It had been a month since Zayn had moved in and we had both managed to work around each other and organise a timetable for the bathroom seeing as how we both spent hours in there and we both had a morning ritual. Zayn, true to his word, had handed out resumes to various shops and had got a job. He’s contribution to the Niall’s Appetite charity was a relief and such a help. My friendship with him growing each day, he was such fun to be around. But my feelings for him seemed to be growing stronger and it scared me. But I didn’t stop the feelings, I let them happen. And before I knew it I started to fall in love with him. Soon, I started acting differently around him. Laughing at his jokes that I had once considered lame, flirting, smiling whenever I’m around him, and following him around like a puppy dog. Even the boys seemed to notice my strange behaviour around him. Liam constantly pulled me aside to ask me what the deal was. And I kept dismissing it, saying nothing was the deal. Just that I liked Zayn and that was that. Liam would raise an eyebrow but would drop it. I knew he didn’t believe me but I still wasn’t aware that I was in love with him.
I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. Reasonable enough, but when your feelings for someone were so strong it really made it hard for me to be myself around him. I was always trying to impress him, figuring out how to act around him, what type of girls he liked, how to dress, talk and look around him. It was confusing and frustrating but each day was one with Zayn in it and I did my best to impress and put on a façade. Then something happened that was completely unexpected and surprising.
I got up and decided to wear something casual yet cute – a loose t-shirt with a pink paw print on it and some jeans. I loosely curled my hair so it had waves and put on some light make-up for a natural look. I walked down the stairs. Zayn was sitting at the bench top wearing only some trackies and a singlet. His chest had tattoos on it and had abs. I didn’t let my gaze linger on it any longer than necessary so as not to tip him off my feelings. He was eating a bowl of cocoa pops and had a glass of orange juice. Niall and Liam and Sophia were there too. Harry was still sleeping, obviously and Louis was probably snoring his head off too. Eleanor had to get up early for work today. She was working in the bakery section today which meant she had to bake all the pastries and bread so they’d be fresh. But it was totally worth it when she bought back left overs. They were delicious.
Zayn looked up and smiled. “Hey, look who’s up?” He said to the others.
“Morning” I said, pouring myself a cup of orange juice and leaning against the counter smiling.
“Morning Sleeping Beauty” Liam said, smiling warmly. Niall, on the other hand, said something much less warm and not surprising.
“Finally, someone who can actually cook is up! I’m starving, make me breakfast, Ash!”
I just stared at him with an eyebrow raised. He knew what I was waiting for. He sighed.
“Ah, so Niall does have manners after all” I said, getting out a few eggs and some milk and cheese. I took out the parsley. Zayn chuckled and my heart skipped a beat.
“So what’s for breakfast?”
“Omellettes. Love it or leave it” I said, not giving him the chance to ask for something else. Zayn snorted this time and had to cover his mouth to stop from spitting out the orange juice he had just taken a sip from – and to hold back his laughter.
“I’ll love it”
“That’s what I thought”
“Nah, I’m set” He said, lifting up his bowl and smiling.
“Well, too bad. A bowl of cocoa pops won’t be enough to keep you through the day. You’re getting an omelette whether you like it or not”
“Zayn, surely you know better to argue with me. You’re playing a losing game! You should know that, you’ve been living with me for a month”
Zayn muttered something unintelligible and looked down at his bowl with a pout. He looked like a sad puppy dog. My heart clenched. Curse my feelings for him. As I started making the omelettes the two sloths finally trudged down the stairs half-awake. Their hair was sticking up in places and their eyes half open. They had also had the grumpiest expressions on their faces. I smirked.
“Morning Garfield One and Garfield Two”
“I hate cats” Louis grumbled. Well he was clearly in a bad mood today. Harry, on the other hand, was completely himself.
“I like that nickname. Garfield and I both love pussies so fabulous choice” He said, smiling. And he was clearly in a good mood. Looks like Louis and Harry won’t be going near each other any time today.
