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.


14. Fourteen

It was a few days later before Elle got word from any of the boys again. She went to work every day hoping that Liam might drop in for a coffee or Harry would spontaneously be parked outside at five o’clock. Every day her hope dwindled as it seemed as though they weren’t even in the neighbourhood, and as she stood making coffees with her profound thoughts, she wondered if the past weekend had even happened.


Nat hadn’t pushed the subject of ‘that boy’ at all and Elle had gradually come to the conclusion that the boys must be too busy with their writing, perhaps planning future career moves at their giant dining table, or maybe they had just behaved graciously out of generosity in offering her a place to stay and moved on.


Even with these doubtful thought patterns, Elle kept backtracking to the fact that they had specifically regarded her as their friend. But then again, they were the internationally famous One Direction. Every day went by slowly as Elle couldn’t help but anticipate any of the boys’ next sudden appearance.


It was just past five o’clock on Wednesday afternoon and, as forecasted, the summer sun had finally made its presence known that day. On her short walk home Elle took the opportunity to dwell in the last of the direct sunlight as she ambled the now familiar streets. She managed to turn the certainly less than five minute walk into a ten minute walk, enjoying the remaining heat and having absolutely no need to get home whatsoever as it was bound to be another regular night in.


Elle entered her flat using her red key. Out of self-entertainment she had assigned a different coloured key for every day since Liam had given them to her. They were still all on the one key ring, and Elle knew that if she were to lose one she would lose them all. She kept putting off buying more key rings in the same way that she had put off getting her key cut; out of laziness.


She dropped the handle of her bag onto the hook of her newly acquired coat rack which stood at the entrance to her flat, fished out her phone and sunk into her armchair with a loud sigh. It was only then that she noticed she had received a message from an unknown number not half an hour before. A frown immediately adorned her face as she opened the message, attentive to nothing else as this happened to be the most suspenseful part of her day. It was a message that told her about the sudden weather and invited her to go swimming as she promised she would. It wasn’t until she reached the bottom of the message, where the sender had signed as Niall, when it all made sense to her. When Niall had shown her the extravagant pool at the back of their mansion the previous weekend she had said she would be back as soon as the sun was out.


Elle was ecstatic to have finally heard from Niall. She didn’t delay in sending a response that said she was coming before she hopped out of her armchair. She changed into a bikini as quickly as she could, covering it with casual summer clothes, letting her hair down and stuffed a towel in her bag before hastily locking her door behind her and jogging down the flight of stairs to exit the building. She didn’t waste time by dawdling in the sunlight on the short walk to the boys’ mansion. If anything, she cut the trip shorter. On the way she checked her phone for a reply. Niall had sent her the code to enter into the security gate when she arrived and gave her instructions to let herself in.


When she reached the familiar security gate Elle slowly pressed each number in order to ensure she got it right. The gate clicked open and she slipped through, closing it firmly behind her. She skipped the middle step as she made her way onto the front veranda and unsurely opened the huge front door to let herself in as Niall had told her to. She instinctively slipped off her shoes in the entrance hall by the others and walked into the kitchen without a sound, warmly taking in the familiar sight of the mansion’s interior.


Nobody was to be seen. Elle paused, silently staring hard at the lounge as though Louis’ head might suddenly appear over the top, when she heard faint laughter and the splashing of water. Elle immediately broke from her short hesitation and made her way through the kitchen, the short hallway and the dining room where she noticed the various papers on the table had been rearranged. Perhaps management had paid a visit sometime in the past few days. She heard her name being called and glanced through the window where she could see all the boys in the pool and Harry waving in her direction. A smile broke out on her face and she rushed through to reach the formal lounge room and slid open the massive sliding door just enough for her to slip out.


“Here she is,” Liam announced as he rested his arms on the edge of the pool closest to Elle.


“Hello,” Elle said as she dropped her bag onto one of the outdoor furnishings.


“Long time no see!” Louis called from the other end of the pool and Elle sent him a small wave in response.


“Niall thought you were never going to show,” Harry, whose curly hair reached his shoulders now that it was wet, declared.


“I never said that,” Niall immediately defended himself.


“Doesn’t matter, we all know you were thinking it.” Harry said on behalf of all of the boys and Niall swiped the water with the back of his hand to splash him. Louis and Zayn laughed at the frowning Niall as Elle stood by, covering her mouth in amusement.


“Feel free to join us,” Liam invited Elle as he pushed off from the edge only to have Niall take his place.


“We can’t promise you won’t get your hair wet!” Louis called through his hands right before Zayn got a hold of his shoulders and dunked him beneath the water. With the preoccupation it posed Elle quickly drew off her clothes, dropping them by her bag, and cautiously walked down the steps to enter the refreshing water.


“Hey, Elle,” Niall finally greeted her as she reached the floor of the pool.


“Hi, Niall,” Elle said as she dropped to emerge her shoulders.


“I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t think you were going to come.” Niall said cheekily, validating Harry’s assumptions.


“I worked until five and didn’t see your message until I got home. I came straight here, I promise,” Elle quickly explained her whereabouts with a grin and Niall laughed at her.


“As long as you’re not fobbing off on me,” He said, pushing away from the edge to join the others. Elle pretended to look shocked.


“I don’t think I’m capable,” She said. Niall splashed her lightly, laughing at her fake seriousness, before racing to join the other boys with Elle in tow who was looking to splash him back.


The lot of them spent a short while splashing, dunking and sneaking up on each other. Louis made sure to stay true to his word and took it upon himself to ensure that Elle’s hair got wet sooner rather than later. Zayn and Harry exited the pool and returned a few seconds later, each carrying an end of the rolled up pool cover and moving it so that it stood over the centre of the pool. Zayn jumped back into the water and Harry jogged around the pool and further into the backyard.


