I'm in Love with a Stripper (a One Direction Fanfiction)

After the tragic loss of her parents, Leila Karim abandons her life in Bradford and sets her sights on London. Working as a stripper at Victory Strip Club under the stage name Bambi, ex-best friend and pop superstar Zayn Malik is the last person Leila expected to be sitting in the audience watching her undress. Will Leila find herself falling for Zayn all over again or will cheeky Harry Styles win her heart instead?

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7. Confessions

I’m in Love with a Stripper:

Confessions

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

 

I stared incredulously at myself in the mirror, turning from side to side to observe each angle of my outrageous outfit. Frowning deeply, I could not believe I had let Harry rope me into doing this. At this point, I knew there was no way I could get out of it. The poor boy’s heart would be broken.

 

It was our one month anniversary, and I had promised Harry (reluctantly) that I would do something special for him. At first I had shot down the idea, but somewhere between some very sensual kissing and bribery by way of red velvet cupcakes I found myself agreeing to act out a particular fantasy of Harry’s that involved me being his tightly wound, stick-up-the-arse sexy school teacher, and him being my irresistible, much younger pupil with very nice curls that I wanted to tug on. His words, not mine.

 

I was clad in a tight business skirt and jacket set, my red lace bra visible due to the lack of a white blouse underneath. My dark hair was wound into a tight bun and pinned to the back of my head, a pair of non prescription reading glasses were perched on my nose, and my feet tucked into a towering pair of black stilettos. I put on my best ‘I’m your strict professor and I am appalled at your behaviour’ expression, pursing my red lips.

 

“Bloody hell.” I groaned in disgust at myself.

 

“Miss Karim!” Harry sing-songed from the lounge. “Where are you?”

 

“Harry I look ridiculous!” I screeched past the closed door, breaking from character. “I just can’t do it!”

 

You promised!” Harry whined from the other room.

 

“Oh for God’s sake…” I sighed exasperatedly, snatching my 30cm ruler off the counter and exiting the washroom.

 

Even as a stripper, someone not totally unfamiliar with the concept of improvisation, I was finding this particular request of Harry to be quite difficult and not to mention humiliating. Peaking around the corner and into my lounge, my jaw fell at Harry’s elaborate display.

 

Harry sat quaintly at a school desk too small for him, his hands folded neatly, and a gigantic/devious grin plastered on his face. A ripe red apple was perched tauntingly at the corner of his desk. Harry was clad in what looked like a private school boy outfit, a dark blue blazer, white dress shirt and finally a striped red tie around his neck.

 

Looking around curiously I saw that leaning on my sofa was a miniature chalkboard which upon further observation read in neat cursive writing: I WILL NOT STARE AT MISS KARIM’S TITS. Harry had truly outdone himself this time.

 

“Really, Styles?” I said rolling my eyes with laughter.

 

Harry cleared his throat, widening his eyes. Right, I was supposed to be in character.

 

Adjusting my skin tight skirt, I stood up straighter and began to speak in my most menacing voice. “Do you know why you’re here for detention Mister Styles?” I stared at him pointedly, tapping my ruler on my open palm, eyebrows raised.

 

“Yes Miss Karim.” Harry grinned, licking his lips. “I’ve been a very naughty boy.” Harry’s eyes sparkled mischievously.

 

“That’s right.” I headed towards him slowly, a lion stalking its prey. I began to circle him. “Now tell me what you did wrong, Mister Styles.”

 

“I was chewing gum in class.” Harry said, hitching his breath as I ran the ruler over his chest. I smirked to myself. This wasn’t so difficult after all.

 

“And?” I continued, my heels clicking on the hardwood floor, running my fingers over Harry’s neck, causing him to shiver in delight.

 

“And,” Harry continued evilly. “I wasn’t focusing in maths because I was too busy staring at your arse.”

 

I suddenly leaned over the desk, accentuating my cleavage. “Were you now?” I corked one of my eyebrows upwards.

 

Harry smirked at me in response, pulling me swiftly onto his lap, the memory of Zayn doing the same to me a few short days ago crossing my mind.

 

Get out of my head Malik! I thought gruffly.  

 

“Mister Styles! This is highly inappropriate.” I gasped, trying to stifle a giggle.

 

“I just can’t help myself.” Harry smiled slyly. “You’re ridiculously attractive for an older woman.”

 

I grinned as I began to pull him closer to me by his red neck tie. “Oh come on, I’m only a year older than you.” I teased him, his lips finally meeting mine in a warm kiss.

 

Harry and I clicked physically, that was something I couldn’t deny, especially thinking back to the first night we met. I was drawn to Harry, like there was some sort of invisible current of electricity firing between us, but I could not lie to myself. Something had been missing, but how could Harry to fix something he didn’t know was broken? What I felt wasn’t there was trust, but whose fault that was, was mine and mine alone. Harry had told me everything there was to know about him right down to his fourth nipple, but each time he had probed me for knowledge regarding my past, I had dodged his questions as if they were the plague, as if in the end their answers would end up ruining what we had. And they would, because each answer decidedly lead back to Zayn Malik and our elaborate history together. What scared me the most about everything was exactly how long Harry and my relationship could last, when its foundation was so markedly built out of lies?

 

Pulling back from Harry’s kiss, I smiled at him warmly, determined to keep him, determined to try my best to not let anything or anyone get in the way.

 

“So what are your plans for tonight?” Harry asked me, wrapping his arms around my waist. Harry and the others would be meeting with management later on that night to look over song possibilities for their upcoming album.

