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?


22. Niall

22 – Niall


What the bloody hell is wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just tell her how I feel? I had the perfect opportunity—hell, she gave me one—but I chickened out. I couldn’t tell her how I feel about her.

The fact that she told me we’re only friends made me second-guess myself. Before this morning, I would have told her without a second thought. I would have poured out my heart and soul to this girl. But now, I can’t do it after she told me that we shouldn’t see each other.

Just because we shouldn’t, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have feelings for me. I know she does, she has to. There is a connection between us, and I am going to do something about it. She is going to realize that I’m here. I will be waiting, however long it takes.

But the main reason why I couldn’t tell her how I feel is because how much she is considering Zayn’s feelings. Of course he’s my best mate and I would never do anything on purpose to hurt him, but Cassie wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t mean to fall for her. I just did. It was an accident, but I don’t wish it didn’t happen. Cass is such a good person it hurts me. It hurts me to not be able and kiss her right now. If she and Zayn hadn’t dated, maybe we could be together right now.

But we’re not, and that’s going to change.

“Tell me something that no one else knows,” I ask her. “Who is Cassie Barnett, really?

“Okay,” she laughs a little, thinking. Then, her expression turns serious. “I’m afraid of not being remembered.”

I turn so I am fully facing her. “What do you mean?”

Cassie looks up at the sky, pumping her legs so she swings back and forth. “I don’t want to die a nobody. And I don’t mean famous around the world, no. I mean like I want to make a difference in people’s lives. Give them what they don’t have. I don’t take what I have for granted, and I want to…give back I guess. That’s why I volunteer at shelters. Some are for animals, but mostly they are for homeless people just looking for a meal.”

I just stare at her in awe. Who is this amazing girl and how am I lucky enough to know her? “That’s…amazing—you’re amazing,” I say before I can stop myself.

Cassie laughs and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear, smiling. “Thanks, Niall,” she says quietly. “I think the main reason why I am so into photography is so that I can capture the moments worth remembering. I don’t want to be forgotten as some random person from Nashville, I want to make a real difference. It just makes me feel…good to give people what they don’t have. I don’t need half the stuff in my house. How is that fair?”

“Most people wouldn’t admit they don’t need most of what they have,” I tell her. It’s true. People just want and want and want and never give. That’s one of the main reasons why the band did that single for charity. We know that with the exposure we have we have the opportunity to address many serious issues around the world.

“Well, Niall Horan, I’m not most people,” she grins and keeps swinging.

I stare at her, willing her chocolate eyes to meet my blue ones but she doesn’t. She just kicks at the dirt, keeping her eyes on her shoes. “You should take me there.”

“Take you where?” she asks.

“To one of your shelters that you volunteer at. I want to see what you do. I admire it, Cassie, really. It’s so incredible. The world needs more people like you.” I’m telling the truth, and I know I may be over-doing it but she needs to know that she is a wonderful person.

“Why would we go there? I mean, you’re so busy and I don’t want to get you in trouble—”

“I’ll make time,” I assure her, putting a hand on her knee. Her eyes dart to where I’m touching her before she looks up at me again, eyes twinkling.

“I would love that very much.”

Every minute I am spending with this girl, the more deeply I am falling for her. “What about your dad, what does he do for a living?”

“He’s a doctor, a surgeon to be specific. He is specialized in some kind of field. I’m not even sure what he does,” she laughs. “But all I do know is that he saves people. He really loves his job and he works hard at it.”

“Is he home a lot?” I ask her.

“Not really. When I wake up for school he’s already gone and I only see him when he has days off, which isn’t very often. He’s great at his job, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the best in the entire city of Nashville.”

“That’s great.” I give her a smile. “And school is going good?”

“Yeah,” she answers hesitantly. “What’s with the Twenty Questions, Niall?”

“I don’t know,” I shrug. “I just…want to know more about you.”

Cassie just nods. “School is great. I miss Brandon though.” She notices when I tense so she assures me by saying, “He’s like my best friend. What, are you jealous or something?”

“No,” I lie. “I’m not jealous.”

“Good, there’s no reason for you to be. We’re not together anyways.” Her words hurt me, but I make sure she doesn’t see that. “He comes around a lot; I swear he’s like an older brother. Throughout high school it was him, Marley and I. We were inseparable.”

“You said were. What happened?” I begin to swing too, and then realize we’re the only ones here now.

“Life,” Cassie says. “Marley got her job with your band, and they eventually fell in love. Brandon’s relationship with his girlfriend is complicated… But he has a full ride scholarship at school for his swimming. I don’t know. It seems like I’m the only one out of the three of us that isn’t doing anything with their life.” Her eyes are cast down and there is a hint of sadness in them.

“Hey,” I say softly. “That’s not true. Look where you are! You’re in fucking New York City. You volunteer at homeless shelters, you’re smart, you’re majoring in something that you love; you have so many people that care about you. How is that not doing something?”

She inhales deeply, and then exhales slowly. “But will I be remembered? If I died tomorrow, what will I have done that will change someone’s life?”

I don’t reply, because I don’t know the answer. “You mean something, Cassie Barnett. It might not seem like it but you are.”

