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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16. Sixteen

"Are you comfortable in your new flat? How's the work? Is it a safe place?" Elle's mother, Trisha, questioned as soon as they were seated for dinner, along with Elle's elder brother Charlie, in her hold home. Trisha continuously rambled, as expected, answering her own questions so that it was near impossible for Elle to get a word in to tell her all about her new life. Elle and Charlie shared a look, both knowing exactly what the other was implying, as they had done for years now. Trisha was a perfectionist. She always kept herself busy whether it be with work, redecorating the house, or studies, and she looked much younger than she really was. Ever since her divorce, when Elle was just 11 and Charlie 13, she had become very self-focused.



"Mum." Elle said forcefully to gain Trisha's attention.



"I'm sorry," Trisha said, setting her wine glass down and picking up her cutlery for the first time. "Tell me all about it." And so Elle did, starting with her busy job and the lovely locals, and telling her how struck she was for time to finish unpacking her flat.



"Oh, Elle, I hope you are done by now. You have been living there for weeks!" Trisha said disapprovingly.



"Yes, of course I've finished, Mum. I had a friend come over to help me one afternoon and now the place is perfect and spotless, just the way you'd like it." Elle said with a hint of tone that accompanied the impatience she held for her mother treating her as though she wasn't old enough to look after herself, which Elle constantly reminded her that she could.



"A friend? Tell me about her!" Trisha said excitedly, ignoring Elle's tone.



"You mean him," Elle corrected.



"A boy?" Trisha asked.



"A boy." Charlie repeated confidently as Trisha suddenly appeared apprehensive.



"Alright, tell me about your new friend then." Trisha said, picking up her wine glass once more.



"My new friends are... pretty exclusive, I suppose you could say." Elle said. Both Trisha and Charlie waited on her to continue. "You've heard of One Direction, right?"



"What does One Direction have to do with anything?" Charlie frowned.



"Stop avoiding the subject, what's happening with this boy?" Trisha said, and it was her turn to grow impatient.



"This boy is from One Direction." Elle said, connecting the dots for them.



"Are you joking?" Charlie said, eyes wide.



"One Direction?" Trisha repeated.



"Yes, I am friends with One Direction." Elle confirmed for her mother, the tension across the table thickening between them quickly, for which Elle couldn't explain.



"How?!" Charlie asked excitedly, dropping his cutlery and turning all his attention to Elle.



"Yes, how?" Trisha repeated more calmly.



"They just come into the Corner Bakery and they're all staying at this massive house together for a couple of months about a block away from my flat and it just so happens that we've become better friends." Elle said, bending the story of their meeting ever so slightly by steering clear of mentioning the incident where she lost her keys and spent nights with five boys to avoid more disapproving and immature treatment from Trisha.



"Better friends with One Direction?" Trisha repeated, again.



"Have they sung for you?" Charlie asked rather stupidly.



"Not exactly, but I have witnessed them singing, yes." Elle said, excited for finally being able to share her story with someone.



"Baby you light up my world like nobody else! They way that you flip your hair get's me-"



"That's enough, Charlie." Trisha cut off Charlie fooling around, picking up her cutlery again. "Don't think that just because you say you're friends with One Direction that you suddenly think you can get yourself a career in music." Trisha said in a dangerously warning way to Elle.



"I wasn't even dreaming of it, Mum, chill out." Elle said with a frown.



"You sound exactly like your father," Trisha said bitterly, pushing the remaining food around her plate.



"Speaking of, I'm seeing him on the way home tomorrow. He's meant to be bringing the piano to my flat." Elle said, trying to move the conversation forward.



"What did I just say about music?" Trisha said, clearly over thinking Elle's motives in central London.



"Mum, I am promising you right now that I will not even think about stepping foot inside the music industry. Alright? I can't even read music." Elle frustratingly reinforced.



"What business does your father have moving that piano to your flat then?"



"Because I'm the only one who plays it, and I like it." Elle said simply.



Elle was near silent for the remainder of dinner while Charlie talked about his job at the local auto repair until they all helped clear the table and tidy up the kitchen as Trisha had taught them to as they were growing up. After sitting in front of the television for an hour all three decided to call it a night as Trisha went straight to bed and Charlie and Elle headed for their old bedrooms. Just as Elle was sliding under the covers someone knocked on the door.



"Yes?" She asked and Charlie slipped into the room. Straight away he sat at Elle's old desk and kicked his feet up. "What?" Elle asked him.



