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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17. Cassie

*****IMPORTANT*****

The song for this chapter is "Already Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. It's important because it's this chapter in a song basically.  The lyric video from YouTube is on the side, I suggest you watch it. :)

17 – Cassie

The front door slammed shut behind me, obnoxiously letting Angie know I was home. “Why is Dad’s car parked in the driveway?” I ask her when I enter the kitchen, the one place I know I can find her.

“He’s upstairs sleeping.”

“What?” I gape. “But Dad is never home before seven. Ever.

She sighs and stops chopping the onion. “He lost a patient today, Cassie. She was in a car accident. He had been in surgery for fifteen hours before they lost her.”

“Oh my God,” I gasp, a hand over my mouth. My Dad is a wonderful doctor and doesn’t lose patients often, but when he does, it hurts him. Really bad. He is so kind and thoughtful and generous and he doesn’t like it when people die. I know, you might say if he doesn’t like death then he shouldn’t have become a surgeon, but he did it to save people. I know that he has saved more people than he has lost. “How old was she?”

“Fifteen,” Angie says, her eyes brimming with tears. Mine are too. It’s just horrible to think something like that. I don’t know the girl, I don’t even know what she looks like, but it’s still upsetting.

“How is he doing?” I ask her.

“Not okay,” she answers. “He came home and went straight up to bed. I would just let him sleep.” She looks beyond exhausted, the bags under her eyes revealing how much sleep she isn’t getting.

“What about you? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she sighs, giving me a sleepy smile. “Just in need of a small nap.”

“Well why don’t you go off to bed?” I encourage her.

“I have a bake sale tomorrow, I have to get these cookies frosted and then—”

“Angie, Angie. It’s fine,” I assure her, “I’ll do it. Go get some rest, you need it. I know you and Dad are under some stress right now. Please? Go to bed. I know how to frost the cookies. You’ve shown me like a million times.”

“Okay,” she chuckles and I give her a hug before sending her off to bed.

Once she’s gone I take the cookies off the cookie sheet and bring them over onto the island. I retrieve the frosting from the pantry and then empty it into a quart-sized Ziplock bag. Next, I clip one of the corner edges of the bag, therefore making a homemade frosting dispenser.  I carefully frost the cookies. It’s silent in the house, so I am left alone with my thoughts.

It seems lately I have been spending more time with Niall than I have with my boyfriend. Isn’t Zayn the one I’m supposed to call when I have nothing to do? Niall and I have been spending a lot of time together; the hilltop, and just today when we went for coffee. He seems to actually want to get to know me, instead of just make out with me, like Zayn.

I’m not saying that Zayn is a bad person, or that he is using me. All I can think about though is that Zayn has never made an effort to get to know me like Niall has. I care about Zayn—of course I do—but if we are going to be in a serious relationship then he better start acting like he wants one, and not just a girl to make out with. When I think of Zayn just asking me out because he is alone, I don’t get upset as the next person would.

When Zayn asked me out—or when I asked him out—I was just glad someone liked me. Everyone that I have ever liked never truly liked me for me, if they showed any interest in me at all. I guess the only reason I wanted to be with Zayn was because he showed an interest in me. Usually it’s the other way around, resulting in me not even getting a chance to be with the boy I like. Now, I’m not the kind of girl that will go out with anyone who likes her, but I suppose Zayn used his charm on me. He is one of the most attractive people I have ever seen and is most certainly the best kisser I have known.

There is no flare between us, no passion. He didn’t get to know me. He never asks. When I really think about it, I was using him too. He had been single for a long time, just wanting some comfort of another person; I, on the other hand, was just thrilled that someone liked me back. But maybe I didn’t like Zayn for who he really is on the inside. That might make me sound terrible but in retrospect, I didn’t ask about him either. Our relationship was nothing meaningful. When we spent time together, we either made out or watched TV. Zayn’s image and stunningly good looks roped me in. I wasn’t with him for his title, or who he is, no. I wanted to ask him out because he is kind, caring and a wonderful person, I’m sure. And all I can hope for is that one day someone will come around and finally make him truly and honestly happy.

Plus, I can’t be with Zayn when it’s Niall that is on my mind. I’m not saying that I like Niall as more than a friend, but it’s not right to be dating someone, but spending most of your time with their best friend. It doesn’t make me feel good, that isn’t who I am.

So that’s why I have to break up with Zayn.

It’s not going to be easy; I don’t want him out of my life completely. I hope to get to know him as one of my best friends. Zayn is a great person, and I don’t want to not know him. Additionally, Zayn and I have everything in common. Looks like Angie was right when she reminded me of the saying “Opposites attract.” Zayn and I are basically the same person, which makes me realize that we would be better together as friends than as a couple.

