Status: active;;

Right Now

I'm in Serious Shit, I Feel Totally Lost

The silence that stretches between us once I finish speaking grows uncomfortable, and my cheeks burn as I stare down at my knees. Regret wells up in me, and I berate myself mentally for telling him the worst part of my childhood. Recalling the memory has ruined the peaceful, somewhat magical, atmosphere of the evening. Now I feel cold and naked; tears burn in my eyes when there’s still no response from Harry, even though he hasn’t looked away from me. Sniffling, I clumsily stand and head back inside. I grab my jacket and phone from off the couch, make my way through his apartment, and hurry down the hallway. The panel dings when I press the button for the elevator, and I can do nothing but wait.

“How old were you?”

I turn at the sound of Harry’s voice to see him standing in his doorway, hands in his pockets and gaze steady on me. “What?”

“Come back inside. We can talk.”

The elevator beeps behind me, the scrape of the doors opening too loud in the quiet, and I'm torn between two choices. Option A is to leave the building, go back to Louis and Bri’s place, and hide out in my room, praying to a God I don't believe in that Harry will forget what I've told him, whereas Option B is to sit in his apartment and actually tell him more about that night, which means risking everything changing even more. Unfortunately, the choice is taken from my hands, and the elevator doors slide shut; I close my eyes at the humming sound as the lift descends. Harry is still there when I look at him again, and I sigh, head back toward his apartment. He leads me into the kitchen and immediately starts rummaging through a cabinet. He sets two mugs on the table, drops teabags in.

“You all are really serious about your tea, then?”

Harry snorts and grins, dimples on display. “Of course. We’re British. It's in our blood.”

I roll my eyes, laughing, and his smile turns smug even as he pushes a cup toward me. Steam spirals up from the surface, and I breathe in the scent of spices and the subtle hint of orange. Neither of us says anything for a while; instead, I stare at the photos pinned to his refrigerator with magnets. Eventually, I take a sip of my tea and ignore the way it scalds my tongue.

“I was eleven,” I whisper, my gaze still focused on the picture of him and a woman who I assume is his mother.

“Pardon?”

“When… that night, I was eleven.”

His eyes grow wide, and he reaches cross the table to hold my hand in his; I take comfort in the warmth. “Did you tell anybody?”

“Kinda. I asked a kid I knew to draw a character for a story I was writing, said my teacher wanted art, too, or she'd fail us. He was in high school, and she was new, so I was taking a chance that he didn't know her and couldn't call me out on it. He said sure, all he needed was the details. And god, I had those. All I could see for so long after it happened was that man’s face. I still can. So I gave them to him, and he sketched it out, then I dropped it off at the police station with an anonymous note describing what I'd seen. They hadn't even known the woman was missing, but apparently, they got the note, because it was on the news every day for almost three weeks. Mama wouldn't let us out of the house, not even for school. Daddy would have to bring home our work for us and take it back the next morning.

“Was he ever caught?”

“Nah. He was murdered for trying to do the same thing to another woman a few towns over. Her brother had went with her on her run, though. Evidently, he'd heard about what happened in our town and didn't trust that it wouldn't happen there. He shot the guys before he could so much as unbutton her jeans.”

“Wow.” Harry pauses, releasing my hand to swallow down a mouthful of tea, and when I finally look at him, there is no pity, no disgust, on his face. His lips quirk, but then he gets serious again. “Dakota… what you just told me hasn't affected our friendship a bit. Okay? You’re still a funny, brilliant, amazing girl that I’m so glad to know.”

“Thanks, Haz.”

We finish our drinks in silence, but this time, it isn’t all that uncomfortable. I’m still shaky from reliving that memory, and I’ll willingly never do it again. Knowing it hasn’t changed anything between us, though… it leaves me with a sense of stability now. I do, however, make him promise to never tell Bri; she’ll be angry that I didn’t tell her, upset that I saw something like that and have been repressing it for a decade, and uncertain in how she should treat me. I really don’t have the strength or desire to deal with all that.

“Now, do you want to go back to stargazing, or should I take you home?”

