I had feared that things would turn awkward. That the drunken kiss Harry and I had shared would be a stupid, one-time mistake, and we would avoid each other throughout the rest of my stay in London – which was far from over.
But as soon as I woke up in his bed the morning after, he kissed my forehead and mumbled:
“Morning lovely. Ready for breakfast?”
At that moment I knew everything would be okay. Except for the Niall-thing, which was more than awkward; we pretty much avoided each other at every given chance, he would go out of his way not to see me and even asking for the salt during dinner was a challenge for both of us. I knew I had to talk to him, but I wasn’t ready yet. I needed time to think about everything he had said, and in the meantime I could hang out with Harry and have fun with him.
Mine and Harry’s fling quickly blossomed, and the sneaking around reminded me of when I was 15 and had just started dating – and by dating, I mean casually shagging – a guy with tattoos, and had to hide him from my parents. It was fun, exciting and no one could know about it.
But the thing with Harry was that we didn’t have sex. We had tried, on several occasions, but every time something – or someone – would get in our way, and we would have to postpone it.
Even when he abandoned a night out, and came home earlier than the other guys, something wouldn’t be right. The mood wasn’t there, one of us would be tired and the list went on. I really felt like karma was punishing me for something, and most days I spent in my guestroom, listening to music, doodling or watching TV.
I was bummed out; Niall and I weren’t speaking, Harry and I couldn’t move forward and Zayn kept nagging me about what was wrong, but I couldn’t really tell him. “Oh yeah, I’m just pissed because the universe is keeping me from having sex with your best friend.”
My summer was officially going down the drain.
It was one of those days.
I had told the guys I didn’t want to go grocery shopping with them, Louis had called me a knob, Harry had said they would go to Nando’s without me and Liam had refused to buy my favourite cereal.
Just a normal day at the Direction flat.
As the boys left, Zayn pulled me aside and said:
“Check up on Penny, will you man? She’s been kind of quiet lately, keeping to herself, you know?”
I had noticed how Penny wouldn’t go out with us anymore. But I had also noticed how Harry would make up excuses to go home hours before everyone else. Zayn had to be either dumb or blind, if he thought that was a coincidence.
Nevertheless I agreed to check up on her, regretting it immediately after they left.
Penny and I hadn’t been alone after my word vomit, at least not more than two minutes; every time we were left together one of us would get up and leave.
But after an hour of me pacing around the living room, wondering whether or not the guys would actually eat at Nando’s without me, flipping through every channel and eating a sandwich, I finally knocked on her door and said:
“Hello? Can I come in?”
When she didn’t answer I opened the door and looked inside; she was lying on her bed, headphones on and staring at the ceiling, so heart achingly beautiful that I felt like bursting into song. I had forgotten how beautiful she really was, with her long, wavy hair spread out on the bed, full lips slightly parted and miming along to the song and pale, smooth skin. As I remembered her beauty I just wanted to stand there and look at her forever. So I did.
That was until she noticed me, quickly sat up, ripped her headphones off and asked:
“Is something wrong?”
It was the longest sentence uttered between us for more than a week.
“No, no!” I quickly said, finally daring to step into the room and sit down on the edge of the bed. “Zayn just wanted me to check up on you. He and the other guys went grocery shopping.”
“Oh. Okay, I’m fine though.” She mumbled, reaching for the headphones.
“I know it’s probably none of my business,” I said, ignoring the voice in my head telling me to quit it, “but you’ve seemed kind of down lately. Anything wrong?”
“You’re right.” She lay down again. “It is none of your business, so please leave thank you very much.”
“Oh, I know how to cheer you up.” I tried smiling to her. “A party.”
“If you haven’t noticed, I don’t really fancy going out at the moment.” She huffed. She really wasn’t having any of it.
“I know. That’s why we’re having a party here. Tonight. I’ll call Zayn and tell him what to buy.”
“Why are you suddenly so nice to me?” She asked, narrowing her eyes at me. “What are you trying to do?”
“I’m not trying anything.” I answered, shrugging a bit. “I just... I don’t know, it’s kind of hard ignoring someone who’s crashing at your place the whole summer, I guess. It’s no use, you know?” She looked down at her hands, thinking probably and we were both quiet for a while. As I got up to leave, she grabbed my wrist and said:
“Hey. Thanks for checking, though. Really. And... Thanks for being so nice. I don’t want to ignore you either.” I sat down and took her hand in mine, ignoring how she flinched and almost pulled away.
