Nineteen Candles

I have always been one of those boys who loves his birthday. Ever since I was old enough to understand that having a birthday meant eating cake, having all my friends over and getting loads of gifts.

I was lucky enough that my last few birthdays have been pretty good. When I turned seventeen, I was well on my way to competing on The X Factor. When I turned eighteen we had a record deal and had just released our first single as a group. Turning nineteen?

Well, it feel in between some rare days off. One would think that if you spent all your time around the same four boys, you’d want to be as far away from them as possible when your time off rolled around. Not us though. The only way I wanted to spend my birthday was with the four most important people in the world to me.

So we gathered at a pub in London. Louis and Eleanor were the first to arrive, setting down a pint in front of me. “Cheers, mate,” Louis said with a grin.

I took a sip and smiled as Harry walked in with Liam. I gave both of them a friendly nod, and they smiled back at me. Liam hung back a little, and Harry sat down in the seat beside me.

I tried not to pay it any attention, but I knew why Liam was acting slightly aloof. He was trying not to be obvious. And every time he acted like we were just friends, he ended up acting like we weren’t friends at all. None of the other boys took notice of it, really. But before everything changed, Liam and I used to be inseparable. We were always having a laugh and goofing off.

Now, he tried to act like everything was normal by avoiding me and not getting to close.

I’m not an overly paranoid person. I understood that Liam didn’t want the others to know about us – not yet. But it did sort of bother me that whenever we were all out, especially on my birthday I couldn’t reach over and touch my boyfriend or even give him a kiss on the cheek.

I didn’t know what Liam was so afraid of, I really didn’t think the others would mind so much. But he just insisted that it was never the right time. So we kept it to ourselves, and when the five of us were out, he kept to himself or talked to the others.

But hell, sometimes he was more affectionate with Harry than he was with me.

I finished my drink and Eleanor handed me another one. I grinned, offering her a quick thank you before starting on it. That’s the other great thing about birthdays – you never have to get up to get a drink! People just hand them to you. Yeah buddy!

“Where’s Zayn?” Harry asked, turned his head around and glancing at the door of the pub.

I shrugged, grinning to myself as my cheeks began to feel warm from the alcohol. “Who knows? He’s probably off with Perrie somewhere. I’m sure they’ll be along.”

Harry just nodded a little and got up to go over to the counter, hopefully to get me another round. I glanced at the empty chair that he’d left and nodded my head towards Liam. He shrugged his shoulders a little awkwardly, but didn’t move.

I didn’t sigh, but it did bother me a little. Not that I minded sitting next to Haz, I just would have rather sat next to the boy I was in love with whilst celebrating. But that was quickly forgotten about as Harry returned with two pints in his hands.

We clinked our glasses together as he sat down and grinned at me. “Happy birthday, Nialler,” he said.

I smiled and nodded my head a little. “Yeah, thanks!” I laughed, taking a sip of my drink and looking up at the door. There was still no sign of Zayn and Perrie, but that was alright. I was sure they were just running late and that they’d show up soon. I couldn’t blame them too much, really. If I’d been at my flat alone with Liam, we probably would have been late too.

I wondered how Liam was going to get to my place after the party was over, or if he was going to leave me high and dry since the other lads were around.

I tried not to frown, but I really did want him to just get it out in the bloody open already.

“So Niall,” Louis said, leaning over to me as I sipped on my half finished beer. “What’s it like to be nineteen?”

I raised my eyebrow a little. “You’re asking me?” I asked with a laugh. “I’ve been nineteen for all of a day. You’ve already experienced the whole thing. Or is it so far off now that you’ve forgotten?” I grinned, looking around at the others.

“Cheeky, Nialler,” Louis said, rolling his eyes as Eleanor rested her head on his shoulder.

I just smiled, proud that I’d managed to out sass Louis for once. I wondered if he’d just let me win that little bit of banter because it was my birthday. Either way, the joke was on him. And I was out of beer again. “Hey Payne,” I said, glancing over at Liam.

Liam just raised his eyebrows at me. See, he wasn’t doing a very good job of making everything seem normal! He was being quiet – and he usually wasn’t that way! But now he always looked at me like he was uncomfortable. It was so different from when we were alone, when he looked at me so happily and like he was in love.

That was the look I wanted to see all the time! Not like he was trying to hide something. I didn’t really get why it needed to be so hidden, but if he wasn’t ready to tell everyone yet, the least he could do is act friendly in public and kiss me when we were away from everyone!

“I’m getting a little dry here,” I said, pointing to my empty pint glass repeatedly, causing Harry to burst out laughing. Obviously I was well on my way to being pissed, but I didn’t care. It was my birthday!

