We did our best to erase Lucas from our minds. Destinée was very disappointed in herself and felt that it was all her fault. Frankly, we were both at fault, but some people sure know how to pull a guise. Once we moved pass the incident, we were able to enjoy the rest of my time there. I made sure to capture as many moments possible with my camera. When we returned home, I planned to make photo albums and send one to Destinée. All too soon though, I had to return to England. A wave of sadness washed over me when our goodbye hug ended.
"Call or Skype when you get back," said Destinée. I could tell that she was holding back tears. Her nose was already reddening.
"I promise." I replied. "And don’t cry, okay? If you start, then I’ll start and then we’ll all be drowning." She laughed and nodded. I gave her another tight hug before we had to leave for the security check. Niall gave her a goodbye hug and then we left. He laced his hand with mine, lightening my mood. I was glad that we got over our argument. That was the first time we ever argued like that. It was absolutely dreadful. Although such things are inevitable, I hoped that we wouldn’t have another like it in awhile.
Once the plane landed we collected our luggage and quickly hopped into the car. There were too many fans waiting for the boys and Paul was concerned for their safety. We were graced to have to wait in London traffic. Weary from travel, I nodded off to sleep. Though in what felt like minutes, Niall’s voice woke me.
"We’re here, babe." he said softly.
"I’m so cozy,” I mumbled. “I’m sleeping here tonight.”
"I don’t think so." He gently pulled me out the car and carried me up to the flat. With caution, he laid me on the sofa, and left to bring up our luggage.
"Hold on, I want to help," I called after him.
"We both know you’re not getting off that sofa for a good nine hours." He chuckled. "It’s okay, Paul offered to help me out."
"Alright," I yawned.
I woke up earlier than usual the next morning. Jetlag I supposed. I tiptoed to the bedroom to see if Niall was awake. He was sound asleep. I smiled at how adorable he looked. Careful to not wake him, I brushed my teeth and headed for the kitchen. My stomach growled loudly. Eager to curb my hunger, I settled for a banana, buttered croissant, sausage, and orange juice. I knew Niall would wake up soon so I popped some waffles in the toaster for him. While eating I noticed a big pile of mail on the table. With nothing else to occupy myself, I flipped through it to find that it consisted of mostly junk mail. I was about to put the pile down when something caught my eye. It was a letter from a London art school that I applied to a few months ago. They hosted a seminar-type program annually. I finally had enough money saved for it that year so I applied. I stared at it, anxious to see what it held. By then, Niall had finally woken up and was busy brushing his teeth. I was still staring at the letter, deciding whether to open it then or wait. My attention was averted from it when Niall entered the kitchen.
"Morning, beautiful." He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Good morning," I said smiling. "I put some waffles in the toaster for you."
"Ha-ha. What a coincidence! I was dreaming about waffles. Thanks." He sashayed over to the toaster and heaped his waffles on a plate. He returned to the table with his syrup-drenched waffles, a glass of milk, and a bowl of strawberries. I stifled a small laugh when I noticed how messy his hair was. It stuck out from his head in all directions.
"Why are you so giggly?" he asked.
"No reason." I answered with sly grin. I reach over the table and ruffled his hair.
"You’re so weird." he uttered, his mouth full of waffles.
"Yeah, but you still love me." I said. His lips pulled into a smile. My eyes flickered to the letter still in my hand.
"You’re eyebrows are furrowed, what’s on your mind? Is it that letter you’re holding?" he questioned. I returned my gaze back to Niall.
"Remember that London art program I told you about? The one that I had been saving up for ever since secondary school and finally had enough money to apply this year?" He nodded. "Well this is the admission letter," I said.
"That’s great! Won’t you open it?"
"I want to, but I’m too nervous." I held the letter out to him. "Read it to me?" He took the it from my hands and opened it. My heart jumped when I heard the first tear of the envelope being opened. Once he fully opened it, his eyes ran across the paper.
"You made it!" he exclaimed. I squealed with happiness and went over to hug him. When we pulled away I took the letter from his hands and read it for myself, just to see those wonderful words. That was by far one of the happiest moments of my life. I had always dreamed of attending that program. That day though, I realized that some dreams can’t come true without sacrifices.
After breakfast Niall left for a photo shoot. One Direction had a busy few weeks ahead of them. I bid him farewell and then lounged in the living room. On my way there I grabbed the admission letter to read the details. As I read it, I became disheartened. The program was relocated to Paris. They wanted us to confirm if we still wished to attend. The flight expenses would be covered by them, but that wasn’t what worried me. Niall immediately came into my thoughts. Ever since we met we had never been apart for long. Were we ready for this? Was I? My thoughts went to battle. One side kept telling me to follow my dream, while the other told me it would not work out. I was torn. I needed to talk to someone so I called Destinée. I told her about my dilemma.
"You love Niall, right?" she said.
"Yes, a lot." I answered.
