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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13. London Calling I

A/N: Hey everyone! Thanks for your fabulous reviews! I’m hoping to get more this chapter so please do tell me what you think of ‘I’m in Love with a Stripper’ so far! Like last time, this chapter has been divided into two parts due to its length! For this next section, it is essential that you listen to the song WHO AM I TO SAY BY HOPE so have it fired up and ready to go on YouTube as the song is utilized in the very first section of this chapter.

 

I’m in Love with a Stripper:

London Calling (Part I)

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

My breath hitched as Zayn pressed me up against the chipped red paint of the front door, his arm planted above my head and his lips still moving hotly against mine. My breaths quickened as Zayn made his way down, planting soft fleeting kisses along the curve of my neck, the rough stubble on his cheeks brushing against my skin.  Feeling blindly for the cool brass of the doorknob, the door gave way as I twisted it, the both of us tumbling inside the warmth of my house. Zayn haphazardly kicked the door closed behind us, silencing the raging storm outside. The house was in darkness save for the dim flicker of the tea lights lined upon the piano top and silent aside for the sound of our feverish kissing and the occasional drip of rain water falling from our wet clothes.

My mind began to flood with an erratic train of thoughts, fears. Could this be real? Could Zayn truly love me back as he had told me in the pouring rain, or had it perhaps just been the overall effect of Bradford? There was something about this place; the grey skies, the lush green forests, the heavy rains. Regardless of how so much of me had died here in Bradford three years ago, parts of me, parts of Leila that I never thought could come back were once again thriving as they used to; my love for literature, piano. Could the same not be said for Zayn? Perhaps the fame, the constant intrusion of his privacy had left Zayn jaded and longing for home. And as much as Zayn was tied to Bradford for me, perhaps I too was tied to Bradford for him. With all this considered as well as his close proximity to me in this house, could it not be easy for Zayn to confuse love for me with his yearning for home, for his old life? This was completely reasonable, understandable even.

But then, there was Zayn who had saved me from self destructing, Zayn who had been asleep on my sofa with ‘Wuthering Heights’ slowly rising and falling as it lay across his chest, Zayn who had explored the moors with me, who had comforted me when I woke screaming, Zayn who had quietly whispered ‘I love you’ as we sat together at the piano, and  Zayn who had chased me out into the rain telling me that it had been me all along, to open my eyes. Had I been blinded this whole time, blinded by my insecurities, by my bitterness? Could it be? Could the boy I had loved for years, finally love me back?

My thoughts faded to a dull roar as Zayn and I made our way towards the stairs, clumsily stumbling up the steps as we kissed. I gasped against Zayn’s lips as his warm tongue fleetingly entered my mouth, a loud thunk causing me to pry my lips away from his suddenly.

I could make out Zayn rubbing the top of his head in the darkness. “Ow.” He hissed in pain quietly, the both of us snorting with laughter after a moment. Zayn had hit his head incredibly hard on the low ceiling as my Father always used to. A small urge to smile flickered across my lips at the fond memory.

“Are you alright?” I asked Zayn in concern, raising my hand to stroke his soft cheek.

“Never been better.” Zayn replied with a crooked grin, his eyes searching mine momentarily before our lips collided together once more, our chests pressing together feverishly.  I ran my fingers through Zayn’s thick, damp hair, his hands gently running up and down my sides, exploring me, my every curve, my every indentation.

Falling into the open linen closet as we reached the top of the stairs, we clambered down the hallway and towards my bedroom, finally finding ourselves inside of it. At this realization, Zayn and I broke apart, the both of us breathing heavily, our eyes locked. We were inside my room, the bed so proximate to us, hardly a meter or two away from where we stood. Zayn’s unwavering gaze was still on me, the candlelight flickering ethereally in his dark eyes. How flawless he still looked, even drenched from the rain, his glistening black hair, smoldering gaze, pink lips. My heart began to palpitate, my face flushing as my mind entertained all the things that Zayn’s lips could do.

