Picture Imperfect (Niall Horan)

{Book 4} When Niall Horan falls, he falls hard. The moment he lays eyes on Cassie Barnett, he's in too deep. Past relationships —including the one with Amabel's ex best friend— have not gone as planned. Is he the reason for breakup after breakup? Cassie Barnett has eyes for Niall's best mate, Zayn. Niall's desperate attempts at getting her attention just might be enough for her to fall for him instead. Could she be just what he's been waiting for?

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15. Cassie

15 – Cassie

“Sounds good to me,” Niall says, a wonderful smile on his lips. I’m really glad I found him here. To be honest, I had no idea he would be here. I just knew he was upset, and this place just attracts those who are lonely, I guess. Niall is my friend—I care about him—and it’s my job to talk to him and make him feel better. That’s what friends do.

It’s silent between us and the wind makes my hair flutter over my shoulder. I can see Niall look at me so I turn to him and meet his blue eyes. “Why do you like singing so much?” I ask. I know it’s about following your dreams and all, but I never liked to sing.

Niall sighs. “When I was younger I knew I wanted to do something with my life, besides working in an office. I had dreams to be an artist, and now that I have the opportunity to live that dream, I realize it’s so much more than I expected.”

“In a bad way?” I furrow a brow.

He shakes his head. “No, not always. Sometimes though.”

“I don’t think I could ever do what you do,” I admit to him, chuckling a little bit.

“And why’s that?” he asks, smiling. “Doesn’t everyone want to be famous and travel the world?”

I shake my head. “Nope, not me. I don’t want to be famous.”

“Why not?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. I like my privacy. I don’t want strangers knowing everything that’s going on in my life.”

“Yeah, I think that’s the biggest con in all of this.”

“What is?”

“Having everyone know everything about you,” he answers, looking at me. “We need privacy too. But I love and appreciate everyone who supports us, so there isn’t much I can do.”

“Is it worth it? All of this?” I wonder, motioning around us.

Niall thinks about it before he replies, “Yeah. Absolutely it is. Some days are better than others, though. But when you’re up there, on stage, with all the fans, it makes it all worth it.”

I smile when I see him smiling to himself, seemingly lost in thought. “I want to make a difference, like you.”

He frowns. “A difference? How?”

“I want to remembered, but not by a million people that don’t truly know me. I would want to be remembered by ten people that know the real me, that know who I was as a person,” I say and ignore the way he is looking at me. I get goose bumps and I clear my throat, which makes him flush and look down. “I volunteer whenever I don’t have school or whenever I am free. But it’s just not enough. I want to go places and do much bigger and better things with my life. I don’t think volunteering at the hospital is enough for me. But I love it, I love helping people recover from accidents or whatever, but there is so much more to be done, things much bigger than me.”

I take a deep breath and finally look over at Niall. His blue eyes are shining and there is look on his face that makes me unable to look away. “You…Cassie Barnett, are one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”

I laugh and blush, looking down. “I don’t know about that,” I whisper. A shiver rakes through my body, the breeze picking up.

“Cold?” he asks and I nod. “Here.” Niall scoots closer and wraps an arm around my shoulder. Immediately I am warmer with him touching me.

“Thanks,” I mutter.

“Can I tell you something?” he asks. “Something I haven’t told anyone else before?”

I look up at him, even though it’s kind of difficult because my head is in the crook of his neck. His other arm is in his pocket. “Of course.”

“I feel like I’m running away from all my problems.”

“What?” I ask.

Niall looks across the city below. “I mean, we travel a lot, so it makes me feel like a bit of a coward. What I have been avoiding cannot ever be solved since I am never in one place for long. I hate it.” A frown takes over his face and I don’t like it.

“Hey,” I say and place a hand on his leg. “You can tell me. What’s problems?”

Niall clears his throat. “Um, well you know Amabel right?”

I have never met her but I know she is Harry’s girlfriend. “Yes.”

“Well, she had a best friend, her name was Sam.” He stops after he says her name, and I wonder what happened between them. Did she die? “I fell in love with her. And she fell in love with me too.”

My eyes widen. “Oh.”

