7. Monday, October 1st

When I woke up the next morning, not only was I in Liam’s house, my feet were also in his lap.

Well, at least it wasn’t my head.

I looked up at him, he was fast asleep, still sitting upright with his head tilted back. We must have fallen asleep while watching movies.

I stretched out a little and grinned to myself. I hadn’t particularly wanted to go home the night before. It had been far more fun spending the evening at Liam’s place, which made me feel kind of guilty. I was supposed to be there hanging out with him because he didn’t want to be left alone. Not because I didn’t want to go home and be, well… alone.

I put my head on his shoulder a little, both to wake him up and just because I sort of wanted to. I can’t really explain why I do those kinds of things, I just do. Anyway, my head was on his shoulder and I looking up at the clock on the wall.

9:34am.

We had to be at the offices at 10 to sign loads of copies of our album.

“Shit!” I exclaimed upon realizing this. Liam woke up with a start, of course, and I jumped off the couch like mad. “Liam!”

“What?” he asked, still half asleep and rubbing his eyes.

“We have to get going down to the office to sign those albums,” I said in a haste. I glanced around the room looking for my mobile and my wallet and anything else I thought I might forget because I knew if we were late management was going to give us hell.

He looked at me tiredly for a moment, then his eyes shot open as he realized the gravity of the situation. “Shit,” he said, standing up.

“Yeah,” I said, still looking around because I felt like I was forgetting something. I always get a little bit OCD when I’m feeling panicked.

Liam, on the other hand, is a lot more relaxed. Not that he likes being late, but he is a lot more mellow and less frantic and has the ability to keep his head in a stressful situation. “All right,” he said, picking up his own wallet and mobile. “I guess we should get going. If we pick up a cab now we can still probably make it there.”

I nodded. “Yeah but…” I motioned to us and how we hadn’t showered and how we probably smelled weird.

“Yeah,” Liam nodded in agreement. “Okay, five minute showers and then we’ll get a cab.”

I was still nodding my head; unable to frantically stop thinking about how we were going to be late and how Paul was going to kill us.

“Niall,” Liam said, pushing me slightly towards the bathroom. “Go shower.”

“Right, right,” I said, dashing off for it. I wasn’t even totally awake yet and my brain was going a million miles a minute. How did that even work?

I want to say that I’ve never showered so quickly in my entire life, but that just isn’t true. There was the time that I slept in and nearly missed my flight to London that I showered in less than three minutes. Or when the five of us had to share a dressing room and we literally had ten minutes to get ready between all of us. I showered in one minute that day.

And if you’re wondering, Zayn took seven minutes and pissed everyone off.

Anyway, I showered and then Liam showered and we made it to the conference room only ten minutes late.

Not bad timing.

“Hey, the odd couple finally decided to show up,” Louis snickered as Liam and I sat down. There was a large table with stacks of CDs sitting on it and sharpie pens littered around. I sighed. This was worse than photoshoots. My hand was beginning to cramp up just thinking about it.

“Knock it off, Louis,” Liam muttered, picking up one of the sharpies and signing an album cover.

I wish I could tell you that we had a bit of banter throughout the day, but the truth is, signing your own name hundreds of times over is quite boring. It’s so boring that you just end up going into autopilot, concentrating on looping all of the letters perfectly.

My handwriting also looks extremely feminine. Maybe that’s why girls are so interested in getting my autograph, because otherwise I don’t really understand it. Signings a lot more fun when the fans actually get to come to them, rather than us being locked in a room. Then, we actually get to smile and thank them for their support. Now, someone was just going to get the album by winning it in some magazine contest. What was the autograph really going to mean?

I don’t know. To me an autograph isn’t really worth much unless you’re there to get it yourself, but what do I know? I’m the one who gives out the autographs, not the one who gets them.

See? It’s a very boring, mind-wandering activity.

“You’re free to go, lads,” Paul said, and it was like music to my ears. I leaned back and shook my wrist. If I never had to sign my name again in my life, I was sure I’d be happy about it. Unfortunately, I knew that wasn’t possible at all.

Maybe if I didn’t have to spend another day locked in a room signing my name over and over. That, I would be happy about.

I stood up to leave and glanced over at Liam. He smiled up at me. Then I realized he wasn’t coming back to my flat. For the first time in a week, I was going to be all on my own again. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, and I felt strange because it seemed like I should have been happy at the prospect of having my own space again.

But I took a cab home and sat down on my couch, flipping through channels on the TV. Nothing interesting was on, so I went to look for a bit of food. There were still some of the groceries that Liam had bought in the fridge, so I figured I could do a bit of cooking.

It was odd, not having him around. I didn’t remember my place being so silent and empty. He’d only been there a few days! But it was sort of weird not having him there – I’d gotten used to his presence.

