23 November, 1999
Here I am, writing up again. It took me so much just to pick up a pencil, but so badly do I want to feel better. Maybe writing will do that for me.
I went back to class today. A bundle of nerves, so I was, but Jamie was with me the whole time. I got weird looks again, but keeping ahold onto James’ arm and keeping my head down, we found a spot right at the front of the lecture hall, fairly separated from other students. Professor Henley gave me a small wave. I think she was delighted that I faced my fears and came. I didn’t retain any information because my anxiety was rather high, but as James always says, “one step forward can be the smallest of things.”
My heart was beating so rapidly and I felt as though I could have fainted right there, but after an hour or so, class ended and we walked back to the flat. I rang Mammy and told her how it went, and she was happy to hear from me. James and I are home now, and I think we’re going to go for a walk in Thames park.
I don’t feel any better after writing this, but that’s okay.
One step forward can be the smallest things.
-xxx Erin Josephine Quinn.
Erin shut her diary and hid it under her mattress where it usually lay. James appeared at the door.
“You look cosy.”
He was all bundled up, with wee gloves on and his doctor who scarf.
“It’s chilly out there!” He defended himself, blushing in the cheeks.
“You’re such a fucking nerd!” Michelle yelled from the kitchen. She’d just gotten home from her class.
Erin chuckled slightly, retreating to her wardrobe to grab a coat and some gloves. They walked out of the flat arm in arm, and took the bus to the park.
“You know, Jamie. I thought going out for the first time since…. You know… would be terrifying, but I’m feeling okay.” Erin said as she sat beside him on the bus.
“Im so happy to hear that, love.” He smiled, but a bit sadly. Erin cocked an eyebrow, always recognizing the slightest change in his demeanour.
“Is everything alright with you? You seem to be thinking about something.” She said, taking his mitted hand and getting off the bus, walking through the gates of the park. Erin could almost see her breath in the late autumn air. It wasn’t rainy, but it wasn’t sunny either.
Erin stopped by the small stream and sat him down on a bench. Usually, she was the one being comforted. It was her turn to return the favour.
“What’s wrong? You’re scaring me.”
James snapped his head up, panic in his eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you, I just…” he sighed, taking her hands. “Im really conflicted on something.”
Erin’s heart sank. “What?” She asked.
“I have this opportunity to go on this trip for my international relations course. It’s in Romania. For three weeks. Only two of us were chosen, and I happened to be one of them.”
Erin gulped, scanning him. Three weeks, in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t long to anyone else. But for someone like her… that felt like months.
“That’s amazing, Jamie. I’m so proud of you.” She smiled, but she couldn’t hide the anxiety pooling at the lids of her eyes in the form of tears.
James pulled her in, breathing in the scent of the fresh air, mixed with her. “I can’t leave you though. I can’t.” He sighed, running a hand through her hair.
As much as Erin wanted to hold on to him and not let him leave her, she knew that would be extremely selfish.
“No.“ she shook her head, pulling away from him.
He looked at her strangely. “What?”
“I can’t let you stay and miss out because I need you for those three weeks. Because I’ll miss you too much. Jamie…” Erin took his hands again, and stared into his eyes.
Those green eyes, conflicted with decision.
“This is an amazing opportunity. You know that. I know that. To let you miss out on this would be foolish.” She said, wiping her tears away. “God, I’m acting as if you’re leaving forever. You’ll be gone less than a month.”
He nodded, tears forming in his own eyes. “But what about you? Who will be there to hold you when you can’t sleep. Who will walk with you to class? Comfort you when you can’t stop thinking about-“
She squeezed his hand again. “I’ll be okay. The girls are here with me. It’s almost Christmas break, anyways.” Erin sniffed. “When is the trip?”
“The flight leaves the first of December, a Wednesday. I get back a few days before Christmas, the 22nd.”
Erin nodded. “Everything’ll be okay. You’ll have such a grand time in Romania. Class ends a week before Christmas, so I won’t even have to worry about that too much.”
Erin was trying so hard to convince herself, but she couldn’t help but feel the sickness start to well up in her throat. Her separation anxiety was starting to kick in.
James sighed, his head falling in his hands. He was so conflicted.
“I just know that I won’t be able to have fun. I’ll be so worried about you.“
Erin was a little offended that he thought she wasn’t strong enough to be by herself, but brushed it off when she realised he was being realistic. He knew her better than she knew herself.
“Listen. I know it’ll be hard. It’s gonna be even harder for me. But you can ring me every night, you know I’ll be waiting for you to call.” She whispered.
“And when I come home, we’re going to have the best Christmas ever.” He smiled, wiping her cheeks with his thumb.
“Aye.” Erin said, bringing her shaking legs to the ground to stand up. She held her hand out to him, which he gratefully took, and they began to walk.
“Now.” She smiled, trying not to look him in the eye. She knew if she did, she’d begin to cry again. “Tell me about this amazing trip.”
They walked hand in hand down the beautiful path.
“Well, we fly into Bucharest, and we’re doing three weeks of studying at the University there. Learning about different cultures and relationships between countries.”
“That sounds amazing.”
“And the school… they’re paying for everything. The flights, our food. We’re staying in student housing in the University of Bucharest.”
“Who’s the other student going with you?”
“This other lad. His name is Adam Jeffrey. He’s a year older. I don’t really know him too well.”
“Aye, I see. You’ll become friends. I’m so happy for you.” Erin smiled. It was true. She was happy for him. Delighted that he got this experience.
But she was terrified for herself