."

"Clearly, I lied."

I pulled away, checked out the newcomers to the yard. "Oh, my Gods, Louis is here, too?"

"So are Liam and Zayn!" he called after me, now holding my drink so that I could run toward Tomlinson.

Louis caught me in his arms, spinning me in circles, just like he had on tour. I couldn't believe they'd shown up. We may have just seen each other a couple of weeks prior to the party, but it was great to see them again. Louis disappeared back in the house after a few minutes, and Harry came up to my side, passing over my drink. I flopped down into a chair by the pool, immediately striking up a conversation with the few people there. I'd been to enough of Garrett's parties to know that if you didn't talk to at least five people in the first ten minutes of your arrival, he'd keep pushing drinks on you to "get ya to loosen up a bit, have fun, it's a parrrttyyyy." I was in the middle of telling a girl named Hannah about our last show with One Direction when someone from behind cut me off mid-sentence, the nasal tone instantly grating.

"Excuse me, bitch."

I sighed, crossed my eyes at Hannah; she giggled, and I felt pretty awesome about that as I turned around. Then I saw who it was. "Natalie!"

Natalie Reed and I had met at a cheap hotel when both of our bands were first starting out; the rooms were disgusting and smelled like stagnant piss, so I'd gone to the front desk to complain ー and quite literally ran into Nat who was doing the same thing. We'd been almost instant friends, though we were so different from each other. It wasn't long before I was talking to her and DeDe like we'd never separated. Hannah drifted off with a quiet "I wonder where my boyfriend went to", and I smiled at her before going back to telling the girls about the tour. It felt weird to say "They're all good dudes" about the One Direction boys when it included Niall, but he really was a great guy ー when he wasn't being such a jerk ー and I didn't want to get into the details of the mess we'd made of our friendship. Gods, thinking about him hurt. I had put a massive effort into keeping him from entering my mind over the past two weeks, but late at night, when my walls were down and sleep made me vulnerable, he'd creep into my thoughts, my dreams. Waking up to the reality of him hating me caused a dull ache that just wouldn't go away. Delia opened her mouth to say something, probably about the fact I'd gone quiet, but before she could speak, Louis interrupted with a bowl of vodka-bears. I made introductions, stifling a laugh at the way that both Nat and Lou were clearly checking each other out. I gave DeDe a sly smile when they walked away so that Natalie could show Louis where the bathroom was before they went to smoke with Zayn and Garrett.

"Ya know, I could've sworn he'd just asked me where the toilet was, like, right before you guys showed up."

She giggled and sipped her water. "Well, Nat's already said she'll get his digits, so..."

"He's wonderful, Dee, I promise. I'd eviscerate him if I thought he'd hurt her."

"I trust you," she said with a sigh, fingers peeling at the label on her bottle. "It's just hard to trust that a guy, any guy, isn't going to get what he wants then walk away. I mean, I've got my boyfriend, yeah, but it took a long time and a lot of heartbreak to find him, you know?"

"Oh, yeah, I know that feeling."

I walked away before the words could come out, back into the kitchen where I found Logan, a regular at Garrett's parties, mixing up another batch of vodka-bears. Without hesitation, my hand shot out, grabbed up the bag of gummy treats and nearly-full bottle of booze, and I cradled the items to my chest as I slithered between the partygoers.

Liam found me sitting on the swing in the furthest corner of the yard a few hours later, arguing vehemently with DeDe. She was trying to convince me that I'd had enough alcohol, and I was stubbornly refusing to accept what she was saying. Because she was wrong. Sure, I'd finished off the handle of vodka and was now a quarter of the way through a bottle of Jack. And maybe my words were slurring, but I wasn't drunk. I was just tipsy.

"C'mon, Erin, let's get you home."

"I'm no' goin' 'nee-where, Dee."

"I'll take her," Liam offered. "From what I've heard, you'll have to babysit the rest."

Delia sighed, running a hand through her hair. While she was distracted, I shovelled another handful of gummy bears into my mouth and washed them down with a mouthful of whisky. She gave Liam a tired smile and headed off. I didn't care where to, all I knew was I was glad she wasn't on my case any more about leaving.

"I'm not moving," I declared and glared at Liam.

