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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17. I'll Be Home For Christmas II

I’m in Love with a Stripper:

I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Part II)

 

Fiona’s P.O.V:

Carefully, I ran a razor blade through the small mound of white powder that I had poured onto the coffee table, strategically arranging it into three horizontal lines. Unearthing a 5£ note from my purse, I began to roll it into a tight funnel just as I had seen other models do at the glamorous parties Charlotte and I would sneak into on occasion. Tucking my blond hair behind my ears, I could not help but sigh deeply at my predicament, scoffing that I too had finally resorted to cocaine just like the other models who I had been so quick to judge. Holding the rolled up bill over the first thick line of powder, I placed my nose over it and quickly snorted it into my left nostril, trailing my makeshift funnel over the rail of coke until it was completely gone. At once my eyes began to water, my nose burning and my heart thumping erratically against the walls of my chest. Allowing my head to fall against the sofa, the back of my throat grew numb while the delicious sensation of euphoria crept through my body, slowly spreading to my outermost extremities. Holding out my pale hands in front of me, everything seemed so sharp; my chipped black nail polish, the lines engraved in my palms. My thoughts began to race and I felt awake, so alert that I literally jumped from my seat when a loud knock sounded at the door.

“Fiona!” Harry’s familiar voice exclaimed from behind my front door, his tone urgent. “I need to talk to you!” Cursing Harry beneath my breath, I frantically scrambled to hide the cocaine, opting for the silver centerpiece perched on the kitchen table. Flipping it over and piling various fashion magazines on top of it, I rushed towards the door, struggling to unlock it due to the tremors that had appeared in my hands.

I thrust open the door to Harry in the process of knocking once more, his bright green eyes observing me in minor surprise. Harry was dressed sharply, meaning that he most likely had just been with Leila, I thought with a roll of my eyes. Harry was clad in a pair of black jeans and a buttoned up white dress shirt, his cologne that I recognized as Blue de Chanel for men wafting up my super-sensitive nostrils.

“Harry, now isn’t the best time.” I bellowed in exasperation, feeling pools of sweat seeping through my shirt.

“This can’t wait.” Harry retorted sharply, breezing past me into my apartment and furiously running his hands through his for once tamed curls. With a frustrated sigh, Harry turned to me, my keen eyesight noticing that his eyes were watering. “I’m out.” Harry told me firmly, his green gaze unwavering, hurt.

Out? I could feel my heart begin to palpitate even quicker, a rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. “What do you mean out?” I uttered through clenched teeth, the venom in my voice palpable. I was blinking at Harry expectantly as he began to rub his temples, fighting the urge to scream, unsure if I could stop myself once I started.

 

“Out of the plan, Fiona.” Harry clarified, standing so close that he was towering directly over me, even at my height of 5’9. I was eyeing Harry with hatred, thinking that after everything we had gone through, after all of our hard work, that the bastard was simply out, as if it had all meant nothing. I could feel my eyes stinging with betrayal, thinking that I should have listened to my instincts, my instincts that had told me that Harry would fail me. Harry was studying me in silence, and so quickly I averted my eyes, fearing that he would surely notice my abnormally dilated pupils.

“So you’re going to give up just like that?” I muttered with scorn, my eyes meeting Harry’s in spite of my paranoia.

Harry shook his head, his gaze still on mine. “I have my reasons, Fiona.” His voice was shaking, and already I could see the doubt behind his sparkling eyes, the anger and hurt that still remained. I fought an excited smirk, knowing that all hope was not lost, that I could still convince Harry to help me tear Zayn and Leila apart for good.

“Weak!” I exclaimed manically, Harry flinching at my sudden outburst. “I knew you were weak!” I continued tauntingly, Harry’s cheeks flushing crimson at my accusation. The cocaine was fueling me with courage, with hurtful things to say that I usually reserved for those I hated, thing I would never say to Harry who although I would not admit it, I considered to be one of my only friends in the world.

Harry narrowed his hypnotic eyes at me, his pink lips pressed together into a thin line. Fleetingly, I recalled how they had moved against mine the only night we had been together. “I’m weak?” Harry began in a level voice, inching so close to me that our noses were almost touching. “If I was weak, I’d be making myself throw up like you do!” He retorted through clenched teeth, his green eyes blazing.

