Erin sighed and looked at the alarm clock on her bedside table.
Four thirty seven in the morning.
She couldn’t sleep. She hadn’t fallen asleep since her and James retreated to bed around midnight. His flight was the next morning at 11:45, and Erin couldn’t stop dreading it. He waited as long as he could before he became too tired to wait up with her, falling asleep by two o’clock.
She slowly and carefully got out of bed, lifting James’ arms off her torso. He stirred, but didn’t wake up.
Erin grabbed her diary and tiptoed to the living room, where she turned on the lamp and settled on the couch. Calming her shaking limbs and raspy breathing, she opened her book.
1 December 1999,
James leaves today. It’s only for three weeks but I can’t shake the feeling of abandonment that wrecks my soul. The sick feeling won’t go. I’m so worried how I’m going to be without him. He is my rock, he is what keeps me grounded. Without him, I’m worried that all the progress I’ve made will plummet to the depths of hell and I’ll have to restart.
God, I’m so dramatic. But this is how I feel. You’d think that James is the only person who I love dearly in this world when you read this, but I’m surrounded by so many people who care for me. Even Mammy said she’d come and visit for a week while James is gone, that way I won’t feel so alone. I have Michelle, Clare, and Orla as well. I should feel well prepared and well equipped.
But I don’t.
“Hey Er Bear.”
Erin yelped and jumped up from her spot on the couch.
“Jesus.” Michelle huffed. “I really need to stop doing that.”
Erin sighed, regaining her normal pulse when she saw it was just her best friend that was lurking in the shadows.
“What are ye doing up?” Michelle said, sitting beside her on the couch.
Erin sighed, shutting her book. “I cant sleep.” She whispered, rubbing between her eyes. She had a god awful headache.
Michelle scanned her.
“You’re worried about James leaving, aren’t you?”
Erin just huffed and leaned against the couch.
“Are you worried he’s going to like… love Romania so much he’ll move there? Or his plane’ll crash or something? I mean… he is flying Ryanair so that is a possibility-“
“Michelle! Can you not? No. I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about me. I’m worried I’m going to spiral out of control for you guys while he’s not here.”
Michelle gulped. “Erin, stop it. You’re my best friend. I don’t care if you’re going to act crazy. I’ve seen you in worse positions.”
Erin leaned her head back to stop the flow of tears. “Im just going to miss him so much. It’s going to feel so empty without him… I’m going to feel so lonely.”
Michelle grabbed Erin’s hand. “You have me. You have Orla. And you have Clare. Your Ma is coming down for a few days too. All these people here to comfort and be with you while James is in Romania. Just so you know, though. Don’t expect me or the others to hold you and cuddle you and all that fucking gross shit when you can’t sleep like James does.” She continued, nudging Erin’s shoulder.
Erin laughed through her tears, not without shooting Michelle an irritated look. “I’d never expect that.”
“I’m just playing, come here.”
Michelle was never the touchy type for as long as Erin knew her, which was when they were wains in primary school. But Michelle, being the observant type, could tell when her hugs were needed. She pulled her friend into a gentle embrace.
“Thanks Michelle. You know, you’re a sap.”
Michelle laughed, pushing Erin away from her. “Am not. Just worried about my best friend.”
“Well, ‘chelle . Don’t start worrying yet. Not at least until James is on that Ryanair plane to Bucharest.”
After staying up with Michelle for about fifteen more minutes, Erin retreated back into bed. She loves how as soon as she lay down on the mattress, James’ body enveloped her unconsciously. God, she’d miss that.
She fell asleep from pure exhaustion, and about 3 hours later, his alarm went off.
“Good morning.” He whispered, brushing my the whisky hair that covered her face. He’d turned the alarm of previously. Now, James was waiting for Erin to fall out of her slumber.
“Hi.” She said, opening her eyes. “You ready for today?”
James smiled. “I’m not sure. I’m so nervous.”
“It’s going to be lovely, Jamie. You’re going to have such a great experience.”
“Yeah.” He said, pulling her closer. “I just wish you were coming with me.”
“Me too.” She whispered. “But I don’t take International Relations courses. You better get up. You don’t want to miss your flight.”
James kissed her forehead and lifted the covers, Erin immediately feeling cold after her legs being exposed. She’d be telling the truth if she said secretly hoped his flight was cancelled, or he missed it.
