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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2. Why, hello there

Why, hello there.

 

My name is Esmée Minton, and even though that sounds really special as a name, I’m not. Special, I mean.

I'm awkward and shy and weird... I'm not good with my words, especially around guys I like. I hope one day someone gets me. Like, actually gets me; someone who is like me and understands the way I feel and the way I talk because it doesn’t make any sense and someone who likes me and lets me bake them cookies and spoil them and loves me for who I am. That would be nice.

I don’t think that’ll ever happen, though, to be honest.

I’ve lived with my aunt Mia for all I can remember—my parents died in a car crash when I was three. Mia is a nice lady, and she really doesn’t deserve to have to put up with a kid like me. You see, I’m not the greatest kid for a woman who’s always been in the front row. Because, you know that girl who sits at the end of every row at school and who spends her break drinking hot chocolate and reading because nobody wants to talk to her? Yeah, that’s me on the whole. Mia was the popular kid when she was in school—you know, Prom Queen and all that. She’s really nice and she tries really hard, and I feel a bit sorry for her for getting stuck with me when she was only twenty-five. I basically destroyed her life, even though she denies it.

So when I finished school, I came here. By here I mean the Éireann Hotel in Dublin. We’re not the Plaza, but we’re well posh as well, and the staff is nicer. Mia lives in Castlemaine in Kerry, but our family is actually from London. (The dodgy end. Not the posh shops and five-star-hotels, but the tiny houses squeezed together.)

I’ve got it all planned out—I’m going to work here until I’ve finished a book of mine—I want to be a writer—and get it published and then I’ll marry at twenty-something and have three kids and hopefully, live happily ever after. Maybe get a dog, preferably a Labrador, because I love Labradors to no end.

I’m one of these people that plan a lot and know every teensy detail about everything in their lives. Sometimes, that annoys even me.

I work for the room service here at the hotel and even though I have to wear an awful uniform that makes me look about as attractive as a bug, I love my job. I love seeing people every day, having a sneek-peek into their lives. It helps me with my stories, you know. I get loads of new ideas because I see so many different characters every day, and I hear so many stories because, well, as a member of the staff, you hear everything. You know everything. It’s because when you’re wearing that maroon uniform that makes me look so hideous, you’re basically invisible. Rich people don’t notice the help.

As I step into the foyer, I let out a sigh. I love the way it smells in the “Anne” as the staff calls it. It's a mixture of the flowers Louise who is responsible for the decoration puts on the tables, the posh parquet cleaning liquid, freshly printed paper and expensive perfume and aftershave; it's a smell that would distinguish the Dublin Éireann from every other hotel in the world and that is a little bit different every day and I love it so much it makes me breathe in really deep every time I go into the hotel.

I wave at Will, the concierge, and take a sip of my freshly made Starbucks. Oh no, not coffee. Cocoa. I’m a cocoa person. I know it has too much sugar, and it makes you fat, and it doesn’t even have the advantage of getting you awake like coffee and tea do, but I really love how it warms you right up and I love the chocolatey taste and how it makes you feel like a little kid again; and maybe a bit like a better person as well, because who can be a bad person when they have hot chocolate to drink?

Will nods at me, clearly happy I’m back. I think I’m his favourite, to be quite honest. Will has been at this hotel for probably as long as I live, and besides looking after every guest’s needs, he also takes care of most of the staff. He used to work for the Plaza actually, but where the Éireann isn’t as big in its reputation, it’s just as posh and the people are nicer, or so he says. He’s got the Lord look going for him—greyish-white hair, a moustache, twinkling blue eyes. He is as posh as can be, but he’ll always help you carry a sofa without even breaking into sweat. Will is the most amazing person I know. I think he likes me because I’m quiet, which is a thing most girls who work here lack. I don’t argue, I don’t complain, I like working night shifts. I’m easy, and I’m always punctual and friendly. That's not me being arrogant; it's just how it is.

