I can’t take it anymore after Niall looks at me. He just looks so tired, so helpless, and most of all - embarrassed. He’d flubbed his solo, because he’s exhausted. Because of me. He’s embarrassed, because of me.
My legs carry my down the halls at a sprint, even in my heels. Several sounds of surprise met my ears as I flew past a group of people tending to the soundboards. I’m not really sure where I aim to go, but before I know it I’m in Caroline’s arms, sobbing into her shoulder.
“Oh, my!” she exclaims, taking in my distressed form. “Love, what’s the matter?”
“I-I-” I stutter, my shoulders trembling. “N-Niall is e-exhausted bec-cause of m-me! And he c-couldn’t d-do his solo, and h-he’s emb-barrassed! Bec-cause of m-me!”
“Oh, Love,” Caroline coos, stroking my hair soothingly. She leads us over to the couch and I curl up, my head resting in her lap as I shake with sobs. “It’s not your fault.”
“How is it not!?” I cry. “These d-damn n-nightmares are bec-cause I’m too afraid t-to f-face my father. I’m s-staying up because I’m t-too af-fraid to s-see him ag-gain! A-and now Niall th-thinks he h-has to stay up w-with me, and it’s j-just all my fault!”
“Love,” she says, trying to quiet me. “Niall is more than capable of making his own decisions, with or without anyone’s input. I guarantee that this is his own fault, no matter how awful that sounds.”
I shake my head. “I-it is my f-fault!”
“I can say for certain he’ll tell you differently.”
I let this set into my mind for a long time, hearing the loud concert music in the background. It’s taunting me - there’s a large lack of Niall’s voice. My breathing slowly returns back to normal though, my tears finally drying.
“I love him so much,” I say. “But I don’t know why he feels like he has to go to such lengths for me. I mean, this is his job we’re talking about here! I can’t have him put his career on the line just for my stupid fears.”
“He loves you, Maci. I think at this point he’d jump off a bridge for you.” I wince at the reference, but Caroline doesn’t seem to notice. “This is in no way your fault - this is about Niall and the decisions he makes. And if that’s helping you through you suffering, then he’s willing to do virtually anything.”
I let out a heavy sigh. “I just don’t want to see him throw it all down the drain just for me.”
“It’s just one concert, Love,” she says, patting my head. “I’m sure no one will hate him forever for not being spot-on for one night.”
I ignore her comment. “I would honestly rather let him go to pursue his career than to throw it all away to put up with me and my petty fears.”
“Maci,” she says. “First, he’s not ‘putting up with you’. He loves you, and that means loving everything about you. Second, your fears are absolutely not petty. They are very real - though not completely rational, everyone understands. And third,” she turns my head to face her. “Letting him go would be the hardest thing you’ve ever done - I know that for a fact. I’ve seen the way you two care for each other, seen the way you two interact. Letting him leave would tear not only him apart, but it would tear you apart.”
I shut my eyes tight, just wanting this whole nightmare to be over. I don’t want to have nightmares, I don’t want Niall to lose sleep over me, I don’t want to be here crying. I want to be watching the boy I love do the thing that he loves. I want for everything to be right. But that sort of thing just doesn’t happen to me.
“I have to go back to the bus,” I whisper, moving to get up.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay and talk about it?” Caroline questions, standing up with me.
I nod. “I’m sure. I just want to go someplace without people right now.”
She nods in understanding, walking me to the door. I open it and start down the hall. “Maci?” Caroline calls after me. I turn, sniffing and wiping a bit of makeup from under my right eye. “I’m always here, if you need any kind of help. Anything at all, just tell me what you need.”
I give her a weak smile. “Thank you,” I whisper. She blows me a kiss and ducks back into the dressing room. I turn and speed walk the rest of the way to the bus.
As I open the door, an immense tiredness falls over me. My eyes already have closed and I can’t open them no matter how hard I try. I’ve had three hours of sleep in four days - that’s it. Add to that the two tear-fests I’ve had today - I can’t even make it to the couch. Collapsing to the ground in the middle of the floor, I try to pull out my phone to set an alarm, but it’s too late. I lose consciousness before I even unlock my phone.
