Amore And Pizza

Hey, I'm Avery. I thought I had it figured out, ya know? I thought I had distinguished the difference between love and imagination. I was SO sure that no one could ever love me. Especially someone so extraordinary like Niall. But for once in my sob story of a life, I WANTED to be proven wrong. But I was right. Again.

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17. Easy,Peezy, Lemon Sqeezy. And Don't Forget Cheesy

     Pass, dribble, pass, use your right foot more, shoot if you can, blah, blah, blah. Soccer practice was tedious. Coach had this beyond brilliant idea that the people on first string loved to run three miles, then practice for an hour without a break. This East Denver thing was getting on my nerves. I couldn't wait for it to be over on Friday. But, then again, I definitely could wait because the dance was right after. With each passing moment my stomach got more and more twisted with anxiety.

     "Alright," Coach Hughes barked, "why don't you take a break. Get some water." Heaving a sigh of relief, I followed the sweaty group over to our water bottles. I sat down on the grass, breathing in the freshly mowed scent. I grabbed my water bottle and chugged it.

     "Slow down." Niall came over to me and laughed. He reached out to wipe a drop of water running down the side of my mouth. Attractive, I know. I blushed as his hand touched me. 

     "Excited for the game?" I asked.

     "Eh, not really. I'm not expecting a whole lot of competition. I mean, come on, I'm on the team." I rolled my eyes as he popped his imaginary collar. Somehow sweating and not smelling his best Niall managed to look good in his red tee and black shorts. I wondered what he was thinking of me right now. Was he thinking about after the soccer game Friday like I was? Did he think I looked good in my plain purple tee? Doubted it.

     "Did you notice Harry wasn't at lunch today?" Immediately, my blush dissappeared to be replaced by pale cheeks. Startled was an understatement. Niall nearly made me do a very unattractive thing. Peeing, puking, you decide.

     "Uh, yeah I did. Do you know why?" I scanned the group looking for Harry. I realized I hadn't seen him all day, not at lunch, or soccer practice. I knew lunch was probably because he was avoiding me-and I returned the favor-but would he actually skip soccer for the same reason? Especially two days before the game of the season? Apparently not, because there he sat, over by Olivia. That particular sight made a fire within my stomach erupt.

     "Dunno," Niall answered, tearing me from my thoughts. "Do you?" I decided to shake my head. Of course I knew the reason, but that information was on a need-to-know basis, and Niall did not need to know. Niall glanced at me like he expected me to elaborate on that. Thankfully, coach interrupted.

     "Break's over. Back on the field." Niall stood up and reached out his hand to pull me up. Once I was up, we made our way to the middle of the field. "Okay, this is our last practice until the game. We need to be able to play well together. Let's do some scrimmaging. First string, you're up." Niall made his way to the middle of the field with the other midfielders. I went to join the forwards, while Harry joined the defenders on the opposite side of the field. Coach split us up into two different teams, which made me on neither Niall's or Harry's team. Great, I would have to face them. I walked down to the center circle, where the other two forwards were. I took place on the opposite side of the field from where Harry was. I was facing Niall, who grinned at me. "Avery, move to the other side of the field. Switch places with Ryan." I grudgingly walked over to the left side of the field, looking at Niall to see his disappointed face. I returned it, then looked at Harry. His look was equally unsatisfying, which made me even more disappointed. 

     At the sound of coach's whistle, we took off down the field. Ryan got the ball stolen from him by Niall, who raced off past him. A girl from our side stole the ball and passed it up to me. I dribbled the ball with ease. I could hear coach screaming in my head to use my right foot. I listened to my mental coach and found myself already facing Harry. I noticed that everyone else was still hurrying to catch up to me. I hesitated. Harry went for the ball without reluctance. He stole the ball and passed it way back down the field.