"And Niall loves you the same. He’d support you no matter what." she said.
"I know that, but I’m just worried it won’t work out."
"Amara, you and Niall have a relationship that is to die for. You both love and trust each other so much. I think no matter what you choose it’ll work out. I’m not going to tell you what to do though. This is your decision. I’m only here to help. Just listen to your heart.” Her words were exactly what I needed. Much of the tension I felt was lifted off me after our chat. We ended speaking for almost an hour. By the end of it, I knew what I was going to do.
Lunchtime was rolling around soon so I went to the kitchen to prepare lunch. My not-so-world-famous, but delicious, spaghetti simmered on the stove. Whenever I cooked I enjoyed playing some music so my iPod touch was connected to Niall’s iHome on full blast. Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean bleared throughout the flat. I couldn’t resist swaying my hips to the music. I was so absorbed by it that I did not notice Niall had returned. He was suddenly behind me with his hands on my hips, swaying in time with me. I was surprised at first, but I continued dancing. He then wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his chin on my shoulder. His closeness made my stomach jitter with butterflies.
Makes a man want to speak Spanish. Como se llama, bonita, mi casa, su casa. He sang in time with the song.
"You should speak Spanish more," I said as I stirred the spaghetti sauce in a separate pot. "You sound muy caliente." I lowered the heat on both pots and covered them.
"No tan caliente usted (Not as hot as you). I missed you today," he said between kisses on my neck. His breath tickled my ear. More butterflies.
"I missed you too." Amidst this perfect moment my brain just had to remind me about the Paris situation. I sighed and pulled out of Niall’s comforting hold. He frowned.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"We need to talk,” I said. “It’s about the art program." I sat with him at the dining table and explained everything. He listened attentively. When I finished I was eager to hear what he thought about it. He ran his hand through his hair.
"Wow, Paris… Not so close to London or Mullingar. Have you made up your mind?"
"Sort of, but I want to hear what you think about it before I set it in stone." He reached over and held both of my hands on the table. He looked directly into my eyes.
"I only want for you to be happy. You’ve always wanted this and have worked hard for it. I’d like for you to stay, but this is your dream. Whatever your decision is, I’ll support you one hundred percent." Destinée was spot on about Niall supporting me. I knew he would, but sometimes doubts creep up on me. With his thoughts on the matter disclosed, I was ready to finalize my decision. Destinée’s words echoed through my mind. Just listen to your heart.
A MONTH LATER
I marveled at the beauty of Australia. After a long journey, our flight had finally landed, and we were on our way to a hotel in Melbourne. I could not wait to see Destinée again. The sun was soon to set when we arrived the hotel. Weary from travel, everyone, except me went to sleep. I wanted to snap a few pictures of the sunset. It was a perfect balance of orange and salmon pink. There were a few hints of blue. Satisfied with the photos, I changed into my sleepwear and off to bed I went.
In the next week that followed the boys were booked with shows, interviews, photo shoots and an occasional meet and greet. I went along to a few of them. I never imagined that I’d get as much attention as I did. The fans were so lovely. Some of them even gave me gifts, like bracelets, stuffed animals or collages. It was a nice feeling. When that busy week finally ended, everyone had four days off. Niall and I went sight-seeing the first day, and then to Destinée’s mansion of a home.
When we pulled up to her house she was waiting for us on the steps.
"Amara!" she shrieked while running towards me.
"Des!" We literally jumped into each other’s arms. It was probably the longest hug we ever had. We had the widest grins on our faces. Niall had distanced himself to let us have our reunion so I called him over to officially meet Des.
"Niall, officially meet my crazy, lovable best friend," I motioned my hand like Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune. I did the same for Niall.
"Des, officially meet my wonderful, Irish boyfriend." They both laughed and greeted each other with a hug. Des wanted to show me her house so we went inside for some snacks and a mini tour of her huge home. Every room was gigantic. Some were not even furnished yet. During her “tour”, Des got a text. Her face lit up as she read the message. Niall and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows.
"So who’s the guy?" I asked.
Her lips pulled into a wry grin before saying, “Lucas.” I was surprised she didn’t try to deny it.
"And who is this Lucas?" I interrogated teasingly.
"Yes, please do tell," added Niall.
"I met him at the mall last week." she started. "We’ve been hanging out a bit. He just invited me to hang at the boardwalk. I think I’m going to say no. I want to spend time with you."
"Are you loco? You obviously like him."
"Okay…I’ll be over there while you two do your girl talk." said Niall as he walked into the kitchen.
"Maybe he won’t mind if I ask if you two can come along."
"Positive." She replied to his message, and he replied that he was fine with it. I went to the kitchen to tell Niall. I found him with whip cream hanging from his lips. I wiped it off and gave him a kiss.
"Ew, guys, no PDA." She grabbed her car keys and to the boardwalk we went.
