I woke up with a pounding head and a warm stomach.
I groaned, my headache growing worse as I tried to open my eyes. Why did my head hurt so badly? What was going on? I searched my memory for an answer, but couldn’t find one. Not until I recognized the stale taste of alcohol in my mouth.
Last night came back to me, though I didn’t remember most of it. But I remembered Niall going off with Keaton, leaving me alone. I remembered waiting for hours, doing nothing. I remembered the girl who’d given me the drink, but not her name. I remembered dancing a bit, then it all disappeared until the guy kissed me.
I bit my lip. He’d kissed me. My first kiss, and I didn’t even know the guy’s name, let alone remember his face. I remembered how I’d wanted him off, how I’d been about to pass out. And I remembered Niall, pulling him off of me - his angry expression while talking to the guy, then coming over to ask if I was okay. Why had he done that?
I reached up to rub my eyes, then to pull down my shorts that had ridden up in the back. But there was something blocking my way - a comforter. Though it was weird, I never slept with a duvet. Only a thin blanket decorated my mattress, so I knew that I wasn’t in my own bed. The thought woke me up right away.
My eyes shot open despite the pounding in my head, and I looked down at myself. My hair was in tangles, my shirt was pushed up to my bra line, and there was a pair of arms around my middle. The realization that my clothes were still on comforted me a small bit, but the fact that I wasn’t waking up in my own bed scared me. I followed the arm up to the shoulder, then the person’s face -
“Niall,” I whispered, my breath hitching. I was in Niall’s bed. I was in Niall’sroom. I was in Niall’s house. I was in Niall’s arms.
My body went rigid and I flinched, stirring him a bit. I panicked, not wanting him to wake up. What would he say about this? He’d never wanted anything to do with me before. He’d told me I was horrid, disgusting even. What would he do if he found us like this?
I tried to gently pry his arms from around me, but only succeeded in jarring him. I cursed as he stirred, then laid back as still as I could. If he thought I was asleep, maybe he wouldn’t be as angry. After all, it was his arms around me.
But what surprised me even more was that Niall - still very much asleep - drew me closer. His chest pressed up against my back, his arms growing tighter around my middle. I winced. Contact like this with Niall was terribly uncomfortable and foreign. But the odd thing was that I was getting used to it. Though the bruises on my leg and forearm were still fairly new, I was expecting less and less to be hurt by Niall. I was getting more comfortable with him. But that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
Which is why this kind of interaction was awkward and unwanted. I bit my lip and tried to ignore my pounding head as I slowly reached for Niall’s clasped hands again. My fingers closed around one of his wrists and pulled gently, but he didn’t move. I cursed under my breath, then tried again. This time, Niall started to stir.
My body went rigid and I moved my hand away as quickly and carefully as I could manage. My eyes shut tight as he took in a long breath through his nose. Niall’s body shifted abruptly, lodging one of his legs in between mine. The soft fabric of his pants rubbed lightly against my bare legs, and I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from crying out in frustration.
I suddenly felt his forehead land against the back of my neck, and I stiffened my already solid form. This was completely foreign, and I didn’t like it at all. What if he actually did wake up and find us like this, with me awake? What would he say? What would he do? I had to focus on getting out of his arms. But one thought briefly held my attention.
I’d never been in a boy’s arms before. I’d never hugged a boy, never kissed a boy - well, not until last night - never been in a relationship. I now understood how good it felt to feel wanted. Niall wanted me to come last night. Niall wanted that boy off of me. Niall wanted me close to him - well… That part was subconscious.
I soon shook my head. I couldn’t afford to think these thoughts. Though the feeling was nice, this was Niall, the boy who’d tortured me for as long as I could remember. He was unpredictable and dangerous. I had to find a way to distance myself. But there was one problem - we had tutoring, along with the physics project. And also… Niall made it so hard not to want to be around him, at least while he was being a decent person.
All of the thoughts running through my head distracted me from Niall’s movement. It wasn’t until he yawned next to my ear that I realized I’d been twitching nervously, bound to wake him up. His leg was still between mine as his arms loosened a bit from around my middle. There was nothing I could do now. He was waking, and I was vulnerable to whatever kind of beatings and insults he had in his head. So I did what I thought any person in my position would do. I acted as if I were still asleep.
