The atmosphere is tense. Awkwardly tense.
I wrap my arms around myself as we exit Atlanta’s stadium, a breeze of cold air suddenly greeting Niall, Harry and I. I shiver.
“Here,” Niall says, shrugging his jacket off and placing it on my shoulders.
“Thanks,” I mumble, sliding my arms into the sleeves before hugging the material to my skin. I find myself taking in the boyish yet mature scent emanating from Niall’s jacket, but the spell breaks as soon as Harry’s fingers intertwine with mine.
“Don’t listen to your sister alright?” The green-eyed boy tells me as we step out of Atlanta’s stadium’s gates. “She didn’t really mean it―”
“But what if she did?” I deny, getting emotional again. “I wouldn’t blame her for wanting me dead; it’s my fault she’s been dragged into this mess in the first place!”
“This mess?” Harry frowns.
“Yes this mess! Harry you can’t deny the fact that this relationship... between me and the band...it wasn’t very healthy in the first place. Adding Anne only made things worse!” My throat tightens. “I always end up making everybody miserable,” I hiccup, a fresh set of tears flooding my eyes.
“That’s not true―”
“Yes it is Niall!” I persist loudly. “If I wasn’t the person who hurt you the most, why are there scars running across your wrists? You even told me yourself that you hated me when I told you I had chosen Harry. Hell you raped Anne, thinking it was me―”
Niall stops me, forcing my gaze to meet his.
“Soph you can’t take the blame for everything I do,” the Irish boy says, a pained look in his eyes. “Most of the things you just named were my entire fault. Yes your decision broke my heart, but you had to choose. I was the one who didn’t react properly.”
Words tumble out of my mouth.
“Because your emotions were messed up due to the fact that my father hit you with his car in order to get to me! If I was out of the picture for good―”
“No!” Both boys exclaim at the same time.
“Don’t say that,” Harry shakes his head. It’s his turn to force me to look at him. “Please Sophie. Don’t even think about ending your life. It pains me to think you gone for good. It’s unbearable.”
“Oh my God it’s Harry and Niall!”
The three of us jump when we hear the squeal. Turning around, we notice multiple girls, phones and posters in hand, excited grins on their faces. All of them were whispering and talking animatedly, none of them daring to move towards us just yet. I feel like prey.
“Damn the word got out,” Harry mumbles.
“What do we do?” I whisper, clutching Niall’s jacket to my skin. I feel his hand lingering on my back.
“I’ll just wave at them a little... Sometimes it’s all it takes to make them happy,” the British boy talks lowly.
As soon as Harry removes his hand from mine to wave timidly at them, mayhem explodes.
“Fuck,” Niall curses beside me, his hand sliding into mine as the girls run towards us. “Follow me!” He says, pulling me away from Harry and the small crowd of girls. My heart pounds in my chest.
“What about Harry?!” I protest, looking over my shoulder at the curly-haired boy. Our gazes meet very briefly before he turns back around to face the fans.
“He’ll be fine!” Niall persists, forcing me to run with him in the opposite direction. I glance at Harry again and notice that he has stopped a major part of the flow of girls, raising both hands in the air in surrender.
“Girls calm down please! I’ll sign as much stuff as I can but you have to be calm!” I hear him yell. The ones he doesn’t stop try to keep up with Niall and I.
“Niall wait! Please?!”
“Who’s that girl Niall?! Wait please! Niall!”
Niall keeps running though, hand tightly grasping mine. We run down the paved street, dodging our way through people. Niall makes us turn left at an intersection. We run down the street and turn right before the blonde boy practically leaps into the first store we come across.
The doorbell rings as we burst in, panting. Niall keeps my hand into his, forcing us deeper into the store.
“Niall we’re okay―”
“No not yet. They could see us through the window display,” he shakes his head. He walks rapidly over to a lady busy arranging clothing racks.
“Hi! How can―”
“Where are the changing rooms please?” Niall cuts off the clerk, shooting a glance behind his shoulder in worry.
“Umm over there but―”
“Thank you,” Niall sighs, jogging to the back area of the store where she had pointed. He stops before entering one of the cabins. “If any girls come barging in, could you please tell them we’re not here?” He asks the clerk.
“Sure, yeah,” she agrees, slightly baffled. “But you two aren’t going to―”
“No,” I shake my head, knowing where her question was going. “We’re only hiding.”
She nods and Niall presses us into the cabin, shutting the door behind me. He immediately pulls out his phone, typing rapidly before bringing it up to his ear. He takes a seat on the cabin’s small bench.
“Paul! Yes you have to send Andy and the others to help Harry out. A couple of fans got the word out. Yes Harry and I we’re just a little outside the stadium’s main entrance,” he ushers rapidly. “I’ll come back soon. Yes I’m safe. Don’t worry. Be quick!” Niall ends the conversation, shutting his eyes. His head rests on the wall behind him and he passes his hand through his hair in exasperation.
I watch him silently. My heart skips a beat as soon as he opens his eyes to reveal piercing cerulean orbs. Butterflies erupt in my stomach and I’m suddenly very nervous. Why does he make me nervous?! My gaze diverts from his probing eyes as I force myself to look away.
“How are you Soph?” He asks calmly.
“I’m okay,” I answer, tucking a strand of my hair away from my face. God Harry. I need to think about Harry.
“What’s wrong?” He frowns. “Harry’ll be fine if that’s what worries you. Security is probably assisting him as we speak.”
I nod carefully. “Good.”
There’s a brief moment of silence.
“It’s not only Harry, is it?”
I shake my head no.
“Then what is it?”
