A Perfect Stranger

When Lara meets a mysterious stranger in the park, they get to talking and she feels drawn to him. What happens when she finds out who he really is?

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19. Dinner Party

“And I will give you all my heart, so we can start it all over again.”

 

I smoothed my hands over the skirt of my dress, looking slightly anxiously around the room. The table was neatly set, the hotel having kindly provided extra seats to accommodate tonight’s guests. Checking the meal in the oven for a final time, I sat on a barstool staring at the oven and waited for the boys to be ready.

 

Familiar footsteps sounded behind me and I turned, slipping off the stool and padding over to Louis, looking him over appreciatively. A plain white dress shirt lay untucked and unbuttoned over his dark jeans, revealing a tantalising glance of what was hidden beneath. I blushed slightly and grinned up at him. “Hey you,” I murmured, letting him pull me into a hug. I relaxed slightly as I breathed deeply, the warm scent soothing me like nothing else could. Louis chuckled sympathetically as I let out a big sigh, pressing his lips lightly against my forehead. “Relax love, everything will be fine,” he soothed, skimming his hands up and down my arms. I sighed again and nodded, pulling away slightly to reach out and begin buttoning up his shirt slowly. We stood in comfortable silence until I had finished my menial task and I smiled up at him, resting my hands on his chest. “You look incredible,” I told him.

“No, you do,” he corrected quietly.

I shook my head but let it go. “I love you,” I said, letting him draw me into his arms.

“Love you too,” he murmured into my hair. We pulled apart as the other boys trickled around the corner, all smartly dressed. They all had smiles for me as I jiggled nervously, glancing first at the door and then at my watch, the anticipation for my parents’ arrival building as the minutes ticked by. Forcing smile I looked at the boys. “Just be normal, act like they’re not even here. I want them to see what we’re like on a normal day, I don’t care if they agree or disagree with what they see, as long as they see. Got it? I’m sure they’ll love you guys though,” I said.

Harry grinned. “Let’s do this poo!” he exclaimed. I laughed along with the others as we moved to the couch to wait.

 

A knock on the door interrupted our conversation and I sprung to my feet without meaning to, my anxiety taking control of my muscles before the surprise wore off and I ripped back the control. Clenching my hands into fists, I took a deep shuddering breath and started towards the door, my stomach roiling. “Be normal,” I repeated, more to myself than for the benefit of the others. Putting on a hesitant, almost scared smile I opened the door to greet my parents, who looked only slightly less awkward than I felt. “Hi Mum, hi Dad,” I greeted them, giving each a hug in turn before standing aside and ushering them inside, where they were welcomed by the boys. “Guys, why don’t you sit down on the couch and talk a bit while I get the last bits and bobs finished for dinner? There’s some dip and nibbles down there,” I suggested, as I edged towards the kitchen keen to avoid the situation for as long as possible.

“I’ll give you a hand,” Harry offered, his voice surprising me and making me start. I turned to see his smirking face behind me and together we turned our attention to the things that still needed preparation in the kitchen, though they were few. He stood close behind me, reaching around me to help with the food I was preparing. “I know what you’re doing, you chicken,” he teased me in a low, still smirking. I rolled my eyes and fought back my own grin. “Sure you do Harry,” nudging him with my hip a little harder than was necessary and sending him stumbling sideways a step or two.

“Hey!” he exclaimed as he righted himself, reaching out and slapping me playfully on the bum.

“Harry!” I shrieked, forgetting the current company as I laughed with him, until the silence became obvious and awkward and Harry and I turned to see that the room’s attention was fully on us. Louis and the others were fighting back laughter, Niall struggling hard, while my parents looked more shocked than I had ever seen them before. “Sorry?” I offered up meekly before turning back to the bench with Harry, cheeks burning as Harry chuckled. “Oops,” I muttered.

 

The meal was finally finished and things were going well, Niall having consumed his usual unholy amount of food much to the wonderment of my parents.  The conversation had flowed easily enough, the boys’ career and lifestyles a major point as well as little pieces about each of their separate personalities. We sat round the table and everyone relaxed in their chairs. As I sat next to Louis, I tried to relax my tense body to stop from showing any outward signs of my worry. “Don’t be stupid Lara, man up!” I thought to myself determinedly. And so, listening to that mad voice in my head, I reached out and took hold of Lou’s hand. I held my breath as my parent’s eyebrows raised almost imperceptibly. Only when Louis gave my hand a gentle squeeze did I let the breath out slowly and silently, shooting him a grateful look. He smiled gently back at me and the conversation continued to flow around us. Eventually I stood, disengaging my hand from Louis’ and beginning to gather up the dishes on the table. Louis stood to and began to help, grateful for the excuse to leave the table, even though the night had gone off without a hitch. He was still as anxious as I was and I could hardly blame him when I felt the same way. Together we began stacking the dishes haphazardly next the sink in one great pile. Taking the opportunity, away from prying eyes, I slipped my arms around Louis and leant into his warmth. He reciprocated, arms enveloping me in a soothing cage. He pressed a kiss against my forehead and I went up on tiptoe to lock my lips with his, smiling as I felt him smile. We broke apart quickly, not wanting to raise suspicion, and headed back to the table and joined in the conversation once more. I forced myself to take greater part in the discussions as they were after all my parents, finding that soon enough time began to pass more quickly. Before I knew it I was hugging my mother and father goodbye, the boys being perfect gentlemen as they said their farewells too. As the door clicked shut behind them I let out a deep sigh, making the boys laugh when I threw my hands up in the air and began a victory dance. “I’m alive!” I cheered as a cavorted wildly around the room in relief of tonight’s ordeal finally being over. The others watched with varying looks of patience and indulgence as I spun and twirled and laughed. I paused for a moment to look appeal to them with wide eyes, dramatically offering a hand in their direction. “Dance with me, you know you want to,” I said.

