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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10. Ups & Downs

Being the way that you are is enough.”

 

I blinked my eyes blearily, my half asleep brain taking a moment to take in my surroundings. Light filtered through the blinds, casting a warm glow on the sleeping inhabitants of the room. I looked around, trying not to move too much. I was curled up in a loose ball, using Niall’s arm as a pillow. My feet were resting on Zayn’s legs and Louis and Harry lay back to back, heads nestled near my stomach. I could hear the steady sound of Liam’s breathing from somewhere behind Niall. I blinked blearily and yawned, snuggling into a slightly more comfortable position and let my mind wander while stared with unfocused eyes at Lou and Harry’s sleeping forms. I mulled over the last four days and marvelled at how such a short time could feel like eternity. The corners of my mouth twitched into a smile as I relieved the days in a haze and dreamt about the future and what it would contain.

 

I shot upright and gasped, a freezing sensation spreading down my front. I looked down and my borrowed shirt was sopping wet and going see through where it stuck to my stomach. I whirled around and launched myself at Zayn, “YOU!” He dropped the now empty glass he was holding onto the couch and bolted, a victorious cry tearing its way free of his mouth. I bounded after Zayn, gaining on him. I stretched out my hands and with grasping fingers grabbed hold of his arm as it swung into reach. He tore it free and continued his escape path. I hurtled after him, throwing myself shoulder first into his bedroom door as he tried to shut it in my face. My momentum carried me forwards and I winced as I collided with the solid wood, but whooping in triumph as I felt the door give way. Zayn made another dash, throwing himself at the floor and attempting to crawl under the bed, laughing. I grinned and grabbed him by the ankles and pulled. He slid backwards across the floor on his stomach for a while before he managed to wrap his hands around the leg of the bedframe and tried to pull himself back under. “Oh, no you don’t!” I exclaimed, dropping his legs and crouching forward, pinning him to the spot with a knee to the small of his back. He shook with laughter and I grinned. “Apologise Zayn”, I menaced.

“Never!” he said dramatically.

“Have it your way then.” I leaned forward and grabbed one of his arms, unwrapping his fingers one by one from around the bed, before twisting him into an arm lock. He gasped and writhed trying to get free, but I just smirked and held tighter. “Apologise.”

“No!” Zayn laughed, still struggling. I twisted his arm slightly tighter. The sound of footsteps at the door made me look up. The four other boys stood there, grinning. “Gonna let him up?” Harry chuckled.

I smiled sweetly, “When he apologises.”

“Not going to happen,” Zayn’s voice sounded.

I raised an eyebrow as I looked down at him. “Oh yeah?” I said, twisting him arm even tighter.

“Ow, ow, ow, ow! Okay, okay. I’ll apologise, let me up, let me up!” he gasped, wincing.

“Say it. Then I’ll let you up,” I smirked.

Zayn huffed as the others chuckled. “I’m sorry,” he grumbled.

I tutted. “Not good enough. Say it like you mean it kiddo.”

More guffaws from the door. “Fine. I’m sorry for tipping water on you Lara,” Zayn said.

I let go of his wrist and stood up, offering him my hand as rolled onto his back and rubbed his shoulder, glaring at me. He reached up and grabbed it, and I hauled him up, smirking and letting go just before he was upright, so that he landed with a thump back on the floor, “Oops. Sorry about that Zayn. You see, some complete and utter idiot covered me in water, so my hands are a bit slippery. Sorry.” I turned and walked back to the door, getting a good morning hug from Louis. I shivered as more of the damp shirt stuck to me. Pulling back slightly, but keeping one arm around him I smiled at Liam, Niall and Harry. “Morning guys,” I chirped.

They all smiled back and Niall, who was closest, reached out and ruffled my hair. I shook loose bangs out of my face and poked my tongue out at him. Zayn wandered over to us, rubbing his shoulder. Feeling slightly guilty, I offered my own form of apology, “I can fix your shoulder if you want.”

