We get something to eat from the boys’ fridge and sit in Daddy Direction’s room for the rest of the night. I’m getting to know them a lot better, and soon I feel as if I’m part of the friendship circle. The boys are all super welcoming to me. They all feel like the brothers I never had, and I actually enjoy being in a crowd. They are some of the goofiest boys that I’ve ever met - not that I’ve met many - but spending time with them is so much fun. I don’t think that there is a single cell of seriousness in any of their bodies.
Niall stays by my side most of the night, only leaving briefly when Louis pulled him onto the floor to wrestle. The rest of the time his arm is either around my waist or sitting next to me, though he still talks to the boys.
I don’t know why, but around 7 my eyelids begin to droop. “Wow,” I yawn, stretching my arms out and struggling to ignore the soreness in my stomach. “Cleaning your rooms must have worn me out more than I thought!”
“Well you did it in record time!” Liam says jokingly.
“Do you want me to take you home?” Niall asks slowly, and I can tell that he doesn’t like the idea.
“I think you know the answer to that,” I say, smiling, but I subconsciously put a hand on my stomach.
Niall grimaces, looking down at where my hand is, but quickly replaces it with a smile. “Alright then,” he says, and helps me scoot back to the headboard of the bed we’re on. “You can nap. I’ll wake you up with enough time to get you home.”
I smile up at him gratefully. He puts his arm around me again, and I snuggle close, leaning my head on his shoulder. My last thought before I drift off is Niall has no idea what he means to me already.
Maci snuggles into me as I wrap my arm around her. She closes her eyes and soon she’s snoring softly.
“If you don’t ask her, I will,” Harry jokes. “She can clean, and she can take a joke!”
“Hands off, Harry,” I hiss softly, not wanting to wake her. “I’m asking her to be my girlfriend later tonight. I get several awwwhs and my face goes red.
“But what are you going to do when we leave for the rest of the tour?” Liam asks curiously. I glance worriedly in Zayn’s direction, and see he’s doing the same - we had just talked about this last night but I hadn’t told the lads. Liam catches our looks and puts on his you’re toast look. “What are you not telling us, Niall?”
“Well,” I say, avoiding eye contact. “Things are obviously bad at her home. That’s made clear by the bruise. And I’m not sure how much worse it’s going to get, or how much more Maci can handle.” I look down at her sleeping figure. She looks so peaceful, so beautiful.
“And I want her to be safe more than anything. So I’m going to ask her to come with us.”
I’m met by several confused looks. “Why?” Louis asks.
“Louis, I just told you!” I say, exasperated. “I don’t want her getting hurt anymore, and this is the only way I can assure she doesn’t.
There’s room on the bus, and only a couple weeks left in the tour. I’m sure Simon will be okay with it, I’ll check with him after I’m done checking with you. Seeing Maci hurt makes me hurt. This could possibly be save her life, lads. I need you to understand this. Please, for me.” There’s a long pause.
Finally, Liam nods his head. “I’ll go for it. That bruise is enough to tell me that things are bad. If you really believe this is a good idea, Niall, I’ll support you. Plus, I know what it feels like being away from the person you love - it’s pretty bad.”
“I’m good with it too,” Harry and Zayn both say. We all look at Louis then, to hear what he says.
Louis shrugs. “It’s going to be nice having someone on the bus who can clean.”
I let out a sigh of relief and all of us laugh. “Thank you,” I say, meaning every bit of it. “So much.”
“You better go check with Simon,” Liam instructs, and I nod.
I slowly unhook my arm from around her. I try to move out of the way, but Maci only end up nearly falling over. I try to sit her up, but she keeps shifting to the side. “Liam,” I plead. “Would you mind?”
“I got it,” he says, standing up and sitting next to Maci so she doesn’t fall over. When Maci leans on him, her face twists into a grimace and the lads and I laugh.
“Looks like you have nothing to worry about, Nialler,” Zayn jokes as I leave the room.
They have no idea how much that means to me. God, I’m falling hard. I close the door of the room, but not all the way so I can get back in when I’m done. I pull out my phone and scroll down to Simon’s number. I tap the dial button and hold the phone to my ear. He answers on the third ring.
“This better be good,” Simon grumbles groggily on the other end of the line. I laugh to myself - I’ve forgotten that it’s six hours later there, making it about one in the morning.
“Simon, I need to talk to you about something,” I start. “And before you stop me, give me time to explain.”
