Usually, encounters with Niall ended in my self-doubt and inflicting pain upon myself to feel in control again. Usually, I was afraid to even walk out the door in the morning and face him. But today… Today, I felt like my life had gone back to normal - the normal where Niall and I coexisted without issue.
“Same time tomorrow,” Niall said from the couch as I put my shoes back on. “We’ll figure the next half of the map out.”
I nodded. “Alright. Goodbye.”
And with that, I was out the door and to my car. No tears, no new injuries, no pain. Just… Me. In control again.
When I got home, I didn’t know what to do with myself. All of my homework was done, I’d done my chores. It was only eight. On a normal day - well, I should say the days that Niall condescended and hurt me - those next few hours would’ve been used inflicting my own pain and cleaning up the mess I’d made. But now… I had time on my hands. And what did I do with it?
I took a shower and caught up on some much needed rest.
The next morning I got up earlier than I had in a while. This gave me time to actually style my hair, so I straightened out the soft waves with a flat iron. I pulled on dark brown leggings and a plain off-white shirt, then headed downstairs for breakfast. Toast seemed like the easiest option, so while my bread was in the toast I got out some jam to go with it.
While I ate, my gaze flickered over to my bag. My notebook was hanging out the top, the notebook I’d taken down notes for Niall and my project in. My thoughts drifted from the notebook, to the project, to the Niall I’d witnessed yesterday. The Niall that had thrown me completely off-kilter. The kind, bearable Niall.
Would that be the Niall I’d encounter today? Or would that have just been… I don’t know what in the world that could’ve been. Niall had become unpredictable.
I shook my head, forcing myself not to think about it. I’d just see when I got there.
I don’t know whether I was disappointed or relieved that I had no morning classes with Niall. I hadn’t seen Niall yet that day, and part of me was eager to see that benevolent side of him again.
So when eighth hour came around, I was in my seat early and expectant. Niall walked in as the bell rang, a neutral expression on his face. It could go anywhere from there.
“Well,” Mrs. Dillard said cheerily as she closed the door of the classroom. “I trust that your first get-together with your partners went well.”
Several murmurs erupted, and I glanced over at Niall with a smile. I let the corners of my mouth drop as soon as I saw the familiar glare in his eyes again. He was back to the old Niall.
“So,” Mrs. Dillard continued, and I turned my head back to face her. “I’ll be giving you your cameras today, so you can start to film your work processes. Will one person from every table please come up to get one?”
I moved to get up, but a sharp pain in my thigh stopped me. I gasped quietly and fell back into my chair as the pain increased.
“I’m not letting your filthy hands touch the camera,” Niall hissed in my ear, making me shy away. Definitely the Niall I was familiar with.
I whimpered as the pressure on my thigh increased suddenly, then subsided. As Niall got up to get a camera, I rubbed my thigh gingerly. The leggings I wore did nothing to dampen the blow of his nails. There would be bruises, just as there always were.
I let my hair shield my discouraged expression as Niall sat down again, setting the camera out in front of him. What had gotten into him yesterday? What had put him into such a nice mood? And what had gotten him out of it?
I couldn’t ask those questions. When Niall was in this state of mind, he was dangerous and unapproachable.
Class went by fast than I’d expected, and as soon as the bell rang I was up and out of my seat. Much to my dismay, Niall and I were seated at the back of the room, so I was stuck waiting behind the rest of the class. Right in front of Niall.
“My mother was wrong to be hospitable to you,” he growled lowly, so only I would hear it. “She couldn’t spot ‘worthless’ if she tried.”
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from saying anything. You were hospitable as well. Were you wrong?
A sharp pain on the back of my head interrupted my thoughts, and I yelped as I felt a strong tug on my hair.
“Don’t bother trying to fix your hair, Samm,” he snapped, again so only I heard. “You’re making it worse.”
I bit my lip to stop it from quivering, and finally the doorway was clear. I darted out and down the hall, opposite the way I knew Niall had to go. My next class was near Niall’s, but I wasn’t going there just yet. I had seven minutes.
I veered off into the bathroom and placed myself in a stall, resting my notebook on top of the toilet paper holder and tearing out a piece of paper. I’d never done this at school - but then, I’d never felt like I had to. Niall’s torture almost always came after hours, when I had time to think about how out of control my life had gotten. How out of control I’d gotten. But now, I hadn’t had time to think. I only had time to act.
Since I didn’t have a blade on hand, I used the edge of a crisp notebook page to run a slim cut along the edge of my fourth finger. I but my lip at the immediate sting of the paper cut, then sighed in relief as a drop of blood was squeezed from the cut. Then I did the same for each finger, except my thumb. Though the pain wasn’t as much as it usually was, some was better than nothing.
By the time I was finished and felt the slightest bit in control again, about five minutes had passed. I tossed the bloody paper in the wastebasket on the way out after running my fingers under the water, then speed-walked down the hall toward my classroom. Ducking in just as the bell rang, I made my way to my seat and began to listen in on the history lesson. Or, I tried to listen.
My thoughts kept drifting to the events of the last two days. I feared I would burst if my emotions and sanity continued to be toyed with. If Niall was decent last night - something he’d never been before - then his old, horrid self today…
What would tonight bring?