On our way to McDonald's, the guys talked about their cars, all the advantages and older models of the brand.
Josh slowly relaxed; he now spoke and smiled even more. Even Niall noticed it, he grinned to himself. Slowly I let myself sink deeper into the seat.
After we ordered we carried our trays to an open space outside.
It was slow fall, but it was still warm enough to have it comfortably outdoors. The leaves were changing slowly their colors and it was dark earlier.
"So," continued Josh, as we sat down. "What is your great plan? Except for not leaving our sides?" he asked, Niall rolled his eyes jokingly.
I tore the paper of my straw and watched from the corner of my eye as Niall began to speak slowly.
"I need to talk with the lads. Louis and Zayn will be the hardest to convince. But what does it mean to convince? I mean... hm. That they get used to my new lifestyle. Or accept it. Behind them is Harry. But this will be easier than the other two. And then of course there's Liam. But Liam will be the easiest to convince. Maybe you can't see it, but he's a total family man. He has two older sisters, for whom he would do anything. Paynee was once bullied himself at his old school, so he slipped in. It is easier becoming the bully after being bullied."
Josh and I exchanged glances with each other. This was surprising. Liam seemed sometimes as the most aggressive of all. Now we knew why.
"The girls will be more difficult. Sophia has a huge impact on Liam, but he sets the tone in their relationship. The girls stand like a wall behind Aly and the boys. But anyway I'm glad I finally broke up."
Although Alyson hated us and we weren't exactly her biggest fans, I felt a little sorry for the way she was ditched.
"Is it true? That she... chased after others and also, uh, met up with them?," I asked cautiously. Well, as careful as it was with the choice of words.
"Yeah," he said, and sighed. "As you have probably noticed, she never had time for me. Swarmed me by always having excuses. One day, when she had actually time for me, she disappeared into the bathroom, as she thought I was asleep and talked on the phone with some guy. Told him how lame I was and that he would complete her properly. And that she hated having to use me as an excuse, because she doesn't even feel anything for me. And all this in my bathroom! At my home! A few feet away from me!" Disgusted, he shook his head.
"I tried to talk to her about it, but she just said again and again that her needs must be satisfied, and I wouldn't leave her anyway. We would nevertheless already know each other for so long and our parents would expect that from us. She didn't even tell me, who this guy is. Had she done so, I might have fight for her; eventually I would have known who my competition is. But obviously our relationship wasn't enough important for her. Obviously I’m not enough important."
He sighed and I instinctively put out my hand and stroked his arm. Surprised we all three looked down at Niall's arm.
"I'm sorry," I said, pulling my hand back. And these three words were related to Alyson's actions and my touch.
"He and Harry have still behaved like asses today," Josh changed the subject and told the story with a sigh.
As he spoke I dipped a chicken nugget in my barbecue sauce and tried to concentrate on it. As Josh had finished the story, I looked up again. Niall rolled his eyes at Liam's comment, however, couldn't resist smiling.
"Why the hell are you smiling?," Josh asked and pulled his angry eyebrows together. Just his eyes were still full of compassion, but it was quickly changed to mistrust.
"Because neither Liam nor anyone else has an idea about my love life. That's all top secret. He only tries to fear you and to put me somehow in a good light. And Selena..." He looked to me. "I won't rape you or actually let you do all the work. I got in a free hour the seed, then we can plant them this evening and tomorrow directly start with the project." He smiled at me and I nodded, chewing. Then his gaze fell behind me and he asked a little louder, "What the hell are you doing here?"
A laughing Ashton came to our table and Niall shook his head.
"Barely two weeks at the new school and already you skip a lesson! What would your mother say..," Niall chided him and Ashton rolled his eyes.
"And you dumped your girl, huh?," he asked.
"You've heard it too?," Niall asked, Ashton rolled his eyes again.
"Who hasn't? It was hard to miss. In addition, everyone is talking about it," he said and smiled slightly.
"Ash! Are you coming?," a girl cried and we turned to face her.
