Chapter One, A Messy Night?
I sat by my window and looked outside, waiting for that particular black Mercedes Benz that is specifically a 2000 E320. I rolled my eyes for a moment, because of course he would make sure I knew the year and the model of his car as if it were his justification that his car wasn't expensive at all. Just as the thought was passing, I noticed his car pulling into the driveway and quickly jumped up with my clutch in hand. I wasn't as excited to see my boyfriend as I sounded or should have been and it wasn't because he was late.
I took my time walking to the door and focused on the sound my heels made as they hit the tile under my shoes while I walked through the house. When I reached the door, I took a deep breath to calm myself and any nerves before I opened the door to reveal an awe-strikingly, nicely suited guy. His hair was styled almost perfectly and his suit was ironed with pleats in his pants. His tie was a bit loose, but that's more likely because he had been driving. For some reason my eyes couldn't help but wander back to his face and stay there. He wasn't smiling at me or trying to check me out. He just gave a blank face and it made me slightly uncomfortable.
I should have refreshed my makeup. Maybe I had put too much perfume on. One of my bra straps may have fallen off my shoulder. I probably missed a spot while waxing or shaving. Maybe I should have picked a different lipstick. He could probably tell my earrings are fake pearls. Maybe he just didn't like my choice of jewelry. Maybe a few of my curls that were being stubborn had already fallen.
"You look even better in person than you do in that picture you had sent- absolutely perfect" he said, disturbing my self-conscious thoughts. I started to blush and resorted to biting my lip.
"Thanks. You look really good yourself. I don't think perfect is a good enough word, really."
"Thanks. Should we go or do you want pictures or something?"
"Um, would you mind taking one or two for my parents?"
"Nope," he answered and stepped inside.
I shut the door behind him and took my phone out of my clutch. He took it from my hand and with his other hand, he wrapped it around my shoulders and brought me closer to him. Reaching the phone away from us and using the front camera, he took two selfies of us. My little sister Lacey had been quietly watching us and made herself present by letting us know she'll take care of our picture. He handed her my phone, but not without giving her his bright smile and a thank you.
"Get ready," Lace instructed. Niall and I shifted slightly apart so we weren't too close. He moved his hand from my shoulder to my back and waited for Lace to take the picture. "Say Cheese!"
"Cheese," Niall and I laughed together as the light from the camera flashed.
"Let me take a couple more, just in case."
Minutes later Lacey was showing us the pictures she took and continuously complimented us on how well dressed we were. Niall would humbly accept, but complimented her back each time until she finally decided to say bye to us and ran away.
"She's something," Niall commented when it was just the two of us again.
"Yeah, she is."
"Are you ready now?"
"Yes, but do you think we'll still make it?"
"Of course. I already called to let them know."
"Yeah and about that, I'm sorry. My parents were just-"
"I get it. It's fine."
"It's fine, Niall."
"No, it's not. My parents were lecturing me about being safe tonight. They were telling me all the things not to do and wanted to make sure our night would be fun. They said I should have bought you flowers, but I told them it isn't prom yet. They basically told me to make sure I treat you right tonight. So, please, if you're unhappy or uncomfortable about anything starting now, let me know."
"I don't want to go. I don't see tonight turning out wonderfully or fun. But I'm here, I'm dressed, I'm ready to make the best of it. I'll walk out this door and spend the rest of the night with a smile on my face."
"I don't want to force you to do anything, but-"
"But I am going to make tonight worth your while. Just give me a chance."
"I feel like I already gave you one and you crushed it with your bare hands into a million pieces."
"Or maybe it was just an illusion and something even better happened."
"We fell in love and had our first bump."
"Or maybe this love was founded on unrealistic ideas and was doomed to end from the beginning?"
"The possibilities are endless when you think about them, aren't they?"
"Do you love me or have we not quite grasped the definition of it yet?"
"I'd say we're learning."
"I want to believe what you're saying is right, because you're saying everything I want to hear right now, but a part of me doesn't believe you."
"So come with me, Carmen. Let's kill tonight together."
"And if we're acting like robots?"
"Like I said, if you're unhappy or uncomfortable, let me know."
