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"I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." -Galileo

It's a funny thing, how the more things seemed to change, the more they stay the same.

For example, I may have chopped off six inches of my hair.

I may have moved halfway across the country.

My best friend may be in the biggest, most famous band in the whole world.

But i'm still the same, old Stella Grace Margarethe Parker that I always have been, and I always will be.

"Wellllll." Niall said expectantly, coming up from behind and wrapping his arms around me. "What do you think?"

I looked around slowly, taking in the massive, impeccably decorated living room. The stainless steel kitchen. The picture window with a view of the New York City skyline that had to have cost millions.

"I think that this can't possibly be yours. I said softly, still in a state of shock. "This isn't real life."

"I just signed the papers today!" Niall said happily. "Stel, I promised a long time ago that I was going to give you the entire world. Hopefully i'm making baby steps there."

"Baby steps?" I laughed. "Niall, you're in the most famous band in the world. You're album just went triple platinum, and apparently you just dropped a few million on an apartment in New York City."

"Hey." He frowned. "I'm still the same old Niall. You know I don't care about all that."

I turned around, gently placing my hand on his cheek. On the outside, he was the same, old, devastatingly handsome Niall. Perfectly styled dark blonde hair, turquoise colored eyes, adorably freckled face. But how was I supposed to believe that nothing had changed when six months ago he had said goodbye with the promise to be back in seven days and had returned six months later one of the most famous people in the world?

Through boot camp, then the judges' houses, then the live shows, everything had seemed to change more and more everyday. Gone were the regular old boys, most of whom i'd known my entire life, and in there place was a perfectly coiffed, expertly styled, Simon Cowell created empire with a legion of crazed, obsessed fans. It was surreal, to say the least. But at least I hadn't been in it alone. My other best friend, Perrie Edwards, who was dating one of the boys in the band, Zayn Malik, had been going through the exact same thing. Although I had to say she had certainly made a lot more effort then I had. While she had flown out to LA for almost all the live shows, the only time I saw Niall was when he came home to Miami. It sounded terrible, but we both knew why it had to be this way.

I tried not to think about him too much. I tried to stay away from all the television interviews, all the magazine features, anything that would bring back all the memories I laid awake in the middle of the night suppressing. Niall never brought him up, and neither did anyone else. I hadn't even seen him since that one fateful night, so very long ago.

"So..."Niall said, smiling suggestively. "What do you say we break the new place in?"

I shoved him in the chest. "Stop it perv."

"That's not what you said last night." He deadpanned, causing me to gasp.

"Stop it!" I demanded, blushing furiously. Not because I was a prude, but because deep down, I was ashamed that I was still allowing myself to have any sort of physical relationship with Niall. At the beginning of the live shows we had established that for now, at least, we wouldn't be anything more than best friends. I wasn't interested in fame, or being in the spotlight, or anything like that. After the events of last year, I craved normalcy. But just like everyone, I had my moments of weakness. I mean, we were talking about Niall Horan, every girl's dream boy.

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" I asked, hoping he would say no. These days, I was lucky if I had more than five minutes with him at any given time.

"Actually, yes." He admitted, looking down at his gold Rolex watch, a finale gift from Simon. "I have to be downtown at the Seventeen offices for a photoshoot with the lads in an hour."

My breath caught in my throat. "So everyone's in town?"

He nodded. "I figured what with classes starting this week and everything, now was the time to be in New York."

While I had just completed my first three days at the Parsons School of Design, Niall was in the midst of taking classes at Cornell, in Ithaca. I have no clue how he manages his schedule, but all I do know is it means he's never around.

"Surely you've got plans for today?" He asked, obviously feeling guilty for leaving me alone.

"I may go over to NYU to see Perrie." I came up with on the spot. It had been a couple of days since i'd last seen her.

"Perfect, maybe you, me, Perrie and Zayn can get dinner tonight. Liam will want to tag along, he's dying to see you. I think Harry's supposed to meet some Kardashian tonight, so he probably won't be able to make it."

We had gotten so into the habit of avoiding the topic of Louis it was almost as if he didn't exist. There was a part of me, deep down, that was desperate to ask how he was doing, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

"I'd better go." Niall said sadly. "I'll walk you downstairs?"

I nodded, reaching out a hand for Niall to take. Together we headed towards the apartment's private elevator, which would take us down to the lobby. When Niall had texted me this morning telling me he had a surprise for me, I had expected something normal like dinner reservations or concert tickets, not a multi million dollar penthouse overlooking central park. I was still wrapping my head around the fact that this was his life now, and I guess mine by association. 

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