noting to myself to watch this over again

Not Strangers Anymore (Part 2)

Originally posted by sensualkisses

Warnings: swearing, plain ol’ sex, making out (again, is it even a warning??)

A/N: OH MY GOD!!! First of all, I am so glad you all liked Not Strangers Anymore. That got over 200 notes!! I am so proud of myself. And, I got a bunch of new followers, so thank you for that. Many of you asked for a Part 2 so here you go. If you want me to continue to write for Dylan and his other characters, please let me know. XOXO

P.S. If you haven’t see Dylan in The First Time, go watch it right now! It is amazing.

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Paper Hearts

A stupidly fluffy SnowBaz fic for the Carry On Valentine’s Celebration


Simon

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Meet me in Room 172.

           I refold the note, noticing how the paper has already settled into well-known creases since this morning.  It’s not the first anonymous note I’ve gotten over the past week, but it’s the first time the writer has made a move beyond waxing poetic.

           The Watford halls are sickening today, even to me.  I understand the appeal of decorating for Christmas, but Valentine’s Day?  It just seems a little patronizing to adorn the walls in that many paper hearts, whether the hearts can magically float around people’s heads or not.  And it’s not that I’m a cynic, but Valentine’s Day this year was set to be a difficult one for me, since I no longer have Agatha to dote upon.

           But as I slip the little creased note back into my pocket and make for Room 172, the paper hearts seem less mocking and my own beating heart feels just a bit lighter.

           When I reach the door I falter, doubts rushing to my head.  What if there’s no one there?  And what if there is?  Then what?

           But I turn the knob and shove open the door.

           And immediately I see who’s waiting and I hate the thrill that bolts through me, and I wish that I had turned back.

           Baz’s face goes red when he sees me and I wonder briefly if I’ve seen him this angry before, so enraged that he turns colour.

           “What,” he seethes, “are you doing here?”

           “What am I doing here?” I spit back, my heart sinking and racing at once.  “What are you doing here?”

           “None of your business,” he growls, sitting on one of the desks and pointedly looking anywhere but at me.

           Everything in me is boiling.  I’m angry and I’m disappointed at once, but I puff up my pride and stalk over to another desk and sit down to wait.  Maybe the fates will be on my side for once and the mystery writer will reveal themselves yet.

           Although, would that be the fates with me or against me?  Because everything right now is looking like Baz wrote the note, and sitting here in the empty classroom full of paper hearts with him just a few desks away, it’s getting harder to ignore the buzzing under my skin and harder to ignore the fact that he is the common denominator.

           The clock ticks away like a drumbeat and I stare at the door, hoping, praying for something to happen.

           “Why are you here?”

           I throw a glance over at Baz, who has turned his head so that he can see me without looking at me.  “If you must know,” I reply sharply, “I’m waiting for someone.”

           “Really?”

           “You think I’m lying?”

           “I think you’re pathetic.”

           I have to squeeze my eyes shut and count to ten like Penny told me before I can breathe evenly again.  “What’s your excuse, Basil?” I grit through my teeth. “Why do you have to be here?  Has no one invited you across the threshold?” It’s a lame dig, but I know it will be effective, whether he shows it or not.  If there’s anything I’ve learned from being his enemy it’s that vampire jokes are a no-no.

           “I told you, it’s none of your business.”

           “Can’t you take your business elsewhere, then?”

           “No.”

           “Arse.”

           “Prat.”

           When I turn to throw another insult at him, the sun through the window catches the side of his face and turns his eyes to silver… and the insult dies in my throat.

           Beautiful.

           I try to stomp on the thought.  No.

           But it’s too late.  

           It’s there.  It’s taken root.

           And the longer I look at him the more it flowers.

           Another thought bubbles up to the surface almost tentatively.  Are you sure it wasn’t him?

           As much as I know I should try to extinguish that notion along with the previous, I let it linger.  If I think back on it, I don’t think I ever have seen him angry enough to turn red.

           So maybe he’s not angry.  

           Maybe it’s something else.

           When he meets my eye, I’m still staring at him, and his gaze darts away again, but his cheeks.

           They go pink, and there’s no anger in his eyes.  Only uncertainty.

           His silver eyes.

           And all at once, I decide to change everything.

Baz

“Alright, Baz,” comes Simon’s soft voice, “you can drop the act.”

           I turn to look at him again, and it’s like looking at the sun because I can feel his image scorching onto my retinas.  Meeting Simon Snow’s gaze is something that can only be done in doses, for me at least, I don’t know why.

           Well, I know why, but I can’t logically explain it.

           “Act?” I repeat dumbly.

           He slides off the desk and takes a slow step in my direction, and even that is enough to set my heart hammering.  “Yes,” he says, “act.”

           “I don’t know what -”

           “I think you do,” he interrupts me, “I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.” He pauses for a breath, like he’s second-guessing himself, but then he meets my eyes again.  “I think you wrote the notes.”

           My brain screeches to a halt and nothing makes sense.  “Notes,” I reply, and I hate myself because the boy I’m head-over-heels for is actually not at my throat and I sound like a parrot.

           He seems to get a burst of confidence.  “It’s okay, Baz,” he goes on, still slowly advancing, “I don’t mind, but you could have just said something.”

           I have nowhere to go.  I want to leap up from my spot and run, but I can’t.  Even in all this, my pride wins.  I’m on a desk in the middle of an empty classroom, and I’m cornered.  “Said something,” I stammer, “about what?”

           He shrugs, right in front of me now.  “Anything from any of the notes, which were unbelievably mushy, by the way. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

           “Hang on,” I stop him, unable to keep from shrinking back.  “You’ve been getting notes?”

           “All week,” he grins, “though I didn’t realize it was you until I got here.  I have to say, that last one was weak poetry. I mean, ‘roses are red, violets are blue’?”

           Something in my brain clicks and I swear I hear a ding.  “‘Meet me in Room 172’,” I finish with a sinking feeling.

           His face lights up like all the stars in the sky are in his eyes.  “I knew it was you,” he murmurs, and – Crowley – his gaze flickers to my mouth, no more than a foot away.

           And I want it.  I want to keep quiet and let him close the distance.  Hell, I want to do it myself.

           But I reach into my pocket and pull out the scrap of paper from inside.  “Then I hate to tell you this, Snow,” I say quietly, my heart breaking, “but I didn’t do it.”

           He looks away from my eyes for the first time and his brow scrunches up when he sees the note in my hand.  He takes it from me and unfolds it, his eyes scanning over the words again and again, the same little three-line poem.  I watch as he checks his pockets, finding an identical note in his jeans, and the penny drops.

           “It wasn’t you,” he says, almost to himself, and his face falls.

           “I’ve been getting anonymous notes all week, too,” I confess.  “It’s a trick on both of us.”

           His hands are shaking.  “Why would anyone do this?” he asks quietly, his face reddening, and I can’t tell whether it’s with embarrassment or anger or sadness, or all of the above.

           “I don’t know,” I stand at last and saunter over to lean against the wall, grateful for some air that isn’t charged with proximity.  “People are dicks, I guess.”

           “And you swear that you had nothing to do with it?”  He won’t look at me at all now.

           “I swear.”

           He squeezes his eyes shut and I half expect tears to appear on his cheeks, but he just nods once and turns to march towards the door.

           An image flashes through my brain, of his eyes boring into mine, of how they flickered down to my flustered mouth.

           And suddenly I decide that I’ve had enough of this.

           “Simon.”

           He stops dead in his tracks.  “What?” he says without looking at me.

           “I’m sorry.”

           “What for?  You said you didn’t do anything.”  His voice sounds sore, like he is fighting tears after all.

           “I’m sorry that you thought it was me,” I tell him, “because…” I trail off, unsure how to finish.

           “Because what?”

           I wish he would look at me.  “I hate to ask, but did you mean any of that?”

           “About not minding if it was you?”  He sighs like he’s given up.  “Yes. I meant all of it.”

           He meant all of it.  From the words to the glance at my lips.  All of it.

           He shoots me a red-faced glare at my silence.  “Happy?”

           I stare back, and I can feel a big stupid grin bubbling up.  “Yes, actually.”

           That catches him off-guard.  “Why?”

           “Because I wouldn’t mind if it was you, either,” I blurt out before I can lose my nerve.

           His eyebrows finally un-furrow and he meets my eyes properly.  I know that I’m turning pink again, but as he starts to step towards me, I hold his gaze.

           When he’s right in front of me again, close enough that I have to look down to see him, he whispers “You mean…”

           One of the paper hearts littering the room suddenly jumps up off a desk, and I don’t know if they’ve been charmed to target fools in love or not, but it starts to dance around my head.

           Simon chuckles at the heart.  “Is that a yes?”

           I allow myself a tempered version of the big stupid grin.  “You could say that.”

           The heart swoops in front of my eyes, and I lazily wave it away.

           Simon stands on tiptoe and plucks the heart from the air by my eyes, and we’re no further than a breath apart.

           And then he leans in the rest of the way.

Agatha

Penny squeezes my hand hard when they finally fall together, and I squeeze back.  Stealthily she snaps a silent photo on her phone, and I make a mental note to get her to send it to me later.  The fruits of our labours.

           We step back from the open door of Room 172 as quietly as we can, but I doubt we need to worry.  Simon and Baz are both far too occupied to notice us.

           Penny keeps hold of my hand as we make a break for it, waiting until we’re around several corners before speaking.

           “Damn,” she grins at me, “we are good.”

           All I can do is grin back, still holding her hand as we stroll down the hallway, kicking up clouds of red paper hearts.

Love is... a concerto in A Major - K622

By: @thegirlfromoverthepond

My deepest thanks to @titaniasfics for her help in betaing this story :) thank you so much, lady :)

the awesome art is done by the so gifted @akai-echo.

She comes every Friday afternoon, taking the girl with curly hair to her flute lesson.

Every Friday I watch as she passes before the windows of my class, talking to her daughter, laughing.

One day in September, I heard her laughter through the now-open windows, and I swear, i’ve never heard music so pure.

I know it’s pitiful. I know that i shouldn’t be completely infatuated with the mother of one of the kids we teach to, but I can’t help it.

Her husband is the luckiest man alive.

Keep reading

the equation of love (pt. 5)

Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Pt. 3 | Pt. 4 | Pt. 5 | Pt. 6 | Pt. 7 | Pt. 8 | Pt. 9

→scenario: When you met Yoongi in a club, you thought it was fate that brought the two of you together. But after you walked into your college math class for the very first time, you weren’t so sure anymore.

→genre: smut | fluff | angst

→word count: 8,075

Keep reading

Juice Ortiz Journals

A/N: Request from @wiild-nirvanaaa
Juice drops Abel off to preschool for a week, finding himself attracted to Abel’s teacher. Shenanigans ensue. I had so much fun writing this, I hope you like it, lovely! No warnings :)


Monday, 12th February, 10:00am, convenience store parking lot

Dear diary,

Just met my future wife. She is made of sunshine and I’m already in love with her.

I got asked to take Abel to school this morning because everyone was busy. I thought I could just drop him off and head back to TM but I’m now lovesick, humiliated and eating a box of shame donuts in the carpark of the convenience store.
Why did I think it was a good idea to tell his teacher, Miss Jones, that I was available? She only asked me where Jax and Tara were, and I told her they were busy with work this week and needed a hand getting Abel to school. That would have been enough, but then she asked me for my name. I said, and I quote, “Mr Single & Ready to Mingle”.
I should have told her I was “Mr Idiot and Desperate.” That would have been more accurate.
Thankfully she laughed and I had a moment to recover when she said I could call her Max. I told her she could call me Juice, and managed not to say she could “call me anytime”.

Oh God, I’ve eaten five donuts and now I have “Me & Mrs Jones” stuck in my head.
I’m going to have to move towns now. Excommunicate myself from SAMCRO. They’d never let me transfer as a Nomad once they hear about this, they’ll all be dead from laughter. 

Monday, 10:00pm, still thinking about my secret shame

Maybe I can get Happy to mercy kill me, as a favour.

