“So where are you taking her, Nialler?” Zayn asks, handing me the car keys.
It's 5:30, and I have to go pick up Maci in a bit. I'm just a bit nervous – I haven't been on a date in a long while, if this even is a date. I don't know what kind of food she likes. I'm a big fan of Nando's, but I don't think there's one here. There's a KFC in downtown Miami, and even though nothing compares to Nando's, anything with chicken in the name sounds good to me. I suppose that's a good place to take her, because everyone thinks chicken is good, right? Who am I kidding, though? I'll just wing it.
“I think I'll just bring her to the KFC,” I tell Zayn, and he chuckles. “What?” I ask, getting defensive.
“'I think I'll just bring her to the KFC',” he mocks me sarcastically. “Taking a girl to a KFC on the first date, very nice of you, Niall!”
“Well where would you take her?” I sass him, crossing my arms.
“Not to a fast food restaurant!” he teases, but I take this to heart.
It's not my fault I don't know much about her! I only met her yesterday, and I know I like her and everything, but I haven't had much time to get to know her. I feel bad, and this must show on my face because Zayn's expression softens.
“Awh, Nialler, I'm sorry,” he says, putting an arm around my shoulders. “I probably would do the same thing. Plus, if she's with you, she probably won't even care where you two are.”
I look up at him and smile. “Thanks, Zayn.”
He takes his arm off of my shoulders. “Now get going!” he teases, and I head out the door of our hotel room.
It takes me a while, but I finally find the bakery again. Yes, I had been there just last night, but I had to remember through all of the screaming girls. I pull over to the side of the road and park. I hop out and enter the bakery, my eyes scanning the room for Maci. I finally find her, sitting at the same table that we were at last night. Her eyes are down, looking at her hands that are folded on top of the table.
I smile at how beautiful she looks. I don't think she wears makeup – as if she needs it! Maci is also a wonderful person to talk to. It's almost as if she understands me, even though she doesn't know much about me. There's something about her that made me like her from the start.
“Hi Maci,” I say, walking over to her.
Maci looks up and her face brightens. She smiles sweetly, standing up. “Hi Niall.”
I motion for her to follow me, and we walk out of the bakery and get into the car. I start it and pull away from the curb. It's quiet for a bit, and I fear that it's growing awkward. I have nothing to say, so I hope that Maci starts talking about something. Luckily, she does.
“So where are we going?” she asks nonchalantly, looking out her window.
“Well, I didn't know what kind of food you like,” I say. “So I kind of just thought that we'd go to the KFC, because everyone likes chicken, right?” I nervously wait for her reply.
“We're going to the KFC?” she asks, turning her head toward me.
“I mean, if you want to,” I say, fearing that she hates the idea. “We could go somewhere else?”
“Are you kidding?” she asks, and I glance over at her to find her smiling. “I love chicken!”
I chuckle a little, totally relieved. “Then that's one thing that we have in common.” Maci's cheeks turn pink and she turns to look out the window again.
There's a silence for a long time, but this time it's not uncomfortable. We get into downtown Miami, and it takes a bit of searching, but I finally find the KFC. I pull into the lot and park, and we get out of the car and walk into the building. It's not too crowded – thank God – and we go up to the counter to order. There's a girl at the counter whose eyes go wide as we walk up. Apparently she recognizes me, because she got the biggest smile on her face.
“Y-you're Niall Horan!” she says excitedly. I smile wryly. Fan-girling is definitely not something I like. “Oh my gosh! I love you guys! It's so awesome to meet you!”
“Thanks,” I say. She stares at me for a little bit, making me uncomfortable. “What do you want to eat?” I ask, turning to Maci.
“Uhm,” she says, her eyes searching the menu. “How about some popcorn chicken and a side of mac and cheese?” I look back to the girl at the counter, who enters Maci's order quickly and then looks back up at me, still smiling. I quickly look away, not wanting to feel weird. I read the menu, searching for something to eat.
“I'll have the extra crispy chicken with a side of mashed potatoes,” I say looking back at the girl.
