The Cookie Girl. (edited version)

(A One Direction Fanfic) From the author of Cats, Kisses, And Wagon Wheels, here's Liam's story--The Cookie Girl!!! Esmée Minton knows a lot of things. Liam Payne isn't sure he knows anything anymore. When the two of them meet; it’s the worst possible situation and they are the worst people to meet. Or are they? ...

Actual real-life reviews I do not kid you:
"I am so captivated by this story! It's beautifully and amazingly written!" - "[Esmée] is my girl crush and she doesn't even exist!" - "This has to be the most adorable perfect thing I've ever read." - "I'm more invested in thsi story than in my own life. I love this; don't talk to me." - "I'm addicted to cocoa now."

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4. A shamrock and a notebook

A shamrock and a notebook

 

Liam

 

I have to leave the next day; and when I do, I take a shamrock and Esmée’s phone number with me, both glued into a pastel green notebook she gave me when I told her that I sometimes got ideas for songs but never really had anything to write them down with, so I forgot. “I got my first story-writing journal from my best friend’s grandmother,” she’d said. “I guess what I’m trying to say is not that I’m your best friend’s grandma, but that you can’t buy the first one yourself. You have to have it given to you as a present.” I think it’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever owned; with my name written in it with black felt pen and in a beautiful cursive (even though that literally took Esmée about a second to do and I honestly don’t know how she does it) and with the cover made of some really soft fabric.

What I leave in Ireland, though, is a pretty girl with a mind a lot like mine, and a snapback. Esmée practically stole it from me as what she called a “chance to get even because of the absolutely fabulous notebook someone just got as a present” and honestly, I don’t even mind that she has it, even though it is one of my favourites. I just hope that Louis never finds that out, or he will use that weird app he got recently to make whipping sounds at me with his phone. I know for a fact that he’s been itching to do that to someone and that he would jump at a chance.

My phone goes off and it actually takes me about two minutes to wake up from my dream-like state to grab it from the nightstand. Jetlag is a bitch and a half.

When I see that Esmée has texted me, I suddenly feel very awake.

It should be eleven for you know, so I assume you’re already awake … Good luck for today and hey guess where I am? X

I smile at how she’s not able to use text language and write back instantly (with grammar way better than my school essays, actually, and yes, the whipping sound app Louis got is appropriate):

Thanks!!! I don’t know .... where are you? X

The answer comes less than two seconds after my text is delivered.

I am at a tattoo parlour!!!!! Being a great moral support! x

Niall barges into my room when I just want to write back.

“There’s a weird guy at our door,” he says.

I roll my eyes. “Niall, I’ve told you like a thousand times not to call them that. They’re called bodyguards and they’re only doing their job, okay?”

“But he looks super creepy and I don’t know him,” Niall insists.

I’m in the midst of explaining to Niall why it’s necessary for us to have a lot of bodyguards—so many, even, that he can’t know the name of every single one of them because they don’t always stay the same—even though, yes, we do have the best fans in the world, when I get another text and I’m checking my phone quicker than you can say boyband.

This is freaking me out, Esmée texted me.

There is a picture attached to the text that makes me snort with laughter. At the tattoo parlour she has probably skimmed through the sample books and actually found tattoos of the boys and me. A double page of our individual faces and one with the group and the logo.

I show Niall the picture and he bursts out in laughter.

“She’s funny, that one,” he says, all bodyguard talk forgotten. “You should keep her.”

I should, shouldn’t I?

 

 

 

Esmée

 

To say that I’m surprised when I open the door would be a vast understatement.

“Liam?” I say, disbelieving.

But it really is a surprise to see him again after all the texts and phone calls, standing in the hallway to my tiny flat with his hands in his pockets. He looks great, I realize, while I, not that it’s a surprise by now, look like shit. He’s wearing a white t-shirt and dark jeans and still manages to look like an advert for, I don’t know, Levi’s or something, I guess, with his now even more grown-out hair somewhat in a Mohawk and his brown eyes glowing, looking way more awake than I am right now, at ten in the morning, after working a shift until five.

“Yeah,” he murmurs, sounding kind of nervous despite the fact that I, again, am the one looking like shit. “Hi, Esmée.”

It is then that I realize that it’s actually Liam and he’s here, at my flat, in Ireland, making time for me of all people, and I break out into a big smile.

