James couldn’t sleep.
He knew Erin couldn’t either, and he watched her from his position on the chair at the side of her bed, feeling her body toss and turn beside him.
James found himself getting lost in his daydreams, his brain printing new thoughts like a scanner; afraid of what was coming tomorrow. His mind was elsewhere, not really aware of the present.
And when Erin sobbed out loud in the dead silence of the hospital room, it pushed him right out of his daydream, scaring the living daylights out of him. Her heartbeat on the monitor began to beat rapidly, and he knew she was fighting off painful memories
He immediately reached over and turned the lamp on the table beside him, the light shining to reveal her sweaty forehead and tear-stained cheeks.
“Erin?” He whispered, leaving his chair and sitting by her shoulder. She was thrashing and throwing hands in her sleep, crying out loud for help.
“Erin! Wake up!!” James shook her gently, trying not to push on her bruises. He ran his hands through her sweaty hair, caressing her face delicately.
“No!” Erin's pained cries filled the room. She screamed, pawing at his hands, begging him to stop touching her. “Get away from me!!”
“Erin! Wake up, it’s a dream! It's me, James!”
Erin finally opened her eyes, her view blurry from her own tears.
Due to her obstructed vision from crying and her foggy nightmare mind, Erin was absolutely terrified. When she saw a figure of a young man sitting beside her on her bed, her immediate reaction was to kick him away.
“Get off me!” She yelled, pushing her foot to his side, blunt force knocking James off the bed. A nurse came in at this point, hearing all the commotion.
Erin swiftly got up from the bed and against the wall, breathing heavily, holding her hand over her mouth to suppress her sobs.
“What’s going on in here?!” The nurse hissed, seeing James get up from the floor.
“Ma’am, she-she had a nightmare. I think she thinks I’m going to hurt her!” He whispered.
The nurse glanced at her chart, then nodded, being previously told of Erin’s story.
“Will.” Erin's cracked voice filled the small hospital room, echoing off of the walls. “Don’t...please.”
Suddenly, Erin took a step forward from behind the heart monitor machine to see James standing there, hands up in the air in surrender. Behind him was the nurse.
“Erin, it’s me. It’s James.”
“Erin, love. It’s okay. It’s your nurse, Nurse Emma, and your friend James.”
She rubbed her eyes, shaking her head to see if she could focus on the young man in front of her.
She suddenly felt extremely guilty.
“I’m... I'm so sorry." Erin gulped. "I-“
“Shhh.” He said, coming around to the other side of the bed. When Erin stepped back at his swift motion, James immediately stopped.
She was afraid of him.
Not James, but Will. And their similar looks in the dark caused her to shy away from one of the people she trusted most in the entire world.
“Erin, love. Get back into bed. I need to re-insert your IV. It was ripped out.”
She shuddered at the thought and quietly climbed back into bed. The lights in the room were turned on by the nurse, everything being in clear sight. Nurse Emma struck her with the needle, causing her to wince.
James stood at the end of the bed, watching, in slight shock of what had happened. As she calmed down, Erin held out her hand to him while the nurse assessed her vitals, and he came around to sit back in the chair, taking her smaller hand in his.
“Are you okay now, love? I’ll give you a light sedative so you can fall back to sleep, okay?” Nurse Emma said.
Erin nodded, feeling exhausted and sleep-deprived.
The Doctor was called in to approve the decision, and soon enough, the nurse left James and Erin to fall back asleep after triple checking everything was okay.
“James.” Erin croaked in the dark, her voice still shaky from the trauma to her neck.
He lifted his head, which was leaning on the edge of her bed, along with their intertwined hands.
“I’m sorry for pushing you off the bed. I thought you were “
“You don’t have to explain.” He said, rubbing his thumb along her bruised wrist.
“No, I do, even if you know what happened. I need to hear it come out of my mouth. I.. I had a nightmare, and I wasn't completely awake, and... I thought you were Will.”
He nodded, already knowing that that was the case.
"When I saw you sitting above me on the bed, I...”
Erin’s voice cracked and shuttered, and she looked away. “I just thought you were going to...” She paused, thinking of her words, although her voice trailed off and she never continued her sentence.
James gulped and his mind wandered into places he didn't want it to wander. He thought about the things Will did to her, and how he barely even knew the extent of abuse Will partook in.
“I don't think I’ll ever be able to be hugged or touched lovingly without shuddering.” She whispered, looking back at him. “Even if it's you. What if...what if I never forget about this? What if I’m damaged goods forever? What if no one wants me?”
Erin’s crazy, overthinking mind ran as per usual, but she wondered out loud, allowing James to hear her thoughts.
