Okay so this is a bit of a filler chapter, but I needed to get from point A to point B, so here you go.
"Up, up up!" Ellie yanked the curtains of Hannah’s bedroom window open, letting the morning sunlight stream in and land directly on Hannah’s sleeping form. "Come on Banana, we’ve got stuff to do!"
Hannah groaned and rolled over, dragging the covers up over her head. For a second it was quiet again in her room, but then Ellie was bouncing up and down beside her, leaning her weight on her arms on the bed and making Hannah rock up and down. “Whaddaya want,” Hannah grumbled, refusing to open her eyes.
"Come on Hannah, it’s almost ten o’clock and you and I have adventures to be going on! Get up, let’s go!”
Hannah pulled her comforter down slightly and cracked one eye open. Ellie’s face was inches from her own, makeup on and hair done and clearly ready to run out the door. “What kind of adventures?” she said suspiciously.
"Shopping adventures!" her aunt chirped, standing up straight and holding her arms out in a ta-da position. Hannah let out another moan, this one slightly less reluctant. Even though she was rarely with her niece, Ellie knew exactly what would get Hannah moving even on the worst day: Shopping.
She sat up slowly, rubbing the back of her neck and grabbing the blankets protectively when Ellie tried to pull them away. “Okay, okay, I’m up! Let me take a shower and then we’ll go.”
Ellie beamed, pleased with herself. “You got it. Be ready in half an hour, I’m paying today.” With that, she bounced out of the room and left Hannah to shake her head in bemusement.
An hour later, Hannah and Ellie were in a department store drooling over dresses. “Look at this one!” Ellie said, pulling out a short black dress with a sequined skirt. “You’re trying this on,” she continued, holding it out to Hannah, who added it to the growing stack of dresses draped over her left arm.
"Don’t you think we should get rid of some of these?" Hannah said, gesturing to the dresses in her arms and the similar pile of clothes on Ellie’s. "I mean, we’re not getting it all, are we?"
"Why not?" Ellie shrugged. "You like them all, don’t you?"
Ellie smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry about money today Hannah. This is my treat to you. Consider it payback for too many missed birthdays and Christmases.”
Hannah hesitated. “Are you sure?”
"Positive." Ellie pulled another dress off the rack, added it to her own pile after barely a second of looking at it, and then looked around. "But you’re probably right, we should try some of this stuff on. Where are the changing rooms?"
"This way," Hannah said, jerking her head to the right and pivoting on one foot. She made her way to the fitting area with Ellie marching along behind her. Only one of the rooms was open, so Hannah sat down on the plastic chair and let her aunt go first. Ellie handed her large purse over for Hannah to watch, and then slipped into the little room. The lock clicked and Ellie chattered away, throwing things over the top of the door when they didn’t fit for the attendant to retrieve from the floor with a grimace and hang on the return rack.
A ringtone sounded from Ellie’s purse. “Um, Ellie? Your phone’s ringing,” Hannah said, digging around in the bag, looking for it.
"Oh, who is it?" Ellie sounded distracted, probably examining herself in the mirror.
Hannah retrieved her aunt’s iPhone and glanced at the screen. A picture of Niall Horan glowed on the screen. Hannah’s eyes got huge. “Um, it’s… uh…” The phone stopped ringing and a missed call message popped up. “Oh, I missed it!”
Ellie laughed. “Was it one of the boys?” She didn’t need to say a name for Hannah to know that Ellie knew exactly why she’d stuttered.
"Yeah," she said, slouching a little in her chair.
"He’ll call back in a second then. Just answer it when he does, okay?"
"Um… okay," Hannah said, unsure. A second later Ellie’s phone lit up again, and there was Niall’s face on the screen once more. She took a deep breath and slid the answer key. "Hello?"
"Hallo!" said a cheery voice on the other end. "How’re you, Ellie?" Niall’s Irish accent was so thick it would have been hard to understand if she weren’t so used to listening to him.
"Ahh, this… isn’t Ellie," Hannah said quietly.
Niall sounded confused. “I’m sorry, have I called the wrong number?”
