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James Maguire, Superhero

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“Will.” Erin croaked. “I- I can’t breathe!”

“Be quiet!!” Will seethed, pushing the knife harder into her neck, causing her to yelp. His entire weight had his palm on her neck below where the knife sat, causing her to gasp for air.

James looked around the room, desperately thinking about what to do.

Michelle was clenching her eyes, saying a prayer to God. James mumbled Hail Mary while he tried to figure out how to save Erin before she went unconscious from the lack of oxygen.

He tried to block out her whimpers of pain and her pleading words so he could concentrate. He needed to be able to move without letting Will hurt Erin even more.

Then he saw it.

Where the shelf fell before, there were wood boards on the floor.

It wasn’t the action to grab the board itself that was difficult, it was the decision and the courage building up to it, for James knew that one mistake he made, Erin could be killed in front of him.

William was faced away from them, speaking threatening words to Erin.

I need you to distract William, just talk. Don’t stop, He mouthed to Michelle, who nodded.

“William,” Michelle said nervously.

“Shut up!”

“Please. Let Erin go. Why are you doing this?” Michelle pleaded.

As the two of them argued back and forth, James tiptoed to the wall to silently grab the loose wooden board from the broken shelf.

William still hadn’t turned around, and Michelle began to flaunt her mouth rapidly, causing Will to lose focus.

“Shut UP!” He yelled.

James ran forward and with a small battle cry, he recoiled the board, then whacked it across the back of his head.

With the mixed amount of force and alcohol in Will’s system, it knocked him out completely. He immediately dropped the knife and the grip on Erin’s neck, and he fell to the floor.

Erin gasped, finally being able to breathe, and fell into James’ arms, who dropped the board and leapt forward to catch her.

“You’re okay.” He whispered. “You’re okay.”

“The sirens! I can hear them!” Michelle said, wrapping her arms around her cousin and best friend. She let go of them and walked over to the unconscious William on the ground.

Erin was still shaking, catching her breath in James’ arms.

“Make sure he doesn’t wake up. I’ll go down and meet the emergency services.” Michelle yelled to them, running out the door.

Erin didn’t say anything. She hadn’t since she’d been pinned to the wall.

James explained what was happening. “They’ve got to take a look at you. You’re going to have to go to the hospital.”

Erin gulped, avoiding James’ eyes. She couldn’t stop staring at Will unconscious on the floor.

“James...” Erin finally breathed, voice staticky from being choked.

“Erin, don’t try to-“

“Y-y-you won’t go to jail...” she said, pausing to breathe, “Will you?”

“I don’t think so. Not once they know the whole story.” He said, wiping the tears off her cheek.

The few minutes that followed were a blur. Police came in and took Will away, and ordered Erin to go in an ambulance. She knew she had to, so she obliged, James, of course, going with her. Michelle took it upon herself to call Clare and Orla and let them know what happened.

Arriving at the hospital, James was ordered to stay in the lobby while doctors and nurses took Erin. He sat down, heart thudding against his chest, being met a few moments later by the three other girls, who immediately enveloped him in a group.

“Oh my God, James.” Clare cried. “Oh my God! Is she okay?”

James cried into them. “I...I don’t know. I think so.”

“What happened?” Orla asked, parting away from her friend's group hug.

“Will came over to collect Erin from me when we were studying, and- and I went after them because I had a bad feeling. When I brought Erin-“

“Slow down!” Orla said. “Take a breath.”

James closed his eyes to stop the flow of his own tears and took a breath as Orla instructed. “When I brought Erin back, I finally figured out he’d been beating her. The bruises...God, the bruises,” He sighed, pinching his nose. “They were everywhere, some were shaped like hands. Cuts and welts. I called Michelle, and then...then we heard a knock at the door.”

“Will came?!” Clare said.

He nodded frantically, face contorted with emotion. “Drunk as ever. He- he threatened Erin because he was mad I found out. Will lunged at me, so I-I fought him in the living room, pushing him around. Erin came out of the bathroom..and that’s when-“ James closed his eyes, recalling the moments from before, breaking down again, unable to speak.

“That’s when Will pinned her to the wall. James tried to stop him. He almost choked her to death and had-had-had a knife against her throat like this.” Michelle said, pointing to James, who held up his shaking hand to his neck.

James calmed himself enough to continue the story. “I ended up whacking him with a piece of wood from the broken shelf he knocked over from the wall, and by then, the police arrived.”

James took a deep breath after recounting those awful moments, running a hand through his hair, walking away and sitting down on one of the chairs away from the girls.

