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?


14. Niall

14 – Niall

For the tenth time in the past minute, I try to get my knee to stop bouncing and my teeth to stop biting my nails, but I can’t. Cassie told me she’ll be here in about an hour, and it seems like a day has gone past, when in reality, it’s only been fifteen minutes.

“What’s got you so nervous?” Harry asks and sits down next to me.

“Nothing,” I lie and take out my phone to distract myself.

“Are you sure you’re okay, mate?” Zayn asks when he walks into the room.

“Yeah. I’m fine. Why?” I wonder, since he looks so concerned all of a sudden.

“Nothing, it’s just something that Cassie mentioned last night,” he said casually.

My head snapped in his direction for two reasons. One: Zayn and Cassie were together last night. Did something happen? Did he kiss her? Hell, they could have had their first kiss weeks ago, but I just need to know. And two: Why was Cassie talking about me, and why did that make me so damn happy? “What? What did she say about me?”

“Nothing,” Zayn dismisses me, but I stand up.

“Did she say something bad about me?” I ask.

“No, Niall. It was nothing bad, I promise. She’s just worried about you is all.”

I am about to ask what the hell he means by that when Harry speaks up. “So, mate, you kissed her, yeah?”

My heart stops as Zayn smiles and says, “Yeah.”

“Is she a good kisser?” Louis asks and it makes me want to hit him with something. I really don’t want to hear the details of their kiss. The fact that it happened in the first place makes me want to jump off a bridge.

Zayn shrugs. “I guess. We weren’t snogging or anything, it was really nice though. I’m absolutely crazy about her.”

Tell me about it, I think to myself. If only he knew that she was on my mind probably more than she was on his. I bet he didn’t even text her goodnight last night, like I did. Can’t she see that I’m the one she’s supposed to be with? I don’t know how much more of this torture I can take from her. And she’s not even trying to break my heart, but she is. She’s killing me slowly without even realizing it.

My fists clench and I really want to just release the scream I’ve been holding back since I met Cassie and tell Zayn to go to Cassie’s house and break up with her and tell her to be with me. But, no matter how much I want to be with her, or how much of a brother Zayn is to me, I would never do anything to purposefully sabotage their relationship. I care about Cassie too much to betray her like that. It would be completely selfish and that is not the way to get her to go out with me.

“Niall, are you okay?” Harry asks me, but I don’t answer. I just stand up, grab a pair of car keys, my phone from the couch and leave.

I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t consider that fact that Cassie will be there waiting for me in half an hour, I just leave. All of this is too much. I need to get away. I’m not leaving town—I can’t, obviously—but I just need to get away from Zayn and Cassie and their whole relationship. Having Zayn being a constant reminder of what I can’t have is really making it hard to control my feelings. Not rid, control.

I don’t know Nashville like Cassie or Marley does so I just keep driving until I’m out of the city and eventually I find a small dirt road. I keep driving down it and after about ten minutes I come up to a hill that overlooks the city. Everything seems so small and right now, all my problems seem like they’re a million miles away.

The sun set a long time ago, but it doesn’t seem too dark due to the lights coming from the city below. The stars are out and the moon is full, somehow making me feel even lonelier. From where I’m sitting—which is on a decent sized rock—I can hear traffic and sirens and noises that I’m not used to hearing when I’m at home. Some people find the sound of a busy city comforting, others are bothered by it. Since I joined One Direction, I’ve never stayed in one place for long. This is the longest I’ve stayed somewhere besides my home in a while. It’s nice, not constantly leaving and packing. But we have an album to promote, so I know this won’t last long.

Just like Cassie and Zayn’s relationship, hopefully.

I groan and my head falls into my hands at my thought. I sound like a pretty shitty friend to Zayn for wishing his relationship to end, but I can’t help who I’m falling for. I don’t even know if Cassie would go out with me, not because she wouldn’t like me, but because I’m Zayn’s best mate. That would be awkward for the two of them and I wouldn’t problems. But fuck me if it doesn’t hurt to see them together.

My phone rings and buzzes with calls and messages from the boys, I’m sure. I don’t know for certain because I don’t even touch or look at the screen. Eventually I just turn it off because the last thing I need right now is Cassie asking me if anything is wrong. That would just end up with me lying to her face.

A few minutes headlights catch the corner of my eye. “Shit,” I mutter, standing up. The whole reason I came up here was to be alone.

My heart skips a beat when I recognize the car. It’s Cassie’s car. What is she doing here? I am frozen in my spot. All I can do is watch, not really knowing what to do, as she parks her car next to mine and steps out. “Niall?”

