Dreams Unwind

[n i n e]

I stretch out on my towel, sighing blissfully as the heat envelopes my skin. Since it’s nearing half seven in the evening, the beach isn’t as packed as it normally would have been, so the only sounds I can hear are the waves, the birds, and the occasional shout from a child further along the shore. It has been two days since my fantastic date with Harry, and the weightless feeling has yet to fade. Telling him about Wil, getting to talk about the wonderful memories I have of my husband, took away a large fraction of my worries.

Harry had been an absolute angel in his reaction to the news. I honestly hadn’t expected him to be so wonderful about it. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he walked away without letting me explain, but he hadn’t. He’d stayed and held me through the pain of talking about Wil and everything I’ve had to suffer through with his death.

Evidently, my dad had told Henry sometime between me going to bed and waking up, and so I’d left my room the morning following the date to find my uncle sitting at the kitchen table with a patient smile on his face. I’d given the same story I told my dad, but while my dad had been slightly apprehensive, Henry was excited about the idea of me putting myself out there. He’s made comments in the last year that I need to make myself happy, to take the chance on a relationship again.

A beeping sound comes from my tote bag, and I sigh, sitting up, and push my sunglasses toward my hairline so I can find my phone in the depths of the bag.

>> You look amazing

My brows furrow, and I look up from the screen to scan the others around me. The phone vibrates in my hand, a grey bubble with You’re not looking in the RIGHT place appearing on the screen under the last text. My head snaps to my right once I’ve read the message. A surprised laugh escapes, and I shake my head as Harry advances.

“That was a dick move, freaking me out like that,” I announce, though my smile betrays me, and he sits and nudges me with his shoulder. “To what do I owe this wonderful surprise?”

“I’m sorry for scaring you. And I had some free time, so I figured I’d come see my favourite beautiful girl.”

“Oh? Where is she, then?”

His hand is warm, steady, as he laces our fingers together, and it isn’t just the setting sun that heats my skin. “I’ll let you know if I see her.”

“Ass!”

He doesn’t let me tug away, pulls me into his side with a laugh, and I pout in mock hurt. He presses a kiss to my temple, lips curved into a smile. I let my head fall to his shoulder and stare out at the water. I’ve always loved the ocean, no matter how much it terrifies me; something about knowing there’s unidentified life deep below the surface and just how far down the water stretches has never failed to give me goosebumps. We don’t speak for a long while, both of us just enjoying each other’s presence.

Black silhouettes of birds streak across the golden sky, disappear into the horizon. Pinks and purples edge orange before melting into a rich navy overhead. Though the city lies behind us, I’m consumed by the sensation of being in an entirely different world here under the darkening sky, somewhere nothing can touch us or bring us back to reality. I feel as if he and I are the grains of sand below us - minuscule in the grand scheme but existing nonetheless. My breath comes out in a shuddering gust as stars spark to life above our heads, the sun finally having said goodnight to the day and given up its time to shine.

Eventually, even the best things must come to an end. The moon is beginning its trek across the sky by the time I stand and tug my shorts and tank-top on over my bikini. Harry’s eyes track my movements, and I suppress a shiver at the way the green is almost liquid in the pale moonlight. He helps shake the sand out of my towel, passing it over, and his hand on my wrist stops me as I turn to stuff the towel into my tote bag. I don’t get the chance to question him before he’s cupping my jaw and ducking down slightly to kiss me. It’s a soft, chaste thing, but my breath hitches at the contact.

“I’ve really wanted to do that since I dropped you at home,” he whispers once we’ve parted.

I huff out a quiet laugh, loop my arms around his torso, and stretch up onto my tiptoes to press my lips to his. He takes it as the permission I intend it to be, pulling me closer, and I melt against him. This kiss isn’t as gentle, stokes the fire in my belly with each brush of his tongue against mine. My heart races under my ribs, and I wonder idly if he can feel how much he’s affecting me. Every nerve ending in my body lights up with the crashing wave of want that rips through me; heat pools in my gut, my brain and body surprisingly both in agreement about this. Unfortunately, Harry pulls away far too soon, but I take pleasure in the fact that his pupils are blown wide, black overtaking emerald, as he stares down at me.

“If we keep doing this, I’m not going to want to stop.”

“So why don’t we… not stop?”

He groans low in his throat, dropping a kiss to my hair. “Oh, love, you have no idea how much I want to. Just not tonight.”

I swallow back the disappointment, letting the logical side of my mind remind me we’ve only gone on one date, it’s been less than a month that we have known each other. It took me three months to be comfortable with the thought of having sex with Wil for the first time, so the fact that Harry isn’t wanting to take me to bed right this instant should be a good thing. It is a good thing, I remind myself as I take a step back.

Thankfully, it isn’t awkward between us as I scoop up my tote, slip the strap onto my shoulder, and reach for his hand. We walk back up to the parking strip with our fingers intertwined and little distance to separate us. A small voice in the back of my mind tells me to slow down, I’m trying to go too fast with him, but I push it away. Right now, I just want to focus on the peaceful easy feeling I get when he’s around.

“Do you need a ride?” I ask softly after we come to a stop by my car, gazing up at him and hoping against hope that I can have even a few more minutes with him.

He nods, to my relief, and though I want to ask him how he got here if he didn’t drive, I keep the question to myself. He rounds the vehicle as I slide into the driver’s seat, start up the engine. I grab my phone from my tote before tossing the bag into the backseat, and open the Pandora app. Within seconds, the soft strains of piano keys come through the speakers; Harry’s lips curve into a smile.

“Good song.”

I grin but don’t bother responding. Instead, I adjust the volume and start singing Well, I never thought I’d make here in Hollywood. I can feel Harry staring at me in the dim lighting from the dashboard, his gaze heavy on my skin. I ignore it and focus on driving. He helpfully gives directions every so often, but other than that, the only sound in the car comes from the Stevie Nicks station on my Pandora.

