Sequel: Right Here
Status: active;;

Tomorrow

chapter five;;

For so many people crammed into one venue, it was awfully quiet when I came to. I blinked slowly, squinting when the bright lights of the stage blinded me; Jem’s face appeared above mine, eyes wide and mouth tight at the corners. I breathed in deeply, willing the nausea to abate. I slowly sat up with his assistance and assessed any possible injuries. I could only feel a dull ache in my back and a throbbing pain in my skull; the fans erupted into a buzz of noise ー most likely wondering what caused me to faint ー but we ignored them in favour of making sure I was okay enough to stand. Brett helped me to my feet, and I squeezed his hand in thanks. Before I could get my guitar ready for the next song, Jem was back at the microphone and speaking to the audience.

“I’m, I’m so sorry, everybody. I know we only have two more songs leftー”

My jaw dropped, and I pushed past Brett to storm to Jem’s side. “Don’t you even dare!” I objected. “We’re finishing the set.”

“Erin…”

“You try to cut it short, and I swear, I’ll beat your ass.”

The fans screamed with pleasure, and Jem hesitated. I could see him warring with himself, but he eventually caved. We played our two slowest tracks as a finisher, which I was grateful for, because the slight pain had escalated into full-blown agony. Amber met us backstage with an ice pack and a couple of acetaminophens. I swallowed the pills without water, pressed the cold compress to the back of my head, and groaned when someone brushed past me, sending flickers of pain throughout my body. I could hear the members of One Direction coming nearer, but I kept my eyes closed. Amber’s voice was stern when she spoke.

“Louis Tomlinson, don’t even think about it. She is in no state to be picked up, spun around, or even touched right now.”

“What happened?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I spat out between clenched teeth in response to Niall’s question before allowing Amber to guide me toward the dressing room.

My best friend helped me change into a pair of black sweats, a plain blue tank-top, and my favourite oversized hoodie. I leaned against her, didn’t even protest as she led me out through the back exit to find Bryan, our head of security. She spoke quietly, and I didn’t try to listen in, too busy fighting against my stomach; I winced at the gruffness in Bryan’s tone as he radioed for the rest of security to take over. Amber assisted me into the backseat of the rental SUV, and I curled up on the seat as Bryan started the car and drove us out of the parking lot.

The nurse gave me a sympathetic smile before he left the room. Amber had a hold of my hand, gently gripping as reassurance that she was still there; I closed my eyes against the lights of the room, but Amber wasn’t going to leave me alone about it.

“What happened?”

“I fainted, obviously.”

“Wanna tell me why?”

“No.”

“Erin, it isn’t normal to pass out in the middle of your set. There has to be a reason!”

“There is a reason, but I don’t want to fucking talk about it! Now, please, leave me alone. My head is hurting bad enough.”

“I bet it is.”

The doctor smiled at me from the doorway. She sat on the stool beside the bed and stared down at the file in her hand. I fidgeted nervously and waited.

“Okay, Miss McCarty, could you tell me what happened?”

“Guess… guess I just got too hot and passed out. Occupational hazards of being onstage in a crowded venue.”

“Okay. Have you eaten anything today? Taken medications or drank something you shouldn’t have?”

“I, well, I’ve eaten. I don’t take medicines except for, like, ibuprofen or whatever if I have a headache, and I don’t really drink alcohol.”

“All right. Well, I’ve got you scheduled for some CT scans so we can see if there’s any damage, then we’ll figure out where to go from there, okay?”

Two and a half hours later, Bryan pulled up in front of the hospital, and the staff and security helped to keep the fans away while Amber guided me into the vehicle. I could hear questions being shouted at me, but I ignored them; it wasn’t like anyone would let me answer them even if I wanted to. The noise fell to a muffled roar once the door was closed behind us. My head was spinning from everything that had happened. I was just thankful that the hospital had supplied me with a prescription of pain killers. Unfortunately, Doctor Newart had ordered me to wear a brace in order to not injure my back worse.

“So what’d they say?”