“How do you do?” I ask, standing on my tiptoes to hug him.

“Fine, I guess,” he answers, hugging me back hesitantly.

I step back, feeling a bit rejected, and look at him. Something is a bit off, I decide, and I suddenly feel extremely ugly standing in front of him and scold myself for believing that he didn’t care.

“I’m sorry I look like death warmed up,” I start at the same time as he says, “I’m sorry for barging in on you,” and we both laugh nervously. Why is everything so awkward all of a sudden when we, after the whole kissing thing, actually became some sort of friends, at least in my books?

“Well, I was actually wondering if you had any time to spare right now.”

I shrug. “Yeah, sure, I’m free until tonight. I’ll just have to change or something… What do you want to do?”

He rubs hiss neck nervously. “I was wondering if you wanted to go out?”

“What.” It’s not even a real question.

He blushes a deep red, something I’ve never seen him do, and that sort of reassures me a bit; also, it’s the nicest thing I’ve ever seen.

“Yes… You and me. Having a cuppa.”

“We always do that, Liam. It’s not like you have to ask.” But I mentally do cross my fingers. A girl can hope, can’t she?

His blush can’t be missed now and his eyes dart around the room nervously, looking at anything but me. “No… I didn’t mean that. Not the way we always do, but just the two of us. You and me. Me asking you to go for a cup of tea with me.”

I gloat. “Like a date?”

“Like a date.”

I’m pretty sure my whole face lights up. “Great!” I walk to the door and realize I’m still in my trackies and a Hogwarts sweater. Well, that won’t do. I turn around and walk back into the living room where Liam is still sitting, trying his best not to laugh at me.

“Or it will be great once I’ve changed.”

He can’t hold it back now and starts laughing at me.

I pout. “Okay, while you laugh your pretty popstar-bum off, I’ll get ready. Give me a sec.”

Liam holds up his hands as if to say, ‘don’t rush, I’m cool’. I smile gratefully and rush back up the narrow spiral stairs to my room. Now, what to wear? I wonder for a split second. Then I notice that I’ve never even spared a thought about how I looked and I’ve certainly never worried about what to wear. Damn this boy. But if Liam didn’t even arch a brow at my current attire, he won’t really care. And if he really likes me, he won’t even notice what I’m wearing. I guess. He’s already seen me in my uniform as well and it doesn’t get worse than that. I put on a pair of dark skinny jeans and my distressed black batman shirt with the yellow stripes on the sleeves and shrug on a maroon cardigan that’s so dark it's almost black. I decide to at least put on a bit of mascara and some concealer and once that’s done, I grab my Jack Wills parka and rush down the narrow stairs while putting it on. I almost crash into Liam who is standing at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for me.

“I’m ready.” I flash him a smile.

He stares at me. “That wasn’t even fifteen minutes.”

“But I am!”

He blinks. “Okay, let’s go before this dream ends.”

Laughing, I let him pull me towards the door, stopping only to quickly put on my ankle boots.

“You know,” Liam says while we’re waiting for the elevator, “You’re exceptional. Aren’t you acting against some girl code if you take less than an hour to get ready?” He starts playing with the fingers of my right hand that’s entwined with his.

I laugh. I’ve noticed that I laugh a lot when I’m around Liam.

“But I’ve even put make-up on!” I close my eyes lightly and point to my lashes. “See?”

He doesn’t say anything, and then his lips meet mine in a kiss that has a strange familiarity to it, like we know each other and we know every part of each other and like we’ve kissed like this many times but still can’t get enough but revel in how we know this. And for a brief moment there’s this doubt in my mind—this is okay to do, isn’t it? Because we are on a date, right? Right???—which vanishes when his fingers sneak into my hair. We’re interrupted by the elevator arriving and I quickly break away and rush into it, smiling coyly at Liam who’s still standing on my floor.

“You coming?”

He huffs and gets into the elevator.

“It shouldn’t be allowed for you to be this adorable, that’s simply it,” he says.

I smile and press the button for the lobby, blushing.

“Ask Clary, she still thinks I’m going on 40.”

He shrugs. “But you are cute.”

“That’s twice you’ve called me cute in less than a minute, watch it or this is getting to my head,” I joke.

Liam grins and takes my hand again.

“How are we even going to walk around out there?” I change the topic.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, how are people not going to recognize you?”

