“But nothing!” I shout, standing up and making the table rattle. My chair scrapes across the floor and I see Maci flinch. I’m too worked up to notice her expression. “How can you just sit there and let him do that to you, Maci!?” A couple people look over to us. I’m drawing attention.
“Niall, please, sit down,” she whimpers. “It’s okay-”
The problem is, no, it’s not okay. Why does she let him walk all over her? He has no right! Has he really got this into her head that anything he does to her is okay!? What the hell kind of person does that!?
“-Maci, listen to yourself!” I yell, slamming my fist on the table.
She shuts her eyes tight and throws her arms over her head. I’m confused at first, but then realization dawns on me. I look down in horror at my clenched fist on the table.
She thinks I’m going to hit her. Oh God. I don’t know why, but I’m frozen in place, gaping at my fist. The one thing you promised to never do - she just thought you would. What is she going to do? What’s going to happen? I can’t just let it go like that. I have to say something. But what?
I see her open her eyes carefully and bring her shaking arms down. You’ve got to say something, Niall. Apologize. I don’t know what to say, though! Why is this so difficult for me!? It’s a simple sorry, I’ve overreacted. Just say it, Niall.
I slowly look up at her, her eyes wide and watering. Oh God. “Maci, I-”
She doesn’t let me finish. Before I know it, she’s already out of her seat and running for the door. Oh shit.
“What happened with her?” a stuck-up voice says from behind me. I whirl around to find the waitress - Riley - standing there with a smirk on and a hand on her hip.
Great. Just who I wanted to see - note my sarcasm. “Just give me the bill and I’ll be on my way, please,” I say as calmly as I can manage.
“No,” she coos. “Please stay. We can chat a while. Wanna talk about it?” she asks, walking closer and putting a hand on my shoulder.
“Please stop touching me,” I say, pulling away. What is her problem? I slap $40 on the table. “There. That should cover it.”
I don’t hesitate in running out the door after her. I’ve got to go after her. I didn’t mean to scare her - in fact, I honestly scared myself. Stupid Niall, you’re so stupid! Why can’t you just control yourself!?
So many thoughts were running through my head as I burst through the doors and out into the parking lot, the muggy night air surround me. I scan the whole area for Maci. Only...
She’s not here.
I don’t know where I’m aiming to go as I shoot out of the restaurant - but somehow I end up behind the building, a giant sobbing heap. Next to the dumpster. Where I belong.
You’re so weak, Maci. And that part of me is right. I’m sobbing over something that didn’t even happen. Niall hadn’t hit me. But why? I was being unreasonable - I was making him angry, something I know always leads to being... hit. But he hadn’t.
For some reason, this thought makes me sob even harder. I don’t know why I thought that of him. Niall is amazing, and he made me a promise. I know deep down that he wouldn’t break that promise, ever. I curl myself up, closing my eyes, hugging my knees, and leaning against the wall. This is my time to think. Sure, I’m a complete wreck. And that means that my thoughts are the same way.
You’re weak. You caused Niall’s broken nose, his black eyes, his suffering. You shouldn’t have met Niall - he’d be better off without you. You’re a burden. You deserve the treatment you receive from your father. Niall doesn’t like you. How dare you think Niall low enough to hit you? You’re worthless.
“Maci!” a voice breaks through my thoughts. My sobs continue, the tears running down my face. You don’t deserve for anyone to care.
“Maci!” the voice calls again. I recognize it. Niall. “Maci, please! I’m so sorry!”
“Niall,” I whimper softly. Don’t call out to him. You don’t deserve him.
“Maci!” he calls out again, making my heart hurt. I want to answer him so badly, but half of my mind is stopping me. “Please!” His cries sound desperate. “Please, just answer me! I’m so, so sorry!”
Don’t do it, Maci. Don’t. This part of me... I’ve always had it. This bully at the back of my mind, always nagging on me. Every good thing I get is always downgraded by it. Putting me down, telling me I can’t. But that’s all it is. A bully.
“Niall!” I call out weakly, still sobbing.
You’ll see, Maci. Just you wait. All your walls will come crashing down around you.
This makes me cry harder. All I want is to be left alone by this... this half of myself. Every good thing... just gone because of it. But see, this half of me has been less and less lately. Why? Niall. When Niall is with me, this part of me - this bully - is nearly gone. I don’t know what it is about him, but even the victim side of my tells me I don’t deserve this amazing boy.