“I’d hardly call that dancing,” Zayn muttered to Harry with a smile, who laughed.

I pointed at him and pulled a serious face. “Don’t be a poopy pants!” I reprimanded him, as I span off around the room again, getting gradually dizzier. Louis, Liam, Niall and Harry all laughed at Zayn’s expense as he scoffed at the jibe. “Me, a poopy pants?” he joked along with me. I stopped suddenly to reinforce my message, pointing dramatically at Zayn. But in some weird parody of dance, my momentum kept me moving and I landed in an ungraceful heap on the floor. “Oops,” I muttered as laughter rand through the room. Sticking one up into the air, I demanded imperiously, “Up.” After a minute I was still lying on the floor and the lack of blood in my hand had begun to make it pale and tingly. I huffed disappointedly and hauled myself off the floor. “I don’t know why I put up with you guys. You’re completely useless,” I joked. They boys chuckled and we all piled together on the couch, leaving the dishes for the next morning. I jiggled where I sat, adrenalin erasing any chance of sleep for a while yet. Niall came to my rescue. “Skype!” he exclaimed. Enthused agreement came from the boys and I grinned along with them. “Oh my god, yes! Who though?” I asked eagerly.

“Josh’ll be up!” Niall decided, then paused, “Probably…”

 

I sat half hidden behind Lou on the bed we had all piled onto, leaning over his shoulder as I chewed on my lip in anticipation. As the boy bantered while the screen dialled, Lou reached round and clasped my hand in his. I grinned nervously back at his amused smile but ducked out of sight behind him as a new yet very familiar face appeared on screen. Josh’s groggy voice crackled from the laptop. “What the fuck guys, it’s like four in the morning here. What are you doing?” he groaned.

Harry laughed, “Must have miscalculated the time, sorry bud.”

“Why don’t I believe you,” Josh mumbled through the chuckles. I peeked tentatively around Louis’ shoulder to see a dishevelled Josh scrubbing at his eyes. “Erm, hi,” I muttered unsurely.

The drummer’s eyes widened in surprise, “Uh hello. Who’s this?”

rMore laughter from our end. “Just some girl we found,” Lou told Josh jokingly, wrapping an arm around my waist and pulling me completely out from behind him and onto his lap. I blushed as Josh raised a suggestive eyebrow and covered my embarrassment with a snarky joke. “It’s five bucks an hour if you’re interested,” I winked at him. Someone made a choked noise as Josh broke into a fit of laughter. I grinned cheekily.

“So what else have you lads been up to, you know other than picking up ladies off the street side?” Josh asked once he had regained control of himself.

Zayn shrugged, “Eh, bit of this, bit of that really.

Josh rolled his eyes. “Always so specific Zayn,” he teased.

“I know, he always is, isn’t he?” Liam joked, elbowing Zayn in the ribs.

“Sod off!” he laughed, shoving back.

I laughed as Harry tutted. “Now, now Mr Malik, mind the language in front of the lady,” he reprimanded, mimicking the voice of an elderly teacher.

Louis gave a snort, “Watch out everyone, Professor Styles is in the building.” I laughed. The banter continued to flow between the boys as they caught up with their friend, exchanging quips about mutual friends and the weather and laughing about things fans had tweeted. I made the occasional contribution but was more than happy to remain quiet and soak up everything around me. I grew quieter as the minutes progressed, the occasional yawn leaking out. AS my eyes began to grow heavy I snuggled further into Lou’s arms and began to doze.

 

“Lara, are you awake love?” Louis murmured in my ear. I didn’t respond, too far into the realm of unconsciousness to be bothered with the effort of making myself claw past the wall of sleep and reply. Josh’s voice crackled from the speaker, “So how long has this been going on?”

Louis hesitated, “It’s complicated.” There was an uncomfortable shuffling in the silence that followed. I might have been imagining it in my half asleep but I swore Louis’ arms tightened possessively around my limp form as I dozed against him. Josh spoke again, voice cautious and concerned. “Okay mate. It’s just a bit sudden and, well, she looks pretty young,” he said.

This time there was a definite tightening of arms. “She’s 17,” there was an edge to Louis’ voice as he spoke.

Josh gave a long whistle. “That’s a bit of an age gap you’ve got going there.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Lou said, his normally delicate voice tinged with gruffness.

“As long as you sure,” Josh paused before lifting the mood of the room once more, “So what’s been going on down your end?”

 

 

HOLY SHIT I’M SORRY. What’s it been, like 6, 7 months?! Trust me this long and unexplained HIATUS was not by choice. Mum’s cancer, moved house, second last year of high school, and some bad shit got in the way of me and my Lou and I’m super sorry. BUT I’M BACK :D! <3 and xxx’s

 

            -Serendipity

 

 

 

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