I shut my eyes tightly, my eyelids fluttering slightly in an imaginary dream. My body relaxed into Niall’s warm arms, and I slowed down my breathing. My fists unclasped and I just waited for Niall to wake up all the way. Much to my dismay, that came sooner than I’d thought.
He grumbled a bit before removing his legs from in between mine, then extended them down next to me. I kept my eyes shut as I felt his arms loosen even more. My spirits lifted as I felt his forehead withdraw from resting in my neck, but it was short lived. Niall didn’t pull away any more than that. I was sure that he’d opened his eyes by now and realized what he was doing, but… He didn’t pull away.
My head pounded in time with my heart - painfully fast. My breathing became heavier and I started to worry if Niall knew I was awake. Suddenly, lying still wasn’t something I could do just then. I had to move. Maybe I’d just play it off as moving in my sleep? But I couldn’t just lay there. He’d figure out that I was awake. So I moved.
I sucked a breath in through my nose just as Niall had done as he woke. My previously limp arms reached up as I rolled partially over, curling into a fetal position in the process. I expected Niall’s arms to release me as he realized I was ‘waking up’ - but they didn’t. A large section of my hair fell over my face, tickling my nose uncomfortably. I couldn’t blow it out of the way, and not being able to do anything about it was killing me.
Suddenly, Niall’s arm that rested below my body was carefully tugged out of place, leaving goosebumps on my exposed skin in its wake - I was still in the tube top from last night. I almost let out a sigh of relief as it retreated, though, and my heart slowed the smallest bit.
I nearly jumped out of my own skin as I felt fingertips brush against my bare shoulder. My eyes squeezed shut tighter as the touch trailed up, brushing my uncovered ear. Then, I felt my hair slowly being pulled back from my face. I was still immensely aware of his other hand still on my bare stomach as my hair was tucked behind my ear. It was all I could do not to stop breathing.
Niall wasn’t hurting me. He hadn’t woken me up to insult me. He’d protected me the night before, and he’d brought me into his home. Why? I had no idea. And now this… It was overwhelming. Too many things were happening for my pounding head to handle. Too many things were happening for my pounding heart to handle.
It was all I could do not to flinch when a gentle fingertip brushed over my cheek and traced down my jawline. I felt awkward, lying there while he thought I was asleep. But shouldn’t he feel awkward for even doing this? I mean, he’d abused me and called me names for the longest time. And now, all the sudden - over a period of four days - he’d changed from my bully to my protecter, my… I didn’t even know what to call this. I stifled a shiver that ran up my spine as he withdrew his hand.
And then he was gone. The weight behind me on the bed left, as did all touch from him. I heard the floor creak subtly as he traveled from the bed to what I assumed was the door, because I heard a hinge opening and closing. Muffle by the door, I heard stairs creaking, then feet padding almost inaudibly on the kitchen floor below.
My eyes shot open and I sat up straight, trying to figure out just where I was. I spotted a Michael Buble poster on the far wall, a bookshelf across the room, a guitar on its stand over there, the bed right here. I was in Niall’s room.
The duvet restricted my movement as I tried to shift off the bed, so I tossed it back and swiveled my feet to the floor. My shorts had definitely hiked up in the back, so I not-so-gracefully pulled them down. Despite the heightened pounding in my head, I stumbled to the far wall, where a mirror I hadn’t noticed before stood.
I was a mess.
My eye makeup had blended down onto my lower eye, so my eyes looked five times smaller than normal. My tube top had turned into a sort of bandeau, so I pulled it down to its original place. My shoes weren’t on my feet, so I wiggled my small toes as I grimaced at myself.
I licked the ends of m thumbs and trailed them under my eyes, attempting to get off some of the makeup. It worked, and I soon had clear lower eyes. That’s when I started to address my hair.
It’d tangled every which way, per usual, except for the few difficult pieces in front that refused to do anything but lay flat. Raking my fingers through it only proved painful, and I winced as I caught on another section of tangles. After I’d smoothed the top layer down, I decided that it was good enough.
But good enough for what? There was no one to look nice for, no one to fix myself for. Niall didn’t care anyway. I wasn’t making myself presentable for him… Only for myself. Right?
This time, I did jump when I heard footsteps.
Panicking, I stumbled a bit, then dove back onto the bed and curled up just as I had been I threw the duvet over my body, shutting my eyes tight just as the door opened gently.