Zayn was staring at me as he swallowed hard, licking his lips apprehensively. My heart was thudding fast, the air thick with tension. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I approached Zayn until I was just inches away from him, gently resting my palm on his solid chest, his heart beating erratically beneath my fingers. Zayn was nervous, and yet somehow I was calm, tranquil even. Tilting my head upwards, Zayn’s stormy eyes, littered with flecks of green, were searching mine tentatively, the expression on his face soft, but unreadable. Carefully, Zayn placed his warm hand on top of mine.

“…Leila…” Zayn breathed, trailing off, eyes burning and locked with mine. He knew what I was asking of him, knew what I wanted to give him.

Allowing a small smile to appear on my lips, I whispered, “I want to.” Saying so much more with just that than a thousand words could ever have said. Zayn already had my heart; he had for a long time, I thought with a smile, and there was no one else who I wanted to give this to more, no one who it was meant for more than Zayn.

When I had locked eyes with Zayn for the first time over a set of finger paints, I knew that there was some sort of indescribable connection between us, an invisible pull. It was as if a thin string had linked him to me, stretching and screaming with tension when we were further apart, drawing us back together no matter how far we were from each other. When Zayn had left me, I thought that maybe, maybe our bond had been severed for good. Zayn and I were worlds apart, and perhaps that grand distance is why it took so long for us to find our ways back to each other, why it took so long for him to walk through the doors of Victory Strip Club. How strange it was…that the boy, who had had such an instrumental part in breaking me, had been the one to come back round to fix me again.

“…Are you sure?...” Zayn whispered tentatively, his voice gentle, a storm brewing in his brown eyes.

“I’m sure.” I breathed, not having to think about something that seemed as natural to me as the air in my lungs, as the moon’s pull on the tide.

Love of my life, my soul mate

You're my best friend

Part of me like breathing

Now half of me is left

With this, Zayn’s lips captured mine once again, my hands wildly helping him out of his sopping mahogany coloured jumper and letting it fall to the floor.  With trembling hands, I began to unbutton Zayn’s white dress shirt, aware that he was watching me as I worked, the candlelight casting a shadow of us onto the walls. Letting out a shaky breath that I wasn’t even aware I was holding in, I pushed the white dress shirt from Zayn’s shoulders, exposing his smooth, tanned chest, my eyes flickering to the thin line of hair travelling past where his dress pants sat on his hip bones. Lifting my hand, I carefully traced the smooth black Arabic script of Zayn’s tattoo for his Grandfather with my finger tips. Zayn was watching me attentively, his breaths wavering. Leaning forward, I gently placed my lips on Zayn’s tattoo, his breath hitching in his throat as I did it.

Don't know anything at all

Who am I to say you love me

I don't know anything at all

And who am I to say you need me

Taking a step back from Zayn, I pulled my woolen jumper over my head, letting it fall onto the floor in a wet heap, my damp, black hair frigid against my back. My eyes still locked on Zayn’s, I shakily reached my hands behind my back, unclasping my bra and letting it fall, the cool air caressing my bare skin. A brief thought flitted through my mind, this was the first time I truly had felt naked, not beneath the penetrating eyes of the men at Victory, but under the unwavering and wonderstruck gaze of Zayn Malik. Zayn’s eyes flickered over my chest before returning to my eyes, his pink lips parted in awe. I covered myself, my face burning.

Color me blue I'm lost in you

Don't know why I'm still waiting

Many moons have come and gone

Don't know why I'm still searching

In one quick stride Zayn was inches away from me again, his hand on my cheek and his eyes searching mine. Taking his hand from my cheek, I planted a gentle kiss in the middle of his outstretched palm. With this, Zayn’s lips softly met with mine once again, more urgently this time, his warm hands resting on my waist. I sighed against Zayn’s lips as he fumbled to step out of his dress pants, the candlelight illuminating the smooth contours of his chest and stomach. And then Zayn was out of his briefs, his chest rising and falling shakily as my eyes flowed over the physical manifestation of his desire, his desire for me.

