‹ Prequel: Black and White

To the End

one

The symbol doesn't change the longer I stare at it. My stomach churns, threatens to expel everything I've ingested today. This can't be happening, I think rather desperately. I drop the pregnancy test to the countertop and take a step backward; my hands tremble, and I clench them into fists to stop the shaking. Tears sting in my eyes as they form. I wish I wasn't alone, but I know well enough that I wouldn't be able to handle this if anyone else was here. I exhale shakily. A tear slips from my cheek onto my arm, and the dam breaks. I let out a broken gasp when breathing becomes a struggle.

A knock on the door startles me. I clear my throat and grab the test, shoving it in one of the empty drawers. Amber stands on the other side, hand raised to knock again; her brow raises as she takes in my face. I let her in and shut the door again.

“Babe? What's wrong?”

“I…”

Words fail me, and I make a vague gesture toward the drawer. Her brows furrow, but she pulls it open and stares, damningly silent, down at the test. When she looks back up at me, her eyes are shining; her mouth wobbles, and she closes the drawer.

“Is this for real?”

I nod and swallow thickly. My best friend gives a succinct nod then tugs me in for a tight hug. I lose track of how long we stand like that, but neither of us speak as we cling to each other Eventually, she pushes me to sit on the closed toilet lid, and I stare at my feet as she perches on the countertop. From the corner of my eye I see her pick up the test gingerly by the end. My heart beats rapidly under my ribs, and I just want her to say something. Anything would be better than the uncomfortable silence.

“Did you just find out?” she asks quietly, and I dip my chin. Her sigh is loud in the quiet; her feet swing slightly as they dangle. “Okay. So. First off, how do you feel about this?”

I give a jerky shrug in response then, when she doesn't speak further, manage to say, “I don't know. Like, I just… can't figure out how I'm supposed to feel. I know that, sure, a lot of people would immediately be thrilled and calling everyone they know. But I, I don't feel that urge, y’know? Honestly, I'm scared as Hell.”

“Why?”

“Because! I'm not even twenty-two yet! I don't have the time. I barely see my family, not even my husband. You're the one person besides the band that I see on a regular basis, and that's only because you stalk me whenever you're tired of your job. Like right now.” I sigh, run my hand through my hair. “And I haven't even thought about what anyone else might think. I mean, management shouldn't get too upset, they usually don't. Mom and Dad, though… they might be pissed at first, but they’ll get over it, I guess. Then they'll be over the fucking moon.”

“You know our friends will be supportive,” she reminds me gently; I nod.

“Yeah, I know.”

“But?”

“But I… Lambchop, I don't know how Niall’s gonna react.”

She cocks her head to the side, frowning. “What do you mean? Don’t you two know each other in every way possible?”

“We, uh, we’ve never talked about having kids,” I admit on a whisper.

Amber reaches out and swats at my head; I duck, mostly on instinct, and her fingers graze the top of my skull. She hops off the counter, crouches in front of me, and grips my hands tightly in hers. I hesitate but then reluctantly meet her eyes, and the gentle smile that she gives me nearly sends me bursting into tears.

“Erin, I love you. Okay? But this is something that you absolutely need to talk to Niall about. Trust me, that boy is so crazy for you, he’d jump off the tallest building in the world if it would make you happy. I mean, don’t ever tell him to, but the sentiment remains. Talk to him. Figure out a game plan with him, and go from there. If, and this is a huge if that I don’t think will ever need to be thought about again, if he decides that a kid isn’t in his life’s plan, then you and I can figure something out together. But I can’t help you with anything right now until you call Niall and discuss this with him.”

I let her wrap me in another embrace, rest my head on her shoulder, and sink into the solidity and warmth of her as I mull over her words. She’s right, as usual: This is one-hundred-percent a bit of news that Niall should know. I slowly pull away and step around her to splash my face with cold water. The test still sits on the counter. I stare down at it before picking it up. Amber takes it from me and wraps it in some paper towel, slipping it into her back pocket. I know she’ll put it in my luggage once she is alone. I sit next to the sink and try to relax as she pulls my makeup bag closer to her.

Thirty minutes later, I rejoin the rest of my band, and Zach throws an arm over my shoulder as we make our way down the corridor to the side of the stage. Amber smacks my ass while passing by to disappear into the crowd, and I let my band mates lead me onto the stage. I'm not sure whether the twisting in my gut is the nerves from the show - playing live has yet to get easier - or the knowledge I was keeping to myself. Either reason is equally as plausible as the other. I shove those thoughts aside, adjust my microphone, and loop my guitar strap over my shoulder. The crowd screams and cheers as I ready myself; I don't bother with any pre-set chatter, just immediately start picking out the opening chords to Free.

[…]


The bus is quiet as the tires eat up the miles to the next destination. I stretch out on the lounge sofa and close my eyes. I am completely exhausted, but my brain is in overdrive. My fingers tap against my belly absentmindedly, and I do my best to breathe deeply and evenly, struggling to calm the maelstrom in my mind. Spongebob’s laugh sounds, startlingly loud in the silence; I reach for my phone.

From: Lambchop Wait. Does this mean it happened that time you two did the do, like, 2 months ago but we're not supposed to know about that?

I slap a hand over my face and groan loudly.