After English and Math we got into Josh's car. I had explained everything to him during the lunch break and he could only shake his head.
"This is the purest suicide squad" he muttered over and over again, which didn't really helped.
Of course, I had doubts. Of course I was afraid that there might also his "friends" appear and hurt me.
But this house meant protection. It would be strange if we were going to meet out here somewhere. People would only wait that he did something to humiliate me. In this house it was hopefully quite without the expectations of the outside.
Josh knew Niall's address; he lived just a few streets away.
"Shall we go to my place first?," Josh asked and drove out of the school parking lot.
I thought for a moment and then said "I think it's better if we first make this stupid project. After that, I can come over."
He nodded and sighed heavily.
I knew exactly what was going through his head. He was worried about me because he knew as little as I do what lay before me.
"It will be all right," I said, trying calm both of us.
The radio stayed silent. Josh drove slower and more cautious than usual. We drove past my street; the house lay still.
"What the kids do today?" Josh asked.
"Dad takes them to his place or they'll go somewhere," I answered, staring long at the hated house until it disappeared from my view.
Every two weeks it was Daddy-time. Dad took my little siblings directly from school and took them out of their everyday life. Usually I had the weekends and Mondays freely and spent it with Josh. This Monday went stupid for both of us.
Josh then spoke not a word. He just sat in the driver's seat and drove.
The shock of this morning sat still in my bones. Josh was fine again, but I knew that he wouldn't easily forget. Such things gnawed at him like me. It was horrible. And now he had to deliver me on a silver platter.
Eventually we turned into Niall's road. Before us stretched different houses; one more beautiful than the other.
"Number 13," Josh announced quietly and stopped in front of a giant champagne-colored house with a perfect front yard. Nothing had changed in all these years.
"That's almost as big as your house," I was amazed and strapped me down.
"Almost," he said curtly, and stared at the house with narrowed eyes.
"Thanks for driving me," I said and hugged Josh. He hugged me tightly and then took a deep breath.
"Have a lot of fun!," he joked and I just said "Haha."
"Take care," he said now in a more serious tone and looked at me with a worried look.
"If something's wrong, I'll call you or jog to your house, okay?," I said and we smiled at each other.
Then I got out, closed the door behind me and walked slowly to the door of the villa. The nameplate was decorated with butterflies and stars, which was pretty surprising. I rang the bell and the sound could be heard throughout the house.
"I'll go!," I heard Niall and at the next moment the door was opened.
"Hi," he greeted me with a smile and held the door open as an invitation to enter the house.
Before I did, I glanced behind me. Josh looked at me and nodded. I smiled and waved goodbye. Then I had entered the house and Niall closed the door.
"Perfect timing, I just moved the pizzas in the oven," he said and adding without breathing "Put your jacket here somewhere and follow me into the kitchen."
I nodded and he ran off. Slowly, I slipped out of my jacket and laid it carefully on a chair. Just as I wondered if I should take off my shoes too, he called "Don't forget the shoes! Just put them to the others and grab slippers!"
I did what he told me and then went into the room where his voice was coming from.
Only now, when I saw him again, I registered the flour in his blond hair. Also on his skin there were slight traces of it. Around the waist he wore an apron that he had attached to the side.
"Sit down, I clean just a little bit," he said, pointing to bar stools in front of a table while he ran through the huge white kitchen.
The kitchen was amazing; high cabinets, huge fridge, stainless steel sink. In contrast to our kitchen was this like a heavenly dream.
Niall jumped through the kitchen, threw away something there, cleaned something here. I watched him until he finally satisfied sighed and took off the apron.
"Okay," he said and sat down beside me. "Shall we begin directly with our task or wait until the pizzas are ready? Do you want something to drink? We have everything. Water, juices, champagne, tea... Just say something."
I stared at him for a moment before I answered with another question. "How am I supposed to say something, when you talk all the time?"
He laughed and nodded. "I'm sorry. It's a habit if I don't know what to do or how to react," he said, and shrugged.
I said "I'll take a hot orange juice, if that's okay."
He nodded, stood up and said, "Coming right up."
Then he whirled back through the kitchen and I could only wonder.
This private Niall was totally different than the one I knew at school. This one was helpful, friendly, courteous and... normal. Somehow. Like the Niall, whom I had met eternal years ago.
"Here," he said, placing a steaming cup in front of me. I thanked him and pulled it to me.
"And... how are you?," he asked, after a few seconds had elapsed. The situation was so weird that I laughed shortly.
"Are you trying to run small talk?," I asked and he blushed slightly.
"Well, I could also ask about the weather when you like that more," he said, and I shook my head.
"You don't have to talk to me," I finally said and looked straight into his blue eyes.
"I know that I don't have to. But I'd like to."
I looked at him blankly and then asked, "But why?"
He laughed. "Why? Why not?"
"Because you're you and I am I," I said softly, and he shrugged his shoulders.
"That didn't bother us when we were younger," he said and I shook my head.
"That's ages ago. A lot has happened," I said curtly, he nodded in agreement.
Then he said, however, "This doesn't mean that we can't be friends."
"Usually I'm not friends with people who make my life a living hell," I said, and this seemed to hit him.
