Sequel: Right Here
Status: active;;

Tomorrow

chapter twenty;;

The night sky was expansive, dotted with brilliant stars, above me as I lounged in the hammock. Crickets chirped and owls hooted into the quiet; I closed my eyes and relaxed into the swaying. I had spent the last couple of days avoiding any social media, and my mind felt clearer without the constant reminders of what Niall had done. I’d never be able to forget it, but at least the retweeted articles weren’t being shoved into my face. My phone vibrated against my belly, the sound of the Skype ringtone starting up.

I raised my phone to look at the screen, grinning widely as I accepted the video call. “Heya, Liam!”

He looked exhausted; stubble covered his jaw, and his hair was a mess. I giggled when he attempted to stifle a yawn just for it to force itself out of him. The video lagged slightly as he scrubbed a hand over his face.

“Hey, Er. How are you?” His eyes narrowed. “Where are you?”

“In the backyard. It’s super-quiet so I wanted to relax and enjoy it. I can’t complain. Things are going pretty well. Got some big things planned, so I’m looking forward to those. How about you? How’s the album coming along?”

Liam smiled, his tired eyes bright with joy. “It’s going so well! I can’t wait for the fans to hear it.”

“I bet. Ugh, I miss you guys,” I whined, scrunching up my face though I doubted he’d see it with how dark the video call was on my end.

“We miss you, too. It’s weird, not being able to just go down the hall and be able to hang out with you lot.”

“How are… the others?” I asked after a long moment, and his face fell, just a bit.

“The lads are making sure he knows he messed up.”

“That’s just it, Bear. He didn’t, not really. We weren’t dating. He was at complete liberty to fuck ー” Liam winced at the crudeness of my word choice, and I ignored it. “ーwho he wanted.”

Liam sighed and stared at something off-screen, his brows pulling together as he thought. “Look, Erin. He messed up with you. Even though you two weren’t dating, as you put it, he still shouldn’t have let the alcohol override his good sense. We all thought you two would end up together,” he said quietly.

“Yeah, well, we didn’t, so it is what it is.”

“Because he’s an idiot.”

“Because he realised he didn’t want me.” I exhaled sharply, pressed my palm against my eyes. “I’ve gotta go. Tell the others I said hi.”

I ended the call before Liam could respond. I knew his feelings would be hurt at the abrupt disconnection, but I really couldn’t find it in me to care. He was trying too hard to get me to see his perspective, to believe that Niall had just made a mistake instead of sending a message loud and clear about how he felt, and I just… I wasn’t able to handle it at that moment. I pushed myself out of the hammock and made my way inside. I was in the middle of pulling out a packet of microwaveable popcorn when Patrick entered the kitchen.

“Everything okay?”

I shrugged, closing the microwave door with a little more force than necessary. He hesitated then sat at the table, and the kitchen fell silent, the quiet only interrupted by the kernels popping in the microwave. The beeping sounded louder than usual in the room, and I pulled the bag out, shook it up, and carried it to the table. Patrick nudged the salt shaker in my direction.

“How is writing going?”

“Really well, actually. I, uh, I have four songs done, two or three in the works.”

“I heard about what happened to Jem. I’m… I’m really sorry.”

“It’s fine.” I stuffed a handful of popcorn into my mouth and chewed slowly. “So how long are you stickin’ around?”

His eyes widened, and he stared down at his hands. “Oh. Um…”

“Oh, Christ on a cheesecake, that came out wrong. Sorry, shit. Uh, I meant how long are you staying here, in this house?”

“I’m, I’m not sure. However long you and your mom are all right with.”

We grew quiet again, and my fingers tapped against the tabletop as I struggled to find something we could talk about. It had been a little over a week since his reappearance in my life, but we’d not said more than a few words to each other the entire time. Waking up in the mornings to find him already at the table, eating breakfast and reading the news on his phone, was still awkward.

“I’m not trying to pry,” he started, and I turned my gaze to him, frowning at the discomfort on his face, “but uh, what happened between you and that boy, the one you didn’t want coming around?”

I breathed out heavily, slowly. Of course he would have brought it up. I might have been okay as long as I didn’t think or talk about the ‘incident’, but the hurt was still there under everything. I realised the silence had dragged on too long, “Well… I don’t really know how to explain it, but, uh, basically… we were close. He helped me through Jem’s death and everything, and I thought maybe we were going to possibly be a couple? But apparently, he didn’t feel the same way and made his point.”

“His loss,” Patrick said with a snort.

“Huh?”

“Erin, listen to me. You are a beautiful, intelligent, funny, clever, amazing girl, and if this boy so unwisely chose someone over you, he’s clearly an idiot and doesn’t deserve you. His loss. You’ll find someone one day who will treat you as if you’re the only woman in the world because, in his eyes, you are. So don’t waste your tears and thoughts on this jerk.”

A wet laugh escaped, and I looked away, too uncomfortable to maintain eye contact. “Isn’t that what all dads are supposed to say to their heartbroken daughters?”

“Well, pumpkin, we dads say it because it’s true.”

It wasn’t until I finally went to bed that I realised I’d called us ‘dad’ and ‘daughter’ again.

Niall’s POV
I sprawled out on the sofa in the studio, watching but not really listening as Harry sang his heart out into the microphone. I couldn’t focus on anything for long, my mind already too preoccupied with trying to figure out why not one of my mates would look me in the eye or speak to me about anything other than the recording process; even Paul barely made eye contact any more. It had been a rough week since we’d left the US.