 

“Well, I’m finally making good on my promise to Danielle and Eleanor.” I told him grinning. “I’m showing them a couple of my moves at Victory.”

 

Harry began to chuckle. “Well don’t show them too much! Remember, Liam only has one kidney and Louis and Eleanor have already had that one pregnancy scare.” He winked at me. According to Eleanor, Louis was so virile that he was able to bend the laws of nature even when contraception was involved.

 

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t worry; I won’t let them get too carried away.” I promised him.  

 

And just like that, another day went by with Harry Styles still knowing next to nothing about me.

 

*

 

How in God’s name am I to do this in heels!?” Eleanor shrieked once she had tumbled onto the scratched up dark finish of the hardwood floor of Victory.

 

“Everything comes with practice.” I grinned at Eleanor. She was sprawled out on the floor just like I had been two short years ago. It had taken me six months alone to build up the upper body strength I needed to lift myself up onto the pole without fear of falling and snapping my neck, and that was while wearing flats.

 

“It looks so much easier on the tele.” Eleanor grimaced, taking my hand and allowing me to pull her to her feet.

 

“Let me have a go at it!” Danielle breezed towards the stripper pole, confident that a dancer would fair better.

 

Grasping onto the sleek metal pole, Danielle began to move around it with quick steps, resembling her dance training which although was correct in terms of technique, was missing the sentiment behind the movements.

 

“You’re almost there!” I encouraged her. “You just need to slow things down a little. Half of the battle is playing with them.” Walking over to the pole, I nodded at Kitty to switch on the music.

 

“You have to be painstakingly slow in everything you do,” I began, walking gracefully around the pole. “You have to tease them.” I bent over and ran my hand along my thigh. “Tempt them to touch you.” Wrapping my leg around the pole, I began to spin around it leisurely. “But most of all, you have to make them want you like they’ve wanted nothing else before.” Throwing my head back, I let my hair dangle past my shoulders. “Women are in possession of a great deal of power, all they have to do is learn how to use it.” I grinned at them, winking.

 

“Wow.” Danielle was rendered speechless.

 

Eleanor stood shaking her head in disbelief. “If I had a penis, I’d have a massive erection right about now.” I could see why Eleanor and Louis got on so well.

 

I shook my head in laughter. “Come on, both of you have one more try. I’m certain you’ll nail it this time!”

 

“Alright,” Danielle said, a look of determination on her face. “I have to have Liam’s undivided attention. If he talks about Boris and Archimedes one more time when I’m in the middle of unzipping his jeans, I’ll simply have to kill myself.” Her head of curls bounced as she secured her grasp on the pole.

 

My jaw dropped. “He talks about his pet turtles when you’re undressing him?” I had heard many a tale of the infamous duo from Liam himself.

 

Danielle gave me a sad look. “Not just when I’m undressing him.”

 

“You poor thing!” I exclaimed, thinking of how lucky I had been with Harry so far. Who knew what awaited me when we took it to the next level? I grew nervous at this and quickly dismissed the thought. “Alright, come on you can do this!” I egged her on.

 

Danielle threw her head back boldly, sliding down the pole with her legs around it. Standing up, she sauntered around in a circle, running her hand through her hair and over her chest looking like a bonafide sex kitten.

 

“Well done, Dani!” I squealed. “Liam won’t remember his own name, let alone his turtles!” Turning to Eleanor, she groaned heavily, knowing that it was her turn.

 

“At least Liam doesn’t have the attention span of a goldfish.” Eleanor grumbled, referring to Louis. She approached the pole timidly.

 

“Come on Eleanor, you know you love a man in stripes.” I said, causing Danielle to giggle and Eleanor’s face to flush.

 

“God knows I do.” She admitted exasperatedly, nodding at Kitty to switch on another song.

 

And suddenly, Eleanor transformed into a completely different person. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought she was a professional. Eleanor whipped her hair back seductively, lifting herself up onto the pole and twirling around it with acrobatic prowess I’ve seen no one on else the payroll at Victory possess.

 

“Where have you been hiding her?” I heard a voice yelp gleefully from behind us. Turning I saw my manager Tommy staring at Eleanor with a dazed expression on his face, his blue eyes shining with delight. “I must have you!” He implored.

 

“I’m sorry, but I already have a job.” Eleanor grinned, shrugging. I shot her a devious smile. By a job, she meant that was permanently employed as the girlfriend of One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson.

 

“Well,” Tommy said, flustered that she had rejected his offer. “If you ever change your mind, Victory could do with talent like yours.” He winked at her.

 

“After seeing that,” Danielle said, referring to Eleanor’s heated dance. “I think we’re all in need of a few drinks.” She suggested, raising her eyebrows.

 

“First round’s on me!” I exclaimed, a slow smile spreading across my lips.

 

*

 

“And that is the story of how Jay Tommo almost walked in on Louis and I role playing as an incestuous version of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.” Eleanor concluded dramatically, leaving Danielle and I in a fit of giggles.

 

After our stripping lessons at Victory, Eleanor, Danielle, and I had decided to grab a few drinks at a bar. I had heard from Kitty of a new bar called Vixen that catered to women, a slew of girly drinks on their menu and hot twenty-something male models working as servers. 

 

“I think that calls for another round of Cosmos.” I exclaimed, waving our waiter over.

