8.34 o’clock. Why, oh why, am I awake? I thought to myself, as I looked at my alarm clock. The hangover was already pounding in my head, and I was pretty sure that I was still a bit drunk. Or high. Or both.
The night had come to an end, when the girl Zayn had tried to pick up, in fact, puked on him. After that we all thought it was a good idea to head home, but we still had a great time before that little incident. At least Penny and I had; we kept laughing, falling over on the dance floor, spilling drinks on each other… We were actually quite messy. Everyone kept sending us dirty looks, but we were too high to care. Though sometimes, Penny seemed to zone out a bit or give me a weird, distant look. I tried telling myself that it was just the weed, but I knew it wasn’t.
It was because of my comment, about her being beautiful.
It just slipped out of my mouth, as some kind of word vomit. After I had told her, she just looked at me with big, almost scared eyes, then turned around and went back to our table. After a couple of minutes she threw her arms around me, and it was as if it had never happened.
I ran my fingers through my hair, mentally slapping myself; any chance I could have had with her was definitely blown now. She probably thought I was in love with her, which I wasn’t. She was fascinating and mysterious, and I wanted to get closer to her, not scare her away. But done was done, and all I could hope for was that she wouldn’t remember it.
I closed my eyes, ignored the morning sun and tried to get some sleep, when I heard someone walking down the hallway. It was probably Zayn, the fucker, early as always and with almost no hangover. I got out of my bed and immediately regretted it; I felt dizzy and sick, but I wouldn’t let Zayn rummage around, disturbing my sleep. I heard him drop something quite heavy on the floor, and I quickly opened my door and hissed:
“Fuckin’ tosser, I’m tryin’a sleep!”
But instead of seeing Zayn I saw Penny, still wearing last night’s clothes, reaching down to pick up the stilettos she had dropped on the floor. So maybe it wasn’t something heavy, but my in my hangover-infected head it sounded like a grand piano being dropped.
Penny’s hair was one, big mess and her eye make-up was all over her face.
“Going Irish on me, huh?” She grinned and picked up the shoes from the floor. She stumbled a bit, but leaned up against the door frame.
“Sorry, I thought it was Zayn.” I said and looked her up and down. “You look like a right mess. What have you been doing?”
“First of all; thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “Second of all; don’t you remember what happened last night?”
“Umm, yeah. That girl vomited on Zayn and we went home.” I tried, but Penny shook her head.
“No. You guys went home, I went with Cameron.” Penny explained.
“Cameron? Who the hell is Cameron?” I asked, but it began to dawn on me; I vaguely remembered a tattooed guy, with black hair and way too much cologne on. I could feel a weird knot in my stomach. “The tattoo guy?”
“Yes, the tattoo guy and my first shag in London!” She smiled blissfully and I wondered if she was still drunk. It sure looked like it. “I’ve tried to find my way home since 5 o’clock, but the tube is confusing as fuck. You guys have to teach me how to go by it, yeah?”
“Yeah, sure…” I said. The knot in my stomach tightened a bit, and all I wanted was for it to go away. I had no idea why it was there, but something told me that it wasn’t just the alcohol messing with me.
“You’re the best, Ireland.” She tiptoed and kissed me on the cheek. “I think I’ll go to bed now. See you later, ‘kay?” She went down the hallway, until she turned around and added, in a cheeky tone:
“By the way, we have to stop meeting like this.”
I looked down myself and realized that I was in my boxers.
Beautiful. What does it mean to be beautiful?
I certainly wasn’t beautiful, as I crawled into bed that morning. I was sporting the panda-look, with smudged make-up, and my hair looked like a bird’s nest. My dress was covered in all kinds of liquids and as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, all I could think was:
You aren’t beautiful. You’re a damn wreck, Penny Pops.
I groaned at the sun and pulled the covers over my head. I didn’t remember much from last night, but I did remember Niall calling me beautiful. I also remembered how terrified I became, and not knowing what to respond, so I ignored it. I acted like it had never happened, and when I finally felt comfortable I talked to him again. He probably didn’t mean anything with it, maybe he didn’t even remember it, but just seeing him again made my palms sweaty. I was having such a great time in London, and someone falling for me would ruin everything;
Zayn had already told me how easily Niall fell for someone, and I had more than once heard the guys joke about it.
I turned around; trying to find a comfortable position, but all I could think about were Niall and the possibility of him being in love with me. I couldn’t let it happen, but I couldn’t just reject him without being 100% sure of his feelings.
I just had to ignore it. If I ignored it, it would go away and we would both forget about it. Hopefully.
I ran my hand over my face, smudging my make-up even more. I figured it was best to look as pathetic as possible, if Zayn wanted to kill me for going home with some random guy. If he remembered anything, that is. He seemed too upset about his clothes being ruined last night, to take notice of me leaving with them or not.
“Penny, there’s breakfast!” Louis slammed my door open and jumped into my bed. “We’ve made toast and eggs and bacon and cereal… Oh well, we didn’t really make the cereal, but it’s there, and there’s juice and tea and…”
“Fuck’s sake Louis, relax will you?” I laughed and popped my head up from under the covers. “I’m still hung over as fuck.”
