Sequel: Right Here
Status: active;;

Tomorrow

chapter twenty-six;;

I bit my lip, stared down at the keyboard of my laptop. I could either tell Niall what happened and hope he wouldn’t freak out too much, or I could pretend I’d somehow done it to myself on accident. That second option was immediately vetoed when I realised that multiple videos of the incident would be on YouTube within hours, and if I lied about it and he ended up stumbling onto a recording of it, he wouldn’t take it very well; instead, we’d be fighting or not talking ー again. I tapped my finger on the plastic casing of my computer and drew in a steadying breath.

By the time I was finished telling him what happened, he looked downright murderous. His normally bright blue eyes, so happy and full of life, were dark with anger, and his jaw ticked with the force of him clenching his teeth together. His shaky breathing was audible even through the video connection; I chewed on the inside of my cheek, waited for him to say something, anything.

“Please tell me you’re going to press charges against her.”

“I, uh… I haven’t thought that far ahead, honestly. I was too busy trying to stop the bleeding and get away from her.”

He nodded slowly, but I could tell he wasn’t thrilled with lack of definitive yes. “Are you all right otherwise?”

“Yeah, babe. I’m fine. I mean, I’ll have a nasty bruise, and holy hell does my face hurt. But Bry says my nose isn’t broken, so that’s good, right?”

“I wish I’d been there,” he admitted quietly, and I cocked my head to the side, frowning.

“Why? It’s not like anybody knew she was going to do that. You couldn’t have stopped her.”

“Well, no, but at least I would be there to take care of you now.”

I sighed with a soft smile, shifting to get more comfortable. “Ni, doll, stop. Please. Okay? There’s no point in beating yourself up. It’s done, and we can’t change that. Besides, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself, ya know. Been doin’ it for twenty years. All I need to hear from you is that I still look good, even with a squashed nose. Or is a bruised and bloody face not a massive turn-on of yours?”

“Not funny,” he snapped, and my eyes rolled as he glared at me through the screen.

“I thought it was.”

“You do realise that when the lads hear about this, they’re going to be just as angry as I am, right?”

My humour dropped away instantly, and it hit me that he was right: The guys would be absolutely incensed at the news. I scratched at my eyebrow and shrugged.

“You’ll be a good boyfr ー boy and tell them I’m fine, though… right?”

“Were you, were you about to say boyfriend?”

I froze for a moment then raised my hand to pick at the dry skin on my lip as my cheeks burned. “Uh, maybe?”

“That’s adorable.”

“Hey, answer the damn question!” I demanded, laughing awkwardly, and his grin widened.

“Yes, I’ll be a good boyfriend and tell them you’re fine. And still immensely sexy and beautiful, even with a squashed nose.”

I buried my face in my hands, shaking my head at his words. Quickly changing the subject to something other than myself, I told him how the show had gone and stared at him through the screen. I knew it was early where he was ー the shadows under his eyes and the stifled yawns were proof enough ー but I couldn’t refrain from being selfish, from keeping him on the call. His voice was what I needed to hear after the Hell I’d endured that day. I loved seeing his face, and I hated the thought of not having that even for a few hours.

He informed me that our friends were now treating him like they used to, as if the drama hadn’t occurred. My smile must have seemed off as he talked about how excited he was to release their singles and tour again, because his voice trailed off, and he gave me a concerned look. I fidgeted but voiced my concerns: How were we going to make this work if we never saw each other? What would happen if we found the distance and hectic schedules to be too much?

“Erin, love. You’re overthinking this. Yes, it’ll be difficult and crazy and take a lot of juggling things around, but if we’re both invested in this relationship, which I most certainly am, then we’ll find a way to make it work. Believe me, I’m all in for the long run. I’m not going to give up just because things get hard.”

“What if you find someone else? Someone you like better than me?”

“Crazy girl. I sang you two love songs over Skype, one of which I’d never even heard before but found the lyrics to and realised it fit our situation. I learned it because I couldn’t stand not having you in my life for one more second. Yes, there may be a girl out there who I’m more compatible with, who I might like more, but that’s only because… well, let’s face it. You’re stubborn, and so am I, so we clash sometimes. But don’t ever think I will find someone I love more than you.

“It might be too soon, but…” He shrugged, sighing, and I blinked away the tears. “It’s true. I do. I love you, and that will never change. Maybe I haven’t shown you well enough just how much I need you and only you, but I’m gonna change that. You are the only one who’s ever made me feel this way, love, so stop worrying your pretty little head over this. Let’s just take it day by day, and I’ll prove how much I love you and that I am not going anywhere. Deal?” He paused, squinting his eyes, and his head tilted. “Are you crying?”

.:.:.:.:.:.


The makeup artist groaned in frustration. “Honey, there’s nothing I can do. This is just… too much.”

“That’s fine. I kinda figured it’d be pretty hard to cover.”

It had been two days since the attack after my show, and the black-purple-blue discolouration around my nose and under my eyes was more prominent than it was after I was first punched. Though Kellie had tried masking the bruising with loads of makeup, all she’d succeeded in doing was making me look like a prostitute. She sighed, grabbed a wipe, and scrubbed my face clean. I sat back and let her do her job. Finally, with significantly less powder, I was led to the little hall that connected with the stage. The host finished introducing me, and I strode out into the bright lights amidst loud applause and cheering. He embraced me quickly; we both took our seats, and I smiled brightly at Craig Ferguson.

“Well, welcome, welcome, Erin! First time here, yes?”

“Yeah, yeah, it is. It doesn’t feel quite real yet, either. Where’s Geoff?” I shifted in my seat, staring around wildly until my gaze landed on the animatronic human skeleton, his vivid blue ‘eyes’ shining brightly in the skull. “Oh! Oh, my Gods, there he is!”