A few Juniors sat at a round table and looked eagerly over to us. The girls adored Niall, now that he was very publicly single again. The other looked at us with confused facial expressions and began to whisper again.
"I'll be right there," he shouted in her direction and dropped into the seat next to his cousin. "If you need something, I'm always there for you, you'll be right mate. And even though you two are totally silent, you can also always contact me," he said.
I looked back from the Juniors and he smiled at me and Josh.
"Thanks... Ashton" said Josh and Ashton raised his hand.
"Just Ash for my friends," he said and winked at me. I could do nothing else but blush and smile back.
"All right, Ash," I said and he laughed.
"Awesome!," he said, standing up again. Then he leaned down to us and said seriously, "I don't really care what all the others say and think about you. I met you and you are completely different."
Amazed I looked at him and he sat up.
"Give them my number, Niall" he added, and then he walked away.
"He's, um, different. Open-hearted," I said and smiled confused.
"Yeah. He has an incredibly positive attitude. Probably brought it from Australia," he said and I nodded.
"Australia?," Josh asked interested and Niall nodded.
"Ash moved here with his parents a few weeks ago. And don't ask me how they came up with the idea," he said and I snorted a laugh.
After dinner we went back to school and Josh parted from us. He looked at me long before he went to his class.
"Was a nice dinner, huh?," Niall asked and I nodded.
Niall had a wide grin on his face. Together we entered the classroom and immediately ceased all talks. Everyone stared at us. Again.
I quickly ran to my place, while Niall asked, "Got a problem?"
Everyone mumbled something, but nevertheless the atmosphere didn't change. I dropped to my place and got my college block and my books out of my bag. Slowly I looked up again and watched as Niall walked by at his usual place – which was surrounded, of course as always, by cheerleaders and all the girls and guys who tried to be part of the cool kids – and let himself fall casual into the seat next to me.
Again, everyone went silent.
"Can you maybe stop it?," I asked annoyed and now they stared at me even more.
I had said nothing for ages in the classroom. Now I felt more uncomfortable than before.
"Look the fuck away," Niall said as gently as he could and actually all lowered their eyes. I sighed annoyed and he chuckled.
"You get used to it after a time," he said and I threw him a look.
"I think I was better when no one has noticed me. Well, of course not when we needed help, but otherwise...," I said and Niall sighed.
Liam entered laughing the room and immediately got the full attention. He paid no attention to the looks, talked with a gaggle of giggling girls and only noticed when he sat that Niall wasn't there. He pulled out his phone, tapped quickly and immediately Niall's phone vibrated.
Niall reached for his phone, quickly gave in his pass code and then chuckled and rolled his eyes as he read the message. He quickly typed back and put it on the table. I caught a glimpse of it. It was a pop up; I could only read the newest messages.
FROM: LIAM THE PAIN PAYNE
Heard you dumped A. Why? She's hot! Where are you? Already found a replacement, naughty one? :D
TO: LIAM THE PAIN PAYNE
Sitting somewhere else, I'll explain tonight. Just come around, wanker
I let my gaze wander randomly and looked at Liam. He laughed at the message and then looked around. When he saw Niall sitting beside me he looked confused, then he covered it quickly with a cool expression. He nodded knowingly and briefly raised both eyebrows. Then he turned back around to the girls and started flirting again.
I looked back on my block and my eyes went back to Niall's phone whose screen was still lit up. Niall was talking to some girl and laughed at something she had said.
I read the messages again and then pulled my eyebrows together.
What the hell planed Niall? We would spend the evening together for the project. At least that was what he has said. Was he going to realize his plan directly?
My heart slipped into my pants and the screen went dark. My hands were wet and my eyes immediately went back to my notebook. I swallowed hard and didn't notice how our teacher entered the classroom and Niall took his phone again. Only when Niall nudged me with his elbow, I awoke from my thoughts.
With his pen he wrote on a sheet of paper two numbers with different letters – A and N.
Then he gave it to me and whispered "What are you thinking about so feverishly?"