“You can’t run from me Maci,” he says, his hot breath on my neck chilling me to the bone. “I’m everywhere.”
I shoot upright, crying out quietly as my head collides with the top of the bunk. Breathing a sigh of relief as I realize that I’m on the tour bus, I lay back down. Wait, I’m in the bunk.
My hand reaches for my phone next to me on the pillow. The bus tires can subtly be heard against the highway road as I click it open - 9:13. The concert ended about twenty minutes ago. Oh God. The concert.
My eyes prick, remembering what had happened. Niall flubbed his solo, because he’s exhausted. Because of me. And he’d been embarrassed. Also because of me. Me and my stupid fears. What is wrong with me!?
I blink away the tears, wiping at my eyes. In the dim light I can see a ton of mascara rub off on my fingers, and I grimace. No matter how exhausted I am, after another dream, I’m not going back to sleep. Might as well wash up.
I carefully roll out of the bunk, my feet landing softly on the floor. I don’t see the boys anywhere, but I hear Paul’s deep voice at the front of the bus. Digging in my duffel, I pull out a pair of pajamas [Polyvore] and some makeup wipes. I pad to the bathroom and wipe all the remnants of my mascara off, changing as well. Taking a deep breath, I look at myself in the mirror.
I grimace as I see the bags under my eyes, grown a darker color in contrast to this morning. I look completely exhausted - worn, scared, helpless. Sighing shakily, I open the bathroom door. I’m about to walk back to the bunk when I hear the hushed voices of the boys coming from the back room. I just notice that the door is closed, and I creep up carefully to avoid being heard. Just as I reach out to open the door, something stops me.
“Nialler,” Harry’s voice says. “This isn’t good for you. You’ve got to sleep.”
“Not without Maci,” Niall’s voice states.
“Mate,” Zayn’s voice sighs. “She’s not sleeping. And when she does, it’s for so short a time she can’t even dream.”
“She’s going through a rough time,” Niall explains, sadness in his voice. My chest tightens at his words. He shouldn’t feel sorry for me - he’s the one who needs sleep.
“And you can’t help her through it until you’ve gotten proper sleep,” Liam counters. “Neither of you are thinking straight anymore.”
Niall scoffs. “You can’t sit there and tell me that you wouldn’t do the same thing for Danni. Or Perrie, or El.”
“You’re right, I can’t,” Liam replies. “But there comes a certain point where you have to use your head. Mate, you can’t help her if you’re not thinking straight.”
“I’m thinking fine,” Niall snaps, making me wince. Liam is right, Niall’s not thinking clearly. He needs sleep.
“That may be true,” Louis pipes up. “But the concert tonight - I’ve never seen you like that. That was horrible just to watch.”
“You looked like you were going to faint,” Harry agrees. “You’re tired beyond belief, and you know it. No one can sing like that.”
“This isn’t about singing,” Niall says, ice in his voice. “This is about Maci, the girl I love.”
“We’re on tour, Niall,” Zayn fires back. “I know you love Maci - we all care about her. But being here is about singing, not focusing on something that heals with time.”
“She is my girlfriend, Zayn!” Niall shouts, and my chest tightens. “I care about her more than anything, and I suffer if she does!”
“More than our music?” Liam questions, his voice level.
“Yes!” Niall answers without hesitation, creating a deafening silence.
Oh my God. I stumble back from the door, breathing hard. I’m getting in the way of Niall’s singing. I’m the reason he messed up tonight. I’m the reason for the argument behind the door.
Zayn sighs heavily. “We have a show in Austin tomorrow. Just one more in America, then we catch a flight in Houston and we’re off for the rest of Europe. Just… Please get some sleep tonight.”
“Not without Maci,” Niall says harshly.
