LONDON, ENGLAND 1999
Erin Quinn was looking so hard for romance that she blinded herself from the fact that it was right in front of her. And now, she was in a situation where she wished she hadn’t been so desperate before. Finally alone in her dorm room, she grabbed her diary from under her bed, secretly hidden from Orla, and began to write.
“I know how this goes, diary. I’ve read the novels. A young girls life is completely shattered when her boyfriend hits her. But here’s the thing. I think William is different. He was angry, and, well- I think I made him upset. And it wasn’t THAT hard. It hardly even hurt. Wasn’t even as bad as a wooden spoon.
I mean, he’s always been kind of mouthy...and a bit mean, but I thought that was just because he was joking. Kind of like Michelle does.
But I can’t help but think it’s going to get worse. Nah.... I think I’m being over dramatic. I bet this whole pickle will blow over by tomorrow and everything will go back to normal.”
She absolutely couldn’t even believe it. Erin genuinely thought Will was her soulmate. He had always been caring. Sure, they’d only been dating for a couple of months, but Erin liked the idea of a new and exciting relationship in a new country.
Will had back handed her right across the face in the midst of one of their arguments. She sighed, recounting the awful moment.
“Erin! I cannot believe you! You’re honestly so fucking dramatic! I didn’t even-“
“You said my writing was silly. YOU said I’d get nowhere in life with my degree. How do you think that makes me feel!?”
Erin was absolutely fuming, tears threatening to fall. No one ever dared to insult her passion for writing, and when it was someone who supposedly loved her, she knew that was way out of line. None of her friends would ever do it, so why would he?
“God. You’re so annoying! Honestly, you just need to shut the fuck up sometimes!”
Erin stopped, took a deep breath so she wouldn't lose her cool too much, and began raging towards him. “I am NOT annoying! I just have passion, something you clearl-“
That’s when it happened. A clean strike right across her cheek. It happened so fast that it caught her off guard. Erin’s hand flew up to her face and she stared at Will, wide eyed and breath heavy.
He just looked at her. “Fuck.” He mumbled, and when he took a step forward, Erin took one back.
“I’m sorry, Erin. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
She looked at him, her hand lowering, revealing a red mark that stung on her cheek.
“I’m so sorry, love. It just... happened.”
Will walked towards her, but Erin was so frozen in her place that she let him wrap her in a hug. She couldn't believe it.
“Please forgive me. Please. It will never happen again.”
Erin, wanting it to be over, nodded. “It’s okay.” She mumbled. Her heart was beating a mile a minute and her head was pounding with questions and thoughts. What the hell had just happened?
And then he left, leaving her in her dorm alone. Michelle, Clare and Orla went out to the movies, and Erin was supposed to be studying for her Shakespearean course exam the next day.
He left her, and a half an hour later was where she was now, writing in her diary, mind racing away as it usually was.
Only this time, she actually had a reason for her mind to race.
Getting up to stare at her reflection, she saw the red welt. It barely hurt anymore, and she judged the seriousness of the situation by how much it had hurt her physically.
If it didn’t hurt that bad, then it’s not serious. She thought to herself.
She couldn’t place Will’s boyfriend worth on if he 'accidentally' hit her tonight. She was acting silly. Erin decided that everything would go back to normal tomorrow. They’d forget about it.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a quick knock on the door. Legs still shaking slightly in surprise, she walked swiftly to answer it.
“Oh. Hiya, James.”
“Hey. You forgot your textbook in the library. I thought I’d drop it off.” He said, walking in and taking his shoes off, making himself at home.
James was one of Erin’s best friends, and quite frankly, Will had always been jealous of the relationship they had. William would grow insecure when Erin would laugh at James’ jokes, or hug him goodbye after a group hangout. He’d pester her after about it, but Erin never considered it a problem.
“Thanks, James. You can leave it on the counter.”
He nodded, then squinted. “What happened to your face, Er?”
She paused. Her cheek. Her thoughts and racing mind was causing her to forget that her cheek still in fact stung.
“Oh, allergic reaction to something. I think it’s this face cream Michelle uses. I tried it and it kind of made my cheek itchy.” She said, raising her hand. Thank God for a creative mind.
“Oh. You should definitely put some Benadryl on that. I have some back in my flat if you need it.” He smiled.
“No, it’s alright. I’ve got some here. I should get back to studying. You ready for the exam?”
He laughed. They both landed in the same Shakespearean course. James was in a teaching undergraduate program, and therefore, had to take an English credit. He enjoyed reading Romeo and Juliet in school, so when Erin suggested that they should take this course together, he obviously obliged.
“Yeah, I think so. Wanna meet at the coffee shop before? Then we can walk to class, get a good seat?”
She paused, thinking about Will. Anything could set him off to be cross with her again.
“Actually, I’d better meet you there. Wanna get as much studying as I can done. But thanks for the offer.” She smiled politely.
He nodded, being happy-go-lucky as usual. James was so care free that he didn’t mind if Erin wanted to do her own thing.
“Suit yourself. I can grab you a coffee if you want though.”
She laughed. He was too kind. “It’s alright, Jamie. You go on, get studying. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He nodded, then motioned to her cheek. “Benadryl.” He reminded her.
Erin chuckled, rolling her eyes. “Bye, James.”
After shutting the door, Erin went to hide her diary once more. Shoving in a box with old notebooks and socks, she made it extra concealed.
She wrote everything down as a method of counselling to herself. Erin was comforted by writing, and she liked having all of her thoughts in one place.