“We were really happy, and I thought we were going to be together forever, but I was wrong. As usual.”

As usual? What the hell does that mean?

“She dumped me after a long time, actually.”

I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. At least his ex-girlfriend didn’t pass away. “Why?” I ask.

Niall takes a deep breath. “It’s kind of a long story.”

“I have time,” I say right away. I am not moving from this spot until I know what happened with Niall and Sam.

“Well, you’ve met Parker. Liam’s girlfriend?” he asks and I nod, more confused than I was before. How are all these people connected?

“Well, before Liam and Parker started dating, I ran into her one day in the park in Miami—that’s where Parker is from—and she looked kind of…lost I guess so I offered to take a walk with her. We went to the beach and I thought she could have some fun, so I got in the water and I wanted her to come in with me. She didn’t want to, but I insisted but she still wouldn’t. It’s a long story, that one. You can ask Liam.”

I nod and brush the hair from my face.

“But then Sam showed up,” he continues, the frown still on his face. I want to smooth it away. “Things between us had been kind of weird. She didn’t seem to want to spend as much time with me as before. I just thought we were over that phase where we couldn’t keep our hands off each other, you know? And she kind of…freaked out, I guess. She started yelling and demanding to know who Parker was. She thought that I was cheating on her with Parker. I wasn’t I had just met her, and I tried to explain to Sam what was happening but she wouldn’t hear it. The rest of the boys showed up and they took Parker away. I stayed behind and tried to explain myself, but Sam wouldn’t listen. We agreed to meet up one day and talk about everything.”

Niall takes a deep breath and I can see this isn’t his most favorite topic of conversation. “It’s okay,” I assure him, rubbing his arm.

He gives me a small smile. “So we met up, and after hours of talking, she ended up breaking up with me. She um…she said she fell out of love with me.”

I close my eyes and hold back tears. “I’m so sorry, Niall.”

“It sucks, you know? My whole relationship went to shit because she didn’t like me anymore.”

I thought that maybe the reason that it hurt him so much to talk about it was because he still loves her. “You don’t…you know...”

“Love her? No, I don’t. I haven’t for a very, very long time. She still lives in the UK as far as I know. I hated the way things ended between us, so that’s why I feel like I’m running. Because every time we go back to the UK, I think about calling her to see how she’s doing, but before I have the chance, we’re going to a different country. It’s frustrating.”

It clicks. I get it now. “I understand.” I meet his blue eyes and he gives me another small smile. I clear my throat and then ask, “Um…what did you mean by as usual? You said that you were wrong as usual. About what?”

He sighs and shifts his weight.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “If you don’t want to tell me, I get it.”

“Cassie, I want to. You’re not a terrible listener,” he jokes. I laugh.

“Thanks, I guess.”

“Um, whenever one of my relationships end, it’s always the girl that breaks up with me. Of course, I’ve broken up with someone before, but the serious ones, the relationships that I thought could have possibly lasted…they always dump me. It was never me, it never needed to be. I know what I want and I wouldn’t ask someone out if I didn’t like them. At first I didn’t know why these relationships never worked out, but then I figured it out…it’s me.”

“What?” 

“There has got to be something about me that’s…wrong. It’s my fault. I’m too into the relationship or something,” he explains, and I think he’s going insane.

“You’re not the problem, Niall. They are. They just cannot see how wonderful you actually are.” I meet his eyes and I say the words honestly, and I can see that he doesn’t really believe what I’m telling him.

He doesn’t answer, and so I just assume we’re done with that topic. That’s okay with me; it was getting a little too depressing and I thought we were going to talk about something less sappy. “What’s your favorite movie?” he asks randomly.

I laugh. “My favorite movie? We’re doing this now?”

“Of course,” he smiles down at me. “Please don’t tell me it’s The Notebook or something.”

“Ugh, hell no,” I groan and roll my eyes. “I hate that movie on a level you don’t even understand.”

Apparently, my response is amusing, because Niall laughs, his cheeks turning pink and his eyes squinting. “Thank God,” he breathes, but to me, it sounds like he is saying Tank God. His accent is so cute.

“Seriously though,” I continue. “I’m not the biggest romantic slash chick flick fan out there. I prefer… X-Men or Indiana Jones.”

