Someone Lost, Something Gained



Veda’s words echo in the sudden silence, and her heart beats out a rapid, unsteady rhythm. Panic twists in her gut, aching and ugly and growing worse the longer Niall stays quiet. It seems her question has rendered him unable to do more than blink stupidly at her.

Swallowing against the tears that fill her eyes, she nods slowly as fire erupts across his face. Of course his answer is ‘no’. Hell, it isn’t even so much a ‘no’ as it is apparent disbelief that she’s asked. That she’s grossly misconstrued their friendship. This must be why he made sure to call them friends in the text after the kiss.

He still hasn’t said a word. The silence stretches on, and Veda’s heart sinks lower in her chest. Congratulations, you just pulled a rookie move and fell for a friend. What would Ellie say? That’s a conversation Veda will put off for as long as she can. The mortification is horrid enough on her own - she doesn’t need an audience privy to her rejection and the subsequent end to an amazing friendship.

She keeps her face turned away from Niall as she reaches for the door handle. Making him feel guilty about not returning the attraction is the last thing Veda wants, and him seeing her cry will only do just that. It isn’t his fault that this is so one-sided. Veda just hopes she can get out of the car before she loses the fight against the tears.

“Yes! Fuck, yes. Yes.”

Veda jumps in her seat, the thin metal of the handle snapping back into place with a loud thunk. She swallows hard and turns to face Niall. “What?”

“Yes. I’d - I’d love to. Go on a date with you, I mean.”

“Really cuttin’ it close there, Horan,” she scolds, though a smile plays at her lips. Her heart is still racing, but for a different reason now.

“Sorry. I just, I didn’t expect you to ask.” He pauses and runs a hand along the back of his neck. “This isn’t just because you saw me naked, is it?”

“No. Definitely not. It maybe helped, though,” Veda tacks on, biting back an mischievous smile.

Niall rolls his eyes with a self-deprecating chuckle. “I’ll take it, I guess.”

“If it makes you feel better, I didn’t expect to ask, not today. But, uh, I’ll call you once Hattie is settled in?”

“Sounds good,” he murmurs, and his eyes are bright over pink-stained cheeks. Veda wants to kiss him.

Instead, she smiles and slides out of the car, closing the door with a trembling hand. He waves through the window and pulls away; she hates watching him disappear around the corner. Wiping away the dampness in her eyes, Veda lets out a breathless laugh and a squeal of happiness she will deny making if asked. Veda Persephone Mitchell does not squeal over something as trivial as a date with a guy.

Except maybe Niall.

“Yeah, shut up, Benedict Arnold,” she mutters to the smug voice in her head, drawing in a deep breath before turning toward Nonna’s.

She doesn’t bother waiting for an answer to her knocking, just pushes open the door and steps inside. The living room is full - aunts and uncles and cousins all here to visit. Veda is almost jealous of how close-knit this family is, but how can she be when they’ve all accepted her as their own?

So she hugs the various relatives as she makes her way through the living room, asking about Louisa’s newest baby and assuring Zio Lorenzo that he’s still a heartbreaker without his toupee - according to Little Frankie’s translating, the chihuaha next door stole it. Veda doesn’t want to know how that happened, but the mental image is enough to send her into a giggling fit if she isn’t careful.

Though her Italian is rusty from disuse, she recognises the words “cousin” and “kitchen” easily enough. She kisses Zio Paolo’s cheek in gratitude and weaves around the family filling the room. Jimmy and Sofia Maria dart ahead of her, shouting about her presence.

Nonna Costa turns away from the stove as Veda enters the kitchen, and the older woman’s sweet smile lasts all of two seconds before she gasps. Veda has no hope of understanding the rapid-fire Italian. All she knows is that whatever Nonna is saying, it draws the attention of every adult in the house. Soon, the kitchen is crammed full of inquisitive Italians, and they all stare at Veda as they speak over each other.

Nonna sniffs tearfully, clasping her hands to her chest with a watery smile on her round face. “Piccola Veda è innamorata.”

“What?” Veda frowns and shakes her head. “No, Nonna, it-it isn’t like that.”