“I want to bring a girl named Maci Watson with us on the rest of the tour.”
“No,” he says without hesitation. “No distractions.”
“You haven’t given me time to explain, and this needs an explanation,” I say quickly.
“Fine, you have five minutes.”
I do the best I can to explain the situation I have. I tell him about how we met, her abusive father, how well we’ve bonded, and the bruises. “And I’ve checked with the lads, their in support of the idea,” I finally finish.
There’s a long pause, and I get anxious. Simon can do that - kill you with suspense without even knowing it. Even though I can’t see his face, I know he’s doing that look that he does when he thinks. It really is intimidating. Finally, he answers.
“Fine,” he says.
“Thank you so much!” I shout, so excited that I jump in the air like a little boy.
“But,” Simon says. “Only if she isn’t a distraction. You like her, I can tell by the way you talk about her. She sounds lovely, but I can’t have you off on Cloud 9 all the time and forget about work. Plus, if you two don’t work out, then we’re going to have problems. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“Trust me,” I say, not able to control my happiness. “Nothing bad is going to happen between us. You have no idea how much this means to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Your welcome. Now leave me alone, I’m supposed to be asleep.”
I chuckle. “Good night, Simon,” I say, but he’s already hung up.
I lock my phone and walk back into the room. The lads are talking quietly and their heads turn to me expectantly when they see me. I quickly trade places with Liam, putting my arm around Maci as she smiles and snuggles into my side, making me smile. I love being able to do this.
“Well?” they all say.
“Simon says it’s fine,” I state, trying to talk through the biggest smile I’ve ever had.
There are cheers and Maci stirs. I glare at them and the instantly quiet down. Not for long though, because I start laughing and they join me.
I look down at Maci, checking if she’s still asleep, and she is. Her eyelids flutter slightly, telling me that she’s dreaming. I wonder what about? He mouth moves slightly, making her seem like she’s having a quiet conversation. I smile, thinking about how lucky I am to have found her. I don’t think I deserve her. She’s a wonderful girl, more than I could have ever asked for. She’s just so... Perfect.
“Hello, Earth to Niall,” I hear Louis say. I whip my head up at him, trying to hide the smile I’m wearing.
“What?” I say.
“Man, you’ve got it bad,” Harry says, and I shrug.
“She’s beautiful. She’s wonderful, more than I could have ever asked for,” I say, repeating my thoughts. “It was by the grace of God that I even found her.”
“Man,” Liam breathes. “You really do have it bad. You’ve only known her for three days!”
“I’ve never met anyone like her,” I shrug. “She’s different. Plus, we’ve been through quite a lot in these past few days.”
I look down at Maci again. She shifts slightly, her hand gripping my shirt. She mumbles something, but I can’t make out what. I smile though think how cute she really is. She looks about five years younger when she’s sleeping.
“Lads,” I say, sighing. “I think I’m falling for her. Hard.”
“Maci,” I hear someone say, a comforting voice. “Maci, wake up, it’s time to go.”
I can’t tell who it is, but the voice is lovely. I want them to say something more, just to let me hear them speak.
“Maci, Love, wake up.”
The voice, I can tell, belongs to Niall. I’m not sure if it’s a dream or real, but I love hearing his voice anyway. It’s so comforting and if anything, it lulls me farther into sleep.
“Maci,” the voice says, a little louder. I feel myself being shifted and I frown.
I feel myself fall to the side. I roll right onto my stomach, a stab of pain shooting through me and fully waking me up. My eyes fly open and I gasp, rolling over and holding my midsection.
“Oh my God,” Niall says, worried and helping me sit up. “I’m so sorry, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” I say quietly. “Just surprised me, that’s all. What time is it?”
“It’s about 9:20,” Zayn says from across the room.
I smile wryly, not wanting to go home. Even though I was asleep for a long time, I loved being with these boys. They’re the only people that I feel welcomed by. I reluctantly remove myself from the bed, wincing because my stomach is so sore. I say goodbye to the boys and Niall and I are soon out the door. We start to walk down the hall and Niall grabs my hand, lacing our fingers.
“How was tonight?” he asks me as we step into the elevator.
“It was so much more fun than I would have had at home,” I say, trying to make a joke, but Niall grimaces. “I was only poking fun,” I explain quickly.
“Well,” he says quietly, rubbing the back of his neck. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.” My chest tightens.