His face lights up. “Oh!” He digs around in his pockets and pulls out a dark brown wig with unruly hair that’s longer than his own which he puts on, as well as fake sideburns. I laugh at the way he looks putting them on, but my laughter subsides when he turns to me. How does this lad manage to look absolutely lush in everything, even a scruffy haircut and sideburns? It’s not fair.

“Where did you even get those?” I ask him.

“This is my normal guy disguise,” he explains, making me laugh. “I don’t want anyone to recognize me today.”

“Well then, normal guy,” I say, pulling at his hand, “Let’s go have a normal date, James.”

He laughs and I pull him across the lobby, almost bumping into Will because I turn to grin at Liam.

“Oh, hey Will!”

He smiles knowingly. “Have fun, Esmée. But don’t you spend your days on that tumblr machine?”

Liam turns to me, grinning, and I blush furiously.

“You are so not getting anything for your birthday,” I groan. I know that Will knows exactly what I blog about on ‘that tumblr machine’ and I also know he knows who Liam is.

“I never wished for anything for my birthday.”

I scrunch up my nose. “Well, then you’re so getting something. Like a pair of socks. Like the worst present ever.”

He laughs and ushers us out, smiling.

“His birthday’s in three weeks,” I explain to Liam as we’re walking down the road, hand in hand.

He raises an eyebrow. “That tumblr machine, huh? How did I not know this?”

I groan and cover my face with my hands. “I do not want to talk about this. Really not.”

“It’s not some really naughty oneshots blog, is it?”

I almost choke. “Nope, just me and my fangirling.”

“That’s nice...” Suddenly, Liam stops. It takes me a while to realize and I’m actually pulled back by our entwined hands.

“What is it?” I ask.

He points to my left where a Disney store has just opened last week. It’s all bright and bubbly and I’ve been wanting to go in for as long as it’s been clear they were going to build it.

“Do you mind if we go in for a second?”

I nod my head. “Jep,” I say and his face falls. He’s already making to leave again when I hold him back and grin at him. “We have to stay at least a minute.”

Liam smiles brightly and I pull him into the store. Wow. I’ve been to the USA once and that was when I first saw a Disney store. I am overwhelmed by the amazingness of it. It’s indescribable.

“Do you mind if I look for something really quickly?” Liam says next to my ear. “I’ll be right back.”

I wave it off absentmindedly and continue to stare at the film scene sketches that make up an entire wall.

“Wow,” I whisper.

“It’s quite cool, innit?”

I turn to see a lad about my age. He is really tall, but gangly as well; not as well-built as Liam. His blond hair is ruffled and his blue eyes sparkle.

“Justin!” I call out and hug him. “You’re back in town?”

Justin grins and hugs me back. “Yeah, I just got this job. It’s the best thing ever.” He holds me at an arm’s length and looks me over. “Wow, look at you, lass. Getting prettier every day, are we?”

I laugh and shake my head, punching him playfully in the arm.

“Sod off, old charmer.”

“And as bubbly as ever,” he comments, ruffling my hair. “You been published yet?”

Justin is an old school friend of mine; we’ve known each other since we were little kids. We came to Dublin together and while I started working at the Anne, he got a job at the Plaza. Only he hated it. So after half a year, when he inherited quite a bit, he decided to do a classical Justin Fuck All and travel to Spain where he continued writing. While we’re both aspiring authors, Justin writes Fantasy (all sorts of Fantasy) and I stick to typical chick-lit: romantic laughs and some slight creeps.

I shake my head. “Naw, you?”

“Nope, but I’ve met really fit birds o’er there.”

I laugh loudly because Justin may be the biggest flirt, but he’s also very gay. It’s not like anyone really knows. You only know if you know.

“But didn’t you get some?” he asks me and I blush furiously.

“His name’s Liam,” I tell him.

He scoffs. “Oh fucking hell, girl, I know his name. If there something going on?”

I smile. “Maybe. He may or may not also be here with me.”

He hugs me fiercely. “Good for you, babe,” he whispers in my ear. “You’re prettier than Peazer.” Of course he has to say that because he’s my best friend, but still I almost scoff at that because, honestly, have you seen Danielle? I would give my left pinkie to look like her.

Someone clears their throat next to us and we break away. Liam is standing less than a yard away, his eyebrows raised. I know what he’s thinking, but he’s too much of a sweetheart to say anything. Only that means I can’t correct him.

