Status: active;;

Right Now

Secrets Stolen from Deep Inside

[Dakota’s POV]
Liam and Niall left shortly after Louis had gone to Harry’s apartment, but Harry didn’t want to interrupt whatever was going on between our two friends, so he’s been camped out with me. I sprawled out on the couch thirty minutes ago and haven’t moved since; he flips through the channels on the television absentmindedly. Nothing catches our attention, but we don’t exactly care too much. It’s relaxing to not have anything to think about. Suddenly, Harry turns off the TV and turns on the sofa to face me.

“So what do you think is going on with them?” he asks, scratching at the skin behind his ear - something I’ve noticed he does without thought.

I shrug my shoulders, roll onto my back so I'm not having to twist my head so far back to look at him. “Honestly? Knowing Bri, any number of scenarios could be playing out. I just hope it's good. I think he could actually be great for her.”

“But?”

“But he needs to get his head out of his ass and see what I see every time I look at her whenever he's around.”

“She's in love with him, isn't she?” he questions after a pause, and I scoff.

“How the Hell have you guys known her for so long and not seen that? Of course she is. Oh, shit, don't tell her I said, ‘kay? She doesn't like people knowing things if she doesn't tell them, and she’ll know that I told you if you ever mention it.”

“Not a problem. Secret is safe with me.”

I nudge him with my foot, and he grins widely before wrapping his fingers around my ankle to prevent movement. My thoughts race as I stare at him, a million questions rolling through my mind. He's still essentially a stranger to me. Harry is a great guy - sweet and funny and caring - and I already get along with him so well, but… I know next to nothing about him. I decide to ask questions to learn more about him, but he speaks before I can.

“I think Louis might be in love with Brianna, too.”

Oh. “Okay, why do you say that?”

Harry’s face goes serious as he thinks. I stifle a giggle when his thumb drags, light as a feather, against the skin of my ankle; eventually he draws in a deep breath. “His eyes. They’ve always betrayed him. He may act nonchalant and ooze confidence when it matters, even when he’s not, but when he’s around her, his eyes show off his nervousness and, and something else. I haven’t been able to figure it out before now, but it’s love. He talks about her all the time. The past few days have been the worst I’ve ever seen him. It’s worse than when he broke up with a girl he dated for almost a year and a half, and he swore he loved to death. But… I think Brianna might actually be ‘the one’.”

“You really think there’s such a thing as ‘the one’?” I ask with a derisive snort; he gives me an inquisitive look.

“Of course. Don’t you?”

“Oh, god, no.”

“Why not?”

“That’s not a conversation I’m willing to have.”

Harry nods slowly, obviously taken aback by the abrupt coldness in my tone. “Okay then.” He clears his throat awkwardly. “Would you wanna play Twenty Questions?”

“Sure. You start.”

We spend the next hour asking each other random questions. I learn so much about his family, hometown, childhood, and the band’s beginning. His eyes light up as he talks about the memories he’s made with his mother and sister. He seems so enthusiastic to share this part of his life with me. Something tells me he doesn’t make many new true friends - not since the guys went on X-Factor and Simon grouped them together. I feel honoured to be counted as a friend to him; for some reason that I can’t quite put into words, it makes me want to tell him details of my own life. The full version, not the “edited-so-it’s-less-sad-and-more-happy-than-it-really-is” version. However, I bite my tongue and push aside the thoughts. He doesn’t need to hear about the monsters of my past.

“So. Are you hungry? I’m not a brilliant chef like Bri, but I can make a mean spaghetti.”

I let out a small laugh, nodding, and reach for his hands. He lets me tug him to his feet, though he doesn’t make it easy on me. I follow him to the kitchen and hop up onto the countertop as he busies himself with pulling out a cooking pot from the cabinet. After a minute of watching him, I ask if he needs any help. Something about his quick refusal catches my attention, and I’m struck with the feeling that Brianna told him about the cabin fire incident. I narrow my eyes at him, forcing myself to ask him about it.

