Niall worked mechanically and efficiently. His mind was consumed by nothing except the task at hand. When he was in the zone at work there was nobody better than him. Lunchtime was on fast approach and he’d got more done than anybody on the shop floor; more than twice the amount of some.
The occasional flashback would pop into Niall’s mind, though never enough to slow his progress. One thought he was doing well to repress was that of Chantelle. It was Monday and there had still been no response to his message on Friday. He was past caring now. In fact, he was past caring about anything to do with relationships full stop.
Lunchtime came around and Niall made his way up to the break room without acknowledging a single person on the way. He had no desire for small talk. All he wanted to do was get the working day over with.
Whilst eating his lunch, Niall’s phone vibrated. He ignored it until he’d finished eating. When he saw that the message was from Chantelle he didn’t react. There was no feeling of excitement or dizziness. His heart didn’t skip a beat. All he felt was complete indifference; so much so that he considered not even reading the message. However, intrigue got the better of him.
The message simply read “Are u busy? x”. Niall responded just as simply: “I’m at work.” Just a minute or so later his phone vibrated again with a reply. “What are u doin this evenin? Can we go somewhere and talk? I didn’t explain myself well on Friday and think u deserve a proper explanation. x.”
Niall looked at the message for a few enduring seconds. So much of him wanted to tell her to get lost. He couldn’t say it though. He didn’t want to be rude despite everything. At the same time he didn’t want to leave himself vulnerable.
The intrigue he felt about what she might have to say won him over and he got back to her to say that he’d meet her. They arranged for him to pick her up and go for something to eat together. Niall wasn’t sure what to expect, but the date was set and he would soon find out.
The restaurant was quiet. Latino music played in the background. Niall was glad that Chantelle had made the choice to come to this particular eatery as it was one of his favourites, serving Tex-Mex.
He sat across from her. Decidedly little had been said thus far. Even small talk had been kept to a minimum. Chantelle was on edge; that much was obvious to Niall. His chivalrous nature wanted to ease her nerves. The devious part of him wanted to let her fester in her discomfort. They had already ordered. Talking was all that was left for them to do. Niall wasn’t about to get the ball rolling. He was here at her behest so it was down to her.
Another couple of minutes passed and, finally, Chantelle broke the silence. “I’m really sorry about Friday, Niall. No, not just Friday. I’m sorry for everything leading up to it too. I’ve been horrible to you. I’m ashamed of myself because you’ve been amazing to me from the moment we met and this is how I’ve repaid you.”
“You’ve had a lot going on,” Niall half-heartedly defended her.
“That’s not an excuse. I have a strange habit of pushing away people close to me when bad things happen. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m afraid of losing them, so push them away before they can do it to me.”
“The mind works in mysterious ways.”
“All I know is that, since Friday, I haven’t stopped thinking about you. It took ending things for me to realise how much I actually miss you and need you around. I’ve gone to message you so many times, but I knew I had to say this to your face.”
Niall thought of Saturday night and the “Typing” incident that led to him spending the night on the jungle Jim at the local park. “Say what to my face?”
Chantelle drew in a breath. “I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want to be just friends. I’m going against my usual practice of pushing people away. I’m going to try and bring you in closer.”
“What do you mean, Chantelle?”
“I want to stop messing around and give us a proper go. No more ‘seeing each other’—I want us to be exclusive, official, whatever.”
“Are you saying you want me to be your boyfriend?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I really care about you. You treat me well—better than any other man I’ve experienced before. I’d be a fool not to at least try and be with you properly.”
Niall broke into a smile. Any resolve he’d walked in with was now completely gone in the time it had taken Chantelle to say a few nice and flattering words. He was too engulfed by the moment to consider any possible naivety on his part.
“So do you want to give it a proper go?” Chantelle probed.
“I’ve wanted to give it a proper go for a long time, Chantelle.”
“Does that mean you’re my boyfriend now?”
Reaching across the table, Niall took both of Chantelle’s hands in his and gazed longingly into her big blue eyes. “I guess it does.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Title image from Shine Aloud.