I could feel the blood draining from my face, a cold shiver making its way up my spine as I realized that Harry had known all along, that he had heard me throwing up in the washroom. Before I could stop myself, I had slapped Harry across the face, the loud and sickening sound of my palm against his cheek echoing throughout the room. At once, the poignant sting of guilt echoed throughout my body, tears springing to my eyes at what I had done.

Harry slowly placed his hand to his cheek, grazing his fingers over the red mark that had appeared on his cheek. Harry’s gaze found mine again, his sparkling green eyes ablaze. “Do you want to know why Zayn doesn’t want you?” Harry began, surprisingly calm even after I had struck him. “Because you’re a miserable bitch, Fiona.” Harry told me emphatically, making his way towards the door.

I watched Harry depart in shock, my face flushing angrily. Following Harry, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, desperate for his help although I wasn’t sure why. “You’re just scared that you can’t measure up to Zayn!” I howled at Harry’s retreating back. “And that if it really was between you two, that Leila would choose him!” I continued, Harry placing his hand onto the doorknob, turning it.

“Just leave it, Fiona!” Harry told me over his shoulder, thrusting open the door and storming out into the carpeted hallway.

I followed Harry out, refusing to give up. “Is that right?” I asked, my tone taunting, a manic smile on my lips. “You let another bloke shag your girlfriend and do absolutely nothing about it?” I hissed at Harry who continued to make his way down the hallway in long strides. I proceeded to break into a jog to catch up with Harry, yelling “No, not just any bloke, your best friend!”

Harry whirled around to face me. “Keep your voice down!” He said through clenched teeth, making it apparent that I had finally hit a nerve.

I could feel the cocaine finally leaving my system, a usual high only lasting for about ten minutes. “Here’s a thought for you, Harry.” I offered to him, a small smirk appearing on my lips knowing that with one final shove in the right direction, that Harry would be on my side once more. “Zayn’s known Leila his whole life.” I told him, Harry nodding in silence at the information we both already knew. “How come Zayn only made a move once you were dating Leila?” I asked, having pondered this myself on many occasions. “Why not before when he had every opportunity?”

Harry was staring at me with wide eyes, perhaps never having seen it that way before. Had Zayn simply been jealous of Harry? Had it simply boiled down to him being possessive over a girl who he had known all of his life, a girl that was moving on with Harry? I could see the very same thoughts flitting across Harry’s green eyes, realizing that maybe Zayn was just using Leila, that the only reason Zayn was perusing Leila was because of him.

Harry was staring at me, his eyes drifting off to the side in thought before returning to mine. “What do I have to do?” Harry asked weakly after a moment, a triumphant smile appearing on my lips as he said this. Victory.

I invited Harry back inside, explaining my plan in full detail and that it would ideally take place on New Year’s Eve. Bidding Harry farewell, I locked the door behind him and leaned against it, thankful that the topic of my bulimia had not come up again, at least for the time being. Sighing deeply, I returned to the sofa, discarding of the various Vogue and Elle magazines covering the kitchen centerpiece, scattering them onto the floor. Lifting up the silver bowl, I could not help but smile at the two lines of cocaine that still remained, having waited patiently for me through my entire ordeal with Harry. Switching on my iDock, I opted for my favourite Crystal Castles song, ‘Untrust Us’.

La cocaina no

 Es buena

 Para su salud

As I snorted the final two rails of white powder, I found myself wondering if my plan to end Zayn and Leila’s relationship even had anything to do with my feelings for Zayn anymore, wondering if it had more to do with me.

La cocaina no

 Es buena

 Para su salud

As the high washed over me, my erratic thoughts somehow recalled the unfamiliar words I was hearing, my brain recognizing them as Spanish. Silently mulling through the few words of Spanish I learned during College, the meaning suddenly popped into my mind…cocaine is not good for you, cocaine is not good for you, cocaine is not good for you.

Zayn’s P.O.V:

Bradford’s streets were deserted. By my lone set of footprints crunching through the snow, I figured that everyone was inside celebrating Christmas Eve with their families. I continued to make my way further into Bradford’s town square, observing the white Christmas lights strung throughout the trees lining the cobblestone sidewalk. I began to grin like an idiot knowing that Leila would be waiting for me by the big Christmas tree in the middle of the square as she always had. It had been our meeting place during the holidays, up until three years ago when I had abandoned not only my home, but the girl I had loved as well. Blowing on my hands to warm them, I found myself thinking of the other day, Leila admitting to me her uncertainty about my feelings for her. Leila had looked manic, her deep brown eyes searching mine frantically.