 

Once the waiter set down our drinks, our conversation had moved on to past relationships, a topic which I hadn’t much to add to. I hadn’t dated anyone aside from Harry, period. Not even casually. There had been the men from the club trying to corner me after my performances, and the occasional boy at school who had shown interest, but at the time I was interested in anything but dating. I wasn’t sure what had changed now, but I was glad it had. With Harry of course, I added quickly. I drained my strawberry cosmo and began to work on the peach one.

 

“But Leila, I’m sure you’ve at least had…a thing for a guy before. Like been in love or whatever.” Danielle explained, curiously waiting for my answer.

 

Both Eleanor and Danielle had shared stories of their past loves, Danielle telling me about her old flame Ben from her dance company while Eleanor told me in great detail about her ex-boyfriend James who she had dated for three years before Louis. And just as I knew he would, Zayn Malik creeped into my mind, the two of us lying under the stars in Bradford, me leaning in to meet his soft lips. I closed my eyes.

 

“There was someone wasn’t there?!” Eleanor whispered scandalously.

 

“Come on Leila, you can trust us.” Danielle assured me, squeezing my hand.

 

It couldn’t hurt to talk about it. Ever since our night out at Cathedral, I had been confused… and torn although I hated to admit it. There was Harry, Harry who had been so kind to me and so caring, but each and every time I turned a corner, there was Zayn, my Zayn, taunting me with his unwavering brown eyes, paying my rent, rescuing me from would be rapists, kissing me in the back of limousines, and leaving me with a hickey as a reminder of it all. I looked at Danielle and Eleanor who were cautiously observing me, thinking they had stumbled upon a sensitive topic. I had to be careful how I went about telling them, but most especially, careful of what I told myself.

 

“Well,” I began, allowing my heart to drift back to Bradford, back to the boy who lived in the memories of my old shoebox. “There was this one boy…”

 

Eleanor and Danielle nodded, encouraging me to go on.

 

“We first met when we were five years old,” I gave the girls a small smile, thinking back to the day Zayn and I had met in primary school. We had shared finger paints. “And we clicked right from the start. After that we were inseparable, we spent almost everyday together after school and on the weekends. We were best friends.” My heart ached; it ached for my best friend Zayn Malik. I had the urge to cry, but didn’t.

 

“Mmhmm.” Danielle nodded, intrigued by the story.  

 

“When we were about sixteen years old, I’m not sure of the exact day, but I realized that I was in love…with him.” It felt strange talking about Zayn so openly, so honestly. “It was suddenly so obvious to me. And I know this sounds stupid or whatever,” I paused to chuckle nervously, “But each time I saw him, I would be smiling, and my heart would be smiling too.”

 

Oh Leila…” Eleanor said sadly. “That’s beautiful.”

 

“I loved him so much that the possibility of him wanting me back was worth the risk of ruining our friendship for good or even losing him,” I continued, suddenly aware of the tears welling up in my eyes. “So at first, I tried to let him know that things had changed, that I had changed.”

 

Danielle handed me a napkin. I smiled gratefully, taking it.

 

“I tried to dress more like the other girls, wear make-up, jewelry,” I said, recounting my various trips to the mall with my Mother to buy new clothes. “To make him see me differently.” I paused, fondly remembering our day at the funfair.

 

“And then what happened?” Eleanor asked after my silence had extended for too long.

 

“I told him. And in not so many words, he told me that he didn’t feel the same way.” I revealed, draining the remains of my peach cosmo, the alcohol warming my body all the way to the tips of my fingers and toes.

 

“Oh no…” Danielle said, furrowing her eyebrows.

 

“Well did you at least remain friends?” Eleanor asked, ordering another round of drinks with an intricate wave of her hand to prevent the waiter from interrupting us.

 

“I would have liked that,” I said, remembering Zayn passing by me silently in the hallway. “But no, he stopped talking to me altogether, and then he left town-” I stopped myself just before saying ‘and I haven’t seen him since’. That would be a lie. I had seen him just a few short days ago.

 

“That is just…heartbreaking.” Danielle said, conjuring up the appropriate word to apply to the situation.

 

“It was.” I agreed, trying not to think back on the countless nights of uncontrollable crying I had gone through.

 

“Well,” Eleanor began. “On the upside, you are now dating one of the sweetest and most sought after blokes in all of England. So I’d say you came out on top.” She winked at me.

 

“I couldn’t agree more.” I smiled, taking a sip of the Blue Hawaiians that the waiter had just bought round, wondering when I had become a liar, and most of all, when I had started lying to myself.

 

*

 

“Zayn.” I said his name, waking myself up.

 

Jolting upwards in a panic, I slapped my hand over my mouth, staring in horror at the sleeping forms of Eleanor and Danielle on either side of me. My heart was thudding loudly in my ears. Shit, shit, shit! I had just spoken his name in my sleep, and loudly at that!

 

After our night out at the Vixen bar in London, I had invited Eleanor and Danielle to crash at my place, the three of us drunkenly watching the Notebook and screaming during the sex scene between Noah and Ali and sobbing uncontrollably during the more emotional scenes.

 

I observed my two sleeping friends, praying that they had not heard me.

 

Eleanor was snoring softly; a small puddle of drool having formed on her pillow. She was certainly still out. I sighed in partial relief.

 

Suddenly, Danielle shifted in her sleep, pulling my pink duvet as she turned, causing me to jump.

 

Her face suddenly contorted. “Just use the bloody spoon already!” She said in a very irritated voice, her face relaxing after a moment and her breathing evening out. Wasn’t Liam terrified of spoons?

