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.

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4. Four

“I’m Liam.” The boy offered his hand to Elle as he began leading her down the street from the direction that he came.

 

“Elle.” She shook his hand.

 

“It’s lovely to meet you, Elle. Though I’m sorry it happened under such circumstances.” Liam apologised yet again.

 

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll figure it out.” Elle smiled kindly, clutching the warm coffee in her hands as she tried to press the heat into her freezing wet fingers. “You don’t have to go home straight away just because you’ve got me to look after now,” Elle said, assuming he was walking around the city with something to do, though still slightly opposed about going into a stranger’s home for the night.

 

“Actually, I only came down this afternoon because I wanted another coffee. I was hoping you were still going to be in there. I think that coffee you made me this morning was the best take-away coffee I’ve ever had.” Liam complimented, speaking louder than necessary because of the pounding rain.

 

“Oh,” Elle was taken by surprise. “I’m sure these ones are just as good.”

 

“Don’t tell your friends back there, but I’m a little disappointed with these ones when I compare them to yours.” Liam complimented with a laugh.

 

“Well, thank you.” Elle joined in laughing. “I hope you’re not one of those caffeine addicts who never sleep then, with all this coffee.” She joked.

 

“What would you say if I was?” Liam teased.

 

“I’d tell you that I’m overtaking your house because I think I will be sleeping for a full day.” Elle replied cheekily.

 

“Does one day of working back there do that to you?” Liam asked, sounding surprised.

 

“No, no, of course not. Staying up half the night unpacking does.” Elle smiled. Her smile turned into surprise when Liam led her into her own street.

 

“Unpacking?” Liam asked.

 

“I moved here from the outer suburbs a little over a week ago, but I’ve been working so much that I can only unpack at night.” Elle explained.

 

“Oh, I can’t even apologise enough. I caused you to lose your key and you’re not even finished unpacking!” Liam cried out with frustration. Elle could see how sorry he truly was and forgave him quickly. He was turning out to be a very decent and incredibly generous person, and the longer Elle was with him the more comfortable she felt. Liam was her first friend outside of work since she moved, and despite the circumstances, she was glad they met.

 

“I actually live here on this street. Don’t tell me you do too!” Elle said, as though it couldn’t be possible.

 

“Really? My place is another block from here. We’re nearly neighbours!” Liam said cheerfully. “Where do you live?”

 

“In that building, over there.” Elle pointed to an old grey three story building across the street that was cramped between buildings twice its size. “The small old one.”

 

“Which level do you live on?” Liam asked curiously.

 

“The second. My flat is at the top of the first flight of stairs and on the right.” Elle informed.

 

“It looks nice and cosy.” Liam stated as he inspected the building from a distance. It didn’t look like much.

 

“That’s just the outside. The inside is much nicer, trust me.” Elle said as she noticed his judgemental looks, defending her new home.

 

“Well I doubted the inside looked exactly like the outside,” Liam said smartly with a sly grin, initiating a friendly banter between the new friends. The pair walked a block further in the rain, sipping their hot drinks and conversing easily, although they didn’t manage to keep themselves any drier. Finally, Liam stopped walking.

 

“Here we are.” He said as he turned to face a set of polished black wrought iron gates that were set in a very high wall made of brick. It appeared very new compared to Elle’s lowly building, and as she quickly surveyed the area, she realised she had walked into a very high class neighbourhood. As she stared wide eyed, Liam pressed a few buttons to unlock the security gate and led her inside.

 

What Elle saw was magnificent. She was standing in the shadow of a white mansion. It was two stories high and ran nearly as long as her whole building. The entrance was held up by pillars and the front door was the size of two common doors put together with a big golden number 82 right in the centre.

 

“This is just the outside. The inside is much nicer.” Liam repeated her words from earlier when he saw that Elle was utterly blown away.

 

“This is crazy...” She said more to herself than anyone.

 

“Come on, let’s get inside. You’re dripping wet.” Liam prompted with a smile, walking up the steps and through the front door with Elle following close behind. Liam was certainly right when he said the inside was much nicer. The outside alone had Elle stuck for words. They stood in a larger than necessary entrance hall that was sparkling with light due to the massive chandelier dangling above them and there was a wide marble staircase that led to the second floor. Liam kicked off his leaking shoes, and Elle went to follow suit before she noticed probably ten other pairs of shoes already there.

 

“You certainly have a lot of shoes.” Elle said.

 

“They’re not mine.” Liam laughed. “My mates live here too.”

 

“You didn’t tell me that.” Elle said, growing cold and immediately feeling embarrassed.

 

“It’s alright, they’re all very welcoming guys.” Liam said as he left the entrance hall.