Do you love me, or do you love Bambi?” Leila had asked me in exasperation, her arms crossed tightly over her chest, looking as if she was holding herself together. “They’re two completely different people, Zayn.” She choked out, her doe-like eyes brimming with tears.

I trailed my fingers over my pocket, feeling the comforting presence of my pack of cigarettes below them but ignoring the urge to light one, promising Leila that I would try my best to quit. I took a deep breath and exhaled, my warm puff of air dispersing into the night. Leila had begun to doubt me, just as I had doubted myself months ago when I fled to Bradford for the first time in over half a year, just after I had witnessed Leila stripping at Victory for the first time. I remember feeling confused, wondering why I felt so strongly for Leila all of the sudden, wondering if it was Bambi, Leila’s provocative alter ego who I had been so captivated by. Bradford had answered that question, showing me that it was Leila, the girl who I had known since I was little that I could not get out of my head. As I clutched Leila’s locket in my hand, it seemed so blatantly obvious to me then, that it was Leila who I loved and had loved all along. All I had to do now was show this to Leila for once and for all, that she was it for me, and I knew just what I had to do to prove it to her.  

Taking a right, I was at the mouth of Bradford’s town square, all its surrounding shops and stores closed for the night, but the surrounding area still illuminated by the Christmas tree in its center. Snow began to descend from the night sky, and in the distance standing directly in front of the tree was Leila, spinning in circles with her tongue stuck out, allowing snowflakes to melt on it as she laughed. Astonished, I stopped in my tracks and just watched her. Leila’s grey winter hat slipped from her head, allowing her black hair to spill over her shoulders. I captured the image in my mind, deciding that this was the image of Leila I would paint next. I had drawn my very first picture of Leila a few weeks ago, shortly after our visit to the Moors. It had been difficult to depict everything perfectly; they grey skies, the intense black of Leila’s hair, but by the end of it, the painting mirrored Leila allowing two white Camellias to drift downstream, both of which had been for her parents. 

I began to chuckle to myself as Leila continued to spin in circles, oblivious to my presence. “Having fun?” I asked cheekily, Leila ceasing her spinning and looking up at me, her dark brown eyes wide with surprise and her tanned cheeks flushed.

Leila was swaying slightly from her spinning, a breathless grin appearing on her face. “Where’s my hot chocolate?” Leila asked playfully after a moment, her soft voice louder than usual due to the blanket of snow blanketing the ground. Leila was clad in the same red and green Christmas jumper that she would don every Christmas holiday since we were ten, still unable to fill it out properly even after all these years.    

I examined Leila with a teasing smile, marveling at how she had yet to forget her annual hot chocolate even once in all the time I had known her. Leila was gazing at me expectantly, failing miserably at looking threatening as she fought a smile from appearing on her pink lips. “Apostrophe’s was closed by the time I got there.” I told her with an apologetic smile.

“S’all the same.” Leila told me with a huff, bending down to retrieve her fallen hat, dusting it off and propping it back onto her head crookedly. “We can have some at my Grandparent’s house.” She concluded with a sly grin, tucking her wild black hair snugly beneath her hat.

I felt my jaw drop, my eyes wide with horror. “Your grandparents?” I exclaimed, louder than I had intended to, patting my pockets madly to make sure my pack of cigarettes was still there. I had met Leila’s grandparents for the first time a few short weeks ago with hopes to buy Leila’s family home on her behalf. As I had expected, they were less than thrilled to see me.  Leila’s Grandmother Katija had been even more hostile than I anticipated, accusing me of trying to buy Leila’s love, of wanting her only because she undressed on stage. In a moment of sheer madness, I had admitted to them that I loved Leila, insisting that I only wanted what was best for her. Leila’s Grandmother refused to believe it, leaving me thinking that I had failed Leila, that she would lose the last thing she had left of her parents when to my surprise and Katija’s horror, Leila’s Grandfather agreed to sign the papers that Allen had drafted against his wife’s wishes. Moments after, Leila’s Grandmother had screamed at Allen and I to get out, literally chasing us to the front door with a wooden spoon drenched in chicken curry.

“They’ve invited us for dinner...” Leila told me quietly, finding her way into my winter jacket, peeking upwards to better observe my reaction.

I nodded in response, my face beginning to pale considerably as I imagined facing Leila’s Grandparents once more. I needed a cigarette now more than ever, but still I continued to quell the temptation, not wanting to disappoint Leila or reek of smoke around her Grandparents who would most definitely love to have something else to hold against me.