“Uhm, uh, this is Justin, an old friend of mine. Justin, this is … James, my date.” It sounds a bit like a question.

Justin winks at me. “James, huh? Nice name, mate. This one’s a goldie.” He wiggles his eyebrows at me and I smack him playfully.

“Though a bit violent,” he adds.

I roll my eyes and lace my fingers through Liam’s again. He seems a bit unwilling at first, but then his hand moulds into mine again. I smile at him. He smiles back, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“Well, Jus, we’ll have to go. We really need to catch up sometime, though, about Spain.”

Justin grins at me. “Yeah, and have some cookie—” I interrupt him by stepping on his foot as hard as I can. “—ssssssss,” he exhales.

“Bye, Justin.”

Liam murmurs something that might have been a goodbye, and we’re off again. Once we’re outside, I notice the bag he’s got in his hand.

“Oh, you bought something?”

He still seems a bit grumpy, but he smiles. “Yes.” He hands me the bag. “It’s for you, but I expect you to let me watch it with you.”

I flash him a bright smile before cautiously peeking into the bag. I turn to Liam again and gawk.

“You actually found one for me?”

He shrugs, but there’s a tint of red on his cheeks. “Can’t have your roommate destroying your favourite movie, can I?”

I startle him (and me, honestly) by actually throwing myself at him and planting a kiss on his lips.

“Thank you so much!” I squeal and kiss him again. It was meant to be a quick peck, but he pulls me to him and it turns into a whole-hearted make-out session on the streets of Dublin. When we break away for air, we’re both flushed.

“Come on,” he says and tugs me further down the street. “Let’s go.”

I catch up to him. “I’m sorry for that,” I say.

Liam looks at me. “Please never be sorry for being perfect.”

I blush. “I’m not perfect. I’m an extremely imperfect person.”

“But you’re perfect to me,” he says, all serious eyes and warm hand grabbing mine. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the way he looks at me, and I decide that he’s perfect to me, too. Not the way he was before, on this pedestral, but it seems like he was actually made just for me, for his personality to fit mine like we used to be one person, only not quite, qualities complementing each other.

“Well, I’m not going to question that because clearly, I’m benefitting from this.”

Liam chuckles and lets go of my hand for a second to avoid crashing into an old lady with shopping bags.

“You’re actually perfect.”

I blush. “Where are we going, though?” I ask him to change the topic. I’m pretty sure he notices, but he humours me.

“I don’t really know anything but Starbucks in this city, so I’d actually be really grateful if you knew a place. You always know places.” It is now that I realize that he probably didn’t have any time to plan this properly; that he came right away to see me; and it makes me smile.

“Great!” Now I am the one pulling him by his hand. “I know this cosy tearoom; it's just adorable! Justin’s cousin owns it.”

I notice how Liam stiffens a bit, but tug him along anyway. It’s not far to the Hughes Tea Rooms. Justin’s cousin Anna and her husband Nick opened them less than three years ago and they’re more like a secret spot for students in the city. A nice cuppa isn’t such a grip-off like in other tearooms and the rooms are nicely done. They’re not really famous, but quite well-known amongst students.

“We’re here,” I announce and stop in front of the familiar sign. It’s not crowded at all today and I look at Liam. I really want to know if he likes this sort of stuff or not. Because I do.

Luckily, he smiles. “This is really cute.”

I gloat. “I know, right? Come on.”

We go inside and are immediately greeted by Anna.

“Oh hey, Mint! Long time no see, huh?” Anna is pregnant again and her belly is round and swollen. She still looks absolutely stunning. She’s got the same blue eyes as Justin, but her hair is a few shades darker. I feel a bit bad for not having been around for so long.

“How are you, Anna?” I ask, smiling at her. “How long?”

She grins. “Less than two months.” She seems to only notice Liam now and holds out her hand. “Hi, I’m Anna.”

“James,” he says. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Anna gives me an impressed glance. I am usually not really lucky with lads.

“Keep a hold on that one, babe,” she says quietly, but I’m pretty sure Liam can hear her. I blush.

“Look, Anna, is there any way we could, you know, be a bit off?” I ask her quietly.

She nods. “Sure. You can have your favourite table if you want; I haven’t opened upstairs yet because it’s quite low right now. Just hop up.”

I smile gratefully. “Cheers, Anna.”