 

“Guys?” Elle repeated to herself with a stab of dread. She quickly caught up to Liam who had walked into the kitchen. It was set with appliances all along the spacious wall and a long marble bench on the other side that ran the length, separating the kitchen from the lounge room. Liam opened a cupboard under the sink and dropped his finished coffee into the bin, allowing Elle to do so as well.

 

“Well, hello.” An unfamiliar voice said. Both Liam and Elle looked up to see another young man with a mess of curly hair crowding his head and a kind face crossing the lounge room to join them in the kitchen.

 

“My name’s Harry.” He introduced himself, holding his hand out and shaking Elle’s.

 

“I’m Elle.” Elle was quick to respond in meeting Liam’s flatmate.

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He smiled kindly, but Elle didn’t miss the glance he threw Liam’s way.

 

“Louis!” Harry called over his shoulder. Suddenly a third young man popped his head up over the lounge to see Harry.

 

“Oh, we have a visitor!” He exclaimed. He jumped up off the lounge, straightened his clothes and swept his straight brown hair out of his eyes as he made his way to the kitchen.

 

“Hi, I’m Louis.” He said, also offering his hand to Elle.

 

“I’m Elle.” She said again, shaking Louis’ hand.

 

“Your hands are freezing!” Louis said, pulling away. “And you’re soaking wet. What happened?” He asked.

 

“We bumped into each other and she dropped the key to her flat down the drain.” Liam explained quickly. It was then Elle thought she may have also seen these two boys before, but she just couldn’t recall where.

 

“So you went swimming for your key?” Harry asked with an amused smile.

 

“No, I fell over and dropped my umbrella as well.” Elle added, smiling shyly and finally finding the scenario a little funny.

 

“How unfortunate,” Louis frowned. “You’re such a gentleman, Liam, knocking innocent women off their feet.”

 

“Very funny, Louis.” Liam rolled his eyes. “Anyway, it turns out it was Elle’s only key, so I suggested she stay the night.” Liam informed the two boys.

 

“How kind,” Harry smiled, resting against the marble bench.

 

“In that case, welcome!” Louis said cheerily. “Look, you’re shivering. Let me get you a towel.” He offered and walked into a room leading off the other end of the kitchen.

 

“So where do you come from?” Harry asked.

 

“I just moved here. I live about a block away.” Elle replied, finding it hard to take in her glossy surroundings. Before Harry could respond they were interrupted by yet another voice, accompanied by Louis.

 

“I was just about to get off anyway!” A tanned boy with dark hair complained as Louis pushed him into the kitchen.

 

“That’s no excuse to be rude to our new visitor.” Louis said, clutching a towel in one hand.

 

“Oh, sorry.” The dark haired boy apologised upon noticing Elle standing with Liam and Harry. Elle was surprised as she wasn’t expecting another flatmate although she should have considering the size of the place. She found this one slightly intimidating.

 

“I’m Zayn.”He said as he approached them. Elle was finding it highly strange and definitely more than a coincidence that she thought she recognised Zayn as well as the other three boys. She felt she must have been going mad with exhaustion.

 

“Elle.” She introduced herself and shook his hand.

 

“Nice to meet you.” He smiled, and with his friendliness the previous intimidation drained away. “What happened to you two?” He asked as he looked between Elle and Liam. Liam opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by heavy footsteps slapping down on stone as someone jogged down the stairs Elle had seen before. She had been hoping there were no more attractive young men living here to save her any further embarrassment.

 

“Is Liam back?” A voice shouted with a slight twang.

 

“Yeah, mate.” Harry called out to the invisible voice. A fifth young man with bright blonde hair and sparkling eyes to match entered the kitchen the same place where Liam and Elle had, bundles of paper clutched in one hand and a pen in the other.

 

“And he found a friend.” Louis added. The blonde boy stood there and looked at Elle, then at each of the boys without saying anything. Everyone watched and waited on him as a silence settled over them.

 

“Are you going to introduce yourself or would you like me to do it for you?” Liam asked him sarcastically, snapping the blonde out of it as he suddenly rushed forward.

 

“Sorry, uh,” He mumbled as he dropped all his paper and the pen onto the bench, shaking his head. “I’m Niall.” He finally introduced, also offering his hand.

 

“Hi... I’m Elle.” Elle said, taking his hand.

 

“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.

 

“The pleasure is all mine.” Elle said and Niall finally lost his grip on her, not once looking away.

 

“Here’s a towel for you, love.” Louis said, passing her a soft white towel.

 

“Thanks, Louis.” Elle said appreciatively.

 

“Come on, you need to warm up. I’ll show you to a bathroom.” Liam said, leading Elle out of the kitchen, as the rest of the boys watched them go.

 

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