Sequel: Black and White
Status: complete;;


chapter four;;

A knock on the door pulled me from my half-doze, and I stared blankly at the gauzy curtains that covered the windows. It was a hard debate, whether I wanted to get up or stay where I was. The sound came again, and I sighed, struggled to move from my position on the hotel bed. Somehow, when I'd flung myself back onto the mattress, I had landed farther across than intended, so I had been lying half off the bed with my head near the floor for the last thirty minutes. When it became apparent that getting up wasn't going to be easy, I sighed and let myself slide toward the floor. Thank damn for carpets, I thought as I stumbled to my feet; the world spun 'round as I righted myself, nearly puking from dizziness, but I made my way across the room to pull open the door. Louis and Harry stood on the other side, both smiling immediately when they saw me.

"Come in."

"Why's your face so red?" Harry asked while I flopped back onto the bed, resuming my position without going as upside-down as I was. "Ah. Never mind then."

He sat on the edge of the bed to my right, and Louis lowered himself to the floor and leaned up against the bed on my left. I tapped out a rhythm on my belly with my fingertips as I waited for them to speak, making a bet with myself about which boy would break the silence first. I lost my own wager when Harry talked.

"Everybody else is out to dinner," he commented lightly and flipped at a strand of my hair. "Why didn't you go with them?"

"Why didn't you?" I shot back with a grin.

"We did. We just came back for you."

I waved off his statement. "Eh, you might as well go back. I'm not hungry."

Louis turned his head to look at me, and I stifled a giggle at the fact that I could basically see up his nose. "You're never hungry, are you?"

"Not really. I mean, sometimes? Mostly, I just live off of coffee and a few protein bars throughout the day just so I'm getting the calories needed."

"You're crazy." Harry shrugged when I looked at him. "I think Niall would lose his mind if he knew that."

I raised my shoulders jerkily and regretted it when the movement caused me to slip down a few more inches. Thankfully, I didn't fall off the bed, so I counted it as a win. The quiet in the room grew uncomfortable after a few minutes without anybody talking; I closed my eyes against the blood pounding in my head, but I could feel the way they were staring at me. Eventually, they left, Louis promising to bring me some food. I responded with a noncommital noise and ignore the click of the door closing behind them. I was mostly caught up on the way that Harry had brought Niall into the conversation. Why would he do that? Everyone had to know that Niall didn't even like me ー he'd certainly made it no secret! I groaned, reaching for a pillow and covering my face with it.

I'd spent the last few days scouring my brain for any clue as to what I'd done so wrong, but I literally had not spoken to him at all before he'd immediately froze me out. Though our bands had hung out earlier in the day after soundcheck, Niall still hadn't said a word to me. It was uncomfortable, watching him laugh and chat with everyone, even Amber, but completely ignore me. No one had seemed to notice his behaviour, so I tried to pretend it wasn't happening, but after an hour and a half of being treated as if I didn't exist, I feigned a headache and escaped to the room I shared with Amber. And only two people ー not even members of my own band ー had shown up to check on me. I scoffed and flung the pillow away from me. That hurt, probably more than Niall's silent treatment.

Fortunately, Amber burst into the room in a flurry of excitement and loud chatter. I slid off the bed again and clambered to my feet; she didn't pause in her speaking to actually give me a chance to reply to anything she was saying. Instead, she flung a pair of navy blue tights, a white-and-blue-striped long-sleeved shirt that went to my mid-thigh, and my favourite grey knit beanie. I numbly changed from my cotton shorts and tank-top into the outfit, mind still racing though it was less chaotic than before her appearance. Once I was done, Amber brushed my hair and twisted it into a braid that went from my left temple, along the base of my skull, and finished at the top of my neck on the right side. I quickly applied some eyeliner and mascara, and slipped my feet into a pair of silver flats. Her words trailed off as her eyes finally, finally, took in my expression.

"What's wrong?"

I shook my head and reached for my hoodie. "Nothing. What time is it?"

"Um, you've got about an hour before you have to get to the venue." She paused, reached out a hand for me. "Erin... you know you can always talk to me, right?"

I nodded but didn't respond. If I opened my mouth, I was sure everything I was feeling and thinking would come out in an embarrassingly large amount of word vomit that I just didn't have the energy to handle or clean up. After making sure I had my phone, I grabbed my room key and walked out to the main area of the suite to find my bandmates in various states of undress: All Jem was wearing was a towel wrapped around his waist, and Brett wasn't much better, lounging in the armchair in just his boxers. I waved goodbye, lifted my hood over my head, and exited the suite, striding unhesitatingly toward the end of the hall where the elevator bay was. I jammed my finger into the button, waited impatiently for the lift to arrive. When it did, I was grateful to find it empty.

People were pushing past each other when I stepped through the doors of the hotel. I could see a majority of them were holding signs bearing the insignia of Complete Irrationality and One Direction; some of the crowd was even taking pictures of each other standing in front of the hotel. Gratitude surged through me at the fact that they were here outside the building in anticipation of just seeing one of us. However, that joy seeped away at the realisation that their sheer number was overwhelming. I turned on my heel and walked away as fast as I could. The noise of their chatter and singing faded the further I got, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I was left alone with my thoughts. Unfortunately for me, those thoughts led straight to Niall.