“Louis, want an omelette?” I said softly. When Louis was in a bad mood, it’s like treading on egg shells – no pun intended. You had to be careful not to set him off. It was like walking in a minefield.
“Yes” He said. Man, I wish Eleanor was here. I considered reminding him off manners but I loved my life very much and didn’t plan on dying any day soon so I just didn’t bother.
“Yes, please!” He said enthusiastically. Harry will be a pleasure to be around today. I didn’t even had to ask him to say ‘please’ for once.
The omelettes were finished so I plated them all and dished them out. I didn’t have one. I was sick of eggs so I just called up Eleanors work and asked for a croissant and a mocha to be ready within 10 minutes and I would collect and pay when I got there.
Niall scoffed his omelette in record time and I still failed to see how it didn’t burn his mouth, his throat, his intestines and his stomach on the way down. Louis ate his in what could possibly be the slowest time ever and kept his head down, grumbling about something or other. Harry ate his enthusiastically and couldn’t stop smiling. He chatted to the others and tried – emphasis on tried – to make Louis happy and get him to smile. Yep, looks like no bromance today, shame. Liam and Zayn ate theirs like normal people and Sophia offered to help me do the dishes. Us four – Sophia, Liam, Zayn and Niall – seemed the only normal ones today. And Niall was never normal, I mean the amount he eats and manages to stay skinny, I will never know but he certainly can’t be human. He must have like something wrong with him.
“So what’s up with you and Zayn?” Sophia asked me, scrubbing a plate.
“Shh” I said, turning around to see if he had heard. Thankfully, he was too deep in a conversation with Harry about who would defeat who in a tournament – Lord Voldemort or Gandolf. I turned back to Sophia who was laughing. “You too?” I asked sighing.
“Well, the way you act around him and what you just did then, it is impossible to not know”
“There is nothing going on!” I said, putting a plate away and grabbing another one off her as she held it out. She had an eyebrow raised. “Fine! I swear there is like no secrets in this house! Everyone has to know everything”
“That’s how it should be”
“God, fine! I have feelings for Zayn” I said, not wanting to elaborate. Sophia, on the other hand, did want me too.
“What kind of feelings?” She asked, but she already knew the answer.
“Love feelings, Soph! I’m in love with him” I sighed, exasperated. My eyes averted to him. He was laughing and smiling. He bit his lip and looked at me. I smiled at him and he smiled. The smile made his eyes crinkle at the corners and reached his soft chocolate brown eyes. He turned back to his mates and laughed again. My smile fell instantly. I sighed and put another plate away. That was the last of the washing up. Sophia pulled the plug and dried her hands.
“You should tell him” She said.
“I know but what happens if it destroys our friendship. I’d never be able to live with myself”
“That’s a good point but get this; what if it turns into something more? What if he feels the same way?”
“Ha, I highly doubt he feels the same way” I scoffed, getting my car keys.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure. It’s a two way street. Don’t think I can’t see how he acts around you. He is happier when he is around you. He never smiles like that when you’re not around. I see the signs”
“Yeah but how did you and Liam get together? Did you ask him out or was he the one to ask you out?”
“Hun, I’m not a girl of tradition. I asked him out. After he asked me about like 3 years back, 22 times”
“I heard that story. Why did you reject him 22 times? You must have known that each time you rejected was like a knife through his heart?”
“I wasn’t ready for a boyfriend then. I was in high school. I needed to focus on my grades and studying. Then when I graduated, that’s when I’d start dating. It was hard rejecting him. He was so cute then and the look on his face each time, well it was like I was the one being stabbed. It hurt my heart to see him so sad. I was aware that it was the same for him but my parents were strict. No boyfriends until I get good grades and I graduate so I obeyed them. I never disobeyed my parents. I was a good girl. But as soon as I graduated, I looked everywhere for Liam. And when I found him, he had only recently broken up with Danielle. He was in a broken state. I comforted him and told him that if he needed me, I will be there. I explained to him why I couldn’t date him at the time and he understood.