“You do look a little lovestruck,” Hattie says, grinning impishly over her cup of coffee as if she isn’t throwing her cousin to the wolves.

“It’s just a date, that’s all!” protests Veda, but it does no good: Nobody is listening, and if they are, they don’t believe her.

“Cute boy in car, yes?” Zia Teresa nudges Veda with a knowing smile. “Bene, Veda.”

Nonna claps her hands together loudly, causing the chatter to die out. “Now, where is he taking you?”

“Or are you just coming home?” Aida asks, winking lasciviously, and she laughs as she ducks Nonna’s hand.

“Aida Valentina, do not be so crass! I have raised you better than that.”

“What the-? No! I told him I’d call him so we could plan it.” Veda groans when everyone starts giving suggestions, languages overlapping into a chaotic mess of voices. She turns to Hattie with pleading eyes. “Lord save me. You ready to go, Hatchling?”

Hattie bites back a smile as she finishes off her coffee, rising to her feet. Once she’s rinsed out the mug, she hugs and thanks Nonna for the company. Nonna pulls her back in for an embrace that Veda can see restricts Hattie’s breathing even from across the room, but Hattie melts into it. Veda steps closer for her own rib-breaking hug from Nonna - they are always the best hugs she could ask for, and Nonna seems to know just how often Veda needs a hug.

As Veda and Hattie make their way to the door, the other adults pat Veda’s shoulder, kiss her cheeks. Everyone shows their affection with proud, knowing smiles on their faces and love in their eyes. Veda loves being loved like this, but she still has never been more glad to be out in the hot summer air.

She laughs awkwardly and exchanges a look with her cousin. “What the Hell was all that?”

“They love you, V, you know that.”

“So they have to make a big deal about me getting a date?” she grumbles as she hurries down the steps. The more distance she can put between herself and the Costas, the better.

“Yes, yes, they do.” Hattie sighs, looks both ways before stepping out into the street. “When was the last time you had one?”


“Exactly. It’s been what, almost three years since you dated anybody, even for one single dinner? So of course Nonna and, by default, the rest of the family is gonna be thrilled that you’ve started dating again. So tell me about him.”

Veda blinks a few times then sighs. Maybe Hattie is right. Between work and schooling, Veda hadn’t had time for relationships, and that only got more true after Granddad’s diagnosis. Her stomach lurches when she recalls how disappointed he was when she admitted she’d withdrawn from school to take care of him. Now it looks like Hattie is going to be the only Mitchell to earn a degree.

Veda wonders how different her life would be if she stayed in school. If she never ran away from home. If she let herself become Olivia’s mirror. She can guess at the answer to it: She wouldn’t have a job she loves, a relationship with Granddad that made losing him so hard, or a date with the most wonderful man she’s met in so long. Everything that’s brought her to this point has been well worth it.

So she tells Hattie about Niall as they carry her belongings into the house - how selfless and genuine he is, how he has helped Veda work through her anger and grief. She even admits to kissing him in a momentary lapse of functioning brain cells. Hattie finds it far too amusing, nearly dropping a suitcase from laughing so hard.

“Keep laughing, and I won’t show you a picture of his dog,” Veda grumbles as she tosses a duffel bag onto the guest bed.

“He has a dog? Show me, show me, show me!”

Veda relents within seconds, digging her phone from her pocket and bringing up the photo gallery. Hattie coos over David Barkie, baby-talking to the picture, before swiping to the left. A low whistle escapes her, and she waggles her eyebrows at Veda.

“Now that is a good-looking man. He got a twin or something?”

“No, but he has three friends who I think might be single.”

“Be a good cousin and hook me up,” laughs Hattie. “Nah. I’m happy for you, Veda. Really.”


“No buts. Just… make sure you two are quiet. I need my beauty sleep.”

Hattie disappears through the door, ostensibly heading downstairs to bring up the boxes left in the living room. Veda stares after her cousin, jaw dropped. The implications of Hattie’s request haven’t gone unnoticed. She manages to find words before Hattie can get too far down the staircase.

“Who said I was gonna fuck him?”

Hattie snorts but pointedly doesn’t reply. If Veda is honest, she has to confess that it would be really nice to make The Dream a reality. She’ll never admit it, though.