Feels Like Forever


There is little success over the next week. Between the good morning texts and the random conversations throughout the day, it’s become a struggle for Emilie to ignore how her heart flutters in her chest, how she looks forward to talking to Niall. He’s so sweet and funny, and he even asks after Ryder regularly. He doesn’t judge her for sending random texts full of nothing but key-smashing when her homework starts frustrating her; he FaceTimes her at any time of day to listen to her vent, even when she knows he has to be busy doing what he does. The time zone difference rarely seems to matter to either of them. And it’s nice, it really is, to talk to him. However, she can’t quell the fear that he’s going to suddenly realise she’s not worth keeping in his life, but as much as she tries to build the barrier up so it won’t hurt when he does, it gets dismantled more and more with each passing day.

Emilie adjusts the volume on the stereo absentmindedly as her phone connects to the car’s Bluetooth. The morning is warm, bright, and the sky stretches overhead in a radiant blue blanket covering the city. She sighs blissfully; her plans won’t be knocked aside today, and even though she has plenty of coursework waiting for her at home, she can’t find it in her to care or feel guilty that she’s putting it off. She needs today.

She glances down at the display in the dashboard, tapping the skip button when Shawn Mendes’s Treat You Better starts playing - she doesn’t understand how this song became so popular when it’s literally the epitome of “Nice Guy” anthem. The strum of a guitar meets her ears after a second, and Emilie smiles to herself when the smooth voice joins in, already enjoying the song even though it’s unfamiliar to her.

“I have seen, seen it all in paper dreams…”

The traffic light turns yellow, and Emilie comes to a stop at the line to wait. She checks the display again, wanting to know who she’s listening to so she can replay it later. Her brows draw together at the name, and she wonders just how common the name Niall is. When she looks up again, the light is still red, so she unlocks her phone to bring up Pandora. Niall’s face stares up at her from the screen, and she nearly drops her phone in surprise. He said he was a golfer, nothing about being a musician. Someone honks behind her; her head jerks up to see the light has changed, and she waves shakily at the driver and presses on the accelerator.

Derek cocks his head in confusion when Emilie enters the coffeeshop, and she drops into a chair by the drinks cooler. He finishes up making the coffee for the customer waiting at the counter then, once the drink is passed off, comes to sit in the empty seat across from Emilie. Without a word, she hands him her phone. He frowns but obediently turns his gaze to the screen. She watches his face closely, sees the instant he comes to the same realisation she did. His jaw drops, and he stares at her with wide eyes.


She nods and runs a hand through her hair. “What am I supposed to do with this information, D? I mean, it was awkward enough talking to him when he was just a golf dude. Now this?”

“Okay, first off, how often have you talked to him? Actually, wait, I don’t need to ask you, why am I asking you,” he mutters as he taps at the screen. “Holy shit, you told him about Ry, like, right off the bat? And damn, this is a lot of texts. Do you two text every day?”

“Yeah, sometimes…”

“What are you not telling me?”

“He, uh, he came over to hang out. That Saturday after I met him.”

“Didn’t - he met Ryder, too?”

Emilie sighs, wrings her hands together. “Derek. Focus. What am I gonna do?”

“Keep being his friend, I guess. There’s obviously a connection there, and since he’s who he is, I don’t think he really gets to be friends with people without his status being brought up. Besides, what could it hurt to have another friend. You don’t have nearly enough of those.”

“I have you and Monica,” she protests, though it isn’t effective; in fact, it makes it worse, and she grimaces.

“And now him. Look, Em, it’s up to you, but I highly suggest you don’t come out and tell him you know.” Derek shrugs and pats her hand gently as the bell over the door chimes. “And Emmy? Don’t sabotage this friendship just because of this.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“I know you. I love you, but I know you.”

Emilie knows he’s right - she’s always done what she could to protect herself from any sort of pain, and this… whatever this is that she has with Niall is ambiguous enough that the fact she can’t put a name on it is promising future hurt if she isn’t careful. She watches her best friend walk away then pushes to her feet. Her heart is racing beneath her ribs, her hands trembling, and caffeine is only going to make it worse. Derek calls after her, but she ignores him, walks out of the building.

The running paths are mostly devoid of others, everyone busy with other responsibilities at nine-thirty on a Wednesday morning, and Emilie makes sure the laces of her tennis shoes are tied securely, shoves her bag under the driver’s seat, and locks the car doors behind her. Her keys press against her breast where she has them hooked to her bra strap and stuffed into the cup - the only place she could think of to keep them from getting lost. She hesitates then opens Pandora, puts her earbuds into her ears, and slides her phone into the strap around her arm. The song, left there from when she paused it to show Derek, immediately starts playing, and she debates whether she should skip it or not. It feels weird to enjoy it now that she knows who sings it and that he deliberately kept that knowledge from her. Emilie ties her hair back into a ponytail, forces herself to admit that Derek maybe had a point about Niall wanting a friendship that doesn’t revolve around his fame.