I press the button for the small elevator (which isn’t really the “staff elevator”, but it sort of is) and wait, tapping my foot nervously. I don’t like elevators. There are only two things I really, really don’t like: small, confined spaces and crowds. Which obviously makes it a brilliant idea to work in a hotel, you’d think, but that’s why I do room service; it's the job for the quiet ones who don’t like people; it’s like it’s made for girls like me. I like people, just not a lot of them at once.

While I’m waiting, I pull off my hood and open my thick coat. It’s storming outside; a ridiculously cold and shitty weather for the end of May. I wiggle my ice-cold toes and think about a warm shower and my bed and Jane Austen. It's a nice thought. A guy stands next to me and I turn quickly to smile at him, but it’s not long enough for me to see what he looks like; it’s just common courtesy.

Someone taps me on the shoulder and I shrink back automatically before turning. It’s Leila, one of the loudest and most out-there girls I know. Coincidentally, she does room service as well. I fail to understand why. She seems more like a waitress person to me. Maybe she was too obnoxious for them, I think, but scold myself for being rude.

“Hey,” she greets me, a huge grin on her face as always. She’s always happy, and while most of the time it's very obnoxious, it’s quite cute as well.

“Hi,” I say back, taking another sip of my cocoa to calm my nerves for facing the elevator.

“So, I was wondering, and I know you have all week off, obviously, because you just got back from your aunt’s, but I really have this thing tonight I can’t miss, you see, One Direction are in town and I can’t miss Liam’s twitcam, because maybe he’ll finally notice me and that would be super awesome because then he’ll fall in love with me and we’ll marry and have lots of sex and babies, anyways, I really, really can’t work tonight, it would be a disaster and I’m sorry, I’ve already asked everyone else, otherwise I wouldn’t bother you, but—”

I shake my head, smiling. “Sure I’ll take your shift,” I interrupt her.

Leila has this adorable but hugely annoying habit of speed-talking and never stopping for air, as well as making sentences so long nobody could ever follow them. She is quite the confusing person.

“Really?” She looks like I just actually saved her life.

I nod. “Come on, everyone in this hotel knows how much you love One Direction, and I really don’t mind working. At all.” I wouldn’t mind watching a twitcam by mine truly, but I really need to stop my fangirling. Almost as much as I need to get my thoughts off my awesome late-birthday celebrations with my aunt Mia. That was sarcasm, by the way.

She hugs me fiercely. I am a hugger myself, but this is just dangerous. If you knew Leila’s hugs, you’d know how much they hurt. As I said, she’s very much out there.

“Thanks so much!” she squeals. Ouch. “Really, I am so grateful!” In that moment, the elevator bings.

“Go on,” I grin. “Run and stalk some boyband.”

“Thanks!” she calls again and then she’s already almost out the door. She’s fast with everything. Like a pixie.

When I enter the elevator, I sigh loudly. She does get on your nerves.

I nod, rubbing my eyes and managing to actually rub my contact lens out of my eye. Well, that was an idiot move. I am practically blind without my contacts, but it’s even worse with just one in because that means that I might just as well start feeling my way around. My contacts are monthly lenses I change once the month is over. I can keep them in even while I’m sleeping, so virtually nobody even knows I wear them.

“Oh holy fudgecake,” I swear and start patting the floor fantically.

“Are you okay?” the guy asks. His voice sounds familiar and I am totally sure I’ve heard it somewhere before, but I can’t really place it. I’m still patting the floor like a lunatic even thought it won’t really help, actually, because if I find my contact lens by patting my hand onto it, I’ll also break it.

“I lost a contact,” I explain and let my hands rest on the floor. “And I’m positive I won’t find it, to be fair.” I get up again and look at him the best I can. He sounds like he’s about my age; he’s quite tall and he has very short brown hair he’s covering up with the hood of his thick knitted jacket. It’s almost the same colour as the pullover I’m knitting for myself right now, a dark grey-ish green. Doesn’t sound pretty, but it is. He’s now pulling off the sunglasses he was wearing until now. (Sunglasses? In a hotel foyer? Well, I’ve seen weirder things here.) I’m quite sure I’ve seen him before. There is no way I wouldn’t remember meeting him.

“Should I help you find it?” he asks helpfully.

