I got all the way home before realizing that I’d left my phone at Niall’s as well. I groaned as I collapsed onto my sofa, taking in what all had happened.
I’d cooled down on the long walk home. I didn’t have to cry anymore, and my emotions were back in check. I’d been wrong to think that I didn’t want to be Niall’s friend. Looking back on past interactions between Niall and I, I realized that Niall’s reaction to everything today was the biggest step toward friendship he’d ever taken with me. He’d stopped himself from hurting me. The only angry words directed toward me were ‘get out’. I’d made it home, unharmed.
Feeling a bit greasy from the party the night before, I decided to have a shower. As I tugged Niall’s polo over my head, my bandeau underneath rode up a bit. I bent down to shrug off his boxer’s, folding both pieces of clothing and scooting them to the corner. As I straightened, my midsection caught my eye. Just below the end of the bandeau was the cut I’d made just four days ago, a thin scab forming where blood had once been drawn.
Four days ago, I’d needed that. I’d needed a sense of control so much that I’d resorted to inflicting pain on my body. Niall had made my life seem so out of control that I’d done this to myself. And now, it seemed impossible that Niall could’ve done any of those things to me - especially after he’d controlled his anger. But there was still that lingering feeling that the old Niall was still in there somewhere, waiting for me to trigger it. Yet still, I felt stupid for hurting myself.
I let my finger trace the line, still a bit sore. It’d been a fairly shallow cut, but that didn’t keep it from having the same effect on me. Now, the reasons for my self-harm seemed ridiculous and unnecessary. I rested my hand over it, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. The boy who’d made me feel out of control had started to become my friend. Niall, who’d seemed like he hated me, now was acting as if I was actually a human being.
Was that what I’d wanted all along? To be treated like a human being? Not just like some punching bag, there for his personal abuse. I wanted to be treated right by Niall. By Niall. I realized that I didn’t care what everyone else did to me, I just cared that Niall was treating me right. What did that have to say about me?
I shook my head to clear it, then finished undressing myself as the shower heated. I stepped in and let the water wash over, the steam clearing my lungs and mind. All thoughts of Niall left me at that moment, and I focused on the water pounding gently on my back.
About thirty minutes later I stepped out, my skin tinged red from the heat of the water. I dried myself off and pulled on a pair of gray sweatpants along with a peach colored sweatshirt and black socks. I let my hair dry naturally, the water turning it an even deeper shade of brown than what it already was. My eyes were heavy, though it was only about five o’clock. I’d been through a lot in these past few days, and I was ready for a long break.
I shuffled down the stairs and into the living room, the couch welcoming me with open arms. I gratefully dove into the cushions and pillows, burying my head into the comforting smell of my own home.
It felt odd to say ‘my own home’. No, I didn’t own the house, and no, I didn’t pay for the expenses. My parents had jobs for that. Both of their jobs just took them in separate directions, leaving me here to finish school and tend to the house. They came and went - the longest they’d stopped by in about five months was a week, and that was for Christmas. I was left to live on my own, so I had to deal with my own problems. My self harm had just been the answer to most of them.
I sighed into the pillow I was holding, wanting to just fall asleep. I’d have to get my phone from Niall’s later, once I’d given him enough time to cool off. From my knowledge of him, cooling off took a fairly long time. Plus, who was I going to text? My parents didn’t call home, and no one beside Niall had my number.
I inhaled deeply. Why were all of my thoughts consumed by Niall now? Before this project it’d been schoolwork, tutoring, and other things like that. Now, it seemed that all that was on my mind was either Niall or his sudden change in behavior. I needed a distraction, something to clear my head.
I rolled off of the sofa, landing on my rear and scooting over to the movie shelf. After grabbing the television remote, I selected a random title and popped it into the DVD player. Quickly, I hopped up and grabbed a snack from the fridge - red peppers and ranch dressing. I had no clue how I’d made the connection between the two - all I knew was that it was good.