 

“Thank God.” I whispered to myself. Neither of them had wakened.

 

Settling back into bed, I was able to recover fragments of the dream I had. I had been back in Bradford. The skies were grey and it was raining softly and I had been at the playground of Lower Fields Primary with none other than Zayn, the two of us sitting peacefully on the merry-go-round. Turning to me, he smiled, his dark hair soaked from the rain and his warm brown eyes examining me quizzically.

 

There you are!” I said, as if I had been looking for him, my lips breaking into a smile at the sight of him. “Where have you been?”

 

Zayn continued to smile at me and then said “Right here.” Like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

And then I had woken up, his name on my lips.

 

Right here.” His voice echoed in my mind.

 

Closing my eyes, I knew that something was very, very wrong and that it had everything to do with Zayn Malik.

 

Zayn’s P.O.V:

 

“So you’re telling me that Simon is hosting a party for us tonight?” I clarified. “At his house?”

 

Niall laughed at my inability to fathom Simon ever doing such a thing. Simon Cowell was a very private man even when it came to us. The last time I had visited Simon’s home was two years ago during the ‘judge’s house’ component of the X-Factor. We had visited Simon’s house in LA, however this time, we would be visiting his British manor just outside of Holland Park.

 

“I couldn’t believe it either.” Niall agreed, chomping on what sounded like potato chips; business as usual for Niall who was always eating. “Apparently he wants to send us off on our tour with a bang.”

 

“Are you bringing Charlotte?” I inquired, firing up my laptop. I wasn’t asking because I was generally interested, but to see if Leila would be there. My stomach flip-flopped at just the thought of her.

 

“Yeah, I’m bringing Charlotte,” I could hear Niall smile through the phone at the mention of the new girl he was seeing “Louis is bringing Eleanor, Liam is bringing Danielle, and Harry is bringing Leila.”

 

Of course she would be coming. I frowned deeply at the thought of Harry and Leila together but more so at the fact that there was nothing I could do to prevent it.

 

“I’m happy for you mate; Charlotte seems like a great girl.” I told him sincerely. Since Niall had started seeing Charlotte, the beautiful redhead from Cathedral, there had been a noticeable change in his demeanor. It had been for the better. He was happy, and that made me happy. Out of everyone, Niall deserved it the most.

 

“Thanks man, she really is,” Niall said pausing. “Don’t kill me, but I sort of invited someone for you.”

 

I sighed deeply, trying to curb my irritation. “Niall, you really shouldn’t have.” He literally shouldn’t have.

 

“Well I didn’t want you to be the only one without a date!” Niall exclaimed, explaining himself.

 

As if I didn’t have enough to deal with. I groaned inwardly. I had really wanted to cool it on the drinking, but it looked like tonight I’d be forced to end up knee deep in my own throw-up once again.

 

“That’s very considerate of you.” I said, not bothering to mask the indifference in my voice. I patted my pockets to see if I had a pack of fags, feeling a nic fit coming on. My fingers grazed a lone cigarette, pulling it out I saw that it was broken. It would simply have to do. I lit it, holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder.

 

“She’s cute too,” Niall went on. “One of Charlotte’s friends from her modeling agency. Blonde and leggy just how you like them.”

 

I tried not to gag. Right now, Niall was the only blonde I liked and I wasn’t even sure of that after he had saddled me with babysitting this probable airhead. I snorted quietly; blonde and leggy. I thought of Leila and how she did not fit that prototype at all, short with a small waist and notable hips, long black hair. It had been my own fault, for being so blind before. For not seeing what was right there in front of me all along.

 

“I’m pretty sure her name is Fiona if I’m not mistaken,” Niall said pondering aloud. “Anyways, since our dates are friends I thought it would be a good idea for us to go together. The others will meet us at Simon’s.”

 

“Yeah, sure.” Whatever, I wanted to add. I exhaled, a cloud of smoke surrounding my head. I could see lung cancer in my near future.

 

“So come by my place around eight.” Niall said in conclusion. “See you then.”

 

“Later.” I said, hanging up.

 

Sitting in silence for a moment, I then reached into my pocket, pulling out Leila’s necklace. I held it in my palm, allowing the cool metal to weigh against my hand. I had been carrying it around since my Mum had unearthed it from a box of my old things in Bradford. It still seemed surreal that it was here in my hand after all this time. I blew smoke out of my mouth, unsure of how I had managed to end myself up in such a mess.

 

When in Bradford, I had finally understood what had been going on in my head. I had been angry -all the time, felt an overpowering urge to drink, and had even picked up smoking again which I had just a month before, finally quit. Maybe it was something about the air in Bradford, but it had finally struck me that I was in love with Leila and probably always had been. Perhaps it had taken her coming back into my life to see it, or maybe I had some growing up to do before I noticed it. The logical part of me was left wondering if it was perhaps just infatuation, a short thing that would fade. This could have been true, if my feelings for Leila had ever really gone away. Before I walked into Victory, I had been struggling to keep my head above water, above the fame. I had been searching, searching for something, not knowing what it was. As soon as my eyes landed on Leila, all the pieces came together. What was once lost, was found.

 

Returning Leila’s locket into my coat, I decided to surf the net for a little while before hopping into the shower. I typed the Sun’s URL into the address bar. Waiting for the page to load, my back stiffened when I saw the most recent post.

 

ONE DIRECTION’S HARRY STYLES SPOTTED LEAVING CENTRAL LONDON APARTMENT.

