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.


12. Twelve

“I was just about to fix a cup of tea.” Niall said, stepping out of his doorway and around Elle. “Care to join me?” He asked. Elle nodded with a gentle smile and followed him down the stairs and into the absolute darkness of the kitchen. He appeared to be fumbling for the light switch, but ended up turning on the lights above the stove instead which gave off a soft glow throughout the kitchen.


“I thought you could find light switches in the dark.” Elle said spiritedly, leaning her back against the cool bench.


“I just did, didn’t I?” Niall said as he poured water into the kettle.


“Stove lights?” Elle asked with a provocatively playful tone.


“It feels awful to turn the lights on at this time of night.” Niall said, his back turned.


“What do you mean?” Elle asked, frowning at the back of his head.


“It’s such a peaceful time of night. There’s no need to ruin it with those bright lights. They’ll hurt my eyes.” He said, putting the kettle on to boil. Elle’s expression softened at his reasoning and she caught herself as a small smile forced its way onto her face. Niall glanced at her as he pulled two mugs out of a cupboard, seeing her watching him, and let a bashful smile overtake him as well.


“Herbal tea?” Niall asked as he placed a tea bag in one of the mugs. “It’ll relax you.” He said.


“Please.” Elle said, moving to stand by Niall and awaiting her cup of tea.


“It’ll make us go back to sleep faster.” Niall said, waiting for the kettle to finish boiling.


“How long have you been up?” Elle asked. Niall shrugged.


“About an hour, probably.” He said.


“What woke you up?” Elle inquired curiously.


“I don’t know. I just couldn’t sleep.” He answered.


“And so when sleep deprivation strikes, you take to playing your guitar in the middle of the night.” Elle said in a comical announcing voice. Niall laughed at her, pouring the boiled water into their mugs.


“I can assure you that it doesn’t happen often.” He said. “Come on,” Niall took both of their teas and set them side by side on the bench. Elle sat down as he began to rummage through one of the cupboards, resurfacing with a packet of biscuits and taking the seat beside Elle.


“Biscuit?” Niall offered her the packet before setting it down on the bench.


“No, thank you.” Elle politely refused.


“Sure?” He asked with a mouthful.


“Positive.” Elle’s forehead crinkled with the small laugh she let out at the sight of Niall. “So why isn’t your song working for you?” She asked, clasping her hot mug in her hands as she leant forward on the bench.


“I still haven’t been inspired since yesterday,” Niall gave a small laugh.


“Then what were you playing before?” Elle asked, confused.


“I was just playing with the sound. You know, how I think I might like it to sound when I actually get something.” Niall shrugged, sipping his hot tea.


“What exactly do you want to write about?” Elle asked, becoming more and more curious.


“Something from experience. Like I said yesterday, something a little more emotional,” Niall said. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll know when it comes.”


“A tough old emotional toll.” Elle said, recalling what he had said the day before.


“Yeah... It’s probably pretty unlikely to happen. One day, maybe.” Niall said, drifting in his thoughts.


“You really want to put yourself through some heartache just for the sake of writing a good song?” Elle asked, a little taken aback by his determination.


“It’s how the best songs are written.” Niall said matter-of-factly, shooting her a small smile.


“I suppose that’s true,” Elle said, pondering Niall’s words. It was nearly silent for a moment as the two sat in thought, taking a long sip from their teas. Elle was recalling some of the greatest songs of all time, trying to remember what exactly they were written about and if they were emotional, when Niall suddenly spoke up.


“What’s your favourite song of all time?” He said, sounding as though he had nearly been thinking along the same lines as Elle. One song immediately came to mind, causing Elle to hunch forward in embarrassment.


“Don’t judge me.” She gave an embarrassed smile. “It’s an absolute classic in my books. I love slow, romantic songs,” She said as the heat in her cheeks became a lot more evident. Niall noticed and smiled at her bashfulness, making him feel more at ease.


“Go on, don’t leave me hanging,” He urged with a wide grin. Elle hesitated for a slight moment.


“You know what... Do you think it’ll wake the others if I play the piano?” Elle asked. Niall quickly shook his head, not caring if it woke up the whole street if only it meant he could hear Elle play the piano one more time.


“Come on, Light Switch Man. Lead the way.” Elle said as she stood up, gesturing for Niall to go first. Niall lead her to the room with the piano and turned on the light, scorching their eyes for a few brief moments. Elle sat down at the glinting black piano once more as Niall stood at the end in great anticipation.


“I can’t even begin to say how much I love this song. I learnt to play it years ago,” Elle said, grazing her fingers across the keys as she felt the pressure of being watched again.


“Come on, the temptation is killing me,” Niall whined with an excited smile. Elle smiled at him one last time, growing nervous due to his enthusiasm. Without prolonging it anymore, she began to play Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley flawlessly as she had played it close to one hundred times before. Her fingers pressed the keys gently and rhythmically, much more civilised than the last time she played for Niall.