“Don’t look so worried!” Leila reassured me, squeezing my hand. “It’ll be fine!” She stressed, standing on her toes to press a gentle kiss onto my cheek.    

I sighed deeply, finding Leila’s warm brown eyes once more. “They hate me, Leila.” I told her quietly. “And after everything I’ve done, I can’t really blame them for it, can I?” I said, more to myself than to Leila.    

Leila’s face softened, a hopeful smile appearing on her pink lips. “I’ve forgiven you, Zayn.” She told me in earnest, intertwining her small hand with mine. “So can they.” She told me with conviction. I could not help but stare at Leila; her familiar round face, full lips, button nose, wondering how she was able to have faith in anything after everything that had happened to her, wondering how she was still able to have faith in me.

“Come on, we’re going to be late!” Leila exclaimed excitedly, tugging me in the direction of her Grandparent’s house, her black hair cascading over her shoulders as she pulled me along. Begrudgingly following Leila, I thought that chances of her Grandparent’s ever forgiving me were slim, especially when taking into mind what I planned on asking their Granddaughter.

 

*

I had been relatively silent during dinner, simply watching Leila as she conveyed stories of our childhood together to her Grandparents, everything from the time we had gotten lost in IKEA when we were nine to the time I had been in our school’s production of Grease, a smile on my face the entire time. Occasionally, Katija’s gaze would land on mine, her expression unreadable as her dark brown eyes studied me with interest. Quickly I would turn my attention to Leila or back to my food, taking a bite or two of the coconut curry and roti I had been nervously picking at for the past hour.

“You know Nanni,” Leila began, popping a piece of roti into her mouth. “Zayn’s a huge fan of your samosas.”

I turned to Leila in mortification, Leila giving me a mischievous grin in reply. Carefully I allowed myself to glance across the table at Katija who had her elbows propped up on the table, her chin resting on her hands. “Is he now?” Katija replied slowly, her dark gaze shifting from Leila to me.

“Oh yes.” Leila nodded excitedly, turning back to me, her brown eyes alight and a wide grin on her face. “Zayn would make me trade lunches with him whenever Mum packed them for me. Remember Zayn?” Leila added, waggling her dark eyebrows up and down at me.

I nodded with an embarrassed smile, shrugging. “They were that good.” I said, Katija raising her eyebrows to Haider, Leila’s Grandfather, who was seated at the head of the table. Haider turned his hazel gaze to me, a glowering and unimpressed expression on his face. Swallowing hard, I glanced at the cuckoo clock quickly, feeling a trickle of sweat make its way down the back of my neck as I observed that it was almost eight o’clock.

Leila’s eyes darted from her Grandparents to me, a desperate expression on her face. “Nanni,” She began emphatically, twiddling a black tendril between her fingers. “Are the family albums still in the attic?” Leila asked innocently, smiling at her Grandmother.

Katija corked a grey eyebrow upwards, observing Leila with suspicion. “Why?” Katija asked carefully, drumming her fingers on the white-knit tablecloth.

Taking her Grandmother’s inquisition as a yes, Leila hopped to her feet, adjusting her Christmas sweater. “I want to show them to Zayn.” Leila answered lightly, making her way towards the stairs. “I’ll be right back!” She called over her shoulder, mainly at me, and in a blur of black, green, and red, Leila had disappeared up the stairs.

Fuck. Daring a glance across the dinner table, as I expected, Leila’s Grandmother was staring at me, a prominent smirk on her thin lips. The cuckoo clock continued to tick tauntingly in the background, suddenly erupting into a loud chorus of whistles and chimes, resulting in me jumping about a meter out of my seat. Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Leila’s Grandmother sat unflinching. “So.” She began, brushing back the stray gray hairs that had flown out of her sleek bun. “You have not told her about the house?” Katija inquired, shooting a sharp look at Haider in the process.

I swallowed hard, attempting to sit up straighter. “Not yet.” I told her, my throat feeling parched.

Katija nodded slowly, rubbing her tired eyes. “Hm.” She replied, getting to her feet and swiftly clearing away the dishes.

I watched the old woman in minor shock, my mouth hanging agape as I tried to conjure up something to say, anything that would change her opinion of me. My gaze followed Katija as she made her way down the hallway and towards the kitchen, a sudden sharp pain in my leg causing me to quickly turn to my right where Haider was staring at me.

“Did you just kick me?” I asked the old man in astonishment, rubbing my leg.

