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?


12. Niall

12 – Niall

“Oi! Niall! Wake up, mate!”

Harry’s voice wakes me up in the morning. Too early, in fact. I groan and roll over, and eventually stand up and meet the other boys. “What time is it?” I ask, and then remember that today is Friday, and we are driving to Memphis today do a talk show. We will be staying there until Sunday morning, and then we will come back, but only until Tuesday, and then we will be going to Chicago to talk about our fourth album. I don’t know what is going to happen with Cassie. I don’t want to be away from her for that long.

“It’s eight-thirty,” Liam answers my question that I almost forgot I asked.

I sit down on the couch and notice Zayn is smiling like an idiot. “What’s got you happy?” I ask him.

“He had a date last night,” Louis teases him and wiggles his eyebrows.

My eyes widen. “You did? With Cassie?” Please don’t say Cassie, please don’t say Ca-

“Yeah, mate,” Zayn grins. “It was great. We went to a pub and it was just go great. She’s great.”

“Yeah, I know,” I mutter so no one can hear me.

“Did you kiss her?” Marley asks a little too eagerly.

“No, I didn’t,” Zayn admits. “I wanted to, but I really like her and didn’t want to rush into anything.”

I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Yes! They didn’t kiss! If they did, I don’t know what I would have done. I force a smile on my face and clap Zayn’s shoulder. “Congrats, though.”

“Thanks, Niall.” Zayn smiles at me and I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

He doesn’t go a day without talking about her and how amazing she is. What’s killing me is not that he doesn’t know how I feel, but it’s that he is saying all the things I want to. It feels like he is literally taking the words out of my mouth, but the thing is… he can say them, because he’s practically dating her. If I told my best friends how I felt about Cassie and what she means to me, they wouldn’t understand. They would tell me I wouldn’t be allowed to like her because Zayn liked her first.

Which isn’t true.

This feeling really sucks…this lonely feeling. It’s just me and my heart, which is shattered into a million little pieces every single time Zayn says her name. I can’t help but feel hope that she secretly fancies me too but doesn’t say anything about it because she doesn’t want to ruin what is between us as friends…so basically everything that is going through my mind.

This really fucking sucks, if you ask me.

“We’re leaving in about an hour,” Liam says, bringing me back from my negative thoughts. I am sure everyone noticed just how quiet I am nowadays. I’ve had a lot to think about lately.

“I’m going for a walk,” I announce, just wanting to get away from everyone, even if it’s for a little while. I can’t take it anymore; I can’t stand hearing Zayn talk about the girl I like so much. It really fucking hurts and the worst part is that I can’t talk to anyone about it. Of course, I could talk to Harry, or Liam, or Marley, or anyone that isn’t Zayn or Cassie but they wouldn’t understand. They would feel bad for me and give me a pitiful look because the girl I want to be with is dating my best friend and rubbing it in my face. But they won’t get it. None of them will understand what it’s like having what you can’t have constantly being waved in front of your face and as soon as you’re about to grab it...it’s taken away.

Every time I think I can tell Cassie how I feel about her, she goes and says something that reminds me that Zayn is my best friend and no matter how badly I want to be him, I can’t just ruin his relationship like that. It’s not who I am. I care about the people around me and I would rather them be happy and me be in pain then ruin what they have. It’s just wouldn’t be fair to them.

Sometimes I wish I was tougher.

Before I know where my feet are taking me, I push open the door to a Denny’s, and I can tell the woman at the podium is shocked by me coming here so loudly. “H-How many?” she asks.

“Just one,” I pathetically answer, hanging my head.

The woman looks at me with a sympathetic look, but I try to ignore it and follow her to the table that she guides me to. “Can I get you anything?” she asks. The place is almost empty since it’s the middle of the day.

“Just coffee,” I mutter. She disappears and I just look out the window, thinking about everything that is going wrong.

I know, it’s pretty terrible of me to say something like that when I have the job that I do, but most people don’t even see the half of it. All they see is Niall Horan, a happy, care-free guy with everything in the world. I am happy and I love the way things have turned out for One Direction, but the magazines lie. Not everything is brought down to me—to us—, things are different than what people think they know. The truth is, it hurts. Lots of things hurt.

It hurts that I can’t see my family and friends whenever I want to. They’re the people that got me here and I can’t spend time with them, let alone thank them. We get breaks between tours, obviously, but then it’s back to songwriting and recording, then we start the tour. When that ends we release another album and travel across the globe talking about it. Then it’s back to songwriting and the process seems to never end. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to do anything else but my families are the most important people to me and it hurts missing one of the birthdays or something.