“What are you doing, Harry?” Louis called out, holding his hands up to shield his face from a splashing Niall.


“What?” Harry yelled out without looking back.


“I said, what are you doing?” Louis repeated himself. Harry ignored him this time, raking through some well-manicured shrubs.


“Harry!” Louis continued to attempt in gaining Harry’s attention. Harry shot him an impudent smile instead of answering and carefully waded through the shrubs. Zayn then appeared behind Louis and wrapped his arms around him tightly, binding his arms by his side.


“Harry!” Zayn called out, a scandalous expression on his face. In a quick moment, Harry retracted from the shrubs with a bright pink ball about the size of a soccer ball and ran back towards the pool. Louis began to thrash about, laughing and yelling wildly for Liam to help him.


“Quick, get him!” Zayn shouted, struggling to hold Louis still.


“No, Harry! Don’t do it! What have I done to deserve this?” Louis yelled over the splashing, desperately trying to break free from Zayn.
“We thought we’d play some volleyball. Your serve, Louis.” Harry said, holding the ball up, aiming and waiting for the opportunity when Zayn was out of the way.


“You can serve, Harry! You serve!” Louis insisted, trying to shrink away from facing Harry. In one final jerk Zayn had Louis directly in front of him and Harry was quick to throw the pink ball quite hard, hitting Louis right on top of the head and it rebounded to the other side of the pool. Zayn immediately released Louis as everyone laughed at him, and he was quick to turn around and dunk Zayn once more without having much to say. Harry retrieved the ball again and jumped back into the water with it under his arm.


“Really, let’s play volleyball,” Harry said and the rest of the boys quickly agreed to it.


“You’re on my team, Goldilocks,” Louis said, immediately guiding Niall to the opposite side of the pool to everyone else.


“Really, Louis?” Niall frowned at the nickname.


“Righto, we’ve got Goldilocks the second then,” Harry asserted, guiding Elle towards the shallow end. Liam and Zayn looked at each other simply.


“Dibs the shallow end!” Liam quickly declared, splashing through the water in a hurry to get there as if he were racing Zayn, when really all he did was shrug and take his place at the deep end.


“Do you want to serve, Lou?” Zayn asked just before the game started. Louis responded by splashing him.


Harry started the game as he was in possession of the ball. There was no winning or losing this game. It was all a matter of which team dropped the ball first and then it started all over again. It turned out to be a right laugh, especially towards the end when Liam lifted Elle onto his shoulders so that she was higher than the substituted volleyball net and Louis hoisted Zayn onto his to match. They ended up battling directly over the ‘net’ and volleyball eventually turned into a game of who could knock over the other first. Elle was sure the lot of them had splashed at least a couple of inches of water out of the pool since she had arrived.  


Their game was interrupted by another voice. Elle, who was still trying to push Zayn off Louis’ shoulders, turned around to see an unfamiliar person. He was another young man, stocky with dark eyes and a kind smile. Zayn took this momentary distraction as the perfect opportunity to knock Elle off Liam’s shoulders, much to her embarrassment. When she resurfaced she heard a voice in the like of Harry shouting something about a damsel in distress and was blinded by the violent splashing of Zayn and Liam who had begun wrestling in her defence.


“Don’t worry, princess, I’ll save you!” Niall called dramatically. He wasn’t too far away, for within the next few seconds he had wrapped his arms around Elle and gently dragged her through the water and to the shallowest part of the pool. Even though it was all playful banter, both Niall and Elle clandestinely relished the brief moments of closeness, though it was unquestionably oblivious to the other.


“Niall, mate,” The stranger said as he approached the pool. Niall immediately turned around, the largest grin on his face, and pulled himself out of the pool.


“Josh,” Niall greeted him as they shook hands and entered a brief, boyish hug. “Where’ve you been?”


“London traffic is insane, man. I should’ve walked,” Josh said just as Liam arrived to greet him the same way Niall had. Harry followed, and Louis and Zayn made to exit the pool as well. To avoid being left alone in the pool awkwardly, Elle walked out of the pool via the steps and quickly stepped around the reuniting boys to grab her towel from her bag. She wrapped it around herself, suddenly aware of the suns near absence as the shadows made her feel cold. All the boys had greeted Josh now and were standing around, their saturated shorts forming puddles at their feet, and talking jubilantly. Elle assumed he was a good friend of the boys’ and it seemed as though they hadn’t seen each other for a while. Niall caught Elle’s eye for a split second, then guided Josh back towards the paved patio and the rest of the boys followed.  


“Josh, this is Elle,” Niall introduced her and Josh held out his hand to shake.


“Hey, Elle, I’m Josh.” He introduced himself kindly as Elle shook his hand.


“It’s nice to meet you,” Elle said politely.


“Josh is our drummer.” Niall explained, wrapping his arm around Josh’s shoulders and shook him good-naturedly.


“Nah, these guys are my singers,” Josh capered with a grin as he tried to resist Niall. Niall released him and Louis shoved him lightly, chuckling before heading inside and Liam followed him.


“We should get that barbecue cranking,” Harry said, rubbing his hands together zealously.


“Good, I’m starving.” Zayn said, rubbing his bare arms with his hands, obviously feeling the heat of the sun trickle away as the evening settled in.


“I brought some stuff, I left it in the kitchen,” Josh said, heading back inside with the others. Elle then subtly stood much closer to Niall.


“I should probably-” She began in a quiet voice, only to be cut off by Niall as he wrapped a bare arm around her shoulders reassuringly and enraptured her with a benevolent grin, his eyes gleaming with the awareness he had in knowing exactly what she was going to say.


“You’re not going anywhere,” He apprised, guiding her back inside to join everybody else, and Elle could hardly resist.

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