Erin couldn't go to work, she curled up in her bed staring at the clock. She would be late anyway and she hadn't slept at all. If she went to work, she'd probably spend the whole day crying. She would wait a while then call in sick, again. Maybe she would just quit. Quitting was a good idea. She put her head under the covers and started her breathing , she felt a panic attack coming along. Josh hadn't called yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that, she had spent the past 3 days waiting, diving at the phone everytime she thought she heard a sound. He didn't call. He didn't text. He didn't care. Chleo had tried to coax her out with offers of lunch and trips to the playground with the kids. Billy had called wanting to go for drinks, he wanted to celebrate Dean moving out. Erin didn't want to celebrate anything. She really thought Josh would call her, she didn't even know if Jane was around. Had he gone back to her? Erin didn't want to think about it, but it was all she could see. Jane, with him. She started crying again, she hated feeling this vulnerable, the whole point of their 'thing' was to avoid getting hurt. Maybe he did this on purpose? Some kind of sick revenge for her breaking his heart?
There was a banging at her door, she closed her eyes, memories of her childhood flooding back. She heard muffled calls from outside in the hall. Erin slowly put her head above the duvet.
''Erin?'', Billy was calling, ''it's Billy. Please open the door''.
She slide out of her bed and walked to the door, she peeked through the spy-hole. Billy was standing outside looking worried. Erin opened the door and walked to the couch. Billy followed her in and shut the door. She curled up on the sofa and flicked on the telly.
''Erin, what's wrong?'', Billy asked as he sat beside her.
''Nothing'', she mumbled.
''Come on look at you, you're a mess'', Billy said.
He was right, she hadn't showered or change in 3 days, her pjs were crumpled and her hair in desperate need of a wash. Billy looked at her and almost cried, she looked so helpless, her skin was so white it was almost see through and bags hung under her dark blue eyes, which almost looked black. He stood up and walked around the apartment, opening the curtains and the windows. Erin flinched at the light coming in. Billy turned and faced her.
''I don't want to be the one to say this to you'', he said seriously, ''but you look like your Mother''.
Erin didn't respond, she stared at him. She didn't have the energy to feel offended, and in any case, she knew she resembled her Mother.
''Why are you doing this?'', he asked her.
''I don't want to talk...''.
''You don't have to, but you have to get out'', Billy pleaded, ''I've taken a day off work, you are to go and shower and then we are going for a walk''.
Erin didn't argue, she got up and walked, trance like, to the bathroom. She got into the shower, not caring if it was too hot or cold. She let it cover her, she wished it would drown her. When she got out she saw Billy had left clothes on her bed, just some jeans and a tshirt. She pulled them on and towel dried her hair, leaving it crinkly. When she emerged into the kitchen she saw Billy had cleaned it up. She felt sick for a second, this scenario was so familiar, except she was usually the one cleaning up.
''Sit'', Billy ordered pointing at the table.
She did as she was told and sat at it, he placed a bowl of cereal in front of her, then sat watching her eat it. Erin didn't want the food, she didn't want Billy to be here, she wanted to go back to bed and stay there. She ate the cereal slowly, it stuck in her throat and made her feel sick but she finished the bowl.
''Right so lets go for a walk''.
They were taking a break from their walk through the park, it was pretty much empty except for the odd man or woman walking their dog. Erin liked it this way, it was quiet. She hadn't said much to Billy, she let him do the talking. He seemed so happy, he almost had a bounce in his step. Erin was glad for him, but she couldn't share his mood. They sat on a bench that overlooked the pond. There was a little girl throwing bread in at the ducks, her Mother standing behind her, ready to grab her if she went too close. Erin watched the little girl giggling, her chubby fist crushing the bread.
''I feel like I'm dying'', she said quietly.
Billy looked at her, his expression read worry.
''You're not Erin, you're just upset''.
''He hasn't called'', she said, not taking her eyes off the girl and her Mam.
''Maybe he's scared to call, maybe's he's afraid of...''.
''He's not afraid of anything'', Erin cut him off, ''he's going to go back to England, I know it. He'll go back and get back into his normal routine with her''.
''Why do you care?'', Billy asked, watching her expression closely, ''it's not like you were going to be together, remember? It was just some fun''.
Erin didn't answer, she put her head in her hands and took a deep breath. She was sick of emotions, everything would be so much easier if nobody felt anything. Billy placed his hand on her shoulder.
''You need to tell him'', he said, ''before it's he's gone''.
Erin wouldn't look at him, she knew if she looked he would see everything she was feeling. She didn't want anyone to know her greatest desire, she felt stupid. She felt like a 16 year old crying over a boy. She had never cried over a boy, not in 26 years.
''I never told Frank'', Billy said quietly.
Erin's breath caught in her throat. Billy had never spoke about Frank, no one really had. He had been sort of shoved into the back of their minds, forgotten.
''He was gay you know?'', Billy continued, his eyes looked glassy, like he was in a different world, ''he wouldn't tell anyone, he thought it was something to be ashamed of. After he died I just cried and cried, thinking about how I might have been able to change him. I could have saved him, that's all I kept thinking''.
''You couldn't have saved him'', Erin said.
''Everyone thinks he was a scumbag'', Billy said, he sounded offended, ''and yeah he was rough around the edges, he didn't know how to act. He didn't want people to think he was weak. He knew that he hurt me, and you guys, he used to regret all those things he said. He told me so many times''.
''If he was so nice, why did he get involved in drugs? Why did he drag you into it?'', Erin asked angrily.
''Honestly? I don't know. We all make our mistakes Erin'', Billy said solemnly.
They didn't speak for a while, both stuck in their own individual thoughts. Erin trying to imagine Frank feeling bad for something. Trying to imagine Frank now. She didn't want to believe Billy, she didn't want to feel sorry for the guy who took her best friend away, who could have killed him. But, regardless of how she felt about Frank, Billy was right. She didn't want to spend another 8 years regretting.