Sometimes it takes a lifetime. Sometimes it only takes a minute… and other times it takes a second.
His shirt was pulled over his bare, muscular chest in a rush to get ready. He had been on holidays for the past few weeks, and now the first day of work again, he was running late. Drat. The coffee maker in the kitchen beeped, and the toaster popped out his toast.
Hobbling, Niall Horan quickly made his way to the kitchen. What was wrong with him this morning? He woke up with his knee aching more than words could describe, and he had slept late! Too add to that his phone had died… literally died. It wouldn’t turn on or anything. He had no way of contacting the gang to tell them he was late and was alright. Usually if they were late for something security and the cops would get involved because the worst would always be assumed.
“C’mon!” Niall whispered ferociously to the jar of peanut butter which was refusing to open. It finally slid open, and he buttered the two pieces of toast and turned around, taking a bite out of one piece, to the coffee maker and started making his morning coffee. Extra sugar and just a splash of milk. He liked his coffee strong and full of sugar. It was sometimes the only way he could sneak in those extra sugar particles as management tried to keep them on a healthy balanced diet when they were on tour.
Finding a plate in the cupboard, Niall took his toast and coffee to a table situated between the kitchen and living room where the TV was and all the games he owned. There weren’t many board games, maybe one or two that he could remember, but other than that there were Xbox games, PlayStation games and any other sort of electronic game imagined.
Niall grunted at the thought of last night, Thursday the 13th of February. He had spent the eve of Valentine’s Day playing on his Xbox trying to reach his high score. It bothered him knowing that the rest of his friends had most likely been out with their girlfriends.
Maybe that was why he was having such a bad start to his day! Today was Valentine’s Day and he was single. Still single. He wanted a girlfriend so badly, and knew that he could pick just about any girl in the world, and they would be thrilled, but he wouldn’t be. He wanted someone that would make him feel better… feel alive.
Quickly Niall finished his breakfast, brushed his teeth and put his shoes on before heading out the door. He lived in a big apartment building. Most people knew who he was, no one freaked out at the sight of him. He was treated like a normal person. That was how he wanted his girlfriend to treat him.
The hallway was long, lined with countless doors and pictures to decorate the space. Niall wasn’t thinking as he tried his best to run downstairs to the underground parking lot, but of course, he couldn’t run.
Niall stopped in his tracks and thought for a moment. Someone was talking to him. He didn’t recognize the voice, and he wearily looked into the face of a girl, maybe about his age, with auburn hair, perfectly straightened. She was wearing a school uniform, which indicated she was school age. She wore thick-rimmed black retro glasses and was holding three textbooks nervously in her thin arms.
“Yes?” Niall smiled a weary smile. He didn’t have time to talk to fans… “I’m so sorry but I don’t have time for a picture or autograph or-,”
“Why would I want that?” the girl asked, cocking her head to the right in confusion.
“Oh… umm…” Niall stammered. He didn’t want to tell this girl if she didn’t already know.
“I’m so sorry to bother you, but I really need help.”
“What do you need help with?” Impatiently he shifted his feet, making them aligned with his shoulders.
“I’m lost. I just moved in here last night, so it was dark and a bit spooky when I came in. Now it’s morning… of course…” she blushed slowly. “And… well… everything looks different.”
Niall managed to smile genuinely. “It does happen to do that sometimes,” he responded. “Where are you looking to go?”
“Well, you see, I need to find the underground parking lot. That’s where my car is.”
“I’m on my way there right now,” Niall offered. “You can come with me.”
“I could?” The girl looked surprised. “Thank you soo much!” her face showed obvious relief. “My name is Lizzie by the way.” She tried to put her hand out underneath her books for a handshake, but Niall stopped her.
“I’m Niall. Niall Horan. Don’t worry about giving me a handshake. Here, let me take your books.” His gentleman instincts kicked in and took the books from the girl before she could argue.
“Thanks.” She smiled at him, she had to look up because Niall was taller than her. She was a short girl.
“You’re going the wrong way. The elevator to the parking lot is this way.” They started walking in the direction Niall was going, following the hallway. “The staircase is also this way. Usually I would take the staircase but…”
“Oh no! The elevator is fine. Staircases creep me out anyway.” Lizzie shuddered to emphasize her dislike. “The dampness… the way every step you take echoes…” she went on and Niall zoned out as they continued down the hall and eventually got to the elevator.