We met up with Lucas at a funnel cake stand. His build suggested that he was a swimmer. I didn’t feel any weird vibes from him. He seemed to be the perfect guy for Destinée. She introduced us to him and then we went off to enjoy the boardwalk. After hours of fun we had to go back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes and called a taxi. Once in the car, Niall asked me a surprising question.
"Don’t you think something is…off with Lucas?"
"No, he seems okay to me. Why?" I was quite curious as to why Niall thought that.
"Never mind," he said quickly, "I was just wondering."
I couldn’t place my tongue on it, but something didn’t seem right about Lucas. For one, he seemed a hell of a lot more interested in Amara’s chest than her face or than Destinée, the girl he initially invited. I was surprised none of them noticed. Maybe I was overreacting, but I was going to keep a close eye on him.
Lucas had invited Niall, Destinée and I to a party at his place. When I stepped out in my dress, I noticed Niall frown. I didn’t understand why. The dress grazed my knee and was strapless, but I wore a jean jacket over it. I asked him why and then he went off about Lucas being a perv and not trusting him. We went back and forth about it, both of our tempers rising.
“We’re not going.” he resolved.
“You mean you’re not going. Anyways we’re nearly there.” I could feel the thud of music.
“I don’t care.” he said flatly.
“Why are you being like this? I know how to take care of myself!”
“Really? If I remember correctly, you were almost abducted by a pimp.” That was the final blow. I could take a lot, but that one really hurt, especially coming from him. My face reddened.
“You’re an absolute douche, Niall.” I open the car door and stepped out. He pulled my hand back to apologize, but I broke out of his hold and went to find Destinée. I ignored his calls.
I pushed through a pool of sweaty, dancing people until I finally found Destinée. The smile on her face faded when she saw my grim expression.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Where’s Niall?” she asked.
“I really don’t want to talk about it now.” I yelled over the music. “Let’s just enjoy the party.” Lucas walked over to us with drinks in his hands. I accepted mine gratefully and took a swig. Lucas led Des to the dance floor leaving me by myself. I was not going to let the fight ruin my night so I drained my drink and followed behind them to danced my heart out. After ten minutes of dancing, I began to feel woozy. The room seemed to be closing in on me and my vision blurred. The flashing lights made it worse. I’d never had a dizzy spell like that before. Was it something I ate…or drank? I was about to fall over when I felt Destinée grab my arm. Her mouth was moving, but the words jumbled in my mind. I managed to tell her that I needed to lie down somewhere. I saw her speak to Lucas. He came over and supporting me with both hands, led me upstairs to a room. He closed the door, blocking out the loud music. I mumbled a thank you and plopped onto the soft bed, closing my eyes to rest. I felt a finger tracing my collarbone. I opened my eyes and saw that it was Lucas. This was not happening.
“Shouldn’t you be getting back to Des?” I said nervously while I pushed away his hand. He said nothing and moved closer to me. I attempted to get out of the bed, but I was too weak. He inched closer until he was practically glued to me, his face hovering over mine. I tried moving away, but my body only got more flimsy. Then it hit me that he was the one who put something in my drink. Niall was right all along. I was so stupid!
“Get off!” My vision began to blur again and I lost basically all control of my body. Lucas then crashed his lips against mine forcefully. My limp body could not push him off.
I immediately wanted to slap myself for what I said to Amara. I was so angry that she didn’t see it my way and it slipped out. We rarely argued, but when we did it was never like that. What I said was uncalled for, and I had to fix it. I hesitated many times before I finally went inside the house to find her. I bumped into Destinée first.
“Hey, do you know where Amara is?” I asked.
“She wasn’t feeling well so Lucas showed her to a room so she could rest.” I cringed at the thought of her alone with him. “Maybe we should go check on her.” I nodded in agreement. We checked the first room down the hallway. What was behind the door made my blood boil. I pulled Lucas off Amara and swept her into my arms.
“Niall?” she asked confused.
“It’s okay, I’m here.” I held her tighter. Destinée called the police and blocked Lucas from getting away. The party ended and Lucas was arrested. The three of us went to Destinée’s place since it was closer than the hotel.
I stayed up with Amara until she regained control of her body.
“You were right,” she started. “You were only looking out for me and I reacted stupidly.” She sniffled as a tear rolled down her cheek. “I’m always guarding myself when no danger is there, but once there is I’m oblivious. I ruined the entire night.” Her voice trembled.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s not your fault. Lucas ruined everything. I didn’t help the situation either. I should have never said what I did to you. I’m sorry.”
“I forgive you. And you’re not a douche,” she said while nudging me with her elbow.
“Good, ‘cause that would be kinda gross,” I joked. This got a little laughter from her. She laid her head on my chest and closed her eyes with a smile on her beautiful face.