“I think,” I start before draining the rest of my tea and setting the cup down, “stargazing sounds perfect.”

<ooxoo>


Sunlight blinds me before I even fully open my eyes. I shiver as I roll over to bury my face into - a chest? I quickly jerk away to find Harry sprawled out under the quilt, still snoring softly next to me. I blink rapidly to clear the sleep from my eyes; clouds drift across the sky, and the air is brisk against my cheeks as I look around us. We’re still on the balcony, what the hell? I don’t even remember falling asleep. Memories of the night before come flooding to the forefront of my mind. I groan softly as my muscles protest movement from lying on concrete for so long. I nudge Harry’s shoulder with perhaps more force than necessary, and his eyes snap open instantly. He scrambles to sit up. I barely manage to suppress a giggle at the mass of curls on his head, flattened on one side but wild and fluffy on the other.

“Wha’s goin’ on?” he mumbles, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

“You tossers fell asleep on the balcony, is what’s going on,” Brianna’s voice sounds from the doorway behind us, and I whirl around to look at her. She tosses my phone to me with a smile. “Oh, and Harry? If you really wanted to get my best friend into bed, at least let me know so I’m not worried, calling and texting all night, when she doesn’t come home. And for God’s sake, don’t be an exhibitionist about it!”

I flip her off as Harry’s cheeks redden within seconds. Bri helps me to my feet, and I wince, hiss between clenched teeth, when every single inch of my body seems to mutiny against me. I shake out my limbs in hopes that it’ll help ease the pain; sleeping on concrete, even with an admittedly thick blanket between body and ground, is such an awful, terrible, no-good idea. I follow Brianna inside where she hands me a Starbucks cup. There is no hesitation before I start drinking down whatever concoction she’s brought me. Caffeine is caffeine, and no matter the taste, I would be a fool to turn it down, especially this morning. Harry stumbles past me, and the bathroom door slams shut with an echoing bang a moment later. Niall grins brightly at me from his spot on the sofa next to Louis, and I feel the heat in my cheeks when Louis gives me a playful wink. Thankfully, I have a very mature response handy: I stick my tongue out at him and cross my eyes before looking around at the rest of the people in the apartment.

Zayn sprawls out in the armchair, not even dragging his focus away from the phone in his hand, and Paul waves from his position by the door. There’s an unfamiliar man standing beside him, but I don’t question it. Who am I to? I cross the room to sit to Niall’s left, catching sight of Liam as I do. He leans against the wall, arms folded tightly over his chest, and he determinedly avoids eye contact. Everything about his body language screams that he’s not happy about something - but what could possibly have upset him so much? This certainly isn’t the Liam I met at the bowling alley. Nobody speaks as the shower starts up with a squeak, and I concentrate on drinking the iced coffee Bri was such a wonderful friend to get for me. A dinging noise interrupts the silence, and I glance down to see a Kik notification.

From: bananna Just wanted to let you know. Be prepared.

To: bananna Prepared for what??

From: bananna All Hell to break loose.
From: bananna Text me later.

My confusion grows as I do mental math to convert the time difference; the fact that my sister has texted me at one in the morning where she is combined with the message itself doesn’t bode well. Brianna catches my eye and cocks her head slightly to the side. I shrug in response. What can I even say? I have no details, so bringing it up probably isn’t a good idea. It isn’t long before Harry rejoins us, freshly-cleaned and dressed for the day. He locks up once we’ve all trooped out of the apartment. The man I don’t know steps into the elevator first with Niall, Liam, and Louis; Bri pushes me into the lift after it comes back, and I step back so that Paul, Harry, and Zayn have room. As soon as we step out into the lobby of the building, a roar of voices meets my ears, and my head snaps up to see the mass of people gathered directly outside the door, cameras flashing and questions being shouted at us though there is little to no hope that any of the inquiries will be answered or even heard over the rest of the cacophony. Paul pushes his way to the front of the group, the other man behind; Bri wraps her fingers around my wrist tightly enough that it actually hurts, and I stumble as she tugs me closer to her side. Her eyes burn fiercely; I know she isn’t worried about herself. She’s trying to protect me. Where she is used to this sort of bedlam, I’m completely new to it, and her protectiveness is still very much alive even after all these years. Niall and Liam take positions to my left, while Harry and Louis walk on Brianna’s right side. Zayn lags behind just a step, staying between me and the security guard tailing us. We manage to shove our way through the crowd to the SUV, and while I try as hard as I can to ignore the questions being lobbed our way, I can’t avoid hearing a few of them, since the people are basically screaming directly into my ears.