 

Located just below was a photograph of an inconspicuously dressed Harry, departing from none other than Leila Karim’s apartment. An overwhelming sense of dread came over me, suffocating me. What had Harry been doing at Leila’s apartment? Taking a final drag of my broken cigarette, I mashed the butt of it into my overflowing ashtray, with only myself to blame for Leila being in Harry’s arms instead of mine.

 

*

 

Fiona stared at me blankly. “So you’re not allowed to eat pork?”

 

“No.” I clarified, hoping she finally understood. Apparently ‘airhead’ had been a massive understatement.

 

“But, why?” Her face contorted in confusion, her eyebrows furrowed together.

 

“Because, I’m a Muslim.” I repeated my previous explanation for the second time.

 

That’s horrible!” Fiona exclaimed in shock, her voice raising an octave. “They don’t let you eat pork just because you’re Muslim! And I thought all that racism business was over and done with.” She flailed her arms about in distress, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder. 

 

How this girl had managed to survive for nineteen years concerned me deeply. I turned slowly to Niall, raising my eyebrows at him. “Are you serious?”

 

Niall’s lips began to twitch manically, threatening to burst. He turned to Charlotte, burying his face in her red hair, vibrating with laughter. I drained what was left of my beer sourly, ready for another.

 

I got to my feet. “I’m going to go get another beer.” I said, about to walk away when Fiona stood up as well.

 

“I need one too!” She fluttered her eyelashes. I didn’t recall having invited anyone to tag along? Breathing deeply, I tried to subdue my irritation. I was in a bad mood because of other things. Fiona didn’t deserve to be caught in the crossfire, regardless of how dim she was.

 

“It’s okay,” I smiled at her. “I’ll get it.”

 

Making my way to the open bar, I held up two fingers to the bartender who quickly set to work on my order. Turning around, I observed the interior of Simon’s home. There were people bustling about, many of them heading outside into the gardens. The sound of laughter and indiscernible chattering was only overpowered by the music, displayed on a huge flat screen tele that Simon had ordered for the occasion. The video for ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ began to play. Watching it still felt strange to me.

 

“It never gets old.” Niall said, echoing my sentiment, appearing next to me.

 

The bartender returned with the drinks for Fiona and I. I waited while Niall got a beer as well, joking about what we reckoned Fiona’s IQ likely was. Once Niall had his beer, we began to head back to the couches where we had been sitting with the girls. Looking up, I stopped dead in my tracks, my jaw dropping as Harry and Leila breezed in through the open doors followed by Liam, Danielle, Louis, and Eleanor.

 

“Wha-?” Niall said in confusion, turning to see what I was looking at. “Oh.” He said, understanding my reaction.

 

Leila was radiant, flawless. Clad in a short cream coloured dress, her legs went on for days, ending in a pair of jade coloured high heels. Her long black hair fell in waves, framing her face, a sort of jeweled headband worn across her forehead. Leila’s lips looked welcoming, painted in a plum coloured lipstick while her eyes were wide and clear, her eyelashes startlingly long and dark. I was staring shamelessly, my face hot.

 

A hand waved in front of my face. I turned to Niall, my eyes wide. He had caught me.

 

Niall looked at me, narrowing his eyes. “Zayn, what’s going on?”

 

I turned back to Leila, her eyes finding mine as Harry greeted Simon with a big bear hug. I looked back at her unsure of what to do, when suddenly she gave me a small smile. It all happened so quickly, that I wasn’t sure it had happened at all. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion.

 

“Zayn?” Niall repeated.

 

Harry turned back to Leila, pulling her to him and whispering something into her ear.

 

“S’nothing.” I muttered in reply to Niall who was still looking at me suspiciously, turning away before I did something stupid. “Let’s go.”

 

For the next hour, I caught myself gazing at Leila. I’d turn away as soon as I noticed, sipping generously on my beer, downing one after the other, going back to the bar for refills. Fiona was blabbing on and on about the trials and tribulations of modeling when I stole another glance at Leila. Her and Harry were swaying back and forth, dancing to “It’s Gotta Be You”, the video displayed on the large screen. Harry was smiling down at Leila, singing the words of the song to her. I reached for another beer, unable to tear my eyes away from them. Securing the cup in my hand, I began to chug the beer relentlessly, only to sense Niall staring at me from the corner of my eye.

 

I turned to him drunkenly. “What?”

 

“We need to talk.” Niall said, glancing over at Harry and Leila. “Now, come on.” He grabbed me by the arm, pulling me towards an unoccupied room.

 

Niall, shoving me into the room shut the door behind him. I stumbled, regaining my footing. The beer had gone straight to my head.

 

“What’s going on?” Niall asked me sternly.

 

“Nothing!” I fumed. This whole night was going to shit. I plunked down on one of Simon’s easy chairs, my head in my hands. I heard Niall sit in the one across from me.

 

“Mate, you can tell me.” Niall said gently, an earnest expression on his face.

 

I looked up at him. “No I can’t.” I said bitterly. “…Even if I wanted to.” There was no way I was going to take Leila down with me. I had hurt her enough already.

 

“I won’t say anything.” Niall said sincerely. Something about the look on his face told me that he was being completely serious. Damned trustworthy Irishman. Suddenly, I had an idea which seemed quite amazing in my drunken state.

 

“Alright,” I began, rubbing my eyes. “Let’s say that, there theoretically was a girl that I used to know back in Bradford.” I would tell Niall, but in my own way.

 

Niall nodded, listening carefully.