He gave me a curious look, “How?”

“Massage,” I explained, “It won’t be sore afterwards, I promise.”

He cocked an eyebrow at me and nodded. “Okay,” Zayn agreed.

A clamour arose from the rest as they squabbled playfully over who would be next. I shook my head in mock despair and gently thumped my head against Lou, before I turned on them all. “Shuddup or you ain’t getting no massage at all,” I chided jokingly, laughing when they all pouted at me. Reluctantly letting go of Louis I pulled uncomfortably and the damp shirt. “But first,” I said, “I’m showering.”

 

I tugged a brush through my partly dried hair, frowning as my side fringe fell into my face again. It had been ages since I had gotten it cut, so now it was just a long bang of hair that never sat properly. Kneeling down, I rummaged through the cupboard under the sink until I found what I was looking for. Grabbing my brush, I pulled it through my fringe before carefully snipping away with the scissors. Blonde locks came away in my hand and I threw them into the sink, pulling the brush through once more before cutting a few uneven bits into line until I was happy with the end result. Looking in the mirror I brushed some loose snippets of hair from my face. Where once I had had a flop of hair as I side fringe I know had a normal fringe that sat in a straight line at my eyebrows. I smiled in satisfaction at my self-engineered new look and rinsed the hair in the sink away down the drain. Pulling on clothes, I slung my towel over the rack on my way out, slightly apprehensive for the boys reactions. Walking out, my hand reflexively went to tuck non-existent hair behind my ear. I scoffed at myself and let my hand drop back down. Stepping into the main area, I walked over to where the boys lazed on our mass bed. The guys chatted amongst themselves, and looked completely at ease.  I smiled and plopped down on the couch behind Zayn, motioning for him to sit up straight so that his shoulder was within easy reach.  Blowing on my hands to warm them slightly, I reached out hesitantly and began to knead firmly along his collarbone, brow furrowed in concentration as I eased the strained muscles, knowing for past experience where it would be sore. As I worked the others watched with mild interest and joked and chatted, and I inserted the occasional quip. After a few minutes I sat back, satisfied that the pain would be gone. Zayn flexed his shoulders and grinned up at me. I went to smile back at him but Zayn’s face was quickly replaced with Harry’s Cheshire cat grin, eyes sparkling and dimples showing. I let the smile spread across my face and slapped him playfully across the top of the head. Harry just grinned wider and sat the spot Zayn had just been forcibly ejected from. Zayn grumbled something under his breath while the others laughed, a small smile playing across his lips at his friend’s antics.

 

I groaned and flopped back on the couch, hands aching and cramping. It had been over half an hour since Harry had ousted Zayn form what had since been dubbed the ‘massage spot’, and since then all of the other boys had cycled through, taking advantage of my inability to refuse anyone. I winced as I tried to make my fingers move, stopping when they cramped. A shadow fell over my closed eyes, and I felt someone’s breath tickle my face.  I opened one eye, a ridiculously happy grin stealing control of my mouth as Louis looked down at me. He chuckled and reached down and took hold my hands, pulling them up and placing gentle kisses on the back. I blushed, suddenly shy, and buried my face coyly in the side of the couch. A gentle hand turned my face back towards him, but I kept my eyes screwed shut, still grinning. “Are you going to open your eyes?” Lou asked, humour lacing his voice.

I shook my head vehemently, “Nope.”

“Please?”

“Nope,” I giggled, uncharacteristically coy.

I felt Louis move closer, a sixth sense telling me that our faces were only centimetres apart. “Please?” he whispered.