I shake my head. “It’s no use, I’ll just have to put in my extra as soon as I’m in my flat. You might want to look away now, by the way, this is gonna be gross,” I add and get out my container to put the other contact lens in it. I may be blind, but having only one contact in feels weird as hell.

“Your friend seems very dedicated,” he says next to me.

“We love that band, One Direction. She’s like their über-fan; there’s not a minute she doesn’t fill me up on stuff about them when we’re working together. That’s how she got me started.”

“She seems to be quite smitten, yes,” he smiled.

Oh holy, I may not be able to see much, but let me tell you that when that boy smiles it’s like baby Jesus being born! And I’m not even religious.

I laugh. “You’ve no idea, she is so in love with Liam Payne she knows everything about him, I swear. And she constantly tells me stuff, so now I even know his favourite cheese is gorgonzola, it’s disturbing.”

He chuckles (which is even better than him smiling, I decide). “I take it you’re not a fan, then.”

I shrug and have some more cocoa. “I do like gorgonzola, it’s quite nice.”

He laughs and shakes his head, and of course I understood what he really meant, so I answer him properly.

“I am, actually, just not in public. I’m even embarrassed admitting it to myself. At some point, Leila dragged me into this fandom and getting out of it is about as easy as walking on thin air. And I already trip on flat, even surfaces. I mean, I never even wanted this. Do I look like I wanted to stay up until one a.m. even when I don’t have to work, or like I wanted to cry over songs; all I wanted was to know their names! It’s like you don’t even have a choice, you see? The fandom. Chooses. You.”

He stares at me.

I frown. “I’m ranting, aren’t I? God, I’m sorry, ignore the girl behind the curtain.”

To my surprise, he laughs. “Oz references, classy. And no, I just thought that finally, I actually get all the craziness behind all this. There are just some well mean girls as well; those who send hate and threaten to kill people when they say they don’t like One Direction.”

“I’m not like that; those girls actually genuinely scare me,” I say. “I just, like, listen to their music and make jokes about their weirdness and have occasional crying sessions over songs they sing. And hide my obsession. Just, you know, a bubble that floats around in the blue, blue sky.”

I can practically hear him smile. “That’s what fans should be like, and I think almost all are actually just like you. They’re actually all really adorable.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Favourite. Cheese. That’s not adorable. I feel violated by this fandom.”

“Yeah, I admit that's weird.”

“Then again, She’s The Man says people should talk about cheese,” I argue, and he laughs again.

That’s when the lights go out and the elevator stops.

I’m not kidding.

It actually stops.

I’m going to die.

And I can’t even see properly.

I’m going to die without my contact lenses.

I was fine while I was talking with him, but now, my panic hits me again like a car.

“Shite,” I say. My voice even sounds thin and shaky to me.

He frowns. “You okay?”

“No!” I lean against the wall and slide down on it slowly until I’m sitting on the floor. “I’m not! I’m stuck in an elevator! A bloody elevator!” I think I’m starting to hyperventilate.

The boy pushes the help button (or at least I guess so because I am still as good as blind) and talks to some person on a line for a while, but I can’t hear anything because of the bells in my ears. He then sits down next to me.

“Claustrophobic?” he asks.

I nod, my eyes pressed shut.

He gently takes the cup out of my hands and puts it on the floor next to me. I stare at it. I made it myself, and it’s a very nice cup. It’s one of these Thermos mugs you can put pictures and designs in. The design I have right now is of one of  One Direction’s songs, Little Things. As I said, I like them, especially the songs Ed Sheeran wrote; Ed Sheeran is something like God in my world. Okay, so I don’t like them. I love them. I fangirl.

“So it won’t help if I tell you now that they’ve lost power because of the snowstorm and the generator should kick in any second?”

“It won’t.”

We sit there in silence for a while, until he starts talking again.

“A friend of mine is claustrophobic. It’s really bad for him… and it always helps if we talk to him, because it’s distraction.” I motion for him to keep talking, but my eyes are still closed.

