Zayn hadn’t really left Christine’s thoughts during the weekend, even though she had tried to not think of him. What good was it for her to worry if she had seen him in the alley or not? What was it to her? If it was him, she wouldn’t feel more guilty about not helping him because she doesn’t really know him.
The music competition had kept her mind from dwelling on the dark-haired boy for a day, but the during the next day, the night from two days ago comes back to the forefront of her mind. She keeps conjuring up the image of the guy – sometimes she’s convinced it’s Zayn, sometimes it is someone else – being beaten up by a group of boys who’re dressed just like him. The guilt grows heavier with every time she sees the image.
School, the next day, is a welcome relief. She’s too busy painting the human body to let herself get lost in her head. And then there’s, of course, Louis, who talks Christine’s ear off as per usual. That boy can talk about any given subject for hours. He says it’s because he doesn’t like silence.
When lunch rolls around, Christine has gone two whole hours without thinking about Zayn or the alley. But then the boy who has been plaguing her thoughts walks into the cafeteria and all Christine can think about once again is the black-haired boy.
Or to be more precise, the bruises on his arms and cheek. They’re a green color. The blue has faded away but they have not turned yellow yet. It looks really painful and Christine can’t help but suck in a breath through her teeth.
Louis hears this of course, and he looks up from the banana he’s peeling to look at Christine’s face, his brow furrowed in confusion. Then he follows her gaze and sees what she’s looking at.
“Hey, Chrissie, don’t stare,” the feathery-haired boy hisses. He jabs his friend in her side with his elbow when she doesn’t react.
“That hurt,” Christine yelps. She leans away from Louis even though she knows it doesn’t safeguard her from her friend’s elbows if he decides to use them again. She’s going to have to quicker than him if that happens. “And I’m not staring.”
“If you’re not staring, why are you then still looking at him when I’m talking to you,” Louis shoots back. Christine can feel his eyes burn the side of her face.
“I’m not… I mean… I’m just looking…” the blonde stutters, her cheeks quickly growing red. She tears her eyes away from Zayn, who’s now sitting down next to a blonde guy who gives him a pat on his shoulder. and fixes them in her hands. She couldn’t possibly look more guilty.
Christine knows Louis doesn’t like Zayn, he said as much when they were at the crater. He won’t like it if she tells him she thinks about the other boy constantly. He’ll probably think she’s being a girl and obsess about Zayn’s good looks.
Which isn’t true of course, well, it isn’t the whole of it in any case. It’s more that he fascinates her. Why did the guys beat him up? What did he do to bring so much aggression on himself?
And why does he wear his bruises with pride? When Zayn had walked into the cafeteria, his eyes hadn’t shied away from looking at people. There had been no shame in his dark irises when he had walked to his usual table with his head held high. She wants to know why.
But Louis won’t understand that of course, so Christine says, “I was looking at his bruises. Have you seen them?”
“Of course, I have,” Louis scoffs, not entirely in an unfriendly way. “They’re hard to miss. But I’m not staring at them and neither should you. Staring is impolite.”
Christine has to laugh because it’s Louis talking about being polite. It’s like a toddler talking about math or something. Both know nothing about their subject. It doesn’t make Christine love her friend any less of course.
“Don’t laugh at me!” Louis exclaims and when Christine turns her head to look at his face, she sees he’s pouting. It sends her into another bout of giggles. “I’m trying to be serious.”
“I know.” The blonde girl tries to school her face into a serious expression because her mother has taught her it’s impolite to laugh at men. She isn’t very successful.
Luckily for her, she’s saved from Louis scorn – Christine isn’t sure you can call it scorn what her friend does when people don’t take him seriously – by Niall sitting down at their table, a tray full of food balancing on one of his hands. The frown on Louis’s face disappears and instead a smile forms on his lips.
“What were you guys talking about?” the Irish boy asks as he sets his tray down. He’s not wearing a cap for a change.
“We were talking about Christine staring at Zayn. I told her it was impolite to stare.” Louis turns his eyes towards his friend and narrows them accusingly. “She laughed at me.”
“So, Christine has been impolite twice today,” Niall surmises, a playful tone to his voice. Louis isn’t going to get support from their new friend. “That’s not very ladylike.”
