Sequel: Right Here
Status: active;;

Tomorrow

chapter thirty;;

The sunshine peeking through the clouds was almost insulting, too bright and cheery for the day’s events. A cold wind whipped around me, and I pushed my hair from my face. There was no sound from the inside of the house; the street outside was mostly empty save for the occasional passing car. I brushed a hand over Niall’s shoulder, watched as the lint fell away. His hands were cold as they held onto mine.

“Are you sure you have to go?”

I smiled slightly at Niall’s pout. “Yes, babe, I gotta go. Jamie’s already kinda pissed that I stayed an extra week when I’m supposed to be getting ready for the studio.”

“But I want you to stay.”

“I can’t,” I murmured apologetically before stretching up to kiss him.

He sighed against my lips, kissed back, then pulled me in for a tight hug; I could feel him trembling against me, but whether it was the cold or something else, I didn’t know. I buried my face into his neck, sniffling at the tears that were starting to form.

It had been two weeks since I’d shown up unannounced on his doorstep, and having to leave was absolutely awful. He’d convinced me to extend my visit the night before I originally planned to go home, and I hadn’t hesitated ー one week wasn’t enough. In the time I spent with him, we’d become even closer, and we even had a few days to ourselves. We only went out together once; thankfully, we hadn’t been bombarded by fans or paparazzi, which was surprising now that I thought about it, but we preferred to stay in the house, spend time with each other without interruptions. The guys finished with their album by the sixth day of my visit, and now they were gearing up for promotional events and eventually a tour.

Jamie’s phone call at the end of last week had been to tell me of the plans for a few interviews then going into the studio to cut a full-length album; she hadn’t been surprised to hear where I was, what with photos and articles of Niall and I being seen on the streets of London together, but she had sent me an irritated email two days ago, scolding me for not being back when I promised her I would and demanding me to be back in the States by the end of the week. I’d only sent back an image attachment of Niall’s pouting face in response.

It had been amazing, not just being with my boyfriend, but also the break we took from media of all sorts ー no gossip blogs, social media sites, no tabloids and magazines. Just paying attention to each other, learning each other’s bodies, talking and laughing and cuddling. I detested the thought of having to go back to that, but I had a job to do. So I kissed Niall again, hoping he could feel everything I needed him to know, and pulled away reluctantly. Grabbing the handle of my suitcase, I carried it down the sidewalk to the cab that idled by the curb. His voice stopped me before I could slide into the car. I stepped back out, apologising to Paul who had offered to get me to my flight , and waited as Niall disappeared inside.

When he came back out, he was still barefoot, but his shoes were in his hand. He jogged to the SUV and slid into the backseat once I was in. The vehicle pulled away, and I turned to give Niall an inquisitive look. He shrugged, tugged his shoes onto his feet.

“I’m selfish. I wanted more time with you.”

We didn’t speak as the car took us to the airport, and his fingers maintained a steady pressure where they were linked with mine. Paul parked and turned in his seat to smile sadly at me. I’d miss him; he had come by every so often to make sure everything was going well, that we hadn’t murdered each other or been violently killed by a stalker fan. He grabbed my luggage from the back while Niall helped me out of the car. My heart clenched in my chest, tightened even more as we walked toward the entrance to the airport.

Flashes from cameras surrounded us, but I ignored the bright bursts of light as Niall held me close. I closed my eyes against the burning, thankful for Paul and security who stood nearby but still gave us privacy. Niall’s lips pressed softly against the side of my neck; I leaned back and stared up at him. I was desperate to memorise every inch of his face. A scratchy, muddled voice overhead announced my flight, and I reached up to cup my boyfriend’s cheeks with my hands. My voice trembled when I finally managed to say something.

“Holy fuck, I love you so much.”

“I hate goodbyes.” He caught my lips in a tender kiss; the clicking and flashing increased at the sight, and I wanted so bad to flip them off, to curse every one of them out for using this moment as fodder, but I forced myself to focus on the taste and feel of Niall. “I love you, too. Call me when you land, all right?”

“I promise.”

I let my hands drop from his face, turned on my heel. I grabbed my suitcase and headed through the security checkpoint. After I slipped my shoes back onto my feet, I glanced over my shoulder. Niall still stood in the same spot, hands in his pocket; he shot me a tremulous smile, and I hit my lip and waved. My heart yearned to go back, for me to find my place in his arms again ー where I belonged. Being with him was easy as breathing, and every molecule of my body wanted to stay. Instead, I continued forward to the gate.

The flight attendant handed back my passport and ticket with a wide grin, and I took a step forward. Someone shouting my name caused me to turn around, and I stepped aside to let the other passengers board while I caught sight of my boyfriend. He’d pushed as close to the checkpoint as he could without being reprimanded or forcibly removed.

“I love you!”

I laughed shakily, pressed trembling fingers to my lips, blew him a kiss. “I love you, too,” I called back, and his responding grin eased some of the aching in my chest.