He doesn’t, but then I can feel his hands on the sides of my face. I open my eyes slowly to find him staring at me. On a closer look (I’m short sighted, so a closer look actually helps me a lot), his eyes are really mesmerizing.  They are an incredibly deep chocolatey-brown colour and framed by long lashes I really envy him for. The feeling that I know him somewhere gets more prominent, but I’m distracted by the way he’s looking at me in a way nobody’s ever looked at me—like I’m something else, like I’m special, and in a good way.

“I hope this is not how you distract your friend, because that would be weird,” I say.

He laughs hoarsely. “It’s not.”

I notice how his eyes keep flickering to my lips and then back to my eyes. I bite my lower lip and he lets out a small noise.

“Good.” My voice is almost a whisper. I notice I’m staring at his lips as well. They are nice lips.

His face is coming closer and closer. “Good that we…” he licks his lips, “established that…”

I nod. My breath is coming fast and shallow.

And then his lips are on mine and it’s like fire and ice at the same time, like a fountain of happiness bubbling, like nuclear bombs full of rainbows and butterflies go off. It’s a real, open-mouthed kiss, and it’s slow and sweet and makes me forget who I am and what I’m doing here and where here is anyways because I cannot concentrate on anything but how good this feels. He digs his hands into my hair and I sigh into the kiss, while it’s like my brain isn’t even functioning anymore because every coherent thought is banned from it and all I can think probably sounds something like ‘Mmh’ and ‘this is nice’ and ‘more’.

I gently bite down on his lower lip and he makes a hoarse noise in the back of his throat, intensifying the kiss and making it more passionate. It’s still slow but it’s lost its sweet edge—it has become sensual, electrifying. His tongue glides over the back of my teeth and then swirls around mine and I gasp and pull him closer to me at the nape of his neck, caressing his soft, short hair. His hand forms a fist in my hair and it hurts a little; I don’t even care and it seems like he did it unintentionally anyways because he loosens his grip right away. His other hand travels down my back while our lips never even part, and it comes to a rest on the small of my back. He presses me to him, there is nothing between us. But we need to be closer, always closer, clutching to each other like we need to breathe and this kiss is the air. I turn my whole body to him now rather than just my head; and I etch one of my legs over his waist. This gives us even less space, even more closeness, more of this. His hand wanders from my back, down and over my bum, until it comes to a rest on my thigh, where he holds my leg in place. I hook my arms around his neck.

The elevator dings and I pull away immediately, astonished at what I just did. We’re on the 17th floor, my floor. I hadn’t even realised the elevator had started going again. I dash out of the closing elevator doors and make a run for my tiny room.

I did not just snog a guest. An incredibly handsome guest, but nevertheless a guest. I am so going to hell for this.

And I even forgot my cocoa.

As soon as I enter my room, I let the door fall shut behind me and I sit of the floor, leaning against it. What did I just do? I bang my head against the wood, and then I realise that I was sitting just like this in the elevator where …

I don’t even know his name. The girl who snogs people in elevators, that’s not me. I don’t do that. I just … I don’t.

I shake my head to free me from these thought and glance at my watch. I’ve still got three hours until my shift starts; enough time to have a long, hot shower and a fresh cuppa with a biscuit, maybe even some pages of Jane Austen.

I’ll do anything to forget the elevator incident.

Anything, really.

 

 

Liam.

 

I don’t do things like snogging girls in elevators, just first and foremost. Especially not while said girl is terrified and claustrophobic.

Not even if said girl is incredibly cute.

Actually, especially not if said girl is incredibly cute.

I’d noticed that about her as soon as I saw her—her cuteness. It might be an obvious thing to see, you’d think, but I genuinely mean cuteness, not attractiveness. She’s cute. Adorable. The kind of cute that makes it hard for me to decide what I want more—snog her against a wall or hug her with a blanket.

The truth is, she isn’t even my type. She isn’t my type at all but as soon as I saw her, I forgot all about my type and that I even had one, because all I wanted was this girl.