It hurts to read what people say about you. I’ll admit, most of what I read is bullshit about who I’m dating, but the stuff I read about my band mates affects me too. It affects us all. It’s insane to think that someone would believe something about people you care about, but they do. It hurts to think that someone would think you would do such a thing. The lads and I try to keep reading gossip to a minimal but some things are just inevitable.

But most of all, it hurts that Cassie is right in front of me, but I can’t kiss her, I can’t wrap my arms around her, I can’t do all the things that Zayn can. When people look at me they think I have everything figured out, that my life is perfect but that is so far from the truth. They don’t know that my heart breaks over and over, every time I see Cassie.

So, yeah, it sucks.


When I make it back, we are just about to leave for the interview. To be honest, I’m not really up for it. I’m sure the whole ride there Zayn is going to be talking about Cassie, and I can’t stand that for long. So many times I’ve wanted to tell him how I feel about Cassie, but I don’t want there to be tension between us. When you spend as much time with someone as I do with these four lads, there can’t be bad blood between you.

Zayn is texting and I know it’s Cassie from the smile on his lips. I glare at him, and if looks could kill, he’d be on the ground. Harry notices and gives me a questioning look. I shake my head at him, telling him to drop it. The last thing I need is for Harry to encourage me to tell Zayn how I feel about his girlfriend. That’s not going to happen.

Parker and Marley came with us; Marley, because it’s her job and Parker because she is going to be in the audience. Parker and Liam each have an earbud and they’re holding hands, Liam’s thumb stroking the back of her hand. They literally do everything together. It’s incredible how much they love each other. I can see myself like that with Cassie, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.


In no time we’re sitting on two couches and the interview is just starting. In front is Harry and Zayn, and Liam, Louis and I are sitting on a couch a little bit higher behind them. “Welcome, One Direction,” Sally welcomes us.

We thank her and get a little bit more comfortable. We get the same old questions but we have a great laugh, and for a little while my mind is taken off of Cassie and everything that has been bothering me. But not for long. Sally shows us pictures of Zayn and Cassie, walking and holding hands.

“Care to explain?” Sally asks Zayn with a wicked smile on her face.

“She’s pretty incredible,” Zayn answers her with a small smile of his own.

“So are you two serious now?”

Zayn thinks about it before he nods. “Yeah, I guess we are. I mean we really hit things off right away and she’s really good with all the lads so I think we’re pretty serious, yeah.”

“That’s great!” Sally says and everyone claps. In my mind, I’m rolling my eyes. “So, Niall,” she says, and my head snaps up at the mention of my name, “that makes you the only single one in One Direction.”

Thanks for reminding me, I think. The fans scream and I force a smile for them. “Yeah, that’s right.”

“Anyone you have a crush on? Besides your celebrity crush of course?”

My palms sweat just at the thought of Cassie. I can’t say I like someone because everyone will be wondering who it is. So I choke out the words, “No, no one at the moment. I’m just waiting for the right person.” But I already found her! I want to scream.

“You’re a very patient lad,” Sally says and I nod in agreement. I am patient; I will wait as long as I have to for Cassie to realize that I’m the one she’s supposed to be with.


“Hey Niall?” Parker calls from the bathroom a few hours later, after the interview.

“Um…Yeah?” I ask, cringing at the thought of what she could possibly need while in the bathroom.

“Could you do me a favor please?”

“Depends on what it is,” I say cautiously.

“I need a tampon and they’re in my purse on the couch. Could you get it for me please?”

I gulp and look around. “Can’t Liam do it for you?” There is no way in hell I am doing that.

“Liam’s at the store! Please? It’s an emergency, obviously,” she practically whines and I groan and gag at the same time.

“Sure,” I manage to say and find Parker’s purse. I blindly stick my hand inside and when I find something that is most likely a tampon I grab it and look at it. I can’t believe I’m holding one of these. Check that off my list of “Things I Never Thought I Would Do.” Just as I’m about to turn around and head back to the bathroom, I come across another brunette, but this one makes my knees go weak.

“Hi Niall!” Cassie says and sits down next to where I am standing. “Um…why do you have a tampon?” she asks, eyeing what’s in my hand.

“Um,” I gulp, already knowing my cheeks are as red as tomatoes, “Parker, um…Needed one, so I just...”

