Feels Like Forever



Emilie stirs to consciousness, groaning at the soft light that stretches toward her face. An emptiness presses against her back, relentless in its absence of her boyfriend. She rolls over to face the cold stretch of mattress, and something in her chest gives a harsh tug at the sight. A small part of her expected it, especially after having fallen asleep alone last night, but most of her had hoped that he’d be here when she woke up.

Pushing back the blankets, Emilie rolls out of bed and shivers in the cool air of the morning. Her brows furrow when she realises all she can hear is silence. Ryder isn’t babbling away to his stuffed animals in his room or downstairs holding “conversations” with Mully or Niall. She rubs her hands along her arms as she makes her way to his bedroom.

Finding the room empty fills Emilie with a twisted sense of deja vu. She turns away from the unmade bed and strains to hear something, anything, that will tell her where the child is. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to follow the soft notes that filter through the air, the quiet voice humming along.

Ryder is curled up on Niall’s lap, blue eyes watching as Niall’s hands move across the keys. Emilie breathes a sigh of relief and crosses the room to sit next to her boyfriend at the piano. He doesn’t stop playing even as he leans over to kiss her, and her heart soars at the sweet smile he gives her. This feels right, more like it should be. It almost makes her forget the reality of the situation.

“Morning, favourite boys of mine. How long have you two been awake?”

Niall shrugs, presses his lips to Ryder’s hair. “Not too long. Sorry if we woke you.”

“You didn’t.” The lack of you did, but Emilie doesn’t voice that thought. “What are you playing?”

“Something I might use for the album.”

“It’s beautiful.”

And it is. The melody drips with poignancy, saturated with a sense of loss and heartbreak. Emilie leans into Niall’s side and closes her eyes. She wants to ask why, why this particular tune, what is he thinking? She can’t find the words, though. Not without potentially making him doubt himself.

“I’ve been thinking,” he murmurs after a moment, fingers stilling on the keys, then he pulls his hands back. “Hey, Ry, why don’t you go read your books for a minute? Auntie Emilie and I need to talk.”

Ryder huddles closer, eyes falling shut as he buries his face into the front of Niall’s T-shirt. “I stay, t’anks.”

Emilie stifles a giggle as Niall’s expression turns exasperated. When he turns betrayed eyes on her, all she can do is shrug. Niall reluctantly smiles, hefts Ryder into his arms, and they cross the room to the couch. She reaches for Ryder, but the child only shakes his head and clings more tightly to Niall.

“He’s missed you.”

“I’ve missed him, too.”

And me? “So you were thinking,” she reminds him in lieu of letting out everything she’s holding back.

“Yeah. Mully is right. Our anniversary is next month. We should do something.”

“We should.”

“I lost track of time.”

“What do you mean?”

Niall sighs but doesn’t meet her eye. “I knew it was coming up, but I didn’t realise it was so close.”

“Niall, it’s fine. You’re not the only one who’s dropped the ball. Besides, it would be different if you forgot on the actual day. It’s six weeks from now, so we have time.”

“I just... I don’t want you thinking our relationship isn’t important to me. Because it is. You are important to me. I love you, and I don’t want you to doubt that.”

“I don’t.” She resists the urge to roll his eyes when he does nothing more than give her a disbelieving look. “So what do you want to do for our anniversary?”

“Well, as you said, we have six weeks to figure that out.”

Fantastic. Emilie nods slowly and pulls her knees up to her chest. Ryder squirms a few seconds later, pushes away from Niall, and she watches the toddler as he digs through the toy-box. He comes up with a fistful of Hot Wheels cars, settling down to push them across the floor. A traitorous voice in her head reminds her she’s not the only one that is going to get hurt, and guilt twists hotly in her chest.

If this doesn’t work out, Ryder is going to be the one to pay the price. He’ll be losing yet another person in his short life. And it will be all Emilie’s fault.


Emilie stares across the table at Niall, watching him as he skims over the menu. She hadn’t been sure they would be able to do this tonight - not with how much time he’s been spending out of the house, not with the hectic schedule he has tried to stick to. Emilie hates how deeply she expected him to cancel the date, no matter that it’s their anniversary.

But he hadn’t. Niall had come home an hour later than he promised, but Emilie is just thankful he didn’t forget. Or tell her he couldn’t make it. They need this opportunity to be out of the house, away from Ryder and the responsibilities of raising a child, on their own and letting themselves be in love.

