By Chance

‘“Elle,” Niall smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet yeh’.” He said, shaking Elle’s hand gently. Elle recognised the twang that was evident in the way he spoke to be an Irish accent. She caught his bright blue eyes in her own and felt somehow that Niall was also familiar to her.’
Elle has lived in central London for a little over a week with just one key to her flat. One afternoon she bumps into somebody in the street, losing her only key down the drain. The stranger, somehow familiar, convinces her to stay the night at his place where she meets his flatmates, who are also familiar to her. They are generous, humorous and very welcoming, and it doesn’t take long for Elle to recall who they really are. From there laughter, talent, friendship, romance and careers ensue, all by chance.


8. Eight

Elle followed Niall through the kitchen and into a short hallway with two doors.


“The downstairs bathroom and the laundry,” Niall said, pointing to the doors as they walked past. The end of the short hallway opened up into another room. It was as big as the kitchen and the lounge room put together with a long mahogany dining table that could fit a large amount of people around it. It was completely covered with stacks of paper, important looking folders, lists, laptops and a numerous amount of cables.


“Sorry about the mess,” Niall said, glancing back at Elle. “This is where we’re meant to have meetings with our manager and everyone else who runs the show. We’re not allowed to touch the stuff they leave here.” He looked at the crazy assortment laid in front of them with a hunger in his eye that said rules were made to be broken. Before he could touch anything, he quickly moved on into the next room. It was another lounge room, but it appeared more formal with a smaller TV, a beautiful fireplace with a mantle above it and lounges that were sure to force you to sit properly. The right wall was taken up by the biggest set of glass sliding doors Elle had ever seen.


“Come and look at this,” Niall said as he walked over to the doors. He opened the door slightly and slipped outside to flip a couple of switches. Suddenly the whole back of the place was lit up to reveal an extensive outdoor dining and sitting area, and past that was a huge bean shaped pool. There were lights underneath the water that made it look bluer than it probably already was, and at the end there was a small rock waterfall lit up by spotlights with a cavern underneath, as well as a spa sectioned off on the other side of the pool. With all the lights on it was easy to see the rain splashing loudly in the water, and the roaring of the small waterfall made it sound even louder.


“I can see why Harry’s so against all the rain. That pool is amazing!” Elle shouted over the noise.
“It’s something, huh? You’ll have to come over one time when it isn’t raining.” Niall told her.


“As soon as it stops raining, I’ll be here!” Elle said as Niall turned the lights off and came back inside, closing the doors behind him.


“Good, it’ll be fun.” Niall smiled. He then led Elle into the next room which was the largest one yet. It contained a big pool table, a seating area in one of the corners, a wall covered in book shelves and a grand piano underneath a window.


“That piano is beautiful,” Elle gushed.


“Isn’t it.” Niall said, his eyes gliding over the smooth black surface. “Can you play?” He asked curiously, watching Elle admire the piano. She hesitated and bit her lip before finally shaking her head.


“No... I can’t read music.” She replied simply. “Do you play?” She asked, looking at Niall now.


“No, I play the guitar. Louis and Liam can play a little, though.” He answered.


“Oh no,” Elle suddenly said as her face dropped.


“What’s wrong?” Niall asked, moving closer to see her face.


“I just forgot... I’ll be back in a minute, I just need to call someone quickly.” Elle said as she hastily left Niall in the large room. She walked out the other side of the large room and came out into the entrance hall. She then realised the bottom floor of this mansion was just one big circle.


She located her bag that she had left by her shoes and rummaged around for her phone. Pulling it out, she found ‘Dad’ in her contacts and quickly pressed ‘call’.


“Hello?” A deep and tired voice answered abruptly.


“Dad!” Elle cried.


“Elle, how’s my girl?” He asked sweetly.


“I’m fine, how are you?” She replied.


“Doing well, sweet. Are you still set for tomorrow?” He asked.


“That’s why I was calling,” Elle began to say when Niall walked in looking concerned. Elle smiled at him.


“Oh?” Elle’s father prompted her.


“You see... it’s kind of a long story, but I lost my flat key right when I was going to get copies made, and-” Elle started to explain when her father, who was familiar with her key situation, began to laugh.


“That would only happen to you, wouldn’t it?” He asked rhetorically. Elle laughed too, causing Niall’s expression to relax a little more.


“I know, I know. Anyway, I can’t get into my flat at the moment, so we’ll have to wait before you can bring up the piano.” Elle said, casting a glance in Niall’s direction who now looked very confused.