“Erm, yeah, she might have brought it up once.” He pauses, glances at me over his shoulder. “Or twice…”

“I’m going to kill her,” I moan as I bury my face in my hands.

He grins, shakes his head, and grabs a package of pasta. “Please don’t. Then Louis might have to kill you, then I would have to kill him, and then it’d just be a killing circle because the others would have to join in, and it’d be a bloody mess!”

I have no idea why exactly his statement is so hilarious to me, but it is. I slap my hands over my mouth as I laugh uproariously, nearly falling off the counter. He flashes me a cheeky, albeit slightly confused, smile and turns his attention back to the boiling water. In that moment, I feel so much happier about leaving Tennessee than I have been since I actually left home. It’s brought me such a wonderful new friend, even if he just so happens to be a famous singer in a world-renowned boyband.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.


“You definitely weren’t lying,” I sigh, pushing away my empty plate, and slump in my chair. “That was some of the best spaghetti I’ve ever had, and I used to work in an Italian restaurant, so I know what I’m talking about.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

I swat his hands away from my plate as he stands. “Oh, c’mon! You cooked, so it’s only fair that I do the dishes.”

Instantly, he hands me the silverware he was in the process of picking up. A laugh bubbles out of me, but I hurry to carry everything to the kitchen so I can wash them. The sound of Netflix starting up comes from the living room. I put the newly-cleaned dishes away and wipe down the table with a wet cloth. Once I’m done with that, I turn the light off, make my way to the living room, and flop down onto the couch next to Harry. He presses play on the remote, and The Lion King starts playing. We sing along to the opening song, our voices off-key and full of laughter. We settle down once the movie gets past the song, and he moves his arm so I can lie down with my head on his lap. His fingers immediately find the ends of my hair, twisting them gently. The next thing I’m aware of, someone’s whispering over my head.

“Lou, leave them alone!”

“I just want a picture!”

“But you’re going to wake them up. Seriously, you’re gonna kiss Haz if you get any closer.”

“Fine,” Louis hisses as a camera shutter clicks, “I’m done anyway.”

“I swear to God, Louis, if that photo ends up on the internet, I’m going to kill you.”

“Oh! Koty, you're awake. Er… what picture?”

I crack one eye open to glare at him the best I can while still waking up. He smiles innocently and perched on the arm of the couch. It takes a moment to disentangle myself from Harry’s arms - when the Hell has that happened? I scrub a hand over my eyes, yawning widely; Brianna waves at me from the doorway as my gaze lands on her.

“Hey, how was your nap?”

I ignore her and head to the bathroom. By the time I've returned, Harry is awake and sitting up, his hair a mess from sleep. I flick one of his curls as I pass to sit in the armchair. Bri raises an eyebrow but doesn't speak. Harry pats the cushion next to him, and she plops down gracelessly.

“So you two all right now?”

Louis grins like the Cheshire Cat. “I'm pretty sure we're okay.”

“We damn well better be after that display you put on in front of Haz’s neighbour.”

“Please tell me you didn't scar that old woman,” begs Harry with a groan.

“She's fine, I promise,” Louis rushes to reassure him before continuing, laughing, “maybe just a wee bit jealous!”

<ooxoo>


The blanket does nothing to provide much comfort against the concrete of the balcony, but the gesture alone is thoughtful, considerate, so I don't complain as I lie back to stare at the sky. The stars above us seem to shine brighter in the dark sky. I stargazed a few times during my life - living in the backwoods of nowhere lends many possibilities to experiencing nature - but somehow, it’s better here. Maybe it's because I know Bri’s finally happy, really genuinely happy. Maybe it’s because the traffic ten floors below is muffled enough that it feels like we’re in our own little world. Or maybe it's because Harry is only a foot away, stretched out on his back with his hands folded under his head, his attention on the tiny pinpoints of light in the sea of black. My lips curve up into a small smile, and I relax further with a little sigh.

“Sorry it's not very comfortable,” he whispers, and I shake my head.

“It's wonderful, Haz, really. What is all this, though?”