“Then after a few weeks, he was finally over her and I asked him out”
“That’s all good but I’m not like you, Soph. I have like no courage. And unlike you, I am a girl of tradition. I want a guy to ask me out”
“Well, then you must be patient. Boys, too, have to work up the courage to ask a girl out. They’re all like us on the inside – Zayn especially. So just let him, okay?”
“Alright” I sighed. “I’m getting breakfast. I’ll be back soon”
I waved to Zayn and he waved back, and I swear I could see a touch of sadness in his chocolate brown eyes. I got in my car and went to pick up my coffee and croissant.
As soon as she left the house and the sound of her car grew distant, I stood up and touched Liam’s hand. He looked at me and nodded in understanding. I walked into the lounge room and Liam followed shortly after.
“What’s up?” He asked, smiling. He was such an understanding friend.
“It’s about Ashley”
“Oh, yeah? What about her?”
“I-I think I might have developed some slight feelings for her”
Liam nodded his head, again showing he understood what I meant. He knew it was taking a lot for me to confess this. This was why I chose to talk to him because he wouldn’t make it harder for me by making dirty comments or making me embarrassed by teasing me or anything. He would simply just let me talk, and let me tell it bit by bit when I was ready.
“It started small, you know. But over the past few weeks, it’s gotten stronger. She makes me happy. When she isn’t around my world is like dull and grey but when she is, my world is bright and colourful” I looked at him. He simply nodded, silently telling me to go on.
“And I don’t know if she feels the same way about me-“
Liam broke his silence by simply saying “she does” I looked up from my feet.
“Yep. She feels the exact same about you, Zayn. We’ve all noticed but you and her. When we mention you to her, she blushes and her eyes sparkle. Zayn, you make her happy. I’ve known Ashley since we have moved down here and that’s about 5 years and I haven’t seen her this happy – ever”
“So, what should I do?”
“Ashley is a girl of tradition unlike Soph so she is expecting you to ask her out”
“Do you think I should ask her out?” I said, surprise in my voice.
“Yes dummy, you’re a romantic. You’ll figure out how to. Just ask her out, you guys are perfect for each other. Let me just ask you a few questions before you rush into it though”
I nodded. “Shoot”
“Do you love her?”
I opened my mouth to say ‘yes’ when it suddenly occurs to me how much. As I said the words, it hit me. I didn’t even think it was possible. “More than anything else in the world” I said, looking at Liam with revolution and resolution in my eyes. He nodded.
“And you would do anything for her?”
“I’d die for her” I said, seriously. I’d jump off a cliff for her. If she was to be a human sacrifice, I’d put my life on the martyr instead of hers.
“And you wouldn’t harm her in anyway? You wouldn’t break her heart? You wouldn’t cheat on her?”
“Absolutely not” I said, shaking my head in disgust. “I’d rather die”
“Good, but if you do let any harm come to her. I don’t care how long we’ve known each other but I will have to make you leave this house and never return. We will cut any ties to you and break our contact. We will never forgive you. Ashley is our sister, our daughter, our friend and we love her very much. She is the most vulnerable of our group. Point is; you hurt her, we hurt you. Got it?”
I nodded. I’d die for her.
“Alright. Now when she gets back with her breakfast, you pull her aside and ask her out. That’s all she wants, for you to prove that you can be a girl”
I smiled and said. “Man hug?”
Liam smiled and embraced me. We patted each other’s backs and then walked back in the kitchen. Liam walked over to Sophia and held her hand. He whispered in her ear and she smiled. He kissed her on the cheek.
I sat back down and got involved in the conversation. Louis was still grumpy but Harry was particularly cheerful and kept making jokes that were so lame that they were funny. I tried to be some input but I kept getting distracted by Ashley and how I was going to ask her. Then I had an idea. I walked to Liam and whispered in is ear on how I was going to ask her out. Liam, being the sweetheart he is, loved it and told Sophia. With protests and grumbles from Louis and Niall, and Harry skipping out of the kitchen we escorted the boys out of the kitchen and out of the house.