As time progressed, the walls I built to keep out the world eroded. Being with Niall made me more trusting, less suspecting. I found that it was up to my judgment to place my trust in the right place, but my judgment, like everyone else’s, was susceptible to flaws…
"I got a pocket, got a pocket full of sunshine. I got a love and I know that it’s all mine, oh, oh oh oh.” I half sung and hummed the song while I showered. When I finished, I slipped on my robe and quickly towel dried my hair. As soon as I opened the door Niall jumped in front of me, making my heart jump. My hand flew to my chest.
"Goodness, Niall. Are you trying to kill me?"
"Never," he replied. "You’re my pocketful of sunshine." His face spread into a sly grin.
"How long were you listening?" I chuckled.
"The entire time. It was cute." I rolled my eyes and went to dress. I had not even taken three steps when he pulled me back by my waist and planted a sweet kiss on my lips. "You’re so kissable." he mused.
"Not sure I can say the same of you," I joked. This made him smile that wonderful smile of his that could brighten my entire day. Reluctantly, he let me go and I set off again to get dressed. It rained heavily that Sunday afternoon so our plans for a stroll were thwarted. As an alternative, we spent the rest of the day cuddling and watching a marathon of films. I won the first pick over rock-paper-scissors. I chose one of my favorites, The Lovely Bones. Niall set up the television as I fetched us a plush blanket and popcorn. I settled in next to him and covered us with the blanket. He pulled me closer to him. The steady rise and fall of his chest was soothing. Halfway through the film he yet again surprised me.
"Guess what?" he asked.
"You have to guess," he traced up and down my arm with his finger. My skin tingled.
"Hmm…You bought a new pair of Supras?"
"Nope. Guess again."
"New album soon?"
"Yes, but that’s not it."
"C’mon tell me," I pouted. "I have no idea."
"You know how the lads and I are going to Australia next month?" I nodded. "Well I got it cleared for you to come with us! You’ll get to see Destinée too."
My jaw dropped. “Really?!”
“Yeah, the tickets are already booked.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m so happy right now. We won’t have to be separated and I can finally see Des. You’re amazing, you know that?”
“Eh, I try my best.” I gave him a bear hug and then we resumed the film. Some time through the movie, I noticed that Niall was not looking at the screen but at me. I positioned myself so I could look at his face. His glorious blue eyes seemed to be looking into my soul, but in a nice way. There was wonder written all over his face. He stroked my cheek.
“I didn’t think it was possible…” he said.
“What didn’t you think was possible?” I asked, curious.
“To fall even more in love with you. Every day I just fall deeper. I’m the luckiest person alive.” He grinned. I got the feeling you get when the mere presence of someone you love makes your whole body jitter with joy.
“If anything, I’m the luckiest person alive. You’re always there for me and love me to no end. I wish I could find more words right now. I love you so much, Niall…more than you can imagine.” No words were truer than the ones we had just spoken. It was the best thing in the world to have someone you could trust, love, and confide in. No secrets, no doubts, just love.
I could not bear the thought of ever being away from Amara long. She had become a large part of my life—it was instinct for me to bring her along. Even though there would be times when we would not see one another for awhile, we could work through it. I had that much faith in us. Albeit, in every relationship there are lows. Neither of us saw our first big argument coming. But I guess nobody ever does…
I stared at the raindrops accumulating on the window of the taxi. I was on my way to a cafe to meet with my father. I tried assuming an aloof, confident front, but I was inwardly apprehensive. Was I making a grave mistake? Niall pulled me out of my thoughts.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked.
"Nothing," I answered all too fast.
"You know you’re a bad liar?" He pushed stray hair behind my ear. "Your eyebrows are furrowed. You always do that when you think." I couldn’t help smiling. He could read me like a book, always noting the minute details. "So what’s on your mind?"
"What if he’s lying? What if he wants money or something? What if…" There I was again, falling into the pit of my "what ifs". Those questions never got me anywhere.
Niall lifted up my chin and said, “What if this becomes one of the best decisions you make? Just relax.” I nodded in response. The taxi pulled up to the cafe. I looked through the windows, my eyes hopping from person to person in search of my father. I still remembered his face. Even thought I resembled my mother, he and I shared the same hazel eyes. I spotted him seated near the counter. I unbuckled my seatbelt and kissed Niall goodbye. He planned to venture around town until I was finished meeting with my dad. I had to face this alone. When I reached the cafe’s door I looked back to see Niall thumbs me up and smile. With renewed confidence, I opened the door to an additional chapter of my life.
When we returned to the flat I laid on my bed and thought of all my father and I spoke about. Amidst my pondering, Niall laid beside me. My heart still fluttered sometimes when we were close. I stared at the ceiling as I spoke.
"He’s been out of jail for three years now, soon to be four."
"That’s good, right?"