She looks me right in the eyes and she gives me a faltering smile. “Thanks, Niall.” I think I see her eyes glistening, and I stand up with open arms, but she’s already beat me to it. She wraps her arms around my torso and I put mine over her shoulders, resting my cheek on top of her head.

“You’re welcome.”


“Where’s Cassie?” Parker asks me, readjusting her big bag on her shoulder.

“Um, she’s in the bathroom I think,” I say, taking a window seat on the private plane. Earlier today at the park there was something between us, Cassie and me. It’s like I realized something, yet at the same time I don’t know what it is. It’s so obvious, like it’s right there in front of me.

The engine starts, so I take my usual seat by the window and look for Cassie. Zayn surprises me by taking the seat I had hoped Cassie would be sitting in. “Hey,” he says. “I haven’t seen much of you. A pair of your shoes was under the bed but I couldn’t find you. Where’d you go?”

I gulp, a little taken aback. I was with Cassie, but I don’t know if I should tell him. “Um…” I scratch the back of my neck nervously. “I was with Cassie.” The words are out of my mouth before I can stop them, and I cringe, waiting for Zayn’s reaction.

His face turns emotionless and he looks out the window. “You guys are spending a lot of time together yeah?”

I nod at him. “Yeah, we are… Does that bother you?”

“I don’t know,” Zayn answers. “I mean, it kind of sucks that you’re always with her, but I don’t blame you. She’s pretty incredible.”

“She is,” I agree. Just then Cassie walks out of the bathroom, making her way over to me. At the last moment she sees Zayn sitting there and freezes. I silently nod and her and she gives me a small smile, turning around and sitting across from Harry instead, which is on the other side of the cabin. “We’re…best friends, Zayn.”

“I know you want to be more than friends with her,” Zayn says quietly, resting his elbows on his knees. I sigh and lean back. “I’m not blind, Niall. I see the way you look at her.”

I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with Zayn. “Mate, we don’t have to talk about her. You broke up with her kind of recently; I know you still like her. It’s okay.”

“Yeah, about that…”

 “What?” I ask. “You don’t still like her?”

He runs a hand over the slight stubble on his jaw. “I’m starting to wonder if I ever liked her, ya know?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean… When she broke up with me she said that we didn’t get to know each other, and I’m just realizing how true that is. I mean, I never asked about her life, her day, anything. I feel terrible, but from what I can tell she’s perfectly happy moving on with you.”

“Hey,” I interrupt him. “She’s not moving on with me. We’re just friends.”

“Have you kissed her yet?” There is no accusation in his voice, just sadness and curiosity.

I don’t reply, but that’s all the answer he needs. “Zayn, I’m sorry…but I’m falling for this girl. I really care about her and all I can do is hope that she feels the same.”

Zayn half smiles. “She will mate, if she doesn’t already. We were doomed from the start anyways.”

“Why do you say that?”

“We had nothing to discuss. We were too similar and at first I thought I was like…in love with Cassie but I never was. I just…I don’t know…wanted someone to want me.”      

I purse my lips. “Mate…”

“Don’t worry about it,” he brushes me off, so I decide to change the subject.

“I saw you in the club with a really fit girl, who was that?”

zayn smiles a little. “No one. I’m sure I’ll never see her again.”

“Don’t think like that, mate,” I say, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “She seemed to like you.”

He shakes his head dismissively. “She had a boyfriend, anyways.”

“Oh,” I say. “That’s too bad.”

“So listen,” Zayn says after a minute of silence. “About Cassie. I still…you know…like her a little bit, but I want her to be happy, and you’re my best friend, so I won’t stop you from being with her. If that’s what makes both of you happy…I won’t stop you.”


“Here,” I say, handing Parker her suitcase.

“Thanks,” she smiles and slings her bag over her shoulder. She looks around and frowns. “Where’s Cassie?”

I look around us, too. “I don’t know. I thought she was right behind you.” Parker shrugs. I jog back onto the plane and call for Cassie. “Cassie? Are you in here?”

“I’m here!” Cassie steps out of the bathroom with her bag in her hand. “Sorry, I was holding my bladder forever.”

“Oh, you had me worried there for a second,” I chuckle.

“I’m fine,” she smiles. “Thanks, Niall.”

“So what are you going to do when you get home?” I ask as we walk down the steps off the plane. God, I hope I’m not sounding too weird asking that.

“The beach, I think I’ll go when I’m settled, maybe in a few days. I like it there. I go there sometimes to get some homework done or something. It’s so relaxing.”

“Homework,” I repeat, sighing.

“What about homework?” she asks.

“I just can’t remember the last time I had legitimate homework,” I say, stuffing my hands in my pockets as we wait for a cab.

“You’re lucky.”

“Maybe,” I shrug. A cab pulls up and help Cassie put her bags in the trunk.

“I’m sorry, I would ride with you guys but I have to get home and get ready to get back to school,” she apologizes, and smiles when I open the door for her.

“It’s okay, I get it. Thanks for coming, Cassie. I hope you liked visiting New York City.”

“I did,” she grins. “But it’s good to be home.”

I am surprised when she wraps her arms around my neck. I return her hug, of course, and wait while she says good bye to everyone else. When she gets in the cab I give her another wave and shut the door, watching as it drives out of sight.


This chapter sort of gives you a sneak peek at my next fan fic, with Zayn. ;)

Alli, x

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