Friends, Lovers, or Nothing? (Sequel to Summer Love)

Things have gotten better slowly. Excruciatingly slow, to be exact. I saw Niall every now and again, but I refused to acknowledge his existence. I despised the guilty feeling I got when I looked at him nowadays. I knew he wanted to talk to me, but I knew I'd do something stupid if I did. Sometimes, he wasn't even home. Occasionally on those days, I would go speak with Maura, keeping tabs on how and what Niall was doing. Telling me concert dates and when he had to go in for recording sessions. These conversations stayed secret between us. That is, until Niall walked in on us one day. He stared at us, taken aback by my presence. I shifted uneasily in my spot on the couch next to Maura. I looked down at my reflection in my tea.

"It's good to see you." Niall said, shutting the door behind him. I kept my face low, avoiding his persuading, blue eyes.

"So,what are you doing here?"

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6. End of Story

We were in my car and Niall had his feet propped up on my dashboard. For awhile, I didn't mind, but once we got onto the highway, I spoke up.

"You should put your feet down. If we get into an accident, you could get seriously hurt."

"I'm already in hell." he replied bluntly. I pulled to the side of the road under a flyover. It had begun to rain, reminding me of our night on the beach. I pushed the thought away, not wanting to be soft on him.

"What now?" he complained.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" I turned to look at him.

"I don't know what you mean. I'm perfectly fine."

"Is this what you've become? An insensitive douchebag?"

"It would seem that way." he countered, picking some lint off his shirt.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I opened the door and stepped into the soggy air. I slammed the door behind me and leaned against it. The cool drops soaked through my shirt. I folded my arms and stared out at passing cars.

"I know I'm going to regret this, but please get back in the car." Niall pleaded.

"Hell no. I'm not going anywhere with you. I'll walk home."

"No you won't." he laughed.

"And why wouldn't I?" I glared at him.

"Because you're terrified of storms." he smirked. I returned pouting, blushing at the fact that he remembered my deepest fear.

"Well, I'd much rather face my fear than stay here with you." I said with more confidence than I felt.

"Prove it." he taunted.

"Fine." I kept my head down and walked proudly into the rain. Water dripped down my hair, making me shiver in the cold. Claps of thunder burst, and I refrained from jumping or screaming. When the lightning began to flash, I got down on my knees and cried. This was far worse than I had imagined in every way, shape, and form, and I wasn't even 100 feet away from my car. About a minute later, Niall picked me up and carried me to the car. He set me in the passenger seat and began to drive away.

"Geez, you're an idiot." he insulted.

"Yeah, I'm the idiot. Here I am, trying so hard to make amends with you, but you won't even give me the time of day. All I wanted for today was for us to bond again, or at least have emotional support when visiting my horrible mother. You're an ass, end of story." I sat back in my seat, refusing to look at him.

"Sorry to disappoint you," he shrugged without remorse. After some time he spoke up again.

"You hate me, don't you?"

"I couldn't even if I tried." I whispered, tired. From the corner of my eye, I saw a surprised expression on his face, followed by a nod. I then drifted off to sleep.

-----------------------

Eventually, the car came to a hault, but we weren't at my house. I looked at Niall, who shut off the car and unbuckled his seat-belt.

"Where are we? What are you doing?" I panicked.

"Going inside. I'm hungry." he talked as if I was mentally impaired. I rolled my eyes and looked out the windshield. We were at Nando's...how stereotypical.

"Niall, I'm soaking wet."

"And I'm tired of this conversation." he replied.

"But I'm wearing a white shirt." I whispered.

"I've noticed," he smirked. I blushed and crossed my arms.

We went inside and immediately got a table. Teenage boys gawked at me as I ate. Swallowing hard, I stared at my food, cheeks burning with ultimate intensity.

"Ugh," Niall groaned,"come here." We got up from the table and walked over to the bathrooms. We stood there until a man emerged from the men's room.

"Hey, man. It's been a long day, and I'm sure you've noticed, but my friend here needs a jacket. I can compensate if you'd like," Niall pulled a roll of cash form his pocket.

"Sure," the guy took off his coat, taking a few of Niall's bills.

"Thanks," Niall waved the man away. "Here," he shoved the coat at me, walking back to the table. I frowned after him, exasperated. On the bright side, he'd done something nice for me. Maybe he still cared...just a bit.

--------------

Back on the road, I snuggled into my 'new' jacket. Niall wanted to drive, and I wasn't up for disagreement. We were on a back road close to home, and trees hung over like a canopy.

"I know you probably don't care, even in the slightest bit, but I appreciate your coming with me today." I told him.

"Oh, really?" he raised an eyebrow, skeptical of my confession.

"Really. I couldn't have done this alone. It's funny, though. I kind of feel a bit dependent on you." I laughed weakly. We were both silent.

"It's hard, seeing her again. Even now, I can barely remember what happened. It hurts sometimes and gives me migraines. My father takes me to the doctor constantly, making sure they won't cause seizures. Sometimes, when you're gone, I go have small chats with your mum. It's pathetic, but I wanted to know what and how you were doing. She told me everything, lots of details. I bet it's obvious, but I've really missed you, Nialler." Well, that was longer than expected.

