Dreams Unwind

[t h i r t e e n]

Harry’s words echo in my brain, and a numbing sort of pain spreads through me, freezing me from the core. My lungs scream, demand oxygen, and I manage to drag in a rattling breath. Harry reaches for me again; I don’t have the energy or presence of mind to fight him off, but the sight of him tears my heart to shreds, so I tuck my head between my knees and try to focus on anything except the way my world has suddenly flipped upside down.

“I’m… I’m so sorry, Jo.” His hand is hot through the fabric of my shirt, rubs circles into my skin. “I just - LA isn’t what I need or want any more.”

What about me - am I what you want or need any more? The words don’t come. We sit there in silence, interrupted only by the shakiness of my breathing. My stomach churns violently, bile rising in my throat; I swallow thickly and turn my head to stare at the wall past him.

“Wh-when are you leaving?”

He sighs. “At the end of the week.”

“And… and you just told me now?”

“I didn’t want to hurt you.”

“So you waited - how long have you known?” His hesitation is answer enough. I jerk away from his touch. The comfort it offered is gone now, nothing but a betrayal. His green eyes are dark with something I can’t read when I meet his gaze. “Harry Styles, how long have you known you were leaving?”

“About a month,” he whispers; his lips barely move.

I shove myself to my feet to stand in front of him. My hands clench into tight fists at my side, tremble with the sudden rage that crashes over me. “Are you fucking serious. You’ve known for a month that you were moving, and you didn’t bother ever bringing it up in any of our conversations? Didn’t give me a heads up? Didn’t think to even talk to me about it? Wow, that’s… that’s fucking shitty of you.”

“I’m sorry,” he spits out, tone venomous, and thank god, finally he’s giving me something other than that pitying look and patronising voice. “I didn’t realise I needed your permission.”

“It isn’t that you didn’t get my goddamn permission, Harry! It’s the fact that you never fucking told me. You let - fuck, you let me fall for you knowing you would be leaving me, knowing that I’ve already had to deal with the loss of one man that I love and I’d have to do it again once you walked away. That is what I have a problem with. So you can fuck right off.”

I storm out of the room, not bothering to grab my flip-flops from the entry hall on my way out the door. Harry calls after me, but my anger propels me forward. He appears in the doorway as I buckle up my seatbelt, starts down the walk. I shake my head and shove my car into gear, pulling out of the driveway much faster than I should have. His reflection fades from the rear-view.

Tears blur my vision, and there’s a roaring in my ears that does nothing to drown out the thoughts that are circling viciously around my brain. A soft creaking noise alerts me to just how tightly I’m gripping the steering wheel, but I can’t relax my grip. Without thinking, I slam my foot on the accelerator, swerve around the car that was in front of me, and take the nearest exit. The brakes squeal when I stomp on the pedal, clouds of dust billowing around the car as it jerks to a stop. I can see the man at the fuel pump across the parking lot staring at me when I let out my emotions on a scream, my palm hitting the dashboard until my hand throbs with the pain that doesn’t come close to what I feel inside. A sob tears itself through me; I rest my forehead against the steering wheel and let myself lose control just for a minute.

My anger, the heartbreak, hasn’t subsided by the time I come to a rough stop in front of my house. I barely remember to grab my bag and purse from the passenger seat before I slide shakily from the driver’s seat. Minute tremors rack my body as I slam the door and press the lock button on the key-fob, and my knees threaten to give out from under me.

“What the Hell?” Henry asks when I storm into the house. “Jo Beth? What happened?”

“Guys are fucking dumb, and I have no goddamn idea as to how you live with yourselves.”

“Joey -”

My bedroom door closes with an echoing bang, and I fumble with the lock a few times before finally managing to get it in place. Henry’s voice comes from right outside in the hall, but I ignore him, pace around my room. My hands bury into my hair, tugging at the strands until sharp pains erupt all over my scalp, and Tubs growls low in his throat then chirps; I’m only seventy-five percent sure it’s my imagination that the noise is as full of curiosity as it sounds.

… … …

I stare after Joey’s car long after it disappears from sight. I’d known she would be hurt by my decision to move - Hell, I’m hurt by my decision - but the entire conversation went a lot worse than I anticipated. An errant thought passes through my mind, a flyaway gratefulness that I hadn’t let my body override my senses before we talked. She isn’t going to see it the same way, though. I know she isn’t.

>> How did it go?

I stare down at Mitch’s text for a long minute then respond the only way I can: Everything is fucked up now.

>> You gonna be ok?

<< I have no idea

Time seems to crawl, and I keep replaying the scene in my head. I shouldn’t have gotten so angry with her; she was hurt, lashing out, and I understand that. But at the moment, it seemed the right choice to strike back at her. The venom of the words I said still lingers on my tongue. Shoving a hand through my hair, I make my way to the living room, ignore the black strappy sandals by the door, and fall onto the couch with little grace.

Her underwear still sits on the arm of the couch, bright beacons in an otherwise gloomy haze that has settled over the room since she walked out. I stare at the spots of yellow, pick at the varnish on my nails. A small voice tells me that this isn’t something she and I can easily come back from, and my heart clenches at the thought.