"I can't believe you're friends with One Direction!" He exclaimed. Elle sat up in bed a little straighter.



"Neither can I, really," She said, a smile slipping onto her face.



"As if what you told us at dinner was the whole story. Tell me!" Charlie demanded.



"Since when are you suddenly their biggest fan?" Elle teased.



"Ever since they became your friends! Now tell me!" Charlie demanded further. So Elle started from the beginning, where she thought she recognised Liam in the shop and then bumped into him later that day where she fatefully lost her keys down the drain. Charlie couldn't believe her luck, claiming it could have been anyone on the streets of London, but she ended up staying with One Direction. He also couldn't believe that Elle hadn't recognised them until much later on. Elle told him what each member was like, and how they considered her a friend from the beginning, how she was invited back again and again, and how she was meant to be there on that exact night. The more Elle told the more surreal it appeared to Charlie. But most importantly, Elle found herself spilling every little detail to Charlie, who was listening very intently, of the friendship between her and Niall, ranging from him helping her finishing unpacking her flat to snuggling on the outdoor lounge.



"And because I refused to let him walk me home he spoke to me on the phone until I was home safe instead!" Elle said, having to kick the blankets off because she was feeling so flustered.



"You're in with the A-listers!" Charlie said ecstatically, causing Elle to laugh. She felt so good to be able to finally blurt out and relive every encounter she had had with the world's most famous boy band. "But more importantly," Charlie said, sitting forward and looking much more serious, "I think Niall likes you." Elle sat up even straighter as redness overtook her cheeks. "And by the looks of that, I think you fancy him too."



"By the looks of what?" Elle demanded.



"Look at how sensitive you are because I said it. Your face is beet red and you keep telling me all about him. So what are you going to do about it?" Charlie asked. Elle couldn't believe how quickly he'd burned through that topic. The last night Elle had spent with the boys was the night where she had finally considered the possibility that she might fancy Niall in the slightest, and that he was also very friendly to her.



"There's no way Niall could- no, just no. He couldn't," Elle rambled.



"Elle." Charlie said firmly.



"Yes?" Elle asked innocently.



"It's obvious. Plain obvious. And I haven't even met the guy." Charlie stated so clearly that Elle nearly believed him straight away.



"Exactly, you haven't met him, so you can't judge that and-"



"But I'm a guy, and I know what happens when a guy likes a girl, so..." Charlie pointed out as he stood up and shrugged his shoulders. Elle said nothing, but watched him as he made his way out of the room. "Keep it up. And promise me something?" Charlie asked of Elle as he stood in the doorway.



"What?" Elle prompted.



"That I'll get to meet One Direction!" He said with a huge smile on his face.



"Sure, whatever," Elle said, laying back down and waving him off.



"Stay awesome." Charlie said with a thumbs up as he closed Elle's door and left. Elle sighed and laughed to herself, pressing her hand to her forehead as she contemplated Charlie's speculations. Very shortly after, she was asleep, having reached no definite conclusions.



The next morning Elle and Charlie were both up early and ready to leave as Trisha made her way to the kitchen.



"You're both off so early?" She asked, tying the knot in her robe.



"I've got to get to work," Charlie said, his mouth full of toast.



"I've got to see Dad and get back, I have plans later on." Elle said, leaving her empty glass in the sink. Before Trisha could protest any further, both her children planted kisses on her cheeks, told her they loved her and were out the door.



"What plans do you have later on?" Charlie asked as Elle and himself walked to their cars.



"I'm going to One Direction's house!" Elle said dramatically, waving her fingers in Charlie's face.



"Stop that," He said as he swatted her fingers away. "Really, what are you doing?"



"I'm serious, I'm going over as soon as I get back because I couldn't go last night and Louis really wanted me to meet his girlfriend who came last night." Elle explained very quickly as she unlocked her car and slid into the driver's seat, winding down the window. Charlie planted his feet on the concrete driveway, crossed his arms, and looked at her, shaking his head. He could hardly believe what his little sister was saying.



"Say hello to Niall for me!" He shouted teasingly as Elle put the car into gear.



"Bye, Charlie." She said with a big smile through the window before pulling out of the driveway to drive across the suburb to the mechanics where her father had worked for as long as she'd known.



"Dad!" Elle shouted with her hands cupped around her mouth as she stood a few feet away from a man who was disappearing into the hood of a car in an overpoweringly smelly, noisy, oily garage. The man quickly emerged from the sea of metal looking dishevelled with grease smudged across his brow.