 

“This theoretical girl and I used to be best friends, and then when we were sixteen, she theoretically fell in love with me.” I continued.

 

“Okay…” Niall said, slightly confused. He would comprehend it soon enough.

 

“I told this theoretical girl that I didn’t love her back, and like a prick, I stopped talking to her.” I said slowly, finding it hard to follow my own train of thought. “A year later, I went to try out for the X-Factor, never to see this theoretical girl again…”

 

“I don’t understand-” Niall began.

 

“Until,” I said, cutting him off. “We walked into the Victory strip club in London.”

 

Niall’s eyes widened in realization of what he had just heard. He pointed towards the door in shock.

 

I nodded slowly in confirmation. “This theoretical girl is now dating a very real Harry.” I concluded.

 

After a few seconds, Niall was able to put together a coherent sentence. “You’re telling me, that this girl is Leila?” He asked, vehemently, his jaw dropping.

 

I leaned forward, peering into Niall’s wide blue eyes. “I never told you anything.”

 

“Jesus Christ, Zayn!” Niall exclaimed, leaning back in his chair. He shook his head in disbelief. “What now?”

 

“Now nothing.” I told him. “We go on pretending like we don’t know each other, like we have for the past month.” I wanted Leila to be happy, that’s all I wanted. If Harry made her happy, then so be it.

 

Niall stared off into space in deep thought. “This explains everything; your strange behaviour, the drinking, the smoking, that argument type thing that happened at Nando’s.” Niall paused thinking. “And oh my God, you knocked out that guy at Cathedral because you were protecting her, didn’t you? Not on behalf of Harry!” Niall was staring at me in what was a cross between awe and accusation.

 

“No, not on behalf of Harry.” I agreed, returning my face to my hands.

 

A minute of silence passed. I had probably just made the biggest mistake of my life by telling Niall, but keeping this type of secret to myself, well it had been killing me.

 

“When you two left Cathedral together,” Niall began quietly. “Did you…did you two do anything?” He asked hesitantly, afraid to hear my answer.

 

“I kissed her.” I answered without a beat, the memory of Leila’s pillowy lips still fresh in my mind.

 

I heard Niall sigh deeply. “Well, do you love her?” He finally asked.

 

My head shot up at this. I stared at Niall, unable to answer him right away.

 

“Yeah.” I found myself saying after a few seconds. “Yeah I do.” I began to rub my temples gingerly, wishing for more beer or perhaps a gun to just put me out of my misery.

 

“I have one last question.” Niall asked, biting his lip in thought.

 

“What’s that?” I asked, having had reached the end of my tether. What else was there to lose?

 

Niall paused and then asked “Did she kiss you back?”

 

I scoffed in laughter, shaking my head. “That has nothing to do with anything.”

 

“It has to do with everything.” He countered, narrowing his blue eyes at me.

 

I leaned back in my chair, the worn leather sighing beneath my weight. “She did, she kissed me back.” I finally told him. “And right after that, she called me a ‘mind fuck’.” I told him, reiterating Leila’s words.

Niall took all of this into consideration, speaking up after about a minute.

 

“Well, then as your band mate, I would tell you to forget about her.” Niall took a long pause. “But, as your friend, I would tell you to do something about it.”

 

“You’ve got to be joking.” I told him, shaking my head. Doing something about it could very well mean the end of One Direction as we knew it. The stakes were insanely high.

 

“But, Harry…” I thought aloud. Harry was my friend, my brother. How could I betray him like that?

 

“Harry doesn’t love her,” Niall said definitively. “He thinks he does….Remember what happened with Caroline?”

 

Niall had a point. Harry had the tendency of being hot and then cold for someone in a very short period of time. With Caroline, he had been going off about how in love with her he had been, only to end things shortly after that. I wouldn’t want Leila to get hurt in that way, especially…especially if there was another offer on the table…a sincere one; mine.

 

“But exactly am I supposed to do?” I asked, answering my own question when I stuck my hands into my pockets, the pleasant weight of the locket between my fingers.

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

 

I watched as Zayn and Niall exited the spare room they had gone into about fifteen minutes before. Harry and I were still dancing slowly, his head resting on top of mine and mine resting against his check. I peeked at Zayn from beneath my lashes as he made his way back to the couches where they had been sitting with two girls who without a doubt, were models. I observed the girl who was presumably Zayn’s date. She was quite beautiful really, long blonde hair tumbling down her shoulders with bright blue eyes and long legs. She was exactly Zayn’s type, reminding me all too much of Tracey from Bradford.

 

I squeezed my eyes shut, regretting that I had smiled at him earlier. Something had come over me and I knew that it had to do with the dream I had the night before. When I had seen him sitting on the merry-go-round, I had felt comfortable, familiar, like seeing an old friend.

 

Where have you been?” I had asked him curiously, joining him on the merry-go-round.

 

Zayn waited a moment before replying. “Right here.” He had said, a sad smile on his lips.

 

Suddenly, Zayn’s dark eyes were on mine, and he returned the small smile that I wished I hadn’t given him. His hands in the pockets of his black and grey varsity jacket, he looked so much like how he did in my dream, like home, like the Zayn I had once known. I turned away quickly, burying my face into Harry’s chest, my face burning. I wanted to scream.

 

“Do you want to get out of here?” Harry whispered into my ear quietly.

 

I looked up at him curiously. “Already?” I asked smiling. We had hardly been there for an hour and a half.