“That’s alright, just give me a ring and let me know when I can finally come up and see you in the big city!” Her father said, a little disappointed at the prospect of further delaying his first visit.


“I will, don’t worry.” Elle smiled.


“So if you’re not at your flat, where are you staying?” He asked.


“Just at a friend’s.” Elle replied, avoiding where she might have to explain how she had been coaxed into spending the night in One Direction’s current home.


“Alright, as long as everything’s ok. I’ll be waiting for your call.” Her father said.


“Alright, I’ll talk to you soon. Love you, Dad.” Elle said.


“I love you too.” Her father said before the call was ended.


“Piano?” Niall asked with a raised eyebrow as Elle put her phone away.
“Piano.” Elle repeated.


“I thought you said you couldn’t play?” Niall asked with a hint of disappointment.
“I said I couldn’t read music.” Elle smiled cheekily as she turned around to see him again. A smile began to tug at the corner of Niall’s mouth.


“I see what you did there,” He said, any drop of disappointment gone in a flash. “But that’s evading my question.” He said accusingly.


“Sorry, ask again.” Elle said with the same smile.


“Can you play the piano?” Niall asked once more.


“Yes.” Elle answered properly.


“But you don’t read music.” Niall repeated with a questioning look.


“That’s right.” Elle said, drawing out her response.


“How can you play then?” Niall asked with a frown.


“I play by ear.” Elle finally said and Niall’s face broke out into disbelief.


“You’re joking.” He said, unflatteringly. Elle merely shook her head.


“Please, you’ve got to show me,” Niall said, grabbing Elle by the wrist and leading her back to the seat of the grand piano.


“I don’t know what to play.” Elle stood on the spot, feeling embarrassment creep over her for the tenth time that day as she felt the pressure to impress a professional musician.


“Anything.” Niall said, encouraging her to take a seat.


“Ok...” Elle said unsurely as she sat. She let her fingers press a few keys in the middle to hear the sound. After that, she picked up an underlying base to repeat with her left hand and let her right hand do whatever sounded right. She sat at the most beautiful piano she had ever seen, let alone touched, and created a beautiful sound that would only ever be heard once. She played for barely a minute before softly ending the tune. She retracted her hands to her lap and glanced up at Niall shyly who was standing over her.


“Where did you learn to play that?” Niall asked very softly, eyes wide.


“I didn’t learn it.” Elle felt her cheeks redden.


“That doesn’t make any sense. You can’t read music, but you play something as, as amazing as that, and you didn’t learn it? Did you write it?” Niall gushed.


“No, I made it up as I went. You’ll never hear that again.” Elle said, standing up from the glossy black bench. Niall stared at her with a loss for words. He couldn’t believe what he had just discovered, and he felt like he’d lost something when Elle had told him he would never hear that gracious tune again.


“Was that you playing, Elle?” A voice asked from the doorway. Niall and Elle both turned to see Harry standing there. In realising that the piano was heard in the lounge room Elle wished she hadn’t played, feeling more than embarrassed that all the members of One Direction had heard her play. She told people she couldn’t play because she couldn’t read music, she didn’t know which notes where which keys, and even though it sounded good, she couldn’t write music either.


“Did you hear tha’? Wasn’t it simply amazing?” Niall was still awestruck.


“That was unbelievable. Where did you learn?” Harry asked.
“I didn’t.” Elle told him.


“What?” Harry asked in confusion.


“She can’t read music or anything, she just made that up on the spot.” Niall filled in Harry.


“Elle, that’s unreal. That’s pure talent.” Harry began to compliment her.


“How can you do that if you can’t read music and you never learned?” Niall asked.


“For as long as I can remember we always had a piano in the house, not that anyone could play or anything. When I was a kid I just used to figure out tunes, like nursery rhymes and things. I liked it, I guess.” Elle recalled from her childhood as Harry, Niall and herself returned to the lounge room.


“How did nursery rhymes turn into that?” Harry asked, squinting his eyes.


“I don’t know, really... By seeing other people who could actually read music and stuff, the way they played with two hands. I just used to listen and I’d spend hours trying to figure it out.” Elle explained.
“So that was you?” Liam asked, himself, Louis and Zayn having heard the last part of Elle’s explanation. Elle gave a small nod.


“I thought Niall must have been keeping a mighty secret for a second.” Louis joked.


“That sounded so good!” Zayn praised Elle. As the boys questioned her, she explained again how she couldn’t really play at all, but just had a good ear.