Before I know where the time went, all of the cookies are frosted. When I look at the time on the oven, the green numbers tell me that it’s eleven thirty. It’s almost midnight, but I can’t wait to do this. The longer I wait, the guiltier I feel. I don’t want Zayn thinking I am stringing him along or anything. This is important and if I don’t tell him sooner rather than later, the worse I am going to feel and the harder Zayn is going to take the breakup. If Zayn tells me that he honestly cares about me, I would drown in the guilt. Not heartache, guilt.

I grab my keys and my purse while I slip on my converse. I am dreading this—breaking up with someone you care for is never fun—for obvious reasons. Once I’m out the door I press the unlock button on my keys and get in the car. My vision is slightly blurred and my heart pounds in my chest.

I take a deep breath and tell myself over and over again, It’s going to be okay. You’re not going to lose Zayn.

*****

“Cassie?” Liam asks, surprised to see me and I climb on the bus. “What are you doing here? It’s late.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” I breathe heavily, attempting to catch my breath. I ran from my car to here, and my nerves aren’t helping me calm down. “But it’s important. I need to talk to Zayn.”

“What about me?” He appears as soon as I say his name. Thank goodness he’s not asleep yet, that would have given me an excuse to put this off. As much as I’ll hate doing it, it needs to be done before either one of us gets hurt.

“We need to talk,” I say and confusion flashes across Zayn’s face. Liam unplugs his phone from the wall charger and leaves the room quietly. It doesn’t matter if he’s in the room or not, we’re leaving anyways.

“Alright,” Zayn says, folding his arms over his chest. “Let’s talk. Is something bothering you?” He sits but I pace back and forth in front of him.

“No,” I answer right away, and then chance my answer. “Actually, yes, Zayn. Something is bothering me.” My words tumble from my lips quickly and I can’t stay still.

“Cassie. Calm down. Just talk to me, okay?” His words are smooth and comforting, but I need to get out and breathe some fresh air.

“Can we go somewhere and talk?” I ask. “I could really use a walk right now.”

Zayn is clearly confused, but doesn’t protest, thankfully. “Sure. Let me put some shoes on. I’ll be right back.” He is gone and I run my fingers through my hair while continuing to pace. My cheeks are flushed and I dread what is to come.

“Cassie?”

My name makes me look up. “Niall?” For some reason, I completely forgot he would be here. Knowing that I am about to break up with his best friend makes me want to run out.

“What are you doing here?” he wonders the same thing that Liam did.

“Um, I’m going for a walk with Zayn.” I meet his blue eyes as his lips press into a thin line.

“Oh. Okay.”

Zayn reenters the room, brushing past Niall, but this time with converse on his feet that match mine. “Are you ready?” he asks and I nod. I give Niall a small wave but he just keeps staring at me with no emotion on his face at all. As I walk outside, Niall’s expressionless face is burned into my memory.

*****

“Okay, Cassie. What did you bring me out here for?” Zayn asks. We have been walking for fifteen minutes and I haven’t said anything yet. I just don’t know how to put what’s in my mind into words.

I sigh deeply. “You know I care about you right?” I look over at him to find out that his caramel eyes are already looking at me.

“Yes. I know that. You know I care for you too?”

I hesitate. “Yes, I know, Zayn. But, this…. This isn’t working between us.” I said it, not beating around the bush. If I had put this off any longer I probably would have changed my mind. I don't want ot over-think this. I cringe and look over to see his reaction, but I am shocked to see that he is just staring ahead with a clenched jaw. A full minute—which is complete torture—passes before he looks at me, his eyes shining. God, I hope those aren’t tears.

“What do you mean, this isn’t working?” he asks, trying not to raise his voice. I stuff my hands deeper into my pockets. “Is there someone else?”

My eyes widen. “No, no of course there isn’t. I just… I just realized I don’t think of you as anything more than a friend.” That’s not a lie, but there are so many more reasons than that.

“Don’t lie to me,” Zayn snaps and I am completely taken aback. He is always so kind. It's clear he is hurt and that's why he's lashing out.

“I-I’m not,” I stutter.

“There’s something else.”

I sigh again. “Fine. Fine, Zayn. But you promise you won’t get angry with me? I care about you, and I don’t want to lose you, alright?” He doesn’t answer, so I take that as a sign to continue. “Every guy that I have ever liked never gave me the time of day. You’re the first person to ever pursue me, and you made me feel special.” My words come out slowly and I just stare at my feet as I put one in front of the other.

“I can’t believe this,” Zayn says when I pause. “I thought we could go somewhere with this. I thought we were at that place.”