This last month has been a struggle. Work is fine - it’s really hard to mess up a position at a daycare, when one’s only responsibilities are making sure the children are still alive when their parents pick them up. Her friendships with her colleagues have become steadier. Josh occasionally gives her rides to and from Tiny Tots, but more often than not, Emilie risks Lily’s father knowing she’s at work. Even that hasn’t been awful, the man seeming to have gotten the hint and staying to himself.

The hardest part has been in her personal relationship.

The disconnect has only grown harder for Emilie to ignore, and it’s begun to take its toll on her. Her sleep schedule is basically nonexistent; even with the times she’s fallen asleep without him, it’s still almost impossible to do. She spends so many hours of the night trying to figure out where things have gone so awry, and she’s no closer to an answer.

Emilie wants to fix this - everything that isn’t perfect - but she hasn’t the faintest idea where to start. Louis’s words from so long ago echo constantly in her mind: Niall has no chance of knowing that something is wrong if Emilie doesn’t tell him. Louis was right then, she knew it as soon as he said it, and it’s no less accurate now.

She wishes she had an answer for the question, the one that asks how one tells the person they are in love with that they’re unhappy? Without making their partner feel guilty for whatever is causing the problem. It’s completely unfair to Niall, and broaching the subject just doesn’t seem appropriate. Especially not tonight.

So Emilie smiles up at the woman filling her wine glass and swallows down her melancholy with a mouthful of Pinot.

“How’s the music going?” she asks quietly, hesitantly, and Niall looks away from the menu.

The candlelight flickers across his face, and Emilie watches the distracted glaze fade from his eyes. It doesn’t disappear completely, just enough that she knows he has at least a fraction of his attention. He sips at his wine and nods slowly.

“It’s going pretty well. We’ve a few great songs done so far, but… the album is missing something, I think. So we’ve been trying to figure it out.”

“I’m excited to hear the album.”

“I’m excited to finish it.” His face lights up, and he folds his arms on the table. Leaning forward, his eyes meet hers. “I’m pretty sure this is definitely some of my best work.”

“So tell me about it, then. I mean, I know you’ve told me that Flicker had kind of a theme through it. What about this one?”

“It does, yeah. Haven’t quite gotten it… completely sorted yet, but as soon as I can explain it properly, I’ll let you know.”

His gaze drops to the tabletop, fingertips tapping against wood. Emilie slumps against the disappointment. Now that he’s ended that topic, Niall doesn’t look nearly as engaged in any possible conversation. She sighs and reaches for her glass. Should have just stayed home, she tells herself, wincing when the thought crosses her mind. It isn’t an incorrect one, but it’s definitely something she shouldn’t be thinking while on a date to celebrate their anniversary.

From: Monica
> Hey, Bean, I love you and all, which is why I’m bothering you on your anniversary to ask if everything is okay.

To: Monica
< Why aren’t you in bed, young lady? It’s almost one there.

From: Monica
> Don’t change the topic.
> Is everything okay?

To: Monica
< Yeah, everything’s fine. Why?

Monica’s response is a link, and Emilie makes sure Niall is still sound asleep next to her before tapping on it. Her heart sinks when the webpage loads, photographs filling the post. They’re grainy, dark, but there’s no mistaking that they were taken a few hours ago when she and Niall were having dinner.

The poster spends seven lengthy paragraphs pointing out how neither Emilie or Niall seem to be speaking to each other much even as they sit across from each other. Emilie sits up, curling in on herself, as she reads each bit of “evidence” proving the nearing end of the relationship.

they haven’t even been seen in public together for so long, i thought they’d broken up ages ago! i guess what i'm trying to say is with that info and one look at these pics and you can tell that this relationship? whatever it actually is? totally not gonna last. and niall is all the better for it (seriously, who else thought this girl was using him, especially since her kiddo needs a daddy and why not one of the rich and famous???)

Emilie exits out of her browser, locks her phone, and tosses the device onto the nightstand. She can’t breathe through the tears. Was it really that obvious that she’s not nearly as happy as she was only a couple short months ago? And do people honestly think that she’s using Niall so that Ryder has a father figure? It’s so completely false, and it hurts to know that they could operate under that assumption. No matter what anyone thinks, she loves Niall for who he is as a person, not for anything else.

Emilie stares at Niall through the dark, barely touched by the gentle glow of the nightlight across the room. Her entire being aches, and she doesn’t stop to think about what she’s doing. She slides further down into the blankets, curls up against him, and closes her eyes as the tears keep coming.