Louis must have heard the mirth in Niall’s voice too because he turns his eyes towards the other boy again and scowls at him, but with no heat to it, though. It’s a bit of a ridiculous look on him. “It’s not only bad to stare when a bird does it. When boys do it, it’s also impolite.”
“Bird?” Niall looks confused, his eyebrows knitting together as he furrows them. He’s still not used to Liverpudlian slang. “What’d you mean by bird?”
“You know, a girl,” Louis tells him with a wave of his hand in Christine’s direction. “It’s what we call girls over here.”
“A bit weird, but okay,” Niall says with a shrug of his shoulders.
Christine smiles at the Irish boy because she likes how comfortable he is around her and Louis. He has become part of their dynamic in the short period of two days they have known him. It seems like they’ve been friends for years.
“Why were you staring at Zayn?” Niall wants to know, prompting the blood to rise to Christine’s cheeks again. She really doesn’t understand why she keeps blushing.
“He’s got bruises,” she mutters before realizing Niall probably didn’t hear her. She clears her throat awkwardly and repeats her answer, this time, louder.
“Really?!” Niall laughs and shakes his head. He doesn’t seem surprised by what Christine just told him and of course, this makes her wonder if he knows something that she doesn’t.
“Why’s that funny?” Louis inquires.
Niall shrugs his shoulders and takes a bit out of the sandwich in his hand.
Is Niall going to leave it there? Keep Louis and Christine hanging?
“It’s funny because it reminds me if something that Jeff, a guy I worked with today, said. He told me a few interesting things about Zayn.”
“Like what?” Christine asks, not really careful about not sounding too eager but still hoping she doesn’t.
“Apparently, Zayn has an interesting method to get girls. At night, he and his friends get out to search for girls. When they find one Zayn likes, his friends harass the girl and he then comes to her rescue. The girl then falls in love with him, as he’s the knight in shining armor and all that, and after a while, she sleeps with him. He dumps them the next day. It’s all rumors of course. None of it true. But it is a funny coincidence that after Jeff told me, Zayn shows up with bruises.”
A heavy feeling settles in Christine’s stomach at Niall’s story, disbelieve finding a home in her heart as well. She can’t get her head around both Zayn being like that and that she desperately doesn’t want these rumors to be true.
It would explain why Zayn isn’t ashamed to show his bruises. He had gotten them because so he could convince a girl to sleep with him, which probably already happened since the fight was two days ago. Girls who go out alone at night are usually easy.
“I told you Zayn was bad news, Christine,” says Louis. His mouth is pulled up in one corner in a way that says ‘I told you so ‘ but his eyes are emotionless . “You really need to stay away from him.”
“Who says I want to get close to him?” Christine mutters defensively. She looks her friend straight in the eyes because she doesn’t want to appear guilty again.
“Your eyes say it,” Louis answers back, his eyes holding her gaze steadily. “You were openly staring at him only a few minutes ago.”
“I was not staring at him,” Christine says, through clenched teeth. She really doesn’t like Louis’s accusations. "For the second time, I was only looking at his bruises.”
“Sure you weren’t,” her irritating friend scoffs, one of his eyebrows raised in disbelieve. “And the world is flat and leaves grow green in Autumn.”
Christine takes a deep breath, holding herself back from replying. If she keeps denying, this conversation will continue on until their break is over and she really doesn’t want that.
Instead, she turns to Niall, who’s stopped eating his sandwich and is looking at her and Louis with cautious eyes, probably afraid Christine and Louis will start fighting.
“Niall, would you like to go to the cinema with us, tonight? We’re going to Lawrence of Arabia.”
Louis and Christine had agreed to go to the movies together, the Saturday they went to the music contest. Harry had protested at first, but when she had looked at Harry with her puppy dog eyes he had agreed to look after their mother tonight so they could go. She had thanked him with a kiss on his cheek, which had startled him, much to her amusement.
“I would like to if Louis doesn’t mind,” Niall tells Christine with a smile, but his eyes don’t lose all of their cautiousness. Things can still go south.
“I don’t mind,” Louis says, turning his head towards the blonde boy and smiles at him. “I think it’s nice you’re coming.”