Niall has finally calmed down and he is just smiling now. “I like your taste, Barnett.”

“What about you, hmm? Do you love The Notebook?”

“That movie I’ve never seen, and I don’t plan on it,” he admits and I sigh deeply.

“Good, it’ll be a waste of you time,” I grumble and he chuckles. “I’m serious, I want those two hours of my life back.”

“You, Cassie, are something else.”

I roll my eyes. “Whatever that means.” It looks like Niall wants to say something else, but he doesn’t. Instead, I ask something I have been wondering all night. “What are your hobbies, you know, besides singing and being super famous?” I grin.

“I fancy playing guitar,” he replies and I roll my eyes again.

“That’s really obvious,” I say and he shrugs. I sigh. “Never mind, I forgot how boring you are.”

That gets Niall’s attention. “Excuse me?” he laughs in disbelief and I try so hard to keep a straight face. “You think I’m boring.”

I shrug as well and say, “Well you play guitar, you’re so nice it’s suffocating, what else is there?” I tease, but hopefully I am putting on a good enough show so that he thinks I am being serious.

Niall just stares at me with his mouth hanging open. “Wow,” he says and shakes his head, then begins to stand.

“Wait!” I grab his hand, a smile escaping. “Come on Niall, I was kidding! You’re not boring trust me. Actually, you’re quite the opposite.”

He looks down at me and fights a grin, stuffing his hands into his pockets. Then he sits down and gives my head a good whack. “You deserve that,” he says after I cry out.

“What the hell?” I ask, rubbing my forehead.

“That, love, is for scaring the living shit out of me.”

“I scared you?” I raise an eyebrow.

“Absolutely,” Niall says casually, “I thought I was going to have to throw you over this cliff for calling me boring, and last time I checked, it wouldn’t be good for me to be in jail for murder.”

My jaw drops, but then I start laughing. “You’re unbelievable.”

He laughs and slings an arm around my shoulder again and we resume our position. “Besides, if one of us is boring it would be you.”

“Niall!” I protest and whack his chest, making him laugh harder.

“You love it,” he says and I roll my eyes for what seems like the fiftieth time tonight. We sit there for another twenty minutes or so, just enjoying the breeze and the view of the city. After a little bit he asks, “What time is it?”

I pull out my phone. “It’s…nine forty-five. We should probably get back.”

“Good idea,” he agrees and stands up, offering me his hand. I take it, and stand up, only a foot between our bodies. His blue eyes meet mine once more and I give him a small smile.

“I’ll follow you back to the bus, yeah?” I say and he nods.

I start the car and buckle, and then pull away, going back down into the city and driving to the bus where Niall left his friends to be alone. The whole ride Niall is driving behind me, and although he cannot see me, I look at his car in my review mirror multiple times. When I park by the bus, Niall pulls up right next to me. We step out of the car at the same time that Zayn rushes out, spotting us both.

“Mate, where the hell did you go?” he asks Niall. “I called you, like twenty times.”

“Sorry, bro. My phone died.” Niall looks at his shoes and I don’t know if that was a lie or not.

“Hey babe,” Zayn sighs, turning to me. I smile and walk over to him, wrapping an arm around his waist as he presses a kiss to my forehead. I can feel Niall’s ocean-blue eyes staring at us, and when I meet them, he just looks away and clenches his jaw. “Did you want to go inside?” Zayn asks.

I sigh and nod. “Sure.” Zayn slips a hand to mine and interlocks our fingers. Just as we are about to go in, I turn back to Niall.

“Are you coming?” I ask. He looks at me and he gives me a sad nod.

“Yeah, I’ll be right there.”

I give him a tiny smile and turn away again, but before he’s gone from sight, I see Niall’s palm connect to the strip of metal above his window of his car, then his hands rake through his hair in a frustrating manner. “Fuck!” I hear him say to himself.

I frown, wanting to know why he’s so upset, but before I can say anything, Zayn is pulling me inside.

:-:-:-:-:

Hello! :) I hope you're all having a wonderful summer so far! Please take a moment to vote and/or comment, that would be great! 

Alli, x

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