I rubbed a hand over my eyes as I made my way across the main room of the suite. “Mild concussion, bruised vertebrae, the usual fun stuff. Night.”

It took less than ten minutes to fall asleep that night.

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


My fingers never stopped dancing across the strings as I watched the newcomer stride down the aisle toward the stage as if she owned the place. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a messy bun; around her neck hung a lanyard to which a badge was clipped. She wore a tight-fitting Mariana’s Trench T-shirt and hip-hugging jean shorts that showed off all of her long, tan legs. Alan almost started drooling on sight, and I couldn’t really blame him ー she was drop-dead gorgeous.

“Who are you?”

She stopped at the edge of the stage, leaning her hip against it and staring up at Jem with a sly smile. “I’m Stefanie. I’m gonna be your new best friend.”

“How’d you even get in here?” Amber asked shortly; personally, she had more attitude than I thought was necessary, but with the expression on her face, I wasn’t going to mention it. “The show doesn’t start for another three hours, and soundcheck is usually closed to outsiders.”

“It’s called being the photographer, hun. I get to hang around celebrities, doing something… useful.”

“Enough.” Brett sighed, set his bass aside. “Stefanie, right?”

“Yep, but not Stef. I’ll fight you if you do.”

“All right. Well, I’m sorry, but we didn’t ask for a photographer to come to our soundcheck. So maybe you should leave.”

“You maybe didn’t, but your management did. So did One Direction’s. I’m not here to be a burden, but I am supposed to be here.”

I grimaced as we all rose our feet; the pain medication was wearing off. Amber hopped off the stage to stand out where, in a few hours’ time, thousand of fans would be screaming and singing along to our songs. Stefanie walked back up the aisle and grabbed a box from one of the seats. Her camera clicked as she took photos, the sound barely audible over Jem’s voice or the instruments. Rehearsal went smoothly, and I could only hope it would sound just as great later.

Louis, thankfully, refrained himself from what I’d gotten accustomed to as his “traditional” method of greeting me. Instead, he chose to pat me gingerly on the shoulder; the sparkle in his eye was still there, which made me feel less like screaming. Amber had been acting as if I were a house of cards ー one wrong move, and they’d all come tumbling to the ground, and I’d end up broken in a million pieces. Jem had been avoiding me ever since I yelled at him to stop asking why I’d fainted, and Alan continuously asked if there was anything I needed. Brett was the only who hadn’t really treated me any differently, not like he’d ever been overly open with affection.

Another person whose behaviour toward me hadn’t differentiated from the normal was Niall. Honestly, I never thought I’d be grateful for being treated like I was invisible. But I was. I caught myself gravitating toward him whenever I felt the others were smothering me with their worry and inquiries. I truly welcomed him ignoring me over the alternative of spending hours trying not to lose my temper.

...

I sighed and followed my bandmates onto the stage. Stefanie was already there between the guardrail and the stage, camera at the ready. I took a seat on the high-backed stool a tech had set up for me, and the others got into place with their respective instruments. I couldn’t help myself ー I tuned out the conversation that Jem was holding with the fans, hoping he’d hurry up and get to the music.

My vision was pulsing at the edges by the time the set finished. I’d barely gotten out of view of the fans before the protein bars and vitamin water I’d ingested before our gig at Amber’s persistence made its reappearance on the floor. Amber lunged forward to hold my hair back. Louis and Liam’s faces were twisted up in concern; Harry looked torn between worry and disgust, while Zayn took a large step backwards, away from the puddle of vomit. Even Niall’s eyes had changed from blank and uncaring to something I couldn’t read. Arms wrapped around my shoulders, and I leaned heavily against whoever it was and let them lead me back to the dressing room.

After the other band played and cleaned up, we all walked together to the tables where we’d be signing autographs. Louis was sweet enough to keep an arm around my waist so that I wouldn’t fall or stumble. I adjusted the brace I had to wear once I sat down, smiled at Harry as he tossed a Sharpie to me, and settled in to wait. I glanced around the room, my eyes landing on Niall, and to my shock, he was staring back at me.