Titanium

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

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11. -Ten-

-10-

The plane coasted down the runway and I couldn’t be more thankful. The flight home had been done in short little hops, because sitting still in economy for too long was impossible for me. In a way it was both a blessing and a curse; a blessing because my damn hip didn’t ache like it was trying to pop out of joint, but a curse because any sleep I’d had was fitful and not satisfying in the least. It meant I could feel every second of time-difference and, in the recycled cabin air, I felt zombie-like.

Mum was my saint and saviour- again- as she gathered everything that belonged to us and followed me down the plane, one hand on my shoulder gently. I limped worse than ever, and collapsed into the wheelchair provided with a heavy sigh.

“Okay, sweetheart?” Mum asked, brushing back my hair.

I could barely keep the exhausted tears at bay as I nodded and pulled my jacket tighter around me. I’d been warned in advance that my flight number had spilled into the press- whoever did that was an arse, as far as I was concerned- and there were paparazzi and people waiting to see me off the plane. The last thing I wanted to do was smile and make nice with strangers and cameras.

I was in pain and I was tired and I wanted my own bed more than anything. I didn’t relish the thought of navigating the stairs but I figured by time we made it home from Heathrow, I’d be too dead to really care about anything else. Mum walked beside me through the crowd; they called my name and cameras flashed. Despite myself, I sat up a little straighter and smiled and waved, though I’m sure I looked more robotic and plastic than Regina George.

We were stopped at security, naturally, as the metal detector went off. Mum had a certificate for me that declared my hip joint; I’d need to carry that card everywhere I went from now on. Even on the Tube; they had metal detectors on some stations. Regardless of the card, they made me stand up and patted me down- another routine I’d have to get used to, they needed to check that I wasn’t trying to take anything else- before finally allowing us through.

Max and Layla, my two best friends from school, had travelled to meet us and were waiting on the other side of customs. I absolutely did not burst into tears when I saw them- it was only when Layla ran at me, sobbing, that I lost it and couldn’t even speak. Max’s eyes were bloodshot and they hugged me, pulling me to my feet with little regard for anything else. Mum stood back and thanked the flight attendant who had wheeled me here, letting me have my quiet reunion with my friends.

“I should have come with you,” Layla wept into my shoulder, clutching me so hard I thought I might need another titanium joint. “You shouldn’t have been alone!”

I couldn’t find the energy to reply and just hugged her- them- tighter. Six weeks was the longest we’d ever gone without seeing one another and it was only now that I had them back that I realised how much I’d missed them. Layla’s blonde hair, the way she always had a streak of colour on the left side and always smelled faintly of flowers, how firm but gentle her hugs were, how soothing her voice was. Max’s glasses crushed against my cheek, his stubble surely leaving a rash, the lingering scent of Lynx and coffee, how his hoodies were always big enough to swamp me even with him still in it.

Though that might’ve had something to do with me being the shortest of the three. Max had peaked at six foot three and Layla was an easy five-seven; which left me stuck on five-three. Next to Max, I looked like a bloody squirrel, and next to Layla, I looked like an ugly squirrel. It must’ve been my winning personality that helped them put up with me for the last ten years.

“So glad you’re finally home, Miss T,” Max mumbled, sounding more emotional than I was used to. He wasn’t a stone-cold man, but he definitely didn’t like people seeing him get upset- Layla and I excepted- so to hear the tremble in his voice and feel the shake of his hands made me just nod into his sleeve, hiding my own tears.

Mum got us moving with a joke about beating the traffic- like we could, this was London- and, laughing through our tears, I let my best mates carry me to the car. My smile was more genuine now, though my eyes were still puffy and red, because the moment I took my first breath of car-scented English air I knew. I was finally home. I’d never been more glad to say those words.

Max’s car- well, the one loaned off his mum- waited for us and he loaded our bags into the boot before hopping in the front seat. Mum had relinquished her spot beside me and Layla hadn’t wasted a second in claiming it, letting me lean on her when I could finally relax and not worry about being watched. If I was honest, most of the car ride back washed over me like water on rocks, though it was only two hours with traffic. I heard Mum talking about America, about me and my recovery, about Liam and Louis and Zayn and Harry and Niall-

The moment his name entered my head, I recalled the moments before I left the hospital, when Liam had returned to say goodbye before heading back to Arizona for the next show. He’d given me the signed jersey- I was wearing it under my jacket- and hugged me goodbye, asking me to tweet one of them when I was home safely. Niall, who had impeccable timing, had called when Liam was still in the room and practically shouted that I should DM him, in particular.

The memory made me smile and I grabbed my phone. Layla read over my shoulder and I heard her snicker with nervous delight as I entered the name and could be almost certain I’d get a reply. There was a trail of messages sent back and forth already; I hadn’t let on to anybody that Niall and I had been pretty much in constant contact. He made my chest feel tight, that boy.

@NiallOfficial I’m home safely. You can all sleep easy now x

By time our convoy had made it home and I was made comfortable in bed upstairs with a fresh cup of tea- the most heavenly cup of tea I could have ever asked for- and the promise of pizza for dinner, I could barely see straight. As soon as Mum left the room and Max and Layla trailed out after her, I reached for my painkillers to soothe my aching leg. The pain hadn’t been this bad in weeks… the travelling must have stressed me out more than I’d realised.

With tears in my eyes, I massaged a numbing cream into the scar, which was going to help it heal and fade faster. Every touch felt like pinpricks and any pressure made the entire joint flare with pain. Working through it, I prayed nobody would come check on me; I didn’t want them to see how badly it was bothering me. No need for them to worry.

Settling into the pillows, I willed myself into a dreamless sleep… an effort that was thwarted by my phone’s obnoxious tweet alert- since when had I changed it to Louis shouting at me to ‘don’t ignore me!’?

Any annoyance I may have had was crushed under a smile and a swooping sensation in my stomach; Niall had replied. It really shouldn’t make me quite so happy to see his name.

@TitaniumGirl Glad to hear it. Can’t wait to see you again :) x

When sleep finally claimed me, it wasn’t dreamless, but I didn’t mind. The dreams were full of blonde boys with guitars and blue eyes…

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