Chapter 40 – The Proposal

Brittany couldn’t bring herself to go back to the house in Malibu. She was sure that eventually she’d be able to, but for the time being she’d stayed at her condo in LA. When Niall and the others had gone back to London after a few weeks of recording, she went with them.

She’d been in talks with Howie, who had absorbed Nick’s record label, about working on another album. But after having been constantly worked for the past seven years, she was ready for a break.

The change of scenery had been good for her. It had helped her cope with Nick’s death more than hanging around LA ever would have. There wasn’t much for her to do in London, but having some time to herself to be around her friends was the calm normalcy that was necessary to the grieving process.

And after a few months, she found that she really did feel better. She’d gotten used to the fact that she no longer had weekly phone calls from Nick or text messages from him. Hearing a random Backstreet Boys song on the radio no longer put her in a miserable mood for the rest of the day.

The only minor setback was when she’d decided she was okay enough to sit through the Backstreet Boys Behind the Music special that just happened to be airing on TV one afternoon late in the summer. Niall had come back to his house to find her sitting on the couch crying about how that special made Nick out to be fine, when in reality he’d had just as many problems as AJ had.

After that she figured she should probably avoid watching any documentaries that involved Nick.

When Christmas finally rolled around, Brittany found herself feeling awkward once again. The snow and winter weather in Ireland was a far cry from the beachfront holiday she was used to, but that was a good thing. She didn’t think she’d have been able to have spent Christmas by herself in Malibu.

While she found it a little bit awkward to be staying with Niall in his mother’s house just as she had years prior, she was also relieved that he’d insisted she come with him. He wasn’t about to let her spend the holidays alone.

They had spent a nice couple of days leading up to the holiday, but Christmas Eve was a polar opposite from what she had grown accustomed to. There was certainly no pizza and wine coolers on a deck, and she and Nick definitely had never attended midnight mass together.

She couldn’t help but smile a little as she stepped back inside the house after the group of them got back from the service. If Nick was watching her, he was likely laughing.

She shivered a little, brushing some of the stray snowflakes out of her hair. She looked up at Niall who smiled at her. He kissed her on the forehead before she moved to take off her coat.

Maura looked over at the two of them. “We’re headed to bed, kids,” she said with a smile before walking off. “Don’t be up too late.”

“We won’t be,” Niall assured her. “Night, Mum.”

“Goodnight, Maura,” Brittany smiled at her before she walked off.

“Well,” Niall said, taking Brittany’s coat out of her hands and hanging it up in the closet next to his own. He put his hands in his pockets and looked at her. “I suppose we should probably go to sleep too.”

“I guess so,” Brittany shrugged, looking up at him. His eyes were so clear and full of love. Being with him was certainly making all of this easier. It was hard to think about how she’d normally be having hot chocolate and watching awful comedy movies when she’d been sitting in church with Niall, or holding his hand as they went last-minute shopping.

Christmas with him was definitely different than what she’d grown to be used to, but at the same time it was familiar. She was grateful for it. Though she missed her Christmas ritual with Nick, she wondered a little how she’d gone so long without spending the holidays with the boy she loved so much.

But she supposed it didn’t matter now, they’d found their way back to each other. And Brittany was determined to have many more Christmases such as this one.

***

Brittany was fast asleep beside him. Her back was turned and she was facing the wall, just as she’d always done when she’d slept in his bed.

It was strange. That bed had been his own for so long but with Brittany back in it, it felt more complete. Something had been missing without her there and even though they’d been apart for a number of years, now that they were back together Niall didn’t know how he’d survived. And he certainly couldn’t fathom how stupid he’d been to let her go.

Even if it had been her choice and that she’d needed space. Still, he couldn’t quite understand what had been going through his mind when he’d slept with someone else. Ever since they’d gotten back together, he thanked God every day.

He’d had a plan ever since they’d stayed at her condo together in LA after getting back together in Malibu. Fast-paced? Maybe a little, but for once they were both on the same page. He didn’t care if he was being a little rash, he loved her and he never wanted to be without her again.

And hopefully, if she said yes, he wouldn’t ever have to be.

“Brittany,” Niall whispered, shaking her shoulder slightly. He felt sort of bad for waking her up like this, but he was certain she wouldn’t mind.

“Mmm…” Brittany stirred a little, but didn’t turn around.

“Hey,” he said, snuggling up to her and kissing the top of her shoulder.

Brittany curled up closer to the wall. “You know I’m uncomfortable doing it with you in your mom’s house,” she mumbled, half-asleep still. “So don’t even ask.”

He didn’t falter, and instead snuggled up closer to her. “That’s all right,” he said softly. “Can I ask you something else, then?” he was surprised his voice wasn’t shaking, but his hands certainly were.

“Hmmm?” she asked quietly, nearly drifting back off to sleep.

“Will you marry me?”

Brittany’s eyes shot open and she rolled over to face him. He continued to look at her lovingly, a cheeky smile playing on his lips.

“What?” she asked in disbelief. He was just lying there on his side, facing her, looking at her like he hadn’t asked her the most important question in the world. Instead, he looked at her like he always did, with love and happiness. “Are you serious?”

He nodded slowly. He would have been afraid for her answer, but she didn’t seem upset. Instead, she looked as though she couldn’t believe he was actually asking her.

Brittany felt her heart pound in her chest with excitement. Still, she couldn’t resist giving him a little bit of a hard time. It was obvious he was confident and knew what her answer was going to be. “This is all very sudden,” she giggled, leaning over to kiss him on the lips. “Do you even have a ring?”

“It’s under the tree,” he said, rubbing his noise against hers. Now, she was just being difficult. And he loved every minute of this game.

“Hmmm…” she said, rolling onto her back. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Niall just shrugged tossed the blankets off of himself. Brittany watched as he quietly tiptoed out of the bedroom, only to return a few moments later with a wrapped box in his hand. He closed the door behind him and sat down on the bed.

Brittany sat up to face him as she unwrapped the box. “This is a little big,” she mused, pulling the paper off to reveal a Supra shoebox.

Niall shrugged. “I couldn’t let you suspect anything, could I?”

“I guess not,” Brittany said, opening the cardboard box to reveal a smaller velvet one. She looked up at Niall, and he just grinned and plucked it out, taking the larger box along with the discarded paper and placing them on the floor.

He turned back to look at Brittany, who was sitting there with a soft smile. There were no lights on in the room, and the only illuminant was the glow of the lamps outside. But that was okay, they didn’t need anything more.

He opened the box to reveal the ring and Brittany took a deep breath as she looked down at it, and then back up at her boyfriend. It was hard for her to believe this was actually happening.

“Brittany,” he said softly. If his voice wasn’t shaking before, it certainly was now. “I’ve loved you ever since I was eighteen years old. Will you marry me?” he asked again, taking the ring out of the box and holding it in between his thumb and forefinger.

“Yes,” she said, looking at him and suddenly not wanting to give him any more trouble. All she wanted was to say yes and love him and be with him for the rest of her life. “I will.”

He leaned in to kiss her softly, and though Niall didn’t want to admit it, he felt tears stinging in his eyes. He pulled away and delicately placed the ring on her finger.

The two stared at each other for a moment. Neither one of them wanted to speak and ruin this perfect moment. They kissed quickly again, and Niall grinned a little. “So… are you still uncomfortable with having sex in my mum’s house?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Brittany rolled her eyes, but laughed. “I hate you,” she said, pulling him down on top of her.

Words could not describe how much she loved her boyfriend, no, fiance, right at that very moment.

And now, she could continue to love him for the rest of their lives.

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