      "Avery! Pay attention!" Coach yelled at me from the sidelines. Mentally kicking myself, I raced back down the field. The ball was passed to me again. I passed it quickly to Ryan on the other side of the field. He managed to make it past the defense and score. For another half hour or so, our teams exchanged goals. After the incident with Harry, I didn't allow myself to hold onto the ball long enough to have to face him. "Forwards, come here." Coach beckoned us over, putting the game to a pause. "Avery, you haven't made a shot all day. I want you to have the ball. After this practice is over, so make it count." I went back to my position with a knot in my stomach. 

     Before I was ready, the ball was passed to me and I was sprinting down the field. Harry took a defiant stance as I closed in on him. Physically, I could do this. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy. Mentally, I thought I could face him. Emotionally, I knew I couldn't. So I pushed away everything I thought or felt, and just played soccer the way I knew how. I thought that if I beat Harry, I would have defeated a small battle inside, like a miniature Hercules or something. And that's where karma laughed and said, "You're funny. You think it's going to work out that way."

     To say the least, Harry knocked me flat on my butt. He stole the ball, and very nicely pushed me out of the way. When he passed the ball, he turned back and looked at me shocked. Was he not planning on that? I had a small hope inside he would help me up, maybe apologize. I just wanted to make things right. Niall beat Harry to the gesture and came to help me up.

      "You okay?" I nodded and brushed the grass off me. Niall glared at Harry, then grabbed my hand and pulled me off the field. Coach had told everyone practice was over-not forgetting an unhappy comment about that last play-which was nice because it would have been super awkward if Niall and I just walked away. His hand firmly clasped in mine made me momentarily forget today's drama. Niall told me he would see me outside, and walked into the boys' locker room. I went into the girls' and changed as quickly as possible. I was reminded again at how quickly things changed. It was hard to believe that 3 weeks ago, I was completely new to Denver. I now had a whole group of friends. Kalley, Gabrielle, Zayn, Louis, Liam, Niall, and-wait, Harry wasn't my friend anymore. I thought of Niall, who made my heart race and my face lift into a smile.

     I waved goodbye to the girls in the locker room, and walked outside. Niall was sitting casually at the foot of the tiger statue. He grinned when he saw me, taking my hand.

     "Hey."

     "Hey." 

     "So, I never asked, how was it with Gabrielle last night?" I smiled at the question. Something easy to talk about.

     "It was really fun. Gabrielle's awesome, even if she doesn't like One Direction." Niall gasped.

     "The horror!" I laughed at his expression. Truth was, Gabrielle and I were getting along great. Maybe even more than Kalley and I.

     We spent the rest of the walk to my house enjoying each other's company. We didn't say much, but the silence was comfortable. And the holding hands part wasn't too shabby, either. Too quickly we reached my house. Home.

     "Well, this is it." I said, looking at Niall. I had a brief thought that my dad was going to come out and ask Niall to join us for dinner. He didn't, though.

     "Yep. So I'll see ya tomorrow, then?" I nodded. "Bye." Shyly, Niall gave me a small hug, before turning to leave.

     I went inside to find my dad sitting on the couch, looking at his laptop. 

     I plopped next to him. "Hey, daddy."

     "Hey, Aves. How was soccer?"

     "Harry knocked me on my butt." My dad laughed.

     "Did he now? Well, that's one way to get your attention." I realized my dad was teasing me. I hadn't told him about the incident yesterday. 

     "I think the last thing he wants is my attention." I told him all about it. When I was done, he pursed his lips.

     "If he's not interested, he's missing out on a lot, Aves."

     I rolled my eyes. "Daddy, you have to say that. You're my dad."

     "No I don't have to. I mean it, Aves. I fell in love with your mom, and I see every beautiful thing from her in you. If Harry can't see that, he doesn't deserve you." My eyes became blurry with tears that soon spilled down my cheeks.

     "Thanks, daddy." I leaned over to hug him. "I love you."

     I felt his arms tighten around me. "I love you too, Aves. So much."

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