Four days later, Louis and Melanie had stepped off the plane. He couldn’t help but look over at Melanie every few seconds, to check if she liked it, much like one checks the face of someone who has just received a gift. She was smiling widely, and looking around her, swiveling her head this way and that. As they waited for Harry to come pick them up, Lois watched Melanie closely. And he was anxious.
Louis was wondering if Melanie really wanted to come. He’d brought her along for himself more than anyone. He had quickly forgiven Julie for her rudeness but he would not willingly tempt her pugnacious nature again. He’d noticed that Melanie smiled when he mentioned Julie, but she’d quickly changed the subject. Louis felt like he needed to make it up to Melanie, in the strange way guilt plagues every action of its host. At the same time, he realized he’d miss her while they went on tour. He thought sadly about how the trip would be his big goodbye.
“So are we staying at your friend’s place?” Melanie asked, still looking around the city that loomed above her.
Louis snapped back to reality and cleared his throat, “Nope, not enough room for all of your things there, Mells.”
Melanie laughed and hit his arm lightly, “Louis, you know I packed lightly.”
He raised a brow at her two large suitcases, as compared to his small carryon bag, “Whatever you say, Melly.” He shrugged and smiled, “We’re still staying at a hotel nearby, though.”
“I hope you picked something normal.” She snorted, and he smiled a toothy grin, “I bet you rented out the entire hotel for us.”
“Just the top floor.” Louis winked and Melanie groaned.
“That’s overkill, Lou.” She frowned.
“Do you know what’s overkill?” He mirrored her frown, “That,” he pointed at a giant sign that read, “Boobear and Melly.”
“Your friends are weird.” Melanie said and picked up her bags, “Come on.”
“Hey, Louis,” Harry clapped him on the shoulder, and Louis pulled him into a hug, “missed you.”
“You too,” He grinned, happy to be back around him, who had left a week before, “this is Melly.”
“Melanie,” She said, holding out a hand for Harry to shake in that proud, bold way she had, “Louis likes to ignore my name and use his own.”
Harry ignored her offered hand and dragged her into a hug, “I like Melly better,” he said and let her go, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too,” Melanie paused for his name, and Harry supplied it, “Harry.” She finished.
“Let me help you with those.” Harry reached out for a bad and Louis gave her a look that said, “Don’t argue.”
“Fine,” She sighed and dropped the handle of the suitcase in his hand with a shrug, as if it didn’t bother her to be waited on.
Louis and Harry put the bags in the trunk of the car, and Harry watched Melanie step into the passenger’s seat. Louis heard a door shut ever so quietly as he heaved up one of Melanie’s suitcases. He packed it tightly into the trunk, grunting as he pushed the heavy luggage to the back of the space. When he turned back, Harry was holding another bag in his arms, frowning at him.
“What?” Louis asked, leaning against the back of the car.
“She’s hot.” Harry grinned, and Louis frowned.
“She’s taken,” Louis grabbed the bag from him and slid it next to the other.
Harry shrugged and look through the back window at Melanie, “It’s a shame.”
Louis threw his bag on top of Melanie’s and shut the trunk with a grunt. Harry clapped him on the shoulder and he sighed. He held out his hand for the keys and Harry laughed, in the way that sometimes annoyed Louis. He was happy to be back around his flatmate, and a bit relieved that he wouldn’t have to worry about Melanie too much. As he stepped into the car her rolled his eyes, thinking about how much of a flirt Harry had become. Or had he always been that way? Louis couldn’t remember a time he hadn’t flirted.
“All right, Melly,” Louis sighed as he turned the key in the ignition, “I have to warn you, my friends are crazy.”
Melanie snorted and Louis glanced over to see her rolling her eyes, “I doubt they could be any weirder than you, Louis.”
“I like her,” Harry laughed, and Louis looked in the mirror to see him covering the wide smile that stretched across his mouth, “she’s sassy. “
“Just wait until she sasses you,” Louis muttered, “it’s never amusing.”
“You wouldn’t sass me, would you, Mells?” Harry laughed from the back, “So where’re you from?”
Melanie paused before answering, “I’m from all over, but I lived in Manitoba last.”
“From your accent I guessed you weren’t from around here,” Harry said confidently, and Louis looked in the mirror to see him wink, “is that in the States?”
“Ugh,” Melanie groaned, “no. I’m from Canada.”
“Excuse me,” Harry did jazz hands and Louis turned into Niall’s drive.
“We’re here!” Melanie exclaimed, turning to Louis with wide eyes as he undid his seatbelt.
“Yay!” Louis teased, throwing his hands into the air and grinning.
“Oh shut up,” Melanie laughed and opened the door, slipping out of the seat.
Louis followed suit and waited for Harry, watching Melanie skip to the door. She waited eagerly for Louis and Harry to catch up, making Louis laugh. Her innocence consumed her. Harry shook his head a little and Louis gave him a questioning look.
“Where’s Julie?” Harry asked keenly.
“At home.” Louis answered simply and shrugged as they walked to the door.
“What if they don’t like me?” Melanie whispered after they knocked on the door and waited for someone to answer.
Harry threw an arm around her shoulder and winked again, ignoring the way she shied away from his stranger’s touch, “They’ll love you, Melly.”
“Why did you call me that, Louis?” She groaned, shaking off his arm.