Sobs and whimpers wrack my body. I don’t hear any footsteps. Niall isn’t calling my name anymore. I’m alone. I’m forgotten. I don’t know where I’m going to go. My father will never let me come home. My belongings are at the hotel. Niall doesn’t want me anymore - this realization hurts most of all.
A huge wave of sadness falls onto my shoulders, weighing me down impossibly so. I just thought... I thought that Niall and I... I’ve never felt this way about anyone. That’s a fact. And I think... I think you call this love.
But no. I’m not loved back. No one will ever love me. This time, my bully doesn’t have to say it.
This seems to bring back renewed tears. It becomes hard to breathe, the weight pushing down on me like nothing I’ve ever felt before. This hurts more than anything my father could have ever done to me.
I think any kind of pain I could experience right now wouldn’t be enough to mask this. Niall is gone, you don’t have a home, you’re not wanted anywhere. You have nothing left.
“Niall,” I whimper weakly, one last time. I don’t wait for an answer. I simply slump over, waiting for the pain of my head hitting the cold, hard concrete.
But I’m caught by a pair of warm and welcoming arms.
“What have you done,” I snap at myself, jogging out to the middle of the lot to try to get a better look around. “She’s gone. Find her.”
But I don’t even know where to start looking. So I use my singing lungs.
“Maci!” I call out. Just like I thought, no answer. “Maci! Maci, please! I’m so sorry!”
Still, nothing. I start to panic. Where could she have gone!? Certainly not back to her father’s. She would be beaten to dea- No. I can’t think about that. My chest heaves and I call out again, fearing what she might do because of me.
“Maci! Please! Please just answer me! I’m so, so sorry!” By now I’m coughing, trying to catch my breath. It feels like my chest is constricting, growing tighter and tighter so I can’t breathe. But I can’t give up - I have to find her.
I’m about to call out again when a voice - her voice - stops me. “Niall!”
It’s quiet, but I hear it. Without any hesitation, I take off toward the way I heard it. I stop short though. There’s an alley in front of me, stretching along the side and around the back of the restaurant. Would she really go back there? I’m about to head another way when I hear soft cries. It pains me so much, but I recognize them anyway. Maci.
I jog down the alley and round the corner. Sure enough, further down is Maci, curled into a fetal position against the wall. My eyes prick at the sight, but I quickly blink away any tears I have. I have to be strong, for her. I have to apologize, because I caused her suffering.
I approach Maci quietly, not wanting to scare her or make her run away. Her sobs grow louder as I get closer, and it feels like a dagger in my chest. You caused this, Niall. I don’t think she hears me, because her head stays buried in her knees, whimpers and sobs wracking her body.
I kneel down next to her. I’m about to put a hand on her shoulder when she lets out a small cry. “Niall...” That was the twist to the knife in my chest.
I don’t even hesitate to gather her in my arms as she slumps over. Despite the warm weather, Maci feels cold. I think I startle her a little, but she buries her face in my chest as she cries harder.
“Shh,” I say quietly, pulling her closer and stroking her hair. “It’s okay, Maci. I’m here. I’m so, so sorry.”
I bury my face in her hair, breathing in her wonderful scent. She seems so small in my arms, so... breakable. The one thing I know that she is not. She’s survived all of these many hard years with her father. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one that she’s ever opened up to like this, and look what I’ve made of it! I have to make it better, and if that means comforting her while she cries tears caused by me - then so be it.
After a long while of us sitting like this, her sobs finally die down into soft hiccups. “N-Niall?” she asks innocently, lifting her head to look up at me.
“What is it, Love?” I whisper. The mascara she was wearing has smeared down her face, and I gently wipe most of it away.
“D-do... Do you still want me?” the question hits me like a ton of bricks. She must have seen this, because she buries her face back in my chest. “If y-you don’t... I c-can get m-my stuff and g-go h-home.”
No. No, no, no. She will not go home, and that is final. But her question... Do I still want her? That’s like asking me if I want food. The only answer I could give them is, ‘I don’t want food, I need food’. I don’t want Maci. I need her. I need Maci Watson in my life. There is not one single doubt in my mind. End of story.
But how do I say that to her? It seems simple enough, but it’s really not. I open my mouth only to close it again. Words are caught in my throat, feelings bottled up inside. No one has ever had this effect on me - no one has ever meant this much.
I can’t just say nothing. But at the same time, I can’t say the wrong thing. I have to say something, now. What will she think if I don’t? So many words, fighting for their way out of my mouth. So I open it, and hope to God that whatever comes out won’t make things worse.
“Maci,” I blurt. “I love you.”