"About nothing," I whispered back, took the sheet and folded it carefully.
"Are you kidding me? You stare at a blank page, chew on your lip and knead your hands."
He was really much more attentive than I thought.
"Do you worry because of Liam?," he whispered.
I couldn't trust my voice; probably he would notice that I had lied. So I shook my head and he looked forward again.
"Well, it's not like you need to. As I said I'll take care of it."
And I was damn afraid of how it would look like.
After school, I left Niall as fast as I could and went shopping with Josh. During the ride I told him about the lessons and he shook his head.
"I'm not going to deliver you on a silver platter in front of his door again. This time I'll go with you," he said.
"Thank God," I said and Josh gave me a brief smile.
We bought groceries and then drove to my home. Just as I was about to unlock the door, it was already open.
Mom stood in front of me, but this time fully dressed and with her hair made. Someone was about to visit her dealer.
"Oh, hey, sweetie. I was just about to send you a message and tell you that I am going to meet Brian. Car and Col watch something on TV. Kisses," she said as she ran to her car. Then she kissed her hand inside twice, waved and drove off.
"We'll probably have to take the twins?," Josh suggested and I sighed. We entered the house and dragged the shopping bags into the kitchen.
"Josh!," my brother cried and came running to him. Josh bent down to him and hugged him first and then Carol, who was also surfaced in time.
"Hey buddy. How are you?," he asked, Collin smiled broadly.
He told him about his day at school and Carol gave the necessary details. I watched with a smile and cleared the groceries out. Then I dug my phone and Nialls note out of my pocket. I wrote that I would bring my siblings and Josh. He replied within seconds.
FROM: NIALL JAMES HORAN
Cool, then I tell Kayleigh she rather set the table for a few more people! :)
I couldn't help but smile. He was so... enthusiastic. I was used to that from anyone...
Stop. Stop right there.
The hope for something better made its way through me... and I couldn't let this happen in such a short time. Even if Niall had today stuck like a leech to us and none of the others – okay, almost none – had acted stupid. Probably I was only now aware to know how much I had missed him all the time. Finally, we were close friends for years... So I could only look at him when they intimidate us again. Only because I couldn't recognize him. The other guys... I didn't really know them.
Louis was older than them. He had to stay down and repeat the year.
Zayn has always been possessive and fought for what he wanted.
Harry was a serial heartbreaker.
Liam had several phases: once he was aggressive, the other times cautious. Now I could head this back to his childhood.
Louis, Harry and Liam all moved forth here, of course, at the very moment when Zayn built his clique.
I had to organize my thoughts. I was so happy to give Niall a chance. Thus, the nightmare finally ended and I had my good friend back.
Sighing, I saved the numbers, put my phone back in my pocket and asked, "Does anyone want to play Twister?"
The kids were immediately enthusiastic and Josh smiled widely at me. Just like a real family should be. I smiled back and together we went into the living room.
Hours later it was time to go to Niall. We got into Josh's car and made sure that the twins strapped and well sat in their child seats. Then we got in and buckled us slowly.
"Everyone ready?," asked Josh and the kids nodded.
"Where are we going anyway?," asked Carol. I turned around easily to her while Josh started the engine.
"We go to a- a friend. We need to do a project for school and he has a little sister who is your age. You can play as long as we work," I said, initially stumbled over the word "friend".
"Okay," she said, smiling and I turned back.
"How are you?," asked Josh and I sighed.
"My stomach hurts and I don’t want to be confronted with Liam," I said and he nodded.
"But if he is really as a family man as Niall said, then he will be able to buck up in front of the kids," said Josh.
Minutes later we arrived at the huge mansion and got out. Liam's car wasn't there yet, but that had to mean anything. He could have also walked.
Car and Col took intimidated their hands and looked with wide eyes at the house. Together we ran to the house and when I raised my hand to ring the bell, I exchanged a look with Josh. He nodded at me encouragingly, but still looked stressed. Probably just like me. I took a deep breath and rang the bell.