 

Harry grinned back at me. “I want to spend as much time with you as I can before I leave tomorrow night.” He raised his eyebrows suggestively.

 

“I almost forgot!” I exclaimed, remembering that the boys would be departing for their tour of Australia and New Zealand the following night. Harry and I had already gone into great detail in regards to our contact throughout the tour. We would try to Skype as often as possible and I had even upgraded my mobile plan to include international texting. I hesitated, turning to look at the others. I found my eyes lingering on Zayn sipping his beer for longer than was appropriate. “Won’t the others miss us?” I asked quietly, knowing that secretly I would be doing some missing too.

 

“I think they won’t even notice we’re gone.” Harry said with a sly smile, nodding towards Danielle and Liam heatedly snogging in the corner while Eleanor and Louis were nowhere to be seen.

 

I discreetly looked back to where Zayn was sitting. He was whispering something to Niall as the Tracey doppelganger looked him up and down hungrily as if Zayn was something to eat. I felt my blood begin to boil. Perhaps she should eat a sandwich instead since she so desperately needed one.

 

“You’re right,” I turned to Harry. “We won’t be missed.” I grabbed his hand, towing him towards the door and away from the confusion that was my mind.

 

Rounding the corner of the car park, I was about to ask Harry if he didn’t mind having beans on toast for the second time this week when suddenly we were ambushed by the paparazzi. They began to yell aggressively over one another, the bright flashes of their cameras blinding me. I shielded my face, but it was too late. They had all seen me, photographed Harry and I holding hands. I felt Harry’s arm circle around me protectively as we struggled through the crowd.

 

“Is this your new girlfriend Harry?” One paparazzo yelled.

 

“Is this the same girl that left the Cathedral nightclub with your band mate Zayn Malik?” Another added.

 

“Would the young lady like to make her first statement to the press?”

 

“How did you two meet?”

“Who are you wearing tonight?”

 

“Is this girl the owner of the flat you were seen leaving the other day, Harry?”

 

The voices yelled over one another as they encircled us, the bright flashes of their cameras unrelenting. Harry pulled me towards our awaiting limousine, letting me scramble into it safely. Before following me in, he simply told the press “No comment.” Slamming the door of the limousine shut behind him. In a few short hours, the entire world would know exactly who Leila Karim was and what she did for a living and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

 

*

 

Harry gently shut the door of my apartment, and turned to face me, frowning deeply.

 

“Harry, I’m fine, really.” I assured him as I took off my earrings. “It was only a matter of time before they found out about me.” It would have been delusional to think that Harry and I could maintain our privacy forever.

 

“I’m just worried, Leila.” Harry said, shaking his head, his green eyes on the floor. “These people can be extremely cruel.”

 

“In one ear and out the other.” I told Harry smiling. My Mother used to tell me that. It still worried me though, what they would say, what they would find out, especially about my past, especially about Bradford.

 

Harry’s frown slowly turned into a smile. His eyes traveled up and down the expanse of my body. He licked his lips nervously. I began to feel the onset of a panic attack approaching. Harry was looking at me, differently. In three short strides, Harry was standing in front of me, his chest pressed up against mine. I could not understand why, but all I felt was dread. Harry placed his lips gently on mine, snaking his hands around my waist and pulling me closer to him. Carefully, he led me over to the couch, laying me across it and climbing on top of me, his hands exploring the length of my body. I was breathing quickly, my heart thudding through my chest. Something was terribly amiss. All I could think of was Zayn. Bradford, Zayn, Bradford, Zayn, my mind was screaming at me.

 

Right here.” My eyes began to water.

 

Harry pulled back from the kiss he had just planted on my lips. “Leila, what’s wrong?” He asked, furrowing his eyebrows together. His curly hair was pointing in all directions.

 

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t.

 

I can’t” I choked out, ashamed. I was a bloody fool. Zayn Malik had made a fool of me again.   

 

Harry stared at me with hurt eyes. “But, I thought that you wanted to?” He was confused, he felt rejected.

 

“I just…” I searched Harry’s eyes, unsure of what to say. Unsure of everything.

 

Harry observed me before sitting up. “Wait…are you a...” His voice trailed off, his eyes narrowing in thought. “Have you never…”

 

My face grew hot. I guess it wasn’t every day that you came across a stripper that was still a virgin. “No…I’ve never.” I answered him timidly, looking down at my hands.

 

Harry lifted my chin so that we were eye to eye. “I understand.” He said, blinking at me. “You’re not ready and that’s okay.” Harry tried to mask his disappointment, but his eyes told me otherwise.

 

“Thank-you.” I whispered, searching Harry’s eyes with mine. “Will you still stay the night?” I asked him, desperate to not hurt him further than I already had.

 

Harry leaned in, placing a kiss on my forehead. “Of course.” He told me.

 

An hour later, Harry and I lay in my bed, his arms wrapped around me and his head resting on my shoulder. As Harry slept peacefully, his chest rising and falling against my back, I thought about the real reason that I hadn’t wanted to sleep with Harry. I closed my eyes, and knew in my heart that it was because Harry Styles was not and never could be Zayn Malik.

 

Zayn’s P.O.V:

 

HARRY STYLES, TRADING IN STRIPES FOR…STRIPPERS?

 

Harry Styles of boy band One Direction has yet again eluded fans by jumping into a relationship…with a female, thwarting rumors of the existence of ‘Larry Stylinson’. One Direction’s fandom, affectionately coined  ‘Directioners’ were disappointed to hear yesterday that Harry Styles was in the arms of someone other than Louis Tomlinson, or better yet themselves.