I didn’t know why I was so weary about this. Maybe it was the fact that I was in my abuser’s house. Or maybe because of the disorientation that my pounding head was causing. Or maybe… Could it have been the preview touch I’d been receiving from Niall?
I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. I didn’t have time to think about it before I heard the subtle clatter of a dish next to my head. I stayed as still as I could manage, and heard the contact of fabric against carpet. Then there were footsteps toward the door, followed by the closing of it. I opened my eyes.
Sitting on the bedside table was a plate of eggs and sausage, along with a fork and a glass of water. My eyes shifted to the floor, finding a pair of boxers and a polo. I furrowed my eyebrows. Niall had put these here? For me?
I swung my legs over the edge of the bed again, finding the pounding in my head had somewhat subsided. My gaze flickered over the the glass of water, and I picked it up and drank it. It felt nice to have something in my system other than alcohol, or whatever that girl had put in that cup.
I still felt weary, but I picked up the plate of food anyway. I ate slowly, trying to delay the time I’d have to head downstairs and face Niall. As soon as I was finished, though, I turned my head to the pile of clothes on the floor. They were obviously Niall’s. And he’d laid them out for me?
I looked down at myself, tube top only covering half of my midsection, and shorts too short for comfort. Then I looked back at the pile on the floor. And internal battle happened inside of me before I finally decided that changing was a good idea, considering that my clothes still smelled of beer.
I left my top on and slipped the polo over it, then took my sticky shorts off and pulled on the boxers. I watched in the mirror as the polo fell to just above my knees, and I tucked it into the waistband. My gaze landed back on the mirror, and I grimaced.
I was wearing Niall’s clothes. Niall wanted me to wear his clothes? I shook my head. He was just being nice. But then again, when had he ever been nice?
The smell of sausage wafted into the room, breaking my thoughts. I turned my head toward the door, but it was still closed. It must’ve been coming from downstairs. I sent a weary glance back in the mirror, then shuffled over to grab my plate and glass. Slowly, I walked out of the door and down the hall, then down the stairs.
The sound of running water filtered into the living room, along with the rattle of dishes. I soon figure out that I was shaking, making the fork clatter against the dish. I stopped my nervous twitches, then grit my teeth and walked into the kitchen.
Niall’s back was to me, fumbling around with dishes at the sink. My bare feet made little noise against the kitchen floor as I slowly made my way to the counter next to him. He was humming quietly, some song that I didn’t recognize. I bit my lip before setting my partially empty plate on the counter.
His head whipped over to me, surprise in his expression. As soon as he recognized me, though, he turned back to the sink with a small smile. I backed away subtly as Niall took the plate from the counter and shoveled what was left into the wastebasket. He then placed it in the sink and dried his hands off, then turned to me.
“You were out cold last night,” he said, towel still in his hands. “I couldn’t just leave you at Keaton’s, and you were no where close to being able to tell me where your house key is.”
I brushed my still ratty hair behind my ear. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know that the drink would be that strong.”
Niall chuckled. “I understand. Mum is gone for the weekend, but I’m sure she’d have welcomed you with open arms. Plus, an unconscious girl and a few drunk lads couldn’t have ended well.”
My chest constricted at the mention of the situation I may have ended up in. I’d been worried about Niall hurting me, while I should’ve been counting my blessings that Niall had been kind enough to bring me into his home. In a way, Niall had saved me. But that didn’t really explain what’d happened just before Niall headed downstairs.
“Thanks,” I said anyway, rubbing my arm and staring at the floor. “That would’ve been bad.”
He smiled and walked over to the stove, flipping the burner off. “Sorry about the clothes,” he said. “My mum is quite the small woman, not much of anything fits on her. I hope that you can live with mine.”
I looked down at myself, polo and boxers covering me. “It’ll be fine,” I replied.
Niall nodded. “So, since you’re here… May as well continue on the project?”
I thought about asking him to take me home for a change of clothes. But that may have been a bad idea, since I didn’t know what kind of mood Niall was in at the moment. He could say anything. Plus, I could last in his clothes. It felt odd, but they were surprisingly comfy.
“Yeah, sure,” I nodded, crossing my arms.
He nodded again and dug something out from below the sink. He ran the water for a second before turning back to me. “Here,” Niall said, holding out a bottle filled with water. “You’re going to need it.” I furrowed my eyebrows at him, and he laughed. “For the headache.”