"Sure didn't seem like it." he kept his eyes away from me. "And I'm sure Harry would've gladly gone with you."

Light bulb.

"That's what this is about isn't it? You're jealous that I've been spending time with him!" I proclaimed.

"He's my best mate! It kind of bothers me!" he replied, irritated.

"We're just friends!" I yelled.

"Then why did you kiss him?" he retorted.

"It was on the cheek."

"That still means something."

"Fine, you know what? He was there for me. He made me feel better. I isolated myself and he still reached out to me. Unlike you, insulting me and being an asshole even though I know you still care. I also know that you still love me. Not only because your mum said so, but because, at this moment, I can see it written all over your face!"

He pressed his lips together grimly, and stared at me. It wasn't altogether menacing as much as it was intimidating. I then realized that he had stopped the car. Us. Alone. On some desolate road, a few miles from home. I was suddenly afraid; afraid he might hurt me. I recoiled in my seat. Even whilst looking down, I could feel his stare burning through me.

"Niall, I'm sorry. I--"

He got out of the car, left the door ajar, and walked down the road.

"Niall..." I got out after him.

"Niall, please stop. I didn't mean it like that," I followed him,"wait. I can't leave you out here."

He stopped. "And just why can't you?"

"Because believe it or not, I care about you. More than I probably should at the moment, and I refuse to let you walk away from me again!" A tear fell down my cheek. He faced me, his expression unreadable.

"You think I wanted to leave?" I hated when he proposed rhetorical questions.

"That's not what I'm saying!"

"Then what are you saying?" his voice was soft and tired.

"You left so suddenly, and expected me to be okay with it. You didn't want contact with me at all. You didn't seriously think I could let you go that easily did you? You were the best thing that ever happened to me."

His face softened slightly.

"Quick question," he looked down, letting his hair fall over his face,"when did you first know that you loved me?"

My eyes widened and I felt short of breath. It seemed like so long ago, summer. I thought hard for a moment or so.

"The lights," I said finally. He snapped up, his eyes dazzling.

"The what?"

"The lights," I smiled,"on your back deck. They were strung so beautifully, and made everything seem to glow. The night was warm, and I tried so hard to look my best to impress you." I envisioned it.

"My family knew it, too. It was obvious. I never wore dresses, or heels for that matter. You made me feel so girly to the point that giggling like a school girl became habitual. And the look in your eyes, it--it was like staring into the ocean. The way you held me in your arms when we kissed, it made me feel like a princess or something. Cliche, I know but...you made me feel special. After being alone for so long, I, I just wanted to stay with you..." I trailed off. I watched the ground as his shadow approached, then overtook mine. He put his hands on my arms, keeping me still. I have a feeling I wouldn't have moved anyways.

"Look at me." he pleaded softly. I tried to ignore him, keeping my face low. He gripped my arms tighter.

"Arabella, look. At. Me." he demanded. I slowly dragged my eyes up to his. He stared down at me, making me shrink in comparison.

"I'm sorry. I wish I could take every wrong I've done you and leave, but I don't think I can bring myself to do it. And you're right, I do still love you, a lot actually. I don't really know how to say this--"

I hugged his waist tightly, startling him. My ear was to his heart, which was beating rapidly.

"Through everything, I loved you. And for some ungodly reason, I still love you. Even when you're an asshole." Eventually, his posture slunk. He stroked my hair several times before laying a hand on my shoulder. He pushed me away gingerly.

"We can't be together."

"What do you mean?" I asked, a whimper behind my question. "I love you."

"I know," he smiled at me with sad eyes,"but we don't exactly do each other much good. I've really hurt you, and I can't forgive myself. I don't even know how you can forgive me."

"I can forgive you because I love you. Niall, I need you in my life."

"And I will be in your life. As a friend."

"Niall--"

"It's friends, lovers, or nothing, and we both know how well the last two worked out." he stated firmly. I stepped away from him, hurt obvious in my stature.

"I want you in my life until I die, Arabella. But seeing how things are between us, this seems like the only way."

"It doesn't have to be the only way!" I cried. "I can change, we can find a way to make things work."

He embraced me again. I leaned against him, sobbing. He held my weight, and kissed my hair. He propped his head on mine, and rubbed my back.

"Arabella, you have to accept this." he whispered.

"I might never accept it."

"Then you'll have to tolerate it."

He coaxed me back to the car.

------------

We were sitting in the car in front of my house. I sat there, looking at nothing in particular. Inside I was dieing a bit.

"Now, I want you to know that I do still love you, and I'll always be there for you if and when you need me. Anytime at all, even if it's...boy trouble." he sighed. I didn't move.

"Please don't avoid me again. I don't think either of us can handle that." he lay a hand on my knee. I sat up and put on my best mask.

"You're right. This is for the best, and we need to move past this."

"Uh...really?" he sounded surprised that I'd agreed with him.

"Of course. With some effort, we can be easy friends. That's how it all started right?"

"Um, right." he nodded.

"You want to come inside? Might as well get this friendship off to a good start right?" I asked him, opening the car door.

"Yeah, let's go, I guess." he followed my actions.

 

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