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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13. Thirteen

It was late morning when Elle was woken up in frustration, not being able to roll over due to something hard and boxy against her legs. After minutes of drifting in and out of consciousness she realised she was laying on top of the covers again and wasn’t all that comfortable. Finally deciding to open her eyes, the first thing she saw was a pair of still feet lying not far from her head. In brusque confusion she lifted her head and instantly remembered where she was. She had fallen asleep head to toe with Niall on his oversized bed with his guitar separating them. Carefully moving onto her back in an attempt to leave Niall undisturbed, she realised his guitar is what prevented her from rolling over, and discovered that one side of her body was aching with stiffness. Her attempt to leave Niall sleeping was, however, short lived. Solid, echoing footsteps thundered out in the hallway, ending as Niall’s door was opened without consideration.

 

“Niall, do you-” Liam had begun to say, ignorant to Niall’s sleepy state, but quickly stopped on his own accord.

 

“Oh.” Louis said bluntly, standing in the doorway behind Liam. Niall stirred and raised his head sluggishly to see the two boys overseeing the scene that he was oblivious to.

 

“Well, it isn’t every day you see Nialler sharing his bed with a girl.” Liam said loudly and overly mischievously, a sly grin crossing his face.

 

“And wearing his clothes, too,” Louis added cockily, the same expression present on his own face. Without a word Niall drearily twisted his body just enough to see Elle laying behind him, his eyes squinting with tiredness as though he intended to go back to sleep. The fact that Elle was sharing his bed, wearing his clothes, and above all, laying the wrong way up did not faze him one bit. He simply dropped back to his previous sleeping position, exhaling loudly before groaning in a manner that prompted the boys to give their reasons for barging into his room.

 

“It’s alright, mate.” Liam said with a laugh, waving Niall off as he left the room. Louis hung back for a few seconds longer, laughing to himself as he riveted the sight before him, leaving the door wide open when he left. A moment after they were gone Niall turned onto his back, knocking his guitar.

 

“Good morning,” Elle said inarticulately as they looked at one another.

 

“Morning,” Niall murmured, his voice sounding husky due to lack of use. He cleared his throat as he picked up his guitar and gently laid it by the side of his bed to get it out of the way. “I’m beginning to think you can sleep anywhere.”

 

“As am I,” Elle’s face was adorned with entertainment as she sat up and turned around to lay beside Niall properly, resting her head on the unoccupied pillow and immediately wondering why she hadn’t had the sense to turn around the night before.

 

“You’re nearly as bad as Zayn.” Niall’s face mirrored Elle’s as their reignited conversation had woken him up properly.

 

“Does he sleep on top of the covers too?” Elle asked, laughing at herself.

 

“He sleeps on anything.” Niall said sternly to get his point across, though the cheerfulness never left his eyes.

 

“Really?”

 

“I think the best spot was when we were in rehearsals one day, and we had this massive empty suitcase open on the floor, and he just decided to lay in it and fell asleep. Just like that. I have no idea how he does it,” Niall told her exuberantly, using his hands to affirm the profile of the suitcase as he spoke. They joked and laughed for several minutes more, directly continuing on with their goodhearted mannerisms from the previous night. They only decided to get up when they finally realised that most of the morning had slipped away from them.

 

“What’ll it be? Breakfast or lunch?” Harry teased the pair when they entered the kitchen. Nevertheless, they sat beside each other at the bench to have a very late breakfast.

 

“Hey, Elle,” Liam grasped Elle’s attention as he stood across from them, dangling an overly large key ring that had five shiny, different coloured keys on it.

 

“What are those for?” Niall asked with a mouthful before Elle could.

 

“I had someone come and change the lock on your door this morning. I also took the liberty to get copies of the key made, so it should be impossible to get locked out.” Liam told Elle as he dropped the keys onto the bench in front of her with a clatter.

 

“Really?” Elle’s eyes widened. She dropped her half eaten toast before scrambling off her stool and ran around the bench to swamp Liam in a huge embrace. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” She was ecstatic that she would finally be able to return to her flat.

 

“Not a problem,” Liam assured her, returning the hug.

 

“Wait,” Elle said as she finally released him, her brow furrowing. “How did you know which flat was mine?”

 

“You told me the day we met. Top of the first flight of stairs and on the right, right?” Liam asked, doubting himself for a slight moment.

 

“Right.” Elle’s face was overtaken by a huge smile, astounded that Liam remembered such a thing, and relieved him of his doubt instantly.

 

“Did you really want to get rid of her that quickly?” Zayn asked, a slightly taunting smile crossing his face before he buried his head in the fridge.

 

“Of course not,” Liam immediately defended himself. “I bet she misses wearing her own clothes, though.”

 

“Hey!” Niall frowned at Liam.

 

“Don’t worry, mate. I’m sure your clothes are the next best thing.” Liam laughed before joining Zayn, and Niall rolled his eyes.

 

“Oh my gosh, I have so many things I need to do.” Elle said as she cradled her extensive set of new keys.