I bit the inside of my lip and nodded my head, letting him have his way. I didn't want to argue or ruin the night for him, but when he offered to hear my feelings, I had to open up to him. Without me giving a thought to it, he took my hand and led me outside to his car. He even held the door open for me and closed it after I situated myself in the passenger's seat. I chose not to talk as he drove, though, because I couldn't trust that my mouth wouldn't slip something that should stay inside my head. When we reached the restaurant, he insisted on opening the door for me again. He was acting like a gentleman, but I saw it as him trying way too hard and acting as if I were some dainty little girl who needed a guy waiting on her hand and foot.
Again, I didn't realize he took my hand until he gave it a squeeze. I looked at him to see him already smiling at me. In a moment's time, he leaned in towards me and kissed my cheek.
"I'm happy right now," he whispered in my ear before pulling away and straightening his posture.
So many replies sprung in my head, but I stayed silent and nodded my head as we continued walking until we reached inside. I smiled brightly at the familiar hostess who was ready to lead us to our table. We followed, still holding hands, and were surprised when we reached our table to see our friends sitting with only drinks in front of them and no food yet. I thanked Sharon, the hostess, and sat down in the seat Niall pulled out for me. When we were situated, I felt all eyes piercing me and wished I had just stayed home and forgotten this night.
"You look beautiful," Brandy, Adrian's girlfriend and my good friend, complimented. I smiled.
"Not as beautiful as you look. That purple dress is gorgeous on you."
"Well that red dress on you puts all our dresses to shame," Michelle commented and I heard a few mumbles of agreement.
"And you both look so good together," Brandy went on.
"Okay, sure, whatever. Can we order now?" Samantha asked, and I refrained myself from standing up and walking out. I knew this wasn't going to go well, especially with her around.
"You know, you're the only person I know who can pull off a gold sequenced dress like that," I attempted at complimenting her. It seemed to work because her face beamed.
"Thank you! You look good, too."
"Are you girls done now?" Adrian asked, pretending to be annoyed.
"That's what happens when the girls don't get ready together," Brandy told him.
"Hey Niall, that's a nice suit you have on," Chris pointed out.
"Thanks. Yours is nice, too. And I like that tie."
"It's Armani. Goes with my cologne. Just don't ask what brand my suit is," he said and the guys chuckled.
"Yeah, it's weird mixing brands. I have Ralph Lauren," Peter added.
"Nice choice," Mike complimented.
"What are you wearing, Niall?" Chris asked
"Van Heusen and no cologne."
"Hi, sorry to interrupt, but I see the rest of your party is here. Are you ready to order?" Liam, our favorite waiter and friend from school, asked. I noticed some of the others were slightly bummed or trying to hold in a laugh.
"You couldn't have come at a better time," Samantha said with a grin before giving him her order.
We went around our table until Niall and I were the last ones. I expected Niall to give my order since he knows my favorite dish and sides, but he surprisingly only gave his. Feeling relieved like he somehow gave me my independence back, I gave Liam my order and thanked him, not only for taking my order but for being patient enough to wait for Niall and I to join our friends.
"I'll go get you guys set. And you all look very nice tonight. Our last Formal is going be grand."
"Didn't Amara help put it on?" I asked, vaguely remembering if his girlfriend was our class president or ASB president.
"Yeah, it's sort of the class president's job. Trying to help build the hype is all."
"I'm excited for it! Amara always comes up with the best ideas. Her rallies last year were the best," Samantha kissed up. It was only typical of her.
"Yeah, they were I guess."
"Are you going to make the dance?" Niall asked.
"Oh yeah. Boss ended my shift early so I can get ready. I'm going to have to work over time, but whatever. It's worth it for Amara."
The way Liam's eyes gleamed made me envious. He spoke so highly of his girlfriend and literally put her on a pedestal. He loved her to no end and I wished I could say Niall did the same. Anybody would be envious of their relationship. He's the smartest guy in school, valedictorian, and his girlfriend has to be the most creative and involved person at school, her title as class president excluded. They seemed like the couple everyone expected to happen and immediately became the school's favorite couple last year after Niall and Samantha broke up.
