Someone Lost, Something Gained



Thankfully, Clarissa and Phyllis both sign off on Veda’s request for not working on the thirteenth. She does a happy little jig in the locker-room when she sees her name crossed off on the calendar; someone has written ‘icky boyfriend stuff’ in pencil, with a gaudy heart around it.

She blames Lyle.

The rest of the weeks leading up to his birthday pass by at a snail’s pace. Veda wakes up every morning hoping the day has arrived only to pout when she realises she has ten days left. Eight. Five. Two.

Hattie is already awake by the time Veda rushes down the stairs at seven o’clock, unable to sleep at the prospect of surprising him. Liam had assured her Niall has no idea she is coming by. He’s operating under the assumption the evening will be spent at home with only his friends and David Barkie to celebrate with him.

Even the fact she’s meeting his mother can’t dampen her spirits.

“Whoa, Roadrunner. Keep racing through the house like that, you’re liable to spend the day in the hospital with a broken face. Then how could he ever love you?”

“Excuse me, I’ve still got my body, don’t I?”

Hattie groans as she ducks down to grab the cake pans from the cupboard by the stove. “Why are you so gross.”

“Have you seen Niall? Wouldn’t you be gross, too, if you were dating him?”

“Well, the world will never know.” Hattie comes up victorious, passing the pans off to Veda. “Now let’s get crackin’. Liam said the party starts at four, and cakes take forever.”

Veda sends her cousin on a last-minute run to the nearest bakery in hopes of finding a cake box large enough. Then they’re bundled up in jackets and out the door by three. Hattie carefully slides the cake box into the backseat, shaking her head when Veda buckles the box in.

Harry opens the front door, using his foot to hold DB back, and Veda kisses his cheek as she bustles past him. Louis helps her set the box on the counter then hugs her once her hands are free.

“He’s going to love you being here.”

“He better. I don’t wake up before eight unless there’s an emergency,” she laughs as she sets the candles Hattie grabbed next to the cake. “Wait, where’s DB?”

“Locked him in Niall’s room,” answers Harry as he walks into the kitchen. “Stupid thing ate part of my cake this year, so Niall had to rush him to the veterinarian just to spend four hundred dollars for the doctor to tell him his dog has an iron stomach and miraculously wasn’t going to die from a triple-chocolate fudge cake.”

Louis leans in to whisper, “His mum is in the living room helping Liam hang streamers, if you want to meet her.”

“I’m scared,” she whispers back.

“Don’t worry. She’ll love you. After all, Niall, er, Niall is happy with you.”

Veda can sense he’s changed what he wanted to say - what he meant to say. She doesn’t dwell on it, stomach lurching more with each step she takes toward the living room. She can barely breathe through her nervousness. Liam notices her first, beaming and thanking her for coming.

This is it, she thinks as Niall’s mother turns around.

“Oh, you’re just as beautiful as Niall said you were. I’m so glad to finally be meeting you, pet.”

“He talks about me?” Veda breathes as the woman hugs her tightly.

“Darling, you’re practically all he talks about anymore. You’ve done wonderful, making him so happy.”

Veda pauses - can she trust Niall’s mother with this? “Can you keep a secret?” His mother nods immediately, a slight frown tugging at her lips. Veda blows out a breath. “I’m in love with him. And I want to make him this happy for the rest of our lives.”

To her shock, his mother bursts into tears and drags Veda in for another bone-crushing embrace. Liam, thankfully, takes pity on Veda’s ribs.

“Maura, can you tape the rest of the streamers please? I need to get started on the balloons.”

Maura nods, sniffling as she moves toward the couch. Brightly coloured strips are scattered across the cushions, and Veda exhales slowly. She’s done it. She’s met her boyfriend’s mother and admitted the depth of her feelings for Niall in one fell swoop. All she can do is hope Maura won’t tell Niall before Veda is ready.