"Yeah. He has a stable job as a car technician, and he remarried. Her name is Leandra. They have a five month baby boy, Jeremy junior…" My voice trailed off. When my dad told me, I felt as if he had betrayed our family. New wife. New baby. Did he forget about my mother? From the onset, I was upset about it, but whenever he mentioned his wife or son, a light shone in his eyes. It wasn’t fair for me to resent something that made him happy. I disclosed all to Niall about our conversation. That was one of the many things I loved about him. We could tell each other anything, no matter how silly or serious. When I blew off the rest of my steam, he pulled me into a warm embrace, as I laid my head against his chest. He kissed my forehead. “What you did wasn’t easy, but you did it. I’m proud of you.”
Two weeks had passed since my birthday. At this time we were no longer in Birmingham but the boys’ flat in North London. All was well between Niall and me. We decided to keep our relationship out of the public eye for awhile. The pictures of us at Nando’s and the movie theater had circulated, but as of then our relationship was mostly a mystery. We enjoyed this privacy for three more weeks until going out on dates or anywhere became such a struggle. One afternoon I had a dizzy spell so I crashed on the sofa. My sleep was peaceful until I was awakened by a flash. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and saw Niall towering over me with a mischievous grin.
“What are you up to?” I asked.
“Not much. Just showing the twitter world my sleeping beauty.”
“Oh, that’s cute…” I said . Then I realized what he was doing. “Wait, no! I look like a hot mess.” I attempted to grab his Blackberry but he sped out of the room. Within seconds my phone beeped. I open the Twitter app and scrolled down to Niall’s tweet. It read: @Amara_Nolan sleepin like a baby. hahaha she has some drool on her face. Still beautiful though…I love you babe xx
I sent a reply: @NiallOfficial Thank you for showing the twitter world my messy hair and drool adorned face lol. I love you too xoxo
I less than a second I had thousands of Twitter mentions and a myriad of new followers. Most of the mentions were kind messages from fans saying they were happy for us, but there were a few nasty ones. I did my best to ignore them. My reading was interrupted when Niall came up behind me and planted a kiss on my cheek. He cuddled up next to me on the sofa and joked, “The world needed to see drool-faced Amara.”
“You’re so lucky your cute.” I teased.
He shrugged his shoulders playfully. We spent the rest of the afternoon on the sofa. Nothing was better than being in his arms.
A WEEK LATER
By now it was crystal clear that Niall and I were together. Every now and then I’d see a picture of us on a magazine cover in the grocery store with captions like: ‘Niall Horan and his new beau’ or ‘Nara has been confirmed’. Those magazines led to something that I never thought would happened. It all began with an envelope.
"There’s a letter here for you." said Niall.
"Who’s it from?" I asked.
"I don’t know. There’s no name on it."
"That’s weird…” I opened the envelope. Inside was a handwritten note.
Hi Amara. It’s Jeremy, your father. You don’t know how surprised and happy I was to see your face on the cover of a magazine. I almost didn’t recognize you…you’re all grown up. I know that I messed up big time and you probably hate me, but please give me a chance. I’m a changed man now. I want to be a part of your life again. Ever since I was released from jail I’ve fixed myself and have been tirelessly searching for you and your sister. Please, please give me a call at 079 455 673 45 so we can meet up and chat.
I hope you are well,
I slumped onto the floor as if the letter was a sandbag weighing me down. Niall came to my side. With worry in his voice he asked, “What’s wrong? What did you read?” I was in such shock. I couldn’t find any words. All I did was hand him the letter. His eyes flew over the words. Once he finished reading he seated himself beside me. “Will you call him?”
"I don’t know…I want to find out, but I’m still so mad at him. It’s not just that though…”
"What else is it?”
"I’m scared of being let down. He’s just sent me this letter professing that he’s a ‘changed man’. What if he hasn’t changed? What if he’s still the same drunk woman beater who tore my family apart? What if he’s worse?" A million "what ifs" raced through my mind.
"But what if he has changed? People change, right?"
"Yeah…but he’s done so many horrid things. I still hold them against him. You think I should call him.”
"Yes. I think in a way you have to. The only way you can have closure on your past with him is if you both sit down and have a heart to heart chat.” I took in Niall’s words and realized he was right. I did have to meet him. Not knowing what my father has become would haunt me for the rest of my life. There was also still that part of me that loved the sober Jeremy Nolan—the father who read me bedtime stories, the father who never laid a harmful finger on my mother, the father that maybe he could be again.
Beep. I eyed the alarm clock. It was three in the morning. Who could be texting me at this time? I opened the text. It was from none other than Destinée Delaney. The message read: Happy 18th birthday Amara!! You’re probably asleep, but I just wanted to wish you a wonderful day. Really wish I could be there to celebrate your transition into official adulthood. You’re all grown up :’) Love you xx
Birthday? It couldn’t be April eighth already, I thought. I checked the date and sure enough, it was April eighth. I was now an “adult”. I didn’t feel any different though, just same old Amara. I sent Destinée a thank you reply and went back to sleep. Another text popped up: p.s. Don’t have a heart attack today ;)
Heart attack? I was stumped as to why I would have a heart attack. Destinée sent me weird texts all the time so I assumed that was all it was. I replied with: Um, okay? Well I’m gonna sleep now xx
I was busily working on a painting when Louis entered the hotel room. He exchanged some words with Niall and then they both looked at me. What could they be up to? I re-focused and continued painting. Suddenly, Louis grabbed my canvas and sped out of the room. I ran out after him.