“Oh, that's my favorite!” she says with a giggle, and I just smile uncomfortably. “Oh, sorry!” She enters it in and tells me the total.
I see Maci start to reach in her pocket, but I stop her. “I've got it,” I say, smiling.
She smiles back and nods. I pay the girl and she hands me a number and a slip of paper with a wink. I see that there is a phone number scribbled on the slip, but I just ignore her and walk away. On the way back to find a table, I throw away the piece of paper. We choose a table that's out of the way and sit down. I place the number down at the end of the table and Maci clears her throat.
“So,” she says. “About this morning...”
I look her in the eye nervously. “The interview,” I say, more of a question than a statement. Maci nods and folds her hands together.
“You're in a world-famous boy band?” she asks. I nod. “And you failed to mention this to me... Why?”
I shrug, looking down. “I don't know. I'm sorry, I should have. I would just much rather have had you talk to me because you wanted to talk to 'Niall Horan', not 'Niall Horan from One Direction'.”
“Niall,” she says quietly, and I feel her hand on my arm. “I'm lucky that you even came to sit with me. I don't have... friends. You're one of the few people who even... bother saying hi to me, let alone taking me out for dinner.” What?
“How could such a beautiful girl like yourself not have any friends?” I blurt. Smooth, Niall. Maci's face goes red. “I mean, I'm sure you have friends! You're such a nice girl, how can you not?”
She looks down, taking her hand away. She looks so innocent, so beautiful right now. It really does surprise me that she doesn't have friends. I mean, she's got to have at least a few!
“I don't know, Niall,” she says quietly. “I've never really had a friend since elementary. But then she moved away, and I was left without. I guess that I just distance myself from people. I would just bother them anyway.”
Her words surprise me. She's really telling the truth! I don't understand why she would feel like she would bother people, though. Maci is so shy and quiet anyway, but even so, she's extremely nice and considerate. Any person would be lucky to have her as a friend!
I don't really know what to say as she continues. “And when you sat down yesterday, I started to get up because I thought I would bother you. But then you stopped me, and I was really surprised that a boy like you would want to talk to me. And then I realized how great of a guy you are. It was really nice to have a conversation with someone other than myself.”
She looks up and continues. “And then you wanted to walk me home, and I wondered why you would want to be bothered by me. And when we did get to my house... Niall, I had never been kissed – in any way – before.” Okay, now I'm seriously shocked. “This morning I was at work and turned on the radio, and One Direction's interview was on. I decided to listen. The announcer said the names, and when he said yours... I thought, 'No way does that sort of thing just happen to me'.”
I still don't know what to say, so I let her finish. “I didn't think it was you at first – I tried to tell myself that it wasn't, because I'm not that lucky, I don't deserve it. But then you started talking about yesterday, and I then I knew it was you. Then you were asked if you like me, and – Liam, was it? – answered for you. And I don't know if it's true or not, but... I'm glad it was you on the radio.”
I look into her eyes, and I know that she is being serious. Her face turns bright red, but I'm positive that mine is the same shade. I smile and she looks away. A person with a tray of our food comes around to our table. He takes the number from the end of the table and sets down the tray. I mutter a thanks as he walks away.
I'm still letting what Maci said soak in as she grabs her food and takes a small bite.
“I should have told you,” I say at last, picking up my food as well. “I'm sorry about that. But really, I think I'm the lucky one – to have met you, I mean.”
She smiles, the smile that I've grown to love in just the short amount of time that I've know her. “No one has ever been this nice to me,” she says. “Thank you, Niall.”
And with that, we begin to eat. I finish quickly, but Maci is only half way finished. I watch her – not in a creepy way, though – thinking of how true what I said is. I'm so lucky to have met Maci. There's something that I'm itching to tell her, but I don't know quite how to. I like her – that much is clear to me. Whether she likes me back or not, I don't know. I don't know how to tell her, but I try to play it as coolly as possible.
“And Maci?” I say, trying to sound nonchalant. She looks up, swallowing the food in her mouth. “It is true.”
I'm not sure if she understands what I mean at first. Then a huge smile grows across her face, and I can tell then that she knows what I'm talking about. I don't even need her to say anything. As long as she knows, I don't need her to say anything at all.