That’s about all I can take. My bottom lip quivers as I dive into Niall’s bunk. He’s being awful to the boys. He’s changing. Because of me. I’m the reason that he’s snapping at his four best friends. Niall’s bandmates. I’m getting in the way of his job.
I shove my face into his pillow and start to bawl. A part of me wants so badly to blame my father for this all happening, but I know that part of me is wrong. I’m letting him torture me, and that’s my own fault. It just so happens that I’m hurting someone else in the process. I just wish I knew how to fix it.
I hear the door to the back room open softly and I immediately stifle my cries. Curling into a ball on my side, I hear the curtain swish open and feel a pressure on the mattress behind me. Niall’s strong arms wrap around my middle, drawing me closer to him. My chest tightens and tears brim my eyes, feeling incredibly guilty. I start to snivel and my bottom lip trembles, giving me completely away. I let out a cross between a cough and a sob, letting the tears flow from my eyes. Niall’s body goes rigid, but he quickly recovers and wraps his arms tighter around me.
“Shh,” he says, stroking my hair. “It’s alright, Love. I’m right here. I’ll always be here. We’ll get through this together.”
Getting through it together will only hurt you. But I can’t bring myself to say it. The boys are right - this is hurting Niall. I’m hurting Niall. My eyes are shut tight as my chest pangs with emotional pain. He turns me around and kisses my forehead.
“Wake up, Love.”
He thinks I’m asleep. My eyes open carefully, but I can’t see him very well through my tears. I let out a small sob as he hugs me tighter, pressing my face into his chest.
“It’s alright,” he coos. “You’re safe, Love. We’ll get through this.”
“I-I’m so s-sorry,” I whisper between sobs, taking two fist-fulls of his t-shirt.
“What do you have to be sorry for?” he asks, meant to be a rhetorical question.
Everything. I’m sorry for everything.
Maci’s sobs eventually calm down and she relaxes into me. Despite the fact that I’m steaming mad at the lads, seeing Maci in this state makes me put those feelings aside. But that doesn’t mean I can stop thinking about it.
I mean, I know I’m tired. Almost impossibly so. I couldn’t even sing my solo, my head hurt so bad. But Maci needs me. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again. If Maci suffers, I suffer too.
But even so, I feel my breath deepening and my eyelids start to droop. I must seem like a wimp. I’ve only been up since 3:30 this morning, and it’s about 9:30 at night. That’s eighteen hours. I’ve had four hours of solid sleep, and I couldn’t even do a concert. Maci is here, trucking through with three hours in four days. I seem pathetic. I have to stay awake for her, no matter what it takes.
My eyes close as she shifts. I feel her pull away slightly, and I feel her eyes on my face. Right as I’m about to pull Maci closer again, I feel her shrug my arms off. My eyebrows furrow and I hear her sigh heavily. A soft pair of lips presses lightly to my forehead, and the mattress shifts. The place beside me is abruptly emptied as I feel her carefully climb over me. The curtain opens quietly and a pair of feet tap against the floor and pad up to the front room.
“Goodnight,” I hear Paul mumble as he shuffles back to his bunk. The lads had said their goodnights earlier, and they were probably already asleep.
I listen closely to my surroundings for a while, wondering why Maci got up. Probably just to use the bathroom. Only minutes later, Paul is snoring along with the rest of the lads. Then I hear the sound of a guitar playing softly. Maci.
I hurry to get out of bed, getting tangled in the covers in the process. My body is weak from lack of sleep, so it takes me quite a while to kick them off of me, but I finally manage to as I hear Maci start to hum. I lightly lower myself to the ground and peek into the dark front room. Maci sits at the couch, strumming on the guitar I bought her.
I recognize the chords and the melody as one of our songs. It’s an acoustic version of Moments. Her beautiful voice softly fills the room, just barely reaching my ears.
“You know I’ll be
Your reason to be
My love. My heart
Is breathing for this
Moment in time.
I’ll find the words to say
Before you leave me today.”
