“The problem is that you met her on C-MAC. They’re all the same on that stupid site,” Jenni said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“Don’t be so judgemental,” Niall chastised. “Chantelle isn’t like all the others on there at all. I wouldn’t have bothered if she was.”
“And yet here you are drinking wine with me on a Friday night because she’s binned you off after a month. Don’t be fooled, Niall. She’s been trying you out to see how you measure up.”
“It makes perfect sense. You got too close and she shit herself; the perfect hallmark of pretty much everybody on that site. The reason they’re single is because they’re crap in relationships. Always on the hunt for something better.”
Niall wasn’t at all taken aback by Jenni’s frankness. It was her style and he championed it. He couldn’t help feeling somewhat protective of Chantelle though. There was no way, in his mind, that she was like the kind of person that C-MAC was famous for attracting—people exactly like Jenni had described. “Nah, I think she’s a victim of circumstance. Chantelle definitely isn’t superficial.”
“Is that right? Well try this. Go on her C-MAC profile and see when she was last active. If she hasn’t been on it today then I’ll buy the takeaway,” Jenni wagered.
“Don’t start with the games, Jen. What does it prove if she has been on there?”
“It proves she’s still actively searching for blokes and likely messaging them. She’s probably been at it the whole time too.”
Niall sighed aloud and then picked up his glass of wine from the table next to him. He tried to ignore Jenni’s stare as he savoured the taste. She wasn’t going to back down and well he knew it. There was no part of him that wanted to check Chantelle’s profile because it would only upset him if he realised she’d been active. On the other hand it would probably prove Jenni right and he’d know for sure then that Chantelle had never had any intentions of getting serious.
With Jenni’s eyes still affixed on him, Niall went into his pocket to retrieve his phone. It didn’t take him long to bring up Chantelle’s profile and he made a poor job of hiding that his heart immediately sank. He was shocked when Jenni pulled the phone from his hand and began to look herself.
“Come on, Jen. Don’t be a dick! Hand it me back,” Niall protested.
“She’s a pretty girl,” Jenni fired back, completely ignoring his request. “Looks like the kind of girl who’s into pretty boys with all the muscles and fake tan. That definitely ain’t you, kid,” she said with a smirking look at Niall.
“Tell me about it,” he conceded with a dejected drop of the shoulders.
“I’m only joking. Well, I’m not joking. You aren’t a pretty boy with muscles and fake tan. You are gorgeous though and if she doesn’t see that then she’s a fool.”
“Hardly her fault if I’m not her type, is it?”
“I can see why you wouldn’t be her type. An intelligent bloke who earns a good wage, drives a decent car, and is very easy on the eye. No, why would anyone find that attractive?” Jen asked rhetorically and sarcastically.
“No need to be facetious,” Niall mumbled, feeling a touch awkward.
Jenni stopped looking through Chantelle’s profile and put the phone to one side. Her heart went out to her friend and she put a comforting arm around him. “Don’t beat yourself up over it all, Niall. I promise you this is her loss, not the other way around. She’ll probably realise what a stupid mistake she’s made in a couple of days and come crawling back.”
Niall smiled unconvincingly and rested his head against Jenni’s shoulder. She smelled good. Whatever perfume she had on was a great choice. He couldn’t help noticing that he was getting a fantastic view down her top from where his head rested—not the least alluring of sights. When he noticed stirrings of a sexual nature within him, Niall moved from his position and put a little distance between them; hoping she hadn’t clicked on to his perverse leering. He smiled at her more genuinely this time and went for his wine again.
Jenni hadn’t gone to any effort to make herself look presentable; however, it was something that tended to happen naturally for her anyway. While not exactly beautiful, she was rather a pretty young woman with chestnut hair that spilled down to between her shoulder blades when it wasn’t tied back like it was at that moment. Her light blue eyes were filled with mischief and her petite nose always scrunched up when the full lips beneath it arched into a smile. While she was nice to look at, it was her persona that made her. She was an advocate for the art of calling a spade a spade.
“You’ll soon find yourself another squeeze,” Jenni went on to say. “It’s never long before somebody snaps you up.”
“Yeah and maybe that’s the problem. I’m always prepared to be snapped up rather than staying on my own for a while.”
“You like being with somebody, Niall. That’s hardly a bad thing.”
“It is if I’m constantly getting myself twisted into knots because of it. My head was fucked enough after Vikki. The shit with Fiona and now Chantelle has ju—“
“Fiona?” Jenni cut Niall off. “You haven’t told me about Fiona.”
“Oh, right. Fiona was a fling I had before Chantelle.”
“Does she have a brother called Kevin?”
“Yeah,” Niall answered, his eyes narrowing.
“Oh my word! I can’t believe she got her claws into you!”
“What are you talking about?” Niall could feel a little anger rise in him. His natural feeling was still to get defensive over Fiona despite everything.
“She’s been with her fella for years and yet always seems to have another bloke on the go every few months. At the moment it’s a bloke called Theo. I only know that because I was seeing him for a while and news got back to me. She’s nothing but a—“
“Stop, Jen. Please… stop!” Niall’s shoulders hunched dejectedly.
“You fell for her, didn’t you?” Jenni asked quietly.
“Hook, line, and motherfucking sinker,” Niall responded with a clenched jaw, his face reddening.
Jenni reached across and put her hand on top of his, giving it a light squeeze. He looked up with intense eyes that almost scared her and she smiled softly in an attempt to calm him. It appeared to work as he sighed and flashed a quick grin back at her.
“I’m such an idiot!”
“No you aren’t. Fiona is obviously very good at stringing people along.”
“I just keep thinking that if her fella hadn’t turned up that night we were together at her flat then I’d probably still be getting led a merry dance.”
“Forget about her, Niall. She isn’t worth you getting wound up over. Neither is Chantelle for that matter. Fiona is a garden variety slut and Chantelle is fucking stupid if she doesn’t know what she’s willingly throwing away.”
Niall leaned over and cuddled Jenni again. When they broke out of the embrace their eyes met. The amorousness in her was all too evident and Niall felt himself sucked in. He leaned in and kissed her slowly and tenderly, Jenni responding in kind. The regret was immediate and Niall pulled away. “I’m sorry, Jen. I can’t do this again. We lost months of friendship because things felt too awkward after our fling.”
Jenni leaned away from him and crossed her arms. Niall wasn’t sure how to react and stayed where he was awaiting some form of response. It took a good minute in coming.
“I was kind of hoping we’d be more grown up about it this time. I felt a little awkward after what happened, which is why I went off the radar for a while. It doesn’t have to be that way this time. Can’t we just be two friends helping to make each other feel a little more… attractive?”
“You don’t need me to sleep with you to tell you you’re attractive, Jen. Just look in the mirror,” Niall said genuinely.
She smiled and touched his face. “You’re sweet, but you know what I mean. There’s nobody I trust more than you and it’d be nice to spend the night with somebody who genuinely gives a shit about me—even if just as a friend.”
“It ended with Chantelle all of a couple of hours ago. It’d still feel like I was mistreating her if I did something with somebody else so soon. I don’t expect you to understand.”
“I do understand. It’s just one of many qualities that make you such an incredible bloke, Niall. You’re loyal even when you have no call to be.”
Niall admired how gracefully Jenni was taking his effectively turning her down. If anything it made her all the more alluring. In all major aspects she was pretty much the perfect woman; however, Niall genuinely didn’t want to sully their friendship again after what happened the last time.
“You aren’t going to take this as your cue to leave are you?” Jenni asked.
“Of course not,” Niall replied as he retrieved his wine from the table next to him and finished it off. “I’m going to need a fill up.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Title image from Shine Aloud.