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James Maguire, Superhero

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“I think I’d really just like to head home.”

That was the third time Erin had vocalized her desire to go back to her flat, one that Will didn’t catch onto. 

Or he did, he just didn’t listen to her.

He took her to the neighbourhood pub for a pint, something they often did. Erin didn’t usually drink more than one beer, but William always had two. This time, he had three.

“Oh come on, Erin. Don’t be a craic killer. Isn’t that what you Irish people say?” He laughed.

“I’m not a craic killer.” She whispered.

After the bar, he walked her home, and Will could sense the apprehensiveness of his girlfriend.

“What’s going on with you, Erin? You’ve been quiet all night. Am I not fun anymore?” He guilted her.

When she didn’t reply, he grabbed her arm rather aggressively, and she jumped.

“Im fine. Let go of me.” She spat rather angrily, trying to hide the fear in her. Why was he acting like this?

“I’m not letting go until you tell me what’s wrong!” Will said, raising his voice. The longer Erin stayed silent, the harder he squeezed her wrist.

“I just want to know, actually, what’s going on with you? You slapped me yesterday. And now you're squeezing my wrist as if it’s a-“

“Well it’s because you’re being disrespectful to me!” He said.

“I-“

Erin paused for a minute. Did she really want to argue with him? She wanted to win the argument, of course, but she really didn’t want to get hurt

“I’m sorry.” She frowned, eyes falling to the floor.

That’s when she realized that this relationship was toxic. The way her powerful, feminist views tumbled out of her mind. The way they were not important to her anymore when the fear of getting hurt was greater was dangerous. That's a problem.

Her wrist still tingling from where she was grabbed, she rubbed it with her other arm. Will saw this, but didn’t say anything this time.

Erin knew she was digging herself in a deeper hole . She knew Will’s promises of not hurting her were irrelevant, and especially with a few pints of beer in him.

“I think I should be heading home.” She said.

“Why?” He asked, suddenly stopping, frowning. “Aren’t you coming round mine? You know...” he smirked.

Erin gulped and shook her head. “No. It’s getting late. I just-“

“You just what?! It’s only 10:00. And we don’t even have class tomorrow. It’s a Saturday.”

Erin so badly wanted to say no. She’d never felt so pressured to say yes. But she was afraid.

“I-“

Erin ended up sighing, and wordlessly following him, instead of turning right to walk to her dorm building.

What have I become?

He didn’t love her. She knew that now. He loved her body. He loved how she made him feel physically. But he didn’t love her personality, or her wits, or her intelligence. He constantly berated her for her love of literature. Why did she stay with him?

And after it was done, she didn’t feel at peace. She didn’t feel happy.

Erin honestly felt taken advantage of. She felt pressured.

Even if it was her boyfriend. Having sex with him made her feel worse. And she knew that was not okay.

She swiftly got dressed. 

“Where are you going. You don’t want to stay the night?” He said, shifting in bed.

“No. I’m going to head home.”

“What, am I not good enough-“

“It’s not that, Will. I just need to be getting home.” Erin’s voice almost broke.

“What?” He scoffed. “To see that James fella?”

Erin paused after pulling her jumper on. He never had accused her of cheating on him before.

“What?”

She knew it was probably the beer, but that didn’t matter. He was still acting crazy.

He shrugged. “Well, why are you in such a rush to get home?”

“Because, William. It’s late. I had an exam today. I’m tired. Can’t you just let it go? It seems like we’ve been fighting more than getting along. I just need to go home and rest.”

He scoffed, rubbing his chin. Erin could tell he was angry, and that sick feeling in her stomach came back.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” She said, grabbing her bag and quickly heading out the door before he could say or do anything to her.

Erin quickly ran down the hallway and into the stairwell, and once she was out of view, she completely broke down.

What the fuck is wrong with me? 

She honestly just wanted to go home and shower. She felt dirty.

Drying her tears, she left his building and walked the few metres to her flat building, allowing herself to calm down and get herself together in that amount of time.

She could never tell anyone this was going on. Erin was too prideful, and she was way too embarrassed. For now, at least, until she ended things with Will, she’d keep her feelings on the down low.

“Hey Erin!” They said when she walked in her dorm room. James, Orla, Michelle and Clare were gathered around the kitchen table with drinks playing a round of Blackjack.

“Want us to deal you in?” Orla howled.

Erin slowly waved at her friends. “Alright. Let me just shower first.”

She took off her shoes and with her head down, headed for her room to get a change of clothes. Wordlessly making her way to the bathroom, she shut the door behind her.

“What’s her problem?” Michelle spat, placing a card down, causing everyone to groan at her high score.

“I don’t know. But she’s been quiet all day today, and yesterday too.” James said. 

“Aye, you know how emotional Erin can get. She’s probably just tired after her exam.”

“Yeah, and the fact that she’s sure she failed it.” James added solemnly.

“What?” Clare said to James, looking up from her cards. “Erin? Failing a Literature exam?”

James shrugged.  “That’s what she said.”

Michelle shrugged. “Probably because she spending too much time with that Will fella.”

Clare chuckled. “Maybe.”

James sighed. He’d get to the bottom of this. Even though the others weren’t too worried about Erin’s shift in demeanour, it didn’t mean he didn’t have to be.