“Give it back, Louis!” I yelled.
“You have to catch me first!” he said.
So up and down the floors we went. He was really fast. After chasing him for minutes I was out of breath and gave up. I sat down on the floor to level my breathing. While doing this, Louis came around and then handed me my canvas, just like that. What kind of trick was this? He saw my baffled expression, laughed, and then ran off. I headed for the elevator and pondered of what they were up to. Louis was definitely not the only in on this. When I reached the room I came to the realization that I forgot my key. Hopefully someone was in the room. I gave the door three knocks. No reply. I tried again. On the third knock the door clicked open. I fully opened it and went in. I couldn’t see that anyone was inside.
“Is anyone here?” I was starting to worry. Was this the “heart attack” Destinée mentioned earlier? Without warning, someone covered my eyes with their hands. The canvas slipped out of my hand. I almost panicked; then I recognized Niall’s scent.
“What are you doing, Niall?” I asked perplexed.
“You’ll see.” I could hear the smile in his voice.
He walked me deeper into the room, his warm body close to mine. He stopped and let go.
“Happy birthday!” Liam, Zayn, Louis, and Harry were all gathered in the dining area. The table was filled with drinks, pizza, chips, and a modest cake. I was surprised beyond expression. How did they know?
“You guys! This is really nice. Thank you times a million.” I gave each of them a tender hug. “How did you even know?” I asked.
“Destinée spammed my twitter telling me a few days ago.” said Niall. Everything then made sense. Destinée’s “heart attack” text and the goose chase with Louis. “I dm’d her and she told me how you’d like to celebrate it.”
“Enough, chit-chat,” interrupted Louis, “let’s start eating!” And so we began my small birthday feast. It was by far one of my best birthday celebrations. When the other boys left, Niall called me over.
He had a neatly wrapped box in his hands.
“Oh, no, you didn’t have to! Considering all you’ve done for me…” He placed it in my hands.
“I wanted to,” he said with his radiant smile. I was still uncertain. He urged me to open it. I tore off the wrapping paper and right before my eyes a red Nikon D3200 (picture). My jaw dropped. This was the camera of my dreams. I had been saving up for it for months. Niall grinned at my surprised expression.
“Niall, this is seven hundred U.S. dollars! It’s worth so much, and you’ve already spent a lot for the hospital and dinner and…everything…”
“None of that is worth more than seeing you happy.” My heart fluttered. His sentence reverberated in my mind. None of that is worth more than seeing you happy. The corners of my lips pulled into a big smile. I placed the camera on the nightstand and gave him a long, tight hug.
“Thank you so much—for everything” I said. I wanted to stay that way forever, safe and sound in his arms. It felt like he didn’t want to let go either. When we pulled apart I slipped on a stray piece of wrapping paper. Almost as if by instinct, Niall caught me. Our faces were centimeters apart.
“You’re such a klutz,” he said softly, while looking deep into my eyes. I couldn’t help but notice his eyes: a bright brisk blue with flecks of gold-green around the pupil. The space between our faces continued to lessen until his lips brushed my upper lip. They were so warm and soft. My heart pounded in my chest. It was so loud in my ears I thought he’d hear it. He leaned in and pressed his tender lips against mine ever so gently. Our lips fit perfectly against each other. His right arm around my waist firmly and his left hand nested behind my head. It was as if our lips were waltzing—he led confidently as I followed. I ran my hand through his lush hair. When we pulled away, I could still taste him on my tongue. We looked each other in the eye and smiled.
“I’ve been wanting to do that that for awhile,” he breathed.
“Me too,” I said. We beamed at each other and leaned in for another passionate kiss.
The following afternoon I found myself all alone in the hotel room. The boys had some band business to attend to and had left about two hours ago. With no interesting programs playing on the TV, I began to wonder about the band and what they were actually about. The only song I knew of was “What Makes You Beautiful”, and I could only remember one line of the chorus. I got my laptop and, comfortably nested on the couch, opened YouTube. I typed “One Direction” in the search bar and began my marathon. I found out that they were on the X Factor and had finished in third place. I learned much more—there were thousands of videos of them. Their X Factor performances were very nice. My favorite was their rendition of “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. Eventually, I got around to listening to their album, Up All Night. The songs were great; I could not get enough of “Moments”. You know I’ll be your life, your voice, your reason to be…It was so heartfelt and genuine. Bored, I blasted the volume on my laptop and danced (mostly flailing my arms and jumping) to “Everything About You”. With the music so loud I hadn’t noticed that door had been opened. In the middle of a spin I saw that Niall was back. Red-faced, I flopped on the couch and turned off the music.