“He’s pretty shaken up, aye?” Orla muttered.

“Orla, it was awful. I’m...I’m so scared for Erin.” Michelle said, trying to wipe her tears before anyone noticed.

“What possessed him?” Clare said. “I would’ve never suspected-“

“He did drink quite a bit...” Michelle trailed off. “I feel like it’s our fault that Erin is hurt. We never suspected it.”

The three girls looked over at James, who had his head in his hands on the chair on the other side of the fairly empty lobby.

“James and I are going to have to be questioned by the police, as well as Erin,” Michelle whispered. “I bet the police are talking to Erin as we speak right now.”

Orla nodded.

“I’m going to go sit with James,” Michelle said.

She made her way over to her cousin, who still was crying.

“James, she’s going to be okay,” Michelle said, sitting in the chair beside him. “You saved her.”

He looked up from his hands, staring at her with puffy eyes. “You don’t understand, Michelle. I wasn’t fast enough. I had so many gut feelings...I should’ve listened to them.”

James half expected his cousin to rip a strip off of him as she usually did, but instead, she placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault except for Will’s, which is why he’s going to jail, James.”

“Poor Erin. She must be so... traumatized.” He sobbed. “Who knows what he did to her behind closed doors.”

James' voice trailed off when he felt his stomach lurch in fear.

“We’re going to help Erin the best we can.” She said. “Don’t worry. She's got us. She’s got you.”

The Doctor came out and the four of them looked up immediately at him.

“Are you here for Erin Quinn?”

They all stood up immediately.

“Is she okay?” James said frantically.

“She’s going to be just fine. The bruises will take time to heal, but we’ve prescribed her some pain medications.”

The four of them let out sighs of relief.

“As for the trauma she suffered to her neck, her voice has slightly deteriorated a minor amount. It might take some time for it to come back completely. It'll be painful for her to speak for the next few days.”

“When can she come home?” Orla said.

“We’ll keep her overnight for observation, make sure her breathing is normal and run some tests. One of you can stay with her for the night, but you don't want to overcrowd her.”

“Can we see her?” Michelle said.

“Indeed. Go on in down the hall, room 20 on your left- but be mindful. She’s probably shaken up. The police were just inside questioning her.”

They nodded and walked down the hall to find her sitting up in bed, fiddling with her necklace. Her fragile body was covered with peppered bruises. Erin was wearing a hospital gown, and a blanket was covering the lower half of her body.

“Knock knock,” Clare said, and Erin smiled softly when she saw her friends in the doorway.

“How’re you feeling?” Michelle said, pulling up three chairs from the corner. James took a seat at the end of her bed, patting her legs gently, which were covered by her blanket.

“Pretty shitty.” Erin croaked softly, grabbing James hand. He rubbed his hand over her thumb, not having the words to say anything.

They didn’t know what to say to her, but Erin did.

“I’m sorry I lied to you all.” She whispered. James shifted closer to her.

“Erin- don’t-“

“Don’t apologize for that. It wasn’t your fault.” Clare whispered to Erin.

She just nodded. “The police were just in. They asked what happened. They wanted to talk to you and Michelle.” She said to James.

He nodded. “I expected that. The Doctor told us you’re to stay here overnight.”

“Why’s that?” She asked frantically.

“Observations,” Michelle said.

“Did...did you call my Mammy? Or Dad?”

They shook their head. James spoke up. “I’m going to in a bit.”

“They’re going to be so worried.” She sighed.

“I’ll explain everything to them, Er. Don’t worry.”

She nodded.

“It’s getting late. It’s got to be ... 9:00.” Erin whispered, looking at the dark window.

“I’ll stay with you,” James said.

The three other girls looked at Erin, and then at James.

“I want to stay.” He continued. “Let me. I don’t want you to be alone.”

She nodded.

“We can come back in the morning,” Michelle said. “Only one person can stay with you, the doctor said.”

Erin nodded.

The others stayed until visiting hours were over at ten o’clock, and the room gained silence.

“You should get some sleep,” James whispered to her, now sitting at the head of her bed beside her.

“James.....” Erin said, but her voice trailed off.

He looked at her, encouraging her to continue.

She leaned over to hug him. “Thank you. You saved me today. You truly did.”

James squeezed her as hard as he could without further injuring her.

“Erin. I love you. I’d save you a thousand times over.” He whispered.

They told each other that they loved one another often because they were best friends- it was a common phrase used in their tight knitted group.

Both of them knew that this was a little more than their platonic ‘I love you'.

“I love you too, Jamie.” She said.