“You’ve been here a week, and you managed to get Bri to stand up for herself which means she and Louis are happy now, so… I figured we’d do something to celebrate. I mean, it’s obviously a little simple, and we can totally do something else if you want.”

“No, no, this is perfect. I like simple.”

He rolls onto his side to face me. “I-I know this is really none of my business, and you can tell me to go fuck myself, but… why don’t you talk about yourself very often?”

The words wilt in my throat, and I sigh, staring at the sky. What can I possibly say that won’t make him run away screaming? His gaze is heavy against the side of my face, and finally, I turn my head to look at him. He smiles comfortingly, which helps to ease the fear a bit.

“I… I don’t because I don’t really like what I have to say. Granted, life for me was significantly better than what others had -”

“Brianna.”

“Right.” Exhaling sharply, I scratch at my eyebrow and avoid eye contact as I continue. “Even though it was easier compared to her life, it’s, it’s still not easy to talk about. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were great. The typical down-home, Southern Christian family, followed the Bible quite religiously, pardon the pun. But they were great, nonetheless. They’ve always loved my sister and me unconditionally, tried to give us everything we needed to go far in life. I couldn’t have asked for better parents.”

“So what’s so hard to talk about?” he murmurs, so low I almost don’t hear him.

“It’s stupid, really. They’re getting divorced,” I sigh with a shrug.

“That’s not stupid. My mum and dad divorced when I was seven.”

“And now I feel even dumber, since I’m twenty-one.”

Harry chuckles, pushes at my shoulder gently. “Don’t.”

Someone honks down on the street, and I pull my sweater tighter around me as a chill breeze slides over my skin; Harry takes that as initiative to scoot closer. His arm is comforting over my waist, and the warmth between us is strangely reassuring. The quiet is disconcerting. I know he has more questions, I just hope I can answer them.

“So, uh, what else is there? No offence, but I don't really believe that's all. Everything about you, the way you avoid talking about yourself… it all points to something huge. You don't have to tell me,” he adds in a rush when I don't speak. “Just day the word, and I'll drop it.”

“It's fine. Um, you have to promise not to judge me.”

“I wouldn't dream of it.”

I pull away from his grasp, sitting up with my knees to my chest. He watches me closely as I gather my thoughts. The memory is still clear as day, even so many years later; my eyes close of their own accord, my lungs burn when I drag in a tremulous breath.

My hands pressed tightly over my mouth, stifling the scream that was bursting to explode, and I leaned heavily against the bark of the large cottonwood tree I was perched in. I'd climbed it instinctively when I heard the voices, the crackling of twigs and fallen branches snapping under heavy boots. I couldn't look away from the scene on the ground below me. My heart hammered in my chest, painful against my ribs; breathing is near impossible with how tight my lungs are. My eyes stung, my vision blurred with tears, but I bit back the sounds and forced myself to take shallow, silent breaths. I knew if I cried out or moved - anything that would draw attention to my position in the tree - the fact that I was a young girl who belonged to the local Church of Christ wouldn't save me. Time dragged on, and I desperately wanted to look away, to stop watching and pretend nothing happened, but I couldn't. Finally, the riverbank fell quiet again, the frightened and agonised screams abruptly dying out with a final blow of the rock against her skull; even the insects were silent, and I watched as the woman’s body disappeared into the murky water, a flash of pale white and dark crimson sinking down and slipping away. A large, hulking shadow slipped back into the trees, and I waited with baited breath until I was sure he was gone before slowly, carefully, lowering myself to the ground. A bullfrog let out a baritone croak; I jumped, startled, then turned on my heel and tore through the woods. The world spun dizzyingly around me as branches scratched at my face, cling to my clothes. A scream tore from me when I was suddenly yanked to a stop, and I couldn't stop the sob of relief at the realisation i hadn't been caught, it was just a low-hanging limb. I untangled my shirt and pushed on. My feet didn’t stop carrying me towards home even as I vomited, barely turning my head to prevent any getting on myself. I couldn't get the images out of my head. I knew I would never be able to forget what I witnessed. And I hated that I'd have this memory for the rest of my life.
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title credit time after time cyndi lauper