Don't know anything at all

And who am I to say you love me

I don't know anything at all

And who am I to say you need me

Zayn’s gaze was on me then as I slid out of my plaid skirt, my heart thudding rapidly in my chest as I rolled my nylons down my legs. Stepping out of them, all that was left was my underwear. Taking an unsteady breath, I slipped out of them, and then I was standing before Zayn Malik exposed, vulnerable, naked except for the locket securely clasped at the back of my neck, the locket he had given to me. I attempted to cover myself, worried that I would not be par to any of the other girls Zayn had seen. Zayn seeing this gently pulled my hands away, preventing me from hiding myself.

“You’re beautiful.” Zayn whispered shakily, his eyes flowing over me, all of me. “You’re beautiful, Leila.” Zayn swallowed hard.

Leaning in with closed eyes, Zayn placed his lips on mine.  Zayn’s hands were resting delicately on my waist as I explored the tense muscles of his back with mine. We had gravitated towards the bed then, Zayn laying me gently onto it, his dark eyes taking me in appreciatively as he hovered over me. My breaths were shallow as I ran my hands across Zayn’s tense forearms, inhaling his woodsy scent into my lungs. Zayn was then planting sweet chaste kisses along the curve of my neck. Pausing, Zayn gently kissed the locket he had given to me, looking up to give me a sweet smile. He continued then, his lips softly trailing their way past my breasts, my stomach, my thighs, Zayn’s hot breath on my skin. Returning over me, Zayn’s stormy eyes were boring into mine.  

“I love you, Leila.” Zayn told me after a moment, the passion in his voice causing it to waiver. “And I’m sorry it took me this long to tell you.”

I breathed deeply, my mind still unable to fathom these words coming from him, as if I was having a dream I never wanted to wake from. “I love you too.” I whispered with a fleeting smile. “I never stopped.”

Now you're a song I love to sing

Never thought it feels so free

Now I know what's meant to be

And that's okay with me

Zayn grinned at me before wildly kissing me again, gently pulling the duvet over our bodies. Zayn’s skin was finally against mine, warm and maddening. It was so intoxicating that I grew lightheaded, from all the passion, love. Fumbling for a moment beneath the covers, Zayn’s eyes were on mine once more.

“…You can tell me to stop at any time...” Zayn whispered anxiously, his breathing still uneven, the candlelight flickering across his face. He was reassuring me, giving me the chance to change my mind if I wanted to.

But who am I to say you love me

And who am I to say you need me

And who am I to say you love me

I nodded. “I know.” I told Zayn with a smile, my lips finding his once more. Their movements were so compelling, mesmerizing. Zayn’s eyes were on mine then as I felt him against me beneath the covers, a sharp, tearing pain suddenly reverberating through my body. I took a sharp intake of breath, my eyes clenching shut for a moment.

“Am I hurting you?” Zayn whispered frantically, his dark eyes filled with worry.

I don't know anything at all

And who am I to say you love me

I don't know anything at all

And who am I to say you need me

I don't know anything at all

“You could never hurt me.” I breathed, pressing my lips to Zayn’s in desperation, my hands running through his thick hair, still damp from the rain outside. Sighing against Zayn’s lips, I was overwhelmed by the sudden warmth spreading through my limbs and to my extremities, overwhelmed by my love, by our love.

“…Leila…” Zayn whispered against my lips, his breathing quick and shallow as he gently moved against me.

“…Zayn…” I sighed, my breath hitching in my throat. And then Zayn and I were laying on the grassy hillside of Lower Fields Primary, watching the stars as they moved the night sky. Zayn’s hand was in mine as a delicate breeze blew through our hair. Zayn’s fingers were playfully weaving through mine, my head resting on his chest and the steady beat of his heart just below my ear. A smile appeared on my lips as one did on Zayn’s, the both of us knowing what the other did, that at last, that finally, we were one.

