Feels Like Forever


The loud buzzing of her alarm jerks Emilie from the half-doze she’s been in for the last few hours, and she groans, tugging her pillow over her head. She was up until almost two in the morning the past two nights finishing up the paper she’s put off for weeks, and the silence of the apartment had lent the room necessary for her brain to dredge up all of her fears, shove them all into one awful nightmare. Not for the first time since she started the semester, she wonders why the Hell she ever signed up for a class that starts at eight a.m.

Emilie manages to push herself out of bed with a herculean effort, and she shuffles to the dresser, not caring which colour tank-top she pulls from the drawer; her leggings from Saturday are clean enough, so she tugs them on, thanks last-night-her for not wearing anything to bed. As she brushes her teeth, she thinks back to the hours she spent with Niall. He’d been just as easy to talk to on her couch as he was in the coffeeshop on Friday, and she had been surprised by Ryder appearing in the doorway to the bedroom a couple hours later, wide awake and ready to play again. She’d not realised that much time had passed.

What had taken Emilie aback even more was how interested Ryder was in Niall. He was still wary of the man, but he’d eventually begun to demand attention, and Niall had responded without hesitation, his expression open and hands gentle as he played with the cars with Ryder. The rest of the afternoon was spent like that - keeping the child entertained while also having their own conversations over his head. Niall had shifted his weight awkwardly as Emilie cooked dinner; it took her telling him to put his ass in a chair for him to stop hovering at the edge of her peripheral.

She felt awful about pulling out her homework while she was supposed to be visiting him, but she couldn’t delay writing the paper any longer. Niall had been so sweet about it. He’d made sure he was quiet enough for her to concentrate, and he even went so far as to be the sounding board when she wasn’t sure about how she phrased something in the paper. Unfortunately, he had to leave around eleven, but by then, she was much more confident in her abilities to bullshit her way through the assignment. His text forty-five minutes later letting her know he was back in his hotel room had loosened a tightness in her chest, a worry she hadn’t even been aware of feeling.

Emilie sighs, unplugs her phone from the charger, and makes her way out to the living room. She grabs her keys and bag from the bar-counter, tucking her phone into the pocket, and hurries out the door. After locking the door behind her, she rushes down the hall, her flip-flops slapping against the bottoms of her feet as she goes. The corridors are eerily silent, and she stifles the shiver that tries to run down her spine; she’s lived here for two years, she should be used to how insulated the walls are, how they prevent sound from travelling far.

It’s not even seven in the morning, and the air outside is already warm, promising higher temperatures. Emilie shoves her hair from her face and presses the button on the key-fob to unlock her car. The headlights flash in the dimness of the parking garage. She tosses her bag into the passenger seat, slides in behind the wheel, and quickly pulls the hair-tie off her wrist. After tying her hair back into a sloppy bun, she starts up the car, reverses from the space. A thought slams into her brain, and she tells Siri to send a text to Derek with the message 911 emergency caffeine required. Wonderful man that he is, Derek has her drink ready by the time she walks into the coffeeshop. Emilie blows out a breath of relief, taking the cup from him, and he pats her head comfortingly. Monica laughs from her spot by the espresso machine at the glare Emilie sends her best friend.

“Long night, Emma-bean?”

“Not the way you’re thinkin’, Mon. Definitely not the way you’re thinkin’.”

“Aw, so no seeing that cutie you were talking to the other day?” Derek asks as he boxes up a couple danishes for Emilie.

“Cutie?” Monica abandons her task of rinsing out the portafilters, leaning against the counter with her hands cupping her chin; she bats her lashes rapidly. “Tell me more ‘bout this cutie.”

Emilie shrugs, slurps obnoxiously at her drink. “Nothing to tell. We talked a bit on Friday then I went home to wait for Danielle to drop off Ryder.”

“But he was cute?”

“He was all right, I guess.”

“Mon, I’m telling you, this guy was right up her alley. Dark hair, bright blue eyes, killer smile, and that kinda stubble she likes.”

“And you didn’t get his number?” Monica nearly screeches, and the only other customer in the building looks up in surprise.

“No, no, I did not.” Emilie takes the box from Derek, passes over a ten and a five. She waits until she’s halfway out the door before she calls over her shoulder, “But I certainly gave him mine.”

The door swings shut on their reactions, and she giggles as she makes her way to her car. Derek stands on the sidewalk by the time she finishes buckling up. He waves his hands in the air. Emilie rolls down her window and laughs when he demands that she text him more details. She wiggles her fingers in his direction, pulling out of the parking spot.

>> How dare you not tell me you did that
>> Does our friendship mean so little???

Emilie sends back a dozen laugh-cry emojis then puts her phone on silent. She can’t have his text messages - the ones she knows are going to be coming, even though he is at work and is supposed to be paying attention to his job - interrupting her lecture. Not again. Her face burns with the memory of the professor calling her out in front of the entire class. That isn’t something she wants to repeat.

Just like she expected, there are seventeen texts waiting for her to read them as soon as class lets out. Two are from Monica, both thankfully subdued - abnormally so, for the bubbly woman - and one came from Niall. Emilie hesitates then brings up the thread with Derek first, knowing that if she doesn’t respond the second she can, he’ll just send more. She promises him that they can talk more later, hopes it’ll be enough. The text from Niall is a simple one.

>> Hope your day is going well . It was great to hang out with you and Ryder the other day !

<< It really was fun! Sorry I ended up having to do homework :( Maybe next time you’re in town, I won’t be drowning in the weight of stupid assignments?