 

At approximately eleven o’clock last night, Harry Styles was seen departing the home of music mogul Simon Cowell, located just outside of Holland Park in Central London. Simon Cowell, the man behind the success of One Direction had been hosting a party on behalf of members Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, and Niall Horan who are departing for their tour of Australia and New Zealand later tonight. Harry Styles who has been linked to various women was most notably tied to X-Factor host Caroline Flack, a woman fifteen-years his senior. This time around however, Harry Styles has settled for a more modest age gap of one year with London resident Leila Karim. However, where Harry makes up for not dating an outrageously older woman, he instead wows fans by dating a stripper.

 

The pair reportedly met at the Victory Strip Club in London where it has been confirmed by an employee of the night club that Harry Styles ordered a private dance from the nineteen year-old stunner after being quite taken with her stage performance. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Tumblr blew up in the hours following the revelation of Harry’s new romance, fans being less than impressed with Leila and her occupation while some even went to the extremes of utilizing racial slurs.

 

One fan tweeted: “I could get Harry’s attention too if I took my clothes off #slut”.

 

“Leila Karim is a stupid Paki bitch #terrorist” Another fan tweeted.

 

And while we don’t know much about Leila Karim, we do know that many have been impressed with what appears to be her impeccable style.

 

I shut my laptop roughly, fuming. I couldn’t even imagine what was going through Leila’s mind right now, she must be devastated. I looked at the clock impatiently. I had planned on going to see Leila some time around the afternoon and it was just ten o’clock. Just like on every other night of heavy drinking, I had woken up earlier than usual, except today I was bursting with nervous energy. Last night I had confessed everything to Niall, telling him that I had not only known Leila for what was basically my whole life, but had also recklessly fallen in love with her.

 

When I spoke to Leila this time, instead of unfoundedly cornering her like I had at Victory, I planned on taking a different approach. My stomach roared with butterflies as I imagined telling Leila how I felt, unsure of how she would react, but confident that I at least had a chance. After all, she had kissed me back. I could not help but smile at that fact alone. Unable to wait any longer, I jumped up from the couch and slid into my red and white varsity jacket. Sticking my hands into the pocket, I checked to make sure that Leila’s necklace was still there.

 

*

 

I stood at the side of Leila’s apartment, narrowing my eyes as I watched carefully for any sign of the paps lurking nearby. The coast appeared to be clear. Breathing deeply, I decided it was now or never and that if I waited any longer, I would lose my shot at getting inside without being sighted. I made a mad dash for the entrance. Whipping open the heavy door, I ran inside, peering behind me to see if I had been followed. Success! No paps in sight. Cautiously, I peaked around the corner to see if Rita, the building’s supervisor, was sitting in her office. I had paid Leila’s rent through Rita, but not without some difficulty. I cringed as I remembered her attempting to guess my shoe size.

 

“You know what they say, the bigger the feet, the bigger the shoes.” She had winked at me, referring to something other than my shoe size.

 

Peering into Rita’s office, I saw that it was empty. I sighed in relief, another day where she was as far away from my dick as possible.

 

I pulled out Leila’s locket delicately, observing it. I was going to return it to her, but with one significant difference. Opening it, I smiled proudly at the pictures of Leila’s parents that I had slid inside, Leila’s Mother on the left and her Father on the right. Feeling a rush of confidence in not only myself, but my feelings for Leila, I bounded up the stairs two at a time. What I planned on saying I had no idea, all I knew was that I wanted to see her, be near her.

 

Reaching the second floor, I took a sharp turn, heading towards Leila’s door. I began to smile nervously in spite of myself. Suddenly, the door of Leila’s apartment swung open, my smile fading as I saw Harry step out into the hallway. He was wearing the same clothes from the previous night, black jeans and a white v-neck t-shirt.

 

“Shit!” I cursed to myself, taking a sharp right down another hallway. My heart thudded through my chest, my ears ringing. Had he seen me? I glanced around the corner cautiously, Leila had now appeared. She was barefoot and clad in a white house coat, her arms around Harry’s neck. This explained everything. Harry had stayed the night. My stomach fell through the floor at this revelation. I was too late.

 

“Thanks for having me.” I heard Harry say, bending down to plant a kiss on Leila’s lips. I turned away in agony.

 

“Anytime.” Leila smiled once they broke apart. “Text me as soon as you land, alright?”

 

“I will.” Harry said, leaning in for another kiss. “You have no idea how much I’d like to lay in bed with you all day.” He grinned at this. I clenched my jaw in anger.

 

“That would mean letting down millions of ‘Directioners’.” Leila smiled slyly, knowledgably referring to our fan base.

 

“You’re right. Duty calls.” Harry smiled, placing a soft kiss on Leila’s cheek, and then stepping back from her. “Don’t have too much fun without me.” He squeezed her one final time.

 

“I wouldn’t dare.” Leila said with a small smile.

 

And then Harry was gone, heading down the hallway, Leila watching his retreating back sadly. Shrinking into the shadows, I held my breath as Harry walked past me, and then he was finally gone. I heard Leila’s door shutting gently. I waited for a few moments in the darkness before stepping out into the light. Opening my hand, I looked at Leila’s locket one last time before storing it safely into my pocket. Heading down the hallway in the opposite direction of Leila’s door, I thought to myself that perhaps, Leila had not kissed me back after all.

 

A/N: Thanks for reading and please review!

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