“That is amazing.” Liam stated harshly.


“It’s so clever, why can’t I do that?” Zayn moped to Louis.


“That’s just raw talent!” Louis said, ignoring Zayn.
“So... if we just happened to play a song, you would just pick it up?” Zayn asked curiously. Elle shrugged.
“Yeah... I guess so, after a few hours probably.” Elle said. All the boys went quiet, sharing looks that Elle didn’t quite understand.


“So are you going to show me around upstairs now?” She asked, changing the subject quickly.


“Uh, yeah, sorry.” Niall said, breaking out of his reverie as he turned to go upstairs with Elle following close behind. When they reached the top Niall led her to the right.
“There are six bedrooms up here, and every bedroom has its own ensuite and walk-in-wardrobe.” Niall explained as he opened the first door. “This is Harry’s room,” He said, revealing an oversized room that was relatively tidy with a huge window and a king sized bed.


“This one is Louis’,” Niall said as he opened the next door. It was identical to Harry’s, only it was filthy. There were clothes absolutely everywhere and the furniture was quite out of place.


“Wow.” Elle said as Niall shut the door once again. Niall said nothing, but only laughed.


“Zayn’s room,” Niall said, reaching the third and last door. He opened it to reveal another messy room, but definitely not to the extent of Louis’. Elle also noticed the pungent odour of what smelt like hair product.


“That is a strong smell.” Elle said, stepping away from Zayn’s door.


“After living with him for a week we don’t even smell it anymore.” Niall said with a chuckle.


“Maybe it actually killed your sense of smell.” Elle said, rubbing her nose subconsciously.


“It’s possible,” Niall said as they past the stairs again and opened the first door on the left side. “Liam’s room.” Elle peered inside to see another tidy room, though not quite as tidy as Harry’s.


“And my room.” Niall said as he opened the second last bedroom door. Elle saw a room that was identical to the last four with a mess similar to Zayn’s, although without the stench. What was different was the paper that was spilled all over the floor, some scrunched up and others with scribble all over them.


“Are you writing a bestseller or something?” Elle asked teasingly.


“I’m actually trying to write a song, unlike the rest of them.” Niall said sheepishly, and Elle remembered seeing him with the paper clutched in his hand when she had first seen him.


“How is it so far?” Elle asked curiously.


“So far I haven’t gotten very far.” Niall ruffled his hair nervously.


“Are you struggling?” Elle looked up at him.


“As much as I hate to admit... yeah.” Niall forced a smile.


“Why?” Elle asked, wondering how hard it could be to write just one song.


“I can’t come up with anything... good.” Niall said.


“Good?” Elle repeated.


“Yeah. I need inspiration, or fairy dust or something.” Niall gave a small laugh, closing his door.


“What sort of inspiration?” Elle asked, wondering what he was trying to write about.


“Like a tough old emotional toll or something. That would make a good song. Some raw emotion instead of that dance floor stuff.” Niall explained.


“What are you, a robot? No emotion?” Elle teased.


“Shh, it’s meant to be a secret.” Niall winked as they walked to the next bedroom.


“This last one is your room.” Niall smiled as he opened the door, moving on from the subject the same way Elle had earlier. Elle saw a lovely room dressed in blue and white, holding the same features as all the other rooms and she guessed it was what all the boys’ bedrooms looked like before they moved in.


“They’re really nice rooms, aren’t they?” Elle commented as the door was closed again. “I can’t believe how big they all are.”


“We’re enjoying them while they last.” Niall said, “And this door, of course, is the main bathroom.” They pair revisited the sandy coloured bathroom.


“Quick guys, we’re putting on a movie!” A voice interrupted Niall’s tour. Elle and Niall stepped back out into the hallway to see Louis pulling several blankets out of a cupboard in the hallway.


“You’re lucky we just finished.” Elle smiled at the sight before her.


“Niall, mate,” Louis called as he struggled with a blanket that had unfolded itself as he pulled it from the top shelf. Niall quickly joined him in picking up a couple of blankets he dropped on the floor.


“Would you like one?” Niall offered Elle as he held one out to her.


“Sure,” She said, taking the blanket from him. The two boys managed with the rest and they all made their way downstairs where all the lights had been turned off. The only way they knew where they were headed was because of the glow being emitted from the TV. Carefully, they reached the lounge room and Elle reclaimed her corner as Niall and Louis threw blankets at each of the guys before taking their seats.


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