“Penny, I know things have been weird between us lately, but I really want us to be friends again.” I said.
“Me too.” She answered, looking at our hands. “But I just need some time, after everything you said...”
“I know.” I interrupted her. “And I take it back, everything! I just want things to go back to like they were. If I promise to give you all the time you need, do you think we could start acting normal again?”
Again silence fell upon us. She bit her lip, but broke into a smile:
“Okay. You know I can’t resist that Irish charm!”
“Liam?” I asked that evening, as we were standing in his room and he was fixing my tie. “When did you find out that you were in love with Danielle?”
“Oh, hmmm... I don’t know, Niall, I would like to think that it was love at first sight.” He answered, keeping his eyes on my tie. “But I think it was right after our first fight.”
“Your first fight?” I looked at him, and he quickly looked me in the eyes, smiling, before he continued:
“Yes, our first fight as a couple. I don’t even remember what it was about, probably something stupid. Anyway, after the fight she was still pissing mad at me, but I wanted nothing more than to kiss her and tell her how sorry I was, even if I was right. Fighting seemed pointless to me, it was just a waste of the time we could spend being happy.”
“Did you do it then?” I asked after listening silently. “Tell her that you were sorry?”
“What? Hell no, I was right and she was wrong, and I didn’t talk to her for 3 days.” He laughed. “But in hindsight, you know... I should’ve just made up with her.” He patted my tie. “There, all done.”
We looked ourselves in the mirror and I smiled broadly; tonight would be awesome. The guests would be here in a couple of hours, and there was just an amazing vibe in the flat, with everyone stressing around, getting ready, sipping drinks and borrowing clothes from each other.
All of our rooms were messes of clothes, but nothing compared to Penny’s; she was getting ready with Danielle and Eleanor, and they seemed to have brought their full wardrobes.
“So,” Liam said, running a hand through his hair, “when did you find out that you were in love with Penny?”
“Wait what?” I looked at him with big eyes, but decided that it wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t hide it from Liam, at least not for too long. He had a way of always getting the truth out of everyone. “That obvious, huh?”
“Yeah, to me at least.” He sat down on his bed. “Who else knows?”
“Only Louis. And I would like to keep it that way, please.” I took a seat next to him, putting on my nice dress shoes.
“Sure, but Niall have you thought about this? I’ve only know her for a couple of weeks, but she doesn’t seem like the type of girl who would...”
“Fall for a guy like me? Fall for any guy? I know, I tried talking to her about it. Bad idea.”
“She freaked out. Didn’t speak to me for over a week. We only just made up today.”
“Woah, rough.” Liam said and stood up. “Try and forget about it, yeah? Dani invited some of her dancer friends tonight, and you know that girl Melissa, you met at the Easter party? Turns out she’s got a thing for you.”
The party was great. There was a big turn-out, even with the short notice, and two hours into the party the flat was filled with people dancing, drinking and just having a good time.
At parties everyone seemed to let loose, and not care about their reputations or being “decent”. I had seen Louis with his hand up Eleanor’s skirt, dragging her into a bedroom and Liam dancing with a cigarette in his mouth. At our private flat parties we all became much more relaxed, because we couldn’t get caught in any “sticky situations”.
I had quickly found Melissa, and with the way she was downing drinks and “casually” touched my arm from time to time I was sure to get laid that night. My eyes just couldn’t stop searching for Penny. Even when Melissa was telling a mildly entertaining story, while flirting heavily, I scanned the room for her face. I had briefly seen her before the first couple of guests arrived, and she looked amazing with her long, bare legs and low cut dress, but during the party I only caught glimpses of her. Always with Harry by her side.
He played with her hair, kissed her temples, whispered in her ear and made her giggle like a school girl, even when she pushed him away. It was easy to see that he had had one too many, and was growing more and more persistent, but Zayn was in the room and Penny knew that. She hadn’t been drinking much, just like me.
On one hand I wanted to see how Zayn would react to Harry feeling up his childhood friend, and on the other hand I felt like I should help Penny and tell Harry to back off. But I knew him; when Harry got a lot to drink he became loving, horny and, most of all, stubborn. Hell, he had even tried to get me into bed more than once.