My eyes close as I listen to her carefully. Her amazing voice carries out the melodies and lyrics perfectly, as if she had written it herself. I hear the guitar strings fumble a bit as she starts into my part of the song.
“Shut the door.
Throw the key.
Don’t want to be reminded.
Don’t want to be seen.
Don’t want to be without you.
My judgement’s clouded.
Light tonight’s sky.”
I hear her take a shaky breath and let out a sort of strangled noise. Watching her face carefully, I see tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
“Hands are silent.
Try to scream out
It makes this harder.
And the tears stream
Down my face-”
She chokes out the last word, the guitar ceasing to play. Her shoulders start to shake, and I’m frozen for a moment. I watch as her eyes close and a single tear falls down her face, snapping me back to my senses. Wasting no time, I quietly make my way over to Maci, sitting on the couch and wrapping my arms around her.
She jumps, telling me I’ve surprised her. “It’s okay, Love,” I say quietly, pulling her closer. “I’m here.”
Taking me by surprise, she pulls away. “Please go to bed, Niall.”
The serious look on Maci’s face throws me off. “W-what?”
“Please go to bed, Niall,” she repeats, pulling away more.
I blink once, twice, then shake my head. “Not unless you are too-”
“-Go to bed, Niall,” she says firmly. Maci sets her guitar in its case and slides it carefully aside.
“I’m not going if you’re not,” I say. “If you suffer-”
“If I suffer, you suffer,” she says, exasperated. “I’ve heard it before. The thing is Niall, is I’m not suffering. I’m coping. I’m dealing with it.”
“This,” I gesture to her. “Is not dealing with it. Staying up for days is not coping. It’s called running. And wherever you go, I’ll go with you.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Niall,” she says, looking away. There’s a long pause before she speaks again, still looking at the ground. “Go to bed. You’re tired.”
I cup her chin and gently turn her to face me. “So are you.”
Maci jerks her head away. “I know I am, Niall,” she says harshly. “But that doesn’t mean you have to be.
“Yes. It does.”
She shakes her head sadly. “This is hurting you Niall - more than it is me, and you know it. You couldn’t sing tonight because you’re too tired. You have a show tomorrow, and then a whole tour in Europe. There’s no way you can stay up with me.”
I get up to go to the fridge. Snagging a Pepsi, I walk back to the couch. “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” I say, putting my finger under the tab.
“Niall,” Maci says, stopping my hand by resting hers on it. “Stop this. Now. Go. To. Bed.”
“Not. Without. You.”
She lets out a frustrated grunt. “Why are you being like this?” she says, her voice rising in pitch.
“Because I love you,” I say, taking Maci’s hand in mine and kissing it softly.
“I love you too,” she mumbles, staring down and the floor. She takes a deep breath. “If I go to sleep, you promise you’ll follow suit?”
I smile widely, feeling my eyelids already start to droop. “I promise.”
A heavy sigh escapes Maci’s lips as she pulls out her phone. I wrap my arms around her waist and pull her down on top of me in a laying position. She lets out a bit of a giggle, but quickly unlocks her phone and sets an alarm for twenty minutes.
“What are you doing?” I ask hesitantly.
She looks at me out of the corner of her eye. “If I wake up before my dream cycle starts, I can avoid the nightmares.”
I shake my head. “You shouldn’t do that.”
“I have to, that’s how I’m choosing to cope.” She sets her phone on the sofa next to my shoulder, pressing the ‘START’ button. The numbers start to tick down and I pull her closer.
“I love you,” I whisper in her ear. She doesn’t have a chance to reply before her eyelids shut and she’s consumed by sleep.
I wait a couple minutes before carefully picking up her phone. Unlocking it, I scroll to the alarm app and look at the time. She’ll be walking up in eighteen minutes. That’s horrible. I look from her to the phone, her to the phone. I finally make a decision, squeezing her shoulders and gently kissing her forehead.
I make sure to click the ‘ALARM OFF’ button before closing my eyes and letting myself drift off into sleep.