I had gone out for a while to see some of Dublin before spending all my time in the hotel, so I had been alone when I arrived at the hotel, and without luggage. Wanting to be as discreet as possible—all fans still thought we were staying at the Plaza, but that was only our crew minus Paul—I chose the smaller elevator that is probably meant for the personnel. But I was lucky I did, because then this amazing girl was standing there. She was wearing a dark green man’s coat that seemed to swallow her, and she had a big black Grandma-umbrella in her hands. She smelled like cinnamon and chocolate and a bit like lemon, especially her caramel hair.

Okay, let’s get this straight—I don’t want to date right now. I’d prefer not having anything to do with girls right now, apart from maybe, you know, Lou, or my sister. After all, I did just break up with my girlfriend for two years. That doesn’t just leave you cold.

But this girl…

The elevator dings again. The staff rooms are on the next-to-last level; above them are the two big suites. We booked the whole floor. When I get up, my foot knocks something over and something spills everywhere. Right. She had a drink with her. The whole elevator smells like chocolate now, so it must’ve been cocoa. Cute. I remember one fan asking me at a signing if Danielle drank cocoa because she’d always pictured me with the kind of girl who drinks cocoa. I found it strange at the time, but it sort of makes sense now.

I pick up the mug and exit the elevator, remembering in the last minute the mess I made. I hit the button for the elevator, but it’s already going down. Oh well.

While I’m walking to one of the suites, I have a closer look at the mug. The design seems to be hand-made, and in intricate letters of different fonts, all blues and greens, the chorus of Little Things is written over it. It’s really pretty.

So is she, by the way, and I really want to see her again. (Maybe even properly, with her actually being able to see as well.)

Only she’s a fan.

And if she’s a fan there’s no way I’ll be able to see her again.

 

 

 

Esmée

 

“So tell me again why exactly we’re making cookies?”

I am lounging in the kitchen talking to our cook Nico who only worked nights and having a cuppa. You know, the sort of things you do when you’re on the night shift for the room service, because nothing ever happens during the night shift. It starts at eleven p.m., and some people still order stuff like champagne at the beginning, but by about one everything’s calmed down, and you really don’t have anything to do.

Well, yeah, except for today.

“Some suite people ordering cookies and milk like te little bastards they are,” Nico answers. He has quite the foul language, but he’s awesome. For example, when I had a cold once, he stopped by at the beginning and the end of every shift to give me homemade soup. That’s Nico for you. If he likes you, he likes you.

“When I was still in the Navy, nobody would’a never dared to order a batch of fucking cookies at three a.m. like the little gimps they are.”

Oh right, and he used to be a cook for the Royal Navy. Then he quit, went to a four-star-cook in Austria and started at the Éireann. End of story.

“But I’m helping you,” I try to calm him a bit. Nico gets quite badass sometimes when he's mad.

“Which ye shouldn’t, lass.” He also has an accent.

I shrug. “I’m good at baking. Like, really good.”

“Sure y’are, but still it’s mah job.”

I shrug again.

Nobody here cares for the rules as much as in other hotels. We’re all a big family here, because nobody goes to the Éireann if they don’t want to work here for quite some time, except for Leila, who is simply Will’s grand-niece, so that is all the reason she’s here. As I said, all family.

“That should be enough, though, right?” I ask as I get out the next batch. We’ve got about 100 cookies now, that should really be enough for some shift-destroying morons.

“Sure will. I’ll put the next one in ‘ere for ye, lass, an when ye come back, we can have a nice cuppa.”

I smile at Nico.

“Thanks,” I say, and grab some milk out of the fridge to fill it into a carafe. We’re well posh here. I balance the tray on both hands (it’s heavy as hell) and stalk out of the kitchens. In the elevator, I try to ignore the nagging feeling inside me by munching on one of the cookies. I deserve them more anyway. The elevator dings and I walk out and find my way to the King’s Suite (the other one’s called the Queen’s Suite, by the way). When I arrive, I balance the heavy tray on one hand and knock with the other.

“Room Service!” I call.

It seems to be quite loud in there, probably some bratty kids whose parents have too much money on their hands. I knock again.

I love my job, but it is a bit tiring sometimes. Especially at night, when you’ve travelled all day long and haven’t gotten any sleep.

I knock another time, careful as to not let the tray fall.

