I straightened my tie in the mirror & touched my hair with my fingertips.
“Boys, let’s go, we’re late!” exclaimed Liam, wringing his fingers because we were exactly 30 seconds behind schedule. Zayn rolled his eyes at me & continued examining himself in the mirror, touching up here & there.
“Give it a rest, grandpa, car’s not even here yet,” moaned Louis, tossing a sweater aside and pulling on a proper button down shirt.
“Not yet, but it’s pulling in now,” replied Liam, glancing out the window. “For goodness sake, we can’t be late to a charity event, think of all the kids..”
“He’s right,” I agreed, pulling Zayn away from a his can of hairspray. “C’mon mate, ten-year olds don’t care about your hair.”
He sniffed. “That’s what you think.”
We exited the dressing room & headed out into the car. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at a fancy banquet hall that was already filled with people mingling & drinking champagne. “Lot of spiffy people aren’t there?” commented Harry anxiously.
I grimaced sympathetically. “Hope they’re writing donation cheques to St. Edmund’s pediatric ward in between drinks.” We lot got out of the car & posed for a few pictures. We headed inside, and more than one of us breathed a sigh of relief.
Kids. Kids running everywhere. Among the socialites & celebrities were the patients of St. Edmund’s General Hospital, eating and playing games and having fun. “We’re not the youngest in the room anymore!” said Louis happily. He crouched down to talk to a little girl holding a pink balloon. “Hello, there. Shall you show me around then?”
Harry was towed away by yet another little girl, while Zayn & Liam followed a crowd to the food table. I felt a little tug on my sleeve. A little girl, maybe seven, smiled up at me. She was missing her front tooth. “Hi!” she chirped.
“Hello,” I said, kneeling down in front of her. “What’s your name?”
“Lisa,” she smiled. “I’m hungry.”
“Me too,” I agreed.
“Me three,” said another voice. I turned to look behind me and .. let’s just say, I had to take an extra breath to get my heartbeat back to the proper rhythm.
A petite girl who looked about eighteen stood in front of me. She had very fair, ivory skin & long, flowy auburn hair. Her eyes were a clear green and they seemed to pierce right through me.
She was wearing a royal blue dress, which she lifted slightly to kneel down beside me & talk the little girl. “Lisa, that’s quite sneaky, off to get food without me!”she teased.
“Oh, I’m sorry - ” I began to apologize hastily.
She laughed. “I’m only joking, go on & take her, I have to check on the others anyway.”
“The other what, sorry?” I asked, only to have her disappear quickly into the mingling crowd. I shrugged, “Alright, I suppose it’s just you & me, Lisa.”
“Food?” she asked, grinning her gap-toothed grin.
“Food,” I agreed, laughing. We crashed the snack bar where we met Liam & Zayn, along with a three other kids, two cancer patients & one with autism. We danced & played around until we were called up to stage to perform.
We sang “One Thing” & “What Makes You Beautiful,” of course pulling up tons of kids onstage and ending with a massive dance party. I noticed that the girl I’d met - uh, kind of met - before was in a crowd of children, laughing and dancing. She really as very beautiful & you could really tell the children just adored her.
Suddenly, the song changed to a slow song. She joined hands with a small little boy of maybe twelve, who had bandages around both his knee joints and wrists. They swayed to the music together, him laughing the whole time.
I plucked up the courage to walk up behind her and motion to him in a “May I?” sort of geture. He smiled and nodded & let go of her hands. She stopped dancing & turned around in confusion. “Would you like to dance?” I smiled, hoping to God it was as charming as I’d hoped it would sound.
She smiled back (hallelujah) & took my outstretched hand, placing her other hand delicately on my shoulder. I dropped my hand to the small of her back & we swayed to the music. “Nice to see you again,” she grinned. “Your performance was really great, everyone loved it.”
“Thank you,” I accepted. “Wish our crowd was always like this, these kids are the life of the party in my opinion.”
“Oh, tell me about it,” she laughed. “All these men in suits trying to look important. At least the hospital’s getting lots of attention.”
“Very true,” I agreed. “Men in suits terrify me.”
“You’re wearing a suit,” she pointed out.
I looked down. She was right. “Yeah, but I don’t like it.”
“Touchee,” she laughed. “You’re funny.”
I shook my head, “Nah, that’s Louis - have you met him?”
“Louis .. Louis .. why does that seem familiar - oh!” Her eyes lit up & she began to giggle. “Do you mean the man in stripes eating all the cotton candy?”
“He’s what?!” I exlcaimed.
“There’s a cotton candy machine for the children & he’s been parked beside it for a good hour & a half. The tall one keeps scolding him,” she chuckled.
“That’s Louis alright,” I laughed, shaking my head. To my dismay, the last few notes of the song played & faded into silence. She let go of my hand.
“Well, I don’t want to keep you - “
“No, can we - um, I mean did you want to go get drinks maybe?” I asked, tripping over my words a little. She couldn’t leave me yet.
“Okay,” she agreed. “I can do drinks.” We both walked over to a table & sat down with our glasses. She clinked her ice lightly.
“So you’re here because ..” I trailed, watching her carefully.
“Oh, I’m a volunteer at St. Edmund’s. I spend a lot of time with the terminally ill kids in the pediatric ward,” she smiled. “My father’s a beneficiary of the hospital too.”
“Do you like it?” I asked, genuinely interested.
“I really, really do,” she nodded. “I’m so glad they’re having fun tonight, it does them good to get out.”
“Yeah, I’ve met quite a few of them, they’re a laugh & a half,” I chuckled. Then I remembered, “By the way, you never told me your name.”
She rolled her eyes and said melodramatically, “Oh, my name, bequeathed upon me by my parents, probably my biggest despair.”
“It can’t be that bad, I mean I got stuck with Niall,” I pointed out.
“Niall’s a great name & it suits you!” she said, shaking her auburn head. “Mine’s loads worse. In fact, I’ll trade you. Call me Niall from now on.”
“Alright, Niall,” I played along. “If we’re going to trade, I’ll need to know your old one so I can practice introducing myself.”
She heaved a great sigh and pouted, “It’s .. Winifred. It’s horrible. Please call me Win.”
“First of all, not horrible. And secondly, I like it.”
“Win! Win! Come get our faces painted! I’m gonna be a lion!” called a little boy.
“Coming, Reggie,” she smiled. She turned to me, “I’m glad you like it, it’s yours - bye Winifred,” she winked. And with that, she was led away by the little boy, leaving me alone at my table.
TO BE CONTINUED
Woohoo! First chapter of the Niall story, hope you guys enjoyed.
If you wanna check out any of my other stories, click here.
Please let me know if you liked this - more coming very soon.
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