Muscles aching, protesting the pace she’s set after months of not going for regular jogs, Emilie slows to a stop in the middle of the walking bridge and leans against the high railing. Her lungs burn as she pants, but she smiles into the pain. Sure, it’s a bit ridiculous that she’s already struggling after only forty-five minutes, but she’s proud of herself for getting this far before needing a break. She stares down at the river that flows beneath her, the various boats on the water. Something she will always love about Austin is how the city bustles with life but not just humans - everywhere she looks is something green. Her phone vibrates against her arm; she manages to ask Siri to relay the message through gasping breaths, wincing when the AI rattles off five texts from Niall. Telling Siri to respond with Can I call you in a few?, Emilie makes sure Pandora begins playing again then turns toward the direction of the car, lets her feet pound against the pavement as she pushes herself to her limits.

“Hey, I was beginning to think you forgot about me,” Niall says lightly when he answers her call before letting out a quiet laugh.

Emilie rolls her eyes and puts the call on speaker so she can brush her shower-damp hair. “Sorry, sorry. I went for a run and kinda lost track of time. So what’s up?”

“I, er, have some free time coming up this next week, and I was wondering if you’d mind if I come visit again?”

“Why would I mind?” she asks, staring at her phone with a frown. “Niall, you’re always welcome here.”

“We don’t really know each other that well, so…”

“We’ve been talking for a month. I think I can trust you enough to not, like, murder me or something.”

“Why does your mind always go to murder?”

“I watch too much Criminal Minds, mostly. But nah, for real. Feel free to come by whenever. All I ask is that you at least let me know beforehand.”

He hums quietly, and Emilie sets the hairbrush on her dresser and tugs a tank0top on. The silence between them stretches on, but it’s comfortable. Once she’s pulled her yoga pants up her legs, she grabs her phone and heads out to the kitchen. Emilie listens attentively as Niall talks about his plans for the next few days - consciously leaving out anything to do with music, she supposes. She pours herself a glass of juice then settles in on the couch. She wonders if it’ll ruin the easy friendship between them if she mentions it.

“Are you listening?”

Emilie startles back to attention. She’s zoned out, gotten lost in her thoughts. Clearing her throat, she assures him she’s still here and does her best to focus. Niall waits for her to speak; the quiet is awkward now, and she sighs.

“Sorry. I just… yeah.”

“What are you thinking about?”



Em?, she thinks but doesn’t say anything about the nickname. Instead, she shakes her head, though he can’t see it, and coughs quietly. “Just thinking about a song I heard earlier. It’s kinda stuck in my head now.”

“Oh? What song?”

“I, uh, I don’t remember the name of it,” and god, the lie comes easier than it should, “but it sounds like -”

She hums the beat of the chorus, and when she stops, there’s a deafening silence on the line, and her skin crawls with the nervousness. She pulls the phone away from her ear to check that he hasn’t hung up, but seeing that the call is still connected only sends a wave of fear through her. Emilie bites her lip, picks at a stray thread on the hem of her pants. She closes her eyes when Niall’s sigh crackles in her ear.

Seeing Blind. Guess you know now.”

“I know what? All I know is it’s a good song, catchy as fuck.”

“Emilie -”

“What? Look, Niall, you’re still you. You’re still the guy who was brave enough to interrupt a stranger just so you’d be able to sit down in a crowded coffeeshop. You’re still the guy who came over to hang out and entertained a sixteen-month-old toddler and cleaned up my apartment even though it wasn’t your responsibility. So you sing, too. Doesn’t change the fact that the guy I know is a pretty cool dude that I’ve enjoyed getting to know over the last month.”

“I like getting to know you, too,” he murmurs after a long minute, and Emilie’s cheeks burn as she smiles. “Thanks, Emilie.”

“You can thank me by not making this weird.”

“I’ll try. But… I guess since you already know, I should probably tell you. You know that boyband One Direction?”

She shrugs, sipping at her juice. “I mean, I’ve heard of ‘em. Never listened to it. Wasn’t my cup of tea, I didn’t think.” A thought hits her, and she sets her glass down on the coffee-table with a loud thunk. “You were not.”

“I was.”

“No. Way.”

“Why are you finding this so hard to believe?” he asks, and thank heavens he’s laughing, clear and real.

Her heart squeezes in her chest at the sound, and she shifts to lie down on the couch, presses her phone more securely against her ear, and asks Niall to tell her more about himself. There isn’t much that she actually knows, minus his personality, he golfs, and the fact his friend from Ireland lives with him. And now, she knows he’s a musician. Thankfully, he obliges, and Emilie settles in to listen.