Tuesday, 13th February, 1:00pm, TM Garage, hiding under a car pretending to work

Dear diary,

Had to take Abel again today. Jax asked if it would be alright if I took Abel to school all week, and because I’m a glutton for punishment, I said yes.
Max didn’t say anything about my misfortune of tongue yesterday, so I assumed she must be some sort of angel. She sure looks like one.
Brown, wavy hair, pretty pale skin, and she smiles a lot. Not like, mentally deranged, unblinking smiling. Genuine smiling, blinking the right amount. It turns me in to an idiot.

Not an idiot like that time I fed that dog meth and it bit Tig’s behind, just an idiot where my brain doesn’t brain anymore and my mouth doesn’t mouth anymore.
I told her I would be dropping off Abel all week. As I was leaving she asked me to remind Jax and Tara to send a paint shirt in with Abel tomorrow as they were painting Valentine’s Day cards.
I said I would let them know, and if they needed someone to come play Cupid, I looked great in a diaper. She laughed and I’m pretty sure it was because she thought it was funny, and not because she was scared of me and was trying to keep me pacified.
I mean, I did look fetching in a diaper, but it’s not something you say to any sane person you were trying to impress.
Then again, I’m not sane, but I only ate 3 shame donuts today, so that’s a win.

Wednesday, 14th February, 11:15am, clubhouse

Dear diary,

I’ve never felt more ashamed in my life. 

I felt like the universe was sending me a sign that since Max hadn’t called the authorities on me for my performance the last few days, it meant that she liked me. I figured that since it was Valentine’s Day, I would make a small, sweet gesture. If she liked it, then it would confirm my suspicions and I would ask her out the next morning.
It pains me to recount this, diary, but you have to take the good with the bad. You don’t have triumphs without trials. When you go through hell, just keep going. If ‘plan A’ doesn’t work, there’s 25 other letters in the alphabet.

When did you become a writer for Hallmark, Juicy Boy? - Chibs

Still Wednesday, 11:35am, locked in the clubhouse bathroom, Chibs swearing at me through the door

Just beat Chibs over the head with my journal and now I’m hiding out so I have some privacy to write about my pain without being killed.

So I decided to compose a poem for Max to tell her how much I liked her without actually telling her to her face. Because if I’ve learnt anything, someone can’t reject you if you’re not there to hear it. You just avoid any area of town they happen to frequent and pretend like nothing happened.
I taught the poem to Abel, rehearsing it in the car all evening while he was eating dinner and on the way to school in the car. Jax and Tara had invited me over to thank me for helping with Abel.
Jax thought it was weird that I was getting his kid to be my wingman, but Tara thought it was cute, and we all know who the real genius in that relationship is.
(Hint, it’s not that blond ferret.)

It was game time, Abel had repeated the poem perfectly to me and I had given him a copy of it written down in case he got stage fright. I was just gonna get him to give her the note, but I thought it was more romantic coming from the kid.
On the note I had put “Wanna get dinner this Friday night? Yes/No”. Abel just had to give it over to her and bring it back with her answer.
Instead of walking him right up to the room, I hung back a little. I would go unnoticed, but I stood close enough to the door that I could hear. He must have gotten stage fright, because he just grabbed the note and gave it straight to her. I waited, watching as Max opened the note, ready to pat myself on the back.
Instead, she scrunched up her face, signature smile completely gone. Max looked up, searching for me, and came over.
“Juice, I’m sorry, but this is frankly immature. And having Abel deliver this for you is grossly inappropriate. If anything like this happens again, I’ll be reporting it.”
Before I had the chance to say anything, she turned and walked in to the classroom.

I walked out of the school and got in the car, so confused as to what went wrong. I hadn’t gone with the dirty limerick Chibs had taught me, so when I opened the note, I was shocked to see that it was something all together different than the one I had intended to pass on.
It was a crude stick figure drawing, of both myself and Max in a very R-rated position. I had to congratulate the artist, for their accuracy of my mohawk and tattoos on a stick figure, but deduct points for the over-exaggeration of Miss Jones’ breasts.

After my shock had worn off, I realised who had done it. Jax. He was the only Son who knew of my plan.
The betrayal cut deep, and I sped away from the school to the store, buying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, dipping my shame donuts in to my shame ice cream. 
If it wasn’t going to cause my untimely death, I would have gone to the clubhouse and murdered our prez right then and there.
Instead, I stuck his hand in a bowl of warm water while he napped on the couch in the clubhouse. Take that, Pisspants Teller.

Wednesday, 11:42am, still locked in the clubhouse toilet, Chibs and now Jax swearing at me through the door.

This is my home now. I’m never getting out of here alive. Worth it.

Thursday, 15th February, 5:15pm, my room, clubhouse

Dear diary,

There is literally no greater romantic genius than myself.

I managed to get out of the bathroom, relatively unscathed. I’m on bathroom cleaning duties for a week, but I’ll get a prospect to do it.

I went to the hospital to visit Tara to get some romantic advice. I told her about what happened, and after Tara called and scolded Jax for 15 minutes, she told me that she would be happy to call the school and speak to Max to explain.
I told her how kind it was, but I wouldn’t want poor Abel to have to leave the school because his father is a sadist.
Tara said that I could go tomorrow with Abel to explain myself, and she was certain that flowers and the temptation of a romantic, quiet dinner at a small restaurant was sure to work.

Today, diary, I would make my final grand gesture before giving up on love.
I woke up and drove over to Clay and Gemma’s house early in the morning to swipe a few bunches of flowers from Gemma’s garden. I wanted fresh flowers but the store didn’t open until 8:30.
I went before the sun came up so I wouldn’t be busted. Gemma would have killed me, but that was a risk I was willing to take in the name of love.

I picked up Abel and we drove to the school. I made sure to congratulate Abel on his successful mission yesterday, because even though his father is a treacherous hot mess crapbag, the kid did good. I wasn’t going to be the one responsible for his potential future self esteem issues just because his dad is a-

Come on, Juice, the picture was hilarious. Also, don’t cuss me out in your little diary, I am your prez and I can put you on bathroom duties for two weeks if I want. - Jax

As I was saying, I drove my hilarious, majestic, king-like friend’s heir to his place o’ learnin’. We got to the classroom, and Max’s face was one of slight disappointment, but she seemed to be a lot calmer than the previous morning.
This is how it went down.

Juice: Max, before you say anything, let me apologise for yesterday. I don’t want to name names, but the person behind the note you received thought that by giving you theirs instead of the one I had prepared, they would display wit and humour. Please forgive him, as I have. His mother didn’t hug him enough. If you w-

Ortiz, you’re full of shit. Abel told me you begged her to forgive you and you asked her out to McDonalds, you tight arse. You’ve been hanging out with Happy too often. Oh, and you’re on toilet duty for a month. I told the prospects to tell me if you try get them to do it. - Jax

Oh my God, Jax, get out of my room!! I didn’t ask her to McDonalds, you redneck! I asked her to the burger joint on Main Street. I wanted to keep it simple, so there was no pressure and we had a comfortable place to get to know each other.

But she already knows you’re a twat. What else could she possibly need to know? - Chibs

Well you can both go screw yourselves, she said yes, that I was sweet and we’re going out tomorrow night. Success!

_______________________________________________________________________

Tagged for: @codenamekaraortiz @acatandatypewriter @a-daydreamers-stories@sarcastic-lunatic @soafanficluvr1 @fortheloveofthesoa@khyharah @samcrolivesforever @redwoodog @calumonoxide@ineedthesons @chaosmieu @mentalfictionleftmyassbehind@dolphingoddess81 @telford-ortiz-teller @thegoodthebadandtheempty@jade770 @supernaturalanarchy @im-gay-for-chibbs-juiceyandtiggy @fangirl–of-everything @realpowertwix

Haunted by Your Ghost

Summary: You left and Shawn is broken in pieces. It’s in Shawn’s POV

a/n: Okay so this will be a 3 part story!! :) Thanks to @firsttimeihadsomethingtolose​ aka my loves for giving me so much inspiration to write this and always encourages my love for Shawn. ilysm jasmine <3 my requests are open. And the italics in there means it’s his flashback.

masterlist | part 2 | part 3


Your name: submit What is this?

For hours, I was just tossing and turning in our bed. The bed that was where I’ve seen all of her, felt her be the closest we’ve ever been. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to get up to get a drink of vodka to help me fall asleep. I opened the highest cupboard to get a glass, my eyes didn’t catch her favorite tea mug. I always put it up there so that she won’t be able to reach it, and she’d have to ask me to reach it. After a couple days, that’s when it finally hit me. She’s not coming back. 

The couch did catch my eyes. The couch she sat on when she decided to leave. On that couch, I held her body close to me so many times. My chest was aching. I put my hand on my chest, is this what a heartbreak feels like?

Keep reading

Note to self never watch the perks of being a wallflower ever again, it will only bring you pain and sadness. I’m far too much like Charlie, except I have no interests and I never go out.

Nemesis Mine

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12

Chapter 13. Simon.

The worst thing about it all is that I miss Baz.

I keep thinking if only. If only the last few days hadn’t happened, and I didn’t know, and Baz was actually just my roommate who liked me. If only he wasn’t my arch-nemesis.

And it’s also true what I said to him; it doesn’t have to be like this. I don’t think he was faking it when he was being sweet and sarcastic Baz. The chemistry between us, that was real, too.

But it’s just so fucking useless to be thinking like this.

I keep expecting him to do something. Now that he knows where I sleep, I keep expecting him to take the opportunity to finally end me. It’s only the knowledge that he cares about his degree and would probably be questioned if his ex-boyfriend and roommate suddenly disappeared that allows me to get any sleep at night. We don’t speak to each other or look at each other if we can help it, and we both continue our superhero duties as if nothing has happened. The only difference is that now when one of us is hurt, we either avoid the room until we’ve healed, or we suffer in silence.

I prefer when he leaves the room. It’s hard, sometimes, to fight the instinct to walk over and try to comfort him, try to make it all better. I tell myself that it’s just my natural response as a superhero, and that any feelings I have left will disappear with time. The problem is that I’m still thinking of them as two separate people, Baz my roommate and Basilton my nemesis. I have to get used to the fact that the Baz who liked me doesn’t exist.

Keep reading

After years of tutoring and studying many hours every day for over 7 years, I know that studying can be a horrible experience if you don’t like studying out of a book. People spend hours reading and reading, but at the end of the day they ask themselves “what did I just learn.. I forgot it all again”, resulting in bad grades, a low self-esteem, stress, and so on. Education system GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, but until then, here are some tips that I always gave to my students and to myself!

Watch YouTube videos
While you watch YouTube videos, take notes and really LISTEN. Don’t just stare at your screen, maybe even pause it every 30 seconds and think about what the teacher in the video talked about. Do you understand it? If not, scroll back and listen to it again! The goal is to understand it, not to know it.

Make a PowerPoint or other slide show presentation
Pretend like you are the teacher! Try to teach your “class” about the subject. You’ll find out that you understand some parts, but others not so much. Try to figure out what you don’t really understand yet, and watch a YouTube video about it, then try to explain it again. The goal is to be able to teach your “class” about the subject with full confidence! Maybe even ask friends or parents if they can ask questions about it!

Draw!
By visualizing what you’ve just learned, you see it in a whole different way. Instead of linking words together, draw connections and systems of how it works. Of course this depends on the subject, this is easier to do with biology than with mathematics, but when you’re drawing you’re really focusing on the small details. These small details are super important! And a drawing is easier to remember than a text. The goal is to see connections, and spend more time focusing on understanding the smaller parts.

Read the text out loud, and record it
By reading it out loud, you make it real! Often when we read quickly in our heads we skip parts or we just start thinking about something else. By actually reading, you are a lot more focused and understanding what you’re reading is much easier. And record it, then listen back to it when you’re in bed, or whenever you want to listen to it! Talk slowly and emphasize the important words! The goal is to get familiar with the terms, and the more you listen to it, the better you will remember it, obviously :)

-
Hang in there!! 💕 Let’s make 2017 a fantastic year academically! Good luck with all your tests, I really hope I will help you with these tips!

Research {IzuOcha}

I am sinfully behind on IzuOcha week and I hate myself.


Scritch. Scritch-scratch. Scritch-scratch-scribble-scuff. Scribble-scribble-scribble. 