“What’d you say to her?” Liam asks quietly once he is by Veda’s side.

She shrugs and bites her lip to hide her smile. “Just told her Niall makes me happier than I’ve ever been.”

Please don’t question it. Liam only smiles in response, throws his arm around her shoulders, and steers her towards the coffee-table. Veda takes the small pile of deflated balloons he hands her, automatically separating them.

“So Niall said you were good at sucking, but how good are you at blowing?”

Veda gapes for a long moment then swats at his arm. “Oh, my God, I’m going to kill you!”

“Now, now, pet. Let’s not ruin Niall’s birthday with murder. Wait until tomorrow.”


Veda cackles at Liam’s wounded expression and gives the woman a thumbs up. Maybe it isn’t so bad having met Niall’s mother.

It isn’t but forty-five minutes later that Hattie peeks through the curtains on the front window, hissing that Niall is home. Nobody bothers hiding, but the others do sit on the couch while Veda heads to the front door. Her heart is racing in her ribs, a hummingbird pushing joy through her veins. He stumbles to a step as soon as he steps into the house.


She beams and shuffles forward to kiss the shock off his face. “Hey, babe. Liam told me today was your birthday, so... Surprise! I’m your gift.”

“Does this mean I can take you to my room and unwrap you?”

She giggles and lets him wrap her in his arms. “Maybe later.” Veda turns her head, whispering, “As much as I want to take my time with you, drive you wild, make you a mess under me...” His harsh swallow echoes in her ear, his hands twitching against her back. “I have other plans.”

She nips at his earlobe then breathes in his quiet groan with another kiss. It’s far too filthy, demanding. His mother is in the other room, along with their friends and her cousin. She aches to do just what she said. Right now. Birthday party be damned. But unfortunately, she can’t.

So she leads him to the living room, maybe putting a bit more sashay than necessary in the swing of her hips, and laughs when he nearly collides with her. Before he can do anything so devious as latch his lips onto her neck - he knows she dies for that - she gestures toward the room.

Party poppers explode confetti everywhere. Niall gapes at the decorations, his mother, then turns to Veda. She leans into his side and grins up at him.

“Told you I have other plans.”

“You’re so much trouble,” he murmurs, pressing his lips to her temple. “How am I supposed to make it through this when I have something better to look forward to?”

“Ah, but anticipation makes the experience sweeter, my dear.”

“Trouble, I swear.”

“Go say hi to your mother.”

Somehow, they manage to make it through the cake, the singing and wishes made over blown-out candles. Veda watches him, wondering what wish he’s made. If it has anything to do with her. The candlelight flickers across his face and illuminates the brilliant smile on his lips. Maura pats her arm as if she knows what Veda is thinking.

Drinks flow more quickly than Veda anticipated, and soon, even Maura is tipsy. Louis is the drunkest of them all, singing at the top of his voice and throwing his arm around Liam’s shoulders. Veda catches Niall’s eye from across the room and jerks her chin toward the hallway. He stands before she’s finished.

“Thought you’d never ask,” he mumbles when he reaches her side.

Veda doesn’t speak. She just laces his fingers with his and leads him to bedroom amid catcalls. Nerves turn her veins to lead - is his mother going to notice their disappearance? She glances over her shoulder and snorts when she sees Maura pointedly looking away. As if she’s pretending her son isn’t leaving his own party with his girlfriend. As if she hasn’t an inkling as to what they’re leaving to do.

Veda closes the door behind her, looping her arms around Niall’s shoulders. “Happy birthday, sweetheart.”

“Best birthday ever.”

“And you haven’t even gotten to the good part.”

He groans and crashes his lips to hers, hands trembling as they cup her cheeks. She doesn’t break the kiss even as she pushes him toward the bed. He stares up at her with wide eyes, straddling his hips, and leans down to graze her teeth against his jawline.

He obeys without hesitation when she tells him he can unwrap his present now. And Veda does exactly what she promised to do.