I hated to admit it, but he'd made a valid point after the autograph session: It didn't make sense that I'd become a musician when I had such terrible social anxiety, especially when it prevented me from being able to be as friendly and open with the fans as my friends were. It had been relatively managed while touring the United States, though, and hadn't become harder to handle until we'd been billed to tour with the British boyband. I sighed, shoving my hands into my hoodie pockets. It was a wonder the guys let me stay in the band ー this wasn't just an observation by a guy who detested me, but in fact had been mentioned in various interviews since we started gaining notoriety. But I couldn't understand why he had such a problem with me. I knew that my quietness was a major off-putting aspect of my personality to most people; rarely does a person mind having a one-sided conversation, but no one had ever reacted the way Niall had. There had been nothing but contempt and displeasure in his eyes every time he looked my way. He tensed up if I came within two feet of him, and it was as if I was invisible when we were in the same room as each other.

I sat on the ledge of the walking bridge, staring out over the river. My mind was stuck on thinking about that damn boy, even though all I wanted was to forget about my troubles with him. Suddenly, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I rolled my eyes. I hadn't been gone long enough for it to be a problem.

From: Alan Get your ass back here. Leaving in 10 min.

Evidently, I'd been gone longer than I thought. I sighed, clambered down off the ledge carefully, and made my way through the streets until the hotel loomed large and imposing in front of me. My bandmates gave me confused looks when I met up with them in the alley behind the building, but thankfully, they didn't ask the questions I knew were on their minds. Instead, we just piled into the vans, and I ignored their questioning glances. Once we reached the venue, we all began hurrying around to get set up for the show. I handed my hoodie to Amber and reached out for the guitar that a tech was handing me. Jem's hand on my wrist stopped me before I could head for the stage.

"We decided on the setlist while you were gone. 'Confessions' is after 'Count on Me.'"

"But ー no! You know I can't sing that!"

"Too bad. You should've been there for the band meeting."

I rolled my eyes and flipped him off, scowling darkly as I followed Brett onto the stage. The fans screamed at the first sight of us, and I knew that, even through the anxiety that was already making its existence known, this was what I wanted to do for as long as I could. The reactions from the fans, the loyalty they showed for us at any hint of negativity from critics... They made the panic attacks and neverending panic worth it. I smiled brightly, adjusted the position of my guitar, and began playing the opening chords to "Fly Away".

"All right, all right! Y'all have been amazing, but I need a break from singing. Miss Erin here has a wonderful voice, though, so I'mma let her take over for a bit. E?"

"Um, okay." I chuckled breathlessly into the microphone and shifted my stance a bit. "Okay. This is a song I started writing when I was eight. Jem and Alan found it after I joined the band, and we've been working on it for five years. You guys will actually be the first, besides our families, to ever hear it. Let's go.

"I waited for you to come back, but you never showed. I waited for a letter, but I'm not worth your words. I break my own heart expecting you to care. I curse God above when you're not there." I swallowed thickly as Jem played the chords to lead up to the chorus. "You made me hate myself. You made me break apart. You were supposed to give a damn. But all you did was break my heart. What kind of father could so easily walk away? What kind of man must you be to ruin everything we had that day? I know I shouldn't care, I know I shouldn't dwell. These are just confessions from my personal Hell.

"So many wishes have been wasted on blown-out birthday candles. So many years I missed you so, but now I just can't handle the way I break my own heart expecting you to care. I curse God above when you're not there. You made me hate myself. You made me break apart. You were supposed to give a damn. But all you did was break my heart. What kind of father could so easily walk away? What kind of man must you be to ruin everything we had that day? I know I shouldn't care, I know I shouldn't dwell. These are just confessions from my personal Hell.

"Now I'm done... breaking my own heart, expecting you to care. I won't... curse God any more, because you'll never be there. You made me hate myself. You made me break apart. You were supposed to give a damn. But all you did was break my heart. What kind of father could so easily walk away? What kind of man must you be to ruin everything we had that day? I know I shouldn't care, I know I shouldn't dwell. These are just confessions from my personal Hell. Oh, these are just confessions from my... own... personal... Hell..."

I stepped away from the microphone, blinked rapidly to clear my vision. If we thought the fans were loud before, that was nothing in comparison to the noise they were making now. I quickly brushed away the tears on my cheeks, and Jem stepped out from behind the keyboard he'd been playing, shooting me a comforting smile. I couldn't return it, though; the song had been written to be therapeutic, to get out all the mixed-up feelings I had, but singing it just brought back the pain I'd been feeling when I first wrote it. I tapped my fingers against the face of my guitar, staring out at the faces before us, and as Jem talked to the crowd, my relief at being out of the spotlight suddenly melted. My heart squeezed tightly in my chest, and I struggled to breathe. The world went fuzzy and black at the edges; before I hit the ground, my last coherent thought was What the fuck is he doing here?