>> I look forward to it

Emilie’s heart stutters in her chest, and she bites back a smile. A small part of her brain tells her she’s moving too fast if she is already developing feelings for this guy, but a larger part tells her to enjoy it while it lasts - it has an expiry date, and what’s the harm in indulging in a minor crush, as long as she remembers what’s really important? Her responsibilities will get in the way, as they always do, and she’s going to be left with nothing more than memories of the blue-eyed man who’s managing to turn her world upside down without any effort. So to let herself feel and acknowledge, it has to be good enough for now.

The next two weeks go by much the same: Between classes during the week and Ryder on the weekends, the days seem to blur together, and she’s hard-pressed to differentiate what happens when. Emilie somehow keeps up with her professor’s demands, and not having the looming weight of deadlines fast approaching means she can relax enough to not want to rip her hair out. Conversations with Niall become a regular fixture in her days, no matter how short they are - even simple hey, hope your day’s going well! is enough.

Unfortunately, the more time that slips past means Emilie wakes up one morning at an ungodly hour to her phone ringing. She fumbles for it blindly, not even bothering to open her eyes. Derek’s voice is off-key and far too exuberant for whatever time it is as he sings the birthday song, and Emilie bites back a sigh, rubbing her eyes and pushing herself to sit up. She’s not the kind of person who can easily go back to sleep once she’s awake; it is a very unfortunate facet to who she is. She thanks her best friend as sincerely as she can for it being only four-thirty a.m., then hangs up on him, cuts off his excited chatter about their plans for the day. He should know by now that it’s just another day to her. As long as he brings wine, she doesn’t give a damn what they do, even if that means sprawling across the couch and making fun of awful rom-coms.

The coffee isn’t nearly as good as the kind the coffeeshop makes, but Emilie doesn’t care. She just drinks cup after cup and hopes she won’t be so tired soon. By the time her mug is empty for the fourth time, the sun is fully up in the sky, and there’s a faint buzzing under her skin from the influx of caffeine. She pins her hair back out of her face, turns her Pandora on shuffle, and sets about cleaning the apartment. There isn’t much to do, not really - just some light dusting, sweeping and mopping, and going through Ryder’s toys to get rid of the broken ones he won’t notice are gone as long as he doesn’t see her toss them in the trash.

Her phone chimes from the table, and Emilie swipes at her face then grimaces when she realises she’s just wiped a dusty cloth on her sweaty cheeks. Grabbing a dish towel from the kitchen drawer, she cleans her face and picks up the phone. Her brows raise at the time: 2:41. Maybe there was more to clean than I thought, she thinks even as she opens her text messages. A smile plays on her lips without her permission when she sees Niall’s name at the top.

>> What are you up to ?

<< Not much, just finishing up some housework then hanging out with Derek once he gets off work.

>> Sounds fun

<< Yeah, it usually is. Total rager, tbh. Twilight Zone, wine, and toasting to another trip ‘round the sun d:

>> It’s his birthday ?

<< Nah, mine. I’m a whole whopping 25 now. Woo.

>> Happy birthday !! Did you ever tell me when it was? Because if so I feel awful for forgetting

<< lololol nope, I didn’t. Birthdays aren’t massively important to me so even if I had and you forgot, I don’t really care

>> Well happy birthday again. I hope you enjoyed your day so far

<< Thanks lol. So far, it’s been nice. Derek woke me up at ass o’clock to tell me happy birthday like the asshole he is, I skipped class, got the apartment all nice and clean and smelling good, got a promise of a free muffin at the coffeeshop whenever I go in again, and I’m all caught up on homework. And now I’m texting you. So, as I said, nice day. (:

>> I’m glad that I’m on the list of nice things that’s happened lol

Emilie smiles to herself, biting her lip, and heads to the bathroom. After sending a brb to Niall, she sets her phone on the sink counter, starts up the shower, and strips off her pyjamas. She’s halfway through rinsing the shampoo out of her hair when the door bursts open, and someone yanks the curtain back.


“Happy birthday, hurry up.”

“Get the fuck outta here, what the Hell!”

“Don’t worry. I didn’t see anything!”

But he does leave, slamming the door behind him. Emilie tugs the curtain back into place and reaches for her body wash. She scrubs her body with a bit more force than necessary; her skin stings by the time she steps out of the tub, wrapping a towel around her body and another around her hair. Thankfully, Derek stays in the living room as she makes her way to her bedroom, phone in hand, to finish drying off and dress in a pair of cotton shorts and a tank-top.

“You hung up on me earlier.”

“You woke me up at four in the damn morning.”

He goes to say something then pauses, mouth open. Finally, he nods. “Fair. How’s your day been?”

“It’s been good. Coffee, no class, the place is clean. Can’t complain.”

She settles into the couch cushion, kicking her legs in happiness when Derek heads to the kitchen and gestures to the four bottles of wine on the counter like he’s a knock-off Vanna White. He grabs the wine glass he gifted her for her birthday last year - long-stemmed, delicate, and bearing the words Hakuna Moscato: it means drink wine. Once he’s filled their glasses, he carries them to the couch, goes back for the bottle.

“You ever think we might drink too much wine?” Emilie asks, taking a sip of the moscato, and Derek snorts.

“We don’t drink that much.”

She pins him with a flat look then rolls her eyes. “D, every time you come over, there are at least three bottles in the recycling the next day.”

“At least it’s wine, not whisky.”

“I’ll toast to that.”

As they drink, Emilie can’t help but feel like there’s something missing. Or, rather, someone. It isn’t until after they’ve cracked open the second bottle that she realises that she wishes Niall could be here. She pauses, glass halfway to her mouth, and wonders if it’s a bad sign. Derek doesn’t notice the way she shakes her head vehemently or the way she’s gone quiet in the realisation that somewhere along the way, the inkling of feelings she had towards Niall has blown into something more than just a crush, something harder to ignore. She forces herself to listen to Derek as he talks about the newest barista at the coffeeshop, and she vows to do her best to get rid of whatever she feels.