Harry’s P.O.V:

Fiona and I walked into the elevator of her apartment silently, the doors closing behind us. Carefully she pressed the button for the fourth floor, and then we were off, speeding upwards. Fiona had insisted that I come to her apartment to discuss matters further, to discuss what we had found in Leila’s apartment. But what more was there to say really, other than what we were both thinking? My eyes narrowed hatefully. Leila and Zayn were fucking and probably had been for months. Why else would they have gone to such great lengths to hide their life-long friendship from me, from all of us? There were so many things I had ignored, brushed off, like the fact that Leila and Zayn had never really spoken to each other. With pleasantries aside, I had written it off as them simply not knowing each other very well, when now it was quite obvious that they had been avoiding each other the entire time, raising no suspicions to the fact that they had known one another for years.

I could sense Fiona watching me, her eyebrows knitted with worry. I shot her a quick glare, averting my eyes to the tiled floor of the elevator once more.

“Harry…” Fiona began, her voice gentler than usual. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

The elevator dinged then, the metal doors opening smoothly. “I’m fine.” I muttered bluntly, trudging out into the carpeted hallway. “After you.” I told Fiona, waving her ahead of me. Fiona crossed past me, shooting me a rather irritated look. Women, I shook my head. I was the one who found out that my girlfriend and best friend had been hiding the fact that they grew up together and could very well be screwing for all I knew and Fiona was the one that was irritated.

I slowly followed Fiona to her door, leaning against the wall as I waited for her to open up. Wiggling the key strategically, Fiona entered the apartment, allowing me to follow behind her. I watched as Fiona carefully began to unbuckle herself from the death traps that were her high heels. Shutting the door closed, I wearily kicked off my grey Converse, the adrenaline still coursing through my veins from the visit to Leila’s apartment.  

“Nice place.” I examined dully, my eyes scanning the expanse of Fiona’s flat. She apparently took modeling quite seriously, the walls of her den lined with various photographs. “Is that you?” I asked with a smirk, observing a framed topless photograph of Fiona sprawled out on the beach looking quite like she was in the midst of an orgasm.

“Don’t look at that!” Fiona snapped, her teeth clenched and her blue eyes livid.

Too late.” I sing-songed, grinning as her face began to flush. “Nothing I haven’t seen before anyways.” I reminded her, trailing past her into the living room. I smiled evilly to myself as I heard Fiona let out a guttural sound of disgust. Looking around the living room, I saw that Fiona’s flat was twice the size of Leila’s and quite a bit more modern, probably built sometime in the early 2000s. It consisted of a wide, airy lounge, kitchen, and what looked like a few rooms further in. Painted an olive green, Fiona’s living room was furnished all in pink aside for the black coffee table. I shook my head to myself. She was so feminine that it was sickening.

“Please, do make yourself at home.” Fiona rolled her eyes, trudging past me towards the kitchen, plopping her purse onto the sofa and stripping off her coat as she went.

“I think I will!” I said with a smirk, collapsing onto the squishy pink couch and kicking my feet up onto the coffee table.

“Would you like something to drink?” Fiona’s voice emerged from the kitchen, hidden discretely behind a detached wall.

“I’m not big on coffee!” I yelled to her, becoming slightly agitated as I recalled Leila and my first date at the little French patisserie in West London before meeting everyone else at Nando’s, including Zayn. “And I’m not a huge fan of tea either.” I added, yelping suddenly as a giant orange cat pounced onto my lap. I starred at the cat in horror, if I could even call it a cat. The thing was massive.

The cat corked its head at me, mewing once and then settling down on my lap.

Fiona emerged from the kitchen carrying what looked like a very old, very expensive bottle of wine and two wine glasses. “Who said anything about coffee?” Fiona told me, a huge grin appearing on her face when she saw the beast curled up in my lap. “Ah, I see you’ve met Whiskers!” Fiona said with a definitive smile, joining me on the sofa. Fiona set the wine glasses down on the table. Brushing her long blonde hair behind her ear, she began to strategically pour the thick red liquid into the glasses.