“Yeah?” Liam asked, smiling slightly. Oh, he knew what he was doing. What a prat! “What do you want me to do about it?”

“You’re the only one here who hasn’t bought me a pint yet,” I shrugged. “And you’ve got a second working kidney now, so you should have one too. Loosen up a little, buddy!” I laughed, leaning back in my seat and looking at him.

Liam just chuckled a little to himself, but he got up and went to fetch us drinks. Well, at least that was good. He wasn’t going to sit near me or let me be all affectionate with him, but at least he was going to let me get good and loaded on my birthday.

I glanced over at the door and saw Zayn and Perrie walk in. I raised my hand high over my head and waved at them. Zayn waved back with a slight nod of his head and Perrie was right behind him.

Zayn took what had been Liam’s seat. Perrie, who had been right behind, placed a large white box on the table in front of me.

“What’s all this?” I asked, peering at it.

“Why don’t you open it up and see?” she laughed, shuffling around in her purse.

I knitted my eyebrows as I opened the lid. I was sure my face lit up like that of a kid’s on Christmas morning.

“You got me a cake?!” I asked, looking up at the two of them.

They exchanged a glance. “That’s why we were late,” Perrie said with a grin, pulling some candles out of her purse and leaning over to arrange them on the cake.

“Well,” Zayn coughed slightly. “Not the only reason.”

Harry gave him a high-five and Perrie just ignored him as she kept stabbing multi-coloured candles into my cake. “There’s a lot of those,” I mused, looking up at her.

“There’s nineteen of them,” she laughed, pulling out a match and lighting them.

I was so engrossed by this that I barely noticed Liam walk up behind me and set down another pint on the table. “There you go, Nialler,” he said with a smile, taking a sip of his own drink.

“Yeah, thanks,” I said quickly, looking up at him. He didn’t move from his spot behind my chair, and put his own drink down on the table as he rested his hands on the back of it.

“Shall we sing, then?” he asked, looking around at the others.

They all nodded eagerly, beginning to sing. Given that the lot of us were professionals, you’d think that they would have sounded better. But I think they were trying to sound bad on purpose. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to eat cake and drink beer.

“You have to blow out the candles,” Perrie said with a grin, clapping her hands together as she did so. Zayn pulled her into his lap and she giggled a little, resting her head against his.

I nodded, feeling a slight pang of jealousy. “Okay,” I said, taking a deep breath.

“And make a wish,” Eleanor said.

I nodded slightly. I didn’t even know what I would wish for. I had everything I wanted in my life – great friends, a great career, a perfect boyfriend who loved me. Even if he didn’t want to tell anyone else! Maybe that was what I would wish for, for him to stop being so worried! I didn’t even notice that I’d taken in a little breath as I thought about that.

“Oh come on,” Louis laughed. “I know you can do better than that, Niall. You’re always so full of hot air.”

I completely forgot about my wishes and failed at blowing out the candles because I was laughing so hard at his comment. I knew that he’d eventually get me back! I turned my head around and looked at Liam, who just smiled and nodded towards the cake.

I took a deeper breath this time, careful to try and blow every single little flame. I did a pretty good job of it too! I only left one of them flickering there.

“Told you he was full of hot air,” Louis laughed.

“You know what they say, Niall,” Eleanor said, grinning as she leaned over the table and looked at me. “That’s how many boyfriends you have,” she laughed slightly, pointing at the candle.

“Yeah,” I swallowed a little uncomfortably, because Liam was standing right behind me and I knew that comment was probably going to bother him. “One boyfriend.” I shook my head.

“Yeah,” I head Liam say from behind. He moved over a little and knelt down a bit. “One boyfriend,” he said softly, leaning in closer and pressing his lips against mine.

I froze. I didn’t say anything – I couldn’t really, because he was kissing me of all things! In front of everyone. This was very un-Liam-like. It must have been because of the drink he’d had earlier. But… he hadn’t drank much of it. So maybe… he was ready to tell the others?

Either way, it was happening. He pulled away from me a little and rubbed his nose against mine. “Happy birthday, love,” he said quietly, leaning in to kiss me again.

The rest of the table was silent as they looked at us. I glanced around at everyone, but I was unable to stop myself from smiling like a fool. I was sure my face was red, not that anyone would have been able to tell in the dark club. Liam knelt down a little closer to me and slung his arm around my shoulders.

“Well,” Louis said, breaking the silence. He leaned over and blowing out the single candle that was left. “A very happy birthday for Nialler, I’d say,” he laughed. “Who wants cake?”

I glanced back over at Liam and leaned my head on his shoulder, kissing him slightly on the cheek. “I love you,” I whispered to him, and he just smiled, tilting his head against mine.

Without even asking for it, my only birthday wish had come true.

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