Feels Like Forever


remember: there's a playlist for these chapters!


Everything looks the same as the day she left. Empty, cold corridors. Heavy, metal doors and plaques bearing numbers painted in white. Overhead fluorescent lights that hum while in use. Blank white walls, dark hardwood flooring, pale yellow sunshade on the balcony doors. Nothing has changed in the months that she’s been away.

Emilie sets the suitcase by the door, staring around at the flat she never thought she’d see again. At least, not in this capacity. Their arrival carries with it the heaviness of a bittersweet blessing. One one hand, she and Ryder are no longer cooped up in the car with only each other and the scenery flying by to keep themselves company. On the other, being back here means she’s failed.

She couldn’t make Niall love her enough to not push her away. She couldn’t be important enough to him. She may have been complicit in the relationship ending with her lack of inaction, but the fact remains that Niall didn’t fight for her, either. She was forgettable, easily pushed to the side, and she lost a relationship she prayed to never lose.

Ryder toddles sleepily toward the couch, crawling up onto the cushions, and lets out a heavy sigh. It isn’t but two minutes later that he’s asleep. Emilie sighs and runs a hand through her hair. Deciding against moving him, she locks the door behind her and pads across the room to drape the throw blanket over him. She doesn’t bother to turn off the lights, just curls up around his tiny body. She falls asleep still trying to convince herself that all she needs his him.

Unfortunately, being back in Austin isn’t nearly as peaceful as Emilie might have hoped. It’s familiar, sure, and it will always be her home in some form. But the fact remains that she’s only back here because she couldn’t make a relationship work. It certainly doesn’t help that she’s made a playlist on her Pandora of all the saddest songs she could possibly think of, and that playlist is all she listens to over the following days.

The worst part is, Emilie can’t stop herself from Googling Niall. She continuously goes back to the blog that posted about them on their anniversary, tortures herself by reading the smug and venomous words that celebrate a lack of her in Niall’s life. Gossip sites have taken the story and run with it, but nothing cuts Emilie as much as what the blogger has to say.

about damn time our boy figured out she isn’t worth his time!!!

as quickly as she came into his life, she’s gone just as fast! wonder if niall finally kicked her to the curb or if she realized that he wasn’t going to front her lifestyle and claim her kid as his. either way, ding dong, bitches, the witch is gone!
niall has been way more active on twitter lately. guess we have ONE thing to thank this chick for - her absence means he can talk with us instead of wasting all his attention on her. she isn’t even that pretty. her kid is kinda cute though… gonna miss seeing pictures of him. just a little.
She knows with every ounce of her being that the blogger is winning - what Emilie feels right now is exactly what the poster wants. They want her to feel as small and insignificant as possible, like she’s intruded on whatever relationship Niall has with his fans. They demand that she know her place in the world and it isn’t by Niall’s side. And damn it all if Emilie hasn’t started believing it.

The only thing she can do now, though, is make sure Ryder doesn’t miss Niall. That the child is happy as he possibly can be. She wants this transition to be easy for him - or at least, less traumatising. All she hopes for is that he’s too young now to remember later just how big a presence in their lives that Niall was. Once Ryder has acclimated to a life without Niall, everything will go on as it should. Niall Horan will be just a painful, bittersweet memory that Emilie will forever carry with her, but Ryder will be fine.

Ryder waves before clambering up the steps to the play structure. The playground is filled to the brim with the screeching delight of dozens of kids, mothers and fathers and everything in between watching over their offspring in the late-morning heat. Emilie settles more comfortably on the bench and smiles when Ryder goes down the slide without prompting. He walks toward her as quickly as he can, launches himself into her legs.

“You see, An’ Em?”

“I did see, baby. You were a brave boy, going down the slide by yourself. I’m proud of you.”

“I coffee? An’ Em, coffee?”

Emilie frowns. She hasn’t been to San Francisco Bakery & Cafe once since she and Ryder moved back into the flat; instead, she’s tried to get her caffeine from Starbucks, though it’s vastly underwhelming compared to what used to be her usual coffeeshop. She also hasn’t been taking any of Derek or Monica’s calls or texts, and their worry has shown by the fact that her mother has tried to contact her, as well. She wonders if they tried calling Niall. Shaking her head, she reaches down to pull Ryder onto her lap.

“Do you really want coffee, little man?”


“Then I guess we’re going to get coffee.”

Ryder squeaks happily in the backseat when Emilie comes to a stop in the car park, and she laughs as she turns off the engine. She stares through the window at the coffeeshop, swallowing against the shame that spirals through her. How the Hell is she going to look at her best friends and admit that she has lost the one relationship they’ve ever actively supported? Her breath comes out shakily, and Emilie pushes the thoughts away.

“Be right there,” Derek calls without turning from the espresso machine.

Emilie forces a smile in apology to the line of customers as she and Ryder step past, and she steers the toddler toward a table. Unfortunately, her trek is interrupted by a voice calling her name. Ryder’s hand tugs from hers and then he’s off, running toward Monica with the agility of a drunken puppy. He giggles even as he falls to the floor.

“Hey, little guy! Oh, I’ve missed you so much. How are you?” Monica scoops him up off the floor, spinning him in circles, then plants loud kisses on his cheek. “What’cha want today?”

Emilie waves awkwardly when Derek finishes pulling the espresso shots and turns to look at her. His lips tug down into a dark scowl, and she shifts her weight between her feet before sitting down at the four-top. Monica joins her moments later, setting Ryder down into the seat across from his aunt. He immediately starts tearing chunks off his muffin and stuffing them into his mouth. Emilie does her best to avoid the weight of Monica’s scrutiny, but it’s almost impossible, especially when Monica opens her mouth to speak.

“I love seeing your face, Bean, you know this. But… why are you here?”

“Because I want coffee.”

“Emilie, don’t be a smartass. You’re supposed to be in LA, living it up with your boyfriend in perpetual sunshine.”

“It rains in LA,” Emilie protests weakly, and Monica frowns and rolls her eyes. “Stop, Monie.”

“Then tell me why you’re here.”

Ryder turns toward Monica, holds out a fistful of muffin bits. “Ni-Ni no us home.”

“I’ll explain later,” whispers Emilie at the confused look that Monica sends her way.


“I don’t want to talk about it right now. So can we please just… not?”

Monica, thankfully, lets the subject drop, but she reaches across the table for Emilie’s hand. “We’ll come over tonight, okay? We’ll figure out how to fix whatever went wrong.”