 

Meanwhile, when Erin was in the bath, she’d scrubbed her body so hard to get the dirty feeling off her. Letting the water stream down her sore body, she let tears slowly fall again after holding them in when she reached her dorm flat.

She got out and stared at her cheek in the mirror which was still red. Her wrist was taking on a similar manner. Erin rotated it, feeling sore and stiff.

She put on her joggers and tee shirt, and after towel drying her hair, she made her way into the kitchen.

Erin took a seat wordlessly beside her cousin and across from James, who smiled at her. The corner of her mouth lifted slightly, but before he could say anything, Clare and Orla yelled in defeat, slamming their cards down.

This caused Erin to jump in surprise, nearly knocking over James’ beer glass.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Erin huffed. 

James observed her as she jumped in fear. He touched his foot to hers under the table and raised his eyebrows.

Erin just smiled, convincing him she was alright. “You guys going to deal me in, or what?”

“Are you sure you wanna play? Michelle keeps stealing our money.” Orla said.

“Orla, it’s not even real money. They are...they're poker chips.” Clare said. 

“I think they’re even more valuable.” She said, crossing her arms.

Erin chuckled, realising how much happier she was around her friends.

She needed to find a way to end her relationship with Will. If that happened, then the anxiety she was feeling would go away.

Erin just needed to figure out how to do it.

 

Over the next week, Erin developed a plan. She had to let him know that this relationship had sailed it’s course, and she wasn’t happy anymore.

So when he rang her and asked her if she wanted to come over for a movie, she agreed, and Erin also told him that she needed to talk to him about something important.

Gathering up courage, she walked to his dorm room on a Saturday, breath shaking and heart racing.

Erin paused before knocking on his door, but realized she needed to do this.

“Hello, Erin.” He smiled.

“Hey, Will.”

“Wanna drink?” He said, offering her a beer. She shook her head, and her heart rate went up even more when she realized more empty bottles on the table.

Will was a lightweight. He never could handle more than three beers. And he wasn’t a happy, funny drunk either. She found that out the hard way.

Erin badly wanted to wait for a better time, but she realized that she couldn't wait any longer.

“Look, I need to talk to you about something.” She said as he grabbed her hand, pulling her to the couch. His hands began roaming around her body, and she was growing extremely uncomfortable and nervous.

She could smell the beer on his breath, which she could feel creeping up on her neck.

Erin tried pulling away. “Will, listen to me.” She said, squirming from his touch.

“You can tell me after.” He groaned.

“No.” She said firmly. “Let go. It’s really important. You’re making me uncomfortable.”

“Just-“

“Will! I can’t do this anymore. You’re not treating me the same as you use to. I think... I think this relationship has burnt out.” Her voice trailed off.

“What?!” He spat, standing up from the couch. Erin’s instincts caused her to back away when he picked up the beer bottle from the table beside the couch.

“Will. I’m not happy anymore. And you’ve been drinking a lot. We’re clearly both not happy, and I think-“

He swiftly walked toward her, pushing her up against the wall.

“You’ve been seeing James, haven’t you?”

Erin paused at the thought of James. He never failed to treat her with respect and love, but that was a thought for another time. “No. That’s not the reason I’m breaking up with you, William. Look at you! How could I want to stay with you?!”

His hands pushed her shoulders against the wall, and her body slammed on the cobblestone behind her.

“Let me go!”

“What did you say to me? Are you breaking up with me?”

She gulped. “Yes. I am.”

His grip grew harder on her shoulders and he pulled her forward, only to slam her against the wall again. Her back and head ached in agony, and she yelped in pain.

“You can’t leave me!”

“But you’re hurting me, William! Look at you! This isn’t you!” She cried. Tears were falling from the pain she was feeling, as well as the fear of what was coming next.

“Erin. You tell anyone about this, I’ll do worse than hit you. You’re staying with me, or I’ll make your life a LIVING HELL!”

In that moment the beer bottle was thrown, smashed beside her head, the glass slicing her bare shoulder and falling around her. It wasn't deep, but she began to bleed.

What have I done?  She thought. Now she couldn’t escape. He was threatening her, and Erin didn’t dare to go against that threat.

She pushed him backwards so he fell on the floor and ran, trying so hard to get away. She grabbed her shoes and didn’t even bother to put them on, but that movement of reaching down to grab them allowed him to catch up with her, and he grabbed her wrist and pulled her to the ground.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” He said. She was now on the floor, and he was on top of her, straddling her so she couldn’t escape his grip.

“Please, William! Just let me go home! I promise I’ll stay with you.” She cried. “Just stop hurting me! You’re hurting me!”

Her pleads did absolutely nothing, and he ended up slapping her in the face again.

 

And for the rest of the night, she sat silently in his flat until she finally was allowed to go home, only because he knew that her friends would grown suspicious.

“Remember, Erin. If you tell anyone about this...”

Erin breathed. “I won’t.”

She tied her boots up and walked home, body aching like she’d been hit by a train. 

She so badly wanted to confide in her friends. But nothing would happen. Will still went to the same university as them. He’d still see her in public.

 

It just wouldn’t be safe.