Haider said nothing, but simply nodded at the remaining plates on the table and then at Katija who was had just entered the kitchen. Leila’s Grandfather, the man who scarcely spoke and the man who I was certain hated me too was giving me advice? “Go, you stupid boy.” He finally said gruffly, and so I quickly hopped to my feet, stacking up as many plates as I could before making my way towards the kitchen as well, glancing back at Haider who now wore a proud smile on his tired face.

Entering through the swinging door, Katija glanced back at me from the sink, looking momentarily shocked at my presence. Hesitantly, I made my way towards the sink, gently placing the remaining plates into the soapy water, Katija watching me all the while.

“Thank you for dinner.” I said quietly, Katija returning her gaze to the dish that she was scrubbing, scraping off the scraps of food with all her strength. Suddenly Katija thrust the clean dish to me, simply saying “Dry it.” Her voice a degree softer than it had been before.

Fighting a smile, I picked up the green and white checkered dishcloth sitting on the counter and began to thoroughly dry the plate, Katija handing me another plate by the time I was done with it. “I truly do love Leila.” I said with conviction, glancing at Katija who had paused her furious scrubbing.

The old woman looked at me; her piercing brown eyes looking so much like Leila’s in that moment that it startled me. “I know.” She said quietly, handing me the final dish and wiping her hands dry. “I see that now.” With one final look, Katija reached for a full platter of Pakistani desserts and chai and began to make her way towards the door when in a bout of temporary madness I blurted out, “I’m going to ask Leila to marry me, Auntie.”

Katija stopped dead in her tracks. Turning around slowly, the small woman stared at me in bewilderment before delicately placing the dessert filled platter back onto the counter with a thud. “Come.” She said, making her way past the swinging door and leaving me to follow her if I dared.

 

*

 

Leila’s Grandmother lead me from the kitchen and towards the stairs, passing Haider who peeked at us from behind his newspaper, studying us with a bushy eyebrow corked upwards before returning his gaze to the business section. Carefully, I followed Katija up the carpeted steps, observing various framed photographs lining the pink walls as we descended them. Reaching the top, we quickly scurried past the retractable flight of stairs that Leila had pulled down in order to access the attic, Katija holding a frail finger to her lips, telling me to keep quiet. What did Leila’s Grandmother have to show me? And most of all, what did it have to do with my decision to propose to Leila?

Opening a heavy bedroom door to our left, Katija promptly ushered me into the room, shoving me into it with surprising strength. Allowing my eyes to take in my surroundings, it was apparent that I was in Katija and Haider’s bedroom. A large framed photograph of Leila’s much younger Grandparents on their wedding day hung above their bed, Katija clad in a deep red sari, her hands covered in intricate Mehndi designs and her expression as serious as ever. Meanwhile, Haider wore a wide smile, his hazel eyes bright and lively, an expression I couldn’t believe he was capable of wearing.

“Sit.” Katija told me pointedly, and so I dutifully perched at the end of her bed, watching as she began to search through the various jewelry boxes lining her dusty dresser. At last, Katija halted her search, plucking something from one of the boxes, studying it in her outstretched palm.

She turned around to look at me with her fearsome gaze, her lips formed into a thin line. “If you’re going to propose to Leila,” Katija sighed, holding out what appeared to be a ring to me. “Do it with this.” She said, gently placing the ring into my palm.

The ring was simple, but beautiful, a sheer pink square stone set in the center of a slim band, and somewhere in the depths of my mind I recalled that I had seen it before. “This belonged to-” I began quietly, looking up to meet my shocked gaze with Katija’s.

“It was Kalila’s.” Katija interjected, an indescribably sad expression on her face, proving my suspicion correct; the ring had belonged to Leila’s Mother.

 I lifted my eyes from the ring in my hands, meeting my gaze my Katija’s cool one. “Do I have your blessing, Auntie?” I asked, my voice firm and even. I had to show Katija that I was serious, that I would love Leila better than anyone else could, that she was my world and that I would never make the mistake of abandoning her again.

Leila’s Grandmother let out a light laugh, shaking her head. “It hardly matters what I think, Zayn.” Katija told me, a smile still on her lips, saying my name for the very first time. “Everyone knew you would come to your senses eventually.” She told me, raising her grey eyebrows, laughing again. “Well,” She paused. “At least Irfan thought so.”