I paused for a moment, before snapping my eyes open and planting a kiss on Lou’s lips, flinging my arms around his neck. I felt him smile and shivered involuntarily as he kissed me back. Yells interrupted our moment, with the other boys jibing and joking, pulling gooey faces. I blushed slightly and rolled my eyes. I sat up on the couch and Louis slouched down beside me. I tucked my feet up under me and shook my hands to loosen them up. A mildly serious thought crossed my mind as I glanced at my phone. I frowned in thought, and opened my mouth to speak. “Guys,” I began hesitantly. All attention was immediately drawn to me, slightly worried looks on everyone’s faces. Louis slung a comforting arm around me and squeeze. I gave him a reassuring smile, not wanting him to worry over nothing. I continued, “Okay, so that came out a little more serious than I hoped. I mean it’s not a bad thing or a big deal or anything, well it kinda is a big deal, but not bad, or anything majorly serious. I mean-“. A hand over my mouth cut off my rambling. Louis looked amused, as did the others, but I could read his face well enough to find the concern that lingered there. He spoke, “If I take my hand away, will you spit out whatever it is you’re trying to say?”

I nodded, wide eyed and made a noise of assent. Louis pulled his hand away from my mouth and I took a deep breath, organising the words in my mind into some semblance of order, “Um, would you guys mind is I invited a couple of friends over to meet you guys?” My stomach fluttered nervously, and I looked down at my lap, one foot jiggling anxiously. My tension grew as there was a pause, before Liam’s voice startled me out of my mental fussing. There was humour in his voice as he spoke. “That’s what you were so worried about?” he asked lightly, grinning. I nodded, slightly confused and apprehensive.

“It’s fine love, as long as they don’t tell anyone we’re here,” Lou said with a wink.

I grinned widely once more. “Thanks guys. I promise they won’t tell anyone,” I reassured.

Harry looked at me curiously, “How many is a few?”

I checked through my mental list, quickly tallying. “Five, if that’s okay?” I asked.

The boys exchanged thoughtful nods, and I flung my arms around Louis joyously, “Thank you!”

I grinned into him, hugging tightly. I sat back as Niall voiced his complaint, “What about us?” Not bothering to hide the happy tears as I launched forward of the couch, knocking Niall onto his back as I landed in an ungainly heap on top of him. He shook with laughter and there was yell of “Dog pile!” from Harry, and suddenly I felt someone land on me, then another and another and another. We lay there in a heap, laughing in a supernova of joy. After a while we rolled off each other, panting and chuckling. “This is gonna be amazing,” I beamed.

 

“Hello?”

“Heya Kennedy. It’s me.”

“Duh, dipshit,” came the sarcastic reply.

I huffed and smiled. “You’re chilling with me tomorrow,” I stated.

Her confused tone sounded over the phone, “Why?”

“I have a surprise for you, and I’m getting a few of the girls together to show you guys.”

“Um, okay? When and where?”

“I’ll pick you up from yours at about 10 tomorrow morning? If that’s okay. And you’re staying the night, so have clothes ready.”

There was a pause. “And if I don’t want to?”

I laughed. “I’ll pick you up at ten. And pack pool stuff, kay?” I hung up before she could protest. Flicking through my contacts I went to dial the next contact, just as a new message appeared. I opened it eagerly. My heart sank and my cheeks flushed as I read. “Haha yeah, Laras a retard. Thinks shes so cool. LOL!”

I looked at the sender and felt more painful surprise. Viciously, I typed my reply.

Hint, check the number before you send. ILY AND STUFF! Ex oh ex oh.

Humiliated tears welled in my eyes and I bit them back, letting my phone drop to my lap and squeezing my eyes shut. I took deep breaths, thinking of the past few happy days, and amazing life was. In the background, the sound of the boys banter as they got showered and ready was strangely comforting. But still the words haunted me, cutting with the pain that only the betrayal of a friend could. I bit the inside of my cheek, waging war against the tears. A few broke the barrier of my closed lids and rolled silently down, and I felt them drip from my face and onto my lap. I gritted my teeth and shook my head to clear it, opening my eyes and reaching up to wipe them dry. Ignoring the new message on my screen, I dialled the next number, forcing cheerfulness into my voice. Talking with a real friend, it soon became genuine. “Hey Jayne! It Lara,” I chirped.