As I sat at my kitchen table stuffing noodles into my mouth, I wondered what he was doing.

~~~

I wondered what Niall was up to.

Thinking about the week I spent with him was a good distraction from wondering what Danielle was doing. I was grateful that Niall had been at my place the day before, because I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first night alone.

My house still felt empty without Danielle in it, and I wasn’t at all used to being on my own yet. At least I knew what it looked like and sort of knew what to expect when I walked through the door.

Which, by the way, was the discarded pizza box still on the floor. I laughed a little as I picked it up and put it in the kitchen. Niall was probably back in his flat enjoying a bit of Nando’s or whatever. I was sure he was sitting lazily on his couch watching TV and not doing much of anything.

Or maybe not, because oddly enough as I was contemplating this, my mobile rang. Niall’s face was on the call display, which was weird. I wondered for a moment if somehow he knew I’d been thinking about him.

“Hi,” I said.

“Uh, hi,” his awkward voice came softly through my phone. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” I said dumbly, because really, nothing was up. I was just sitting around thinking about how it was a shame that our week had come to an end. It was strange, I’d only meant to stay at Niall’s place to get away from the pain of Danielle moving out. I hadn’t expected to enjoy that time at all.

But now that it was over, I missed it.

“Right,” he said. “Me too. I ate some of the food you bought.”

“Well I’m glad it didn’t go to waste,” I laughed. I wondered if he’d actually go grocery shopping again once his stock ran out. My guess was probably not.

“I never let food go to waste,” he said seriously.

“You let the milk go to waste,” I pointed out.

“Well, yeah,” he laughed. “But that’s milk. It’s not really food. It’s like a food… enhancement.”

“You mean a condiment?”

“No…” he trailed off. “I mean, I guess sometimes. On cereal it’s a condiment, yeah?”

“I suppose,” I shrugged, pacing around my living room a little bit as I talked to him. “Unless you drink the leftovers in the bowl after. Then it’s a beverage.”

“Does that make the bolognese a beverage?” he wondered aloud. “Because I always finish it even after all the noodles are gone.”

I burst out laughing at his random comment, even though I wasn’t quite sure why. He always said funny things like that. Being around him 24 hours of the day certainly had proved to be entertaining.

“What?” he asked. “It’s true.”

“Yeah,” I laughed. “I suppose it is.”

There was a silence for a moment before Niall spoke up again. “What’re you doing?” he asked. “You wanna go out for a pint?”

No, I didn’t really. I was beginning to wonder if this was just what he did when he was bored. It worried me a little, but at least he hadn’t been drinking by himself. At least, not to my knowledge. “Nah, that’s alright,” I said.

“Oh.”

I frowned. I actually really did want to hang out with him, I just wasn’t interested in going out to the pub. “Why don’t you come over here?” I suggested. “We could play a round of Fifa.”

“I don’t think my hands could take it,” he laughed.

He made a good point, I didn’t think mine really could either. Not after signing autographs for the entire day. “Well you could still come over. We could watch… something,” I said dumbly, because I hadn’t a clue what was on TV that evening.

“Yeah, okay,” he said. “I’ll be over there in a bit.”

And sure enough, he showed up on my doorstep wearing a knapsack on his back a grin on his face. “I thought I’d bring some stuff over,” he said, stepping inside. “You know, in case I fall asleep again.”

I laughed, but I was grateful. Obviously he’d had the same thought I did – neither one of us were particularly enjoying this newfound alone time. “Yeah, that’s fine,” I said as we settled onto the couch and flipped through the channels. We spent the better part of the evening just watching stuff and eventually I put on a DVD.

This time we didn’t end up falling asleep on the couch. I went and slept in my bedroom, and though I didn’t really enjoy the fact that I was sleeping alone, I was comforted by the fact that Niall was sleeping in the guest room down the hall. Just his presence made the house feel less empty. He wasn’t a replacement for Danielle, but I didn’t really want him to be. I just enjoyed his company and having him around.

Here’s the thing about friendship – it goes both ways. I’d gone over to Niall’s house at the beginning of the week thinking I was going to be putting him out. As it turned out, he’d needed me just as much as I’d needed him, and neither of us had truly realized it.

Sometimes it takes a crisis for us to truly see what we need in life. My breakup with Danielle certainly hadn’t been easy, but it had opened the door for me to become better friends with Nialler.

The two of us were so different, but instead of letting our little quirks get in the way of our friendship, they helped us learn more about each other and ourselves.

More often than not as the weeks went by, Niall opted to return to my house at the end of a long work day instead of just going back to his flat. He started out asking me at first, or I would invite him, but as time went on it just became assumed that he’d be coming back home with me.

Oh, and that guest room he slept in? Eventually, it just became his own.

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