“Harry, who is she?”

“Is she your new girlfriend?”

“Is this your latest fling?”

“How does it feel to be just another number in a long list of women, darling?”

“Miss, can you give us any details about your night with the Harry Styles?”

Bri’s hands aren’t gentle when she forcibly pushes me into the car, her jaw set in anger; as if it’s a choreographed dance, everyone is seated within forty-five seconds, and the doors muffle the noise from the reporters. Paul pulls out of the parking lot without hesitation. My mind spins, my thoughts race ‘round and ‘round. Were they actually insinuating that Harry is a womaniser? That idea clashes horribly with the Harry I’ve come to know. That Harry that is my friend is sweet, kind, and a great listener. Nobody speaks until we arrive at the studio, and that’s only because Paul asks us to wait in the car until he and George (So that’s his name.) can get rid of the fans that have gathered out front. I’m thankful that they do that. If what happened at the apartment building is any indication of just how ugly life can be for the guys and their friends, I really doubt I could handle it every single day. It’s insane to me, how so many people can be so fixated on someone else’s life that they were willing to literally camp out in front of the celebrity’s home in hopes of catching the next hottest picture of juiciest bit of gossip. Just because they are famous, the guys have lost every shred of privacy, they’ve become sideshow acts for the whole world to fawn over. Anyone they are seen with, like Brianna or even their families, are subject to the same treatment, only this time for the purpose of getting information on the guys and what personal, private lives they have left.

A hand squeezes mine gently, and I blink away the thoughts, look up to see Niall staring at me. He gives me a soft smile and doesn’t seem to take it personally when I can’t muster up one in return.

“You all right?”

“Yeah, just a bit… overwhelmed, I guess.”

“I’m sorry. Are you coming in, too?”

“Nah. I think I should go home and change.”

He nods slowly, releasing my hand. “Just message if you need, yeah?”

The ride back to the house is quiet. Brianna chose to stay at the studio but gave me a key so I could get in. Paul comes to a stop out front and orders me to call him or Bri if there is any trouble; he doesn’t unlock the SUV doors until I’ve sworn on my firstborn child’s life. Once he leaves, I trail through the house to make sure the doors and windows are locked up tight before heading upstairs to my room. I grab a change of clothes and make my way to the bathroom for a quick shower.

As the water heats up, I log into Twitter to see what kind of reactions my tweet has generated. Louis has retweeted it, along with hundreds of their fans; most of my mentions are full of messages telling to rot in Hell, I don't know what I'm talking about, I'm just jealous that the boys are famous and I'm not, and that I should kill myself before they - the people sending the tweets - could find me and it for me. There is a very small percentage of supporters for the rant I posted. The notification symbol suddenly sprouts a number that steadily increases the longer I stare at the screen. I bite my lip but press the icon, sighing when I see all the tweets referencing my being seen in the hall of Harry’s apartment building crying before reentering his flat. Thankfully, my display picture was still the standard egg-shaped avatar, so the people mentioning me can only speculate if it was me because, as one put it, “it's very convenient @dakotaj tweeted that then this new girl is seen leaving Harry's…” Loads of the tweets contain links to dozens of articles about this morning, accompanied by negative remarks about “this new girl’s” appearance. Angrily, I close out of the app and throw my phone onto the counter. I know I'll feel guilty about not being more careful with it later, but right now, I don't care.

The spray from the shower removes all evidence of my crying as I stand under the showerhead. I just can't wrap my mind around how these so-called fans think this is an acceptable way of treating people the guys, their supposed idols, care about. And honestly, after reading all the nasty messages, I'm not entirely sure I want any part of it.
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title credit all the things she said t.A.T.u