 

“Do you really have to go?” Niall asked, sounding disappointed.

 

“Yes, the day’s half over, and-” Elle stopped midsentence as she glanced up to see Niall. He really did look disappointed. “Why don’t you come with me?” She asked as soon as the idea crossed her mind. Niall’s face lit up straight away.

 

“I’d love to.” He replied without a second thought. The two of them finished up in the kitchen before taking the short walk to Elle’s building.

 

“It looks like you moved in yesterday,” Niall said as Elle shut her apartment door behind them.

 

“I know. It’s actually been two weeks today,” Elle said as she manoeuvred her way through the lounge room that still had her unpacked belongings restricting where they could walk.

 

“I’m really sorry about the mess.” She said, regretting not thinking through inviting Niall. She thought he would be interpreting her to be a sloppy person with the state of her flat.

 

“Mess? What mess?” Niall joked as he purposely glanced around the ceiling. Elle laughed.

 

“Stop it,” She said, pushing his arm playfully. “I was intending to spend the rest of the day unpacking as much as I could. Tea?” She asked as she reached the kitchen.

 

“Only if you’re having one. Can I help?” Niall asked.

 

“I’m sure I can manage boiling the kettle on my own,” Elle said mischievously as she began to fill it up with water.

 

“No, I mean can I help you with unpacking?” Niall corrected Elle, laughing at her misinterpretation.

 

“Oh.” Elle realised her mistake, laughing with Niall. “No way, you don’t have to do that.”

 

“It’ll halve the work.” Niall said eagerly.

 

“No,” Elle said again. “Don’t worry about it. Wait right here, I’ll be back in a minute.” She said as she left Niall in the kitchen. She entered her bedroom and closed the door before changing into her own clothes; a pair of leggings and an oversized guernsey that fit her much better. She opened her door to hear music playing. Entering back into the lounge room she saw Niall had found her iPod connected to some speakers.

 

“What are you doing?” Elle asked, catching Niall. Niall spun around, caught off guard for a split second before selecting a great song and turning up the volume some more.

 

“Some tunes and an extra set of hands, unpacking will be a breeze.” He said, waving Elle over.

 

“But I already said-” Elle tried to refuse him.

 

“Come on, I want to help.” Niall insisted. Elle ogled him for a moment before finally giving in with a sigh.

 

“Alright, only because you’re so desperate.” She said with a roll of her eyes. They spent the next few hours unpacking box after box, singing along at the top of their lungs to Elle’s iPod, chatting, laughing and dancing. Elle didn’t think unpacking could have been more fun. All the linen was packed away, her bedroom was set and tidy, her kitchen was organised and her lounge room floor was spotless. She was completely moved in.

 

“Thank you, Niall.” Elle said as they each slumped into a chair at her small dining table.

 

“Not a worry. I told you we’d get it done if you let me help.” Niall said.

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Elle said, knowing very well he was right. “Sorry that you wasted your entire afternoon unpacking, though,” She apologised, feeling a little guilty.

 

“Wasted? You’re joking, I actually had a lot of fun. I’m glad I could help. Time well spent.” He insisted, feeling great that he had spent his afternoon being productive in helping a new friend. He found himself wishing that there was more to unpack. He had thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Elle, goofing around and getting a job done.

 

“I’m glad you helped me. I didn’t think I was ever going to get it done.” Elle said, resting her head on her hand tiredly when Niall’s phone received a message.

 

“The lads are wondering when I’m getting home. I should probably go,” Niall said after reading the message and standing up from his chair.

 

“Alright. Thank you so much, Niall. I owe you,” Elle said as she followed Niall to the front door.

 

“You don’t owe me a thing.” He smiled, enveloping her in a tenacious hug. “I’ll see you soon.”

 

“Bye,” Elle smiled after him as he left and closed the door. Turning around, it was the first time she had seen her apartment looking like a home. She was so grateful that Niall had insisted on helping her unpack everything that was left. The place didn’t feel so empty anymore.

 

After cooking herself a simple meal and taking a shower, Elle sat down in the lounge room with her laptop. After surfing the internet for a short while, she found herself watching clips of One Direction. She couldn’t stop herself. But for the first time in two weeks, she had the time to sit down and waste it.

 

After watching performance after performance, she went on to watch interviews and behind the scenes videos. After a long time of watching them online, she felt like she knew the boys even better. All of their personalities were strongly evident as she learned a lot more about them, as strange as it felt, and seeing the comments from fans added to her interpretations. Louis was the joker, Liam was sensible, Harry was desirable, Zayn was mysterious and Niall was the cute one. This was true, but Elle couldn’t help but laugh at how stereotypical they were made out to be.

 

In every one of the videos she saw that night, all of the boys were laughing and having a great time. They shared jokes, they were honest, and above all, talented. Elle caught herself smiling at her laptop screen time after time, because she knew how lucky she was to know them. She knew for a fact that the boys she saw in the videos were faithfully the same in person.

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