Ochako raises her head, looking up from her cooking. He’s at it again. She watches her husband hunched over a large textbook at the dining room table. He is murmuring to himself, his knuckles pressed to his lips as his other hand quickly jots down notes. She hasn’t seen him like this in a while, not since high school, and that was ten years ago. Of course, Izuku doesn’t realize he’s being watched. He never does when he gets like this, focused and wrapped up in his own world. Smiling to herself, Ochako supposes some things never change. She turns off the burner and leans back against the counter with her hands on her pronounced baby bump. 

“What are you doing?” She asks, cocking her head to the side. 

Izuku is still muttering and flipping pages. She strolls over his side and peeks over his shoulder. She raises an eyebrow when she is met with a slew of medical terminology and highly detailed and accurate representation of the fetal development. 

“Preeclampsia?” Ochako says, testing the word on her tongue, “What does that mean?”

Izuku jumps, “Ochako!”

She smile and waves at him, “Hi.”

“H-Hi.”

“What are you reading?”

He blushes, scratching at his cheek, “It … it’s a medical book about … pregnancy.”

Ochako stares at his notes and his drawings of a pregnant woman featuring permanently rosy cheeks. Izuku blushes harder when his wife picks up his notebook, thumbing through the pages thoughtfully. She turns to the front of the journal. Pregnancy Guide Vol. 4.

“There are there three others?” Ochako asks. 

She takes a seat on Izuku’s lap, and he automatically wraps his arm around her waist, placing his large, scarred hand over her stomach. He looks away from her, but his thumb still runs smoothly over her skin. Ochako turns her head to face Izuku. 

“So how many books have you read?”

“J-Just another small one, and I’m only halfway through this one.”

“Oh,” Ochako hums, a blush rising to her cheeks as she carefully holds the journal in her hands.

“Y-You think it’s weird, don’t you?” Izuku mumbles. 

“What? No!" 

Ochako stands and straddles his waist as gracefully as a six-month pregnant woman can. She wraps her arms around his neck, still holding the notebook and pressing her round stomach against Izuku’s toned abs. Izuku places his hands at his wife’s lower back with a small blush on his cheeks. Ochako lifts his chin and presses a sweet kiss to his lips. 

“I think it’s great, Izuku!” she says with a beaming smile on her face; she leans in and rests her forehead against his, “I think it’s great that you care so much about our baby.”

“Of course I care and I care about you too. I just … I just want the two of you to be okay.”

Ochako pecks him on the nose and grins, “I think we’re going to be okay. I mean we do have the number one hero looking out for us.”

Izuku blushes as he looks at his brilliant wife. She unwraps her arms from his neck and begins to flip through the book again, half in awe and half confused by his notes. Ochako stops on one page, running the pad over Izuku’s writing. 

“So will you teach me about this stuff?” she asks, showing him a page, “I know some, but I don’t think I know as much as you.”

He blinks, “O-Of course! Where do you want to start?”

“Um, here,” she points to one of the longest words one the page, “What does this mean?”

He nods and begins to explain the ins and outs like he was the one who wrote the book on it. Ochako listens attentively sitting in her husband’s lap as she looks at his hand drawn diagram. Izuku blushes slightly while he continues to rattle information, noting the slight furrow in Ochako brow and pout in her lips as she concentrates on his little lesson. Every now and then, she pipes up, asking a few questions to quick Izuku quickly answers. Ochako nods and flips to another page. Holding it to her chest, she timidly looks up at Izuku.

“Do you mind teaching me a bit more?”

Izuku smiles and nods. The two of them sit in the dining room together, his hands gently supporting her lower back and her hands still holding the fourth volume of Izuku’s Pregnancy. Minutes bleed together and, Ochako leans against her husbands chest, her peckishness forgotten as she listens to all of his research.

Look At Me

Written For: @mancerelle

Written By: @wokeuptired

Pairing: Niall/OFC

Word Count: 13,000

Warnings: language

Summary:

Minna moves to LA to remake her name, the way she wants it. But writing an album isn’t as easy as it sounds. When she finds Niall Horan’s songwriting journal in a recording studio, she thinks her luck might finally be turning around. 

Track #1: Your Eyes

The first time I had my heart broken, it was a lie.

It aired in high-definition, and everyone was watching. I was wearing red fishnets under denim cutoff shorts and black Converse, and after he dumped me, I dumped a pitcher of lemonade over his head. The episode was called “Minna and the End of the Boy Next Door.” Not a month later, Target reproduced my entire outfit in their kids’ line.

The second time I had my heart broken, nobody was meant to see it, but it was on the cover of US Weekly anyway.

I was 17 years old and went to prom at the high school that I would’ve attended had I not been starring in my own television show for most of my adolescence. I wore a navy blue dress, strapless but still modest, and my corsage was a pale blue that matched my date’s boutonniere. He was my mom’s best friend’s son, and I’d had a crush on him since I was 10. I’d met dozens of celebrities, even shared my first kiss with one on camera, but I knew Jake was the one for me.

Like any other teenage girl, I imagined that prom would be perfect. I would dance with the boy of my dreams, he’d kiss me on the dance floor underneath a spinning disco ball, and I’d lose my virginity to him in a hotel room that night. That last bit was a fantasy I knew wouldn’t come true, of course, since I had a reputation to uphold. I was expecting a PG night—but a lovely night, nonetheless.

What I wasn’t expecting was for Jake to ditch me as soon as we arrived at prom so that he could spend the evening with the girl he was actually interested in. I wasn’t expecting a group of girls I once thought were my friends to gather around me and tease me to the point of tears. I wasn’t expect to flee the venue with mascara streaking down my cheeks, and I certainly wasn’t expecting paparazzi to catch the moment on camera.

Now, the power’s in my hand. I’m the one calling the shots, deciding what the public gets to see and what gets to remain mine.

And it’s much harder than I thought.

“Let’s take it from the top,” Candice says for what has to be the fourth time in the past half an hour. She taps her pencil against her notepad and smiles at me kindly. It doesn’t help quell the anxiety bubbling up in my stomach.

I set my guitar down on the floor and shake my head. “Let’s just call it a day. Start fresh with something else tomorrow.”

She raises her eyebrows, but doesn’t say anything. I know what she’s thinking: do you have something else? Anything else? Something that isn’t an absolute piece of shit?

I’ve been at this for three weeks now, paying for a studio that I can’t afford and playing the same notes over and over again in the hopes that they’ll suddenly start sounding like something that labels will want to distribute and radio stations will want to play. It isn’t getting any easier.

Who knew songwriting would be so difficult? Who knew that it would be this hard to find some bit of myself that’s interesting enough, relatable enough, to set to music and share with the world? Who knew I’d be so terrible at this that not even award-winning songwriter and my best friend, Candice Willard, would be able to help me?

Candice glances at her watch. “Let’s take a break, half an hour? Get some food, some air, Min. That’ll help. Get out of your head for a minute. Get out of this room.”

“Sure,” I say, forcing a smile for her benefit. I keep it on my face until she leaves the room, the door clicking shut behind her.

Alone in the room, I sink down into my chair and put my head in my hands. This is everything my mother was afraid of: that I would fail. That my history with Wombat, my reputation as a teeny bopper child star, would make people wary to work with me. That I wouldn’t be able to get where I wanted to be quickly, that I’d become dejected and give up. I can already imagine what my mom will say when I tell her what’s happened: You gave it your best shot, honey, but maybe it’s time to pursue other avenues.

Just when I’m about to text Candice and tell her that we’ve got to pack up and head back to LA, something jabs me in the back. Grateful for the momentary distraction, I reach behind the couch cushion and pull it out.

It’s a leather-bound book, worn but not old. I flip through it briefly, and when I don’t recognize the scrawl inside as Candice’s, I turn to the inside cover.

Property of Niall Horan
Don’t steal, ya wanker.

Shit. My first instinct is to stuff the journal back in the couch and pretend I never saw it. There’s something about the worn edges that tells me that this book means something. Whatever’s inside it is important. I don’t deserve to be holding it in my hands.

It’s not that Niall Horan is a genius or anything—his music is good, sells well, but isn’t anything particularly original. But Niall has what I don’t: he has the secret something that’s gotten him success in this industry. He sells records and plays nighttime talk shows and doesn’t seem miserable as he does it.

When I first told my mom I was coming to LA after graduation to make a record, she told me I was crazy. She told me she didn’t send me to college so that I could end up right where I was headed if I never left Wombat.  If she had things her way, I would still be living in Los Angeles, playing a version of myself on tv and dodging paparazzi on street corners in my free time. Back then, when “Minna and the…” was the highest-rated show on the Wombat Channel and I had extensions in my hair, the tabloids printed a story every other week about my mother and me:

Minna Locke’s mother is the puppetmaster!

Minna and the… stage mom from hell!!!

From West Virginia to West LA: Minna and Marla Locke, the Biggest Divas in town!

And so on and so forth. The tabloids weren’t completely incorrect: it was my mother’s pushing and shoving that got me an audition at Wombat in the first place, and it was pressure from her that kept me doing the show every time I wanted to quit.

Those times were plentiful. Having your adolescence broadcast in high-definition for all cable subscribers to see is no walk in the park. By age 16, I was tired of playing a fictionalized version of myself in a world where the worst thing that ever happened was when I didn’t make the cheerleading team and had to be the school mascot instead. I was tired of singing trite, contrived, meaningless songs that played on endless loop on Wombat Radio but never gleaned me any actual notoriety as a singer. I was ready to be done with “Minna and the…” and never look back.

Which is why, as soon as I got my GED, I told the producers we were on our last season, I applied for college, and I got the hell out of dodge.

Here’s what my mother doesn’t understand: this time, I’m doing things on my own terms. I’m making the record I want to make, the way I want to make it…

…which would be easier if I knew what kind of record I wanted to make. If I knew what I wanted to say. If I knew, after all these years playing television Minna and running away from her when I wasn’t playing her, who Minna Locke actually was.

But Niall Horan—he knows who he is. He’s a golf-loving, folk-singing ex-boybander who doesn’t know how to use punctuation, and he’s all of those things unabashedly. So maybe, I think, looking at Niall’s journal, maybe this is an opportunity.

But that thought doesn’t stop me from stuffing it back in the couch cushion when Candice comes back in the room.


Track #2: Evidence of Me

That night, I sit in my rented studio apartment in Studio City, the one that I can’t afford, and stare at the cover of Niall’s journal.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that Niall is recording at the same studio as me. I use the studio in the mornings, so he must use it in the late afternoons and into the evening. I didn’t check with reception to confirm because I didn’t want to seem creepy, but that has to be how his journal ended up in the couch. He must’ve left it behind last night. And now it’s in my hands.

When I first found the thing, I thought I’d leave it right where I found it. Niall would come back, find it in the couch cushion, and never think that anyone else had touched it. But then, just before leaving the studio, in a moment of impulse, a moment I’ll never be able to take back, I snuck it into my bag.

Now I don’t know what to do with it. I trace my finger over the cracked leather and consider my options: I could take it back to the studio tomorrow and pretend I never had it. I could drop it at the reception desk and tell them I found it in an elevator. I could mail it back anonymously.

Or I could open it.

That’s what Candice thinks I should do. She voices her thoughts to me in no uncertain terms when I finally break down and call to catch her up.

“You need to open it,” she says for the twelfth time since our conversation began.

By now I’m sitting on my bed, as far away from the journal as I can get. It sits on the small kitchen table across the room, taunting me. Candice went through a full spectrum of emotions as I told her about finding Niall’s journal in the couch but now she’s stuck on one line, like a scratched record: I have to open the journal.

“You could blackmail him with this,” she continues. When I met Candice, we were both 15. She was a burgeoning popstar, and I was starring on a television show playing a character named after myself. Back then, we loved to imagine all the scheming we could do if we weren’t so closely watched. “Maybe there’s something embarrassing inside it. Or you could be like, I’m not giving your book back unless you agree to co-write with me on my album.”

“I can’t do that.” I lean back on the bed and close my eyes. Like everything else in this flat, the bed smells like cats, but I can’t be bothered to care about that right now. “I shouldn’t have even taken it. I should take it back to the studio and drop it through the mail slot or something. I should throw it away and pretend I never had it.”