Niall instantly recognised the song he was hearing. His smile disappeared as he was instantly taken in by Elle’s piano playing, watching her so carefully it startled him. It was perfect, and Niall was ecstatic that he would be able to hear this piece more than once because she had learnt it. He stood still and completely silent as he watched Elle concentrate on playing. As the song progressed his eyes travelled up Elle’s arms and to her face. He watched her, noticing the way her brow creased as she immersed herself, the wisps of untidy hair modelling her face, the way she was breathing through her mouth as her eyes sang with her fingers. She was oblivious when she played, and to Niall, her music appeared slightly more distanced than before.


Elle ended the song softly and retracted her hands to her lap. She looked up to Niall to see him already looking at her. She gave him an unsure smile as his face was entirely expressionless. Niall noticed her uneasiness and quickly broke their eye contact, finally reacting to her song.


“That was beautiful. Definitely a classic.” He said, resting his hand on the edge of the piano as though it were a friend.


“It’ll be a favourite of mine forever,” Elle said as she stood up from the piano stool. “And it’s not even written about heartache.” She said entertainingly. Niall gave a thoughtful expression and nodded.


“You’re not wrong. And it’s still one of the best songs,” He said.


“I’m glad you agree.” Elle smiled as she led the way back to the kitchen where their teas had been left to turn cool. “Now you don’t have to put yourself through something so stressful.”


“I need to get some heartfelt inspiration somewhere,” Niall defended as they resumed their seats.


“Oh, Niall. What are the lyrics to Can’t Help Falling In Love?” Elle asked plainly as she took a sip of her tea, leading her to cringe.


“Wise men say only fools rush in... But I can’t help falling in love with you.” Niall recited without difficulty.


“Continue,” Elle said without looking at him, pushing her mug away from her.


“Shall I stay, would it be a sin...? If I can’t help falling in love with you...” Niall continued with a feeble frown.


“See?” Elle rather stated.


“See what?” Niall’s frown deepened.


“Who’s the professional musician here?” Elle laughed. “One of the greatest love songs of all time is not written about heartache. It’s all about falling in love instead.”


“What’s your point?” Niall asked, turning to face Elle with interest.


“You don’t need to insist on putting yourself through some wretched emotion to get inspiration. You can write something beautiful, short and sweet like that that will surely have girls falling at your feet all around the globe.” Elle said. Niall’s frown was lifted as a light-hearted smile retracted him from even considering talking about falling in love, if there was such a thing.


“I still need that inspiration from somewhere,” He said point-black.


“Well... why don’t you just think about a girl from your childhood or something? Surely you had some sort of silly crush once,” Elle proposed.


“Now you’re saying I should write about someone?” Niall asked.


“I guess so...” Elle shrugged.


“Right,” Niall laughed as though it were the last thing he would consider. “You’ll know you changed my life when I write a song about you.” He said sarcastically.


“I’m only trying to help,” Elle pointed out, but couldn’t help but join in with Niall’s contagious laugh. “You’re being such a man.”


“There’s nothing wrong with being manly.” Niall said, sitting up straight and puffing out his chest.


“There is when you call that manly.” Elle laughed again, standing up to empty the rest of her cold tea in the sink. Niall followed her to do the same.


“What’s the time?” Elle asked, searching for a clock. Niall directed her eyes to the glowing digital clock on the front of the stove. It was a few minutes past two. Elle sighed.


“We really should go back to bed.” She said.


“Mmm... we really should.” Niall agreed much too enthusiastically. “Come on,” He said, grabbing the packet of biscuits from the bench and turning off the stove lights before carefully directing Elle back up the stairs and to the bedrooms. Niall stood in his doorway and watched Elle as she reached hers, looking back at him.


“I’m really not tired.” Niall finally said. Elle couldn’t help but smile at him.


“Me either.” She said, suddenly feeling a lot more awake now that she thought she was going back to bed.


“That’s the last time I rely on herbal tea to make me sleepy.” Niall said with a guilty chuckle.


“Maybe we shouldn’t have let them go cold. Maybe they only work when you drink them hot.” Elle weighed. Niall shrugged with his thoughts, and then nodded in agreement.


“Sleepover at Niall’s?” He was quick to suggest innocently. Elle frowned at him speculatively. “I have biscuits.” He said, quickly showing her the biscuits he had brought up from the kitchen.


“If you insist,” Elle said, sounding quite mellow, though the grin on her face contradicted it completely. She stepped into Niall’s room as he closed the door behind them. Niall crossed the room and picked up his guitar before sitting against the headboard of his bed.


“Make yourself at home,” Niall insisted, gesturing to the unoccupied space of his large bed with a wave of his arm. Elle sat cross-legged on the end of his bed against the footboard opposite him.


For the rest of the time the two sat sharing the remaining biscuits as Niall strummed his guitar. They found themselves talking about all odds and ends of musical life, and Niall even tried teaching Elle segments of One Directions’ greatest songs on his guitar. They quickly lost track of time as they laughed and grew closer. They were becoming increasingly comfortable with just being around each other and having a good time into the early hours of the morning until they finally became tired on their own accord and fell asleep, completely exhausted, on top of the covers again.


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