“Since when were you a cat person?” I asked suspiciously, my eyes narrowed at Fiona. I quite liked cats, and for a terrifying beast, Whiskers seemed to be quite amiable. Carefully I began to pet Whiskers, her purring growing louder as I scratched her furry belly.

“Since always!” Fiona stated, handing me a glass. “I’m surprised he’s sitting on you like that. He tends to hate strangers, especially other males.” Fiona added, sipping her wine thoughtfully.

He?” I began to frown. “I wouldn’t have guessed it by the name.” I added under my breath.

“Yes, Whiskers is a boy cat.” Fiona affirmed, scratching underneath Whiskers’ chin. “But who are we kidding; you’re just a kitten aren’t you?” Fiona’s voice raised about fourteen octaves, Whiskers mewing in reply that he indeed was just a kitten.

Awkwardly directing my attention to the wine with wide eyes, I guzzled the entire glass, setting it down on the side table. “So what was it you were saying about getting even?” I repeated Fiona’s dramatic statement slowly, my eyes flickering to Whiskers as he began to swat his paw at my curls.

Plucking Whiskers off my lap, Fiona set him on the floor and shooed him along. “Isn’t it obvious, Harry?” Fiona asked incredulously, finishing off her cup of wine. “We make it impossible for them to be together.” Her blue eyes were wide.

 “What’s the point, Fiona?” I was shaking my head bitterly. “They’re both in Bradford right now, so it’s safe to say that they’re together.”

Before leaving Leila’s apartment, Fiona had suggested that we take a listen to Leila’s answering machine to see what she was up to and if perhaps it would leave a clue as to where she had run off to. There had been three messages; of the three, two were new and had been left by associates of Victory. The first was from Kitty, hurriedly pleading for Leila to call her back as soon as possible while the second was from the lunatic Peaches, telling Leila to get her ‘slutty little arse’ back to Victory. The third however, had been a saved message, left a few days before our return to London. The message had been left by Leila’s Grandmother, begging her to come back to Bradford for the holidays, where Zayn was.

“And either way.” I continued, running my hands through my hair. “Leila’s probably going to break up with me and keep seeing Zayn behind my back.”

I shook my head to myself, angry at Leila, but livid with Zayn. I didn’t know Leila well enough to understand the motivation behind her actions, but Zayn…Zayn I thought I knew, as well as I knew myself, as well as I’d know a brother. When One Direction had been formed on X-Factor, it was no mystery that the five of us were all very different from one other, but none more so than Zayn and me. It had probably taken us the longest to warm up to each other, but when we had, it felt like an even bigger accomplishment considering how different we were, that we were still able to find common ground, that we were able to be mates. I wondered, wondered if Zayn had even thought of our friendship once, the future of One Direction once while he lied through his teeth telling me that he was happy I found a nice girl, a girl who he had happened to know his whole life, a girl who he was with in Bradford.

Fiona leaned back against the plush pink pillows littering her sofa, studying me with a small smile on her full lips. “Well she can’t break up with you if you’re suicidal, now can she?”

I was staring at Fiona with my mouth hanging open. “I’m sorry, what?” I clarified, blinking dumbly at her. My face contorted suddenly. Had I heard her correctly? …Suicidal? She had to be joking.

Fiona leaned forward scandalously, her blue eyes twinkling with mischief. “Don’t ever tell Charlotte I told you this, but about a year ago, her cousin Richard got wind that his girlfriend Angela planned on dumping him for some other bloke.” Fiona told me nonchalantly, finishing off her bitter red wine with one final swig. “Richard pretended to be suffering from clinical depression, resulting in his being ‘suicidal’.” Fiona surrounded the word with quotation marks made from her fingers. “Angela decided not to break up with Richard right away because she was scared he would do something rash.”

“You’re deranged.” I muttered, shaking my head with disgust while at the same time, trying to suppress my interest in the story. “Even Whiskers thinks so.” I added exasperatedly, motioning to the gigantic orange cat who was staring at Fiona from the other side of the room as if she assuredly had a screw or two loose.