“Yeah, shred the evidence,” Candice says. Even over the phone, I can tell she’s rolling her eyes. “That’s really the best choice here. He’ll never be able to trace it back to you. When he goes public with the story, the publicity will be great. I can see it now: Minna Locke steals Niall Horan’s songwriting notebook and destroys the evidence. Minna Locke, thief. You’ll be the next Winona Ryder. Child star gone wild.”

I groan. “I get it, thanks.” I open my eyes and stare at the notebook. It’s so small and unassuming, so unaware of the trouble it’s caused.

“On second thought,” Candice says, “you should definitely not read it. You might get sued, and if you get sued, we’ll never finish this record.”

“At the rate I’m going, we’re never going to finish the record anyway.” I roll over, burying my head in my pillow. When I emerge, Candice is giving me a pep talk, which I cut off. “I’ll figure it out. See you tomorrow.”

“Sure,” she says with a skepticism that I choose to ignore. “See you tomorrow.”

I toss my phone aside and get to my feet. Outside, a horn honks, brakes squeal. Los Angeles is so much louder now than I ever remember it being. When I was a kid, LA never felt unsafe, never felt anything but homely, but now I see darkness lurking around every corner. Is that because I’m now an outsider here?

Maybe it’s that fear, that desperate sense of hopelessness, that has me reaching for Niall’s journal and turning back the cover, flipping back the page that says, Don’t steal, ya wanker, and beginning to read the scrawled handwriting inside. It’s that part of me that wants so badly to make it here, to prove my mother wrong, to prove to the world that I’m just as talented that I once was.

But it’s something in my heart that keeps me turning the pages.

Some of the things Niall has written are diary entries: Today I recorded the first song. I worked with Jamie on it and he says it’s going to be big. That’s what I want, right?

Other pages have lists, names of books and songs by other musicians, observations: Sitting in a restaurant in NYC. The place is lit with candles and my date’s gone to the toilet. Julian set us up. Not sure I ought to see her again if she can’t make it through dinner with me without constantly looking at her mobile and dashing off to the loo twice before dessert.

That makes me smile, but it’s the bits of poetry, unfinished songs, that stand out to me. The words in the journal are nothing like the songs Niall has released. They’re just as smart, with phrases I can already imagine as earworms, but they’re so much more.

They’re honest. Organic. Real.

They’re a side of Niall that I’ve never seen on stage or in interviews. They’re so raw that I wonder if he’s holding them back for that reason: because they don’t fit with how everyone sees him. I can relate to that, to that fear that people won’t accept who you really are because they’ve always understood you to be someone else.

Reading his words, I almost feel as if I know him. As if I could go to a bookstore and select something for him to read and not be wrong about it. I feel like I could choose a meaningful birthday present for him. I feel like I could look at him and sense what he’s feeling.

That’s why I shouldn’t be reading it. But I can’t put it down.

On one page, Niall describes a coffee mug shattering in the sink, spilling its contents across the basin—easily cleaned up, unlike a breakup, when you have to disentangle your life from someone else’s without leaving—or taking—too many scars. The metaphor is so vivid, the imagery so tangible, that I can picture it all in my mind like a memory. Like I’m the one who dropped the mug in the sink and bloodied my fingers on its shards during the cleaning process.

It seems only natural, then, that when I find a stanza unfinished, I pick up my own journal and complete it. My brain finishes Niall’s lines as easily as if it had begun them.

Objectively, I know that it’s wrong. It’s a complete invasion of privacy to read someone’s work without their permission, much less add onto it, and I’d never want someone to do it to me. But I can’t stop. It feels like a missing piece of something—maybe even a missing piece of me—has fallen into place.

And once I’ve started, I can’t stop. I keep at it until my words fit seamlessly with the ones that Niall’s written, almost like we composed them together.


Track #3: Too Many Times

After finally crawling into bed around two in the morning, I lie awake, tossing and turning. There’s no way around it: I have to return the journal immediately, and I can’t use any of the bits that I wrote. I could face all manner of lawsuits: copyright infringement, plagiarism, intellectual property theft. Not to mention a feeling of guilt so strong it might eventually kill me.

So my only choice is to return the journal and pretend I never read it.

Unless I can convince Niall to co-write with me. Then these songs won’t be for nothing. Then I won’t have poured myself onto paper only to throw the words away.

By the time I leave for the studio, I’ve decided: this afternoon, I’m going to return the journal. It’s tucked away in my bag, next to my own writing journal, which is now several pages fuller than it was yesterday. And maybe when I hand the journal back to Niall, I’ll be able to work up the courage to tell him that I read one of his songs, finished it, and think we should record it together.

I meet Candice in the lobby and immediately spot the question on her lips. She wants to know what’s inside the journal. But I shake my head at her; we can’t talk about it here, not where someone might overhear us.

“So,” Candice says as soon as the studio door shuts behind us. “What happened to you last night? You look hungover. Are you hungover?”

I shake my head and reach into my bag. Instead of pulling out Niall’s journal, I pull out my own. Wordlessly, I open it to what I wrote last night and hand it to Candice.

She sits down on the couch and begins to read. I hover by the door and watch. I wonder if, in the silent room, Candice can hear how fast my heart is beating. Even though these words aren’t all my own, even though they go with something that someone else—a stranger, nonetheless—wrote, I’ve never been this afraid to share my work before. I’m afraid of how I’ll feel if Candice doesn’t like it. It’ll be like she doesn’t like a part of me.

Finally, after what feels like hours, she lowers the book to her lap and looks at me. Just looks at me for a minute, looks at me like she never has before, not in all our years our friendship.

“Damn, Minna,” she says when she breaks the silence. I let out a deep breath. “This is great,” she continues. “Seriously, Minna. This is great. Really fucking great.”

“Don’t sound so surprised,” I say drily.

“Sorry, it’s just…” She shakes her head and glances down at my journal again, like she’s searching for the words. “This stuff is so romantic. It’s so different for you. I never would’ve expected it. Do you have melodies?”

Because it’s not mine, I want to say. Except, that’s not entirely true, is it? They weren’t mine at first, these lines, these songs. But I put so much of myself into them—they contain only shadows now of what they were when I first found them.

“In my head, but it doesn’t matter,” I say. “It’s trash, all of it.” My voice cracks. I swallow, forcing myself to keep it together. “It’s not mine.”

Candice frowns. “What do you mean, it’s not yours? This is your handwriting, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but…” I shake my head. “It’s Niall’s. His journal. I finished some of his songs, and I just got into it and—”

Candice cuts me off with a shake of her head. “That doesn’t make it not yours. People write stuff based on other things all the time, don’t they? It’s derivative.”

I let myself fall onto the couch next to her. “I don’t think it works like that if the person’s alive and hasn’t used the material.”

The room falls silent as Candice thinks. This is a role reversal in our friendship. Usually she’s the one pulling crazy schemes, making unexpected decisions, and I’m the quiet one, the one observing, the one figuring out where to go from here. But now that job has fallen on Candice.

“Okay,” she says eventually. “Here’s what you’re going to do.”

I hug my knees to my chest and listen to her plan.


Track #4: Tripping

I should’ve worn something else.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve been looked at. As a child, my mom auditioned me for commercials, dressed me up in frills and lace and paraded me in front of agents and casting directors in order to supplement her cigarettes-and-shoes habit. When I got older, I played kidnapped daughters on “Criminal Minds” and daughters of senators on “The West Wing.” Then Wombat found me.

The day we signed the contracts for “Minna and the…” my mother bought herself a pair of Louboutins at the Bloomingdale’s in Hollywood and then took me out to dinner, where she didn’t object when I ordered an ice cream sundae instead of an entree.

“You’ve earned it,” she told me, smiling at me like she was proud of me.

I knew the truth, though. My mom wasn’t proud of anyone besides herself. She took credit for my success, and continued to do so long after it was over. When I decided to quit acting to go to college, she told everyone I was “just taking a break.”

“You know Minna,” she’d tell people—her friends, her friends’ friends, people in the checkout line at the supermarket—“she always wants to set a good example for her fans.”

That wasn’t untrue—I understood from a young age what it meant to always have eyes on you. I’ve always understood what it means to be watched. When I was 17, though, all I wanted was for that to stop. I didn’t want to set a good example for my fans. I didn’t want to have fans. I just wanted to be normal.

I wanted to wear sweatpants to class and not worry about being thought a slob. I wanted to stay out late drinking without the risk of someone trying to profit off of a compromising picture of me. I wanted to kiss a boy and not fear that he only wanted some version of me that he’d seen on tv.

I wanted to turn back time.

But I couldn’t. I had to adjust. I had to accept that I’d never be just Minna Locke. There would always be something in the way.

I’ve never been more worried about how someone is going to see me than I am now. When Niall looks at me, will he see Minna Locke, teen queen? Will he remember my tragic prom night splashed across the cover of US Weekly? Will he recall paparazzi photos of me rushing to class with my shirt on backwards?

Will he know that when I look at him, all I see is his heart?

I’ll see so much more than the boyband underdog. More than the sweet one or the goofy one. More than the cute blonde with the nice smile. I’ll see his mum, the most important person in his life, and his nephew, and all the dreams he has for his future: a Grammy and a family and a house back home in Ireland. I’ll see it all because I read it in his journal, on the pages where he poured out his heart.

I’ll see all of that, and I’ll have to pretend that I don’t, because when he looks at me, all he’ll see is Minna Locke—or some version of me based on what he’s seen on gossip rags or on the Wombat channel. He won’t see who I really am.

I twist my fingers through the lanyard that hangs from my neck and turn the final corner towards the studio where I know Niall’s working today. It’s bad form to interrupt an artist when they’re working, but this can’t wait any longer.

Maybe just another minute, though. I come to a stop outside the door and shift back and forth on my feet. I should’ve worn something else. These jeans may be my lucky pair, but they make me look kind of schlubby, and this t-shirt, a free one I got at college orientation, does not speak volumes of my songwriting abilities. I thought it silly to change my clothes just to come here this afternoon, but now I’m regretting that. I know about ethos, how somebody commands the space around them in a way that makes you want to trust them, befriend them, follow them. I’ve got no ethos in this outfit.

But it’s too late now to fix it. Which means how this conversation is going to go depends completely on what I say, and how well Niall hears me.

And, dear God, I need him to hear me.

I take a deep breath and knock on the door. Just when I’m considering knocking again—was I too quiet the first time?—the door opens. Immediately, I take a step backward into the hallway, my heartbeat pounding in my ears.

A guy with dark hair and a tattoo of a swan on his neck stands in the doorway. There are headphones over his ears, and he pulls them down and raises his eyebrow at me. “You need something?”

“I—” Unable to say anything, I reach into my bag and hold Niall’s journal under my arm, tucked against my chest.

The guy opens the door wider, allowing me to see inside the room. While Candice and I haven’t ventured into the recording booth yet, instead keeping to the table and couch outside of it, I can see Niall through the glass, headphones on as he leans toward the microphone.

There’s another guy manning the controls at the recording booth. Distracted by the open door, he swivels on his stool and looks at me. I feel it, the way he looks at me, his eyes traveling down my torso and legs and then back up, barely focusing on my face before his eyes catch on what I’m holding.

“Oh my God, is that—” He turns to the dash and hits a couple of buttons. “Niall, this girl’s found your book.”

I watch through the glass as Niall turns to face us. His eyes meet mine, a glimpse of recognition passing over them, and then he slips his headphones off his ears and crosses the few feet to the door. He steps out of the recording booth and then continues toward me.

“Hey,” he says, smiling at me. “Minna, right? I heard you were recording here.”

I nod dumbly as he holds out his hand. I’m not sure if he wants a handshake or if he’s expecting me to hand over his journal, but since the book is in my right hand, I hold it out.

“Thank God you found it,” he says, ruffling the pages and then sticking the whole thing in his back pocket. “Who knows what could’ve happened if it’d fallen into the wrong hands, ya know?” He laughs, looking not at all bothered by the possibilities.

Meanwhile, I haven’t said a word. The guy with the neck tattoo is still staring at me, either because he thinks I’m crazy or because he can’t figure out where he recognizes me from. That happens a lot these days; it’s all part of life as a has-been television star. And acting crazy: that’s something I’ve mastered all on my own.