James thought about how he loved her. How he wanted her. How they both loved each other.
But he refrained from running his mouth. She was too fragile. Having just come out of an abusive relationship, he knew Erin enough to know that she wasn't ready for new emotions.
“I’m sure you're going to find someone in life who will cherish you as you deserve. Will deserves nothing, and you deserve everything. You're going to get through this. It's just a matter of time.”
She nodded, her eyelids beginning to feel heavy as the sedatives kicked into her system.
“Promise you won't leave me tonight?” She mumbled, squeezing his hand softly.
“I promise. Now get some rest. I'll be right here when you wake up.”
James awoke at eight o'clock, his neck sore from leaning over in an awkward position the entire night. His hand had never let go of hers, but he broke them apart so he could stand up and stretch.
James, once awake, thought about how he was going to tell Gerry and Mary what was happening. They'd insist for her to come home back to Derry, but even he knew she'd refuse that.
He wandered into the hallway to find coffee, and a tea for Erin when she woke up. He wanted to put off calling the Quinn's as long as he could, but he knew they needed to know what happened.
His tired and stiff body whipped around to see Michelle, already with a tray of coffee in hand.
"Morning." He said to her when she came up and hugged him. It was a rare sight to see Michelle hug her cousin, but in these circumstances, she felt the need to comfort him.
"How was your night?" She whispered. They were standing right outside Erin's hospital room, trying to keep their voices down to refrain from waking her up.
"Rough." He mumbled, sipping the coffee Michelle brought.
She raised an eyebrow, silently asking him what happened.
"Erin...she had a nightmare. But it wasn't just the kind of nightmare where it freaks you out a bit. She full-on had a panic attack. When I sat beside her to wake her up, she kicked me off the bed. She thought I was... him."
Michelle sighed. "Did you ask her about the dream?"
He shook his head. "She just told me that she thought I was Will, and when she saw me on the bed she thought I was going to..."
"Going to what?"
"I don't know. She didn't specify. I'm assuming she thought I was going to beat her." He mumbled.
"Or...rape her?" Michelle said apprehensively.
"Michelle!" James got white in the face, the blood draining in his cheeks when Michelle vocalized what he'd been wondering since her nightmare.
"Well, I don't know... do you think Will was more than just...?"
"Michelle, please. Enough. She'll tell us when she is ready, and quite frankly, I can't think of another thought similar to that without... feeling sick." His eyes were gathering tears again and he swallowed the ill feeling in his throat.
"Mary and Gerry are already on their way over."
James nearly spits out his coffee. "What?!"
"I took it upon myself to call them last night. I knew you'd be afraid to, and I felt they needed to know as soon as possible."
"Michelle! What did they say?" He spat. "I hope you told them everything."
"I did. I was on the phone with Mrs Quinn for nearly two hours yesterday night. Until half-past twelve."
"They must be so worried."
"They are. But at least they're coming, and Erin is okay now."
James sighed. "Yes." He whispered softly, peeking his head through the door to check on Erin's sleeping form for the fifth time since Michelle and arrived. "Where are the others?"
"Coming. I came early to bring coffees, and double-check to see if you needed anything."
"Really?" James smiled softly, surprised at his cousin's change in demeanour.
"Thank you for everything these past few days, Michelle."
"Jamie, no matter how much I pick on you, I'll always be here when you need me. You're my favourite cousin."
"I'm your... I'm your only cousin."
Suddenly, they heard a shifting in Erin’s room, signifying she was awake.
“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Michelle said, rushing past James to greet her friend.
Erin yawned, feeling like she had been hit by a bus. Her body was even sorer than it was the day previously, as it usually was.
“Hi, Michelle.” She spoke softly, her face with a hint of a smile. James helped her sit up, making sure she was careful.
“How are you this morning?” She mumbled, taking James’ seat by her head, and James sat at the foot of her bed.
“Fine.” She said, both of them knowing that she was lying.
Michelle looked at James, knowing that she had to tell Erin that her mum and dad were on their way.
“Erin, I have some news.”
She looked at Michelle quizzically, then over to James.
“Your mum and dad…”
“Did you call them?” Erin said.
Michelle nodded. “They are on their way over now.”
Erin nodded, not surprised. She was quite honestly embarrassed more than worried.
“What are they going to think?” She mumbled to herself.
“They’re worried, Er. They just want to make sure everything is okay.” James said to her.
She nodded, feeling slightly ill. Erin worried about how her mammy was going to lecture her or if her dad was going to coddle her.
Erin sighed, closing her eyes. She’d just have to accept it.