“Coming!” someone calls.

Finally.

Because then I can just leave those damn good cookies here and have a normal night’s shift with Nico and hot cocoa and cookies and Jane Austen, end of. Yes, that would be nice.

The door opens and I stare right into blue eyes.

In front of me stands a boy who looks about my age, with bleached hair and sea-blue eyes. He’s quite cute, and he smiles widely, exposing braces.

This is Niall.

Niall Horan.

I’m standing in front of Niall Fucking Horan.

Though that’s not his middle name.

It’s James. I know that because I fangirl.

“Hi, would you come in?” he asks.

He doesn’t seem too good with stuff like this, because clearly, he hasn’t gotten that you don’t talk to the staff yet. But okay. It’s nice, actually.

I smile back.

“Sure.”

“Guys, the cookies are here!” he calls.

“The cookie girl,” someone says and another person laughs. The first voice sounds a bit familiar to me. Then again, of course it does. This is One Direction.

“Where should I…?” I trail off.

The room is a hot mess.

That’s quite surprising if you consider the fact that there are cleaners here every day. But I feel sorry for Linda (the head cleaner) and her crew because there is no way they can come close to fixing this in the fifteen minutes they have for every room.

“Oh could you come to the other room for a second?” His Irish accent is even heavier in person

I shrug. I mean, it’s not like I’ll get raped, right?

I am so not funny today.

I follow him quietly, dodging clothes and other random things—is that stuffed cat toy?—on the floor. He leads me into one of the bedrooms, where two other guys are lounging on one of the beds and seem to be playing some card game and one is sitting on the other bed with a laptop in front of him.

“Hi, Niall,” he says without even looking up, but I still know who he is.

Oh no.

Uhm yes, that is the guy I snogged in the elevator. But that is also Liam Payne. I snogged Liam Payne in an elevator after talking about how much of a fangirl I am.

Can someone please, please shoot me now?

I lower my head so my hair falls in front of my face.

Niall lets himself fall on the bed next to Liam.

“Do you guys want to meet the cookie girl?” he grins.

I spot my mug on a table and try to sneak towards it. Okay, slowly, almost there…

I hide it behind me.

“Liam, the cookie girl wants to steal your elevator girl mug!” One of the guys on the first bed screeches.

Everyone turns to me now, and I notice that Niall turned the laptop. Oh right, they’re doing a twitcam.

Okay, recapture. I ranted to Liam Payne about celebrities like him, snogged him in an elevator, left my mug with lyrics from his song on it in said elevator, and now more than 8 million people are watching me look at them like a fish. I really do look like a fish, or someone who drowned.

I should have known this was going to be a good day. Great even.

“Ladies and … uh, Ladies, I guess,” Niall who is still painfully oblivious grins. “May I present the Cookie Girl. Cookie Girl, say hi to … 8,371,094 viewers.”

“Way prettier than the Cookie Man, by the way.” So Harry really is that much of a flirt in real life.

I’m probably red as a tomato. “Hi,” I say and lift my hand in an awkward wave.

Louis laughs. “I like her, she’s cute.”

Liam is still staring. Wow, you’d think as a celebrity he’d be used to being surprised and could handle this. Well, he can’t, or so it seems.

“Technically,” I say to get over the awkward silence, “There is a Cookie Man because I’m pretty sure our cook Nico is a guy.” No need to mention I helped him bake them.

I realise Leila is probably hitting her head on the table repeatedly right now and giggle.

“Enlighten us, Cookie Girl, what is it?”

I bite my lip, contemplating if I really want to say it, but it just bubbles out of me.

“My colleague Leila is like your biggest fan ever and ever and ever and because she has a slight crush on Liam she traded shifts with me to be able to watch his twitcam.”

“Ah, your friend will probably try to drown herself in the shower now,” Harry smiles.

“She scares me a bit, actually, but it’s sort of adorable, I guess.” Oh, Liam seems to have found his voice. Wait. If she’s so adorable, why didn’t you go ahead and snog her instead? She would’ve said yes, I’d bet my little finger on that.

“How would you know?” Niall asks.