I’d woken up the day before our flight in an unfamiliar, empty hotel room. There hadn’t been any of my belongings in the room except the clothes I had worn to the club. I had sat on the bed for over an hour, trying to will away the pounding in my head, and wondered how I ended up there. I didn’t remember much of the night before, just flashes of dancing in the club and drinking. I had fully expected Erin to text me whenever she wanted me to come back to her house, but there had never been a message from her.

I glanced down at my phone. The last text had been from me to her. Before I could stop myself, my fingers typed out a new message: I really wish you were here. X

“Wouldn’t send that, if I was you.”

I jumped, startled at how close Zayn’s voice was to my ear. “What? Why not?”

He ignored me and focused on the game he was playing on his phone. I glanced up at the sound mixer who was ostensibly more attentive to the recording process than my conversation ー or lack thereof ー with Zayn. My bandmate didn’t say anything else; frustration sparked to life deep in my gut, and my knee bounced up and down as I waited impatiently.

“Zayn. Do you know something I don’t?”

“Unless you’re somehow blissfully unaware of how much an idiot you are, then no,” he spat between clenched teeth.

After that, he refused to reply or even acknowledge that I was speaking. I gave up on trying to get answers and sat back, settled into the couch cushions. The door squeaked softly, and I looked over to see Liam in the entrance. His eyes landed on me; he frowned and turned, walking away. I followed him on a whim. I caught up with him just down the hall.

“Liam, what’s going on? You lot have barely spoken to me. Anything you do say only has to do with the album. You won’t look at me, you won’t be in the same room as me. Did I somehow contract a contagious disease without knowing?”

He sighed, scrubbing at his face with a hand. “No, Niall. You don’t have a disease.”

“Then whatー?”

“If I have to tell you what you did wrong, then you’re obviously more dense than any of us realised!”

I stared after him, frozen in my spot, as he stormed away. Liam rarely raised his voice; when he did, everyone knew he was past his breaking point. I leaned against the wall behind me, slid down until I was sat on the floor. People passed by me at random intervals, but I paid them no attention. My phone screen stayed completely dark, no new notifications at all, and my heart ached at the lack of contact with Erin.I still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but I was beginning to think it had a lot to do with her.

“Please, no, please,” I plead, and the hulking figure in front of me lets out a booming laugh. “I ー I’m begging you, don’t do this.”

“Too bad, Niall. You brought this on yourself.”

The ground beneath my feet crumbles away, and I scramble to find solid earth. There is none to be found. Anywhere my feet or hands touch immediately turns to dust, disappearing beneath me. I fall down, down, down, into the deep abyss threatening to swallow me up. My nail rake against the soil around me, struggling in my search for something to save me. Nothing. The shadow looms over me as dirt begins to plummet and gather at my feet. Its long, slender fingers dance and twirl in the air, and I watch, mesmerised by the movements, even though the motions are leading to my inevitable end. My breathing quickens, lungs burning with the short shallow gasps of breath, and I try to fight against the clumps of soil cascading down, but there’s no use ー I’m slowly being buried. I stare upwards.

The shadow leans over the edge of the pit; I can feel its gaze, cold and hard and penetrating through my bones. I choke as dirt and dust coat my tongue, fill my mouth. Before the last of the dirt can cover my head, I rasp out a final question.

“Why?”

Silvery light, thin and pointed, illuminates the figure’ face. Those blue eyes are hauntingly familiar, though they’re frozen ice and just as emotionless. Erin gives me a wicked grin that chills me to my core.

“Because you deserve it, Niall.”


“Niall! Wake up, mate!”

The sound of someone screaming suddenly stopped, and my eyes snapped open as pain blossoms across my face. Harry stood over me, his face screwed up with sleep and worry. I sat up shakily, arms trembling and weak, trying to resist the urge to vomit all over the floor. My hands shook violently when I brought them up to cover my face; sweat coated my skin, and my T-shirt clung to my body. The nightmare had felt so real. I could still feel the scratchiness of dry earth as it rained down on me. Suddenly, I lurched past Harry and toward the bathroom. I fell to my knees in front of the toilet right as my dinner made its reappearance.

“You all right?”

I retched, spit the bile into the toilet, and gulped down a few breaths before looking up to see him in the doorway. “Yeah, bad dream.”

“Must have been terrible, to have you screaming like that.”

“I suppose.”

Once I brushed my teeth and washed my face of sweat and spit, I made my way on exhausted legs to the living room, where he’d let me spend the night. I frowned when Harry followed. I was glad that he was concerned about my well-being, but the way he was acting now was a sharp contrast to how he ー and the others ー had treated me all week.

“What are you doing?” I snapped when I caught sight of him standing in the middle of the room, arms crossed over his chest, with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Making sure you’re okay.”

I tossed the pillow to the other end of the couch, dropping onto the cushions with a muttered, “Thought you didn’t care about me?”

“Says who?” Harry scoffed. “Oh, come off it, Niall! I never once said I didn’t care. I’m just...disappointed in you.” He pauses then scrunched up his face, his body shivering. “Hell, I just sounded like my father.”

“Disappointed?”

“Maybe… maybe you should search the internet for clues, if you can’t figure it out yourself.”

He left after sighing once more. I heard the click of his bedroom door shutting, and my mind buzzed with his words. As hard as I tried, I hadn’t been able to solve this puzzle. Unbidden images of the nightmare ー particularly Erin’s icy smile ー resurfaced, and I gagged at the memory. The silence was deafening, echoing throughout the house, and I stared at the far wall. Eventually, I pushed myself to my feet and crossed the room to grab my sweatshirt off the back of the armchair where I’d thrown it earlier. I grabbed my phone from the pocket, unlocked the device, and Googled my name and the date of the last message to Erin, the day she stopped replying.

“Oh, fuck.”