“You didn’t read it, did ya?” Niall jokes, running a hand through his hair. I know he’s kidding, but my blood freezes in my veins anyway. I must look like I’m about to pass out, because suddenly Niall has his hand on my shoulder. “You alright? Come on, sit down.”

He ushers me through the doorway and pushes me into a seat at the table. “Let’s take a break, guys,” he says, gesturing to the other guys until they file out of the room. Suddenly, we’re alone, me and Niall Horan, and I’m trying not to hyperventilate.

“Lemme get you some water,” Niall says, and before I can move, there’s a bottle of Arrowhead in front of me. I twist off the cap and take a sip.

The cold water has me straightening in my chair. I need to shape up and remember why I came here. I was never this nervous as a kid, not at my first audition or my first live taping or my first red carpet. Maybe it’s because I knew that all of those times, it was never really me they were looking at. It was Minna Locke, Wombat star. Now I’m just Minna.

“I did read it,” I say, reaching into my bag for the second journal so that I don’t have to see Niall’s reaction. “I had to bring it back in person so I could tell you—”

“You read it?” Niall repeats. I raise my eyes to meet his and see—is that amusement? I expected horror, fear, anger, but not this. Not humor. “Find anything good in there? I’m not very scandalous, as I’m sure you noticed. Nothing tabloid-worthy.”

I shake my head. “That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to apologize because I finished some of your lyrics for you.” I put my journal, a purple Moleskine, not as worn or well-traveled as Niall’s, onto the table. I bought it when I first got to Los Angeles, thinking that a new journal would help me get a fresh start in the industry. All it did was remind me how uninspiring a blank page is.

Niall looks down at my journal, confused. “I don’t understand,” he says.

My next words come out rushed, jumbled together. “I know I shouldn’t have even looked inside, so sorry for that, but they’re amazing. You’re amazing.”

He looks at my journal and then at me, then at my journal again. “You did what?”

“I found it in the couch here yesterday.” I know I’m not doing a very good job at explaining, but I have to get the words out. “I use the studio in the mornings. I know I just should’ve sent it back without looking in it, but I couldn’t help myself.”

Niall continues to stare at me, his head cocked like I’m a math problem he’s working through, so I continue to speak. “I know it was wrong. But I really think that we’d work well together, if you’d give us a chance. I really feel connected to your songs, the ones in your journal, and I think that—”

“Show me.”

I blink. “What?”

“You said you finished some of my songs. Show me.”

He has to be kidding. “Are you serious?”

He nods, then gestures into the recording booth, where his guitar sits on a stand next to a wooden stool. “After you. You play guitar, right?”

“Well, yeah, but—”

“Then go ahead.” He stands up and flips a switch, illuminating the recording booth. “I want to hear what you did.”

My gut reaction is to say no and get out of here as fast as I can, run from the studio and never look back. Screw my album, my future as a recording artist. None of that will be worth how afraid I am right now.

But then I remind myself that that’s just the fear talking. If I can’t do this, I can’t do anything. I might as well pack it up and find a job that doesn’t require me to reveal myself.

I take another swig of water and stand from the chair. “Okay,” I say, picking up my journal. “Let’s go.”

In the recording booth, I put my journal on the stool and pick up Niall’s guitar. It’s slightly bigger than mine, definitely more expensive and better made. It’s the kind of guitar I might like to buy with my first check.

“Who taught you to play guitar?” Niall asks me, staring at my hands. “You hold it weird.”

He’s not the first one to tell me that. The producers at Wombat thought it was endearing; it was one of the things that won me the part. Niall’s clearly not familiar with that, though. “I taught myself.”

He doesn’t say anything, but I read judgment in the slant of his mouth. In his eyes, nothing about me is good enough: not the way I hold my guitar or the notebook I write my lyrics in or the boulders I had to scale just to be here today.

I force my face to mirror his, and I look at him exactly the same way he’s looking at me. I dare him to challenge me. To question my lyrics or my voice or the way I wear my hair—it wouldn’t be the first time a stranger has criticized me. But instead he just stares.

I break first: his eyes are too intense, too blue to be real. I cover up my weakness by strumming a few chords on the guitar. I open to the page in my journal where I played off of Niall’s broken coffee mug metaphor. I can hear the melody in my head, but I haven’t played it aloud before. I don’t know if it will transfer. Plus, I can feel Niall’s eyes on me, sizing me up, waiting.

Just before the silence gets awkward, I begin to play. It’s strange at first, listening to my fingers stumble over the strings and my voice trip over the words in an otherwise silent room. After the first verse, though, it begins to feel natural, the way that playing always does. It begins to feel less like I’m performing and more like I’m just being.

When Niall joins in, reading the words over my shoulder and harmonizing with me, I feel the earth shift under my feet. Playing music has never felt like this before. Like I’m exposing a part of myself, and somebody else is giving a part of themselves back to me.

This is what it’s supposed to feel like.


Track #5: Hard Shake

After I play Niall what I’ve got, he pulls his producers back into the room and introduces us.

Todd is the one with the neck tattoo, and he’s been producing a track that Niall’s been working on. And, he tells me, he has fond memories of watching “Minna and the…” when he was in high school.

“I had a huge crush on you,” he says, making me want to melt into the floor as Niall laughs. “Which was awful, because I was 17 and you were, like, 12.”

“I used to wear blue eyeshadow.” I recall an episode called “Minna and the Goldfish,” where Minna forgot to feed the goldfish that her brother won at the school carnival and then had to enlist her crush to help her find a replacement. The costume designer decided that everything I wore for the episode would be ocean-themed. “I hope you have better taste in women now.”

That makes Niall laugh even harder. Todd pulls out his phone and shows me a photo of his (blue eyeshadow-free) wife.

The other guy’s name is Jorge. He has a baseball cap pulled low on his head and might have a Spanish accent—he only says a few words to me, so it’s hard to tell.

“Jorge doesn’t talk a lot, but he’s a fucking genius,” Niall tells me as we walk out of the building together a few minutes later. “They’re both great guys. It’s hard and a relief to have so much creative control over my music now, ya know? But they’re both really great to work with.”

I nod. “Candice, my producer, she’s also my best friend. I’m really lucky to be working with her.”

Niall grins. “And now you’re really lucky to be working with me too!”

Niall laughs at his joke, which makes me laugh. He laughs carelessly, like he doesn’t care who hears him. I admire that in him, his ability to ignore eyes on him.

“No promises,” Niall says just before we part ways at the corner outside the studio. We’ve decided that we’ll write together in the afternoons for the next few days and see how it goes. “We might actually be terrible together. You never know.”

I have a feeling, though, that we won’t. I could feel it when he sang with me, and afterward, when he took his guitar from me and shook my hand and said, “It’d be a pleasure to work with you, Minna Locke.”


Track #6: The Shock of Me and You

I’ve never written with anyone besides Candice, so working with Niall is, at first, like acclimating to life in a different country. He writes bits and pieces, small phrases here and there, and tries to fit them together until they make something. Until the story emerges.

Me, I start with the story, or with a feeling. With the broken coffee mug, he’s working off the description and I’m working off the image, the taste of blood in my mouth when I’m sucking a cut to stop the bleeding.

Our first day, we’re too much strangers to argue. We tiptoe around each other, afraid to object, afraid to suggest a change. We get nothing done. I go home that night afraid that I’m once again wasting my time, going nowhere, destined to fail in this industry.

The next day is different. When I step into the studio, I hand Niall my journals.

“Here,” I say to his raised eyebrow. “I read yours, so it’s only fair that you get to read mine.”

In my hands are my two journals, not only my purple journal, the one I bought in Los Angeles, but my last one too, the one from my senior year of college. Mixed in with recipes and lecture notes, there are pages about my friends and my fears and why I want to be here, doing this, making music. Exposing the private bits of myself.

In these journals are the bits of me that make me distinct from television Minna. So far, Niall’s only seen her: the way she holds her guitar and the way she tucks her hair behind her ear when she’s nervous. But now he’ll see that the only thing television Minna and I share are those two things. While she was performing in school talent shows and stunning her friends (and enemies) with her nasally bubblegum pop songs about being late for homeroom and crushing on the boy next door, I was awkward. I was awkward around Jeff Kirsch, my costar and fictional Minna’s love interest, whenever the camera wasn’t rolling. I was awkward around Candice, who I met at the Kids’ Choice Awards, until she told me to knock it off because, she promised, she was just as uncomfortable in the spotlight as I was.

I’m no stranger to being misperceived. My first week in college, I (awkwardly) followed my roommate to a frat party, where a group of boys pushed a ukulele into my hands and insisted I play them “Lost Lipstick,” which I sung on “Minna and the…” when I was 13 years old. I’d already downed two shots of clear liquid that didn’t not taste like nail polish remover, and they’d barely finished making the request before I threw up on the floor—and the uke.

And then there was Jake, who ditched me at prom. A few months ago my mom threw me a graduation party, where he showed up, stared at my tits, expressed surprise that I’d “managed” to go to college, and then tried to flirt with Candice.

“He’s cute,” my mom had said in my ear when she spotted me watching his attempt at flirtation. “Don’t let her take him away from you.”

I rolled my eyes. “Did you forget what he did to me at prom, Mom?”

She shrugged. “People grow up, Minna.”

All I could think then was that I did, but Jake Brooks certainly didn’t.

Now, I’m not so sure. I try not to quake with fear as I hand Niall my journals. I’m not sure what’s driving me to do this, to expose myself in this way. I have no reason to trust Niall—I don’t really know him. I spent hours last night reminding myself of this in some attempt to keep away the emotional connection that I felt to him after reading my diary. Now, I tell myself, I just want to put us on even ground.

Or maybe I want him to feel as connected to me as I do to him. I know that’s selfish, so I try not to think about it. This is a huge risk, but it’s one that I need to take.

Niall takes the journals without saying a word and settles himself on the couch. Unsure what to do with myself, I sit down at the other end of the couch and close my eyes.

Before I know it, Niall wakes me up with a gentle hand on my shoulder. The journals, all three of them, are closed on the table in front of us and Niall’s guitar leans against the couch.

“Late night?” he asks me, smiling. Even though I’ve only known Niall, really known him, for a few days, I’ve begun to suspect that he always manages to smile.

“You could say that,” I say. “Do you think I stole your intellectual property?”

He smiles again. “Not at all. You don’t need to steal it, anyway. You’ve got plenty of good intellectual property of your own.”

I rub the sleep out of my eyes. “What?”

Niall gestures to my journals. “Those funny stories from uni. I never had anything like that. Reading about it was like stepping into another world.” He shakes his head and lets out a long breath. “And your mum, shit, Minna. You didn’t have to share that stuff with me.”

I pull my legs up onto the couch and hug my knees to my chest. There’s certainly nothing good about my mother in the journals. She only visited me once my first year of college, didn’t even come with me when I moved in. When she got there, all she did was complain about how unfortunate it was that I had to share my space with a roommate. “I forgot I wrote about her. I didn’t meant to dump my baggage on you.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Niall shake his head again. “Don’t apologize. I’m glad you shared it with me. Now I feel like I know you better than you know me.”

Despite my embarrassment, I find myself grinning. “Oh yeah? When’s my birthday?”

Niall taps my college journal. “March. When you turned 21 you waited to celebrate until St. Patrick’s Day and then you got raging drunk before 9 PM and had to be escorted home by campus police.”

Now I’m definitely embarrassed. “I can’t believe I documented that.”

Niall laughs, but I can tell from the way he’s grinning that he’s not laughing at my expense. “You drew pictures, too.” He picks the journal up and flips through it until he finds the page. “Here, look.”

I take it in my hand, and there, indeed, is a cartoon-esque drawing of Finally 21 Minna, head hung over the toilet bowl. “Gross,” I say, wrinkling my nose.

“I dunno,” Niall says, leaning over to study the picture. “I think you’re pretty talented. Might consider a career in comic books if I were you.”

I imagine it, a whole series of cartoons about my boring life. In the first one, Minna smiles at the bag boy at the grocery store, thinking his stare means he’s flirting. In response to her hello, he says, “Hey, you know Candice Mellon, right? Can you give me her number?

