I walk in the door, kicking my shoes off. My father is in his recliner, beer in hand, watching football.
“Hello, dad,” I say quietly, not wanting to disturb him too much. I walk past him to the stairs.
“Where's my money,” he growls, not taking his eyes from the TV screen.
I dig my hand in my pocket, taking out the $20 that I need, then count out his $290 – and come up short. Uh oh. I dig around deeper in my pocket, trying to see if there was any money that I missed, but my hand closed around nothing. I had spent too much buying Niall's and my food! I'm only $4 short, though, so he shouldn't notice. I take the money over to him slowly. He rips it out of my hand and I go to leave, but he thrusts his hand out and takes a hold of my forearm. I wince because he is hurting me, but keep my mouth shut.
My father counts the money out in his lap, and I flinch when he comes up short, just like I had. His grip tightens on my arm and I force down a cry of pain.
“$286,” he says. “You're short, Maci!” he bellows, clumsily standing, towering over me by at least 5 or 6 inches.
“I-I'm sorry,” I squeak timidly, looking down at my feet. “I bought me and my friend some food and-”
“You bought someone food?” his voice thunders throughout the house. I nod, keeping my eyes glued to the floor. “We need that money for us! If it weren't for me, your sorry ass would be out on the streets and begging for food! Don't you dare take for granted that I let you live here, you weak fool! We buy our own food with this money! I will not have you go and throw it away on other people! Whoever they are, they can buy their own damn food!” he growls.
“But dad,” I try to reason. “It was only four dollars, and I don't think that-” My head is whipped to the side, his hand connecting with my cheek. I don't dare cry out, that will just make it worse.
“No one gives a damn what you think, you selfish little bitch!” he shouts, getting in my face. I can smell the alcohol in his breath. “Say you're sorry and you won't do it again.”
“I'm sorry,” I mumble. “I won't do it again.” I'm not surprised when the familiar sting appears on the other side of my face, nearly knocking me over. He hit me harder than the first time, sending a bigger burst of pain through me. That's going to bruise.
“I can't hear you!” he screams in my face.
“I'm sorry,” I say, my voice strong even though I'm on the verge of tears. “I won't do it again.” I look him in the eye, but then I let my gaze fall back down to my feet.
“Go to bed,” he hisses, murder in his voice. I do as I am told.
I quickly walk up the short flight of stairs, grab a pair of pajamas, and head into the bathroom to change. I brush my teeth, too, getting the last of the banana nut bread taste out of my mouth. I head to my room, the second door on the right, and throw myself on the bed before my tears have a chance to escape. I shove my face in my pillow and proceed to cry myself to sleep.
Maci. What a pretty name that belonged to such a beautiful girl. I wave to her and she waves back before slipping into her house. I turn around, smiling to myself. Maci seems nice enough, right? She's so easy to talk to! I feel like I can relate to her more than I can most people, but I'm not sure how just yet.
I decide to call one of the lads to come pick me up. I dial up Zayn, and he picks up on the third ring.
“Where did you go, Niall?” is the first thing he says. I can hear the rest of boys in the background playing some sort of game.
“You wouldn't stop to find something to eat,” I whine. “So I slipped off on my own. I got a little caught up, though.” I chuckle a little, remembering the incident with the crazy American girls with all their signs. And then I remember Maci.
“We were worried sick!” Zayn yells through the phone. “I'm telling you, Nialler, these American people are something!”
“Thanks, mum, now stop your lecturing and come pick me up!” I say sarcastically.
“Where are you?”
“36th and Brenton,” I tell him, reading the street signs.
Zayn hangs up after telling me he'd be here in a bit. After about five minutes I get tired of standing and take a seat on the curb. Not much traffic is going by, and the darkness calms me. I can't seem to get Maci off of my mind, though.
Her perfectly waved brown hair fell in just the right places around her face. Her hair also has the smallest tint of red to it. It's beautiful. Her brilliant hazel eyes stuck in my mind the most. Little flecks of amber were among the different shades of brown in her eyes. And something about the way she holds herself – she isn't confident, that's for certain. But her shyness is adorable, and I like it. I hum my solo in One Thing, thinking of Maci the whole time.
A car pulls up beside me and the window rolls down, revealing Zayn. He has his mum-face on that he always does when I get either in trouble or do something he disapproves. I roll my eyes and slide into the passenger's seat. I throw the seatbelt around me and sit back, preparing for a bit of a drive. It took a lot of running from those girls to wind up here. And if I hadn't, I would never have met her.
“What were you doing all the way out here, anyway?” Zayn asks me, pulling away from the curb and driving down the street.
I automatically smile as I think of Maci. I look out the window, trying to hide the goofy smile, but Zayn's glance at me already caught it.
“What's her name?” he asks flatly. I think he means to sound sarcastic, but he sounds like he is teasing me.
“What makes you think it's someone?” I ask, jokingly defending myself.
“Oh, please, Niall,” he says, eyes on the road. “It's written all over your face – and I can't even see you face!”
I roll my eyes and sigh. “Maci,” I say after a bit, still staring out the window. “Her name is Maci.
I want to see her again, that's for sure. We're in Miami for at least another two weeks, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of time to spend with Maci. When Zayn and I get back to the hotel, I race up to the room I share with Zayn and immediately search the refrigerator. I had gotten hungry since I ate with Maci, and I pulled out some cold pizza from yesterday.
I make my way through the piles of junk on the floor and plop down on the bed. My thoughts drift to Maci as I lay back against the headboard and take a bite of my pizza.
“I'm going to get the boys,” Zayn calls as he heads out the door. The lads always come in our room to hang because even though it's quite messy, it's always the cleanest.
Liam, Louis, and Harry all share a room, so it doesn't take long to round them up and bring them back here. I had laid back down, my head on the soft pillow. I'm staring up the the ceiling – thinking again of Maci – as Louis bursts into the room, shouting his head off.
“NIALL YOU'RE BACK!” he yells, jumping on me.
“Get off, Lou!” I manage to say after he knocks the wind out of me.
He gives a little bit of a laugh before sitting on the edge of my bed. I sit up to find Harry has taken a place between the two beds on the floor and Liam and Zayn have found a place on the other bed.
“Where did you go off to?” Liam questioned, raising his eyebrow. “It's getting a little late, and we have an interview early tomorrow!”
“Yeah, Niall,” Zayn teased. “Where did you go?”
I feel my face get hot and look down at the floor, thinking of Maci. I got several oohs from the boys as they taunt me, figuring most of it out.
“What's her name?”
“Is she fit?”
“What's she like?”
I'm bombarded with questions about Maci. Even though I have only spent about two hours with her, I already like her. She's such a sweet girl, and very attractive, I must add. I consider just saying nothing about her, but then again, these are my best friends. So I decide to open up a little.
“Well,” I start, still looking at the ground. “Her name is Maci.” I look up and each of the lads are giving me a smirk. I roll my eyes and continue. “She's really shy, but when I spent more and more time with her, she got more comfortable and-”
“What do you mean more comfortable?” Louis teases with a smirk. I roll my eyes, ignoring his dirty mind.
“Overall, she's a really nice girl. And yes, to answer your question, Harry, Maci is very fit.” I smile at the last little bit, thinking more about her. She actually did happen to be extremely fit. “I'd like to spend more time with her.”
“Did you get her number?” Liam asks curiously. I nod and he smiles, making me smile a little bit.
“Do you fancy her, Nialler?” Zayn asks, his face serious. I can tell he is holding back a laugh, though.
“To tell you the truth,” I address all of them. “I do think I like her.”
The lads smile and Louis gives me a clap on the back.
“So when do we get to meet her?”