~Zayn. I looked at the watch again, as I took a long drag of my cigarette. 7.19am. Way too early for me to be up, but there was something beautiful about the city of London in the morning fog, just before people would start racing up and down the streets, running their daily errands. The city almost looked illuminating. But I wasn’t out and about in that ungodly hour, just to enjoy the city; I had to pick up an old friend from Bradford. As I heard the 7.25-train arrive at Liverpool Street railway station, which I was standing right outside of, I knew she would be here soon. I waited for a couple of more minutes, until I heard a familiar voice saying: “Bum one from you, yeah?” I grinned and looked up; Penny Clarke hadn’t changed a bit. Standing at 5’5” – 5’9” or more in heels – with long, dark brown hair and bright blue eyes Penny looked like a shrunken supermodel. She flipped her hair and batted those long eyelashes and I answered: “Sure, let’s get in the car, though. It’s freezing.” I helped Penny with her suitcase and soon enough we were cruising through London in my car; me driving and Penny trying to light a smoke. Being the only permanent smoker in the group – the other guys had their occasional cigarette at parties – has its downsides. For instance, was my car my sanctuary during those long, cold winter months where I was banished from the house, because of my unhealthy habit. Luckily we were in mid-June, which was the reason why Penny were visiting me and the guys; she had just finished her A-levels, and being 18, carefree and full of life, she wanted to stay in London for a couple of months, enjoying her summer and upcoming gap year. “Did you have a good train ride?” I asked and glanced at Penny, who had closed her eyes. She was wearing make-up, as always. Sometimes I wondered if it was permanently glued on, because all the times I had seen her without the usual “war paint” could be counted on both hands. “Mmhmm,” she muttered. “I slept through most of it. My train left at 4am. 4am, Zayn! Do you know how early that is?” She cracked one eye open and looked at me. “Pretty early, I suppose.” It was a big understatement; back in the days when Penny and I went clubbing we wouldn’t be home before at least 5am. “But you were the one suggesting it.” “I know, but that’s because I wanted you to pick me up, without any fuss, you know?” She smiled at me. I knew what she meant by fuss; fans. I could only imagine the headlines if anyone saw me with Penny, and how the fans would jump to conclusions. Truth is I could never date Penny. We had known each other since we were little kids, growing up in the same neighbourhood and having frequent sleepovers. We went to the same primary school, same secondary school, same college... Of course, people thought we were a couple but if anything Penny were like a sister to me. She had supported me when I auditioned for X-Factor and when I, and the rest of One Direction, was on tour she would always text me to make sure everything was okay. She was basically like a fourth sister and best friend, all rolled into one amazing person. We arrived at the building where I lived with the four other boys, and I parked my car in the courtyard. We took the elevator and after a bit of struggling with the keys – I have way too many – I helped Penny get settled into the guestroom. We lived in a big penthouse apartment in the centre of London, with way too much room for us guys. Except for when we had one of our infamous parties, then the place suddenly seemed crowded and small. Of course, Penny had begged me to throw at least one party over the summer, and since we had the summer off to “write new material” I couldn’t see a reason not to. “Coffee and then a nap?” I laughed, when Penny collapsed on the bed. She smiled and dragged herself up, following me into the kitchen. It was weird seeing my oldest friend from Bradford in the homely, a bit too messy apartment. She seemed so out of place in her crop top and short shorts, showing off her long, smooth legs especially at this time off the day; whenever the boys and I had an early day we would jump in a pair of worn out jogging trousers and a hoodie. But that was Penny in a nutshell; always overdressed and almost too pretty for her own good. At least that’s what she said to me, on one of or either drunken or stoned nights when we were around 15; “I’m too pretty for my own good. It’ll all hit me in the face one day.” At that time I thought she sounded like a vain bitch, now I don’t know. Maybe she was right? Or maybe it was just the weed or alcohol or a mix of those two talking.
