Why? There were a lot of whys. Why was Niall acting so strangely? Why was Niall even horrid in the first place? Why was I allowing myself to be so effected by his torture? Why, why, why? But most of all, why was I letting Niall in?
I didn’t understand it. Niall was being genuinely nice to me. I should have been grateful for this break. I shouldn’t have questioned it. Yet still, even as we had a normal conversation - even as we actually joked around a bit - some of me still felt uneasy around him.
“You do this one,” Niall said, handing me a domino. We’d been setting these up for at least twenty minutes, per say our map. The problem was that we’d - well, I’d - repeatedly knock them over.
“I’m going to ruin it again,” I said, pushing the piece back into his hand. “You’ve already done it well up to this point.”
“Your turn,” Niall laughed.
I pouted but took the domino from him anyway. I bit my lip in concentration as I put the domino down in line next to the others. My hand shook a bit, and the piece wavered as I let it go, but didn’t otherwise fall. The biggest smile lit up my face, and I clapped my hands together.
“First time I haven’t knocked them over!” I cheered for myself.
“Good job,” Niall chuckled.
Quite honestly, if I didn’t know what Niall was capable of, and he hadn’t abused me since I’d met him - I’d have thought that Niall and I were genuine friends. See? This is the kind of thing I was doing - I was opening up to a boy who hurt me, physically and emotionally. This was the boy that had driven me to start harming myself. But I was letting him in.
“You do the rest, I’m no good at it,” I told him, pushing the pile of dominoes toward him.
He rolled his eyes. “Fine.”
I went to move so he could reach around me to put the piece down, but I wasn’t quick enough. He reached over my lap, causing me to stiffen and go numb. Niall looked up at me as he placed the piece next to the others. I only stiffened more when his arm brushed my leg as the piece was adjusted.
“What?” he asked.
I shook my head quickly. “Nothing,” I mumbled, looking away.
“Okay,” he said hesitantly.
The only physical touch that Niall had ever given me was pain. Whether it was his nails, his feet, his hands - it was alway to inflict pain. That’s what I was expecting at this encounter. But pain didn’t come. It was a light touch, one that would’ve sent butterflies to my stomach - if Niall didn’t make me uneasy, that is. Instead, I was just numb. I didn’t really know what to do.
“You’re sure you’re alright?” he asked, drawing his hand back and brushing against my leg again.
“Y-yeah,” I stammered, brushing a lock of hair behind my ear and averting my eyes. “Fine.”
He eyed me oddly for a second before sitting up straight again. He then glanced at the map we’d made, hopping up after a few seconds.
“I’ll go get the bucket of balls - that’s what’s next, right?”
I shrugged. He smiled and left the room in a rush. I studied the pattern of the dominoes then, not in any particular order. Quite random and sporadic, actually. Like Niall’s behavior.
I sighed at my own thoughts. What was I doing? From what I’d seen of Niall, this nice front was only put up when we were here alone. At school, nothing even close to this came up.
Was that what it was? With people around, Niall wanted to feel superior to me? And when we were alone, there was no pressure one him? Is that why I’ve been tortured for this long? An image thing? I didn’t have time to give it any more consideration before Niall walked back in his room.
“Catch,” he said, tossing a small ball at me.
“I can’t-” I tried to say, but the ball was already coming toward me. I threw my arms up in defense, and the ball bounced off of them - landing straight on the dominoes.
They flew in all directions, knocking each other over and destroying what we’d set up for twenty minutes straight. We both scrambled, trying to catch them as they fell - to little avail. They all toppled over, leaving Niall and I with our arms outstretched futilely. I sighed heavy.
“I can’t catch,” I mumbled.
Niall’s sudden burst of laughter made me jump. I looked at him, confused as to how this was so funny. We’d spent so much time setting it up, and it’d only taken five seconds of my handiwork to knock it all down.
But as Niall continued, I found his laugh to be quite contagious. At first it was a small laugh, but then I began to laugh as hard as him. I didn’t know why it was so funny. Maybe it was the fact that we were laughing at my clumsiness, but then turned to laughing at our own laughs, which made us laugh even harder.
Eventually, we’d collected ourselves enough to start setting the dominoes back up. We did so in silence, sharing quick glances every once in a while. And soon, no thanks to my clumsiness, we were ready to start with the next piece of the project.
“It’s a shame we had to tear it down,” Niall said, opening the front door while I put on my shoes.
“Yeah,” I laughed, reaching down to speed up the process a bit. I scrunched my nose as my foot squeezed into my pair of TOMS. “We’ll have time for it tomorrow.”
Niall nodded, and I began to walk out the door. But a hand on my wrist stopped me. I whirled around to find Niall looking at me, hand loose around my wrist. That numb feeling went through me again, but this time I wasn’t so afraid. The entire evening had been spent goofing off, with no sign of Niall’s… Other side. I was confident that episodes like what we had during school wouldn’t happen here, especially with Maura in the next room over. It was Niall’s other side that I was wary of.
“Samm,” he said, his hand still wrapped around my wrist. “We’re… Friends, right?”
The question took me completely by surprise. How was I supposed to answer that? Well, you’ve tortured me so much that I need to fight for control of my life, but other than that I’m warming up to one side of you. No. I wasn’t just going to say that! I mean, what if I set off his… Horrible side? He had a hold of me, and I wasn’t about to make him angry. But… I didn’t know if I was exactly lying.
“Erm,” I said, brushing a stray lock of my hair away from my face. “Yeah. Yeah, we are.”
I let out a silent breath of relief as he smiled. He squeezed my wrist lightly, then let my hand drop. I send back a hesitant smile, unsure of what I’d really just said.
“Same thing tomorrow, right?” Niall asked, his hand finding the door.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
He paused for a second, watching my face. “See you tomorrow, then. In physics.”
My chest tightened at the thought of him during the school day. I bit my lip subtly, trying to tell myself that it was only one more day before I had the weekend to recuperate. One weekend, then straight back into the same cycle.
“Yeah,” I said, my voice sounding a bit strained. I cursed myself silently. “See you then.”