Chapter 28 – The Locanda Verde

Brittany studied herself in the mirror. She wasn’t sure what to wear on her date that wasn’t a date with her ex-boyfriend who she was trying to think of as just a friend.

She sighed to herself, sure she was just overthinking things as she always tended to do. The jeans and sweater that she was wearing were surely fine. It wasn’t like it mattered what she wore anyway, but she needed something to stress over instead of the fact that she was really excited to be going out to dinner with Niall.

After a final glance in the mirror, she picked up her phone and sent a quick text message to let him know she was ready and to meet her down in the lobby. She took a few nervous breaths as she walked down the hall and stepped into the elevator.

This wasn’t a big deal. She was sure it wasn’t a big deal. It was only a big deal if she made it a big deal.

She was torn between being excited to see him and wondering why the hell she’d agreed to go out to dinner with him. She sort of wanted to text him and tell him it was off, but she didn’t want to let him down, and she also did want to see him.

She hated the fact that whenever it came to him, her emotions were all over the place. She knew that was just because their breakup had been so abrupt and she hadn’t seen it coming. She’d had such a hard time getting over it that for a while she had to convince herself she hated him so she could stop missing him.

It had also helped that she’d had that crush on Nick to distract her.

But when she noticed Niall walking towards her, she took a deep breath. Without any lingering anger towards him or false feelings for Nick, she had nothing else to focus on but the fact that she didn’t hate him at all.

“Hi,” he said as he approached her.

“Hi,” she replied awkwardly.

“So,” he said, motioning towards the restaurant. “Shall we go eat? I’m starving.”

She couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Yeah, sure.”

She followed him through the lobby walking towards the restaurant. They were seated quickly and the whole time she again felt a little awkward standing there with him. They didn’t have any time to make any sort of conversation, so instead they were both just quiet until they were seated.

Brittany glanced down at the menu, but quickly grew bored with the selection of food and instead opted for the wine menu. She looked over the options while Niall was distracted with the menu. Eventually, he closed his menu and looked over at her.

She shifted her gaze from the wine to him. “If we get wine are you going to get all drunk and do something weird?” she asked him, raising her eyebrow and smirking a little. She was clearly referencing what had happened at the wedding earlier that year.

“I can hold my drink,” he assured her, wearing the same cheeky look she was.

“Really?” she laughed, setting down the wine menu. “Because I seem to recall that your Dad asked Harry to keep an eye on your drinking.”

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and you’ll also remember me telling you that it was a fake article.”

Brittany giggled as the waitress came over and took their orders. Despite what she’d said to Niall, she ordered a bottle of wine for the two of them to share. Once the waitress was gone she turned her attention back to him. “So, how is Hazza anyway?”

Niall shrugged. “He’s fine. Doing what he usually does.”

“And that is?”

“Loads of women,” Niall deadpanned and Brittany nearly choked on her water.

“Don’t say stuff like that when I’m drinking,” she laughed, trying to regain her composure. “Oh my god.”

Niall just grinned at her as he took a sip of his own water without incident. “So, you’re doing that show tomorrow night?” he asked

Brittany nodded. “Yeah.”

He studied her for a moment, wondering where the line was for things that they could discuss. Seeing as she’d already made a joke about the wedding, and she’d brought up Harry, he figured most subjects were okay. “How’d you get talked into that one?”

“What?” she asked, though she knew exactly what he was talking about.

He shrugged. “You know. New York and Christmas aren’t exactly two of your favourite things.”

She nodded. She would have been remiss to think that Niall wouldn’t remember such important details about her. It was hard to see him as just an old friend when he knew and remembered so many things that she normally didn’t share with anyone who wasn’t close to her. “I don’t know, Nick thought it would be a good idea, and he said he’d come with me.”

“But he’s not here,” Niall pointed out.

Brittany eyed him just as the server arrived with their wine. She knew Niall was trying to fish for information on whether she and Nick were dating or not, and she wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of getting the answer he wanted. “Nope, something came up,” she said when the server left. She took a sip of her wine and looked at him.

He just nodded, taking a sip of his own wine.

“Besides,” Brittany continued, smiling a little as she thought about Nick. “I don’t really hate Christmas so much anymore.”

“No?” he asked.

“Nope,” she said, not really caring to go into detail about how she and Nick did their own thing every year at Christmas. “So what made you decide to come over here for Christmas instead of spending it at your Mum’s place?”

He shrugged. “I thought I should come see my Dad’s family for once. I hardly make it over here anymore since we don’t really tour on this side of the world.”

“Yeah,” Brittany nodded, finishing her glass of wine and pouring herself some more. She didn’t really know what to say to that – her career was still going strong, after all. “I never get over to the UK,” she shrugged.

Niall looked at her, and he wondered if it would be weird if he brought up the wedding. Even through Brittany sort of had already. “When was the last time you were over there?” he asked instead.

“Danielle and Liam’s wedding,” she said quickly, feeling a little awkward talking about it so directly.