He blinked at me a few times, then shrugged and picked me up bridal-style. Ignoring my protests, he carried me easily to my truck, put me in the passenger seat, and buckled me in. I giggled wildly as I repeatedly pressed kisses to the side of his face and skull as he did what needed to be done. He sent me a smile, the one that meant he was going to be patient and kind and that's what I loved about Liam. He was always so great. I glanced out the window and saw Shay, one of the half-naked girls I'd met during the party. I shouted her name, and she screeched and ran to the side of the truck, her friend Connor following behind. Her lipstick was smeared from too many shots, and I knew she was getting it on my cheek, but I didn't mind. I leaned out the window as much as I could and held up a finger.

"Iー I need m' keys. Can you, uhhh, can you bring them? They have a cat thingy on them."

"I got it," Connor said.

Liam waited unhurriedly as Connor jogged back into the house to search for my keys. Shay glanced at my friend before sneaking a ZipLoc baggie of vodka-bears into my hand. I squealed in delight, ripped open the bag, and put as many in my mouth that would fit; unfortunately, Liam wasn't nearly as amused, and he yanked the bag from my hands and tossed it out the window. The bears landed in the yard amidst a cheer from a group of people, and they dropped to their knees to gather up any that had spilled.

I giggled as I tripped over the step for the third time. Liam mumbled something, but I ignored him. I was still upset that he'd wasted my boozy treats, no matter how amazing he was. Finally, we made it to the top of the stairs, and I stared around to see if my mother's light was on. The strip below her door was dark, so I let out a quiet cheer and allowed my friend to lead me to my bedroom. I collapsed onto my bed, flung my arms out, and stared with wide eyes at the ceiling as Liam exited the room. He came back moments later with a glass of water and two ibuprofen. I laid completely still as he untied my boots and slid them off my feet. His face blurred when he leaned over me to take my hair out of its braid. I narrowed my eyes as I stared at the curve of his jaw; my thoughts were disjointed, hazy, when I reached up to hook my fingers in the collar of his shirt. His brow furrowed in confusion, and I merely smiled and closed the distance between our mouths.

Something in me awakened instantly, coming alive at the spark of heat that flared and travelled down my spine. The fire only grew hotter when he started kissing back. I deepened the kiss, brought our bodies close together. He tasted good, like mint and cola and whisky ー or maybe the whisky was me. Either way, I chased that taste as I slid my hands across his back, relished the way the muscles rippled beneath my touch. His hand buried in my hair, the other splaying across my hip. I lifted my hips, grinning into the kiss when I felt the hard length stirring between his thighs. It was a struggle, but I somehow managed to wrap one of my legs around the back of his, keeping his body so close to mine, and I was on the verge of needing to breathe, but I didn't want to give this up. He abruptly jerked away as soon as my fingers disappeared into the waistband of his jeans, itching and burning with the desire to touch. He moved quickly, putting distance between us, and sat on the edge of the bed. I stared at him, perplexed and hurt and wanting.

"We can't... we can't do this, Erin."

"Why not? We're both adults."

"You're drunk. You know you'd regret it in the morning."

"But would you?" I whispered, crawling over to straddle his lap.

His heart raced beneath my hands on his chest, and I could feel the strong, fluttering pulse under my mouth against his neck. I shifted, shoved my hips down until I felt him against my core; his hips jerked under me, and I gasped into his skin at the sensation. His fingers wrapped around my wrists, and he gently pushed me back onto the mattress.

"We are not doing this."

I pouted. "But I want to. And so do you," I added with a wild gesture toward his crotch. Doing so only brought my attention to the erection he was sporting, and my palms tingled with the want to wrap around him.

"Oh, love, no. No, you don't. That's the alcohol talking."

For some inexplicable reason, his words shattered a part of me deep down, and tears immediately filled my eyes. I gasped against the pain, the hurt, the ache. He reached out for me, but I slapped his hand away and shoved myself further away from him.

"Fine. Go, then. Just go. I don't need you. I don't need Niall. I don't need anyone."

I flung myself face-first down onto the bed, burying my face in my pillow, and I let go of the torrent of mixed-up emotions inside of me. The door closed quietly moments later, Liam leaving me to cry myself to sleep.