Seconds stretch into minutes into hours, but I don’t move. My thoughts race around each other - should I stay here, let her calm down, and then we can talk? Or should I go after her and convince her to hear me out? I know I have the option of asking Mitch or Stevie or, hell, even Niall or Louis, but… telling Mitch that the conversation hadn’t gone well had been uncomfortable enough of an admission. I don’t know if I can handle having to ask for advice about this or dealing with their reactions.

“I think you need to leave.”

My heart pounds out a painful beat against my ribs, but I don’t let my gaze stray from Joey’s father’s face. “I need to talk to Joey.”

“She’ll contact you if she wants to. So go.” The man doesn’t say more, arms crossed over his chest - Dennis, my brain whispers, reminding me of his name from the hundreds of times I’ve talked to Joey.

“I don’t want to, and I won’t until I get the chance to apologise, to talk to her.”

Another man comes up behind Joey’s father; when they stand next to each other, it’s easy to tell they’re brothers. Henry gives me an uncomfortably long, appraising look then turns to Dennis.

“C’mon, let the boy talk to Jo. Besides, she might still punch him for whatever he did, and that’d be one helluva show.”

Dennis’s smile holds no humour as I gulp audibly, and Henry turns and calls for Joey. I can’t hear what she says back, but her uncle refuses to let her ignore him, yelling her name louder and louder. Finally, she rounds the corner and stumbles to an abrupt stop. Her father has no chance of getting out of the way before she’s shoving past him and shutting the door in my face. I raise a hand to knock; it’s unnecessary, since Henry pulls the door open again. This process repeats three more times before Henry puts himself in front of the door, prevents her from being able to close it without forcing him out of the way. I have never seen so much hurt, betrayal, anger in her blue-green eyes in all the months I’ve known her. To be on the receiving end - to be the cause… it kills me.

My lips quirk upwards, but I know the smile falls flat. Shoving my hands into my pockets, I shift my weight between my feet. “I’ll make it quick, I promise.”

… … …

I stare at Harry, my heart beating a painful rhythm against my ribs. Rage exploded the instant I saw him in the doorway, and my uncle’s actions did nothing to quell the flames of anger that lick at my nerves, drown my sight in a red tint. A voice whispers cruelly to walk away, to push my way past him and run until the world disappears, but a smaller part of me yearns for his touch and the love I feel whenever he’s around. Against my better judgment, I step back and turn on my heel. My dad frowns at me, and I shake my head in response; he grumbles but doesn’t stop Harry from hesitantly crossing the threshold into the house.

“Door stays open,” my father orders once I’ve led Harry to my bedroom.

I poke my head into the hallway to glare at him then pointedly shut the door. It has never once been a rule in the house, and it’s not one I’m willing to follow right now. I turn back to see Harry sitting gingerly on the end of my bed, his fingers brushing through Tubs’s fur. I cross my arms over my chest, lean against the wood behind me. Neither of us speak for a long moment, and the turmoil in my gut won’t settle. I exhale sharply.

“This is you making it quick?”

Harry jolts in surprise, and Tubs lets out a small growl of displeasure at the disruption of attention. Harry apologises to the cat quietly, resuming the petting, and finally meets my eye. “I’m sorry. Yes, I have known about the move for a while. I know I should have told you long before now, and I’m sorry that I didn’t. I just... Jo, you have to believe me. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to put an end date on what we have.”

“Bullshit,” I snap, and though his expression darkens, I don’t falter. “You just didn’t want me to know the end date.”

“Don’t twist my words around, Joey.”

“Then stop fucking lying to me. You didn’t want me to know that what we had had a ‘best by’ and we’ve passed it.”

“But the more I think about it,” he says over my words, and I throw my hands into the air, “the more I think… who says there even has to be an end date?”

I snort, shake my head. “Long-distance relationships don’t work, Harry. Sure, they sound super-romantic, like, ‘Oh, look at how long we’ve been together even though we’re x miles apart! Our love must be so true!’ But in reality? Someone gets bored with the distance, the lack of being physically together, and they step out. They can hide it as much as they want - I mean, seriously who’s gonna find out? Their partner isn’t there! But it happens.” His eyes watch me closely as I cross the room, and I plop down onto the head of my bed. Tubs chirps and abandons Harry. “I don’t want that. I don’t think… no. I know I can’t handle that.”

The silence is deafening. Harry draws in a rattling breath after a long moment. “So… this is it, then?”

“I guess it is,” I reply softly through numb lips, ignoring the way my heart shatters in my chest.

He stares at me for a long minute. It takes all of my willpower to not take back my words. I meant them, so I have to stick by them, no matter how much it pains me to do so. To my surprise, he surges forward, hands shaking as they cradle my face, and his kiss is hard and graceless and searching and speaking volumes in a language I’m not sure I understand. My eyes burn with the tears, but I swallow the anguish and kiss him back. If this is goodbye, I might as well make it count. I might as well take what he’ll give me one last time.