I can tell Niall’s distracted when we’re Skyping on Saturday night. He keeps fidgeting with the LA Dodgers baseball cap on his head and chewing the inside of his cheek. He’s been like this every time I’ve talked to him since I last saw him face-to-face, which was on Wednesday. Tonight, though, his distractedness is especially obvious.
“Niall,” I say, as he moves his baseball cap around for the tenth time in the same number of minutes, “is something wrong?”
“What?” He quickly pulls his hand away from his baseball cap. “No, everything’s fine.”
“Really? ‘Cause you’re acting super weird.”
“Really. Everything’s great.”
I raise my eyebrows at his unconvincing tone of airiness. “Now who’s the one acting like things are fine when they’re not?”
Niall sighs. He fidgets with his baseball cap again. “Allie, I’ve got a question for you.”
My eyebrows scrunch together. “Um, okay. What?”
“If you had the chance to leave home for good and go somewhere you knew you’d be safe, would you leave?”
I sigh, sinking into the pile of pillows on my bed. “Niall—”
“Just, hypothetically speaking, would you go?”
I brush my bangs out of my eyes, stalling for time. “Why do you want to know?”
“Just answer the question.”
I sigh and sink a little further into the pillows. “I don’t know.”
“Allie, that isn’t an answer.”
“Well, maybe I’d give you a better answer if I knew why you were asking.”
Niall presses his lips tightly together, seeming to struggle with himself for a second. Then, suddenly, he bursts out, “I want you to come with us.”
My eyebrows scrunch together again. “What?”
Niall’s cheeks are suddenly blushing pink. “Well, I’ve been thinking about everything the past few days, and we’re leaving next Sunday—”
Don’t remind me, I think moodily. As the days have passed, I’ve been dwelling more and more on the fact that One Direction doesn’t actually doesn’t actually live in LA, and that after their concert next Saturday, they’ll have to leave. Niall will be gone. And I’ll be all alone again.
Seven days without Niall was bad enough. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to go whole months without seeing him in person.
“—and I don’t really want to be away from you,” he continues, his cheeks getting even pinker, “and I don’t want you alone with your dad anymore either, so I was just thinking—well—what if you came with us when we left?”
I sit up a little, still trying to process exactly what he’s saying. “When you say come with you, do you mean, like—”
“I mean you packing your bags and getting on the airplane and flying to London with us,” Niall says. “Starting a new life. We—well, I could help you find an apartment somewhere, and you could come on tour with us, and—”
“Whoa, whoa. Slow down,” I say, sitting up and adjusting my laptop’s position so I can get a better look at him. His cheeks are still bright pink. “Niall, that’s—I mean—” I can’t even find the words to describe how I feel. What does he expect me to say to that offer? Sure, I’ll go? Just leave everything I’ve ever known and run off with him, a boy I just met a couple of weeks ago? Go live in a country I’ve only ever seen on TV, where I don’t even know anyone besides him and his band mates and their bodyguard?
I nearly have a panic attack just thinking about it.
“I know it’s a lot all at once,” Niall says quickly.
“That’s an understatement,” I mutter, running my fingers nervously through my hair.
“But think about it, Allie. You wouldn’t have to worry about your dad anymore. We could go public. No more hiding, no more pretending we don’t know or like each other when we do—”
“This is my home, Niall,” I say, thinking not only of my physical house, but of my sweltering hot ballet studio and the beaches where I used to play and the bright sunshine and the crowded, jammed-up streets. “My dad aside, I mean, I’ve got ballet, Sam—my mom lived and died here—I’ve lived here my whole life—” I almost want to cry, thinking about leaving. I love LA. I really do. It’s my home. And he wants me to just leave with him in a week?
Niall sighs. “Just—promise me you’ll at least think about it?”
I look at his wide, honest blue eyes. The eyes that promised to come help me if my dad ever hit me again. The eyes that I won’t get to see for a long, long time if I don’t get on that plane with him.
“Sure, Niall,” I say. “I’ll think about it.”
The following night, the boys and I are at a Chinese restaurant in the heart of downtown LA after a long day of magazine and radio interviews. There’s a bit of an air of celebration to the meal, because tomorrow, we’re starting our super-secret rehearsals for our big free beach concert on Saturday. It’s been a while since we performed, so we’re quite excited about it, and eager to start practicing. We even let Paul go back to the hotel early, to have a bit of a rest.
“Pass the rice, would you?” I ask Harry, pointing to the massive plate of pork fried rice next to his elbow. Everything here is served family style, and since we wanted just about everything on the menu, we’ve got a massive quantity of food spread out in front of us. People at the tables around us keep staring at all the food.
“Sure.” Harry picks up the plate and hands it to me.
“Geez, Niall, haven’t you eaten enough?” Liam asks as I load my plate with rice.
“Niall’s never had enough,” Zayn says.
“Louis, will you pass me the orange chicken?” I ask.
As he’s handing me the plate, Louis says, “What does Allie think of you eating so much all the time, huh?”
All the boys laugh. I ignore them and put some chicken on my plate, next to the rice.
