There was no way Niall could make it into work the next day. His alarm barely woke him, but he managed to bring himself around enough to call the manager and tell them he wouldn’t be in before climbing back into bed and not rising again until the afternoon.
It didn’t take much soul-searching for Niall to decide that he might as well take the whole week off now that he’d set the precedent. Work just seemed like too much effort.
Monday was spent lounging in his bedroom while he played videogames. There was little else he wanted to do. Fiona attempted to negotiate a text conversation, but soon gave up when she realised Niall evidently wasn’t in the mood for small talk. Chantelle dropped him a message on C-MAC too; the first since Saturday night. He hadn’t even spared her a thought since if he was being honest with himself, but he was at least genial enough to respond as though he’d been thinking of her. Flirting was the farthest thing from his mind at that point.
On the Tuesday, Niall was strong-armed into agreeing to see Fiona the next day. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see her; more that he didn’t especially want to see anyone at all. He wanted to be alone and attempt to work out what was going on in his mind, though it was becoming quickly apparent that no amount of time alone was bringing any clarity to his thoughts. Expressly because of that, he decided it might be better to go and see her after all.
They went out shopping at a nearby mall; something that felt surreal to him because as they walked around, he was on edge wondering whether they might bump into somebody who knew Fiona was with James or maybe even James himself. All the while she seemed so relaxed. He wondered whether she actually had a conscience at all.
He took her for something to eat before they went back to her flat. As the evening progressed, he felt much more comfortable in her company. Fiona was especially clingy with him and Niall had to admit to himself that it made him feel very wanted by her. He even allowed himself to feel like the whole situation was normal.
However, once they’d finished their typical ritual of fulfilling carnal desires and Fiona had fallen into a deep sleep, Niall lay awake as the reservations all came crashing back to him. He cursed himself for letting it get to him so much. What he wanted to do was forget the hang-ups he had and actually appreciate the fact that he was getting to keep the company of a beautiful woman with all the fun and none of the drawbacks. It wasn’t good enough though. He felt bad on James despite the fact that he didn’t know the man from Adam. He felt foolish because he was the other man and willingly allowed himself to be. As much as he wanted Fiona, and he really, really wanted her, he didn’t want the situation at all. He wanted the drawbacks as well as all the good stuff. He wanted to be with her.
Niall left Fiona’s early that next morning; claiming that he had to take his car to be serviced. In reality, he just wanted to avoid dragging her into yet another discussion about their situation as he knew exactly how it would go; ending up with him agreeing to keep things as they were. There was no point in wasting his breath.
Another day of staying in his room and playing videogames lay ahead. He didn’t have to worry about Fiona messaging him too much as she would be seeing James. There were several messages sent between him and Chantelle though. It was mainly frivolous chatter, but got more flirtatious as the day progressed. She made reference to her night out the previous Saturday and how she’d have really liked for him to be there. That led to a suggestion for him to join her that coming weekend instead as she would be going out again. He blew smoke by saying that he had a prior engagement he’d struggle to get out of, but he’d definitely come along if he could.
Going out on the town didn’t appeal to him at all the way he was feeling, but he had to admit that he was intrigued by Chantelle. She was very straight talking and it was a refreshing change after the deception he’d been toiling with. He was enjoying talking with her and if it wasn’t for the fact he was too emotionally attached to Fiona then he would definitely have wanted to meet her. There was a big part of him that was considering doing so anyway, but he also didn’t want to follow Fiona’s lead and start juggling either. It went against his moral standards. Perhaps meeting purely platonically would be alright, Niall mused.
On Friday, Niall effectively forced himself out of the house. He went for a long walk to nowhere in particular in the hope that he’d find some clarity along the way. The fresh air certainly perked him up, but no amount of fresh air could unravel the conundrum he was in. He knew he shouldn’t be carrying on with Fiona, but he knew he couldn’t walk away from her.
A phone call with an old friend turned into an impromptu meeting at a nearby pub that night. Niall figured that it might help take his mind off everything and indeed he talked about anything but Fiona, but that didn’t stop him thinking about her and it got more intense the drunker he became. He wanted to see her so badly that it was making him feel sick. His old friend left way before he did; Niall choosing to stay beyond closing time and talking to perfect strangers.
When he woke the next morning, Niall had hardly any recollection of the night beyond a certain point. He naturally went straight to his phone to see if he had any messages and only his friend had been in touch to find out if he’d got home okay and to point out that he’d seemed a little distracted. Niall responded immediately to say he’d gotten home, but wasn’t sure how. He omitted any details as to why he may have seemed down though.
Then he checked his outbox and immediately wished he’d chosen to remain ignorant. It was filled with messages to Fiona; all with varying degrees of legibility. Most of them were short messages asking where she was, what she was doing, who she was with and whether he could see her. There were longer ones in between that went into some detail about what he thought and felt. It then occurred to him that he’d had absolutely no responses from her whatsoever. His calls had gone unanswered too. On the one hand, he was relieved. On the other, he was crestfallen.
He put the ambivalent feeling to one side and decided to see if he’d made a fool of himself with Chantelle too. He had sent her a message, but it was thankfully nothing weird; just merely asking her how she was and what she was doing. She was yet to respond too.
At that moment in time all Niall felt like doing was crying, but he couldn’t. He hadn’t even cried when he and Vikki had broken up after six years together. Something inside wouldn’t allow the tears to flow and he’d never been able to work out why. That didn’t mean that he didn’t feel unhappy though. He felt utterly miserable. If he was being totally honest with himself, Niall felt like he might well be slipping into depression. He pulled the duvet up over his head. Even the slight light that filtered into his room was too bright right now.
TO BE CONTINUED
Title image from Shine Aloud.