“Hey, what’s up? Why are you calling me?”

“We’re hanging out tomorrow. I have a surprise for you and the girls!” I teased.

Excitement and curiosity radiated from the other end, “Oh, oh tell me!”

“No,” I laughed, “It’s a surprise.”

“Please?”

“No!”

“Fine. A clue?”

“You’re staying the night with me, pack stuff for the pool. Some music or whatever. And I’ll pick you up at about 10 tomorrow morning, okay?”

“Bitch. That’s the worst, most useless clue ever.”

I laughed. “You will thank me later, I promise.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“Haha, kay, see ya tomorrow.”

“Yup, see ya!”

 I hung up, contemplating. I had told the boys five friends, but after today’s incident, I was down to four. It seemed weird, wrong, but I didn’t know why. Suddenly, in a bright flash of a light bulb moment, the total was back up to five. How I had ever been so stupid not to think of her in the first place was beyond me. I grinned at myself, and dialled yet another number.

 

“Hello?”

“Lilia! It’s Lara. Guess what?”

“Haha, hey. And what?!”

“You’re chilling with me tomorrow. I’m getting a few girls together; I have a super dooper surprise for you guys!”

“Ooo, what is it?”

“Lilia. Key word in that sentence. Surprise.”

“Aw, haha,” she laughed. “What do I need to bring?”

“Sleepover stuff, and pool stuff. And I will pick you up at yours at about 10-ish tomorrow morning, okay?”

“Yup, sure, I have nothing to do anyway.”

I laughed. “Who does? It’s the hols.”

Ha, yeah true. Kay, well I gotta go. See you tomorrow then.”

“Okay, bye.”

 

“Gemma!” I yelled into the phone.

“Ow! Hello?” came the reply.

I giggled at her tone. “It’s Lara.”

“Oh. Oh! Hey,” my friend laughed.

“Pack your bags, we are having a sleepover tomorrow!”

“We are?” Gemma asked, sounding confused.

I shook my head at my blonde friend. “Yes, we are. I’m showing you and some others a surprise. So have your stuff ready by around 10 in the morning tomorrow. Oh, and there’s a pool trip planned, so bring something for it, okay?”

“Uh huh. Um, I’ve lost your address, can I have it again?” she said sheepishly.

“Again? Don’t worry, I’m picking everyone up anyways.”

We said our goodbyes and the call ended.

 

I dialled the final number from memory; my best friend’s number coming as easily to mind as my own. After a few rings, the phone was answered.

“Hey there Lala. What’s up?”

I smiled, completely at ease. Claire was one of the few people who ever called me by my ridiculous nickname.

“Hey Clairy! You up for a sleepover tomorrow?”

“As long as you tell me WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” she yelled into the phone.

I winced and chuckled, “That’s the whole point of tomorrow really. Have sleepover stuff packed okay?"

“Oh my god Lara. Tell me already!”

“Tomorrow Claire, okay? And pack bathers.”

‘What, why?”

“Because we might go for a swim, duh.” I joked.

“Okay, I what time do I need to get dropped at yours?”

“I’ll pick you up at about 10 tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, the suspense builds… I’m gonna kill you for this.”

“Haha, you’ll appreciate this.”

“I’d better.”

I heard the boys coming back, and hurried to end the conversation before the surprise was given away even partially

 “Okay, Claire, I have to go now, see you tomorrow okay?”

“Wait, no, Lara-“

I cut her off, “Bye Claire.”

I laughed as she yelled dramatically into the phone, “Noooooo! I have questions, so many questions! LARA!”

“GOOD. BYE!” I said emphatically and hung up, looking up just in time to see Louis whooping triumphantly as he came bolting around the corner, toting a towel and pair of boxers. The sound of pursuit came miliseconds after. My subconscious realised what was happening before I did, doing me the favour of clapping my hands over my eyes, just as a blurred, yet seemingly naked Harry came dashing around the corner. My phone clattered to the floor and I shrieked in a horrified and indignant voice. “FOR GOD’S SAKE HARRY, LOUIS! THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN THIS HOUSE!” I yelled, hands still clasped over my eyes. The din of their mucking around died down, as the seemed to notice for the first time that I was in the room.