The audience laughed at my outburst, but I ignored them; I’d been watching The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson for years, so I had become an enormous fan of both the host and the sidekick. Craig and I exchanged a few jokes before he got down to business. His eyes darted from my nose then back up, and he smiled widely.

“So you seem to be sportin’ a pretty big bruise. What exactly happened?”

“I, uh, I basically got a soda shower followed by a punch to the face. No idea, why, though,” I said with an exaggerated shrug.

“Well, you look as amazing as ever.”

“Aw, thanks!”

He tapped the edge of the cards in his hands against the top of his desk. “How is the tour going? How is being a solo artist?”

“Minus the, um, wayward fist mishap, it’s been awesome. I’m having so much fun. It’s definitely a lot different than touring and making music with my best friends, but it’s not a bad different.”

“I’m glad to hear it. You had to add more dates to the tour, yeah? Was that something you’d thought about doing prior to setting out, or…?”

“No, actually, that was because my management company was keeping tabs on social media, paying attention to what the fans were saying, and when they’d spent seven hours reading nothing but tweets and posts asking for more, well, they caved.” The audience cheered. I chuckled softly and brushed a curl from my face. . “It was the right choice, and I’m thankful every day that they gave us the go-ahead.”

“Well, we’ve some questions fans have tweeted to us that they’d like to ask. You ready?”

“I… honestly doubt it, but let’s go!”

What do you miss most when on the road? “Truthfully? My mom.” Everybody, including Craig, laughed loudly, and I threw my hands in the air with an enormous grin. “Not even ashamed of that, at all.”

How hard is it singing “Home” every night? “It was a lot harder in the beginning. But now, it’s… it’s kinda like the song has always been a part of me. It doesn’t hurt as much to sing it, no matter how much I wish he was still around.”

What happened between you and Niall? “Oh, my gosh. Well, it was a pretty massive, how should I say this?” I wrinkled my nose at Craig when he gestured insistently for me to continue, “it was a disagreement, I guess is the best way to put it. But we talked, and everything’s settled now.”

Craig’s brows furrowed, and he waved a hand in the air to quiet the sudden burst of noise from the audience. “Wait, wait, wait! ‘Settled’? Does this mean… Erin McCarty, does this mean that you and Niall are dating now?”

I stilled with my mouth open slightly before raising a finger. The fingers of my left hand awkwardly typed out a message, and I flashed an uncomfortable smile as I waited for a reply. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for my phone to vibrate.

From: Ni-baby If you want it to, then yes, I’m your boyfriend that you are 100% dating

“Done?” he asked when I looked back up at him.

“Yeah, sorry, probably should have figured that out before now.”

“Just maybe,” he responded with a chuckle. “So? Yay or nay? The world wants ー nay, it needs to know! Don’t leave us hanging!”

A laugh spilled out of me before I could stop it, but he had made it almost impossible to not react to his expression: wide eyes, hands gripping the edge of the desk tightly enough that his knuckles turned white, leaning toward me and dramatically shaking in anticipation of my response. I held the phone up to Craig to show him the text, and he toppled out of his chair in a show of theatrics. I nodded to the laughing crowd, and their amusement turned to screams of delight. Craig hauled himself back up into his seat and folded his hands beneath his chin.

“Can you please tell these lovely people what name you have set for him? Because it was the most adorable name I’ve ever seen.”

I blushed and ducked my head, rolling my eyes. “He’s in my phone as Ni-baby, okay? There, now you all know the most embarrassingly, sickeningly sweet name I have in my contact list!”

Craig, thankfully, let the subject drop and asked a few more questions before announcing a break. After hugging him again, I walked backstage to change out of my floral-print dress into a pair of black skinny jeans, a white tank-top, and cropped leather jacket. Kellie hurried to fix my makeup, pinned my curls back, and flashed me a thumbs-up. I bounced to my feet out of the chair and followed a security guard back to the stage. I stood behind the microphone that techs had set up while the cameras were off. Craig came to my side right as the camera operator signalled they were rolling again.

“And we’re back. So, Erin, you performed this song for the first time publicly while on tour with One Direction, correct?”

“Yeah, it hadn’t ever been played before that.”

He turned to the camera ー and the audience, by default. “This is the lovely Erin McCarty performing ‘Confessions’.”

I took a deep breath and started to sing.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.


I took my suitcase from the driver’s hand, passed over the money, and walked through the gate at the end of the sidewalk. The cab pulled away from the curb, and I stopped at the front door, hesitating. I slipped my hand over the pocket of my sweatpants, breathing out in relief when I felt the familiar hard rectangle of my phone. Eventually, I decided I couldn’t put it off any longer; I knocked on the door and waited. Minutes passed without answer, and my frustration grew the more I just stood there. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I knocked again, harder this time. The second attempted more successful, and I bit my lip as I heard footsteps on the other side of the door. The person who answered, though, wasn’t who I expected.

“Uh, who are you?” I asked, my eyes narrowing at the sight of the gorgeous brown-haired girl, and her jaw dropped, fingers coming up to cover her mouth.

“Oh, my God, Erin McCarty?”

“Yeah, who are you?”

“Gem, who is it?” Harry came into view, stumbled to a stop as he stared wide-eyed at me. “Oh, uh. Oi, Niall, it’s for you, mate.”

“Well, obviously, as this is my house,” my favourite voice called back from a distance.

My heart began beating painfully against my ribs, and I wiped my suddenly-clammy hands on my pants. I recognised the slow, steady steps that came nearer; my breath caught in my throat when he rounded the corner. His steps faltered, ceased, and I smiled shyly in the face of those gorgeous blue eyes and surprised expression, mouth opened in an ‘o’.

Erin?”

“Hey, Niall.”