My cheeks heat up. Liam shrugs, but he blushes as well.

“I heard her ask for the switch.”

Louis’ eyes get big. “So this is—”

“Yes,” Liam cuts him off.

“Oh.”

“Mia from London wants to know if you’re a directioner, Cookie Girl,” Niall tells me.

I bite my lip and hide my face behind my hair.

“Ashamed to be,” I say.

I can hear Harry’s grin in his voice as he says, “Elaborate.”

“I never even wanted this; I mean, I have these moments at 3 a.m. when I stare at my laptop any cry out ‘All I wanted was to know the name of the one with the weird accent!’ but then again, Directioners are like a family as well. It’s really cute. I mean, you should try to contact your fans a bit more, though.”

Niall laughs. “You and Liam would fit well.” He obviously didn’t get what Louis was saying earlier.

Oh, and yes, yes we do. Ahem.

“Oh, can you do a shoutout for my colleague Leila so she doesn’t hate her decision at much?” I ask, biting my lip nervously. I get that I’m not in the position to ask for things, but Leila’s my friend.

“Sure.” Liam turns the laptop again.

“Hi Leila, how do you do?” I nod thankfully. “Okay guys, we have to go. But bye and thanks for watching, good night!”

He closes the laptop and I take my chance.

“Okay, well sorry for disturbing you, I apologise. That was so unprofessional, okay, I’ll go now.”

I’ve almost made it out of the room when Liam calls after me.

“Wait!”

I cringe, but I stop.

He catches up to me and takes my arm.

“We should really talk.”

I blush furiously. “Maybe we should, yeah.”

“Use protection!” I hear Louis scream before the door closes behind us.

I sit down on the floor and Liam sits next to me.

“So,” he says.

“So,” I mimic him.

“Sorry for kissing you, really. I didn’t mean to.”

I stare at him. I don’t know what I expected, but not this. Never.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” The swearing just comes naturally; it’s a thing about spending time with Nico.

He looks confused. “Pardon?”

I huff and get up, my hands forming fists.

“You don’t tell a girl you’re sorry for kissing her, okay? Not if she kissed you back, okay? And you never say you didn’t mean to kiss someone, because if you kiss someone, you always mean to do so. And because you might just actually hurt her feelings.” I stomp my foot. “God, you are so useless!”

I walk away briskly and call the elevator.

“God, not again,” he murmurs, and then calls after me another time. “Wait, for God’s sake!”

I don’t even turn; I just enter the elevator, trying not to cry.

He catches the elevator right in time and slides in just before the doors close. I cross my arms and turn away from him.

“Great,” I murmur.

“Listen…” Oh, he probably just noticed he doesn’t know my name.

“It’s Esmée,” I tell him. “I’ve got a name tag, by the way.”

He runs a hand through his hair, sighing.

“Right. Sorry. Esmée. Listen, Esmée, I didn’t mean to say that I didn’t want to kiss you, okay? Because I did, and frankly, I still do right now when you’re angry at me. I’m just awful with girls, especially with girls I like. I can’t talk to them. And I just really like you.” He lifts his arms as if to touch me, but lets them fall again. “What I meant was that I’m not good enough for you, especially not now. I’m not boyfriend material, no matter how much I like you even though I don’t know a lot about you.”

I huff, but my walls start to crumble. “Exactly. You don’t even know me. How can you be so sure you like me, huh? What if you suddenly find out that I smoke or that I have twenty tattoos down my arm saying ‘I Heart Mum’ and you don’t like me that much anymore?”

He smiles. “You don’t smoke and you definitely don’t have any tattoos.”

“How would you know?”

“Because I know the important things. You know our song Little Things? Of course you do, right. Uhm, that’s it. It's the little, seemingly unimportant things I like about you. You drink cocoa, and you let Starbucks fill it into your own mug to save paper. You’re creative. You do anything for people you like, I can’t think of what you’d do for the ones you love. You travel far just to see your aunt for no reason. You like your job, and you don’t want to get any credit for things you don’t deserve the credit for. You’re opinionated. You don’t think you’re pretty even though you are.” He smiles when I blush involuntarily. “You’re not good with compliments. You’re shy. You’re kind, so kind that you’re selfless. You drink cocoa.”