“That’d be atrocious,” I say.

“Atrocious,” Niall repeats, turning the word over on his tongue. “Uhh-troe-shissss. You have a funny accent, Minna Locke.”

I laugh at the way he crosses his eyes as he speaks. “You have a funny accent, Niall Horan.”

He grins widely. “Wouldn’t be me without it.” Then he reaches for his pencil. “I like that word. You think we can use it in the song?”

His easy transition makes me less uncomfortable, too. We spend the next few minutes determine that no, the word “atrocious” doesn’t fit in the song, and things progress naturally from there. As I watch Niall poke his tongue out of his mouth when he plays, I wonder if he’s acting extra friendly to make me more comfortable, or this is just the way he is. Something tells me it’s the latter. Even though he has baggage like everybody else, he doesn’t let his affect the way he smiles. I admire that.

I take my journals with me when I leave. The purple one has lots of blank pages left, and I have a feeling I might want to fill them tonight.


Track #7: Here and There

Niall Horan doesn’t drink coffee, and I drink far too much.

I learn this a day into our second week in the studio, when I ask him to join me for coffee and he tells me he doesn’t drink it.

“I’ll join you for tea, though,” he says, smiling.

I drink too much coffee, and he smiles too much—but never so much that I wish he’d stop. He sits across from me in the cafe around the corner and bounces his leg, jostling the table.

“Sorry,” he says for the third time, steadying his cup. “My brother used to watch your show.”

Niall is good at non-sequiturs, and I don’t mind because it helps me understand how his mind works. The picture of him I began when I read his journal becomes more complete—and more confusing—with every moment that I spend with him. We’re more comfortable with each other now, acting like we’re old friends sometimes and finishing each other’s sentences when we’re writing, but there are still so many things I still have to learn about him.

“Oh yeah?” I say, steadying my own cup. Despite the cardboard sleeve, it’s hot to the touch. “But you didn’t?”

He grins, shrugs. “I’ve seen an episode or two. Here and there.”

“Right.” I raise an eyebrow. “Well, I’ve never heard of that band you used to be in. What were they called again?”

His grin turns into a laugh at that, and my stomach flutters. Making someone laugh, the joy that comes from it—that’s a feeling I could easily become addicted to. Especially when Niall’s the one laughing.

“You’re funny, Minna,” he says when he catches his breath. “It’s surprising.”

That surprises me. “Why’s that?”

He shrugs. “Because Minna on telly is so uptight, had that best mate who was always tricking her into doing fun things, right? And something tells me that you don’t need to be tricked into doing fun things.”

I swear his eyes sparkle as he looks at me. His eyes always sparkle when he looks at me—earlier today when he told me I have a beautiful voice, last week when he offered a gentle smile in response to my frustration over a broken string on my guitar, the other night when we got takeout and he told me about how all of his travels have made him appreciate being home so much more.

Niall is so much more than the person I thought he was from his journal. He’s kind and funny and smart and compassionate and creative and clever, and he fascinates me. I can’t help but what to know everything about him, and I can’t help how fast I’m falling.

I’m falling too fast, much faster than I ever would’ve dared fall in the past. Maybe it’s the vulnerability in writing together or the heat of summer or the uniqueness of the boy sitting across from me—I don’t know. All I know is that this moment, this moment in the cafe over tea and coffee, is the moment that changes everything.

“I could say the same thing about you, Niall Horan.”

That night, just before I left the studio, Niall kissed me before I had the chance to kiss him. That has me stomping my foot and demanding a do-over, which makes him laugh.

“This is strange,” he says when we break apart. His hand rests on my cheek, mine on his chest. “And it’s gonna sound stupid, but I feel like I’ve known you for so much longer than a few weeks.”

I can’t help the grin that spreads across my face. “You did watch me on tv when you were a kid.”

He rolls his eyes, still smiling. “You know what I mean.”

And I do. It seems that I only have to look at Niall to know what he’s thinking. I begin to think it’s all in my head, but then Niall voices what I’m thinking. We haven’t known each other long, but we’re weaving our souls together through our songwriting. We’re connecting in a way that I’ve never connected with another person before, and it’s addicting.

It’s addicting and maddening and wonderful, and I never want it to end.


Track #8: Striking Gold

“It’s gonna be a hit,” Todd proclaims, smiling widely. I hear him through my headphones, but even without them, I can tell from his expression that he likes the song. Beside him, Jorge gives us two thumbs up.

It’s Tuesday night, the sun is setting on the horizon, and we’ve just finished the song. It’s called “Your Broken Mug,” and in all my 22 years, I’ve never done anything better. It’s beautiful and melodic and resonant and heavy and light all at the same time. It makes me want to dance and scream and cry and run through a field of wheat, and I want to do it all with Niall beside me, holding my hand.

I can’t wait to play it for Candice. I can’t wait to send it to my mom and show her what I’ve done—what I’ve been able to do. I can’t wait to share it, and that’s how I know it’s good.

“It’s gonna be a hit!” Niall repeats, sliding his headphones off and hanging them up before pulling the strap of his guitar over his head. “It’s gonna be a hit, Min.”

“It’s gonna be a hit!” I echo, taking off my headphones too.

Guitar safely on the floor, Niall grabs my hand, pulling me up and sweeping me into his arms. He spins me out and pulls me back in. My arms wrap around his neck as he pulls me tight against him. Here, in the recording booth, it’s just the two of us, set afire by this moment, by this feeling. It’s just the two of us and our song, this thing we created together.

“You’re magic, Minna Locke,” he says right before he kisses me. “Bloody magic.”

He smiles as his lips meet mine, and I’m smiling right back. We don’t break apart until Jorge whistles at us through the window, and even then, Niall keeps his arms around me. He leans forward, brushing his forehead against mine, and winks.

“Pure magic,” he whispers.

No, I think as we walk from the studio hand in hand in search of dinner, it’s not me that’s magic. And it’s not him either, like I once thought. It’s both of us together, risking vulnerability so that we can make something so special. That’s the magic.

And when Niall touches me, I can feel it. That magic’s still there between us, and it’s not going away anytime soon. We’ll write another song, and another after that, and we’ll keep going until we’re exhausted. And then we’ll find some other magic in life.

That night, I can feel it. I didn’t come to Los Angeles expecting this, expecting this boy or this collaboration or these feelings, but now that I have it, I don’t know how to live without it.


Track #9: Undoing

On Thursday, everything falls apart. Niall texts me mid-morning and asks to meet me at the studio. He has news, he says.

I practically float to the studio, my worries from a few weeks ago long behind me. I can’t wait to see the shock on my mom’s face when I tell her that my first single is going to be a duet with Niall Horan. Yes, Mom, that Niall Horan.

But as soon as I see Niall’s face, all of those worries, those fears of failure, come rushing back. Niall’s perched on one of the chairs in what I’ve come to think of as our studio, looking far from relaxed. When I come in, he stands up and shuts the door behind me.

“What’s going on?” I ask him, sitting down. I set my bag on the table. Inside are my journals, which I’ve been carrying around since the day I let him read them. They’ve become such a part of me that it feels wrong to leave home without them.

“I sent the song to my guys. And I wanted to tell you myself,” he says, fidgeting in his chair. His left knee bounces, bounces, bounces, so repetitively that I have to look away. His anxiety is making me anxious. “My label wants to find somebody else to sing the song.”

“The song,” I repeat. “Our song?”

Niall nods. “They think another voice would be better—”

“They’re not going to let you sing your own song?”

Now he shakes his head. “Not me, you. They want a more, um, established, I think that’s the word he used, singer to do the duet with me.”

I want to speak, but I don’t know what to say. Half a dozen emotions are battling it out inside my head. Anger, annoyance, frustration, betrayal… Which one will be the first to show itself?

Niall leans toward me, his arm outstretched like he wants to touch me, but then he pulls back. “Listen, I know this sucks. It’s just, this is gonna be my first collaboration and it’s gonna be a big deal, you know, from a marketing perspective. Jorge really thinks this is the right way to go. And you’ll still get a songwriting credit, so when it blows up, you’ll make a lot too.”

I stare. This is not a “Minna and the…” moment. This is pure, unadulterated Minna Locke. Minna Locke, who felt too much and made assumptions and put all of her eggs in one fucking basket. All I can think as Niall parrots someone else’s words at me is that I have to get out of this room before all of my emotions burst out of me simultaneously. But Niall’s still talking, apologizing again.

“I’m so sorry, Min. I tried to fight for you, because I know how much the song means to you, but—”

“But it obviously doesn’t mean that much to you, or you wouldn’t let this happen.” The words slip out of my mouth before I can stop them. Looks like betrayal disguised as anger is the winner. I’m not being fair, and I know it. But this hurts. I thought the connection that Niall and I made through the process of writing this song was special. I thought he’d fight for that, especially knowing that tiny, nobody me won’t be able to.

But I was wrong.

“It does, Min,” he says. Now he does reach for my hand, but I pull my arm away. I stand up, crossing my arms over my chest. “There’s nothing I want more than to sing the song with you, but—”

“Stop,” I say. I don’t want to hear any more of his excuses. I grab my journal off of the table and shove it in my bag before reaching for my guitar. “I get it. Thanks for telling me. You can have the contract sent to my agent.”

I hate the way that sounds. Just hours ago Niall kissed me, and now I’m cutting off direct communication. This isn’t what I want.

“Minna, please,” Niall says, reaching for my arm again.

“Niall, let me go. Please.” Swinging my guitar over my shoulder, I push past Niall to get out of the room. My eyes water, but I don’t want to cry in front of him. When I let Niall read my journals, I gave him the tools he needed to hurt me—I just didn’t know it at the time. Or maybe I did, and I just didn’t know that he’d try.

Niall follows me out into the hallway, keeping just a few steps behind me all the way to the elevator. The doors open immediately, an act of God or karma. I step inside and jab at the “close doors” button repeatedly.

“Minna—” Niall says one more time, but the doors slide shut before he can finish his sentence.

I came to Los Angeles to make the album I wanted, not the one my mom wanted or the one Wombat wanted. I came here to tell my story the way I wanted it told. Maybe that’s where I fucked up. All along I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I couldn’t write songs that would sell or that my voice wasn’t fit for the radio.

I never thought that what I’d actually fail at would be keeping my name on the music that I make.

I never thought I’d fail at keeping control over my own life.


Track #10: Echoes

The first time I had my heart broken, it was a lie.

The second time I had my heart broken, it was photographed in high definition.

And the third time, there is nobody around to see me cry.

Over facetime, my mom tells me that this is all my fault, that the song wasn’t good enough. I sit on Candice’s couch, my cheeks streaked with the echoes of tears, and listen to her tell me that I expect too much, I trust too easily, I feel too strongly. I don’t even tell her that I’ve developed feelings for Niall—I already know it wouldn’t do anything to make her sympathize with me.

“You know what this industry is like,” my mom says. I imagine her at home in Virginia, in the 5,000 square foot suburban house she bought when I was 14 even though we only spent a few months a year in it. Now, it’s just her there, her and all of her expensive things. “You know how cutthroat it is. Maybe your voice just isn’t top 40 material. You knew that was a possibility going in. You knew you could fail.”

Did I, though? Of course I knew that it would be tough making a record, even tougher getting it out there and making it successful. What I didn’t know was that I would meet Niall, write maybe the best song I’ll ever write with him, and then be passed over for recording it because I’m not established enough.

Then my mind starts going over all the things I could’ve done differently. Maybe if I’d returned Niall’s notebook, or if I’d never looked inside, then I wouldn’t be nursing my crushed dreams with a tub of cookie dough ice cream. Maybe if I’d brought the song to Candice before Niall brought it to his producer, then I’d be the one kicking him out of the recording booth in favor of someone with a larger audience or more cred on the indie scene or less fear about his marketability.

But if I’d made any of those choices, I never would’ve connected with Niall the way I did. Even if it was all one-sided, even if I was the only one feeling something between us, it still meant something.

He saw me. And I can’t regret that.

I don’t tell my mom that. Instead I say, “I know” and “I’ll come home soon” even though it’s maybe a lie and “please don’t worry about me” even though I know she doesn’t bother.

