What was that all about? I think as Maci doses off in my arms. Maci had never been that angry with me - beside the time at her house, when she wanted me to leave. Wait... No. I refuse to even think like that. I love Maci, Maci loves me - that’s all there is to it. Right?
I don’t have time to think before Louis plops down beside me. The rest of the lads - including Paul - are in the back room playing Mario Kart.
“Let me just make one thing clear to you,” Louis says seriously. I nod, curious what he has to say. “We’ve all agreed,” he says, scratching his head. “That there will be no... fun on this bus.
“Wait, what?” I ask, confused.
Louis rolls his eyes. “There. Will. Be. No. Sex. On. This. Bus.” he says, careful not to wake her.
Okay, curiousness down a notch. My face goes bright red and I glare at him. “Go away, Louis,” I say quietly.
Louis laughs and puts his hands up. “Just wanted to make it clear,” he said innocently, standing up and walking to the back room.
I roll my eyes. Oh boy. Thirteen hours on a bus with these boys? I probably should have given Maci a better warning. I look down at her sleeping figure. She looks so delicate when she’s sleeping, but strong as well. I brush back a stray piece of her hair and she smiles softly in her sleep.
This makes me smile. I suddenly grow very tired and my eyelids start to droop. Careful not to wake her, I readjust myself so she’s half laying on me, but still in my arms. I lean my head against the armrest and shut my eyes, letting my mind carry me off any way it pleases.
“This is so wonderful,” I say, biting into the chicken Niall hands me. “Where did you get this?”
“It’s from Nandos,” he says with a chuckle. “My favorite.”
“Well it might just have to be my favorite too,” I tell him honestly, making him laugh.
I look around at the beautiful park we’re in and play with the edge of the plaid blanket we’re sitting on. The whole scene is cliche, yet I love it anyway. The tree overhead provides some shade from the powerful sun, and the smell of blooming flowers fills the air. I set down the piece of chicken and wipe my hands off with a napkin.
“I love you,” I tell him, and he takes my hand.
“Maci,” I hear someone growl behind me, and Niall’s face twists into one of confusion and anger.
My stomach drops as I recognize the voice. As if on cue, the whole sky darkens a shade and the soft wind stops blowing. The smell of flowers disappears and is replaced by the smell of my own fear. Oh God. Oh no.
I start to shake with fear, my stomach knotting like crazy. Why is he here? What does he want?
I release Niall’s hand and slowly turn as I stand, coming face to face with my father.
“Dad,” I say, my voice shaking.
My eyes fly open. It’s pitch black and I can’t see a thing, not help my pounding heart to slow down. I don’t know where I am. Oh God. My chest heaves and I try to sit up, but I can’t. If it’s even possible, my heart speeds up and I start to sweat. Something’s holding me down. I feel around my waist and feel two arms. Someone is holding me down.
I let out a scream as I push against the person’s arms. Whoever it is starts to stir, and I panic even more.
“Just let me go!” I shout, trying to push away. I jab my elbow back and there’s an oof! as the person’s arms loosen around me, allowing for my to slip out of their grasp.
I rocket to my feet, but the ground shifts beneath me and I tumble to the ground. Soft carpet cushions my fall, but sends me into confusion. Where am I? My eyes still haven’t adjusted to the darkness, so I still have no idea what’s around me.
The person on the couch moans and stirs, and there’s a clambering behind me. I start to whimper, my fear getting the best of me. For all I know, I could be back with my father. My father...
“Maci?” the person groans from the couch, their voice groggy and unrecognizable.
Suddenly a light flicks on, blinding me. I go into a fetal position, burying my head into my knees. “Please don’t hurt me,” I cry, my body shaking with fear.
“What the bloody hell is going on?” an angry and confused voice says. It sounds familiar...
“What? Maci?” the groggy voice from before says.
“Maci, are you alright?” the voice from behind me says. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I lurch away, letting out another scream.
The ground shifts beneath me again and I sprawl out, my eyes opening, coming face to face with -
“-Zayn!? Niall!?” I say, confused.
“Maci? Are you okay?” Niall says worriedly, standing up from the couch.
“What?” I ask, shaking my head to clear it. Niall and Zayn. What?
That’s when it hits me. I’m on the tour bus. With Niall and Zayn and Liam and Harry and Louis and Paul. We’re on our way to Louisville, Kentucky. My father is at home - well, not my home anymore. I’m away from him, for good. Niall is my boyfriend, and I love him. I’m safe.
“Maci,” Zayn says, rubbing his eyes. “What’s going on?”