Before I could admire Liam further, he parted and left to go wait on his other tables and put all our orders in. Our table instantly fell into conversation, but I wasn't up for it. I stayed silent as I gave my attention to whoever was speaking and when they broke into mini conversations, I followed Niall speaking with Peter, Samantha, and Mike who sat in front of us. I wasn't grasping what anyone was saying- I only made myself look attentive- and thought about how I detested the fact that Niall chose to keep a conversation with Samantha of all people at our table. He could have chosen Adrian's conversation, who sat next to him, but no.
"What do you think?" Mike asked and when all eyes were on me, I became flustered.
"Oh, well um," I mumbled trying to see if maybe my brain did catch something, but I honestly couldn't give an opinion.
"Do you think Zayn will be at the dance with Estella?" Niall asked and placed his hand on top of my folded ones, not bothering to pull my left away and take it in his.
"Yes, why wouldn't they go? Estella may be a sophomore, but she's his girlfriend. They have nothing to hide or be embarrassed about."
"But don't you think it's weird?" Samantha asked.
"Unless you find love weird, then no. It's not weird. I wouldn't have guessed they would be a couple, they're personalities are so different, but they compliment each other. Their age difference doesn't affect me. There are so many couples out there who are a year to, like, ten years or more apart. Love has no boundaries or limits. That's the beauty of it."
"That's amazing and I totally agree. In fact, I'm bringing my boyfriend to Formal," Mike smiled.
"I thought you said he couldn't make it?" I asked.
"Changed his mind," Mike shrugged and I noticed his smile widen.
"I can't wait to meet him."
"Wait, you have a boyfriend? You're gay?" Samantha asked as she looked at him with an almost appalled face. I wanted to rip her face off and make her eat it, but took a deep breath and let Niall hold my hand.
"Uh, yes, why are you acting so surprised?"
"You don't look gay."
"Gay isn't a style. All it is, is a term males use to describe their preference for other males and not women in a sexual and romantic way."
"But aren't there certain things you guys do that classify yourselves as a gay?"
"Like what, Samantha?" I could tell Mike was becoming offended by her questions and it didn't help that they were seated next to each other.
"Like. . . you're very sanitary and clean up well."
"That's not true. You're just saying a stereotype. Niall cleans up well and is very clean, and he's not gay. There's no classification for being gay. It's only a term like Mike said."
"If you're uncomfortable being around me, please let me now so I can leave," Mike told her.
"No, I'm sorry. I should have never went on. I guess I grew up differently. My parents are devout Christians and you're the first person I know who is gay, and I didn't even know."
"If you didn't know I was gay, why were you ready to use stereotypes against me?"
"I don't know?"
"Samantha. . . I honestly don't understand you sometimes."
"Peter does," she grinned and turned around to smile.
That simple act irked me, and I wouldn't doubt it was as much as it did to Mike or more. The fact that Peter was sitting beside her the entire time and never said a word irritated me. I'm not saying he should have shut Samantha up, I just think he should have explained to her that what she was saying was wrong that way she could have taken more heed to her words and thoughts. It was quiet on our side of the table now but I knew it wasn't going to last long. Mike was looking across the table at me and I didn't bother seeing where Niall was looking. I knew as soon as someone spoke up to me or included me in a conversation, I would explode because I didn't want to be there. At all.
"Excuse me for a few minutes. I need to use the bathroom," I said to Mike and Niall but never directed my words towards either of them.
I let go of Niall's hand and stood up, set my clutch on my seat, and walked towards the bathroom. Rather quickly, too. A part of me thought I was stupid for leaving my clutch at the table because I could have easily walked out. The other part of me just wanted to go to the bathroom as soon as possible to calm my nerves down, because at any moment I probably would have lunged at Samantha and screamed at Niall. How could everyone be so calm and happy? I felt like the biggest jerk in the world because I hated their happiness and wanted to destroy it so everyone could feel how I felt.
I'm more selfish than what I let on to be. Crap, I'm a terrible person.
Just as I reached the bathroom, I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see who was stopping me from going to the bathroom. It was Mike and the look on his face made me feel incredibly more horrid.