I’m close to tears again by the time I tell her I have to go and manage to hang up. How can she treat me like this so easily? How can I let her?

“Your mom is a raging bitch,” Candice says, coming into the room just as I drop my phone facedown on the table in front of me. “I don’t know why you even bother taking her calls.”

“She’s not a bitch,” I say, but I have to admit that my voice lacks conviction. “She’s lonely.”

“Then she should get a cat.” To punctuate her statement, Candice slams a bottle of beer on the table in front of me. “Drink this. You need it.”

“I’m fine—”

“You’re not fine, Minna. You’re staining my couch with your tears on a Thursday afternoon. Have you even eaten today?”

I shrug. “I can’t remember.”

“See! You’re not fine.” Instead of sitting down, Candice begins to pace the room, not even looking at me. “Let’s backtrack. So you move to LA to be near your amazing best friend and to make the record you’ve been dreaming of since your little brain could dream. Correct?”

Not exactly—there were definitely some years while I was working on “Minna” that I wanted to get as far away from LA as I could and never come back—but it’s not worth correcting. Silently, I nod.

“Right, so you’re in LA, and you’re having this creative block. Every song you’re writing sounds like the theme song to a different tv show.” Candice pauses, expecting me to challenge her. I’m so exhausted I don’t bother to object to her insult. “But then fate blesses you. You find Niall Horan’s songwriting notebook in a couch cushion. You follow your beautiful best friend’s advice and read it.”

“Worst advice ever,” I say.

She ignores me. “And then you go to Niall Horan and you’re like, I wrote these great songs and since I was inspired by you we should probably share them. And he’s like, okay, hot tv star from Virginia, let’s do it.”

“That’s not what happened.”

Candice rolls her eyes at me. “Yes, it is. So then you start writing with Niall Horan, making beautiful music together"—she gives me a pointed look—"and completely forgetting about your fabulous best friend, who is totally willing to produce an album full of tv theme songs if it’s the way you want to go. But then something wonderful happens.” She stops and stares at me, as if waiting for me to tell her what the something wonderful is.

“Beats me,” I tell her. “What happened next?”

“Well, a bunch of things. The first one being that, in addition to writing a kick ass duet with Niall, you also wrote your entire solo album.”

I start to shake my head. “I didn't—”

“You bet your skinny ass you did.” From behind her back she pulls my purple journal, the one I bought when I first moved to LA. “It’s all in here, Minna. If you want real, if you want stuff that matters, this is it. This is your first record.”

“What?” I jump off the couch and reach for the journal, but she holds it up in the air, out of my reach. “That stuff isn’t songs. It’s just…” I search for the word for what I’ve been writing lately. Half-poems and lists of feelings and descriptions of floors in rooms at the Getty Villa and sketches of graffiti I spotted around the city. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”

“Wrong.” Now Candice lets the journal fall into my outstretched hand. “This is not nothing, Minna. This is an emotional journey, from lost and writer’s-blocked to warm, soulful, creative, in love, real Minna. This is who you are. This is your album.”

I stare at her and then down at my notebook. There’s no way it contains all of that, I’m sure of it. Candice must’ve made all of that up for effect; she’s always loved a good dramatic scene.

“I’ll leave you alone to ponder this revelation,” Candice says before exiting the room. Down the hall I hear the bathroom door shut and the shower turn on before Candice begins singing something that sounds suspiciously like “Despacito.” Suspicious because Candice met Justin Bieber a few years ago and swears he’s a terrible singer with the personality of a “weak-ass cheesecake.” Her words, not mine.

My words are the contents of the journal in my hand. I sink into the couch and let the book fall open in my lap. My handwriting is messy and the lines overlap each other, a hint that I wrote it in darkness, probably just before falling asleep.

I stayed at the studio after Niall left tonight so I could work through the second chorus. It sounded strange to me in a way that Niall couldn’t hear, like the pieces fit together almost too perfectly. Something that I like about Niall is that even though he thinks the song is fine as it is, he doesn’t mind that I want to keep chipping at it. He hasn’t told me that I’m crazy or wasting my time or fixing something that isn’t broken. He just lets me be me.

I don’t remember writing any of it. Flipping to the beginning of the book, I find an entry where I describe a memory of my mother, opening the front door for me after my disastrous prom night with a look of disappointment on her face. “There’s no such thing as bad press,” she’d said to me, “but this is pretty shitty.”

In later mentions of my mother, there’s hurt, but there’s also resignation. There’s less anger:

Today Niall told me about his mom (he calls her “mum”) and how proud she is of him. How nothing in her life has changed since he got famous. The nicest thing she owns is a bag he bought her last Christmas; his mate Hailee told him what to get. His mum doesn’t use it because she doesn’t want to get it dirty. “It’s too expensive to carry things,” she says. When he told me this, I thought about my mom and her closet full of expensive bags, so many of them bought with money that I earned. Niall’s mum shows that she loves him by remaining indifferent to his success; my mom loves me because of my success. Why do I love her? Why do I keep loving somebody who can’t seem to see me?

As I flip through the pages of the journal, I see myself progressing from someone who fears her mother to someone who realizes she doesn’t need her mother. That’s like a shock of cold water to the face: the understanding that I’m here without my mom, without her criticizing me and making my decisions for me, and I’m doing okay on my own. I’m succeeding and failing and breaking down on Candice’s couch, and I’m doing it all on my own. My mom can’t claim ownership over any of this.

When Candice returns, a towel wrapped around her head, I’ve located ice cream in her freezer and am spoon-deep in the carton.

“You’re disgusting,” she says with a roll of her eyes. “Do you see it? There’s an album in there, right?”

“Fine.” I gesture at the journal, which I’ve abandoned on the table so I can have my hands free to hold my ice cream spoon. “Maybe I have enough here for an album. But none of that changes what Niall did.”

“Good lord!” Candice stops scrunching her hair with the towel to plop down on the table in front of me and take the ice cream carton from my hands. “First of all, stop eating this. And second, this isn’t Niall’s fault.”

“Of course it’s Niall’s fault. He let the song go.”  

Candice shakes her head. “No, Min. The song was taken from him. Just like it was taken from you. Just like a million decisions have been made for you, by other people, your entire life. That’s the way this industry is a lot of the time. It’s all about marketability and money and…”

Candice keeps talking, making a case for Niall as a passive innocent rather than a heart-crushing aggressor, but I stop listening. I’ve been famous longer than Niall has, but he’s been in the music industry longer. He made his name on a show where adults decided for him what songs he should sing and who he should sing them with. And now the same thing is happening to him again.

I thought I knew what it was like to have my life controlled by my image, by the judgements of other people. But clearly Niall knows about that more than I ever could.


Track #11: Limerance

I take a week off from the studio and from Candice’s pitying eyes. She texts me several times, begging me to come into the studio with her and work on my album, the one she’s so sure I’ve already written most of, but I ignore her messages. I camp out in my apartment for the first few days, cleaning everything from floor to ceiling. There isn’t much to clean, but I manage to occupy myself with the task anyway, scrubbing the grout in the shower with a toothbrush and shooing dust mites out of corners I never knew existed.

And then I walk. Los Angeles is not a very pedestrian-friendly place, with its fast drivers and vast swaths of concrete parking lot and freeways running like veins through the fabric of the city. But like with cleaning things that aren’t dirty, I manage it. I drive to parks I’ve never been to before and wander their pathways. I park my car in unfamiliar neighborhoods of the city and zig-zag through the streets. I leave my phone in my glovebox and ignore Niall’s texts and calls.

Every night I go home exhausted, thinking that tonight, finally, will be the night I don’t dream of Niall. And it never is.

Instead, I spend late nights writing, trying to make sense of why this hurts so much. Niall didn’t break up with me, didn’t tell me the things he felt for me were gone or were never really there. No, what he did is worse somehow. He didn’t fight for the song that we wrote together, that we both put pieces of ourselves into. And in choosing not to fight for the song, he failed to fight for me, too.

I pour all of that into my journal. Even though I shared this book with Niall before, I can’t imagine showing it to anyone else again. A part of me thinks that when I gave Niall access to what I’d written in it, I gave him permission—and power—to break me.

After a week has passed, I take to the studio. Candice makes sure to book a different room, not the one Niall’s using, and we spend ten-hour days writing and recording and re-recording and re-writing.

“Take that, Niall Horan,” Candice says to me one night after we play back the day’s work. “I think this is your first single.”

I can’t control the smile on my face. This is what it’s supposed to feel like. Everything I wanted to do is finally taking shape, coming together, and I did it on my own. “I think you may be right.”

I don’t pull away when Candice pulls me in for a hug.

I don’t stop writing, though. At night is when everything I’ve been ignoring all day bursts to the surface. I don’t need Niall to write music; I’ve proved that to myself. But maybe my heart needs him. Maybe it needs to be taken care of, and maybe Niall’s the one to do it.

That’s why, before I can talk myself out of it, I open up my laptop and send Niall the song. “Limerance,” it’s called, a word that refers to what it feels like to be infatuated with another person. It’s about him, but it’s also about me and the realization that I can do this on my own.

My pen’s just run out of ink when someone knocks at the door. I glance out the window, surprised to find that the sun is rising. My eyelids feel heavy, like maybe I’m finally exhausted enough to sleep.

But then the knocking sounds again.

I cross the short distance to the door and pull it open.

“What are you doing here?” I ask Niall. My surprise at his presence wears off immediately, maybe because I’d just been thinking about him, writing about him. I read once that when you dream about somebody, it’s because they’re thinking about you. Maybe Niall woke up this morning dreaming about me.

“Can I come in?” Niall asks. He holds two paper cups in his hand. He passes me one and keeps the other, no doubt tea, in his hand.

I don’t say anything as I step back to let him inside. My apartment is small and poorly decorated, no doubt a shambles compared to where he lives, but I refuse to be ashamed of it. The vulnerability I showed Niall is something I can’t take back.

If Niall’s presence isn’t a surprise, what he says next practically floors me.

“I told them I’m not recording the song if I can’t record it with you.”

I gather my shock up off the linoleum to ask, “What? Why?”

“Because after you left, I realized that the song does mean a lot to me. More than I told you. It means a lot to us, so it won’t be the same unless we sing it together.”

“Us?”

“Yes, Minna, us.” Niall takes a step into my space, crowding me into the small kitchen. “But they said no. They said the song is gone, they already sold it to Shawn Mendes—”

Despite my anger, a giggle slips out. “You’re going to sing a duet with Shawn Mendes?”

Niall catches my laugh and smiles. “God, no.” He shakes his head. “He’s gonna sing it with some girl that he knows, I’m not sure. The point is, I’m not singing the song either.”

I bite my lip, unsure. Is this the better scenario? Now Niall’s not singing our song with someone else. Now he’s not singing it at all. Neither of us are. “Is this supposed to make me feel better?”

“No.” Niall catches my hand and weaves our fingers together. He’s so close to me now that I can feel his body heat. A few more inches and he’d reach me. “But hear me out. I think we should write together again. You should keep writing your album, of course, because it’s bloody brilliant, but we should write together again.”

I don’t say anything. I just keep staring at him, tracing my eyes over the freckles on his nose and the wrinkle on his forehead and the curve of his lower lip. I see the scar on his left cheek that he got when he fell off his bike as a kid. I see the spot at the corner of his mouth that I kissed just a few weeks ago. And I feel my anger dissolving.

“Not just one song,” he continues. “All the songs. Every song. Until we run out of songs to write.”

“How long do you think that’ll take?”

Niall’s eyes wrinkle at the corners as he smiles. “Forever. I think we’ll never run out of songs to write.”

“You’re pretty confident about that,” I say. With my anger slipping, looking at him becomes too much, brings too many of my feelings to the surface. So I look away, letting my eyes drop to the floor.

“How could I not be?” he says. “This is rare, you know that? The way we work together, the way I feel about you, that doesn’t happen a lot. We need to hold onto it.”

I feel my eyes beginning to water, so I blink, trying to hold back the tears. I have a question to ask, but I still can’t bring myself to meet Niall’s eyes.

“How do you feel about me?” I barely get the words out before the tears begin to slide down my cheeks.

