“I’ll grab it!”
James whisked past Orla and Clare to grab the phone, who were cooking sausages and eggs in the kitchen for breakfast. Erin was still in bed, and Michelle was hogging the washroom.
“Oh, hello there, James.”
“Hi Mrs. Quinn.” James smiled. It was Erin’s mother on the other end.
“I was just ringing because it’s the first day back of term. I know Erin was nervous. How is she?”
James sighed. He didn’t want to lie to Mary, but he really didn’t want to worry her either.
“We’ll, uh… to tell you the truth, Mary, she’s still in bed.”
“What? What time does class start at?”
“In about an hour or so. She didn’t sleep well last night. She’s rather worried.” James continued. “I was just about to get her up. I let her sleep past the time she set her alarm for. She barely slept a wink.”
He could hear Mary sigh on the other end. “I’m worried about her, James. Is she doing okay? Is she eating okay? Is she sleeping okay?”
“She’s doing as well as can be expected. But listen, Mrs. Quinn. I know it sounds cheesy, but if anyone can get through this, Erin can.”
“I know.” Mary said. James could almost see her prided smile. “Especially because she’s got you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Quinn.”
“You know, I tell you this everytime we speak. Call me Mary.”
James chuckled sadly.
“Alright” Mary continued. “I’ll let you go. Tell Erin I love her. Make sure she’s eating well.”
“I absolutely will. Don’t worry, we’ll be fine today. I’ll get her to call you later tonight.”
“Goodbye, Mrs. Qu- Mary.”
James dropped the phone.
“That was Mary, aye?” Michelle was now in the kitchen, dipping her fingers in the muffin batter, only to he swatted away by Clare.
“Yes. She’s worried about Erin.” James sighed. “Which reminds me, I should probably go check if she’s up.”
He quietly opened the door to the bedroom they shared to find Erin still curled up under the blanket.
Quietly making his way over to the bed, James sat down at the foot. Erin immediately shuffled and opened her eyes.
“Hey.” James smiled, and then scooted over to lay under the covers with her.
“It’s time already?” She groaned, looking at the clock, then covering her face in his shoulder.
He sighed. “Class starts in an hour.”
Erin’s face was as white as a ghost. She just nodded and got up.
“Your Ma called.”
Erin cocked an eyebrow. “Really, aye? I’m SO surprised.”
James rolled his eyes at her sarcasm. A call from Mary Quinn was to be expected at least once every two days- if not every day.
“She’s worried about you.” James sighed, placing his hands on her shoulders. Erin broke away to grab a pair of tights and one of James’ jumpers from her closet.
“She’s always worried. And quite frankly, I’m worried about myself. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Just gotta live day by day.”
James nodded, impressed by her positivity.
Until she held up a finger. “Miserably. Live day by day miserably.”
James rolled his eyes once again, kissing Erin on her temple, and then left her to get ready for the day. “The girls are making breakfast, it’ll be ready in a few.”
Erin nodded, and was soon left in the room by herself.
The anxiety she felt in a room by herself was uncanny. When James wasn’t near her, she felt like someone was sitting on her chest. She felt like she was being choked.
She blinked away the flashback. Erin could almost feel Will’s hands around her neck. Tears flooding her eyes, she finished pulling on her jumper and ran to wash her face. The cold water helped, but not nearly as much as she hoped.
A knock on the washroom door caused her to yelp.
“Jesus, sorry cousin. James wanted me to tell you that breakfast is ready.”
“Coming, Orla. Tell them I’ll be a minute.”
Erin finished up in the washroom and joined the others at the table. She sat in her usual spot across from James. Sipping on the tea he made her, she was quiet through breakfast.
She nibbled on her sausages, but didn’t even finish one.
“I’m gonna go brush my teeth.” Erin said.
“You barely touched your breakfast!” Clare exclaimed. Orla scraped Erin’s food onto her plate.
Erin sighed, looking at her friends. “I’m just not feeling well. My stomachs all funny.”
“Nerves, aye?” Michelle said. Erin nodded sadly.
When Erin left, Michelle turned to James. “Are you worried about today?”
It was James’ turn to sigh. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. I just hope everything goes okay. You know Erin. The smallest thing sends her back into flashbacks. Everyone around the campus knows what happened. I’m terrified that someone’s going to say something stupid.” Her rambled.
Michelle bit her lip in thought. “I trust you James. Don’t let anything happen to her. She’s fragile.”
“I’m not a little baby, Michelle. Stop treating me like one.” Erin scowled.
“That’s not what I meant, and you know that. I just meant that I don’t trust the world around you. Obviously, shitty things happen.”
“Not helping, Michelle.” James added.
“Guys. I’m going back to school. I’m not going back to Will. You’s can relax. I’m worried too, but… we can’t avoid it. Let’s just go.”
She grabbed her books and her bag and headed out into the hallway, but after taking a few steps out the door she looked back to make sure James was coming.
“I’m coming.” He said, shutting the door behind him.
“Michelle is right. I am fragile. I’m pathetic. The thought of walking into the lecture hall makes me want to faint flat on the floor.”
“Come on.” James grabbed her hand. “It’ll be okay.”
She sunk into his grip that he held onto her hand, and it comforted her as they walked the few hundred meters down the street.
Before James could grab the door for Erin, it swung open.
“Oh my goodness, Erin Quinn?”
Erin looked at James, then back to the small red headed girl standing in front of her.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I recognize y-“
“Oh, you don’t know me. I just know you. Like… what happened to you, I guess. Everyone does. You knowLike the attempted murder of you and such by your crazy ex. How’re you feeling?”
Erin looked at James.
“I don’t think it’s really necessary to bring this up.” He said, stepping in front of Erin. “I think you should move. We need to get to class.
The girl, looking wide eyed, shrugged and walked off.
“I don’t know how much of this I can take.” Erin said. The hallway outside the lecture hall was dead silent. The class had already begun. The tears began to well up in her eyes and she felt the ball of anxiety and panic build up in her throat. It felt like she was being choked again.
James put his hands on Erin’s shoulders, only for her to jump at his touch, then relax again.
“I want to go home.” She said quietly.
James looked at her, and studied her features.
“Okay, love. Let’s go home.”
Just when things seem to be getting better, they plateau out again. Poor Erin….