Fiona ignored my statement, rolling her eyes dramatically. “What do you have to say about the fact that Richard was able to win Angela back during the time he bought with his fake mental illness?” Fiona was grinning, her pristine white teeth forming into a devious smile.

I sat up a bit straighter, my ears perking up at this tidbit. I eyed Fiona guardedly, wondering how I had ever mistaken her for dim when she was essentially a mastermind manipulator. “He was…?” I asked slowly, my eyes narrowed. Was Fiona actually suggesting that I do this? Was she suggesting that I do this to Leila?

Fiona was nodding her head enthusiastically. “Oh yes.” A smug smile appeared on her lips. “And they’re still very happy a whole year later.” She added, thinking that she had convinced me.

The question was, had she convinced me? Could I trick Leila this way without feeling terrible about it, without feeling guilty? But then again, had Leila felt guilty when she failed to tell me that she had known Zayn since she was a little girl? And since when was it fine for my best friend to shack up with my girlfriend behind my back doing God knows what? Had either of them thought of me even once during this whole charade? But then, what proof did I have that Leila and Zayn were really doing anything aside keeping their friendship a secret? Perhaps, I didn’t know all the details, perhaps there was more to the story.

“You realize none of this means that they’re shagging, don’t you? Their friendship or whatever, their being in Bradford, it doesn’t mean anything, really except that they both lied about knowing each other for one reason or another…” I trailed off, leaning my head against the sofa and allowing my eyes to shut in defeat, confusion.

“If that’s the case, Harry,” Fiona began, “What exactly pray tell, stopped Leila from shagging you eight months ago?”

My eyes shot open at this, my face falling in defeat. I realized that perhaps Fiona was right, perhaps there was more to Leila and Zayn then just an old friendship, wasn’t there always between a girl and boy who were just friends? I bitterly remembered thinking that maybe Leila hadn’t been ready because she was a virgin, but maybe it had nothing to do with shagging me but everything to do with her shagging somebody else, with her shagging Zayn. My face flushed angrily and I found myself liking Fiona’s idea more and more with each passing second.

“You still want to be with Leila,” Fiona continued. “And God help me, I still have feelings for Zayn. This way, we both get what we want, this way we both come out on top and no one gets hurt.” Fiona breathed, her expression unreadable.

I turned to her, my eyes searching her blue ones. Fiona was staring back at me apprehensively, her arched eyebrows knitted and her pink lips parted as she waited for my answer. I wanted Leila, I did. There was no question about it. And here was Fiona, still pining after Zayn even after everything, eight months of being ignored, eight months looking her best only to not even be given the time of day by Zayn. If Fiona was fighting so valiantly for Zayn, why shouldn’t I fight for Leila? And if winning Leila back meant playing dirty, then so be it.

“I’m in.” I told her, licking my lips nervously. I could not believe I was agreeing to this, but what other choice did I have?  “What now?” I asked, hoping that I wasn’t making a mistake, hoping that it would all work out as planned.

Fiona’s lips spread into a wide grin. “We find a therapist that isn’t against the concept bribery.”

I was staring at Fiona in a cross between amazement and disgust. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” I sighed, running my fingers through my hair regrettably.  

Fiona simply smiled, waggling her blonde eyebrows suggestively. “Desperate times call for desperate measures, Harry.”