“Niall!” Parker calls and I let out a nervous laugh before scurrying away. I slap a hand over my eyes and open the bathroom door, chucking the tampon inside before slamming the door closed. I think I head Parker thank me but I don’t completely catch what’s she’s saying; I’m too embarrassed. Now I have to go out and face Cassie after what she just witnessed. I wipe my hands on my shorts and fix my hair before entering the room.

God, I feel like such a girl.

“Care to explain?” Cassie asks when I  sit next to her, her right eyebrow raised.

“Not really,” I tease her. “We will not speak of this.”

“Agreed,” she laughs. “That was pretty embarrassing for you.”

“Gee, thanks.” Just by talking to her for thirty seconds has made my day so much better. And she doesn’t even know.

“So I watched the interview,” Cassie says, leaning closer like she was telling a secret.

I raise my eyebrows. “Is that so?”

“Yeah,” she nods, her cheeks getting a shake pinker. I couldn’t even reply, I was just too caught up in how beautiful she looked, trying to hide a smile, something that she should never hide from me.

“A-And what did you think?” I ask her.

“I think you’re smart waiting for the right girl.”

What? What did she just say? She didn’t want to mention anything about what Zayn said about them? Not that I’m complaining. I want to hear about their relationship as little as possible. “W-What?” I stutter.

“I think it’s smart, you know? I don’t think settling for someone is the right thing to do. I think that waiting for the person that makes you feel like no one else is worth the wait.” The sparkle in her eyes is only increasing my feelings for her, and she has no clue that those words are everything I am feeling. She is the one I’ve been waiting for, I’m sure of it. I have to be right, no one has made me feel like she does in this very moment. With the sun hitting her hair and giving it a golden glow, the smile on her perfect lips and the tint to her cheeks is only pushing me closer and closer to telling her how I feel about her.

But, as usual, I chicken out.

“Thanks, Cassie,” I smile, loving how her name sounds rolling off my lips. After a minute passes without either of us saying anything I speak again. “What about you?”

“What about me what?”

“Is your wait over? Is Zayn the one?” Please say no, please say no.

Cassie sighs deeply. “I’m not sure. It feels like it sometimes.” And…my heart shatters for the millionth time since I have met her. “But other times…”

My heart stops at her words. “You want to be with Zayn right?”       

“Of course, of course,” she—unfortunately—reassures me. “He’s great, I like him, but sometimes, when I’m alone I try to imagine a future with him, but…I just… I can’t see it.”     

Right now, my feelings for Cassie aside, I am Zayn’s best mate. “Hey,” I say softly, “that’s a long ways away. As long as you’re happy that’s all that matters. Don’t let the future Cassie freak you out. Live in the moment and enjoy it while it lasts alright? Promise me, I don’t like seeing you frown.”

She looks up at me from under her eyelashes and I lose my breath. “Wow, you’re like… really smart.”

I give her a sincere smile. “Thanks love. But seriously, remember that. You deserve to be happy.”

She laughs once. “You hardly even know me,” she jokes, “I could be a serial killer and not deserve to be happy. You hardly know me, Niall Horan.”

My smile grows wider. “Well maybe that’s the problem. You’re dating my best friend, I wanna know who you are if you’re going to be around here annoying me all the time.”

“Hey!” she cries and whacks my arm. I throw my head back and laugh at the look on her face. Teasing her is one of my new favorite hobbies. “You’re evil.”

“I think that’s you, for all I know you could be a serial killer, like you mentioned,” I point out.

“Fine,” she giggles and it’s such a beautiful sound. “You win this time.”

“And don’t you forget it,” I grin and she just shakes her head, not losing her smile.

Cassie looks at her phone. “Shoot, I have to go. I promised Angie that I would make dinner tonight. Can’t be late!” She stands and slips her phone in her back pocket. I give her a wave, wishing she could stay a little longer.

“Bye Cassie,” I say and I’m about to text Liam asking when he’ll be back when Cassie starts talking again.

“Niall wait!” she calls and I look up, heart racing.

“Yeah?” I say and gulp when she steps closer.

“Thanks,” she shyly smiles. “For what you said, about Zayn and I. That was…pretty cool of you.”

“You’re welcome,” I say and her brown eyes capture mine and I find that I can’t look away. She is just so mesmerizing. Just by instinct, I lean in, but she doesn’t seem to notice as she pulls away and adjusts her bag on her shoulder.

“See ya later,” she whispers and disappears, taking the lips that I so badly want to kiss with her.

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