“She happens to like eating as much as I do,” I say, stabbing a piece of chicken and shoving it in my mouth.
“What? No she doesn’t,” Louis says. “She ate, like, a muffin at breakfast the other day.”
“Well, she’s on a diet. For ballet.”
Louis crosses his arms. “I don’t believe you.”
“Look,” I say, swallowing the piece of chicken, “If I called her right now, she’d tell you she’s on a diet for ballet.”
Louis raises his eyebrows. “And that she likes that you eat so much?”
“Call her, then.”
“Not now, I’m still eating.”
“For heaven’s sake, Niall,” Louis says, rolling his eyes.
“She did eat, like, five slices of pizza the day of the photoshoot,” Zayn says.
“Nah, it was more like three,” Harry says.
“Are we seriously sitting here trying to figure out how much pizza Allie ate over a week ago?” says Liam.
“Thank you, Liam,” I say.
My phone rings. I check the caller ID. It’s Allie.
“That’s her right now,” I tell Louis smugly. I hit the green button on the phone and say, now smiling just at the thought that I’m about to hear her voice, “Hi Allie. The boys were just asking about you, actually, they were wondering if—”
Her voice is breathy and panicky when she interrupts me. “Niall, there’s a picture of us kissing in some tabloid and my dad saw it and he’s drunk and he’s mad and—”
On Allie’s end of the line, something rattles and goes crashing to the floor. She lets out a squeak of fear.
My stomach drops. I feel the smile slide right off my face.
“Did he hurt you?”
“I think—I think my elbow’s broken,” she says. Her voice is shaky and constricted, like she’s either holding back tears or crying already; I can’t tell which. “I’m in my room but I can’t keep him out for much longer—”
“YOU’D BETTER NOT BE CALLING THAT BOYFRIEND OF YOURS!”
The bellow, which must belong to Allie’s dad, is downright the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Shivers run up my spine.
“I’ll be right over,” I say, fighting to keep my voice steady as something else on Allie’s end of the line goes crashing to the floor. Books, maybe? “I’m going to call the police, and then I’m going to call you back, and you have to answer so I know you’re still okay, alright?”
Her voice is so squeaky and choked-up that I almost don’t hear her response. “Alright.”
Crap. If she’s that scared already, how is she going to hold him off until I can get to her? “Don’t give in, Allie, no matter what he says,” I say, wishing I could give her all the courage and strength in the world just so she could stand up to him. “Promise me you’ll fight back.”
I hang up, Allie’s terrified words ringing over and over again in my ears. I promise. I wonder if I said the right thing, making her promise to fight him. I only said it because I didn’t want her to just lie down and take the punches, willingly give in to him—but what if her defiance only makes him hurt her more?
I should’ve made her promise to run.
“Niall,” Harry says, “what was that all about?”
“Allie’s in trouble,” I say, already standing up from the table, my appetite forgotten in the anxiety pulsing through my blood. I keep seeing Allie’s bruised arms again and again in my head, reminding me what the cost is of waiting here too long. “I’ve got to go.”
“Trouble? What kind of trouble?”
“I’ll explain later,” I say, shoving my phone in my pocket. “Liam, give me the car keys.”
“Hang on, Niall, can’t you just wait to—”
“NO!” I yell. “ALLIE’S GETTING THE CRAP BEATEN OUT OF HER RIGHT NOW!”
Half the restaurant goes silent.
“Niall,” mutters Louis, with a glance at the silent restaurant patrons who are now staring at our table, “what in blazes are you talking about?”
“Her dad hits her,” I say through gritted teeth; the image of her bruises flashes through my mind again. Anxiety presses harder on my chest. It’s time to go. “Liam, can I please have those car keys?”
The boys just stare at me, speechless and dumbstruck. They don’t move or say anything at all and I’m on the verge of yelling at them again—who cares what the other people in the restaurant think, when Allie’s getting hit?—when Liam reaches into his pants pocket and tosses me the keys to the rental car.
“But you have to let me come too,” Liam says.
For half a second, I think about arguing, feeling that this is something I need to do alone, that Allie’s safety is my responsibility. But Liam could be a good person to have around; he’s strong and if Allie’s dad gets violent—which I figure is pretty likely—it’ll be good to have an extra set of hands around to hold him off until I can get Allie out.
“Fine,” I say, already starting to walk towards the door. “Zayn, call the police, will you? Give them Allie’s address, tell them to go there right away!”
Zayn still looks dumbstruck, but he pulls his phone from his pocket right away and starts dialing. As he puts his phone to his ear, he tells me, “Don’t do anything stupid, alright?”
“Of course not,” I say, but as Liam and I run out the front door and bolt for the car parked a block away, I can’t help thinking that willingly going to Allie’s house when I know full well her alcoholic, abusive dad is there in a towering rage is probably one of the stupidest things I could ever do.
EEEK! Im so excited! 112 hearts! awesome! thanks to the people how checked out my new story! pretty intense cliffhanger right there I know...ANY PREDICTIONS?! Please feel freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee to send me any questions, comments or complaints! Love ya!