“But we don’t even know each other,” I point out, trying to phrase this in the kindest way possible. “We never got to know each other. You know nothing about the things I like or dislike, and I don’t know those things about you. This would have happened sooner or later.”

“No, it wouldn’t have,” Zayn protests, meeting my eyes. All I see is pain in them, making guilt flood my emotions. “I was falling for you, Cassie. I thought you felt the same way.” He bits his lip and I know, I have never felt worse about anything than this.

I put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Zayn. I’m so sorry. I understand if you never want to see me again.”

Zayn looks up at me, anger flashes in his eyes. “How can you say that? Of course I don’t want you out my life. I just told you that I am falling for you and you think I don’t want to see you again? Cassie, please.”

A tear rolls down my cheek. “I hate doing this.”

Zayn stops walking abruptly, pulling me to his body by wrapping an arm around my waist. “Then don’t,” he says, brushing his nose with mine.

Just as he is about to kiss me, I stop him, pushing him away gently. “I’m sorry. I just don’t feel that way for you.”

His shoulders slump and he steps away from me. He doesn’t say anything, so we just continue walking. I’m surprised he hasn’t turned around yet.

“Are you mad at me?” I ask quietly, taking a chance to look at him. He doesn’t meet my gaze, and I’m glad, for I don’t think I could stand seeing the look in his eyes again.

“I don’t know,” he sighs. “I’m thankful that you’re being honest with me. I would hate you if you were with me just because of who I am.”

“I would never do that,” I reply honestly. “You’re a wonderful person. Don’t you forget that, okay? I’m doing this because I care about you.” A humorless chuckle escapes from Zayn’s lips and I frown. “I’m serious. I want to get to know you; I don’t want you out of my life completely.”

Zayn doesn’t answer for a few minutes, but I don’t mind. “When?”

“When what?” I ask.

“When did you realize that you felt like this?”

I look up at the stars, and then back at him. “Just tonight. I think it was in the back of my mind for a week, maybe two, I don’t know. But I just admitted it to myself tonight. I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“Well you did,” he says quietly. I almost don’t hear him, and my heart breaks even further. Since he probably didn’t want me to hear that, I pretend that I didn’t.

We approach a small park, all the swings and slides empty. The sound of traffic can be heard in the distance. “I’m sorry,” I say again.

He just nods, but doesn’t say anything. “I should probably get back. We’re pretty busy tomorrow.”

I nods and put my hands in my pocket again. “Of course.” I don’t know what to say to him. “Please tell me we can be friends? I don’t want to lose you.”

Since I saw him tonight, Zayn smiled a small smile. “You could never lose me, Cassie. Never.”

Before I know what I am doing, I am wrapping my arms around his neck. He hesitates before he awkwardly hugs me back. “You’re going to find someone that is perfect for you,” I say without pulling away. “She is going to be everything you’ve been waiting for, I promise.”

When he pulls away he just half smiles at me and walks away without another word. He realizes that I’m not following him and turns around. “Are you coming?”

My heart swells. After what I just did, and all that I said, he is still being kind to me. “No, I think I’ll stay here for a bit. Goodnight Zayn.” 

Zayn nods and turns around once more. But this time, he doesn’t look back.

*****

An hour later, I am still at the park where Zayn left me. It’s well past midnight now, but I can’t find it in myself to walk all the way back to my car. There are too many things on my mind and I know that when I get in my bed I won’t be able to sleep anyways. A warm breeze blows my hair gently from my face and I bring my knees up to my chest and rest my chin on my folded arms.

It’s the seventh—well, eighth now I guess, since it is twelve twenty-seven in the morning—of September, meaning Niall’s birthday is this Saturday. The boys—along with Parker and Marley—are leaving in three days for New York to celebrate Niall’s birthday. I told Niall that I would try to come, and I think it will be possible. I am ahead in all of my school work and I don’t think taking this Thursday and Friday will be off will be a problem.

But of course, Zayn will be among those on the trip. I am not looking forward to seeing him after what I just did. Hopefully after we get through this stage of hurt and awkwardness, we can get to know each other, something we never actually did during the month or so that we dated. I think knowing Zayn as a best friend will be much better than knowing him as a boyfriend.

The biggest problem, and therefore the main reason for our breakup, was that we are too alike. There were no sparks, no big arguments that was made up with a passionate kiss. There was no fire. It was too safe; it didn’t make my heart race like I had hoped it would. To make myself feel better, I think of another explanation that Zayn and I would have never worked, and as soon as I think it, my eyes widen and shake the head from my thoughts immediately.

All the guys I have ever liked were blondes, anyway.

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