After Maci finishes her food, we throw away our trash and climb into the car. I check the time on my phone, 8:10. Maci has until ten, and agrees to going back to the hotel the lads and I are staying at. When we get to the hotel I park in the lot and we go in.
“Want to go into the pool area?” I ask, motioning toward the door that leads to the pool. She smiles and shrugs.
I hold the door open for her and we walk in. She sits at one of the tables around the pool, and I follow suit. We talk for a little bit, and then I get an idea.
“Want to go for a swim?” I ask, smiling. She looks at me, confused.
“I don't have a swimming suit,” she replies, as if it were obvious.
I chuckle a little bit. “I know,” I say. “We could go in our clothes, though.”
Maci frowns. “The chlorine will ruin them, though.”
“Oh well, I guess you'll just miss out on the fun,” I tease.
“I'll put my feet in, but I won't go in any further than that,” she says, rolling her eyes.
I shrug, standing up. She does the same and goes to the edge of the pool, putting her feet in the water. I tug my shirt over my head and pull off my pants, leaving me in only my boxers. I set my clothes on my chair and turn toward the pool. Maci turns around, and seeing me her eyes go wide, her face going red. She turns back around to face away from me and I chuckle a bit. Then I take off running toward the pool, jumping over Maci as I do a flip into the deep end of the pool.
I come up to the surface, the cold water shocking me a bit. I turn around to see Maci grimacing as she wipes away water that I splashed on her. I grin at her and drift into a backfloat. It's quiet for a little bit, and I listen to the small sounds echo around the large pool room.
“I'm going to be completely honest with you,” I hear Maci say, breaking the silence. I come out of the backfloat and turn to face her. “I don't know how to swim.”
“Really?” I say, surprised.
“I never learned,” she replies, shrugging. She kicks her legs back and forth in the water.
“Well then I might just have to teach you,” I say, smiling and swimming over to her.
“Not now, Niall,” she says, rolling her eyes as I reach her.
“Why not?” I whine, sticking out my lower lip.
“Because I don't have my suit on, and I don't really want to learn right now!”
“Pleeeeaaaassseee?” I say, giving her my best smile. Maci shakes her head.
“There is no way that you are going to get me into this pool, Niall,” she says sternly.
“We'll see about that!” I yell as I grab her arms and pull her in.
She shrieks as she hits the water. She struggles to come above the surface of the water and turn around, and I grab her waist from behind to support her. I can't help thinking that it feels so right to hold her in my arms.
“Niall Horan!” she yells, trying to push away from me. “Get me out of this pool right now!”
I just laugh, pulling her father away from the wall. She is facing away from me, so I can't see her face, but I'm pretty sure that she's really angry. Still holding her waist, I pull her into the deepest part, her yelling at me all the way.
“Niall, let go! Seriously, get me out of here! I don't want to be in the water! Niall!”
“You want me to let go?” I ask jokingly.
“Yes! I want to get out of here!” Maci yells in frustration.
“Fine,” I say, reluctantly loosening my grip on her waist, but I don't let go completely. She screams at the top of her lungs as her head slips closer to the water. She manages to turn around and throw her arms around my shoulders, burying her face in my chest.
“Niall, don't let go!” she yells.
I laugh for a while, tightening my grip around Maci's waist as she tries to calm her breathing.
As soon as I calm down though, I turn serious. “I'll never let you go, Maci,” I say, kissing her forehead.
I feel her tense, but then relax in my arms. I feel her smile against my chest. “I don't know if I want you to,” she says, looking up at me.
I look into her eyes, the brilliant hazel pulling me in. We sit like this for a while, just looking at each other, and I can feel her start to open up to me. But then I notice something on the left side of her face. Something is on her cheek – it's a fairly dark brown that looks like it's fading. I recognize it, foundation I think.
Since it looks like it's coming off anyway, I remove one of my hands from around her waist to brush it off. She winces as I do, and I don't know why – that is, until I remove my hand. The smile on my face immediately disappears.
There's a horrible bruise on her face.