“Having fun?” he asked. I could tell that he was holding in his laughter. His repressed laugh erupted from his lips as he imitated some of my moves. I playfully threw a pillow at him.
“You’re the worst.” I said.
“I’m sorry,” he said through his laughs, “but that was too funny.”
Dramatically, I folded my arms and turned away so that my back was facing him. After he calmed down he asked me if I liked the album. I pretended to ignore him.
“Aw, come on, I was just joking.” he whined. I wasn’t really upset, I was just pulling his chain. He sat next to me on the couch and poked me as he repeatedly said “Answer me.” I found it hilarious and giggled, louder than I meant to.
“So that’s how it is?” Seconds later his hands were around my waist, mercilessly tickling me. My laugh was explosive. I tried escaping his hold, but he had an iron grip.
“Stop,” I begged through my laughs, “I’m gonna pee on myself!”
“Not until you answer my question.”
“Yes, I loved the album!” With this reply he released me. I gave him a small smack on the arm.
“Don’t ever do that again.” I hissed.
“Can’t make any promises,” he said with a cheeky grin. I rolled my eyes and shook my head in response.
“So how was whatever you guys went out to do?” I asked.
“It’s was alright. We had to sign these pictures of ourselves for the fans.”
“Whoa, for two hours?” He nodded. “I’m cringing just thinking of the hand cramps you guys must’ve gotten.”
“Eh, it wasn’t too bad. We had breaks here and there. I almost forgot! The guys and I are heading to Nando’s in a bit and then the theater. You want to come?”
“Definitely! I’ve been craving their chicken all day. Please, no scary movie this time.” He chuckled.
“Alright, I’ll be waiting outside.”
“Okay.” I went to get dressed and joined Niall and the others. We exited the hotel and piled into the car. The ride to Nando’s was fairly short. Once we entered, mouth-watering scents filled my nose. It had been awhile since I last went to Nando’s so I was pretty excited. Their food was life. Without realizing, I was daydreaming of what I’d eat. Louis waved a hand in front of my face.
“Earth to Amara…” he laughed.
“Oh, sorry,” I said embarrassed. I shuffled over to the table Liam chose and seated myself beside Niall. I noticed that there were three bodyguards, other than Paul, always hovering nearby.
Everyone except me was busily examining their menu. I already knew what I wanted. I tapped Niall on the shoulder. He looked up from his menu.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
“Yeah, I was just wondering…do you guys always have bodyguards everywhere you go?”
“Basically, yeah. It can get really crazy sometimes. I’m claustrophobic too. I know, not the best thing considering my job, but security does an amazing job. We want our fans to be safe as well.”
“Oh, okay. You know what you’re ordering?”
“I have an idea. What about you?”
“Yup.” A few minutes later the waiter came to take our orders. I decided on barbeque chicken thigh fillets with a side of fries and lemonade. The meal was amazing. Every piece of chicken was a flavorful trip to heaven. The boys and I chatted and joked all the while. I was able to know each of them better, and Zayn spoke to me more. I guessed that he was the kind of person that needed to warm up to new people. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we lost track of time. The film was starting soon so we got ready to leave. Harry insisted on paying the tab so he did so and we took our leave. On our way out I noticed these two girls, about fifteen, taking pictures and video of us. They must have been fans. Once outside the restaurant we were bombarded with the flash of cameras. There were about a dozen paparazzi. The flashes were blinding and it being so dark out made it worse. The security immediately went into action to get us through to the car. I looked at the boys. They all seemed pretty calm. They must have been used to it. I for one was utterly startled. I used my hand to protect my eyes from the piercing flashes. Noticing my uneasiness, Niall pulled me close to him and gave me his ray-bans. After what seemed liked ages we were safely in the car. I could still see the flashes through the tinted windows.
“Is everyone okay?” asked Paul. Everyone responded yes.
“You alright, Amara?” asked Niall.
“Uh, yeah. It was just really surprising; those flashes were so bright. Thanks for giving me your ray-bans.” I took them off and handed them to him, but he stopped me.
“No problem, but you might want to keep them. There may be paps at the theater.” The ride to the theater was longer than I expected, but soon enough we were there. I can’t recall which film we watched because halfway through it I dozed off. For some odd reason I was very tired. Must’ve been those dizzy spells Dr. Connor warned me about. I awoke when I felt popcorn bounce off my face, coming from the direction of Niall. I yawned and stretched my arms. As I did so, a waterfall of popcorn fell from me. I grabbed a handful and threw it at him.
“Littering the theater, Ms. Nolan?” he said in a posh voice. I lifted my hands innocently. He threw a few kernels back at me. I threw some more back and laughed as it hit him directly in the face.