“No problem. Should I bring you cocoa upstairs?”

I smile “Yup. Li- uh, James?”

“Could I have some tea please?” he asks. “Strong, two sugars.”

Anna grins. “Sure. Now shoo.”

“She’s really nice,” Liam comments as we walk up the narrow stairs to the second floor.

I nod. “She’s awesome.”

“So where do you want to sit?”

I motion to the table at the corner of the window. You can look outside, but because of the way the tearooms are built, not a lot of people can see you. It’s my favourite table.

“I’d like to sit over there if you don’t mind. Plus, by the time the students start coming in, we’ll be a bit private, popstar.”

He chuckles and takes my coat and puts it up together with his, taking off the wig as well.

“I love your shirt.”

Oh right, the Batman tee.

“It’s my favourite,” I say sheepishly.

“That’s because Batman’s the thing.” Oh thank the Lord.

I nod solemnly. “Isn’t he though? Wait, which one is your favourite; George Clooney or Christian Bale?”

Liam squints at me. “You can’t just ask me that!”

I smile. “And that, dear Sir, was the right answer.”

He pretends to wipe his forehead and I laugh.

“This is actually so much better than Starbucks,” he says, looking over the narrow cobbled street.

I grin at him. “Innit though? Anna and Nick have had it for about three years, they’re brill.”

“Why does she call you Mint, though?”

“Oh, it’s because my last name is Minton and I like After Eight ice cream, I guess. When Justin and I met, I had a really bad lisp, so he thought my name was Mint because I pronounced Esmée so badly. It sort of rubbed off.”

Suddenly, Liam seems more serious again. “You said she’s related to Justin?”

I nod. “Justin’s been my best friend since like forever. We grew up together over in London, before my aunt moved to Ireland. Then we promised each other to go to Dublin once we’d finished school.”

“Did it work?”

“Yes, but Justin quit when his great-aunt died and he inherited. He travelled a bit; today was actually the first time I’ve seen him in a year, I suppose. He’s like my brother, though.” Another not-so-subtle hint that we’re not the way you think we are, Liam.

Liam frowns a bit, but doesn’t say anything.

Okay, so I’ll make it blunt. “I don’t think about Justin in that way.”

“Sorry?”

I look at Liam and lean a bit over the table to poke his arm. “I’ve never fancied Justin.” There you go, Liam.

He looks surprised. “You never…?”

I laugh. “For God’s sake, Liam. Do you think I’d go out with you if I liked Jus? I’m not like that.”

He doesn’t seem entirely convinced.

“Besides, I’m not his type,” I add. “Not. His type.”

Liam’s eyes widen a bit and then he lets his head fall into his hands. He’s finally got it. His shoulders shake in silent laugher at himself.

He shakes his head. “I’ve made such a classic fool of myself, haven’t I?”

I smile. “Just a tiny bit.”

“You’re amazing.”

“Stop it or my head won’t fit through the door.”

Anna interrupts his laughter as she comes waddling up the stairs with a tray in her hand. Liam gets up and takes the tray from her immediately and she raises her eyebrows at me. I shrug. Liam’s a great lad, what can I say?

‘Keeper,’ she mouths while he sets down my cocoa in front of me and I giggle.

“Thanks, darling,” she tells Liam as he hands her back her tray.

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s more than my husband can do,” she jokes. That is not true, by the way. Nick all but tip-toes around her. “So, can I get you loves anything? Scones, shortbread, Madeleines?”

I look at Liam. “Scones? Because personally, I’ve only had breakfast and it's half two now.”

He nods. “Can you make that two?”

“Sure,” Anna smiles. “Oh, and the lot will probably be here any sec; there was some thing on the campus, so they’ll be right around.” With that, she leaves us.

“Wait, I didn’t put my wig back on.” Liam groans. “I am so bad at this incognito thing.”

I wave it off. “Anna doesn’t tell. And I think she got it the moment we walked through that door, to be honest. Everyone’s read the article.”

“About the article, I never got to apologize for it…”

I shrug. “I’m fine.”

“Because I’m so, so sorry about this.”

“I really am fine.”

“How can you be fine with this, I—”

“I haven’t checked my twitter in ages,” I interrupt him. “Well, I’ve read one sugarscape article. I look horrid in my uniform.”

Liam chuckles into his cup of tea. “That’s the right way, though.”