"Are you okay, Car?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just need to-"
"Don't lie. You've been in your own little bubble the entire night so far. Yes, I've noticed and maybe it's because I'm sitting right across from you. Did something happen?"
I wasn't really paying attention to what Mike was saying. I just felt like breaking down and crying because it's supposed to be Niall, not him. Niall was supposed to follow me. He's supposed to ask if I'm okay. He's supposed to see through my lie. He's supposed to make this night special. He's supposed to be there for me.
"I want to be alone. It's suffocating out there," I admitted to Mike, not knowing if that answered a question of his or not.
"Is it Samantha? Because she's a terrible person and you shouldn't let her get to you."
"But what? Carmen, you're probably the nicest and most caring and understanding person I know. You were the first person I told when I decided to come out to my friends. And wanna know something? I was so grateful I did because you listened and knew exactly what to say. It was like you understood exactly how I felt and related to every bit of it. You supported me, and still do, and that's what makes you an incredible person and friend. You support all your friends to impossible ends. You need to support yourself, too."
"Look, just have fun tonight. You're wound up so tight, oil your joints and loosen up. Do it for Niall at least. The poor guy is trying extremely hard, Carmen. I think he would have fought me to follow you."
"I was so scared, Car."
"Okay, you're totally right. I have been irrational and incredibly mean. I just can't stop thinking about it."
"I know. I'm not saying it's gonna be easy coming back from that. Just look at Niall and understand his side like you did for me and everyone else. Maybe it won't be as bad as you see it."
"Good, now let's hurry back please before your boyfriend questions my sexuality and breaks my nose."
"He wouldn't do that."
"I swear he was getting ready to, Car."
"Niall's not that kind of guy."
And right as I said that, I realized how true my words were. He's not that guy. He's not that guy who says he loves me while he counts everything he dislikes about me behind his back. But as soon as our table came into view and I saw Niall laughing with Peter and Samantha, I couldn't help but feel that he was that guy. And then his laughter died down and he turned in my direction, caught my eye, and smiled. Maybe, just maybe, he really wasn't that guy.
After joining the table again with Mike, the night carried on but in a different mood. Instead of spacing out and waiting for the clock to tell me when I could go home, I sat and watched Niall. I watched the way he would casually swerve out of one conversation and immerse himself into another. I watched the way he would instantly produce a response or comment to something that was asked or said as if his mind could see the future and knew what each person was going to say. I watched the way he gave his full attention to whomever was speaking and whatever the topic was. I watched the way his eyes would shine and his smile would grow just a hair wider whenever he was talking about something he enjoyed.
And I began to realize how well I knew Niall. He would never talk like this with anyone else. He wouldn't be so free in his words and expressions, so talkative and outgoing, with other people. He only acted this way, acted like he truly cared and enjoyed himself, with his friends, because that was Niall. Niall only cared about the people he knew who cared about him. He only cared about the people he liked and enjoyed spending time with, the people who brought out the better side of him. He's not a grumpy egocentric guy who could give two shits if an atomic bomb exploded in our city. He's the grumpy egocentric guy who gives more than two shits if his family and friends were caught in the middle of it.
I sat there and watched as Niall became animated, and even though he was engulfed in whatever our friends had to say, he always included me in and wouldn't let it seem like I was being left out. When our food came and we finally began to eat, the conversation never died. In between mouthfuls, opinions were still being shared and sometimes challenged. It was fun. It was nice. I did enjoy myself. But maybe I just enjoyed looking at and watching Niall in a different way. I sat there all through dinner and even when we went to Formal, and I tried to put the pieces together.
I tried connecting the dots to figure out who exactly Niall was because somewhere along the way, I missed one or two of his definitions. I tried to understand him like I told Mike I would. I saw the efforts he put forth, even when he asked me to dance when he knew I couldn't dance to save my life. He just wrapped his arms around me, pulled me close, rested his chin on my shoulder, and swayed us while he insisted that it was dancing for the dance-less. But towards the end of the night, I couldn't help but think he was trying too hard.
