CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN
Alleviate the Pain
The sun was setting quickly and I knew that my phone was bound to ring. I sat in Niall's kitchen, the silence astoundingly awkward compared to before. As I looked across the small kitchen table at Niall, I saw that he shifted uncomfortably before piling some food into his mouth.
"How...have you been?" I could feel myself tensing from sheer nervousness. This was so unlike us.
He swallows and gives me a weary smile, "About as good as I can be. What about you?"
"I haven't seen dad yet..."
"It's only been a day princess, give it some time."
I look up at him, but as soon as we make eye contact he breaks it. He looks back down at his food and starts pushing potatoes around his plate.
"What..." I stop myself. Was this something that I really needed to know? I trusted Niall. I did. I trusted him with my very life. So why is it that I just can't let go of the fact that he had cheated on his wife?
"You can ask me. I know you want to." He flushes, his cheeks being violently attacked by the growing blush.
"I just...is it true?"
My phone starts buzzing and I roll my eyes. Niall clears his throat, clearly indicating that I should answer.
"It's only six thirty." I mumble looking at the caller ID, still not making any kind of indication that I would answer the call.
"Just answer it, Ems."
My hand reaches for the phone hesitantly, and finally it connects me to the voice I had yet to hear today, "Where are you?"
This time the lie didn't leave me feeling guilty, funnily enough.
"Put her on the line."
"She's in the loo."
"Seriously, dad? I'm not putting her on the line. I'm nineteen years old, not ten. I'll be home before it gets late."
"Emma Grace. If you go within five feet of that-"
But I cut him off, pressing end, and look up at Niall, "You were saying?"
"He's really serious about this, Emma."
"I'm sorry." He utters, putting his face in his hands. "I'm a fucking poor excuse of a man, princess. I shouldn't be doing this. You deserve so much better."
"What?" My voice quivers, afraid that he would break his resolve before I broke mine.
"Princess, why me? Why do you love me? What have I done to deserve you?"
"Seriously Niall? What have you done?"
He looks at me silently, waiting for me to continue. Urging me to say something that would alleviate the pain he had within.
I get up and walk around the table, sit upon his lap, and wrap my arms around him.
"You are my person." I kiss his cheek. "You have taught me everything I know." I kiss his other cheek. "You have helped make me into who I am today." I kiss his forehead. And finally, I looked straight into his eyes, "You are the reason I have survived the toughest years of my life." And kiss his soft, warm lips.
He pulls away slowly and shakes his head, "Ems."
I tip his chin towards me, making him look at me, "I love you, Niall. I love you for everything that you are and that you aren't. Just as you've loved me."
"Princess. I'm not the person you think I am."
"Why do you say that?"
"I...I..." He shakes his head, "Fuck. Look, I didn't cheat on my wife."
"No. It's worse than that."
"What...what did you do."
He hugs me tighter to him and sighs loudly before responding, "She was...never really my wife, Ems."
"What do you mean?"
He sighs loudly once more, guiltily looking at me, "It's a really long story, princess. You may want to sit back down in your chair."
"I knew that the moment I came back to Ireland...that was it. I would be there until the day my dad died, and the way things were looking it wouldn't be too long." I nod. "But...as the days were passing there was hope. Of course there was, how couldn't there be. But..." He stops and sighs, "Then the doctor told us there wasn't much time. A year at most. So I asked my dad...I asked him what he wanted the most. That I would give him anything, anything he possibly wanted."
He takes a shaky breath and looks straight at me, "He told me he wanted to see me get married. That he wanted me to settle down, have some kids. That all he wanted was for me to be happy."
"So you got married."
"To your girlfriend?"
"She...she wasn't my girlfriend, Ems."
I furrow my brow, "Then...?"
"I...I didn't want to be with anyone then. I really just didn't really think that I would ever get married, and as it was I wasn't looking for a serious relationship."
"Then how did you get married?"
"Leah...Leah was our neighbor. She had moved in a few months after I moved back with my dad. She liked me, well she loved me. Said she had been a fan when the band was around and had always fancied me. So...when I asked her...when I asked her to marry me...she didn't say no."
"Wait. What do you mean? Are you saying you just asked her to marry you as a favor?"
"We...we drew up a contract."
"Did you pay her to marry you?"
"I used her, Emma. I used her feelings to my advantage. And I'm a shit person, I know that. I'm a shit man. But, fuck. I just wanted my dad to know I'd be okay after he left."
"So you married her."
"So I married her."
"How did you go about..."
"We made a contract stating that we would be married for four years. In those four years, we would act as if we were happily married. And by the end of the four years, we would get a divorce."
"But...why the cheating?" I say trying to process this. It sounded...like...an episode of a drama you see on the television.
"Emma, Leah loved me. She spent the four years we were married trying to make it work. That woman, she loved me. God knows why, but she did. She believed that one day...I could love her too."
"But you didn't."
"I didn't. So when the contract was over...she refused to believe that I would be leaving her."
"So you cheated on her."
"I made it seem like I did."
"But...were you two ever...together?"
"I'm a pathetic excuse for a man, princess. But I'm not a monster. I...I couldn't do that to her as well knowing that it would just bring her hopes up once more."
"So she left you?"
"I..." I'm not sure what to say.
"I'm sorry." He says, his eyes brimming with tears. He comes around the table and kneels at my feet, placing his head upon my lap. "I'm so sorry that I left you all that time. I'm sorry I left you when you were just starting to come into your own. I'm sorry for every single thing that I missed. And I'm sorry for lying to you, princess."
"Niall." I stroke his hair, trying so hardly not to tear up myself. He looked so broken, so utterly in pieces.
"Emma. I love you. I do. But I'm scared I'm not good enough for you. You could do so much better than me. You're so young, so smart, you don't need me."
I slip out of my chair, his face looking at me confusedly as I kneel down his level, "I will always need you. You will always be everything that I will ever need."
I wrap my arms around his neck, pulling him to me. His body pressed onto mine and I could feel his arms wrap around my waist as we both knelt on his wooden kitchen floor. I pressed him to me, wishing I could magically put him back together this way. Wishing that the pieces would stay in their rightful place.
We stayed like this for mere moments before he finally muttered into my ear, "You are my weakness little girl."
I smiled, a tear streaming down my face, "And you are my strength."
"I love you."
"I love you too."
And somehow I knew that would always be enough. Three words, eight letters, they would suffice when there were no more words to say. Hell, even when there were words to say, those three words would be enough.
I love him.
And I think that says it all.