~Niall I had carried Harry to bed the night before – he had once again gotten himself drunk on white wine, while we were having a cosy night in – so when I woke up in a mess of curly hair, the only thing that startled me were voices from the kitchen. At first I thought to myself; “Oh well, it’s probably just some of the guys who are up,” but after checking Harry’s alarm clock I decided that it were robbers. It wasn’t even 8am, none of the boys would be up, and so the only logical explanation would be robbers. We had had a break in, and the robbers were discussing what to take from our home. I silently crept out of bed, grabbed a t-shirt from the floor and tiptoed out. I could see lights from down the hall and, with my back flat against the wall, I made it to the living room and realized that the light came from the kitchen. They were probably stealing our coffeemaker. Louis would go on a killing spree that was for sure. I had to call the police, but soon enough I discovered that my phone were still in Harry’s bedroom, and I let out a quiet shriek. “Hello? Anyone up?” I was pretty sure that I would get killed, when the ceiling lights turned on and I saw Zayn coming into the room. He was fully clothed and with a coffee mug in one hand he asked me: “Why the fuck are you up this early?” “I could ask you the same thing, couldn’t I?” I said and went out into the kitchen with him. I was about to help myself with a cup of coffee, when I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I turned around and sitting on the kitchen counter was a girl, I would describe as a pocketsize dream girl. She was showing just enough of her flat stomach so I could see a belly ring and her legs looked like they went on for miles. She was perfect. “Cheers mate.” She grinned and lifted her coffee mug a bit. “And, umm... Cute boxers.” I looked down and embarrassingly realized that I was wearing Spiderman boxers. I tried to cover them with my t-shirt, but she was already giggling. I wanted to say something witty and clever, but before I embarrassed myself any further Zayn butted in: “Niall, mate... This is my friend from home, Penny. Penny, Niall. Niall, Penny.” “Hello,” I said in a quiet voice. “I would love to shake your hand, but since you’ve already seen me in my coolest boxers, I believe we’re beyond that point.” She laughed and it sounded like glass pearls landing on hardwood floor. A contagious, ringing sound and I couldn’t help but laugh a bit too. Zayn looked at me in an inspecting way, and before I could get Penny to let out that amazing laugh again, he said: “Penny, go up to bed. I’ll be there in a minute.” “But...” She said in a pleading voice. “No discussion, Penny. Bed.” “You’re coming up to tuck me in, yeah?” She smiled and batted her eyelashes. “Sure, I’ll be there in-“ Zayn started, but Penny interrupted him: “I wasn’t talking to you, babes, I was talking to Ireland over there.” She hopped off the counter, shot me a quick wink and strutted out the kitchen. When I couldn’t hear her steps anymore I looked at Zayn and said: “Cute. Where’ve you’ve been hiding her, eh?” “Niall, don’t...” Said Zayn in a warning voice. “She’s not like that.” “Like what?” I cocked an eyebrow, still with a smile on my lips. “She doesn’t do relationships.” Zayn started the coffeemaker again, probably having ideas about waking up the other guys. “She likes being... Free, or whatever. So stay away from her and don’t do anything stupid.” “You winding me up?” I laughed and finished my coffee. “A bird like that, c’mon man, I can’t stay away from her. None of us can. I’m surprised you haven’t tried it on with her.” “I’ve known her since forever. I once had to wash puke out of her hair. Not so sexy anymore, I tell ya.” He rolled his eyes and shot me a glare. “And you know what I mean, Niall. Don’t do anythingstupid.” I shrugged and laughed; Zayn knew me too damn well. I was a sucker for a pretty girl, and especially a flirty and quite mysterious one like Penny. Zayn sighed a bit. “Zayn, man... Easy.” I laughed and took a sip of my coffee. “I just think she’s dishy. I can’t help it if she happens to fall for the ol’ Irish charm.” Zayn rolled his eyes. “Fine, man, but I swear; she’s my friend and I love her, but if you don’t want to get hurt you should stay away.”