He smiles as if he just now got something about cocoa.

I let my arms fall down limply. That was the cutest speech I’ve ever heard.

I turn to Liam and I see something light up in his eyes: hope.

“I’m not girlfriend material, either,” I say, and then I pull his head towards me and do something entirely not Esmée for the second time today, or, well, in two days because it’s already tomorrow: I kiss Liam.

When we break apart, we’re both breathing heavily.

“Oh, and can I have my mug back?” I ask, and he just chuckles and kisses me again.

It’s better than the first time because it’s ecstatic and happy and full of energy, and because we know now; we know that in some way, we will make this happen, no matter what.

We miss the elevator stopping again. The doors open and they close again, and we just stay there, kissing.

Until, “Get in there, Liam!”

We both jump about a meter.

“Jeez, Louis,” Liam says.

Niall laughs. “You’re both beet red in the face.” Harry elbows him and he stops laughing.

I sigh. “Did you honestly press the elevator button just do check on us like a forty-year-old chaperone?”

“… basically.” Louis shrugs. “It was well worth it.”

“Actually, we wanted to give you back your mug. After trying so hard to steal it back, you just left it in our room when you basically ran out.”

I smile. “Thanks, Harry.”

There is an awkward silence.

Liam rolls his eyes. “Mate, I think she wants you to give her the mug.”

Actually,” Louis mocks Harry, “that was just a last-minute excuse. We really did just want to see if you two were getting it on in the elevator again.”

“Different elevator, though, I’ll give you that,” Niall grins.

I blush and hide my face behind my hair. This is the secret reason I let it grow.

Someone brushes it out of my face and tilts my head up by my chin. I look up to see Liam frowning.

“Why do you do that?”

“What?”

“Hide your face. There’s no reason to.” He looks really unhappy.

I shrug uncomfortably. “Not that much of a people person.”

His eyes become soft. “But that’s no excuse to keep your beautiful face from me.”

I blush. Okay, this is half sweet and half embarrassing as hell. I glance over to where the other guys were standing, but they’re gone.

“They left to give us some privacy,” Liam murmurs. “They’re not bad lads, you know, just a bit exhausting sometimes.”

“Aren’t there five of you?”

He laughs. “Yeah, there’s Zayn, but he’s asleep.”

“Oh.”

“They really like you, you know?”

I nod. “Yeah, they’re way nicer than I thought they’d be. It’s like they accept me even though this thing we have is a bit dodgy and weird.”

He digs his face into my hair and I stand on my tiptoes to make it easier for him, putting my arms around his neck.

“They haven’t seen me this happy and edgy in a long time, I think. They’re grateful in a way. It’s like you’ve brought back the old me just by being there for a minute.”

Then, as if he remembers something, he breaks away from our hug and holds my shoulders in place with his hands.

I frown. “What are you doing?”

“Shush, I’m making it less dodgy and weird.” I smile and he takes a deep breath.

“Would you like to have a coffee with me sometime, Esmée?”

I look up at him. “Like what?”

“As friends, just to talk a bit. I want to get to know you, Cookie Girl. I like you. I really do.”

As an answer, I hug him. This boy is way too good for me. But since people usually don’t mind having something that’s too good for them, I am more than okay with that.

He smiles at me when we break away.

“Was that a yes?”

I roll my eyes, but I smile as well. “Sure it was, you monkey.”

He arches an eyebrow. “Monkey, how nice.”

“Shut up,” I smile and then I hug him again, almost pressing the air out of his lungs.

When I try to break away this time, he holds me to him, and I sigh, tucking my head under his chin. Liam makes me a new Esmée, one I like better, one that might actually be the real me that just needed someone to bring it out. I stare into his chocolate brown eyes and it’s like I’m different now. We both look at each other, just taking in the sight of the other one standing there, with flushed cheeks and wide eyes, perfectly content.

“You know,” he says after a while, “that was a lot of hugs.” I nod, grinning. “And we also really should be getting out of this elevator.”

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