The flight attendant patted my arm as I passed, finally boarding. I found my seat, stowed my carry-on, and curled up in the chair. Dozens of people moved around out on the tarmac as planes arrived and departed; I wiped the dampness off my cheeks and shifted so I could buckle my belt. The woman from the terminal passed by, double-checking that we were all buckled in, and she discreetly handed me a few tissues. I nodded in thanks, dabbing at my eyes. The seats to either side of me were empty, and I stared at the fabric of the chairs; I hadn’t felt this lonely in a long time.

Take-off was relatively smooth, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d left my heart behind. I stared out the window, eyes unseeing, as my fellow flyers nodded off or watched the provided movie. Leaving Niall… it was difficult, more difficult than anything I’d done before, but I was perversely glad that he appeared to be struggling as much as I had to let me go. It helped to alleviate the fears that I was more invested in the relationship than he was.

Michelle, the flight attendant from the beginning of the flight, helped me grab my suitcase from the overhead compartment and motioned me toward the front of the aircraft. The other passengers had already deboarded, only a couple of stragglers still shambling down the aisle. I exited the terminal slowly, still tired and unwilling to admit my time with Niall was over.

A large cluster of people waited just beyond the terminal. Most of them were reporters and their cameras, already flashing away; I scrubbed a hand over my eyes and kept walking forward. Just over the shoulder of one of the paps, I saw a familiar face, and no matter how badly I felt, it was almost easy to push it aside at the sight of my mother’s face. I pushed through the group to launch myself at her, hugging her tightly.

“Oh, honey, I’ve missed you.”

Her voice shook, and I accepted the fact that I was crying, even as I said, “I love you, too, Mommy. Can we go home?”

“Of course, baby. C’mon.”

The paparazzi shouted out questions as we walked by, but I was too tired to answer anything. My mom steered me through the automatic doors and out to the car park. On the drive home, she told me about how she couldn’t go anywhere in the high school without hearing something along the lines of “Eriall is my OTP!”, people asking her about my relationship with Niall every time she went out in public (and whether he was going to be her son-in-law soon), and how Patrick had gotten a job as an attorney downtown.

“Is he still there, then?” I muttered sleepily.

“Yes, he is,” she sighed. “He’s trying, Erin.”

“Yeah, I know.”

She reached for my hand over the console, squeezing gently. “So, how was visiting Niall?”

By the time I finished telling her what all we had done ー minus the sex; what mother would possibly want details of her daughter’s bedroom activities? ー we’d arrived at the house. My mom smacked at my hand when I started to grab for my suitcase; I threw my hands up, rolling my eyes, and made my way up the sidewalk to the front door. I flopped down onto my bed face-first, and she set my luggage down with a laugh before kissing my forehead and leaving me alone.

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


Two days later found me lying in the hammock with a notebook leaned up against my legs. I snapped a photo of my face in a pout with Snapchat, captioned it I’ve missed the warmth, but I miss you more, and sent it off to Niall. Once that was done, I pulled my pen from behind my ear and tapped it against my chin. I couldn’t seem to find the right words to say ー and the irony of the situation was not lost on me; what kind of songwriter couldn’t write something stemming from their emotions? I should not have been stuck on the writing process, but… I was. I’d only written four words in almost two hours. I had given up and started playing Flappy Bird on my phone, failing in my attempt of beating my high score of 8. My phone vibrated against my belly, and I scooped it up.

From: Lambchop I have to tell you something…

To: Lambchop You better not be pregnant, bish

From: Lambchop What????
From: Lambchop Of course I’m not. Who would even be the father???
From: Lambchop Wtf, Erin

To: Lambchop Uh… Brett??

From: Lambchop Uh… no!!

To: Lambchop Damn. I was hoping to be godmommy. :(

From: Lambchop YOU LITERALLY JUST TOLD ME I BETTER NOT BE PREGNANT
From: Lambchop NOW YOURE SAYING YOURE DISAPPOINTED THAT YOU WONT BE GODMOMMY?!???! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU
From: Lambchop Idiot. Can I come over?

To: Lambchop I’m naked

From: Lambchop No you’re not

To: Lambchop How the eff would you know??

From: Lambchop Because I’m looking right at you, dumbass

I glanced around to see that she was, indeed, staring at me over the fence. I rolled my eyes and waved her over, unable to stop my smile. Amber pushed through the gate, locked it behind her, and ran across the yard to clamber up beside me. I squealed when the hammock threatened to overturn with the sudden addition of her weight, and her knee hit my gut as she settled in. Once the hammock was still again, she grinned.

“Hi.”

“Why bother asking to come over if you’re already here?”

“Uh, I’m being considerate? Duh.”

I stared at her incredulously, mouth agape. “You, but, that doesn’t… oh, whatever. What’s up?”

“Well, I wanted to make sure it was more than a fling, and I’ve been waiting for you and Niall to realise how disgustingly in love with each other that you are, so… here I am.” She rested her head on my shoulder, arm draping over my belly, and took a deep breath. “Brett and I are dating, and we have been for a while. It started shortly after the funeral, but we didn’t make it official until you were recording your EP.”