I stayed behind and started getting everything ready for what was going to be the biggest obstacle in my life.
The house was quiet when I got back from the café and Louis’ Lamborghini wasn’t in the driveway. I got out warily and opened the door. It was unlocked. Why would they leave door unlocked?
The lights were dimmed and there was faint music playing. I walked into the kitchen and put my handbag and keys down on the bench top.
“Guys?” I called out. I slowly walked into the dining room and gasped at what I saw. There were a bunch of red and white roses in a slim vase and there was a candle in the middle emitting a yellow-orange haze to the scene. It was very romantic. “Guys?” I called out again. This time, Zayn walked out and bit his lip. “Zayn, where are the others?” I asked.
“They’ve gone out for a while. It’s just us” He said, shyly. He kicked his feet around. I gulped. Just us I couldn’t handle being around him longer than necessary. The tension would be too much. We’re alone. I changed the subject.
“What’s this?” I said, gesturing towards the table. Zayn looked at the table and then smiled shyly.
“This is for you. I thought you might want to have a proper meal without Niall eating all the food and the loud noises”
“Oh” I said. I took a sip of my lukewarm mocha and grimaced. It was disgusting. I checked the croissant to see if it was still warm. Nope, stone cold. Damn. I sighed and chucked both items out. “Well, I’m going to need a proper meal now. Thanks Zayn, that’s very considerate of you”
He blushed and pulled out a chair for me. I sat down and he pushed me in. My nerves were quivering and my breaths were shallow. I took a deep breath and forced myself to calm down, just breakfast.
“I have arranged breakfast for you and it is cooking. Meanwhile, I shall provide some entertainment by telling you some jokes” He said, pulling up a stool and sitting on it.
“Actually, I think I’ll just provide entertainment for myself” I said hurriedly, remembering the last time he told a joke.
“Don’t worry! Relax, Ashley. I have thought hard and come up with some really good ones”
“Says Sophia, Liam, Niall, Harry and Louis”
“Sophia and Liam are telling you it’s good because they are softies. Niall thinks everything is hilarious and Harry is just in a good mood today – though for what reason, I’m not entirely sure – so he too will think everything is hilarious and Louis is immature so he finds things that aren’t in the slightest funny, funny”
“Oh come on, give my jokes another chance. You’ll like these ones. Please?” He asked, pouting.
I sighed. “Fine, but if I regret this decision, you’ll pay for it”
He nodded his head vigorously. “Why can’t cars play football?
“Why?” I asked already dreading the answer.
“Because they only have one boot”
“Alright. Alright. Maybe this one is better; why didn’t the blonde call 911?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Seriously? A blonde joke?”
“Fine, why didn’t the blonde call 911?”
“Because she couldn’t find ‘11’ on the keypad”
I smirked. That one wasn’t that bad actually.
“Oh my god, you cracked a smile!”
“I did not!”
“You did too, you thought it was funny! Alright, you like blonde jokes despite your hair colour. I’ll make a note of that” He said. He checked his watch. “Breakfast should be just about ready now so this is where I take my leave and shall be back in a few” He walked out of the room and left me alone. Surprisingly, when I was around him it wasn’t awkward. We got along so well. His lame jokes were funny and I could tell he was trying to impress me. His jokes were cute. No matter how lame. I liked them. I loved him.
Zayn walked back in a few seconds with two plates and put them on the table. I looked at what was in front of me. There was French toast and bacon on the plate. My stomach rumbled and I couldn’t help but laugh. Zayn chuckled lightly too and said. “Sounds like you’re hungry. Go on, dig in” I cut a piece off and ate it. I moaned as the flavours exploded in my mouth. “Good, huh?”
“Mhmm” I mumbled, nodding and eating another piece. And before I knew it, I was shovelling the last piece of bacon into my mouth. Zayn stared at you with his mouth open. I swallowed and wiped my mouth.