As my eyes once again searched the room, I heard someone clearing their throat near me. I looked down to see Melissa staring at me, with a raised eyebrow.
“Am I boring you?” She asked, not sounding amused at all.
“No, not at all, I’m just looking for...” I said, but she interrupted me:
“...someone more interesting to talk to?” She huffed. “You know, you were the one who was all eager to talk to me, while other guys have been trying to hit me up all night.” True story. I had thought that talking to Melissa, would keep my mind off Penny for just one night, but clearly I was wrong. “Maybe I should just go and find Danielle, or something.”
“No, Melissa, I’m sorry.” I gently grabbed her arm. “I was just distracted. My attention is all yours from now on, I promise.”
She smiled. “Okay, you want to go outside then? I need some fresh air.”
Melissa looked quite beautiful in the moonlight, with tanned skin and a big mess of bleach blonde curls. She had lovely curves, soft hands and a small mouth with pouty lips that felt amazing against mine, as she stood on her tiptoes and kissed me. I put my hands on her waist and kissed back with all my force, but I still couldn’t shake the image of Penny in my mind.
No girl, no matter how beautiful she was, could compare to Penny and how she made me feel. But I had to forget about her, it could never happen, so I looked into Melissa’s eyes and whispered:
“You want to go up to my bedroom and, uh, talk?”
“Or,” she suggested and bit her bottom lip, “we could go up to your bedroom and have sex?”
“Yeah ok, that sounds better.” I laughed and took her hand. As soon as we were in the elevator, she pushed me up against the wall and kissed my neck. In between kisses she asked:
“Sure you’re not too drunk to take advantage of me, hmm?”
“To be honest, I’ve only had a couple of beers and that was three hours ago.” I sighed in satisfaction and kissed her lips. “Couldn’t try and chat you up while being drunk, could I?”
She giggled and we quickly got off the elevator and into the flat. We made our way through the crowd, and I instantly spotted Penny; her and Harry were happily talking to some guests. She was laughing at something, and even though I couldn’t hear her, I knew exactly what her laughter sounded like.
She got her phone up from her purse, and everything happened in a matter of seconds; one moment she was shouting into her cell phone, covering her one ear with her hand... The next she was falling to the floor, screaming, Harry barely catching her. I ripped my hand out of Melissa’s tight grip, not looking back to apologize and ran to Penny’s side. She was screaming and crying in Harry’s arms, trying to get out of his hold.
I had never seen Penny in a state like that; she was always calm and collected, almost never letting her emotions show on the outside. Now I was almost scared of her, she seemed possessed, like a whole different person.
“Oi Harry! What happened?” I yelled, trying to be louder than the music, the guests and Penny’s sobbing screams.
“I don’t know, she was on the phone and then...” He trailed off and looked at me with wide, terrified eyes. “I don’t know, man. She was just on the phone.”
“Hey Penny,” I tried whispering in her ear, with my most soothing voice. “Penny, love... What happened?”
“Zayn!” She yelled out and cried even harder. I pulled back in shock. “I need Zayn, take me to Zayn, please!”
It only took him half a second to push through the crowd and kneel in front of Penny, trying not to show how frustrated and frightened he was. His eyes gave him away; they showed nothing but panic.
“Penny, Penny, please.” He said, gently shaking her. “What’s wrong, Penny? I’m here now, tell me.”
“E-Elizabeth.” She choked and burst into tears again. She grabbed his hand. “Please Zayn; I need to go to Bradford now. I have to see her, please.”
“I know, Penny, I know, but I’ve been drinking and I can’t drive, and the trains...” He was interrupted by another one of Penny’s blood curling screams. Someone had stopped the music and she seemed even louder and in more pain in the silence.
I had no idea who Elizabeth was, but seeing Penny like that was killing me. I put my hand on Zayn’s shoulder and said:
“I haven’t been drinking for hours. Go upstairs and pack for all three of us. I don’t care what, just pack. I’ll get Penny out into the car. I’m driving.”
Zayn quickly ran off, and as Harry and I guided Penny through the room, I looked for Melissa. I saw her with Danielle, standing at a wall.
I tried to give her a pleading, apologizing look.
She rolled her eyes at me, turned away and went into the kitchen.