“I’m one of them, they physically can’t hate me. I have a tumblr. It's not allowed.”

“You never told me what you tumblr really was about.”

“Actually, I never told you I had a tumblr in the first place. With a reason, I might add.”

He just looks at me.

I pout. “Can we not go into that?”

“Nope, sorry.”

I sigh. “Fine. Okay. So I write fanfic, okay. So I fangirl about your face, okay? Are you happy?”

“Very.”

“Butthead.”

“Cheers.”

I’m about to answer something very witty when students start to file in.

“And this is why you’re sitting on the chair facing the window,” I tell Liam as he’s frantically digging in his pockets to find his wig. “They can’t even actually see you.  We’ll be left alone. See? All’s okay.”

“Essie!”

I cock my head to the side. “And yet…”

Liam just glares at me and finally puts on his wig, but it’s pretty obvious he just can’t be mad at me.

I force a smile as Maxie hugs me. She’s sort of a friend of mine. Sort of, because I actually don’t really feel comfortable around her. But then again, I don’t feel comfortable around a lot of people.

“So, I don’t really want to disturb you seeing as you finally are going out for a date,” Thanks, Maxie, I hate you, too. “But my Mum’s birthday is on Friday and I sort of need you to make a cake.” Maxie runs a long, slender hand through her short blonde hair. “It’d have to be chocolate with pink icing and yeah, about fifty quid are okay.”

You see, I do cake decorations in my free time. I love baking and it also gives me a bit extra so I’ll save up faster. You know, book dreams and all.

Maxie is a really demanding person, so I just shrug. “Yeah, sure, I guess,” I mumble. What else should I say?

She grins, but that’s when Liam butts in. “Uhm, sorry, but she can’t. I’m taking you out on Friday,” he adds as an explanation for me.

I beam at him.

“She said yes,” Maxie bitches back. “I mean, who are you anyways?”

Liam opens his mouth, but I’m faster.

“Well, now I’m saying no, so thanks for the offer and I would’ve loved to, but no thanks.” Wow. This is actually the first time I’ve stood up to Maxie—or anyone, really, for that matter—and it feels awesome. I should really do this more often.

Maxie’s about just as surprised as I am and leaves without saying one more thing. I am basically gloating as I sit back down.

“That was great,” I admit to Liam who is smiling at me. “Am I a bad person for liking that just now?”

He shakes his head. “You have to stand up to people a bit more. I don’t get it—you’re such a witty person and this girl turns up and you’re all shy. Is there something about you two?”

I blush furiously and shake my head. “No, more something about you. That was me being normal. Well, minus the talking back thing.”

He looks surprised, but recovers soon enough. “Well, then it’s even better that I’m planning on sticking around for a while.”

We smile at each other and are only ripped out of that bubble when Anna sets down four scones and two cupcakes.

“You two have to try the cupcakes. Happy super-late birthday. And… sorry for interrupting what seemed like a moment there, I’ll be gone.”

Liam laughs and spreads butter on a scone with cheese in it while I pick up one of the cupcakes and eye it in suspicion.

“It looks so nice; I don’t want to eat it,” I comment and put it to the side again. In stead I grab one of my scones and put some clotted cream and then jam on it.

“I’m from the south,” I explain shrugging as Liam raises an eyebrow. “We used to always go on holiday in Somerset and Devon, so there’s no way to get past that.”

He still doesn’t look convinced.

“It’s good, I swear.” I hand him the scone and he bites off a bit.

“This is actually nice,” he comments, handing it back to me.

I lick some jam off my index finger, smiling. “I told you, didn’t I?”

“I was serious about Friday, by the way. We’re doing a promo interview, but we’ll also perform some songs. So I thought you might want to come and we could go to dinner after that.”

I stare at Liam. How can a lad be so perfect and be so perfect to me? Noticing my hesitation, Liam’s smile falls.

“Unless, of course, you don’t want to. I understand, I mean…”

I interrupt him by shaking my head furiously. “No way, you’re not getting rid of me now! I’d absolutely love to!”

He breathes out in relief and flashes me a grin. “So where would you like to eat?”

I crinkle my nose in thought. “I sort of feel like having Chinese, to be honest. Like, lemon chicken, actually. Do you fancy Chinese?”

He nods. “Chinese is great.”

“Great!”

I notice Liam has finished both of his scones and silently push my plate over to him.