“You make me nervous,” I admit, exhaling shakily.
“I don’t know.”
He nods, deep in thought. Awkward. I start playing with my hands, my own thoughts drifting to the argument in the bus. Why did I reveal all again? Such a stupid move. Anne must really hate me. And Harry must be disappointed I decided to follow Niall. And Niall himself must be so angry after me...
I take a small step backwards as Niall stands up. I can’t let him get too close. I’ll hurt him by rejecting him... Or I’ll hurt Harry by accepting him. I’m inflicting pain no matter my decision.
“You’re not scared of me, are you?” Niall frowns, cocking an eyebrow upwards.
“No I’m scared of hurting more people,” I breathe out carefully, watching his every move.
He sighs, his body approaching mine. I back away again but my back hits a wall.
“Sophie,” he whispers, our eyes locked together. “If I could turn back time and go back to that day when we took you...” he bites his lip, placing his hands behind my neck, thumbs sliding over my cheeks. “I would. With no hesitation. And I’d stop the other boys from ruining your life and claiming you as theirs.”
Tears spring to my eyes. Because I made you suffer so much. Because you deserve to be happy Niall. Because my presence hasn’t done you any good.
“I know I’m sorry I’ve caused so much pain―”
“No Sophie,” he silences me, pressing his finger to my lip. “Not because you made me miserable and because you think I would’ve preferred not meeting you... But because you deserve better. That fateful night when your mother showed us a picture of you, my heart ached.”
“Niall no please,” I beg, my hand on his chest to stop him from advancing closer. “Niall―”I don’t want to hurt anybody!
“Listen to me Sophie Miller. You are the kind of girl I would’ve noticed in a crowd. I can’t explain it... but you glow. If I had listened to my heart, you wouldn’t have been our property in the first place. I wouldn’t have let them buy you that night. Yes you would’ve gotten the backstage passes, but I would’ve tried to charm you instead of taking you by force. And then I would’ve insisted to bring you home,” he pauses, wiping one of the tears trickling down my face. “Sophie I would’ve tried to make you fall in love with me like a princess would in a fairytale. I would’ve bought you flowers every single day, sending them in the mail or bringing them myself. God Soph I would’ve brought you on so many dates and told you I loved you every single second,” he insists. “I would’ve called you every single night while on tour and every time I would’ve gotten a break, I would’ve made sure to come and see you. But most important of all, I would’ve protected you from those negative thoughts that apparently don’t stop haunting you. The ones that tell you that you make everybody miserable.”
I stare at him, unable to speak, tears falling freely down my face.
“I’m still trying to understand why you picked Harry. I understand that Harry changed and I wish I did too, but such a change wasn’t possible for me because my lust could never turn into love: I never lusted for you like he did initially. I loved you from the very beginning and my love only grew as time went. And I know you’ve chosen Harry... And that my reaction was absolutely unforgiveable when you told me... But I still love you profoundly Sophie. I swear I’d move mountains for you. I’d even help you get away from us if that was really what you wanted,” he continues, voice barely above a whisper. “But really Sophie I only want your happiness. If Harry makes you happy, then be with Harry. I just want you to know that I’m always here for you, no matter how angry I am after you,” he ends.
I blink, before engulfing him into a hug. He returns the hug.
“I am so sorry for dragging your sister into this mess,” he whispers.
“So you agree with me when I say it’s a mess?” I hiccup, gazing up at him.
“Whole-heartedly,” he nods. “I strongly doubt I’m the only one who’s always on the verge of my breaking point.”
I nod, sniffing. His eyes briefly descend to my lips before he’s reaching in his pocket, pulling out his phone.
I find myself pleased but frustrated he didn’t kiss me. Pleased because I won’t feel guilty for doing things behind Harry’s back but frustrated because it honestly would’ve felt good to kiss his soft lips and tangle my fingers into his blonde locks...
“So Harry’s back in the bus... Safe. But it appears that we need to go to the pharmacy. For you and your sister,” he informs, intruding into my thoughts.
My eyes grow big. I knew I had to get the pill but my sister?!
“Anne and Louis had a pretty intense game apparently,” The blue-eyed boy nods, tapping on his phone.
“Great. My super shy sister had to go for extremely perverted and kinky Louis,” I groan, rubbing my temples as Niall and I step out of the changing rooms. This is definitely not the end of the numerous complicated things our little group generates.
“Thank you so much for letting us hide,” Niall tells the clerk. She smiles.
“No problem really! If you need anything else,” she continues, motioning the small clothing store. My eyes fall on underwear.
“Yes!” I shock both Niall and the clerk with my outburst. I turn to look at the Irish boy. “Can we buy some underwear? Anne and I don’t get bras and we have to wear your stuff....” I whisper to him.
“Sure. Go pick out whatever you want,” he acknowledges. “I’ll get us some hoodies... Maybe the fans won’t notice us so easily when we go to the pharmacy,” he reasons.
I thank him before heading to the underwear racks. Guessing Anne wore approximately the same thing as me, I pick out a couple things for her and me, going from sexy to plain comfortable. I also went and got a few t-shirts and shorts, just for good measure.
Niall placed the hoodies with my stuff and proceeded to pay the amount due.
“Thank you!” I say to the clerk when we finally exit. “And thank you Niall,” I add, looking at the blonde boy.
“It’s the least I could do really. Now the she said the closest pharmacy was where?”
“Down the street and to the right,” I answer, holding to the bag of clothing. I open it and pull out the two hoodies. We place them on, covering our heads.
“Let’s go,” he sighs, sliding his hand into mine. I can’t help the small smile lighting up my face.