Once her diary was well hidden, Erin hopped in the shower, letting the cool water sooth the hot, stinging welt that was developing. She knew it would stand out against her pasty skin, therefore, she would use her allergic reaction excuse if it wasn’t enough for makeup to cover.
After scrubbing, she hopped out of the shower. And just as she was doing so, the three girls barged in, going on and on about the movie they saw.
“My lord, Erin. You should’ve came with us. The movie was fucking amazing!”
“That’s good.” Erin said, still wrapped in her towel.
“Aye.” Orla said. “It was called ‘10 Things I Hate About You’. But in all honesty, I can’t find anything I hated about the movie.”
“It was class, I do have to admit. Loved the ending.” Clare said. “Really loved it.”
Erin nodded, more quiet than usual, which of course, Michelle caught on to immediately.
“What the fucks your problem? And why do you have a breakout across your cheek? You look like a thirteen year old going through puberty.”
Erin scoffed, hand flying up to her cheek. “It’s not a pimple, Michelle. It’s an allergic reaction.” She lied. “And it’s from that lotion stuff.”
Clare raised an eyebrow. “What lotion stuff?”
Erin shrugged. “I dunno. Whatever was in the washroom. But I took Benadryl. James was by and he told me to.”
Another lie, right through her teeth. Maybe she should be an actress.
“Let me take a look.” Clare said. She was in school to be a nurse, so she automatically felt the need take a look at what was troubling Erin.
“I mean... being in my second year of nursing I can tell you it doesn’t look like your regular reaction.” Clare said. “But it looks like it’ll go away soon.”
Erin swatted her hand away before Clare could grow too suspicious. “It’s fine. It’s just a bit itchy. Now if you don’t mind, I need to finish studying.”
She marched back into her room. Erin honestly didn’t even feel like studying anymore. She had other things to worry about. She ended up packing her books away, getting her pyjamas on, and getting an early night.
The next morning, Erin got dressed and headed towards her class down the street. She got there a bit early, so she grabbed a spot and studied for a bit.
Soon enough, other people started piling in, chatting, as if they had no worries. Erin had many things to worry about. Not only was she going to bomb this test due to the lack of revising, but the incident with Will still hadn’t left her mind. She found herself growing afraid of what was going to happen next time she saw him.
“Morning, Er? You ready!?”
Erin jumped at the sound of James’ voice greeting her.
“You okay? Why’re you so jumpy?”
Erin nodded, catching her breath as he sat in the desk beside her. “Yeah, I’m good. I just don’t think I’m going to do very well on this test.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll do fine. You’re amazing at literature!”
“Glad you think so.” She mumbled, James obviously not hearing her. She began throwing her hair into a knot on the top of her head.
“I brought you a tea. Since you didn’t come with me to the cafe I thought I’d bring one for you.” He smiled, and Erin wanted to cry out of happiness. Just what she needed, an act of kindness.
“Oh, that’s pure class. Thank you so much, Jamie.” She smiled as he handed it to her.
Soon enough, the professor came in and ordered them to put their books away.
As soon as he handed Erin her blank test, she couldn’t concentrate. Her mind was elsewhere. She found her heart beating fast, and she couldn’t even understand the questions.
James seemed to be flying through it. Erin turned back to her sheet and tried to write down as much as she could remember, but when the time was up, she knew she bombed it.
“How do you think you did?” James said as they walked back to their flat building.
“I’m toast. I barely wrote anything down.”
“What?” James said, confused. “That’s so unlike you. Usually you barely have enough time to get your thoughts down.” He laughed.
Erin shrugged. “I don’t know what happened.”
James stopped on the sidewalk. “Are you okay?”
She gulped. “Why do you ask? I’m fine.” Erin smiled. “I think I’m just a bit burnt out from all the revising, especially if it was for nothing.”
Suddenly, Erin caught eye of someone walking down the street, and when she realized it was William, she gulped.
Act normal. Like actually normal.
“Hello love.” He said, kissing her cheek. “James.”
James nodded at William. He wasn’t fond of the lad, mostly because he was a bit jealous, but he’d never show it. He tried to be good friends with him if it would make Erin happy. He barely knew him, and had only hung out with him a couple of times.
“Hey, Will.” Erin smiled. Her heart was going a mile a minute.
“I’m gonna steal my girl from you, James.”
James laughed awkwardly. “Go for it. Bye Will. Bye Erin. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
As Erin was dragged away, James felt slightly guilty, like there was something prying at his gut. But he shook it off, knowing it was probably just wrong instinct.
He went upstairs to find the other girls, who had no classes that day. And when he questioned them about it, they didn’t seem to concerned.
“Do you guys like William?”
They looked at him nonchalantly. Clare and Orla were making muffins, where Michelle was painting her nails.
“Yeah. I don’t see anything wrong with him. I mean, we barely know him though.” Clare said.
“Aye. Anyone who can put up with Erin has my respect.” Michelle said, obviously joking, then looked up at him. “Why do you ask?”
James shrugged. “No reason. I just don't really know him well. He kind of gives me weird vibes.”
“Well, he's English.” Orla said.
“So am I?” James raised an eyebrow at Orla, who licked the muffin batter off the spoon
“But you’re English with a splash of Derry Girl.” Clare laughed.
James nodded, but thought back to Erin. She never felt like she was going to fail a literature test. Something was going on. Probably something really minor, but still. He’d ask Erin about it if her strange behaviour continued on.
Until then, he decided he wasn’t going to pester.