Breaking Free

Ever felt smothered by everyone else's idea of what your life should be like? Have you ever just wanted to say "Stop! It's my life!" to those closest to you? We all have, haven't we? I bet you were too afraid to do it though. So you kept your mouth shut, and did exactly what you always told yourself you would never do: you followed the rules set by people who don't really know you, and let THEM control your life. But what could happen if you finally just said no? If you decided to follow your own dream? Would something amazing happen? Would you fall in love? Would you find what you've been looking for your whole life? What could happen if you just...broke free?

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9. Promise

Belle stared at Niall in shock. He looked at her with an expression of pity on his face, which she understood. She probably looked like the biggest, most naieve idiot on the face of the planet right now. She had grown up with Alan, they'd been like brother and sister since she could remember, and she had never realized that he was in love with her! It all made sense now though. The lingering hugs, how protective he was of her, the dinner dates. He even took her to prom their junior and senior years in high school! He never quite wholly approved of who she dated, and when Brock (her old boyfriend) had broken her heart Alan had literally beat the guy almost to death. How had she not seen this until now?

"Um, w-will you guys excuse me for just one second?" Belle suddenly said, standing up from the bed quickly.

All the boys looked at her worriedly. "Is everything okay babe--" Harry started to ask.

"Everything's fine," Belle snapped hastily as she picked up her laptop. "I just...I just need to do something." She said vaguely, taking her phone and her laptop with her into the bathroom. She shut the door behind her, ignoring the concerned questions from the boys and locking the door.

Belle sat down on the bathroom tile and clicked the power button on her laptop. As it started up, she unlocked her phone and began a text message to Alan:

To: Big Al ;)

Hey skype me ASAP need 2 talk 2 u

It only took about a minute for Alan to respond.

From: Big Al ;)

Sure no prob babe gimme one sec.. xo

Belle couldn't help but cringe at his sweet text message. She was finally seeing how much he flirted with her, and how much she had probably been leading him on all these years without even knowing it.

Just thirty seconds later, Belle's computer showed that she had a Skype call from "BigAl22". Belle chuckled, remembering that she had set that username for him two years ago. It was a combination of her nickname for him and their matching soccer jersey numbers from when they played together in high school. She clicked the answer button.

Alan's face took up the whole screen and he was grinning from ear to ear. Belle smiled back at her best friend as well. He was shirtless, his blonde hair messy as though he had just finished working out or something like that. He was in his room sitting at his desk; Belle recognized all the familiar posters, bookshelves, clothes on the floor. She had grown up in Alan's room just as much as she had her own.

"Hey babe!" He said cheerfully and Belle smiled back at him sadly. "So tell me, how's it feel to be a superstar these days?" He added with a wink.

Belle chuckled and blushed. "I'm not a superstar Alan, I just--"

Alan cut her off with a scoff and said, "Pssh, whatever! You're going to be the opening act for One Direction! You're going on tour with them in the UK!"

Belle looked into his eyes and started to tear up a little bit. He was so happy for her, even though he was stuck at home being forced into taking over his dad's company. It wasn't fair whatsoever, yet he still wanted her to live out her dream. Alan saw Belle's change in expression and immediately stopped smiling, instead looking at her with worry and concern.

"Whoa, what's wrong?" He asked quietly. Belle's tears spilled over and she wiped them away with the back of her hand and sniffed. "Belles, tell me what's wrong, please." Alan pleaded, and Belle laughed sadly at his old nickname for her, 'Belles'. She looked back up at him sadly.

"Alan..." she began softly, "do you love me?"

Alan laughed and scrunched up his face in a sort of amused confusion. "What are you talking about Belles, of course I love you. What kind of crazy question is that?"

Belle sighed in frustration and looked up at the ceiling, taking a deep breath before turning back to the screen. "No Alan, not like that. I mean...do you love me? Like really love me?"

Alan's face turned to stone and he pursed his lips. They stared into each other's eyes. The two were almost three thousand miles apart, yet felt so close. Alan took in a deep breath.

"Yes." He said simply, followed with an sharp exhalation. He looked down and put his head in his hands, chuckling sadly. Belle said nothing, and after a moment he looked back up. "Yes, of course I love you Belles. I've loved you since the day you pushed me down and called me stupid in first grade. That's when it started. But...you never reciprocated. So I waited. I waited, and I prayed, and I looked out for you. I told myself that the feelings would go away, but they never really did."