“I get the cupcakes, though,” I answer to his questioning glance and he smiles a thank you.

“Esmée?”

“Yeah?”

“So when you said you’re from the South … does your family still live there?”

I shake my head. “Nope. My aunt Mia and I moved to Castlemaine when I got my GCSEs so I went to college here in Ireland as well. But we’re actually from the city.”

“So you’re officially still a brit?”

I grin at him. “All hail Queen Elizabeth!”

Liam laughs. It’s a full-on, head-thrown-back laugh and it makes me giddy.

“No way!” someone exclaims. “Leeyum is laughing? The world shall end.”

I look at Liam who looks like he’s in serious pain and slowly turns to look at his bandmates. Incognito, of course. These boys have really mastered the art of disguises.

“Lads, do you always have to do that?” His voice is a bit strained.

Louis shakes his head vigorously and plops down on the bench next to me, putting an arm around me. “We only did that … you’re right, sorry not sorry.” I try to scoot away from Louis as subtly as possible. For one, because I’m not that much of a touchy person with random people. Two, because Liam looks like he wants to murder someone and I really wouldn’t want him ending up in jail because I am actually liking this date. He seems to be a bit of a jealous person, but weirdly enough, I don’t even care too much.

I laugh and shake my head. “We might as well just go now; are you finished, Liam?”

He nods, shooting Louis a glare.

“Okay, I’ll go pay Anna and you guys sneak out through the back entrance,” I decide. “You’re such imbeciles people are bound to notice you. Just go to the end of that corridor and down the stairs; Anna and Nick won’t mind.”

Liam scratches the back of his neck nervously. “I may or may not have already paid for everything.”

I stare at him. “Tell me you’re kidding.”

“I tipped her as well if that makes it better.”

I throw my hands up. “It does not! I dragged you here, you can’t just pay! When did you do that anyway? I did not see you pay … how…”

He bites his lip. “When you were looking at the cupcake.”

I glare at him. “You are the worst kind of person.”

“That hurt,” Louis comments.

I squint at him. “You might want to shut your pie hole right about now.”

“Liam, your gurlfrand is being mean to me!” I roll my eyes at his attempt at an American accent.

“Never do that again,” Zayn tells him seriously. “Ever.”

I giggle and usher them to the back entrance, waving down that stairs at Anna who, in turn, blows me a kiss. When we finally arrive on the small, cobbled street, Liam turns to his bandmates with a sigh.

“You lads know I love you, but bugger off. I am begging you.”

Niall pouts. “But I need to test the elevator cookie.”

Zayn actually face-palms.

“Am I the elevator cookie?” I ask.

Louis nods. “Well, Liam had an elevator girl and a cookie girl, and we couldn’t really decide on one.”

I nod slowly, my eyebrows raised. “Thanks.” Then I remember what Niall said. “Wait, why do you have to test me? I’m not sure if I agree to that kind of testing.”

That earns me a laugh from Niall.

Zayn shakes his head. “He was laughing; like a proper laugh,” he reasons, his Yorkshire accent thick. “I think she passed.”

Niall nods. “Fair enough.”

“Thank you.”

I giggle at how exasperated Liam sounds. The boys finally leave with one last wink from Harry and I turn to Liam who is rubbing his face with one hand.

“I am so sorry,” he says. “This is embarrassing.”

I smile and pry his hand away from his face, holding on to it. “It’s okay.”

“No, really, I mean, I live with them, so the stuff they do doesn’t really bother me massively anymore, but they’re the worst kind of friends; and I say that with all my love.”

“Don’t worry; it was sort of funny. Plus, you look adorable when you’re embarrassed.”

“Please don’t ever call me adorable again.”

“And I like jealous Liam; he’s actually kind of hot.”

Liam frowns. “I was jealous, wasn’t I?”

I nod. “Without any proper reason as well.”

“It’s just … his arm.”

I squeeze his hand and grin at him. “Again, it’s flattering, I s’pose. So where do you want to go now?”

He shrugs. “Do you have the time?”

I check my watch. “It’s almost four.”

He nods. “Okay, I need to be back in about half an hour, so do you mind if we start walking back?”

“Not at all. We could walk through the park which is slightly longer but nicer as well. Plus we’ve got the time.”

Liam nods in approval and we start walking again, our entwined hands swinging back and forth between us.

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