Truthfully, I didn’t even watch the first half of the movie. I was too tired, my mind drifting to either Niall or the project we still had to film and finish. Even though we had until the last week of school to finish it, I wanted to get it done so that we could focus on Niall’s grades for finals. Because of the project, we hadn’t had time to get any tutoring done, and I worried for Niall’s next test. If Niall either dropped or maintained his percentage for an extended period of time, I’d have my tutoring privileges taken away and Niall would be given a new tutor. Honestly, I didn’t want to put another person through his abuse.
The second half of the movie didn’t even register in my brain. I was already asleep.
I woke to the TV blaring back at me. My eyes jolted open and I sat straight up, searching for the remote. I spotted it under the pillow I’d been using. I’d been laying on it, and I must’ve moved so the volume button was pressed down. I scrambled for it, just clicking the ‘off’ button and letting the remote fall to the floor.
I sighed, collapsing back into the soft and welcoming sofa. Sadly, though, my mind wouldn’t let me fall back asleep. After staring at the ceiling for what felt like forever, I glanced at the clock and sighed. It was only eight at night, and I had a few too many hours of sleep to catch up on. Even worse, I had a headache.
I shifted off the couch and headed into the kitchen, fumbling around in the freezer before coming up with an ice pack. I held it to my head and it helped a bit, then poured myself a glass of water. I guess the effects of alcohol were still getting the better of me. Note to self; never drink again.
I shuffled into the living room again, this time not even making it to the sofa before falling to the floor in exhaustion. I was so tired, but I couldn’t fall asleep. Maybe if I had a few less things to worry about, or if I didn’t have a pounding headache - maybe then I’d be able to sleep.
My thoughts then drifted to Niall, who happened to be the prime source of my headache. His confusing actions, the party he’d taken me to, the project we needed to finish, his grades we needed to worry about. All of these together resulted in my aching head. And now, since my thoughts were centered on him, my headache only grew worse.
I held the icepack to my forehead and sipped my water, but this proved ineffective. Instead, my hands reached up to my temples, rubbing them to see if this helped. I found out quickly that the answer was no, and resorted to just curling up and holding my pounding head.
I could literally feel the blood rushing to it, coursing throughout my body and causing pain. It wasn’t only my head that hurt, now it was my neck. This pain lasted for a while, my throat constricting uncomfortably, then traveled down and sunk into my chest. I struggled for breath, the pain enveloping my whole upper body as I sat up slowly. This movement ended up being my downfall - the pain dropped into my stomach, and before I knew it, I was up and running for the restroom. My damp hair was tugged back into a ponytail as I kneeled to the floor in front of the toilet, proceeding to retch more than I had in my whole life.
I tasted stale alcohol in the bile that raised from my stomach, and knew right away that this was the aftermath of my first drinking experience. It’d just taken a while for it to work its way through my body. As soon as the first wave of heaving was over, I hissed in a breath, not wanting to subject my mouth to the horrible taste. I took in another breath, hearing it hitch as another wave of nausea came over me. I doubled over, retching into the toilet once again. Forget never drinking again, I was never going to anotherparty again.
As soon as my nausea passed, I flushed the toilet and pulled myself off the floor. Thank goodness the pain in my stomach had gone, but my head still hurt mildly. I made my way to the kitchen, then moved to the sink to fill my glass back up with water. I rinsed my mouth, spitting what was left of the sour bile into the sink and using the faucet to wash it down the drain. I shakily filled my glass again, then drank slowly as I walked up the stairs and into the other bathroom.
I set the glass down beside the sink and reached for my toothbrush, making sure to get extra paste on it before brushing for the next five minutes. I shivered a bit as I rinsed my mouth. Being sick wasn’t high on my ‘favorites’ list. In fact, I tried to prevent being sick as much as I could.
I wasn’t too gross, so I just settled for changing into a new sweatshirt. This one was teal, reflecting off of my dark eyes in an odd way. I stared in the mirror at myself, standing in the middle of my bedroom in the soft light my lamp caused. I looked tired - my eyes were a bit red, and the corners of my mouth tipped down out of stress and exhaustion.