There’s something weird about Louis’s face when he admits this. Christine can’t properly see Louis’s cheeks, but they seem to be a shade darker for some reason. And then there’s his body, which emits a nervous energy that she hasn’t sensed on him before. It is as if Niall going with them to the movies makes him nervous, but Christine can’t really understand why that would be.
“That’s good. I wouldn’t want you to not want me there.” Niall’s smile seems to be a little bit brighter and his eyes aren’t guarded anymore. “I will ask my aunt if I can come and I will call Christine with the answer.”
Christine and her two friends continue to talk about movies until the break is over. After having said goodbye, Christine and Niall go to Art History and Louis to Calligraphy. They’re going to meet up again at the end of the school day.
When the three friends walk home together there’s nothing weird between Louis and Niall, like Christine had feared there would be. The two of them continue the conversation there were having about movies before the school bell had cut it short and when they have said all the wanted to say on that subject, they move on to music.
Later that day, Louis comes ‘round Christine’s house to pick her up, as they’re going to walk to the movie theater together. He’s waiting in front of the doorway while Christine puts on a coat. When she’s dressed, she yells goodbye to Harry and when Harry has yelled at her to have fun, she leaves.
“I wonder what the cinema’s in Ireland are like,” Louis wonders as he and Christine walk side by side through the almost empty streets a few minutes later. The air is colder than it was when they walked home from the Academy when the sun was still high in the sky.
“I doubt they aren’t very different from ours,” the blonde girl replies. In her voice, it’s audible that she doesn’t really understand why her friend wants to talk about Irish cinemas.
“Is Niall coming?” is Louis’s next question, his voice seemingly uninterested but his restless eyes showing his nerves.
“Yes, he is,” Christine confirms. “Would you rather he didn’t? If you didn’t want him to come with us, you should have said so. He did ask.”
“No, no. I don’t not want him to come,” Louis quickly replies. He looks flustered, with his eyes opened wide and his hands flailing around. “Why do you think I don’t want him to come?”
“Because you seemed nervous about my answer.” Christine looks at her friend with narrowed eyes, warning him not to deny her observation. “Why would you be nervous if you weren’t afraid of the answer?”
Louis doesn’t reply, instead, he starts to walk quicker. Christine increases her pace too so she can keep up with him but doesn’t try to continue their conversation about Niall and his presence during their night out. It’s clear her friend doesn’t want to talk about it.
Niall is already standing in front of the theater when the two friends arrive. They’re both silent when they walk up to the Irish boy, not having talked for the past fifteen minutes. It really isn’t a good start of the night.
“I hope you weren’t waiting too long?” Christine asks, smiling at Niall. She’s once again reminded of how cute the younger boy is when she sees the redness of his cheeks. He must be really affected by the cold air.
“I’ve only been waiting ten minutes, so it’s alright,” he assures Christine while running a hand through his short hair, which is hanging over his forehead instead of standing up in its usual quiff. His face looks softer with his hair like that.
“Let’s get the tickets then,” Louis says, his voice laced with forced cheerfulness. Christine just hopes it will become genuine soon.
Louis goes first and Christine and Niall follow. The Irish boy talks about Ireland while they walk to the ticket booth and Christine listens with an interested ear. Louis doesn’t say anything.
After they’ve gotten the tickets, they go to where the snacks are sold because Niall wants to eat popcorn during the movie. Christine decides to buy some as well. Louis doesn’t get anything because he says he’s not hungry.
He must have changed his mind during the film because half an hour in, Christine senses him leaning away from her and when she turns her head to see what he’s doing, he leans back again and he has popcorn in his hand. Apparently, Niall had been willing to share his food with him.
The movie is fun and when Louis, Niall, and Christine walk out of the movie theater two hours later all of them are smiling from ear to ear.
“That was really fun,” Niall tells Christine and Louis, the tops of his ears a slight pink color. He puts his hands in his coat pockets and sways back and forth as he looks at his new friends. “We should really do it again.”
To Christine’s surprise, and her delight, of course, Louis agrees. Niall being along for the friends-night-out must not have been as bad as Louis apparently had feared. Maybe it will be the end of the weirdness between them. Christine really hopes so.
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