Zayn’s P.O.V:

I lay awake, watching Leila’s chest rising and falling as she slept, her full pink lips parted in slumber and her wavy dark hair spread across her pillow. The sun had broken through the clouds, shining delicately through Leila’s window and illuminating her sleeping form. Trailing my fingers against the soft skin of her arm, I found myself reflecting on the previous night in disbelief, a small dreamy smile on my lips. After speaking to my Mother, I had departed from my house, heading directly for the Christmas tree farm that had been set up just off of the highway. Discreetly buying the first tree I found, I quickly drove back to Leila’s house, smiling like a mad-man the entire way. Parking in front of Leila’s house, I excitedly unstrapped the tree from the top of the SUV, dragging it along and scanning the neighborhood as I did it. Taking a break from hauling along the enormous tree, I noticed that the ‘for sale’ sign for Leila’s home was still nailed deeply into the grass of the front garden. Ripping it out of the ground, I threw the sign into the spacious trunk of my Mum’s car, smiling smugly as I did it. The house belonged to Leila now, and Leila alone. I absentmindedly wondered when exactly Leila’s Grandparents would be informing her that she was now the owner of the house. Whenever that was, all I knew that I wanted to be there to witness Leila’s reaction, I thought with a wide grin on my face.

Brushing off my hands, I continued to drag the tree towards Leila’s front door, realizing that the neighborhood was likely deserted due to the storm warning I had heard about on the radio while driving back from the Christmas tree farm. Knocking on the door, Leila opened up, an infectious smile appearing on her lips when she saw what I had brought her. I was caught off guard momentarily, almost mesmerized by Leila’s happiness. I had not seen Leila smile like this in a long time, and it left me thinking that slowly, but surely, she was returning, returning to me. Dragging the tree into the den, I found it quite difficult to not stare at Leila in awe. She was wearing a fitted red plaid skirt and cream coloured jumper, her pillowy lips deliciously painted in red, and her black hair long and silky straight. I could not help but grin with amusement when Leila informed me that she had cooked. It was slightly deranged, but it almost felt as if I had come home from a hard day of work to a nicely home cooked meal, as if I had come home to my wife.

After trimming the tree, Leila and I had collapsed on the couch, feasting on the Sheppard’s Pie she had prepared.

“This is delicious, Leila!” I told her in-between bites. “You couldn’t cook to save your life before, but this is actually really good!” I said, stuffing my mouth with another bite.

Leila let out an outraged gasp. “You used to tell me I was an amazing cook!” She screeched, slapping me playfully on the arm and laughing in spite of herself. I was stunned for a moment, in awe at how beautiful Leila looked when she laughed, her nose scrunched up in delight, the soft white lights of the Christmas tree reflecting in her deep brown eyes.

Breaking free from my trance, I was laughing then too, finally found out after all these years. “I lied.” I told her with a teasing grin, shrugging and unable to tear my gaze away from her.

“Wanker.” Leila stuck out her tongue playfully, setting her plate on the hardwood floor. “Shall we read a little?” Leila offered, plucking the copy of ‘Wuthering Heights’ I had purchased off the coffee table and laying her feet out across my lap.

I could not help but smile at her enthusiasm, once again noticing that Leila was indeed reverting back to her old self, the Leila I knew so well. “I’d like that.” I said with a slow smile, holding Leila’s gaze for longer than I should have. Averting my eyes to the Christmas tree, I hoped that the poor light in her living room would hide my occasional glances her way.

I listened to Leila’s soft, feminine voice reading the words of ‘Wuthering Heights’, her voice still so passionate even having read the book dozens of times. I stole a glance at Leila, watching as she delicately twirled her long dark hair around her fingers, realizing that I was well and properly a goner. There was no going back from this. I had never felt so strongly for a girl before, had never felt the need to be near her every second of every day like I did with Leila, never felt the desire for her happiness and her happiness alone. What have I gotten myself into, I thought as my eyes lingered over Leila’s lips as she licked them.

“…Nelly, I am Heathcliff.” Leila said the line with such conviction that it drew me from my thoughts. Leila’s eyes were on me then, wide with shock, understanding. And suddenly, I felt the urge come over me again, felt my mouth preparing to spill out the only words that could fully encompass how I felt. I love you, Leila, I wanted to say, wanting to say it over and over again until I couldn’t any longer.

“Leila.” I said quietly, my eyes searching hers in horror, knowing that I was about to ruin everything, with Leila, with Harry, with One Direction.

“Yes?” Leila answered breathily, but as my mouth opened, the lights were suddenly extinguished, and the both of us were left in darkness.

