Ann pulled into the orchard parking lot and sat in her car for a minute. She really didn't want to be here. But she promised her friend she would get out this weekend.
She took a deep breath and got out of her car with her basket. There were plenty of people. Families, couples, friend groups.
It had been at least a year since the last time she had gone out to do anything social.
Ann gripped tight to her basket she had brought for apples and walked to the trees.
It was a beautiful place. Hundreds of trees. Tons of red, shiny apples in the trees and on the ground. The fence surrounding the orchard had flowering bushes growing up and around it.
Ann went to a tree and began inspecting the apples and picking the ones she approved of. It was amazing how many didn't have worm holes or anything.
"Excuse me?" someone whispered. She turned around. "Oh, hey I've met you before. Annalina, right?" "Yea. Niall?" "Yea." "Niall? Where did you go?" a girl called from somewhere. Niall turned around and faced the tree, turning Ann too. "Just pretend we're on a date." he whispered. "Why are you hiding?" she whispered back. Niall couldn't help but laugh a little.
"I came here by myself to get away for a bit. This girl I've gone on a couple dates with keeps 'ironically' running into me. I snuck off when her back was turned. She's a little crazy." Ann giggled, making Niall blush.
They picked a few apples from the tree and moved on to another.
Being a photographer, Ann met a lot of people. Niall was really the only one she ever had a bit of a crush on. Niall felt the same way. He always got excited to work with her.
They went to a couple more trees before the girl came near again. "Oh geez there she is. Hide!" Niall grabbed Ann and moved her behind a tree, standing in front of her.
Her head hit the trunk a little hard, dazing her. She stiffened and froze. He was so close, she could smell his cologne. Her breathing got abnormal as she tried not to hyperventilate. Too close! Too close! Too close! her brain screamed. But she couldn't move.
The whole thing only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like hours.
"Okay, she's gone. Sorry, I-" Niall stopped when he looked down at her. He noticed her eyes bugging out. She seemed out of it. "Annie? Are you okay?" She blinked a few times and nodded. "Y-Yea. I, uh, I just hit my head a little." Niall leaned down to her eye level and stepped back a bit. "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. Are you gonna be okay?"
Ann relaxed when he leaned down and backed up. His voice was quiet and his eyes were...calming.
She nodded. "Yea, I'm okay." Niall smiled and straightened back up.
He looked up, seeing a few good apples. "Hey, what about those?" She looked up. "Yea, those'll work. I don't think either of us are tall enough though." "Hang on, I'll lift ya up." "What? No no Niall!" He picked her up and put her on his shoulders. "Can ya reach?" he laughed. She stretched her hand out, gripping his hoodie with the other, and grabbed a few of them. "Got it!" He carefully put her down and she put the apples in the basket. "Let's go find some more." he said.
Ann nodded and reached for the basket. "Here, let me get that." he bent down and picked up the basket for her. "I can carry that y'know. I've got muscles." she said with a smirk as they walked. "Now what kind of gentleman would I be if I let you do that?" he said. They both laughed.
They went from tree to tree. Talking, laughing, teasing each other.
Niall noticed her staring at something up in the tree they were at, just smiling. He looked up. There was still a blossom among all the apples and leaves. He walked over and stood next to her. "That's cool." he commented. "It's beautiful." she said quietly. They looked at each other. "Uh, sorry." she chuckled and continued picking apples. He reached up and picked the blossom. Ann watched him as he twirled it in his fingers for a moment. Then he held her chin in his fingers and tucked the flower behind her ear. "Now it's more beautiful." he said with a smile. Her face went bright red as she looked down and nervously laughed. "C'mon." she said and took the basket to the next tree.
Niall was like a little puppy, just following her from tree to tree and picking apples for her.
Ann was stunned when she looked at the time. "Holy crap, it's already 4?" she said. Niall looked at his phone. "Wow. Time flies when you're having fun, eh?" They both laughed. "Well, I think I've got plenty for what I need." "I'll carry this to your car for ya." "Okay."
They slowly made their way to the parking lot and to Ann's car. "Hey, you're parked right next to me." Niall said, nodding toward the car next to hers. "Ha, that's ironic."
Niall put the basket in her back seat and closed the door.
They leaned on their cars, facing each other. "Well this was a lot funner than I expected it to be." Niall said. Ann laughed, "It was. I'm glad we ran into each other." "Me too." Niall said with a smile.
They stood there for a moment, just staring at each other. But it felt...normal. Natural. It wasn't awkward. "Thank you for-" "Annie would you-" They stopped and laughed. "You go first." Niall said. "Uh, I just wanted to say thanks for helping me. That basket was getting a little heavy." she said. "What? I thought you had muscles?" "Oh shut up!" she laughed and whacked his arm. Niall laughed too. "What did you wanna say?" she asked.
"Um....would you wanna go out sometime?" Ann's blush returned. "Uh...y-yea. Yea I'd love to." Niall beamed, "Great! Let me give you my number." They quickly swapped numbers. "I'll call ya." Niall said. "Okay. Sounds good."