“What’s the matter?” I ask. “Did I do something wrong? I’m sorry for whatever it is, tell me and I’ll fix it-”
“No!” he says, stopping me. “It’s nothing you’ve done. It’s nothing anyone’s done. Well... Except...”
“My dad?” I ask quietly, looking into his eyes.
“Yes,” Niall admits, looking away. “But before we talk about it, I just want you to know that in no way am I calling you weak, because you are definitely not weak.”
I nod. “Thank you, that means a lot.” The door to the elevator opens and we step out, still holding hands. It’s quiet until we get into the car, and I start to get curious. “So what is it that you were wanting to talk to me about?”
I can see him grip the steering wheel tighter. He’s nervous, that much is evident. “Maci,” he says after a little bit. “I know we’ve only known each other for three days, but you’ve got to agree that we’ve bonded so much. And if I interpreted what you said last night right, you said that you like me.” He says it as if a question, and I nod, smiling.
“You did.” I see him smile wildly.
“And you know that I like you,” he continues. “And more and more since we’ve spent more time together, I just want you to know.” Now it’s my turn to smile like a fool. I let him continue. “Anyway, back to what I want to talk to you about. I don’t really know how to say it any other way, but... I want you to come with us on the rest of the tour.”
What? My eyes go wide and I whip my head over to look at him. His eyes are on the road, but his face looks concerned. “What?”
“Just let me explain,” he pleads. I guess I owe him that, so I nod my head. “Well, things are rough at your house.” I wince, knowing that he’s right. “And that bruise... Maci, I’m not going to lie, seeing you hurt makes me hurt. You can’t lie to me anymore either, you know it hurts beyond what you’re showing. I want nothing more for you than to be safe, and at your home, you’re not safe.”
He has a point. No matter how hard it hurts, Niall’s right. He even wants to take me with him! He cares that much about me. I want so badly for it to be that easy - just say yes and be off with the boy I’m falling for. But it’s not. There’s always something.
“Niall,” I say, struggling for words. “I know my father treats me horribly, but I can’t... I can’t just leave him. He’s my father! Even though he would never admit it, he’s helpless without me.”
I can literally see Niall’s mood droop. “I was afraid you’d say that,” he says quietly. “Maci, I know you love your father. But he hurts you! You’ve been through years and years of it - there’re always consequences, Maci. They can be good and bad. But in this case, it’s bad. Years and years of being beaten... Maci, I know your mind can take it... But how much longer can your body?”
Tears start to cloud my vision, but I refuse to let them fall. Niall is right. He is so, so right. I had just thought about this last night - just thought about how sometimes - well, most of the time - I just wish that I could leave. But I never thought that I’d be presented with the choice.
“You have no idea,” I say, “how much it means to me that you care this much. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t want to leave with you. You have no idea how much I would just like to say yes and have that be it. But it’s so much harder than that. I have a job,” I say, just now realizing it, “I have a father that needs to be taken care of. There’s a lot to think about.” My heart hurts - I just want all of these issues to disappear.
Niall frowns, his eyes sad. “I just want you to know that... That whatever you do, we have two more weeks here, and then we’re leaving. Then it will just be phone calls and messages between us, when I have time - if you choose to stay here.”
My mouth drops. I didn’t know they had such little time here! There’s not a lot of time for Niall and I... My chest heaves and my vision is nearly taken over by unshed tears. There’s got to be more time than this! But if I leave with him, our time would be endless. There are just so many problems in the way. I’ll need to think. I’ll also have to tell my father. I won’t do that until I’ve made up my mind, though - there’s no telling how angry he’d get if I told him about it now.
“But I will think about it,” I say to Niall, trying not to let my voice shake. “And right now, most of the odds are in your favor.”
I see him smile, and a warmth fills my chest. I smile back, and without meaning to, I let a tear fall. Niall’s smile falters and he uses his thumb to wipe it from my cheek.
“Don’t cry, Love,” he says, and I take his hand, interlocking our fingers.
“I’m sorry,” I say, still smiling. “I just can’t tell you how much you mean to me already.” My face gets hot as I confess this. “And to know that you feel the same way - it’s just a good feeling.”
Niall smiles. I let those be our last words on the ride back to my house. He pulls up to my house at 9:50, thankfully enough time in advance. We get out of the car and join hands again as he walks me up to the porch. I turn to him to say thank you, but he interrupts me.
