Titanium

Kerrigan Brady just wanted to meet her favourite band. Not like this. Never like this.

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2. -One-

-1-

Pain.

It was the first thing to hit me.

It’s like I was drowning in a fog of blackness and voices, and each time I tried to drag myself out, every nerve in my body decided to wail in protest. It started in my side, just above my right hip, with heat. It quickly felt like someone was putting out a wild fire with my body, the agony coursing through my joints. I tried to move, to blink, to scream… I heard my name called faintly from somewhere to my left… a flicker of light.

My eyes were open.

The realisation hit me like a runaway train; and as if that had been the spark I needed, the rest of me slammed back into reality with a tidal wave of nausea I had to squeeze my eyes shut against until it went away.

“Kerri, honey, can you hear me?”

Mum. What was she doing here?

I was meant to be on holiday, taking a year out before university to travel around America with two mates from school. Mum had stayed in Coventry… something bad had happened, if she was here and not at home.

She was holding my hand, stroking the hair away from my face. What the hell happened to me? Cautiously, I opened my eyes again. The room was stark white and blurry, my eyes stung from how bright it was. Slowly, my vision cleared and I could make out the wide windows, the teal-green leather couch that looked saggy and slightly careworn, the rails above and around my bed on which a blue curtain hung. I wasn’t in my room, nor anywhere I’d ever been before. This was a hospital room.

“Kerri?” Mum was there, hovering above me. The moment I saw her I crumbled like a lost child, tears springing up to burn my dry eyes, my throat scorching with the effort of sobbing. I reached for her- my limbs felt like lead and ice, incredibly cold and incredibly hard to move- and she swamped me, leaning over my body and hugging me loosely, but no less lovingly. She was trying her best not to hurt me. “Hello, baby,” she whispered, and I could feel her crying.

“Mum,” I tried to say, but my voice was indistinguishable. I took a deep breath, and raised a shaky hand to touch my lips. My fingers brushed against something plastic in my nose; for a minute, I panicked, before the realisation of being hospitalised set in and I figured it was breathing tubes. Why did I need breathing tubes? I wasn’t sick, was I? Had there been an accident?

Mum pulled away and adjusted the bed, calling for a nurse as she did so. There was a plastic cup of water on the end table, a yellow straw sitting in wait. Had they known I’d wake up today? Or had that been sitting there for hours, waiting? I tried to hold the cup for myself, and Mum shook her head. “You’re not strong enough yet, sweetie. Let the morphine wear off.”

Morphine? God, if I was on morphine, why did waking up hurt so much? I sipped the water, barely enough to soothe my parched throat, and longed to just drink the rest. Mum took the cup away and I licked my lips, eying it up. She picked up on my line of sight and smiled. “You have to take it slowly.”

I nodded and closed my eyes, moving my tongue around my mouth. I tasted horrible. I needed water, a Polo, a toothbrush. Mum stayed beside me until a nurse poked her head in, and I forced myself to stay awake as a pretty young woman- who must have been late twenties, early thirties- approached the other side of my bed. “Hello, Kerrigan,” she said. She had a lovely voice, very soothing. Her name badge said her name was Hannah. “How are you feeling?” Hannah continued, taking my temperature and checking the drip I hadn’t noticed was in my arm.

“Shit,” I managed to croak out. Mum gave a little laugh-sob and I looked her way, trying to smile. “What… happened?” Bloody hell. It had never taken so much effort to talk before. I felt exhausted and I’d barely strung a sentence together.

Hannah and Mum shared a look over my knees. Hannah nodded and rested a hand on my forehead gently. “I’ll let your mum explain while I get the doctor, okay? Try not to move around too much until he’s seen you.”

I nodded, falling back on my pillows, already exhausted. She had an American accent. Was I still in America?

Mum walked Hannah to the door, talking in tones so low I couldn’t overhear. Alone, I took the chance to look around the room again, spotting a dresser by the opposite wall- next to the couch- which was covered in balloons, flowers, cards, teddy bears… you name it. There was even what looked like a Ken doll… I looked closer, squinting, and my laugh was painfully hoarse as I realised it was Liam Payne’s action figure.

Glancing at the door- which was hidden by the curtain- I could still hear Mum and Hannah talking. Assured that they were busy, I turned to focus on the cup of water. My arm felt detached as I moved it- I’d never felt anything like this before- and my fingers ached as I clenched them once or twice to try and get them moving. Settling my grip around the cup, I pulled it towards the edge of the table… the moment I tried to pick it up, my grip slipped and the cup went crashing to the ground.

I slumped against the pillows, feeling useless. And confused. And still a little bit terrified. Mum returned with another cup of water and a roll of paper towels; she spread some on the water beneath my bed and offered me another sip of the fresh cup.

“Mum,” I forced myself to say, despite the pain and effort talking still cost me.

She met my gaze sadly and took her seat again, holding my hand. “Kerrigan, honey, you were… hurt. You went to your New Direction-“

“One Direction,” I muttered.

Mum didn’t hear me- “- signing, do you remember?” I nodded, recalling the excitement of that morning as I’d rushed around to get ready. It had been a three hour drive. Had I been in a crash? “- They told us that, while you were at the head of the line…” Mum stopped, looking haggard and extremely upset- “- there was a man who said his daughter had committed suicide because of the band. He had a gun, sweetheart, and was trying to get revenge… they said you jumped in the way.”

I was silent, processing this information. It sounded familiar but at the same time, so strange. I could recall getting in the car to go to One Direction’s signing, in a three two hours away. I’d been so excited to hear that they were in the same state as me; I’d expected them to stay in England during their mid-tour break. Never in a million years had I imagined they’d come to Orlando while I was in Miami. “Max… Layla?” I asked, as Mum helped me take another sip of water.

“They’ve gone home, honey. They said they didn’t want to finish the trip without you.”

I nodded, feeling a little disappointed for them. They weren’t as… well, dedicated… to One Direction as I was. They’d opted to sleep in and go shopping while I had my fangirl day, especially as I’d taken the rental car with me. They should’ve kept going, on to New York and Washington and then to Las Vegas and LA… my eyes went back to the gifts and flowers, confused. If Max and Layla went home; who was all of that coming from? “What’s all that?” I asked.

Mum followed my gaze and her entire expression changed; she didn’t seem so drawn and tired anymore, but instead a little excited and happy about something. “Word spread of what you did. That’s from your fan-club.” My expression must have given away my disbelief, because Mum leaned over the bed to kiss my cheek gently. “The boy you saved has come to visit once or twice. He wants to thank you properly.”

“What?” I cried, my head spinning with the effort of looking at Mum so quickly. Who had I saved? One of the band? Had I taken a bullet for One Direction? My mind span- who, then? Who’d been in this room, standing at my bedside? Had the whole band been in? Mum took a breath to explain… just as the doctor walked through the door with a jolly smile on his face.

“Welcome back to the land of the living, Kerrigan!”

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