 

flashback

 

I found myself grinning widely as Leila was tackled to the grass by her two younger cousins, shrieking with laughter as Amaar and Misha began to tickle her with their pudgy little hands.

“Mercy, please!” Leila begged in between her giggles, her eyes scrunched shut and tears of laughter escaping from them. “I beg of you!”

At this, Amaar and Misha stopped Leila’s torture, but only if she promised to play a round of hide-and-go-seek with them. Sitting up, Leila smoothed out her white summer dress, flushing in embarrassment as Amaar picked a leaf out of her long black hair. “Five more minutes, Zayn!” Leila hollered to me apologetically.

“Take your time!” I yelled back with a grin, taking a hearty sip of my lemonade.

Grinning at me in response, Leila covered her eyes and beginning to count, Amaar and Misha scurrying away to hide. “1…2…3…4…”

Leila had been wearing dresses quite a bit recently, I thought to myself as I watched her count, her tanned legs stretched out in front of her. Leila had never really been the dress wearing type, but strangely enough, it suited her. It really showed off her skin, sun-kissed from the sweltering summer heat, and I suppose Leila had always had nice enough skin. I began to wonder if Leila was perhaps trying to impress someone, my gaze instantly sweeping further down the lawn to where Leila’s older cousin Sameer and his best-friend Rahil were playing football. Sameer was nice enough, but Rahil and I had never really gotten on. Juggling the ball between his feet, Rahil booted it over to Sameer, and as I knew he would, openly began to gawk at Leila. I gritted my teeth in anger. The twat was so obvious that everyone in Leila’s family knew he had a thing for her, save for Leila that is. I began to wonder though, if Leila fancied him back or not, deciding that I would drag it out of her later.

I watched as Sameer returned the ball with a solid kick, a smirk forming on my face as the ball hit Rahil square in the face.

Shit!” Rahil groaned in pain at the impact, gently rubbing the top of his head.

“Oi!” Sameer yelled to him angrily, his dark eyes blazing. “Keep your eyes on the ball!”

Knowing that Sameer was not a fan of his lingering gaze on Leila, with one last departing glance, Rahil returned his eyes to the game, Leila unaware of everything that had just occurred.

“Ready or not, here I come!” Leila exclaimed loudly, opening her brown eyes and hopping to her bare feet. With a grin, Leila ran past where I was sitting, in search of Amaar and Misha. Once Leila was out of sight, two little giggles emerged from beneath the table. Ducking my head underneath, I was met with the sight of a snickering Amaar and Misha.

“Don’t tell!” Misha whispered, flashing me a toothy grin, her two front teeth notably missing.

“I won’t.” I promised her with a wink, sitting back up only to see that Leila’s father had seated himself beside me.

Leila’s father smiled at me good-naturedly, sliding his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Enjoying yourself, Zayn?” He asked. Although Leila took after her Mother the most, Leila and her Father had their similarities as well. Like her Father, Leila loved to read and to learn, excelling in just about every subject at school. What I respected most about the man was that although he was almost always working, he still made time for his family and even managed to organize big family barbeques like this one when the weather was nice.

“I am, sir.” I replied, running my hand through my hair, somewhat nervous. “Thank you for having me.”

It was then that Leila emerged from the other side of the garden, heading directly towards the table that we were sitting at, her grass stained white dress clutched in her hands. Lifting up the table cloth swiftly, she exclaimed “Aha!” Amaar and Misha darting out from beneath the table, laughing away as Leila chased after them. “I’m going to get you!” She yelled.

Leila’s Father watched as his daughter ran off, a proud smile on his face. “Leila is going to make a wonderful Mother some day.” He said, turning his dark eyes onto me, his expression unreadable.

I nodded, watching Leila with a smile, her dark hair coming loose from its ribbon as she chased her cousins through the grass. “The best Mother.” I agreed, thinking that it would be so natural for Leila, that she was so kind and so loving that it would be as easy as breathing for her.

Irfan continued to study me, once again pushing his spectacles back up his nose. “What do you plan on doing when you’re older, Zayn?” Leila’s Father asked me casually, sipping on his lemonade. “A secure career I hope? One that can support a family?”

I began to sweat, feeling slightly put on the spot. There was no way I would tell Leila’s Father that I was seriously considering pursuing music. That was something only Leila knew about me. “To be honest, I have no idea what I want to do yet, sir.” I confessed, thinking that I probably looked like a right idiot to Leila’s Father and that unlike me; Rahil probably had the next twenty years of his life neatly mapped out.  

