As the next couple of weeks passed Niall and Chantelle grew closer. Although they didn’t take the step of becoming an official couple they both understood the situation and were perfectly happy with it.
Niall felt comfortable in her company and didn’t feel the need to pretend around her. He got the impression she felt the same too as she always seemed at ease around him.
They hooked up in private circumstances occasionally; such as when his parents went away on a break for a few days. Niall invited Chantelle round so he could cook for her—returning the gesture she’d made on their second date. However, they generally seemed to end up going out drinking with her friends. Niall didn’t mind that. It had been a while since he’d been afforded the opportunity to go out partying regularly and he took full advantage.
The only gripe Niall had at this stage was that their opportunities to fulfil desires of the flesh had been relatively few. He was tremendously sexually attracted to Chantelle and found himself longing for her in ways that rivalled, often exceeded, the way he felt about Vikki in the early days. The fact that the opportunities had been so few and far between frustrated him. Since the second date they’d only slept together once and were both very drunk on that occasion; so much so that they ended up in competition with Stacey and her boyfriend—who were in the next room—as to which couple could make the most noise. Niall felt he and Chantelle just edged it.
The coming Saturday would be the perfect opportunity to put their patchy form in the sex department to one side. It was her twenty-third birthday and they were heading out to town to celebrate with a couple of her friends from where she used to live. Niall had gone the whole hog and booked a hotel room for him and Chantelle to go back to once the night was over.
Niall felt some reservations about meeting yet more new people. It was all he’d seemed to do over the past couple of weeks. Tonight would be worth it though. He got himself ready at the hotel so that they were already checked in and wouldn’t have to mess around later.
When he was ready Niall called Chantelle and let her know he was on his way to meet her. The taxi picked him up from the hotel and took him to the pub they were meeting in. It was quite busy. A live musician played his guitar and sang loudly as Niall ventured through the pub to find out where Chantelle and the others were. Eventually he found them—taking especial notice of how much Chantelle’s face lit up when she saw him. Her two friends immediately and unashamedly gave him the once over and he felt somewhat conspicuous.
“So you’re Niall?” the dark haired one of the two asked.
“I am indeed,” Niall replied.
“I’m Jen,” she introduced herself; holding out a hand for him to shake.
“And I’m Chloë,” her blonde haired friend chimed in with the same gesture.
He already knew they were from down south as Chantelle had told him so, but their accents confirmed it. He quickly realised how genial they were and his apprehension waned.
They had a couple of drinks in the pub—Jen managing to fall in lust with the live musician during the short time they were there—before making their way to the city for the main part of the night out. Niall’s suggestion of heading to a part of town that was famous for its cocktail bars didn’t go down too well when the girls saw how pretentious the clientele were. He realised he’d perhaps dropped the ball on that one so they headed to a more user-friendly area; quickly finding a generic bar and settling in.
Niall built up great repartee with Jen and Chloë; perhaps spending more of the night talking to them than he did Chantelle. He was happy that she didn’t seem to mind. If anything she was advocating it and laughed along with the banter. It especially amused her when Niall and Chloë wanted to find out exactly who the best dancer was and started having a dance off. The comedic thing was that neither of them could actually dance at all and proceeded to make fools of themselves albeit knowingly. Chantelle jokingly declared there was no winner and that they were both losers.
Niall was having fun with the girls, though didn’t want to impose too much on their reunion. As luck would have it one of his favourite DJ’s was playing at a nearby club and so he decided to head there for a while and leave them to catch up. To others this may have come across as odd; however, the dynamic between Niall and Chantelle made perfect sense to them. They both liked their space and respected the other’s need for it. There was no clinginess.
The club was quite small, very busy, and extremely loud. Niall couldn’t have cared less. Chantelle and her friends were in no way inclined to the kind of music being played and well he knew it. He had asked if they wanted to join him out of courtesy and they all declined as expected. For the hour and a half he spent at the club Niall danced to the music right in front of the DJ booth, not remotely bothered that he was alone. Rare was it that he got to experience his favourite music in its designated environment. It was a release for Niall and, in that moment, he felt as happy as he had in a long time.
Eventually he checked the time and realised he’d been gone longer than promised. He shook the DJ’s hand—thanking him for what had been an incredible set—and then made his way through the sea of people to the exit. He looked out into the smoking area as he left and immediately wished he hadn’t. “For fuck’s sake,” he cursed, as the unexpected sight of Fiona looking resplendent befell his vision. The good mood he’d been experiencing suddenly crashed back to nothing.
For several seconds Niall stood and observed her. He saw a good-looking man put his arm around her and say something into her ear that caused her to laugh. She put her hand tenderly on the man’s face and kissed him, returning to the conversation with her friends shortly after. He couldn’t be sure if the man was James. He didn’t want to care: unfortunately he did.
Niall pulled himself together enough to walk away. This wasn’t what he needed. He had finally reached a place where Fiona didn’t plague his every thought and he hoped this wouldn’t set him back. He thought of Chantelle as he walked. Fiona had looked beautiful—there was no denying that. Chantelle was every bit as beautiful and she had the bonus of being beautiful on the inside too. The smile returned to his face. This wasn’t a setback at all. He’d come out ahead in the whole situation. Fiona’s deceit had felt like the worst thing in the world when it happened. What he had now was an amazing young woman who was honest and understanding. He hadn’t lost anything—he had gained something.
Not long after Niall had hooked back up with the girls did they decide to bring the night out to a close. All were suitably drunk enough that any more drinking would have been overkill. The taxi escorted them all in the direction of home, dropping Niall and Chantelle off at their hotel first.
As Chantelle was climbing out of the taxi her attention was grabbed by Jen touching her arm.
“You’ve got yourself an amazing bloke, Chan. Make sure you reward him when you get in there,” Jen said with a knowing smile.
“Oh, don’t you worry about that,” Chantelle replied coquettishly.
Niall overheard their conversation and grinned. He was suddenly even more excited about what was to come than he previously had been. When they entered the hotel room they didn’t last a minute before indulging in their passions. Chantelle made good on her promise to Jen—much to Niall’s delight.
TO BE CONTINUED
Title image from Shine Aloud.