“What?” I said, looking at him pointedly.
“Nothing, I’ve been around for a mouth now and I still can’t get over how much and how fast you eat”
I shrugged. “Yeah, well, I’m not like every other girl who eats so little and starves themselves to impress. It’s disgusting. When I get hungry, I eat to my heart’s content. You gotta love it or leave it. I will not hide my hunger for anyone”
“Fair enough” He said. There was an awkward silence and I had a feeling he was working himself up to something. He cleared his throat. “Actually, there was another reason why I did all this” He began and I looked up, half dreading and half excited at what he was about to say next. “You see, over the month that I have known you, I have… I started to like you. I have grown to know more about you. And yet I have a feeling that there is still so much to you that I don’t know. Each day, I find out something new about you. You love to write, you love to read, you love blonde jokes, and you love French toast. You’re like a Christmas advent calendar. Each day leading up to something exciting”
“What are you saying, Zayn?”
“I guess what I’m saying is that you are one puzzle that I’d like to figure out. And I’d like to spend the rest of my life figuring you out”
My breath hitched in my throat. I knew what he was going to say next but it still surprised me. “Ashley Walker, would you do me the honours of being my girlfriend?”
I choked on my orange juice and it almost come out of my mouth. I swallowed and started spluttering. Zayn got up and leant towards me, worried.
“Oh my god, are you ok?”
I nod, unable to make any words come out of my mouth without choking on them. He sat down and looked at me with a worried face. He waited for my coughing fit to pass. Finally after a few minutes, I cleared my throat and looked at me. “Sorry, it’s just that even though I knew what you were going say, I still took me by surprise”
“I can’t believe it though. I didn’t even know you felt this way about me. All this time that I felt the same about you and never knowing you felt the same way. I would never have dreamt that you would ask me out” I took a shaky breath in. “Oh my God, I… I can’t…I can’t breathe” I said, trying to suck breaths in but it wouldn’t reach my lungs. I started to breath sharp and fast and the world around me started to go blurry.
“Ashley, Ashely, breath.Relax. Just focus on breathing. You’re having a panic attack. Just focus on my breathing. In, out, in, out. Yes, good girl. Just keep doing that and you’ll be okay” He said. I looked up and realised that I was on the ground. I must have fallen off and not have noticed. Zayn held my head in his lap. I focused on his breathing and matched mine with his. Soon afterwards, the panic attack was over and I stood up. I swayed a little bit and Zayn held my waist to stop me from falling again. I gripped a chair and waited for the world to stop spinning. I looked into his eyes and smiled.
“I’m fine now” I said, smiling reassuringly. He looked at me, still worried.
“Are you sure? You still look a bit pale” He said. His hands were off me but they still lingered near my body. I laughed.
“Zayn, I’m fine. I just need to sit down” I did exactly that and he stood there awkwardly for a few seconds before accepting that I was fine.
“So, um, you, uh, you haven’t told me”
“Haven’t told you what?” I asked, confused,
“If you want to be my girlfriend” He said, looking at me with furrowed eyebrows. I smiled.
“Zayn, come here” I said. He walked to me. “Kneel down so I can see your pretty face” He kneeled. I looked deep into his chocolate brown eyes and what I saw was what I had always wanted. My future; kids playing on a swing set, Zayn and I sitting on a porch drinking lemonade – me on his lap and him stroking my arm, us walking on the beach hand in hand at sunset, laughing. I loved every single bit of it. I kissed him. He was taken back at first but then relaxed and held me. I wrapped my hands around his neck and opened my mouth giving him access. I grabbed a handful of his black hair – which was usually gelled up and styled but he hadn’t done anything to it today. I pulled him close.
The kiss ended shortly afterward and I smiled, breathless. “Does that answer your question?” Our foreheads were touched and we gazed into each other’s eyes. He gave me a quick kiss then pulled away.
“Does that answer yours?” He asked back, laughing and smiling.
“Yes, yes it does”