"No, no," Hannah answered quickly. "This is Ellie’s phone. It’s just… Um…"
"Oh!" Niall said. "Is this Hannah?"
Her heart skipped a beat. How did he know her name?! "Yeah, actually, this is," she said, fighting to keep the surge of nerves out of her voice.
"God, I’m an idiot, I’m sorry! I knew she was with her family. Hi Hannah." Niall laughed, a clear and happy sound.
Hannah grinned in spite of herself as Ellie stepped out of the changing room in a summery pastel yellow dress. She gave her aunt a thumbs up. “That’s okay. Did you need to talk to Ellie about something? She’s right here.”
"No, no, that’s okay! I don’t wanna interrupt your time together. Ah, can you have her give me a call when she’s got a few minutes though?"
Hannah nodded, and then when she remembered that he couldn’t actually see her, blurted out, “Sure! Can do.”
She could hear the smile in Niall’s voice. “Alright, thanks babe. Good talking to you!”
"Bye!" she squeaked. The line went dead and Hannah looked up at her aunt with wide eyes.
Ellie laughed. “Which one was it?”
"Niall," Hannah said, hardly believing what had just happened.
"Did he say what he wanted?"
Hannah shook her head. “He just asked you to call him when you have a chance.”
"Alright. Your turn to try stuff on, come on!" Ellie pulled Hannah out of the chair by her hand and pushed her toward the changing room.
Charlie and Beth were both sitting in the living room waiting when Hannah and Ellie finally arrived home, arms laden with shopping bags. “Hi!” Hannah said brightly, heading for the stairs immediately to lay all her new things out and admire them.
Her mom’s quiet voice stopped her with one foot perched on the bottom stair. “Hannah, Ellie,” she said, looking serious.
Ellie’s face, which had been twisted up with laughter as they walked into the house, settled into a curious expression. Hannah lifted her foot and placed it back on the ground, turning slowly. “What’s up Beth?” Ellie said.
Charlie cleared his throat and rubbed his palms on his crisp khaki pants. “Something’s… ah… come up with work. Hannah, you remember Tim, from the Ottawa office?”
Hannah nodded, recalling the weekend last spring when a bunch of important people from the printing press her father worked for had made the trip from Ottawa to Toronto. Tim Carver was the CEO of the Ottawa office, which in some weird distant way made him her father’s boss, and so he had invited him over for dinner one evening. All Hannah remembered was his crinkly eyes when he smiled and his salt-and-pepper beard.
Her dad nodded and glanced at his wife quickly. “Well, I got a phone call from him while you two were out today, and he’s saying that I need to come out to Ottawa tomorrow for something apparently very important. I tried explaining to him that you were here, Ellie, but he didn’t take no for an answer, and…” he trailed off, fiddling with the collar of his shirt.
Ellie cocked her head to one side. “So, what are you saying?”
Beth jumped in, rubbing her husband’s knee soothingly. “What we’re saying, Ellie, is that Charlie has to leave tomorrow morning for Ottawa, and I know that you just got here and this is a horrible thing to do, but I really feel that I need to go with him. So what I’m asking here is, would you be willing to hang out with Hannah for the rest of the weekend without us?”
Ellie set her shopping bags down and brushed her bangs out of her eyes. “I have to leave on Saturday.”
Charlie nodded quickly. “We’ll be back Friday morning, I think.”
Ellie paused to think for a moment, during which no one spoke. “Well,” she said eventually, “I can’t pretend it’s not disappointing that you have to leave so quickly, but I think Hannah and I can handle ourselves for three days. Right Hannah?” She threw an arm over Hannah’s shoulder and squeezed.
Hannah nodded. “‘Course we can,” she said easily. Her parents smiled gratefully, and then went upstairs to pack.
Ellie made her way to the refrigerator and pulled out a soda. Leaning against the counter and popping the top, she grinned at her niece. “Now technically, I’m supposed to be the responsible adult and tell you you’re not allowed to throw wild parties this weekend. Do I need to lay down the lay here?”
Hannah laughed loudly. “No partying. Got it.”