‹ Prequel: Black and White

To the End

two

I sprawl out across the bed, tugging the pillow over my face, and sigh heavily. It’s been a long day, and I’m ready to go home. I still have almost a month before I can do that, though. Bryan’s voice comes from the kitchenette, easily heard even with the pillow that’s covering my ear. Blowing out a breath, I push the pillow away and roll onto my back. Niall sent a message earlier to say he misses me and can’t wait for our Skype call in a few days; I hadn’t responded - still haven’t. I know if I text him, I’ll want to tell him, and that’s not something that needs to be shared via a damn text. So I’ve avoided opening my messages since yesterday until the urge to spill the news fades just a bit.

The sound of a video game starting up in the lounge area echoes through the bus, and I roll my eyes; of course Zach and Tanner are playing Diablo right now. I climb to my feet to shut the door between my “room” and the rest of the bus, though it does no good - the door is thin, and sounds come through just as easily as if it isn’t closed. I reach for my laptop, opening it, and log into my Twitter account, scroll through my mentions. Someone whoops when the heavy drum-line of an Avenged Sevenfold song begins, and even I have to smile at the fact that Owen’s decided to turn on Beast and the Harlot. I get so distracted by the song that I almost don’t hear the Skype ringtone coming from the computer speakers.

The plain white wall behind Natalie doesn't give away anything about where she is; since everything that went down, she's become incredibly particular about her privacy. I don't blame her, though. I hate how much everyone knows about my relationship with Niall and what we've gone through, so I can only imagine what Natalie is feeling and thinking in regards to the world still talking about what happened, not even two years later. I try not to take it personally that she is still so secretive with me. It isn't about me, and her well-being is more important. Besides, at least I still have her friendship, no matter what.

Her lips quirk up into a small smile. “How’s touring?”

“Boring. So boring.” I groan. “Wanna know what I've seen in the last week? Fields and towns out the windows, venues, stages, and the bus. That's all. I was actually excited about seeing the world’s biggest ball of twine. But no, the closest thing to exciting that I've gotten to see is the fucking St Louis Arch as we drove past.”

“A ball of twine? Seriously?”

“That's how bored I've been, Natty.”

“Well, at least it's almost over, right?” she says with a shrug, and I sigh, picking at a callus on my palm.

“Yeah, I guess. I'm pretty happy about that. Then Niall will be home for a bit before they do their final show at the end of December. After that, I have a whole month to fuck around before I have to get crackin’ on the new album.”

“You better come see me!”

“Uh, duh?” Biting my lip, I stop talking for a moment, stare down at my crossed legs. “Hey, are you, uh, you in a good place right now? Like, mentally?”

“Need to vent?”

“Only if you can handle it.”

She holds up a finger then shifts around until she’s more comfortable. “Fire away.”

So I do. I tell her about how hard it's been this tour to not have my friends around, how I've barely talked to my parents since I left. I confess about the heavy dread I carry with me deep in my chest, the loneliness I’ve felt even when I’m surrounded by my loved ones. She stays quiet and listens intently as I whine and moan and complain about how I'm so frustrated - emotionally and sexually - from not seeing my husband.

“And now I've got this fucking baby in me, and it fucking sucks that I'm alone right now. I hate it.”

“Wait, wait. Back the fuck up and repeat that again?”

My eyes widen; I stare at her face through the screen and wonder why and how I managed to let it slip so easily. “I, um… I'm pregnant?”

“That's what I thought you said. Funny coincidence,” she says before she adjusts the angle of her camera; I gasp aloud and clap my hands over my mouth at the very obvious swell of her belly. “Yeah. This is, uh, a thing now.” Natalie lifts the camera back to her face, and her shoulder rises jerkily; the sympathetic smile she gives me helps me feel less lonely. “But yeah, it sucks that he can’t be there with you right now. I get it. Just think, soon you’ll both be home and together again. Just gotta get through this last leg.”

The conversation shifts then, and though I'm still a mess inside, it's easier to ignore as we chat about random things; the months have gone by in a blur of go-go-go, and I've really fallen behind on keeping up with friends - between the touring, writing new music in my downtime, and now adjusting to the bombshell that is the news of my pregnancy, my mind hasn't been quite on track. It is nice, though, to laugh about inconsequential crap with Nat, something we haven't done in so long. I’m still reeling about the news of her pregnancy - and the fact she’s managed to hide it from me for at least six months - even as I joke around with her.

DeDe was the one who told me about Silent Playground falling apart. She hadn’t told me anything more than that there were too many disputes between the group and this wasn’t necessarily a permanent thing, but she wasn’t able to read the future so it was still up in the air. Her voice had been clipped and short, and she’d hung up before I could say anything further. I’d waited two days before I texted Natalie, reached out in an attempt to make sure she was okay - I knew how important the band has always been to her. It broke my heart when she never responded. At least, not to my enquiries about how she was handling the indefinite hiatus of the band.

Her first text to me had come nearly a month after Delia contacted me, and it was a drunken mess of jumbled letters and emojis. Now, looking back on it, I realise it most likely wasn’t a drunk text but an accidental one of the pocket-dial variety. It hadn’t made sense at all, but it was still a decent sign that she was alive. Thankfully, the messages after that became more regular, and I don’t worry nearly as much about her now.

My phone vibrates next to me, and once I see the name on the screen, I raise my brow at Natalie. “Are you kidding me? You are literally on Skype with me right now. Why the Hell are you sending me a text?”

“Because I can’t send links with my voice, dummy.”

I roll my eyes and open the text. The content is a link, true to her word, and I click on it. Nat is biting her lip to stifle a smile when I glance up at her. A laugh escapes me at what pops up on the screen after the page finishes loading. It’s an image of a pale yellow onesie; on it in black lettering are the words Mommy is way more fun now that she can drink again. I screenshot the photo and lock my phone, making a mental note to show it to Niall at a later date - once I tell him about the pregnancy, anyway.