Maybe it was the fact that he insisted we take a picture to commemorate the night. He held me so close, it was as if he was afraid he would lose me one day, so he needed a reminder. Maybe it was because he had the DJ play his favorite Taylor Swift song for me, Enchanted. He told me that song explained how he felt about me. Or maybe it was how he actually managed to pull me aside in a dark corner in the back of the gymnasium and kissed me so intensely, I thought I was going to have an out of body experience. He apologized afterwards and told me that he was having a hard time trying to control himself. Obviously I didn't mind, because he had every right to express his feelings in whatever way his heart desired- or that's what I told myself.
And so as much as I wanted myself to believe he cared, I couldn't help but think he didn't. Maybe I was holding a grudge. Maybe I was the type of person who didn't let things go. After all, I still despised Niall's ex girlfriend to no end and will never, in a million years, consider her anything more than an acquaintance. I wanted to forgive Niall. I so wanted to forgive him because I knew him and I saw him. I wanted to let bygones be bygones and move on as I was urged to. I wanted to pause my brain and understand his side. But it was difficult. Oh god, it was excruciatingly difficult. Especially because I knew, deep down somewhere in my mind, heart, and stomach that I had already forgiven him.
At the end of the night, Niall walked me out of our school's gym with my hand in his arm. He was smiling, and sure enough, I was smiling too. It was a good night, and more than I knew at the time. Niall was being the gentleman he was from the moment he picked me up, and helped me in his car. While he drove, he played my favorite music. It was like he knew Josh Groban was what I needed. I gazed out the window and after a few minutes I knew he wasn't driving me home. Of course I didn't think he was kidnapping me, but the thought may have still crossed my mind anyway.
It took me a while to realize he was driving to Santana Row, the strip mall that had all these expensive name-brand stores as well as a few fine dining restaurants and bars, and other places. The best time to go was at night and that's what we were apparently doing. I hadn't given much thought to us leaving Formal a bit early, but I knew the reason then. I was growing excited and anxious to see what surprise he had up his sleeve because that was one of Niall's best qualities- he had the greatest plans. The closer we came, the more I couldn't wait for the moment I could take my seatbelt off and exit the car. And soon enough, I did just that. He didn't have time to open the door for me, because I was already out and waiting for him to take my hand. He did just that with a smirk on his face.
"It's not over," he said with that smirk still on his face.
"You sound so sure of yourself," I smiled back, feeling a bit too eager about how the night seemed to change so drastically for me.
"I said I was going to make tonight worth your while, right?"
"Yes, you did."
"Carmen Shay Mitchell, are you willing to take that chance?"
"You used my full name," I pointed out and he rolled his eyes.
"What do you say?"
"I thought I took the chance by letting you take me into your car and drive me around?"
"The way you said it made me sound like you willingly let me kidnap you."
"I probably did."
"So, the chance?"
"Oh, right. I don't know?"
"If you change your mind, I'm the first in line. Honey, I'm still free. Take a chance on me. If you need me, let me know and I'll be around. If you have-"
"Yes, just please for goodness sake, stop."
"Great! You're gonna love this."
I wasn't expecting him to, but he leaned forward and gave me a chaste kiss on the lips. That son of a gun purposefully knew what he did and threw me off guard before he tugged my arm with my hand and led me to my doom. No, he led me from the parking lot to the street full of shops. I followed him down until we took a familiar turn and stopped at the small bakery that had some of the best pastries. I remembered the first time Niall and I went there and I had told him that it was like a special treat for me to go there because as a kid growing up, my sisters and I were never given the greatest things from our parents. Desserts weren't often and normally homemade. My parents did the best they could with five girls. Anyway, that day Niall let me choose whatever I wanted and it would be his treat- just like I had told him my dad would do. It was a special day and for some reason, being there that night felt almost as special.
"Find a seat and I'll be right back with our dessert," Niall said and walked towards the counter.
I couldn't get rid of the smile on my face to save my life. It had been a while, probably too long, since I had last been there. I decided to choose a spot in the right corner with a window that faced the street with shops. It didn't bother me that Niall and I were over dressed and some people were probably staring at us or giving odd looks. I just felt really good. As I stared at my clutch that was on my lap and thought about Niall, someone sat at the table next to me.
"Excuse me," a woman said. I looked up and smiled at her. "You look gorgeous, but I'm sure your boyfriend told you that."