The smile faded from his lips and his eyes. His face turned into a repentant expression.
"What can I say?," asked Niall quietly and kneaded his hands.
"I'm-" he began, but at that moment the kitchen clock rang.
He sighed, got up and turned it off. Then he took a plate from a closet and opened the oven.
With the ringing of the clock my mind turned back on. What was I doing here? How could I, after all, what he and his friends had done to me, deal with him so friendly? Josh's words echoed in my head again. "Take care." Perhaps he also thought that I shouldn't fall for him and his words.
I didn't understand myself. How could I so confidently deal with him now? It had be him. I didn't know why, but he gave me the feeling that I could trust him. That he would catch a bullet for me every time. It was just so... easy with him. Ironically.
Had someone told me weeks ago that I would be in this house with Niall James, I probably would have panicked and never showed up. Okay, this time I had to. And it was different than I thought. It was still scary and weird, but only because he was so friendly and normal.
Niall put the pizza on the table and got cutlery.
They smelled heavenly and looked pretty good.
Then he sat back down next to me and said "I didn't know which one of the pizzas that I have delivered to you was yours, so I've just done a bit of everything on it. If you don't like something you can make it on my plate, I actually eat everything."
We looked at each other and I finally asked what had already burned on my tongue all the time: "Why are you suddenly so nice to me?"
"Why shouldn't I be?," he answered back with a question and I rolled my eyes.
"Because you're one of Zayn's entourage and you all have made Joshs and mine life a living hell until a few days ago. Why do you change that now so suddenly? When the pizza is poisoned or the remaining guys are somewhere waiting for me, then tell me this now. I can just leave," I said.
Niall looked at me long before he said "It was serious what I said earlier. I don't want to hurt you. Neither Josh. Thus, the pizza isn't poisoned and the guys know nothing about this." He pointed at me, then at himself. "I told them that I have charged all the work on you. I also told them that they should leave you two alone, so that we get a good grade. And I'm so nice to you because-"
"But I don't want to!," echoed a voice from the hallway.
Someone stomped defiantly and shoes squeaked across the floor. We turned to the noise and a little girl with light brown hair walked with her head down into the kitchen. A few steps from us, she stopped and then looked at Niall.
"Hey Niall," she greeted him and then said, "Hey Al-" and looked at me.
Straight in the word she stopped and looked at me in surprise.
"You're not Alyson!," she said, eyeing me.
Then she looked to Niall, when he said "This is Selena."
Her eyes got a bit bigger and her eyes darted to me first and then back to Niall. She looked at him questioningly and he nodded twice with his head in my direction.
Slowly, it was scary.
The little girl's eyes began to glow and she quickly ran towards us. Then she gave me her hand and said, "It's soo cool to get to know you! I'm Taylor, his sister."
Surprised, I took her hand and said, "It's also nice to meet you, Taylor."
Niall got up and took from a cupboard a jar of biscuits.
"I know why you're here. Take one," he said and opened the jar.
Taylor's eyes swept eagerly over the glass and its delicious contents, but shook her head and said "No, thanks."
Niall snorted and said, "That's something I've never heard of you! What's going on? Are you sick?"
She shook her head, threw glances at the jar and then whispered, "I just don't want one. I'm not hungry."
I raised my eyebrow and said "This isn't the only reason."
She looked at Niall, then me, and finally to the ground. Then she muttered something, but I didn't understand what. I exchanged a look with Niall and noticed that he didn't understand something neither.
"What?," he asked and Taylor sighed.
"Alyson-said-that-I-should-be-careful-what-I-eat-otherwise-I-would-become-fat-and-no-one-would-like-me-anymore" she rattled down and clenched her hands into fists.
"What?!," Niall and I said simultaneously stunned.
She nodded and continue to look at the floor.
I looked at her brother and he looked at me. In his blue eyes flashed something. Disappointment? Disbelief? In them you could clearly see the inner conflict he led, although he remained outwardly very cool. He was stunned, just like me.
"But dear-," he began, but I cut him off with one glance.
Then I grabbed a biscuit and knelt before her, so I could see in her eyes.
"You are the way you are perfect. Don't let anybody tell you something different! And anyone who doesn't like you because of your inner, your true self, and also doesn't love you because of this, doesn't deserve you. Remember this, Taylor," I said, and held out the biscuit.
She took it, looked at me and smiled. Then she fell into my arms, hugged me as hard as she could and said to Niall "She should be your girlfriend, not Alyson!"
Then she let go of me and grinned. "She is also a lot prettier," she said, biting into her biscuit, turned around and left.
I stood up and turned to Niall.
"The way you reacted... Wow. It's easy to realize that you have younger siblings."
I smiled and said "Collin and Carol have become eight a few weeks ago."
He smiled at me and said, "Tay has become eight two months ago."
Then his face was grim. "I can't believe that Alyson has said that to her. Tay is only a littler girl! How could she?"
I sighed and sat down again. "She knows just what it takes to be popular," I said ironically and Niall rolled his eyes as he flopped down on a bar stool next to me.
"Unbelievable," he said, ramming his fork into his pizza.