"Elle!" His face broke out into a huge smile as he wiped his hands on a dirty towel nearby before quickly walking around the car parts scattered over the floor to embrace her. "What are you doing here?" He asked, letting her go again.



"Charlie and I visited Mum last night, so I thought I'd drop in to see you while I was here." Elle explained quickly.



"I'm glad, because you never rang me back! I've had the piano loaded on the back of the ute for a week now," he said, coughing harshly.



"Really? I'm sorry, I've just been so busy-" Elle began to apologise.



"Pete!" Another man in the depths of the greasy workplace yelled out, immediately grabbing her father's attention.



"I'm really sorry, sweetheart, but we've got a big day here today, I can't stop and chat for much longer." He explained regretfully.



"That's alright. Since I'm here why don't I take the ute back to the flat with me and whenever you come and see me you can bring my car back?" Elle suggested.



"But how will you get the piano inside?" Peter asked, clearing his throat.



"Don't worry, I have friends who can help me," Elle reassured him with a bright smile.



"Alright, if you're sure." Peter agreed as they swapped car keys and he directed Elle to where his ute was parked before giving her a tight hug and promising he would come to see her soon.



An hour later Elle carefully pulled into the carport assigned to her behind her block of flats, checked the time, and raced upstairs. It was only half past nine in the morning, but the sooner she was able to go and see the boys, the better. She showered and made herself presentable in readiness for meeting Louis' girlfriend, but after talking with Charlie the night before, subconsciously felt she'd be best if she put a little effort into her appearance to see Niall again. As soon as her hair was dry and styled, she grabbed her bag off the coat rack by the front door, checked she had the keys to it, and calmly walked up the street.



Upon reaching the security gate, Elle stood on the street with her phone and raided her messages from Niall until she found the one that told her the code to unlock it. She let herself in and walked up the path that lead her to the veranda where she knocked on the huge front door. She waited for a few moments and it seemed that nobody was going to answer. Just as she raised her fist to knock again, the door was swung wide open by a beaming Louis, who Elle immediately noted was very well dressed.



"Elle!" He near shouted with his arms wide open.



"Hi, Louis," Elle said, not being able to help herself but to smile in his incandescent presence.



"You look lovely today," He complimented, having noticed her efforts as he stood aside to let her inside.



"Thank you," She said as he closed the door behind her. "You also look very nice today."



"Yes, about that," Louis said as he guided her through to the kitchen. "Harry, Liam and Zayn have already left, and Eleanor and I are about to leave too. We're off to see a movie."



"Oh, really?" Elle asked, feeling a little let down.



"Yes, but unfortunately Niall isn't feeling too well and he's decided to stay here. You're more than welcome to join us, though." He offered kindly, just as a tall and beautiful brunette entered the kitchen behind them. "Ah, Elle, this is El!" Louis introduced.



"Hello," Eleanor greeted Elle, holding out her hand. "Lovely to meet you. I've heard plenty about you already," She said with a kind, heart warming smile.



"Already? All good things I hope," Elle laughed as she gently shook Eleanor's hand.



"Good and beyond is all Niall can seem to manage when it comes to you," Eleanor said graciously, causing a familiar shade of pink to run across Elle's cheeks once more with the feeling of embarrassment, but also enchantment. Eleanor shared a knowing look with Louis which allowed Elle to assume that they had spoken about her and Niall privately, promoting Charlie's conclusion.



"Anyway, we really need to get going or we'll be late," Louis said as he checked the time on his wrist. "Will you join us?" Elle bit her lip, hesitating as she thought about how much she just wanted to see Niall. To avoid causing any bother, she opted to just go home instead and come back another day.



"No, that's alright. I'll just head home-"



"Are you sure? It's meant to be a good movie," Louis tried to persuade her.



"I'm sure, thank you." Elle reassured him with a smile.



"Alright, well, Niall's in the lounge room. I'm sure he'd love to see you, so don't head home just yet." Louis said, before telling her that if she were to stay they would all be home in a couple of hours anyway. Both Eleanor and Louis said goodbye, hoping to see her later, and left briskly, leaving Elle to a silent mansion.



Unsure as to why Niall hadn't yet made an appearance, Elle dropped her bag on the kitchen bench and quietly crossed over into the lounge room. Sure enough, there was Niall. Only he was laying across the couch on his stomach, his eyes firmly closed, and his mouth slightly agape, releasing slow and even breaths. He was fast asleep.



"Niall?"
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