He just nodded. “Right,” he said, finishing his own glass of wine and refilling it. “I can’t believe they’ve been married for almost two years.”

“I know,” Brittany said, relieved they’d found some sort of common ground to talk about. “That’s crazy.”

“Do you get to see her much?” Niall asked, right as their food was placed in front of them. He was quick to order another bottle of wine before the waitress left their table.

Brittany shrugged as she picked up her fork and dug into her pasta. “Not really. Only a couple times when she’s been in the states,” she said, thinking about it for a moment. “Actually, she and I made plans to see each other this April when you guys are in LA recording, cause I’ll be there too.”

He just nodded as the two of them proceeded to eat in silence, as well as finish of their second bottle of wine.

“Okay,” Brittany said once their plates were cleared and she had a dessert menu in her hands. “I know you want dessert.”

“Or,” he said motioning to the empty bottle sitting on the table. “More wine.”

Brittany gave him a look, wondering if he was sort of trying to get her drunk. But she figured there was no harm in indulging just a little – it wasn’t like he was some random guy she didn’t know.

“Yes,” she said with a grin. “I could deal with that.”

Three bottles of wine later, the two of them were feeling pretty good. Niall had moved his chair over so he could sit closer to Brittany and they were laughing like nothing had changed.

“Oh my god,” Brittany said with a laugh. “This is so much fun. I hate New York so much… I just hate being here, but every time I come here with you it’s not so bad.”

“Right, right,” Niall said, grinning at her. “But it wasn’t great the first time.”

“No,” Brittany said, shaking her head and trying to look at him seriously. “It wasn’t. You totally ditched the other guys to come here with me, and there were so many pictures of us everywhere and you came to my album signing and that was bad,” she said, wagging her finger at him.

Niall gave her a look. He did remember that trip to New York – and Brittany was right, that had been bad and he shouldn’t have gone with her. “Yeah,” he said, laughing it off a little. “But that wasn’t what I was talking about.”

Brittany tilted her head to the side a little and studied him. “Huh? That was the first time.”

“No it wasn’t,” he protested, taking a sip of his drink and looking at the empty bottles that littered the table. They really had had too much to drink and he knew he had to put a stop to it before it got out of hand. “I meant the first time you were here with us on tour. When you went out with Haz for the day.”

Brittany just kept looking at him intently, waiting for him to finish. She leaned in a little, as if to get him to continue.

“God, that sucked Brittany,” he said shaking his head. He knew he should probably stop talking, but he didn’t. Instead the alcohol clouded his better judgement and he started to spill out things to Brittany that he’d never said before. “I was just sitting here, about to tell him that I was in love with you and then you walked in and he asked you to spend the day with him in New York,” he said softly. “Fuck, I was heartbroken. And then I had to hear him talk about it for days afterwards.”

His words didn’t quite sober her up, but they definitely wiped the slight grin off her face. Of course she’d known he’d been jealous of Harry, but hearing about it again dredged up all those old feelings and regrets that she’d had when she was nineteen years old.

“You never told me that before,” she said quietly.

He shrugged. “I never really needed to, did I?” he laughed a little. “It worked out for us in the end anyway, didn’t it?”

“No,” Brittany said without thinking. They were sitting in New York, her least favourite place in the entire world, they had to be drunk to feel more comfortable around each other, and they weren’t together anymore. Anything that they’d had at one point was gone, and she didn’t think that counted as it having worked out at all.

Under any normal circumstances, she wouldn’t have done what she did next. But the remorse of their failed relationship hit her hard, and she leaned in and kissed him forcefully.

They stayed like that for a few seconds, closing their eyes and enjoying the drunken impulsive moment. When Brittany pulled away she looked at him and felt her heart beat faster.

“We should go up to my room,” she suggested, leaning in to kiss him again.

Niall touched her shoulder and pushed her away from him slightly. No matter how badly he wanted to, he was sure that she was just drunk and feeling bad on account of what he’d told her. “You should go up to your room,” he said, standing up and pulling his wallet out to drop some money on the table. “Come on.” he held out his hand and she grabbed it.

The two of them walked silently back up to her hotel room. He didn’t know what else to say to her, and Brittany was just content walking with him and glancing around.

They made it up to her room without incident, and she fumbled around in her purse for her key card. When she found it, she turned to him. “There were some good times in New York, right?” she asked him quietly.

He nodded. “Yeah,” he said, reaching out to touch her arm. He played with the nubby fabric of her sweater for a moment before looking back at her. “There were.”

“Like that time at Madison Square,” she said, smiling to herself as she looked at him. “When we got that really nice suite.”

“That was a good time,” he affirmed, looking at her happily. All things considered, he’d really had fun spending the evening with her.

“Thanks for dinner,” she said, moving in closer to him. “It was really good to see you again.”

“Yeah,” he replied, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her tightly. “It was good to see you too. Don’t be a stranger.”

“I won’t,” she said, unlocking the door to her room and stepping inside. They gave each other a final wave before she closed the door and laid down on her bed. She smiled to herself, feeling content with the evening as she fell asleep almost instantly.

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