"Why didn't you say something Alan?" Belle shouted a little loudly.

Alan laughed harshly and threw his hands up in the air. "Because Belles! Because I didn't wanna be shot down, I didn't wanna lose you as a friend!" He put his face close up to the screen, and Belle desperately wished she could reach out and actually touch him. His voice softened, "I would have died if I lost you, Belles. Our friendship means so much more to me than some stupid crush."

Belle looked down and let more tears slip out of her eyes. He loved her so much he was willing to let her go. "Is that why you told me to come out her to New York?" She asked, looking back up at him. Alan cocked his head in confusion. "So you could get over your 'stupid crush'?"

Alan's eyes widened. "No, no, of course not Belles! I told you to go to New York because I knew that you could make something of yourself! I knew in my heart that you had the potential to do great things!" He took a long pause and looked at her sweetly, his green eyes shooting straight into her heart. "And I was right."

Belle smiled at him sadly. "I'm so sorry Alan." She finally choked out.

Alan looked at her with adoration. "Don't be sorry Belles. Don't ever be sorry. This doesn't change anything between us okay? We're still Big Al and Silver Belles, partners in crime!" He said cheerfully, trying to lighten the mood. Belle threw her head back and laughed. "That's the Anabelle Lee Costa I know." Alan added. "Now stop talking to me, and go and start getting ready for your new life of stardom, alright?"

Belle looked at her best friend and smiled. "Alright." She said softly.

Alan forced another smile on his face. "And Belles? Promise me one thing okay?"

Belle furrowed her brow. "What?"

He took in a deep breath and said, "Even if it gets tough, and even if you want to give up sometimes, keep following your dream. Promise me you'll do that. Do it for me. Okay?"

Belle bit her bottom lip to keep from crying again. "Promise." She whispered, almost inaudibly.

The screen went black as Alan shut his computer off.

***

"Guys she's been in there for a while, can I please check on her?" Niall pleaded.

"No." Liam said firmly, "She's probably talking to that Alan guy, give her her space."

Niall huffed in frustration and started walking to the bathroom door.

"Niall!" Zayn hissed. "We just said don't go--"

"I'm not!" Niall whispered harshly, "I'm just gonna give a listen..." With that, Niall put his ear against the door. He could hear a muffled male voice, probably Alan's, on the other side.

"...me one thing okay?"

"What?" He heard Belle ask.

There was a pause for a moment then Niall heard the guy say, "Even if it gets tough, and even if you want to give up sometimes, keep following your dream. Promise me you'll do that. Do it for me. Okay?"

There was another silent pause and Niall heard Belle sniffle sadly. "Promise," he thought he heard her say, but she said it so quietly he couldn't be positive.

Niall heard some movement from inside the bathroom. Then he could hear Belle crying. Without a second of hesitation, Niall knocked softly.

"Niall!" he heard Louis hiss at him.

Niall ignored him and said kindly through the door, "Belle? Belle are you alright?" No response, just more sniffling. He heard the water from the sink turn on. "We just wanna make sure you're alright love."

Suddenly the water shut off and Niall heard Belle unlock the door and felt the doorknob begin to turn slowly. He stepped back a little bit to let it swing open, and the other boys stood up as Belle filled up the doorway.

Her eyes were red around the rim, and there was water dripping from her eyelashes and nose where she had splashed water on her face to try and calm down. Her messy bun was starting to come down and there were brown strands of hair framing her face. Niall and the boys were surprised to see her...smiling.

"Belle," Harry said, stepping up beside Niall. "You alright?"

Belle turned to Harry and smiled again, but not showing her teeth. It was a forced smile, the could all tell. "Yes," her sweet voice rang out, "I'm fine. Actually, more than fine."

The boys all looked around at each other in confusion.

"Are you sure?" Louis said, "Because we--"

"Yepp." Belle interrupted hastily. "I'm sure. Hey, do you guys wanna go out tonight? Because I really wanna go out tonight." She said, abruptly stepping past Niall and Harry and making a beeline for her suitcase. She picked it up and sat it on the bed and began rummaging through it.

"Belle you don't have to pretend you're okay around us." Niall said kindly.

"Why don't we all just hang out here?" Liam suggested, "We don't have to go out."

Belle froze, a bright yellow shirt in her hand. She slowly looked up at Liam, who was on the other side of the bed from her, with his hands shoved in his pockets.

"Yes." She said slowly, but firmly. "We do."

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