“Maci,” he says nervously. “I want to ask you something.”
“What is it?” I say, confused.
He runs his free and through his hair and rubs the back of his neck. “Will you... Will you be my girlfriend?”
My jaw drops. “W-what?”
“Will you be my girlfriend?” he asks again. “I like you a lot, Maci. And one of the reasons I want you to come with me... I don’t want to be apart from you. And we’ve already been on a kind of date... Just... Will you be my girlfriend?”
The warmth in my chest is back, and I can’t help smiling. “Niall, no one has ever been this sweet to me, ever. You are the nicest boy I have every met. I would be honored - and the luckiest girl in the world - to be your girlfriend. Yes.” I mean every word.
Niall smiles wildly, and he does this sort of hopping thing, making me laugh. “That means,” he says, “I can finally do this.”
He pulls me close and wraps and arm around my waist. Niall cups my cheek gently and brings his lips to mine. I can honestly say that I’m surprised. I have never, ever been kissed on the mouth before. The kiss feels amazing. He’s extremely gentle, but at the same time he’s passionate. This is my first real kiss - and I’m glad I’m sharing it with Niall.
He pulls away slowly, smiling widely. I’m positive that my face mirrors his. That was amazing. I can’t resist - I take a handful of his shirt and pull him in for another. I can feel him smile against my lips, and I let go of his shirt. He stays for a little bit longer, then finally pulls away.
“Thank you,” I say, wrapping my arms around his torso and pulling him into a hug.
He kisses my forehead and rests his chin on my shoulder. We stay in each other’s arms for a little while longer, but I finally let go.
“I’ve got to go,” I whisper. “But I’ll text you, alright? I have the day off tomorrow, then I work all week - from the crack of dawn until six. I have until nine, though,” I say, batting my eyelashes.
Niall smiles and chuckles a little. “Do you have to walk to work?” I nod and he wrinkles his nose. “I’ll come pick you up and take you to work. We’ll have a few extra minutes to talk, then I’ll take you home from work this week. Sound okay?”
I poke his nose, smiling. “You don’t have to do that for me,” I say.
“I want to,” he replies, returning the smile. I roll my eyes.
“Sounds good. Good night, Niall.”
“Good night, Maci.” I watch him start down the steps and I reach for the door handle. “Oh, one more thing,” he says jogging back up.
He pecks me on the lips, making me smile. I kiss him back one last time before turning the door handle.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I say, opening the door.
“Looking forward to it.”
I smile at him one last time before walking in the door. I kick my shoes off, closing the door. My shoe decides to be difficult with me and stay on my foot, so I bend over, trying to ignore the pain in my midsection, and take it off. I straighten up to find my father standing in front of me with another beer bottle in hand.
“Hi Dad,” I say quietly, just now realizing how much the house smells of alcohol.
“Hello Maslin,” he says, and I wince at how slurred the words are. He’s had a lot more to drink than usual.
“I’m back on time, and I’m heading to bed,” I say, trying to slip past him, but he catches my arm.
“Notsofast,” he slurs heavily. He pushes me out to the front of him, but doesn’t let me go. “Ya see,” he says clumsily. “I been thinkin’. Thinkin’ ‘bout you. You been home alot... alot later than... than usual,” he stumbles over the words as if they’re hard to get out of his mouth.
“I’ve been busy,” I say simply.
“Well I’m startin’ ta think... I think ya don’t like it here.” He has no idea how true his words are. I don’t answer, and he continues. “I been gettin’ kinda... kinda lonely, Maslin.”
“Well I have work,” I state, and try to get out of his grasp.
“You been.. You been a bad girl, Maslin,” he says, trying to pull his face into an angry expression, but ending up looking constipated. “And you... You need to be... punished.”
I flinch, thinking about taking a blow to the stomach with my bruise still fresh. I inwardly cringe, but don’t let it show. Again, I try to pull away, but his grip is tight. I start to worry. I can’t get hit again, I don’t think I’ll be able to pull it together.
“Andthistime,” he slurs angrily, dropping the beer bottle in his hand. “We’re going to have... a little fun with it ‘coz... ‘coz I’m lonely.”
My eyes widen and I try to get away, pulling harder on his grip. I know where this is leading, and I don’t want it to. Oh God, no. Again, his grip tightens on my arm and I can’t escape now. He uses his other hand to tear right through my shirt.
“Niall!” I scream at the top of my lungs.