Stop thinking like that, she told herself. It’s selfish. It’s selfish like William. You don’t want to be like him.
As James got ready for the day, she begrudgingly got out of bed to find the girls in the kitchen.
“Good morning, sleepyhead! Clare and I made scones for breakfast. Here, I’ll pour you some tea as well.”
Erin acknowledged her friends and sat at the counter.
“You seem rather miserable.” Orla said, stuffing a blueberry scone in her mouth.
“Well her lover is about to leave for a few weeks to a foreign country. I’d be miserable if I wasn’t getting any action in that time, too, if you know what I mean.”Michelle snapped. Despite their exchange of meaningful words in the earlier hours of the morning, she still had a bit of lip to her.
“Michelle, that’s not even funny. Don’t be coarse.” Clare scoffed. “Besides, you know that’s obviously not why she’s upset.”
“You guys don’t have to talk about me like I’m not here.” Erin said, taking a sip of her tea. “I’m just going to miss him, is all. It’ll be hard to be without him.”
Clare smiled sadly, coming to sit at the counter beside her friend. She leaned her head on Erin’s shoulder in an attempt to console her shaking nerves.
The girls new that Erin would struggle these few weeks. Her separation anxiety was intense when it came to James. He was the only person who seemed to truly understand her, and who could truly console and ease her trauma.
“You’ll have us, Er. What’s better than that?” Clare smiled.
“James is. Actually, pretty much anything is better than us.” Orla said, finishing up her breakfast and gulping down her orange juice.
Erin rolled her eyes. It was hard to be in a gloomy mood when these were the people she surrounded herself with.
The Taxi door shut, and Michelle popped out of the passenger seat, while Erin and James filed out of the back seats. The boot was lifted, and the cab driver helped unload James’ two small suitcases.
Michelle said goodbye to her cousin first. She pulled him away from Erin’s ear shot, and just as she was about to say goodbye, he began to spill out words at her out of fear.
“Michelle, promise you’ll look out for her. Make sure she eats and drinks. Make sure she gets enough sleep. Please be there for her if she can’t sleep or has a night terror, and call me if something happens, god forbid. Please, Michelle. Please.”
Michelle nodded, scanning her worried cousins face. “I promise. Everything will be fine.”
“I’m starting to think this was a bad idea. What if I’m making things worse by going? What if all of her progress is thrown out like rubbish and-“
“Stop it, James. Don’t psych yourself out now. I promise, me and Orla and Clare- we’ll take care of her. Now, go spend a few minutes with her before she chews her nails all the way off.” Michelle said, beckoning to the small blonde, who was leaning up against the taxi, fingers in her mouth in an attempt to ease her feelings of extreme anxiety.
When Erin saw Michelle walk towards her, she got up and headed towards James.
This was a goodbye she was most definitely not looking forward to.
She just stepped forward into his comforting embrace, relishing this moment, trying to let her mind record what it was like to feel his arms around her. Erin would need to keep it in her memory for when she needed it.
“I’m- im just gonna miss you so much.” She whispered. The tears were coming, she could feel it in her throat.
“I’m going to miss you too, Er. But listen, it’s only for a few weeks. I’ll be back very soon. And I’m going to ring you every night. I’ll even email some pictures to the computer at Clare’s work, that way she can print them off and show them to you.”
She nodded, squeezing him harder, breathing in his scent. The comforting smell of soap and cinnamon.
“I love you, Jamie.” She whispered, leaning upwards to kiss him softly.
“I love you too, so much. Promise you’ll tell me if you need anything- tell Michelle and the girls too. I’ll see you soon.”
The hug wasn’t long enough, but she had to let him go.
“Ring me as soon as you’re settled.” She sniffed.
“You know I will, love.”
He gave her one last kiss on the nose, a wave to Michelle, and headed inside the airport.
She saw him inside meet up with the other fellow from his Class, and the few other students from different universities.
“Alrighty, babes. Let’s head home, aye?” Michelle said, wrapping an arm around Erin’s shaking shoulder. She shuffled into the back seat beside her best friend, who had grown rather quiet.
“Back to where you picked us up, please.” Michelle told the driver.
This was going to be a long three weeks.