Realisations had never been easy for Niall to cope with, especially ones the size of this. On the Sunday afternoon, just a couple of hours before Claire was due to arrive back from the hen party, he reached a conclusion that didn’t fill him with much joy. He hadn’t worked out yet whether what he still felt for Chantelle was love or not. That, however, was inconsequential. The fact that he was even spending time thinking it over made one fact extremely clear to him: he wasn’t in love with Claire. He couldn’t have been. If he was then there’d have been no thinking over for him to do at all.
He didn’t want to do it, but he knew he had no choice. When Claire arrived home, he told her everything. He’d never seen her angry before and was glad that he wouldn’t have to see it again when he told her that their relationship had to end. It was was with great regret as it had been his first steady relationship in years and Claire in herself was practically perfect for him. Nevertheless, he couldn’t, in all good consciousness, keep it up if all it took was something as simple as an ex-girlfriend getting in touch to have him wobbling so badly.
The next day at work was uncomfortable as word of their breakup spread through the office like wildfire. Niall gave little information away about why it had happened, though not many people asked given his senior position.
When he got home that night, he decided to message Chantelle and inform her as to what he’d done. Her response was somewhat blasé, which took him aback initially until he realised that it was her tactic. She likely didn’t want to appear presumptuous in thinking it meant her coast was now clear, yet, in reality, was probably over the moon.
For the next few days, they messaged back and forth semi-regularly. Niall mentioned nothing of his feelings and Chantelle did likewise. It was the big taboo that neither of them would broach, though they each understood the reason why it wasn’t being broached.
That was until the Thursday when Niall hit Chantelle with a proposition out of nowhere: “So I’ve been thinking a lot about everything where we’re concerned. My feelings, etc. I won’t lie that I’m still conflicted. Very little of it makes sense to me. All I do know is that you’ve been on my mind every minute since Saturday. I’ve decided it would be best if I took you out on a date. Sitting here thinking shit over isn’t getting me any answers. The only way I’ll be able to discover if I’m still truly in love with you is if I spend time with you. Will you let me take you out some time? xxx”
Minutes later, her response came: “I suppose so 😉 How are you fixed for Saturday evening? I can get a sitter xxx”
“Saturday evening would be perfect. Send me your address and I’ll pick you up around 7 xxx”
Chantelle sent her details over and they arranged a place to go for their second first date. In totally uncharacteristic style, Niall wasn’t nervous about it. He was just excited.
The car rolled to a stop outside the address Niall had been given. He was in two minds whether to knock on the door or to honk his horn; to be a gentleman or play it cool.
The choice was taken out of his hands as Chantelle stepped out of the house of her own accord. She looked like a vision. A black dress clung to her curvy figure for dear life and cut off just a few inches above her knees. It displayed enough of her cleavage to tantalise, yet not enough as to come across licentious. She wore a stylish black jacket over the top. Her blue eyes sparkled, her smile was captivating, and her straight blonde hair flicked and bounced slightly as she walked towards the car.
She opened the door and climbed inside while Niall summoned all of his willpower not to look at her rear as she sat down. He failed miserably. The pair held each other’s stare for many seconds; both grinning like a pair of smitten schoolchildren.
“Do I even need to say that you look absolutely amazing, Miss Muirhead?” Niall asked.
“Thank you, Mr. O’Shaughnessy. You look incredibly handsome yourself.”
Niall gave her a gentlemanly kiss on the cheek and then put the car in motion. They spoke along the way; the lines of conversation wide open. What felt strange to Niall was that, while Chantelle was clearly still the same person, she sounded like somebody completely different to the girl he remembered. Then it dawned on him: she wasn’t a girl anymore. She was a woman. She was a mother too. The change was simple maturity. She still had the essence that made her the person he’d always known, but her attitude, the way she spoke, and the way she carried herself were hallmarks of a grownup young woman who’d experienced a lot.
They reached their destination shortly after and took their pre-booked seats at the restaurant. Niall was happy for her to drink what she liked and was surprised when she opted for a non-alcoholic beverage. Her reason was that she didn’t think it was fair she drink while he couldn’t. Another mark in the maturity column!
Chantelle looked over at Niall. “It’s hard to believe we’re here after all this time. I never would have imagined it.”
“Believe me; I’m more shocked than you are,” Niall said genuinely. “I’m happy though.”
“You don’t regret ending your relationship yet?”
“Every minute since it happened, but it was the right thing to do.”
“Even if there’s no guarantee that you and I will see this through?”
“I’ve come to realise something over the past week or so: nothing is guaranteed. We can’t let that stop us taking chances.”
“I suppose you’re taking a big chance tonight then?”
“A huge one. I have no idea how this is going to go. We could end the night as a couple, as friends, or a bunch of stops in between.”
“I’ll end the night in love with you regardless,” Chantelle declared candidly.
“However it ends,” Niall paused to take a sip of his water and smiled warmly at her, “let’s make sure to have fun along the way.”
Title image from Shine Aloud.