Harry hesitates once I come to a stop in his driveway, giving his house a long look before he turns to me. I turn down the music and force a small smile. His eyes tell me it falls flat, and he leans over the centre console to run a finger along my cheekbone.

“I hate saying goodbye,” I mumble, turn my head to press a kiss to his hand.

“So do I.” Unfortunately, my words don’t convince him to stay with me, to run away from the world and our responsibilities; he tugs me forward gently, and the kiss he gives me lingers long after he’s pulled away. “Goodnight, Jo.”

“Night, Harry.”

I wait until he disappears into his house before pulling away. The drive home seems hours long, each mile that gets eaten up by my tires stretching on forever. I swallow thickly and wonder how the Hell I could have fallen so damn hard so fast.

The texts and FaceTime calls over the next few weeks help ease me through missing him. He’s gotten busy with his music and other ventures, which has cut into the time we can spend together. It doesn’t help that I end up getting a job at the campus bookstore now that the summer has started; though I like having employment - mostly because it means I can get a jumpstart on paying off my student loans - I hate that it keeps me from being able to see Harry whenever I want. A bonus to working at the campus bookstore is literally no one expects Harry Styles’s girlfriend to be employed there, so all I get is the occasional freak-out from students whenever they come in.

I set the box-cutter to the side and yank the flaps of the box up, tearing the remnants of tape still clinging tightly to the cardboard. The bell over the door chimes brightly, but I focus on unloading the shipment of books that have come in for the start of term next month, figuring Kristalyn can handle helping the customer.

“Excuse me.”

I don’t look away from where I’m scanning the textbooks into the system, even as I respond in my best customer-service voice, “Just a moment, please, but if you’re in a rush, I’m sure my coworker is able to assist you.”

“Excuse me, I’m a very important person, and I demand your attention.”

I’ve always prided myself on keeping my cool when it comes to annoying people; unless it involved my cat, I was able to ignore the rudeness with which others are so willing to treat their fellows. But something about this guy thinking he’s too special to have to wait a minute or, gasp, go find another associate who isn’t busy, makes my temper snap. I slam the books in my hand onto the counter.

“I don’t give a damn how important you think you are, Chad,” because his voice told me he was most likely one of those Chads you meet who are so entitled, they can’t see over their self-appointed privilege what garbage guys they really are, “but I’m - oh, what the fuck. Damn it, Harry!”

Harry’s eyes sparkle, and he gives me a cheeky grin. “Nice to know you’ve forgotten your boyfriend’s name.”

I round the counter and swat at his arm before pulling him in for a hug. His arms wrap around me, and I close my eyes as the scent I’ve come to know as him fills my nose. We stand there for a long minute until I pull back.

“What are you doing here?”

“When is your shift over?”

I glance at the clock on the wall. “Like, two minutes, but I gotta get these books in the system. Why?”

“Just go, do your job. I’ll be over in the psychology section.”

My hands tremble and a nervousness consumes me as I rush through my task. The instant the last book is catalogued, I clock out, unpin my nametag from my shirt, and yell to the store as a whole that I’m leaving. Kristalyn’s voice comes from the furthest corner of the store, acknowledging what I’ve said, and I take my chance to scurry away to find Harry.

He’s right where he said he’d be - sitting cross-legged on the floor with his elbow on his knee and fist resting under his chin. His long fingers carefully turn the pages of the textbook in his lap. I don’t want to interrupt him, he looks so peaceful and calm, but I also don’t relish the thought of sitting at my work for the next however long. I crouch next to him, card my fingers through his hair. His lashes flutter as his eyes close at the touch. When he looks up at me, there’s something in his eyes that I can’t read. It’s there then gone, and his face brightens.

“Ready?”

“Yes. Get me outta here.”

He laughs, and I stand, holding out a hand. I know I’m not much assistance, but he wraps his fingers around my hand and helpfully pretends that I make any bit of difference as he clambers to his feet. I raise a brow when he checks the cover of the textbook then searches the shelves for its placement. I’ve learnt well that he’s such a kind person, but it still takes me by surprise when he does something so considerate such as putting a book back where it belongs instead of leaving it wherever is closest.

I don’t even bother asking Harry where we’re headed as he pulls out of the parking lot. I trust him enough, especially after the amazing first date he planned, that I have no doubts that this one will be just as wonderful. So I settle into my seat and look at him. The sun is just low enough in the sky that it shines through the driver’s side window, illuminates his profile. I wonder again how I managed to get lucky enough in life to have this chance with him. Especially after practically winning the lottery with having Wil in my life.

The sound of Siri announcing a phone call interrupts the quiet of the car, and he quickly presses the accept button, mouthing Sorry in my direction as the call connects.

“Hey there, sweetie. What are you up to?”

My brows draw together at the voice that comes through the speakers. It’s oddly familiar, though I can’t place it. Harry glances at me then grins before turning his attention back to the road.

“Hi. I am currently heading for a very important date at the moment.”

“Oh? Tell me more. What are they like?”

“She’s actually in the car right now.” The mischievous smirk on his face comes right as I recognise the speaker on the other end, and he catches my eye. “Say hi to Stevie, Jo.”

“Uh, hi?” I manage to croak out in a shaky voice, eyes wide.

The woman’s laugh is barely muffled as she apologises for interrupting. “I’ll let you two get to your date, but Harry, call me later, okay? Have fun, kids.”

Harry ends the call with a cheery “okay!”, and I gape at him. I’m not sure how long I’ll be in shock, but I have a feeling it’ll be a while, considering I just said hello to Stevie fucking Nicks.