I sighed and turned away from my reflection. Walking to the window, I looked out through the slitted blinds at the dark sky, then at a single lamppost. The concentrated glow made my head start to throb again, and I cursed as I rubbed my eyes and shuffled back downstairs.
When I got to the kitchen, my head seemed to have a dull thud to it. I tapped the counter as I passed it, but I couldn’t really tell if it was my head I heard or the granite countertop. Hastily, I pulled down another cup from the cabinet and filled it. I quickly downed it, filling another one and drinking that as well. Though it was refreshing to my sore throat, it did nothing to calm my headache.
Thankfully, my headache didn’t transfer down my my stomach again. It simply stayed put, pounding in my ears as I squeezed my eyes shut and attempted to walk back to the sofa. As soon as I’d made it there I collapsed again, feeling the drain of my energy hit me like a ton of bricks. I shoved my face into the pillows and sighed, still trying - though unsuccessfully - to ebb the ache in my head. Quite literally, I felt it in my ears. It sounded as if someone was knocking directly on my skull - with a hammer.
It was so loud, in fact, that I almost missed the knocking at the door.
My eyes shot open and I sat straight up. I cringed at the sudden movement, but forced myself to stand anyway. Who in the world would be knocking on my door at - I turned to check the clock - nearly nine-thirty? Stumbling every few steps, I made my way to the door. I glanced in the hall mirror, but turned away at the sight of me. I looked worn and tired.
Gritting my teeth, I adjusted my loose ponytail and felt for the doorknob in the semidarkness. In my tired state, my judgement was off. I probably shouldn’t have opened the door. I should’ve ignored it and fallen back asleep. But I opened the door anyway.
My heart stopped when I found Niall on my front porch.
“Samm,” he breathed, looking at me, seemingly filled with relief. If I hadn’t been confused enough already, this put the icing on the cake.
“N-Niall,” I stuttered, rubbing my temple and wincing. “What are you doing here?”
“Erm,” he said, and I could tell he was trying to find words. “Here.”
I noticed that he had two things in his hand as he held it out to me. The first was the pair of shorts I’d accidentally left. The second was my phone. My eyes flickered up to his, then back down to my things. I quickly took them from him, tossing them on the stairs. I turned back to him, still unsure of his anger from before. Had he cooled down, or was this his way of making up for the beating I’d missed?
“Samm,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck and shifting his weight between his feet. There was no sign of the gray in his eyes that I’d seen before. The deep blue of them was back, and I realized that Niall didn’t seem angry anymore. I relaxed a bit.
“What is it?” I asked, my voice still a bit quiet. The pounding in my head ceased the slightest bit, one thing to stress about now gone.
Niall took a deep breath, then looked down at the ground. “I’m sorry… About today, you know? I didn’t mean to get… I didn’t mean to take that out on you.”
I felt my eyebrows draw together in confusion. Was Niall… Apologizing? He’d never controlled his anger, let alone apologized - or even shown up at my doorstep to do so! Today was just full of firsts for Niall, and this in itself was beginning to build my stress.
I didn’t know what to say. I just stood there like an idiot, gaping at Niall’s behavior. What was going on? Was he trying to confuse me? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, or had been seeing for the past four - nearly five - days. Was it safe to say that I just didn’t know what to say in general?
“Samm?” Niall asked as he looked up, grabbing my attention again. My gaze flickered to his eyes. Again, I found no sign of anger in them.
“Yeah?” I asked, tucking a piece of hair that had fallen out of my ponytail behind my ear.
“Can - can I come inside?” he asked.
I willed my mouth not to drop. He sounded so… Small. And he’d asked to come in. Just four days ago, he’d said that he never wanted to come into my home. Filthy and disgusting, he’d called it. But it seemed like he’d changed so much from then. I found myself biting my lip, not saying anything.
Niall sighed at my stunned silence. “I’m sorry. Can we talk? I - I want to explain.”