A sign was on the door which read in bold, red letters: Out of Service.
“Shoot,” Niall grunted. “Stairs it is.” He turned and took a few steps to the door which said it led to the stairwell. He didn’t want to go and walk down the stairs, his knee was killing him and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to do it since they have more than one hundred stairs to go down – he had once counted.
“I hate the stairs,” Lizzie mumbled behind him, but didn’t put up an argument. They started their way down slowly. Niall was clinging to the railing for dear life and Lizzie cautiously watched. Worried. “Niall, are you ok?” She eventually asked. They had only gone down ten steps, but it felt like a thousand.
“Honestly…” Niall took a deep breath and looked into Lizzie’s eyes contemplating whether or not to tell the truth. “I’m not ok…” he finally said and took a seat on the dirty step. “I have had knee problems for the past few years, and it got increasingly worse last year during my world tour…”
“Yeah… I’m part of that huge band, One Direction.”
“Oh,” Lizzie shrugged. “Thought you looked familiar.”
This surprised Niall more than anything. “I feel rude to ask this, but why aren’t you freaking out or something? Most girls by now would be trying to take my clothes off.”
“I don’t know…” Lizzie said in a small voice. “I mean, I like your music, just not the biggest fan.”
For some reason the words didn’t hurt as much as Niall had anticipated them too.
“Hey!” the scream of a teenage girl came from a few flights of stairs downwards. The sound of her running up the stairs was loud, and soon it was recognized that there was a lot more than one girl.
“He’s up here!” Another voice shouted.
Niall swore under his breath. “Here it goes.” He was whispering now and tried to get up, but it was hard for him too. By the time he was standing a bunch of girls were in view, at least twenty. Word happened to go around fast when the apartment buildings elevator was out of service and Niall Horan had to take the stairs.
“It’s ok,” Lizzie stood up. She watched Niall close his eyes and saw him trying to fight off fear. His breathing got faster. He was starting to freak out. She knew these signs of panic.
“NIALLLL!” the girls screamed in unison and gathered around him, shoving paper in front of him, hugging him, grabbing onto whatever part of him they could.
Lizzie was in the middle of it, trying her best to stay beside Niall, who was getting excessively nervous and scared. She couldn’t take it any longer. It had only been going on for thirty seconds, but enough was enough. She put her fingers in her mouth and whistled. The sound was ear-piercing, bouncing off of the walls. Everyone stopped mid-sentence, and quickly got off Niall, who was now shaking.
“Girls! This is Niall Horan! This is a boy, an average person! Leave him alone and give him the privacy he needs! If he wanted to hook up with any of you, he would have said so. But I didn’t hear him say that. If he wanted to give out autographs and have pictures taken, he would’ve said so. But he didn’t say any of that!” She was yelling, fuming with anger. “So please…” she softened her voice. “Please leave him alone.”
The once-screaming girls got the message and mumbled their apologies, feeling more than bad for intruding. They left.
As soon as they were out of sight Niall collapsed down onto the steps, shaking uncontrollably.
“It’s ok, Niall. Just take a few deep breathes,” Lizzie instructed coming up to sit by him. She sat really close, their bodies touching, and she put a reassuring arm around his back. She whispered soft words of encouragement, instructing him to keep breathing and telling him everything was ok.
Eventually Niall calmed down, and looked up at Lizzie. There were tears in his eyes.
“Thanks…” his voice was rasp.
“It’s ok,” Lizzie smiled as Niall pulled her closer to himself. She blushed. “It wasn’t fair for them to do that.”
“I’m dizzy…” Niall moaned.
“I don’t have any water with me at the moment, and my phone doesn’t have any service in here… so let’s just slowly get down to the parking lot and I will drive you wherever you need to go.” She helped Niall up, slowly.
“You’re the best,” Niall whispered. “Really.” He looked into her eyes, trying to focus on them, although his vision wasn’t cooperating.
“So are you.”
“Lizzie… I… I know we just met… but…” he stammered. He didn’t know what he was doing. He hadn’t done this in a while. “But would you like to be my girlfriend?”