I blink when she says my name. “What are you doing here?” I ask, stuffing my hands in my pockets and stepping closer to her.

“I could ask you the same thing,” she replies and comes to stand right next to me. I turn away from her to look down at the city, and she stands right by me. “Are you okay? I met up with everyone else and they said you just ran away.”

I can feel her looking at me but I don’t meet her brown eyes. “Yeah, I just had to get away for a while,” I answer casually.

“Is something bothering you?” Concern is clear in her voice. I hate how considerate she is. Okay, no I don’t, that’s one of the many things I like about her.

I sigh and sit down on the rock again. “You could say that.”

“Alright,” she almost snaps and sits next to me, “stop with the vague answers, and start giving me some real ones.”

I release a small chuckle. It’s kind of ironic how she is wondering what the problem is, when the problem is her. I care about her, and that makes me want to tell her how I feel, but I can’t do that to Zayn. I just can’t. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Then what did you want to talk about?” Cassie asks as the breeze makes her hair flutter over her shoulder. I literally have to force myself not to stare at how incredible she looks.

Cassie shrugs. “I don’t know. Not many people know about this hilltop.”

“But you do,” I point out.

She nods. “But I do.”

“Do you come here often?” I wonder aloud. If we’re going to sit here I might as well get to know her better.

“Sometimes. I like the sound of the traffic. It’s comforting to me,” she says and I nod. I knew some people like it. “I like to come here when something is bothering me, when I just need to escape from everything that’s going on in my life.”

“How you do know something is bothering me?”

Cassie looks at me and this time, I make eye contact with her. “You might not know this, Niall, but I know you. You haven’t told me much about you, but I know you better than you think. You’re like an open book; you’re so easy to read.”

I gulp and look away. “Is that a bad thing?”

She thinks for a minute before saying, “No, I don’t think so.”

I nod again. “If you came up here, that means something was bothering you,” I figure out. “Care to share?”

Cassie chuckles humorlessly. “I was hoping you wouldn’t figure that one out.”

I frown, hoping I didn’t upset her. “If you don’t want to…”

“No,” she interrupts me, “it’s fine. I trust you.” Her blue eyes meet mine and I can’t look away. “You remember Angie, right? My mom?”

I nod. “Yeah.”

“Well, she’s not my biological mother.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Really? Are you adopted or something?”

“No no,” Cassie replies quickly. “My parents divorced when I was really young—so long ago that I don’t really remember her anymore—and he remarried.”

“Oh,” I sigh.  “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Niall. I don’t really remember her anyways,” she frowns. “She wasn’t there for the important parts.”

I’m confused. “The important parts?”

“Well, of course my birth mother taught me how to walk, but Angie was there for the parts in a teenage girl’s life when she needs a mother figure the most, you know?”

I nod for what feels like fiftieth time since she came here. For some reason, I get the feeling that she hasn’t told Zayn this, for her words are spilling out of her, as if she has been dying to tell someone. Why hasn’t she told Zayn, her boyfriend? Isn’t he supposed to know these things about her?

“Any memories that I have of my actual mother are slowly fading away. I consider Angie my mother, because she is, really.”

“That’s really great,” I smile, and then ask something that I hope doesn’t cross some sort of line. “Do you ever think about meeting you birth mother?”

Cassie doesn’t answer for a good thirty seconds, seemingly lost in thought. “Of course I’ve thought about it. But I just haven’t done anything about it.”

“Why not?” The question rolls of my tongue before I can change my mind.

She shrugs. “I don’t know. I was never emotionally attached to her other than the thought of her as the woman who gave birth to me. If she wanted to be a part of my life, she wouldn’t have left, or she would have found me by now. I have no clue where she is. But why would I chase after her? She obviously didn’t care about me enough to stay.”             

“Well, she doesn’t know what she’s missing,” I nearly whisper. A tear silently rolls down her cheek and my heart breaks for her. I wrap an arm around her shoulder and let her lean her head on me. I’m going to be her shoulder to cry on, literally, any time, any place. “Hey, it’s okay, shh,” I comfort her and she sniffles.

“I’m sorry,” she apologizes, “I didn’t mean to give the conversation a depressing twist.”

I laugh at her words. “Don’t worry about it.”

Silence falls over us and she keeps her head on my shoulder and I look at the lights coming from the skyscrapers.  “Thank you.”

“For what?” I ask, not expecting her to break the silence.

“For listening to be ramble,” she answers, “that was really nice of you.”

“Anytime,” I smile at her.

She sits up and wipes under her eyes, giving me a weak smile. “Alright. Enough sadness. Let’s talk about something that's les...depressing. How does that sound?”

I grin at her words. “Sounds good to me.”

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