Irfan nodded his head, flecks of grey dispersed throughout his black mop of hair. “You’ll figure it out one day.” Irfan told me with a reassuring smile, getting to his feet. “They say that sometimes what we want has been standing right in front of us all along.” Irfan told me with a wistful smile. “Remember that, Zayn.” And on that note he departed, making his way over to Leila’s Mother, whispering something into her ear and planting a quick kiss on her cheek.

“Ugh, Rahil has been staring at me for the past hour!” Leila exclaimed with disgust, collapsing onto the chair her Father had just been occupying, kicking her feet up onto my lap. “I knew I shouldn’t have worn this dress!”

A satisfied smirk formed on my face at Leila’s comment. “So you don’t fancy Rahil?” I asked Leila casually, shooting her a delayed glance, wondering why it would even matter to me if she did.

“Of course not!” Leila exclaimed emphatically, rolling her eyes. “No girl in their right mind would ever fancy that wanker!” Leila laughed, licking her thumb in an attempt to rub a grass satin from her white dress. Leila lifted her head suddenly, her brown eyes shifting to meet with mine in confusion. “Why are you asking?” She inquired quietly, her pink lips parted as she blinked her dark lashes at me.

I felt my eyes drift over Leila’s smooth skin, my gaze remaining on her full lips for what felt like too long. I averted my eyes, my heart thudding erratically against the walls of my chest. “No reason.” I answered quickly, unsure as to why I suddenly felt so relieved.

 

*

Creeping down the stairs, Leila’s Grandmother returned to the kitchen to fetch the dessert platter, shooing me towards the living room. I grinned at the old woman, thinking that perhaps she was beginning to warm up to me. Making my way down the hallway, I stopped in my tracks, momentarily caught off guard by what I saw. Leaning against the wall, I decided not to interrupt, choosing instead to watch as Leila and her Grandfather contentedly flipped through a family album.

Glancing up from the album, Haider looked upon his Granddaughter lovingly. “You look so much like your Mother these days.” He said, Leila glancing up at him in surprise at this, a brilliant smile appearing on her lips. Watching Leila from where I stood, I took in her familiar features; her coal black hair, dark eyes, and tanned skin. Twiddling her Mother’s ring between my fingers, I began to entertain the different ways I could propose to Leila, wondering silently if when I finally did ask her, she would say “yes”.

Leila’s P.O.V:

I was sitting across from Zayn, reading to him the final page of ‘Wuthering Heights’. I looked up at him fleetingly, watching the light of the fireplace flickering across his face for a moment before continuing onto the final paragraph.

“I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.” I concluded, the final line of the book reverberating through my chest as it always had, with a sense of such finality but with something more as well, the hope of an afterwards.

Shutting the book closed, I glanced back up at Zayn, his stormy gaze already on me. “That’s it?” Zayn asked in disbelief, his dark eyebrows furrowed together with remorse. “That’s how it ends?”

I nodded, recalling that I had felt the exact same way the first time I had read it; wronged, cheated. “Tragic, isn’t it?” I smiled sadly, taking a sip from my mug of hot apple cider.

Zayn ran his hand through his dark hair, simply unable to accept the ending. “But Cathy and Heathcliff,” He began emphatically, his expression pained. “They loved each other!”   

For weeks after, I had pondered the ending to the degree of madness, cursing Emily Brontë for doing what she did to Catherine and Heathcliff, for swiftly ending their happiness just when they had been reunited. Shortly after losing my parents however, I finally understood the end to ‘Wuthering Heights’, that it reflected life truthfully, that it depicted reality and loss when other stories did not.

“That’s the point, Zayn.” I told him softly, tracing my fingers along the lines engraved into his palm. “Things don’t always work out in the end.”

Zayn’s dark eyes were on mine then, his expression unreadable. “But sometimes they do.” He told me quietly, his eyes drilling into mine as the fire crackling in the background.

I blinked at Zayn dumbly, unsure of what to make of his statement when the clock sitting atop the mantle place began to chime, informing us that it was midnight and that Christmas had come at last.

Leaning over, I felt around beneath the sofa where I had stowed away Zayn’s gift earlier. I secured the leather bound maroon coloured book into my hands, the curious expression that Zayn wore bringing an effortless smile to my lips. “I know it’s not much but…” I whispered. “For you.” I interrupted myself with a shake of my head, handing Zayn the book. I had been working on Zayn’s gift for some time now, slowly but surely piecing it together, the photograph that Peaches had given me in Victory proving to be a perfect addition. Zayn gave me one of his beautiful crooked grins, his stormy gaze on mine for a moment before he flipped open the book. I inched closer to Zayn, timidly leaning my head near his, inhaling his dizzying woodsy scent. Upon reaching the first page, Zayn looked up at me in astonishment, his eyes wide.