“Minna,” he says, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, his palm brushing against my cheek. “Minna, look at me.”

Slowly, I raise my gaze from the floor. I feel Niall’s fingers swiping against my cheekbones, brushing away my tears, and I meet his eyes.

Niall’s eyes, so bright and clear and blue, say a thousand things that his mouth doesn’t. They say that we’re good together and he’s not going to let us go easily and he can already nearly hear the beautiful, magical songs we’re going to write together. I try not to look back and think about all the songs I’m going to write about him, about the way he makes me feel.

“I was so scared when you told me you read my journal,” he says, stepping impossibly closer to me. “I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want you to know, but I was so scared. You know why I never put any of what I wrote in there into my songs?”

I shake my head slightly, reluctant to move away from Niall’s touch.

“It’s because it was so personal,” he explains. “I was afraid of being judged, afraid of what people would think if I was somebody other than who they expected.”

My breath catches in my throat. “I never judged you.”

Niall’s thumb brushes against my mouth, shushing me. “I know that. As soon as you gave me your journals to read, all that fear disappeared. Because if you could see me and then be vulnerable with me in return—” Niall shakes his head, breaking eye contact with me.

Now I’m the one pulling him back to me. I slide my hand up his neck and run my fingers through the strands of hair at the nape. “Look at me, Niall.”

When he does, when I look in his eyes, I see what I’m feeling reflected back at me.

I'll Let Him Win - Lee Euiwoong Requested Scenario

@princejmn

Summary: in which you and your boyfriend Euiwoong go on a date to the arcade

Genre: fluffed

Message?: IM STILL TO WATCH EUIWOONG AND HYEONGSEOB’S VLIVE BUT IM SO EXCITED FOR IT

_______________________

“Y/N!” Euiwoong shouted at me from the living room as I stood in the kitchen checking my phone at 9am.

“What?” I asked, laughing slightly as I saw him hanging off the back of the sofa.

“I wanna do something,” he said.

“What?” I asked again.

He shrugged.

I chuckled, looking at my phone again, “real helpful.”

“Let’s go on a date!” he exclaimed.

“Yes! Where?!” I laughed.

He shrugged before gasping, “the arcade! Quickly! Get ready! The arcade!”

“There’s an arcade?” I asked as Euiwoong pushed me up the stairs.

“Yes! It’s new!” he exclaimed, “now go get ready!”

I sighed, going into the bathroom and closing the door before showering and brushing my teeth.

“My turn!” Euiwoong said as I walked out before turning round again and pointing at me, “do your shiz while I’m in here, okay?”

I laughed, nodding.

I walked into my bedroom and got dressed before doing my make-up, before I knew it Euiwoong was out the shower and dressed.

“Shall we go?” he asked, holding out his arm.

“Umm, Euiwoong,” I said, “it’s raining.”

He shrugged, “arcade is indoors.”

“I don’t have money for the bus!” I exclaimed.

“I’m a trainee, neither do I,” he chuckled, “we’ll just run.”

“Your crazy,” I laughed, shaking my head as we walked down the stairs.

“I know,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows as he opened the front door, “ready?”

I nodded as we held hands and ran out, pulling the door closed behind us.

I ran a bit slower than Euiwoong, making him jog until I ran on, over taking him.

“That’s not fair!” he exclaimed.

I ran until I saw the massive sign for the arcade, breathlessly I came to a stop under the shelter outside the door.

I laughed, “we’re soaked.”

Euiwoong shrugged once again, smirking as he did so before quickly shaking himself and walking in.

I shook my head as I watched him but quickly did the same myself.

I gasped as I walked in, looking at the massive room full of gaming devices and pool tables.

“Look!” I exclaimed, “air hockey!”

“I’m so gonna beat you,” Euiwoong said as we ran over to it.

I laughed, sliding in a ₩1,000 note, “that sounds like a challenge.”

Euiwoong smiled as we got given the puck and began playing.

After three intense games, I won. Laughing, I walked over to a sulking Euiwoong.

“Aww baby, it’s okay,” I said, pouting falsely at him as I wrapped my arm around his shoulder.

He chuckled, shoving me, “it’s okay. Because I’ll beat you at that driving game.”

He pulled away from my arm and ran over before I could.

I looked at him in disbelief, laughing sarcastically and running over as well.

“Two can play at that game,” I said as he inserted the money.

The music started and we both began, racing as fast as we could. Suddenly, I felt a shove, making me fall off the chair I was on.

“Euiwoong!” I gasped, “that is so not fair!”

He laughed evilly as the game ended and he won.

I shook my head, standing up and walking off to the machines with the little presents.

“You want one?” Euiwoong asked as he appeared behind me, his arms wrapped round my waist.

I nodded, looking at the different prizes you could get in each one.

Euiwoong put in a coin and I turned the dial, making two fall out at once.

I laughed, high-fiving Euiwoong, “jackpot!”

I took out the two balls, one with a Jigglypuff plushie and one with a Hello Kitty plushie.

“I will hang them on my bag!” I announced.

Euiwoong laughed, “okay.”

“What’s the time?” I asked, looking around for a clock.

“12:30,” he answered, checking his phone.

“Lunch?” I asked, smelling the food from upstairs.

He nodded, “but then I’m gonna beat you in pool.”

I nodded, “uh-huh. Likely.”

“I will!” he exclaimed, walking up the stairs.

I kept nodding and agreeing sarcastically until he shoved me, laughing.

I’ll let him win.

Saphael High School AU

Simon had to bite his lip to keep himself from laughing. He was in biology and Raphael, the kid who sat in front of him, was making these stupid comments to himself that were so salty and awful and they were hilarious. Raphael was hilarious; he was also very good looking, quiet and he gave off a slight mysterious/bad boy type of vibe.

Simon glanced up to make sure the teacher wasn’t looking before leaning forward and poking Raphael in the shoulder with his pencil. He had decided that he was going to tell Raphael he liked him. Well, more like Clary had threatened to do it if he didn’t but still, it was totally still his decision.

Raphael’s shoulders tensed but he ignored Simon. Simon frowned and poked him again, hoping for him to do something to acknowledge him. Raphael did no such thing. He kept his attention forward and studiously ignored Simon. One more poke and Simon huffed at the lack of response. He quietly ripped a chunk of his paper off, balled it up and threw it at the back of Raphael’s head. He knew he was being slightly childish at this point, but he didn’t really care. Raphael tensed again and Simon could see him clenching his hands on his desk.

Keep reading

Her Lobster- Clint Barton Part 2

Three days had passed and Clint was still sleeping on my couch. I kept waking up, expecting him to have poofed but he was always there. Sometimes sitting at the kitchen table, scrolling through his phone with a concentrated expression, or other times out on the balcony and leaning against the rail. Always with a cup of coffee, though. It was like a mug was just permanently glued to his hand. He seemed in no hurry to get back to the city, although I still hadn’t been able to wheedle out of him what had happened. He said he didn’t want to get me involved, which made sense and was sort of noble, but I still wanted to know.

I trudged up my fifth flight of stairs, out of breath and embarrassingly out of shape. I muttered under my breath, mostly a string of insults aimed at the broken elevator that had yet to be fixed. When I reached my floor, I balanced my paper bag of groceries in one hand and fiddled for my keys in my coat pocket. When I turned the knob and stumbled inside, the first thing I noticed was the silence. My stomach dropped. I hurried into the kitchen and dumped the groceries onto the countertop before calling for Clint. I waited for him to poke his head in from the other room, or to come inside from the balcony but everything was still. I was about to crumble, trying to figure out why he’d abruptly leave without saying goodbye, when I noticed the note taped to the fridge.

Keep reading

This is all of me, babe.

Monsta X’s Kihyun

Word count: 590

Genre: Drabble, complete and absolute fluff, Gender neutral

Little note: I gave myself the feels again. Thanks self. Again, I used a randomizer.

Originally posted by kseoulsunshine

It was one of those days. 

When Kihyun walked through the door you could see the exhaustion emanate from him as if it were an aura. Slumped shoulders, slow movements, tiny winces and groans with every action, feet dragging as he walked over to the couch where you were sitting.
“Hello, love.” He mumbled, leaning down to place a tender kiss on the top of your head.
“Hello.” You answered gently, watching him drag himself off to the bedroom.
You grabbed your book marker and placed it on the page you were reading, closing then the book and putting it away. Kihyun was the type to pamper you when you were in his current state so you did the same to him. When he came home like this, your attention was all on him.
You got up and walked over to your shared bedroom. You could hear the water running which meant he had gone off to shower. It was the perfect time to steal the baby wipes and his moisturizer. You sneakily grabbed both things and returned to the living room.
About 20 minutes later, Kihyun walked out into the living room, in his pajamas and a complete mess of wet hair.
“Have you…” He trailed off when you waved the moisturizer container in one hand, patting the couch with your other hand.
“Sit down.” You asked and he followed your request.
As soon as he sat down, you slipped onto his lap, making sure he was comfortable before you grabbed a baby wipe. Gently, you began wiping away all the makeup that hadn’t come off during his shower, which was a lot. Kihyun closed his eyes, relaxing after a long sigh escaped him.
This was a normal thing for you to do. You liked being the one to remove his makeup. Not only did it allow you to analyze the work of a professional up close but it also felt as if you were uncovering something. The face behind the mask. The man behind the idol. Kihyun also looked so relaxed when you did this that it made you enjoy it even more.
After all the makeup was removed, you grabbed the moisturizer and began applying it to his bare face with soft motions. With his eyes closed and fully relaxed, he looked so peaceful. He was a beautiful man. You felt so lucky. Of course he was so much more than just his looks. But how in hell did you score as high as that? It was beyond you.
You didn’t realize you had been continuously stroking his cheek with your thumb for a while until he opened his eyes and tilted his head oh so lightly to the side.
“This is all of me, babe.” He said softly, his expression serious, almost sad.
You didn’t know what kind of expression you had on your face but it must have been pretty serious. He surely got the wrong idea. You ran your thumb across his cheek once again.
“You’re so handsome.” You whispered, shaking your head as if you were in disbelief.
You saw his dark eyes light up softly, lips curving into one of his lovely smiles, the ones that made those little dimples appear under his eyes.
“You’re beautiful.” He answered back, wrapping his arms around your waist gently.
You smiled as well, cupping his cheeks with your hands. Leaning down, you placed your lips against his forehead tenderly.
“I love you.” You whispered against his skin.
“I love you too.” He whispered back softly.

anonymous asked:

Hey, I know you talked a little bit about your OCD and I was just wondering if you could elaborate on your symptoms and what it's like for you? I have OCD as well, and it's nice to know that I'm not alone lol

I’ve gone through a lot of different compulsions. When I was younger I used to look out my window until I fell asleep because I was obsessed with the thought of someone breaking into my room. I’ve also had issues in conversation with asking someone to repeat themselves over and over again even when I know what they said/it’s irrelevant. When I’m listening to music on my phone I will have to pause it at a certain note or before a certain word in the lyrics. I also pause and rewind a lot when watching TV or movies to rewatch a random scene I don’t actually care about. When I’m walking I will have to touch certain poles or walk a certain way around a building. Many times those will also be paired with pinching parts of my body for missing something, or lightly punching myself to relieve the anxiety tha builds all at once. I’ve also recently developed a tic with my neck that has become really difficult to manage. Sometimes there is a specific reason I am telling myself to do these things (protecting family, etc) and sometimes it’s just a broader feeling of random necessity.
I’m sorry to here you are going through some of it as well. I wish the best for you and I hope that hearing some of my things could make you feel a little more comfortable. Love ya.

My sister is giving me an old sewing machine she found at a yard sale so maybe I can actually try making plushies again. Also have a Silhouette vinyl cutter and I want to make myself a couple of TF shirts. When I have a design in mind, I’ll start playing. Vinyl ain’t cheap so… Ya… Did I mention I have too many hobbies? On top of writing, I garden, do floral design, sew, make soap, make nail polish and other cosmetics, and binge watch crime shows.

How do I get anything done? On the fic note, now won over later 4 to 1 and I think this is “right”. It’s what I wanted to do anyways. Later would make for better writing, but now requires less filler and moves the fic on so… now. But NOW I just need to focus on my writing mojo.