Niall hurries over, wrapping his arms around me. “What’s the matter, Love?”
My dream comes rushing back into my mind. I’m not sure why, but I’m shaken up noticeably. The dream scares me more than I thought, and I begin to shudder, suddenly growing very cold. Niall’s arms provide little warmth, but I burrow into him anyway.
“What happened, Maci?” Niall questions again.
“I-I-” I try to say, but I burst into tears for no reason.
It was only a dream, why am I crying? Still, the tears flow from my eyes and down my cheek, staining the sleeves of Niall’s shirt. His arms tighten around me and Zayn lets out a long breath. I don’t know how long I sit there crying, but soon my eyes grow droopy, beckoning me back to sleep. I don’t want to, but my eyes close nonetheless. I’m let back into a dreamless sleep with Niall whispering comforting words in my ear.
As soon as Maci is asleep I scoop her up and sit down on the couch, holding her like a small child. Her head rests against my shoulder and her arms are tucked tightly against her sides by my arms wrapped around her waist. Her breathing is still uneven and her face still shows so much discomfort.
“What was that all about?” Zayn asks hesitantly. “Her screams woke me up. I’m surprised no one else did.”
I shrug. “I have absolutely no idea. I’m still confused too.”
“That was worse than the last time,” he says simply, taking a seat at the table next to the couch.
At first I have no idea what he means. Last time...? Then I remember the nightmare she had the first night she stayed with us. We haven’t told the lads about it and didn’t mention it to Maci either.
“She looked scared out of her skin,” I say, tightening my grip around her. Her arms move and her hand grabs a portion of my shirt, making her look much younger.
“I wonder what she dreams about,” Zayn says, looking at her face. “I’ve never seen anyone have nightmares like that.”
I shake my head. “Neither have I. I don’t even know what to do. She wouldn’t wake up that first time, and it honestly scared me. This time she woke up on her own, but it was like she was still in it.”
I rub my stomach where she had jabbed me to let her go. Her screams still ring in my ears. What had scared her so much? She’s safe now. I suppose it could be memories of her father... But you would think that she would have had nightmares while she was living with her father, too. She hasn’t mentioned having nightmares, and I don’t really want to pry at her bad memories.
“What did her dad do to her, Nialler?” Zayn asks quietly, looking at the ground. “I mean, I’ve seen the bruises, but... I haven’t heard the stories behind them.”
I sigh. “Horrible things,” I say simply. “He’s cut her, bruised her, and scarred her - both mentally and physically. So much so,” I say, remembering back to the day of the interview, “that when I took her out after the interview, I had overreacted a little bit and... She thought I was going to hit her.”
Zayn’s eyes widen. “I can’t even imagine how hard that is for her to live with. But why would she start having nightmares now?”
I shrug, looking down at Maci. Her face softens a bit and she settles deeper into my arms. “I have no idea.”
It’s quiet for a while, the only sound the tires of the bus on the highway. It’s dark outside and I assume it’s the middle of the night, considering we fell asleep around three in the afternoon.
“What time is it?” I ask, searching the room for a clock.
“1:30,” Zayn replies with a sigh. “I’m awake, how about you?”
“Awake as ever,” I say truthfully.
Zayn lets out a long breath and runs his hand through his flat hair. “Wanna talk about it?”
“About what?” I say.
Zayn shrugs. “About anything really. Her, her dreams, music, the Derby, anything really. You seem stressed.”
“I don’t even know what her dreams are about,” I say, my arms tightening around her again. “I want to help her, but she doesn’t even remember the last one, and she was either too scared or too sad to talk about this one.”
“Judging by her screams, I’d say she was scared.” I wince at the mention of the scream she’d woken me up with. I’ve only ever heard that scream one other time - when her father was trying to do unspeakable things to her. “I’m sure everything will all be fine,” Zayn continued quickly, trying to comfort me.
I shrug, trying to let it go. Maci’s safe now, she’s away from her father. No one here will hurt her, I’ll make sure of it.
“Up for a game of cards?” Zayn asks out of the blue.
I chuckle a little. “What do you know how to play?”
“Nothing, really,” he says with a shrug. “Could you teach me?”
I nod. I carefully lay Maci down on the couch, not waking her. Before I sit down at the table I grab a deck of cards from my bag. Deciding what to teach Zayn is difficult. Most of the games I know are somewhat difficult, and I don’t know Zayn as one to have a long attention span. I think about this as I shuffle the deck, Zayn watching intently at the way my hands are moving. I finally decide on the most simple game I know.
“Okay,” I say, dividing the deck into two. “I’m going to teach you a game called ‘War’.”