Sequel: Black and White
Status: complete;;


chapter twenty-five;;

I dragged my gaze away from the ring on my hand, the one Niall had gotten me for my birthday, and back down to my phone, laughing again when I saw the screenshot Amber had sent me. I’d looked at it a minimum of fifteen times in the four hours since I’d received it, but it seemed to get funnier each and every time. She hadn’t been overly thrilled when I told her I had forgiven Niall, but she didn’t dwell on it, just told me to be careful and no one would find his body if he hurt me again. Giggling, I decided to forward the image to Harry with a winky face.

“What’s so funny?” Owen asked, stopping by my table on his way to refill his cup at the soda dispenser.

“Oh, just something a friend texted me.”

“Inside joke?”

“Eh, not really. Um, Niall ー y’know, from One Direction ー had Tweeted ‘You know you messed up bad when someone writes a song about you…’ Well, Amber got a screenshot of someone’s reply of, um, ‘But I thought Harry’s been through with TSwift for a while now…?’” I grimaced when he didn’t laugh along with me. “I dunno, it just cracked me up.”

The drummer shook his head with a smile. “Man, kids these days find humour in the dumbest shit.”

“Hey!” I pouted. “That’s not very nice of you. And I’ll have you know, I’m almost officially out of my ‘teens, thank you very much!”

He walked away laughing, and I went back to texting Amber with a smile on my face. We were only a third of the way through the second small tour that my management company had organised, and each of the venues had been ridiculously packed. Fans had lined up outside the building in the mornings, waiting for literal hours to catch a glimpse of me before the show in the evening. We’d had to add on another two months of dates just because of the demand from fans that they wanted to come to a show. It had been a bit hectic to figure out, but eventually, my crew and I told management we didn’t really care if it pushed back the schedule for the full-length album ー it was worth it to make people happy. I’d done my best to say hi to everyone everywhere we went; unfortunately, it just wasn’t possible. There were too many fans and only one of me.

I was also working on my anxiety. Patrick had found a highly-recommended therapist who would accommodate my hectic schedule. For now, our sessions were held via telephone or Skype twice a week. He was, in my eyes, a miracle worker just for that alone. But the fact that he’d take my calls at any time (unless he was with another patient, then his wife would talk to me) made him a damn near saint. Doctor Kimball had admitted that he wasn’t pleased with the fact that I seemed to have accepted Niall back into my life with little hesitation, but he was proud of the fact that I was learning to trust myself and others. I’d been sitting high on that praise for over a week now.

I finished my coffee as Zach signalled for the server. Once the bill was paid, we headed to the bus, and I waited until the others had boarded before following suit; Bryan pushed me toward the kitchen area so I wouldn’t sit next to him ー he liked to say I annoyed him, but I knew better. I laid down on the couch in the lounge, stretched out. Amber had stopped messaging me now, which meant she’d gone to work. My mother was busy with teaching, and Patrick was who knows where, doing who knows what ー although I was pretty sure he was at the house trying to set up his business again. I had become accustomed to his presence. To tell the truth, it was almost… nice to call the house and hear his voice instead of my mom’s. He was company when I was home and would normally be alone, and he told me some amazing stories about his life when he was a kid. He’d also informed me about my half-sister and -brother, Jonna and Riley. They wanted to meet my mother and me; even their mom was interested in the idea. I, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure. It felt wrong, almost, to consider meeting the family my father had created after abandoning us the way he did.

Another successful show came to a close; I waved and bowed at the screaming crowd before walking backstage. I’d asked the One Direction guys if they minded if I did a cover of one of their songs, and of course, I had received a resounding “do it do it do it do it”, so I’d had Joe video me singing Little Things so I could send it to my friends later. Bryan ushered me to the dressing room and stood outside the door while I hurried to wash up. One thing I had always refused to do was meet fans when I looked like a sweat-soaked raccoon. He stayed by my side as I made my way to the tables where I’d be signing autographs and taking pictures.

The line began dwindling down after an hour; I was grateful for the support the fans were giving me, but at the moment, all I wanted was to load up onto the bus and leave so that I could sleep. I did a rough count of how many people were still waiting, then forced a smile when I saw there were only around twenty more fans left. Bryan motioned for the next girl to come to the table. She grinned widely, and I held out a hand for whatever she wanted me to sign; she had other plans, however, and threw her cup of soda at my face. I sat there, dumbfounded and with my hand still hanging stupidly in midair, as sticky liquid splashed over my face and dripped down my body. Her fist drew back and then came toward me at full-speed; deafening shouts echoed chaotically throughout the large area, and I brought a hand up, unable to concentrate on anything other than my attempts to stem the flow of blood pouring from my nose.

A pair of hands grabbed at me roughly, yanked me from my seat, and I stumbled along behind the person, hoping they were leading me somewhere safe and not into yet another flying fist. I coughed when blood trickled down the back of my throat, and a wad of toilet paper was pressed against my nose. I took over to keep it there and made my way to the bathroom to spit the blood from my mouth.

“Jesus, can’t leave you alone for one second, can we?”

I tried smiling at Zach’s statement but only succeeded in exacerbating the pain in my nose instead. “Apparently not. Thanks for getting me outta there.”

“Any time. It’s what friends are for, right?”

“I guess.” I sighed and pulled the mass of bloody tissue from my face, biting my lip at how red and soaked it was. “Think the bitch broke my nose?”

“Um, I’m not a doctor, so don’t take this as, like, a solid diagnosis, but… maybe? It looked like she put a helluva lot of force behind that swing. Somebody needs anger management.”

The door slammed open behind us, and I whirled on my heel, immediately cowering under Bryan’s enraged glare. I knew he wasn’t mad at me, I was the innocent victim in all this, but still, he was scary. He grabbed my chin in one hand and gingerly touched the bridge of my nose with the other. I hissed at the pain of the pressure but remained still so he could perform the examination. Finally, he let out a heavy sigh.

“Not broken.”

A weight seemed to lift off my shoulders at his words. He ordered me to stay right where I was (“I swear to God, Erin, if you move even one muscle, I will kick your ass from here to Timbuktu.”) and left the room. Zach raised his eyebrows but stayed silent when Joe took up position as guard outside the room. Within minutes, Bryan reappeared with a cloth of ice in hand; I barely got the cold pack against my nose before he was ushering us out the back door and onto the buses. Thankfully, he didn’t leave me alone, instead climbing onto the bus behind me, pulling the door shut, and sitting down in the kitchenette area. I rolled my eyes, grabbing my laptop, and headed for the lounge in the back. Skype automatically loaded up and logged me in, and I double-clicked on a name. As soon as the call connected, Niall’s smile fell from his face.

“Shit, love. What the Hell happened?”