“Oh, it’s on,” he said. This went on for a few minutes until Paul made us stop. At the end of it we were both keeled over laughing. People stared at us as they exited. Fortunately, there were less paparazzi when we left the theater. It finally struck me that the pictures they were taking would soon be all over the media. I kept my head down so that my face wasn’t too visible. The last thing I wanted was for rumors to circulate. On our way back to the hotel there was a major traffic jam so the journey took a good hour and a half. Midway through the ride, I became sleepy again. I tried my hardest to stay awake, but I couldn’t any longer. Weary, I closed my eyes and laid my head on Niall’s shoulder. He adjusted himself so I could be comfortable. Such a sweetheart. I felt so secure next to him. I enjoyed the moment and drifted into my slumber. The perfect end to a wonderful night. Little did I know that more was in store the next day.
The day I was dreading had inevitably arrived. It was the day of the first weekly check up. My morning started off with a refreshing Irish accent.
"Wake up, sleepy head. You have to get ready for your check up," said Niall. I pulled the covers over my head.
"I’m not going," I protested.
"Yes you are."
"No." I lowered the covers and faced him. "I’m scared, okay?"
He knelt on his knees so his face was level with mine. “Why?” he asked.
"Hospitals and I, we just don’t mix. Whenever I’m there I feel caged and bad childhood memories come back."
"Is that why you freaked out when you woke up at the hospital?" I nodded. "If it helps, I’ll stay by your side the entire time."
"I promise," he assured. I’d heard that line numerous times in my life. Usually when someone said it to me I believed it with disbelief. For me it was best to expect the worst—that way I could never be hurt by broken promises. This time it was different. When he spoke each of the three syllables held weight. This was far from an empty promise.
"Okay, I’ll get ready," I said while I rolled out of bed.
"Great. I’ll be in Liam and Zayn’s room."
"Alright." I entered the bathroom and did the usually morning routine. I threw on a casual outfit and headed for Liam and Zayn’s room. We quickly ate breakfast and then Niall and I left for the hospital. The journey was all too short. In no time I found myself at the entrance of the hospital. I was already getting nervous. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. When I opened my eyes I looked to my left to find Niall’s hand extended out to me. I interlocked my left hand with his warm right hand.
"Ready?" he asked. I nodded and we entered the building. The smell of antiseptic filled my nose, giving me chills. We went to the front desk and signed in. After twenty minutes of waiting the doctor was ready to see me. To my pleasure, it was Dr. Connor. She allowed Niall to come in with me. The checkup wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. She examined my head and shoulder. It was a bit painful, but much less than before. All throughout the appointment Niall held my hand, only letting go when Dr. Connor needed to pass through. Having him by my side was so comforting. I couldn’t ask of anything more. In good time, the appointment ended. Dr. Connor said that I was healing just fine and should continue to be cautious. We said goodbye and exited the hospital. Once outside I exhaled a breath of relief. Niall was still holding my hand. That was probably the longest I had ever held anyone’s hand. It was definitely not a bad thing. The appointment would have been much more nerve-racking without him by my side. Without thinking I gave Niall a quick kiss on the cheek.
"What was that for?" he asked surprised. I immediately wanted to slap myself for my reckless kiss. My face became hot.
"Uh…it was a-a thank you. I’m sorry I didn’t mean-"
"No, don’t be. It’s okay. No one should have to face their fears alone." My face began to cool down. At this point Wes had brought the car around. We both sat in the back seat and enjoyed the ride back to the hotel.
IN THE EVENING
It was a Saturday night and I was bored. Usually I’d occupy myself with Tumblr, but my dashboard was dead. Niall noticed my boredom and suggested we watch a film. I let him choose the movie. Big mistake. He decided on a horror film, Paranormal Activity. I had a love-hate relationship with horror films. They were semi fun while watching, but pure hell after they ended. Thanks to the movie, I couldn’t fall asleep as terrifying images flashed through my mind. To clear my head I grabbed my sketchbook, pencils, and markers and sat in TV area. I began my drawing. In no time I got absorbed into it and rid my mind of the scary images. Inevitably, I drifted off into sleep on the plush carpet.
At four in the morning I found myself awake. I got up and headed to the fridge for a drink when I saw her sprawled on the floor in front of the television. She had her sketchbook opened with pencils and markers scattered around. I guessed that she was clearing her head and dozed off. I quietly walked over and placed all the pencils and markers on the center table. I was about to close her sketchbook but something caught my eye. I looked at the drawing. It was a mosaic of me. I scrutinized every line and every splotch of color. It was phenomenal. There was a caption below it. It read, “He makes the pain go away…” My heart warmed. In the short time that we’d known each other, I was her haven. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. All I did know was that Amara needed someone to stand by her. Someone she could trust. I made a silent vow to be that someone as I closed the sketchbook and placed it on the center table. I returned my attention back to her. She was sound asleep. Gently, I picked her up and carried her to her bed. I tucked her in and kissed her forehead. “Sweet dreams.”