“You just need a bit of coffee.” He tutted and tried pulling the covers off me. I had quickly learned that Louis was hyper and overstrung, and some of the time I found it amusing. But most of the time, like when I was hung over or tired, I wanted to strangle him.
“Bring the coffee to me, please!” I pouted and sat up.
“Hell no, come down and sit with us.” He got up and pulled at my arm. “Or I’ll tell Zayn that you went home with that stranger last night, instead of going home with us.”
Needless to say that I was up in a matter of seconds.
After the more or less eventless breakfast I went to the bathroom and took a long, hot shower. I could almost feel the alcohol getting washed out of my body, disappearing down the drain. As I got out, and wrapped myself in a big, fuzzy towel, I looked in the mirror. Again I couldn’t help but think:
You’re not beautiful.
My eyes were still a bit red, my hair was starting to frizz and I generally just looked awful without make-up on. Zayn had always told me that I was the prettiest without make-up, even though he had only seen me au natural a handful of times. He clearly hadn’t noticed how horrible I really do look; peel off my make-up and put me in some boring clothes, and I look like any other ordinary girl from Bradford.
I pulled a face at the mirror.
I cracked the door open and looked around; the hallway was empty and I ran on my tiptoes towards my room. I was almost there, when I ran into someone and fell on my butt, for the third time that week. I held onto the towel and looked up at Niall, who quickly looked anywhere but at me. His face turned bright red, and he started mumbling:
“I’m so so so sorry, Penny! Really, I’m so sorry. Are you decent? I’m not looking, I swear. Should I help you up? Oh my God, I’m so sorry!”
I got up myself and said:
“Ireland, don’t worry. It was an accident. Now look at me, before you’re making this awkward.”
He looked directly at me, and I could almost feel him taking it all in. From my dripping hair and clean face, to my bare feet and bit down nails. I started feeling uncomfortable, especially when his gaze fell on my body, only covered by the towel.
“Niall,” I said. “Say something.”
“You’re… You’re…” He stuttered and I started walking away, when I realized what he was about to say. He couldn’t drop the B-bomb on me again, he wasn’t allowed to. When I was at the door, he said with a raised voice:
“I’m not taking back what I said yesterday, you know.” I froze with my hand on the doorknob, not knowing what to do or say. “You really are beautiful. Even if you won’t admit it to yourself. You’re quite possibly the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” I hurried into the room and slammed the door behind me, before he could say anything else.
I laid my hands on my face, trying to will the blush away. My heart was racing faster than ever. I could have smacked Niall. And myself.
Usually I would’ve been ready with a snarky comment, but something about his outburst threw me completely off. Maybe it was his openness. In the one week I had known the boys, Niall had been very frank about everything; he would say the truth and only the truth, no matter how inappropriate it may be.
And in this case it was very inappropriate.
“Come on in, mate!” I yelled, as someone knocked on my door. I wasn’t taking my eyes of the TV screen, where a particularly funny episode of Two and a Half Men was on.
Louis sat down on the bed beside me, watching the TV too. We were silent for a long time, until he suddenly blurted out:
“So we aren’t talking about the big elephant in the room?”
“What elephant?” I asked uninterested, even though I had a feeling I knew where this was going.
“The big elephant that trampled down the hallway, declaring its love for Penny!” He raised his voice and I shushed him.
“Will you be quiet?” I hissed. “No one declared their love for anyone! Some things were said…”
“…and you’re in love with Penny, it’s okay, I was the only one who heard it.” Louis interrupted me, holding his hands up in innocence. “Bro, it’s okay.”
“I’m not in love with Penny.” I said and looked at the TV again, trying to zone out Louis. “I’m just…”
“I don’t know. Intrigued by her. She’s awesome and cute, and I want to get to know her better. She seems like one of those popular girls in school, who everyone looked up to, but nobody dared to talk to besides her friends and the cool guys. So when she looks at me or talks to me I can’t help but feel really important. Or when we’re all together, having a conversation and she suddenly looks at me, or says my name in the end of a sentence. It makes me feel like we’re sharing a secret, or that she’s been talking to me and only me the entire time. And I want her to do that all the time. I want to ask her questions and get to know the real her, because sometimes I feel like this whole… Mysterious girl-thing is just a facade. I want to ask her about her life in Bradford, how her family is, if she’s close to her parents, if she’s ever been to Ireland or just out of the country. If she’s ever considered being a model, because she’s very beautiful, and who her first crush was. I want to make her laugh, over and over again, and when she’s crying I want to comfort her, hold her and ask her what is wrong. I want to ask her what is wrong all the time, because she seems so sad. I want to make her feel as important as she makes me feel, because that’s what she is.”
I only realized how much I had talked, as the credits rolled over the TV. Louis and I were both silent for a long time, waiting for another episode, just watching the commercials.
“So, when are you going to tell her?” He asked.
“Tell her what?”
“That you’re in love with her.”
I sighed. “I don’t know, mate… Never, I think.”