“Well, this is awkward,” Liam chuckled.

“Liam James Payne, you will end this situation somehow if you know what’s good for you!” I demanded, laughing.

He chuckled. “Louis, give Harry back his stuff.”

“No!” came the defiant reply.

“Then take it somewhere else!” I protested helplessly.

I yelped and fell off the couch as Harry’s voice sounded close to my ear, “Why, you getting freaked out?”

“LIAM! Help me,” I yelled from where I had landed awkwardly on the floor. Strong arms pulled me to my feet and I heard Liam chuckle. “My saviour,” I said dryly.

“Why,” came a confused sounding Niall’s voice, “Is Harry naked?”

“Blame Louis,” I huffed. Harry and Louis laughed. “Now go get some bloody clothes on Styles, so I don’t have to play the blind man anymore and Liam can retire from being my guide dog.”

“Yes boss!” Harry chuckled.

 I heard him pad off around the corner, and cracked a smile as I heard him encounter Zayn,

“Where are your clothes, man?”

“Zayn, don’t distract him! The faster he get dressed, the sooner I get my sight back,” I pleaded.

Zayn exploded with laughter and I turned blindly towards the sound, poking my tongue out at him. He laughed even harder.

“What?” I demanded.

“Open your eyes,” chuckled Liam, Zayn being to incapacitated by laughter to respond.

I hesitated, “Is it safe?”

“Yes, I promise.”

Cautiously I removed my hands, one I closed in case I was being tricked. My hands dropped fully to my sides, and I let my head flop forward when I saw why Zayn was laughing so hard. My blind aim in his direction had been rather inaccurate, and I was facing at an almost 45 degree angle away from him, into empty space. I sighed in defeat and leant sideway against Liam. He slung a consolatory arm around my shoulders. Suddenly in the arms of a friend, the pain of earlier events came rushing back to me and I found myself trembling, fighting to contain sobs. Liam quickly held me out at arm’s length, hunching to try and look me in the eye. Louis rushed over, closely followed by Zayn and Niall, and soon I was enveloped in an all-out hug. I reached up and wiped tears from my eyes, quite sobs racking my body. Self-conscious, I sniffled and tried to hide my face in my hands. Zayn’s nervous voice interrupted my pity party. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, sounding guilty.

I looked at him and cracked a smile through the hurt. “Why are you apologising? You didn’t do anything,” I snuffled.

He looked confused but relieved as the other’s watched me intently. “Then why are you crying?” he asked gently.

“Because teenage girls are the cruellest living creatures that ever existed,” I spat. Louis pulled my close, murmuring comforting words. I leaned into him, grateful for his warmth. Soon our group hug was joined by a now clothed Harry. “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Nothing, it’s okay. Just someone I thought was a friend turned out be some very different to the person I thought she was. It’s just a bit of shock is all,” I said, swallowing against the knot in my throat.

“You don’t need people like that,” Niall said. The other boys backed Niall’s statement.

“He’s right Lara, you’re too good for them,” Liam said softly.

“You are amazing, don’t listen to what they say,” Zayn told me, giving me an encouraging pat on the back.

Louis leaned in close to deliver his message. “I love you,” he whispered, placing a soft peck on the side of my neck.  I blushed and snuggled closer to him.

Harry made me blush even deeper. “You are beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down,” he sang huskily.

I smiled at my little family, deeply touched. “Thank you,” I said, voice thick with emotion, “I love you guys.”

“Love you too, Lara,” came the chorus of replies.

 

Hope you guys like this chapter, it is a good long one for once. Enjoy, and please remember to review! <3 and xxx’s,

 

            -Serendipity

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