The next week that came through happened to be revision week, as final exams were coming up. The absence of classes made Erin feel more at ease, especially being able to spend more time with James and the girls.
As Erin began to heal, she began to feel more comfortable with having James around. He practically lived with them, and slept next to Erin every night, although she wasn’t one hundred per cent ready to start a relationship with him. She loved him with her whole heart, but her lack of trust and fear of men clung to that heart, therefore, she didn’t want to put a label on their relationship.
How she enjoyed sleeping next to him every night though. Not only did it make her feel safe and secure, but it felt so natural. Being in his arms made her feel as though her anxiety could float away.
She wanted to kiss him so bad. She could tell he felt the same way- especially when their lips lay inches away from each other each night.
“It’s okay, Erin.” He’d tell her whenever the subject of their dating came up. “You don’t have to feel pressured into anything.”
Her heart absolutely melted. He didn’t even know more than the gist of what happened to her, and she felt as though he deserved to know. Finally one night, she worked up the courage to open up a bit more.
“James.” She whispered after he shuffled closer to her under the blankets.
"I just...I’m ready to tell you what happened.”
He froze and tightened his grip on the girl in his arms. “Erin...you don’t have to explain why you don’t-“
“No. I’m ready to tell you. Besides, I need to talk about it.”
He briefly shifted so that they were facing each other, and he reached under the covers to grab her hand, rubbing his thumb softly along her palm. James knew it was a massive step to confide in, and he wanted to make sure she was comfortable doing so.
“Whenever you’re ready,” James softly whispered into her ear. He could hear her rapid heart rate in the otherworldly dead quiet room.
“I don’t...I don’t know where to start.” Sheepishly, she looked at him, then she nodded. "I guess from the beginning."
“Okay.” James sighed. His arm reached out from under the covers with their interlocked hands so she could see them, hoping it would bring her a bit more comfort.
“Was...was Will always mean? Did you ever expect this to happen?” James whispered softly. He figured that when she was quiet, she'd need some help to start.
Erin shook her head slowly. “Well… you know he always…”
She paused and thought hard.
“Clearly he didn’t give me any red flags at the beginning. It sounds stupid, but I really thought he liked me until he started to yell more often. He'd berate me..." She stopped, feeling odd at spilling her feelings. She didn't want James' pity.
"Berate you... your writing, right?"
"How did you know?" She said, turning to him, eyes glossy.
"Well, he was always slagging you off," James said. "Always about your major in university, or about 'how you'd never shut up'."
"I just assumed that because Michelle did it, he was allowed to as well," Erin said.
"I think Michelle should be the only one who talks to you like that." He smiled softly, then his face fell. "I should've known too, especially the way he didn't even remember how you were fretting about your exam."
"I didn't even care about failing that exam, Jamie. It was the least of my worries at the moment. At that moment, I just wanted to focus on staying away from William."
James just sighed. He wanted to ask her so many questions but knew he couldn't. He'd just have to wait until she talked about it herself.
"It didn't even start off physical. He'd say some mean things, and then one night he slapped me across the face. I... I was so taken aback by it, but after he profusely apologized, I shook it off. Know I know that was an awful mistake."
James brushed the side of her cheek as she took a breather before she continued.
"It got worse fast. With slaps, there'd be cruel words. And I'd...He'd...."
James looked at her and gulped.
"He'd get angry fast, especially... if I didn't want to do something."
James knew what she meant, and he didn't even want her to elaborate.
"I become such a wimp around him. I'd do anything he'd want for the fear that he'd hurt me even more if I didn't. I'm just so glad he's gone. I don't know..."
James looked at her, Erin's eyes turning glossy.
"I don't know what would've happened if you didn't come for me that day. Thank you for doing that."
James smiled softly, pulling her even closer into his arms.
"I'd do anything for you."
"I know. I love you."
"I love you too."
Erin couldn't wait any longer. She leaned forward and connected their lips.
And she felt safe doing so.