“Do you remember this?” I asked Zayn quietly, gesturing to the finger painting that I had carefully glued down. The painting was of a lone tree, standing amidst a meadow of flowers, basking in a ray of sunlight. Although it had decidedly been painted by children, it was still beautiful, in an innocent way.

Zayn ran his fingers over the painting, looking up at me from beneath his dark lashes. “From the day we first met.” Zayn began, his warm eyes searching mine. “We painted this together.” He looked at the painting again, lost in the far-off memory.

Zayn and I continued to flip through the book of memories together; a photograph of Zayn and I sitting on the porch when we were younger, a clipping from Tong High’s newsletter that I had framed in my bedroom years ago, me shyly stealing a glance at Zayn in it. Some memories were more recent: a ticket stub to Cathedral Nightclub, the sheet music for ‘The Scientist’, a pressed white flower from the Moors, and a browning page ripped out of ‘Wuthering Heights’. The last installment had been the photograph that Peaches had taken of Zayn and I in hopes of exposing us, Zayn’s soft hand rested on my cheek as I gazed upon him in shock.

Zayn looked up at me, a crooked grin on his lips. “It’s perfect, Leila.” He told me with conviction, his brown eyes searching mine. “Thank-you.” He implored, brushing his fingers along my cheek.

My face warmed at Zayn’s touch. “You’re welcome.” I told him with a whisper.

With this Zayn reached into his back pocket, pulling out a rolled up piece of paper, a red string tied around it. He cleared his throat anxiously. “Now for your gift.” Zayn told me, handing me the rolled up paper. “Don’t be too cross.” He pleaded with a nervous smile, running his hand through his thick black hair.

Narrowing my eyes suspiciously at Zayn, I then carefully began to untie the red string, slowly unrolling the paper to see that it was the signed and stamped deed to a house, to my house. I felt my jaw drop, bringing the deed right up to my nose and rereading it once more, sure that I was imagining it.

It read:

Be it known to all persons that Leila Karim is the sole owner and proprietor of 2565 Whittington Close as dictated by Yorkshire Law and under the Laws of the United Kingdom.

Recorded: 12/12/2012  

I looked at Zayn in shock, my lips parted in astonishment. “It was you?” I exclaimed, blinking wildly at him. “You gave my Grandparents the money for the house?” I whispered in awe, studying the boy who just a few short months ago, I had hated, loathed so intently, thinking I had been wrong to imagine he was anything but the same Zayn Malik I had known and loved my whole life.

“I couldn’t let them sell the last memory you had of your parents.” Zayn told me with a whisper, tucking a black tendril behind my ear, his warm brown eyes searching mine.

Opening my mouth to speak, another thought struck me. “That means you’ve met my Grandparents before!” I exclaimed with mortification, realizing that even after all the horrible things I had said about him, Zayn had still plucked up the courage to go and speak to them. “How on Earth did you manage to convince them?”

Zayn laughed, running a hand through his dark hair. “It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, trust me.” He teased, an amused smile appearing on his lips. “I do think your Grandmother is starting to like me though.” He told me matter-of-factly, flashing me a crooked smile.

“You are a complete lunatic.” I said, throwing my arms around Zayn, burying my face into his neck. “Thank-you.” I whispered, breathing in Zayn’s familiar scent deeply, thinking that I had been an idiot to ever doubt his feelings for me. I closed my eyes, wishing that we could stay in Bradford forever, wishing that the world would simply forget us.

Zayn pulled me closer to him, circling his strong arms around me. “Happy Christmas, Leila.” Zayn whispered, burying his face into my hair.

Happy Christmas, Zayn.” I replied, watching the snow descend outside, thinking that all I had ever wanted for Christmas was for Zayn to love me back and that this year, it seemed as if my wish had finally come true.

A/N: Thanks for reading and please review!

Check out the accompanying tumblr for I'm in Love with a Stripper and check out music, outfits, sneak peeks, fanart, and more! iminlovewithastripperfanfiction.tumblr.com

Music:

Wicked Games – The Weekend

Untrust Us – Crystal Castles  

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