“I didn’t say anything!” He protested loudly.
“Yes, but you gave him the idea!” Melanie argued with a weary sigh.
Louis opened his mouth to protest, but the door opened and Melanie turned quickly to face Niall, who greeted them with a simple, “Hello!”
The two walked inside the modest house, and Melanie sighed, “You like it?” Harry whispered just loud enough for Louis to hear.
“It feels like home.” She smiled as if she were in a dream and look around as if she expected there to be fairy lights, turning her head this way and that.
“I’m Niall, by the way.” Niall said as he plopped down on a sofa, flicking his bleached hair to the side, “I don’t think we’ve been introduced.”
“I’m Melanie,” She said and held out a hand, but Niall pulled her into a hug instead, rolling his eyes, “or that.” She laughed and broke away.
Louis looked over to see Zayn peacefully sleeping on a sofa across Niall. His hair was lying flat on his head for once, and Louis laughed. He never really liked being away from the boys for long. It was difficult for him to get used to the idea that they wouldn’t always be tour mates. They’d all be carefully warned that their time in the spotlight would end someday. Louis couldn’t imagine it, and he shook his head.
Louis watched Liam play with Zayn’s hair, attempting to wake up gently. Liam waved at Melanie and put a finger to his lips. Louis and Melanie both laughed lightly and Melanie’s eyes got wide as she realized she was being loud. He smiled and whispered, “That’s Liam, and Zayn’s asleep.”
Melanie smiled widely, and Harry pulled her towards the couch. Niall threw an arm around Louis’ shoulder and walked with him towards the kitchen. Louis threw a look over his shoulder and saw Melanie giggling at something Harry had said. They rounded the corner and Louis turned back to Niall, paying attention to his words for the very first time.
“I’m glad you’re back,” Niall smiled, “I missed you.”
“I missed you too,” Louis sighed, and he frowned at how frequent that motion had become, “Home is boring if you’re all gone.”
“I wouldn’t call it boring.” Niall raised his brows, “by the looks of it you’re having loads of fun.”
“I’m still dating Julie, Niall.” Louis said seriously and sipped at the bottle of water in his hands.
“I never said you weren’t.” Niall put his hands in the air in a show of surrender, though he smiled smugly.
“Oh,” Louis paused, “okay then.”
Niall burst into a bawdy laugh and clapped a frowning Louis on the back, “I’m only messing with you.”
Louis laughed and ruffled Niall’s hair, pulling him into a headlock, “You little shit.”
Niall pushed him off and pulled out a bag of chips, shoving a handful in his mouth, “It’s good to have you back.”
“Stop being a mum.” Louis laughed and turned the bag of chips so he could steal some.
“Whatever,” Niall rolled his eyes, “so how’d you two meet?”
Louis smiled and put another handful of chips in his mouth, “You’ll laugh, but I first saw her at a coffee shop.”
Niall snorted, “So how come you didn’t take Julie?”
Louis sighed, tired of answering the question he’d been asking himself for days, “They don’t play well together.” He said carefully.
Niall nodded and took a sip of his glass, “Right, then.”
Louis frowned and bit his lip, “What?”
Niall held up his hands again in a gesture of peace, “I just think Julie’s going to be a bit upset.”
Louis stood up and fixed his shirt, “I know,” he finished his drink and set the bottle on the counter, “come on.”
They walked down the hallway and Louis played anxiously with the edge of his shirt. Louis did not want Melanie to dislike his friends, but at the same time he was uneasy about it. He did not want to share Melanie, he wanted to keep her to himself. Louis’ stomach began to tear as he realized that he was regretting his decision to bring her. It was a selfish reason, but it gnawed at his stomach, like a dog at a bone. Niall pushed him forward around the corner and Louis laughed as he stumbled forward.
Melanie’s laugh filled his ears, and he turned to see her sitting between Harry and Liam, looking at a photo album, “You guys are so weird.”
“I did warn you, Mells.” Louis smiled and sat opposite them on a chair, leaving Niall to sit elsewhere.
“Your nicknames have grown on me,” Melanie grinned, brushing a short lock of nearly black hair out of her blue eyes, “I must say.”
Louis winked at her and sighed, “I knew they would.”
“Melly,” Harry interjected and Melanie wrinkled her nose, “would you like to go see the city tomorrow?”
Melanie cleared her throat and said, “I thought Louis said you had work?”
“We do,” Liam smiled his ever helpful smile, “but we get to have fun too!”
“I would opt out of the expedition,” Niall sighed, leaning back in the chair and fixing his hair lazily, “seeing as I live ten minutes out of the city.”
“I wouldn’t want to leave you behind.” Melanie frowned, and Louis watched her trace and hand over the page of captured memories.
“No worries,” Niall waved her off, “I’ll just take a nap or something.”
“Or something,” Zayn, who was now awake, snorted and Niall punched him gently.
Louis watched as Melanie effortlessly interacted with all of them. Every so often she took care to mention Adam and look at Harry sternly, but it seemed only to encourage him. Harry sighed and rolled his eyes after the first few mentions of her boyfriend, and Louis found himself wondering what would happen if Melanie and Adam didn’t stay together. He frowned as he watched the conversation unfold, and shook off the feeling he got when he imagined Harry getting his way. It didn’t seem right, but Louis assured himself it would never begin.