I blushed and in my head I corrected her because he thought I looked absolutely perfect. "He did, thank you."
"Did you have a school dance?"
"It was our Winter Formal."
"How nice? Are you two sophomores?"
"No, we're seniors."
"Oh! Wow, must be exciting. You'll be graduating in May then, like my niece. Do you know what college you're going to?"
"I have a few choices."
"I don't mean to pry, but did you apply to any with your boyfriend?"
"Um," I almost lost it because, did we? Did we apply to any of the same schools? Had we even talked about it? Questions flooded my brain, but I ceased them and answered her question, "A couple of colleges."
"Well, you two look adorable together. I wish you the best."
As she gave me a final smile, Niall sat down in front of me, blocking my view of the woman I was speaking with. I forgot about the words we shared and her questions, and grinned at the desserts Niall had bought. He had a slice of tiramisu for himself and me as well as macarons and for moment I spaced out.
"Wait, when did you get macarons?"
"A magician never tells his or hers secrets."
"Niall, tell me."
"I walked there."
"I noticed you started talking to the woman behind me, so I ran down to the place and bought a raspberry flavored one and a chocolate flavored one for you."
"You ran? You said you walked."
"I jogged. It's all the same," he shrugged as if it weren't a big deal. I noticed his hair wasn't as neatly styled and his cheeks had that pink tint to them.
"Thank you. So much, Niall."
"Yeah, yeah, Carmen. Just eat your dessert before it gets cold."
"These desserts are cold and would become warm if left out."
"You need a lesson on synonyms."
"Because I'm an antonym."
"I don't know, but this tiramisu is so fu-"
"Whoa, what are you doing?"
"Cutting my macaron in half. Isn't it obvious?"
"You know, I have no idea. Want to swap a half for a half?"
"That's raspberry, though. Okay, I'll trade my lemon one."
"That's lemon, though. Why not vanilla?"
"Why not chocolate?"
"I have an idea. If you eat my half, I'll go into Burberry and ask them how much their nicest suit cost, then ask if I can purchase it for half the price."
"Nope, go bigger."
"I'll go into the Tesla store or whatever and ask for some details about their newest car. Then, when it seems like I'm interested in purchasing, I'll ask for a test drive. But really, I mean one of those remote control cars."
"You've done that already. And now that I think about it, you did the Burberry thing too."
"Umm. . . okay. You said big?"
"I'll ask for a dress in one of the women's stores. I'll make it sound specific like I'm asking for a dress for my mom, and then when an assistant finds the dress, I'll ask to try it on."
"And you'll actually do it?"
"Like ask for measurements or whatever and get sized and try it on? Yes."
"Okay, deal. But I think most of the stores are closed. Actually, all of them are now."
"Why'd you lead me on then?"
"Wanted to see what you'd come up with."
"I'll buy you three slices of tiramisu to take home."
"Eat my lemon half, and I'll buy you three slices of tiramisu to take home and I'll eat your raspberry half. Unless you really want it."
"Deal. You better buy the tiramisu now, Niall."
"I'll buy when I don't see it anymore."
The night went on and in the end, Niall bought me three slices of tiramisu after begging the workers since the bakery was already closed. They hadn't put it away yet, so they allowed the transaction and locked the doors behind us. I left that place and went home that night extremely happy. I could have blamed the tiramisu and the macarons, but it was Niall. Niall was the reason that I was happy. I could have dismissed the whole thing. I could have stayed my stubborn self and still held that grudge, but when I noticed where we were driving to, it was as if I understood him and instantly forgave him. The past was the past. Niall was trying hard and I accepted it.
But I also convinced myself it wasn't for selfish reasons. I didn't forgive him because he did things I loved or bought me my favorite things. I forgave him for the fact that he did it all as a surprise out of love. So that probably makes me a terrible girlfriend for not seeing it sooner, but I can live with that. I'll be the terrible girlfriend and he'll be the fantastic boyfriend who only made one mistake.
And just like that, we were as happy as we were when we got together junior year.
lol when the guys were saying what "brand" they were wearing
omg guys I'm excited for y'all to read more bc I don't like the ending of this chapter