“He’s the guy you went on a date with?”

“Yeah.”

“Huh. Wonder how I didn’t see that coming.”

She jerked back, scowled. “You’re being sarcastic!”

“No shit! You guys weren’t very surreptitious about it at my birthday party.”

“So why didn’t you say anything then?” she asked as her brows furrowed and her head cocked.

“Because I figured you’d tell me in your own way.” I shrugged and picked at a hangnail. “If it makes you feel any better, I totally approve.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Maybe now you guys won’t be at each other’s throats if you’re always in bed.”

I screamed when she shoved me off the hammock, landing on the ground roughly with a grunt. Grass got in my mouth as I laughed and wheezed, but I couldn’t care less ー it was totally worth it.

The floorboard in the hall creaked, and I stilled, pen nib coming to a stop on the paper. A door closed with a soft click; I let out a sigh of relief and continued writing. Eventually, I ran out of words, nothing more to say, and set my pen down to reread the letter I’d been writing ー or rather, attempting to write ー all day. With a quiet cheer, since it was the middle of the night, I dropped my notebook onto the bed next to me. My shoulders and neck ached fiercely, and there was a steady, painful cramp in my right hand from having used it consistently for the past two and a half hours. The screen of my phone lit up, the third time in fifteen minutes, and I chuckled as I picked it up to respond to Niall’s texts. I’d told him of my plans to write the letter, and he had been supportive of the decision.

Patrick -
I’m sorry for making the past few months difficult on you. It wasn’t fair to you for me to be such a… a bitch. I was being a bitch. No other way to put it. It’s not much of an excuse, but you flipped my world upside down when you came back so suddenly after so many years. I got used to not having you around over those 14 years you were gone. So you just… popping back into our lives like that, it fucked everything up. My life was already enough of a mess after Jem’s death. I couldn’t seem to get a firm grip on reality. And… I didn’t want to forgive you.

I didn’t. I wanted to go on hating you. I wanted to hate you for the rest of my life because it was easier than accepting that it wasn’t hate I felt. I’ve been struggling with the anger, hurt, betrayal… but it wasn’t ever hate. Well, I hated your actions, what you did to me and Mom, but I didn’t hate <u>you</u>. Gods, but I wished I could. I needed you. I fucking NEEDED you, to be around, to help me grow, to teach me the right kind of guy to fall in love with. I guess in a way, you did. You taught me the kind of guy who didn’t deserve my love. You made me grow up fast the night you left. It wasn’t long before I realised that life isn’t a goddamn fairy tale. Not everything is rainbows and unicorns and glittery butterflies. You broke my heart. You destroyed all of my 5-year-old self’s expectations and ideas of “happily ever after”. I couldn’t believe in that shit any more after having watched the king I idolised leaving the castle he’d promised to protect forever, not once looking back at the princess who was screaming for him to not go, to come back and be a family, to love her as much as she loved him. The king ー you ー didn’t even care that the queen and princess were now all alone, struggling to make sense of how they went from one big, happy, royal family to broken, beaten peasants in a few short hours. It was… difficult, to say the least.

Mom told me not too long ago that you were trying. Trying to prove you’ve changed, that you regret what you did to us. My first thought was “good, maybe it’ll tear him up to not have us like it did ya when he left.” My heart, though… well, it wanted me to forgive you immediately. It wanted me to let you in. But I didn’t want to get hurt again. So I ignored my heart. I allowed myself to keep you at a distance so you had no chance of hurting me when, if, you decided to leave again. But then you said you’d keep Niall away after what he did because that’s what I wanted. You tried cheering me the way a father is always supposed to: with wise words and open arms. You supported my choice to get back into music, and you went to my first solo show, even making a fool of yourself by cheering so loudly that people outside on the sidewalk heard you as if you were standing next to them. But you did it for me.

You let me into your life, your heart, with no reservations. You knew it would be hard, but you still put the effort into rebuilding my trust in you. You told me about the places you’ve been, things you’ve seen, your family. You were even honest about the siblings I have, although they were part of the reason you left us. And as much as you did to prove you’re a different man now, I still wouldn’t open up to you.

I guess the whole point of this is to say… I’m sorry. I forgive you. I really do.

I love you, Dad.

I tore the pages from the notebook as quietly as I could, folded them neatly, and tiptoed through the dark and silent house to where Patrick’s briefcase sat by the front door. After placing the letter under the handle, I hurried back upstairs to my bedroom. Sleep wasted no time in claiming me.

I awoke to sunlight streaming through the window to land directly on my face. Groaning, I rolled over and blinked away the bright spots dancing in my vision. A lime green Post-It note sat on my nightstand, folded in an upside-down V atop my phone screen. I rubbed sleep from my eyes and stretched, yawning widely, before grabbing the note. On it were eight words ー eight simple words that meant the world to me and brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you. I love you, pumpkin. Love, Dad.