While Leila was upstairs lighting candles around the house, I found myself curiously examining her piano, recalling fondly all the times we had sat at it together while Leila played and I sang. Uncovering it, I carefully perched on the dust-covered stool, fumbling with the keys until I found the tune I was looking for, seeing Leila appear at the top of the stairs from the corner of my eye. Slowly, but surely, Leila made her way down the stairs, quietly watching me. I could see the hesitance in her eyes, but finally Leila joined me, playing ‘The Scientist’ and asking me to sing along to it. The words to the song had never rung as truly as they did then, leaving me stammering at some parts. Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me, and before I knew it, the words came, slipping from my lips.

I love you. I whispered.

Leila was screaming at me then, panic rising in my throat. “YOU’RE LYING!” She screamed viciously, “LIAR!” Leila screamed, running out the door and into the raging storm outside. What had I done? I had to stop her, I had to. I was on my feet in a flash, chasing her, telling her to stop, begging her to allow me to explain myself.

I caught up to Leila, pulling her into my chest. “Please, Leila, let me explain-.” I begged her. I didn’t expect Leila to forgive me, to excuse me for anything, but I just had to tell her, tell her what I felt, how strongly I felt. I had asked Leila if she had ever regretted anything during ‘Never Have I Ever’ and this was one thing I would not be regretting in the future.

Leila shoved me off of her. “NO!” Leila was sobbing, my face contorting at the fact that I was the cause of it all, of all her pain. “This is all wrong!” She screamed. “I said goodbye to you!” Leila’s black hair was whipping around her in the wind. “I mourned your death right alongside my parents’!”

My face fell and I knew then that all hope had been lost. How could I even have entertained the idea that Leila could ever even consider forgiving me? Leila’s Grandmother had been right, I had done enough damage as it was, but still, even if I tried, I didn’t think I could stay away from Leila for long. And if, I couldn’t have Leila the way I wished to in my life, at least, if she would have me, I could be her friend.

“I don’t ever expect you to forgive me for what I’ve done to you but that won’t stop me from being here for you like I should have been!” I told her, meaning each word I spoke. I would not abandon her again; I would not be the cause of Leila’s pain ever again.

Leila’s lip was trembling, her expression hostile. “Why did you have to come back and ruin everything? We were done years ago! It’s over!” She screamed, her face contorting.

And suddenly, I could not stop myself. I was not going to give up without a fight. Leila, every part of who she was, was exactly the girl for me and I had been an idiot, a complete idiot for not knowing it before. “No, Leila it’s just started.” I told Leila, her deep brown eyes on mine in fear. “Can’t you see that I’m in love with you!?” I screamed, wanting to tell her that I had changed, that I knew exactly what I wanted and that it was her, only her.

And then, something flashed across Leila’s eyes, her face softening. Could it be? Could it be possible that perhaps, perhaps she felt the same way? That these past few days in Bradford had changed her mind about everything, about Harry?

“If you want to be with Harry, if you love him, it’s fine, but I’m hoping that you choose me.” I told Leila passionately, pointing at myself. “Choose me, Leila.” I knew that perhaps this was all in vain, that Leila must love Harry and that I was just delusional, imagining Leila’s warm gazes, imagining the story I wished her eyes were telling me.

Leila looked taken aback, hesitant, her expression unreadable, her pink lips pursed and her eyes burning. “What changed?” Leila shrieked, and then I knew that perhaps it was true, that perhaps I wasn’t in this alone. “What changed from three years ago?”

I paused, my heart thudding in my ears, the wind and rain howling. Opening my mouth, I said it in the only way I knew how to, the only way that I could explain my clarity, my vision. “I see you that way now.” I concluded breathlessly.

Leila was breathing frantically, her head clutched in her hands, shaking her head in disbelief. “You’ll leave me again!” Leila howled, sobbing. “And this time I’ll fucking die!” She shrieked.

My face contorted as I rubbed my stinging eyes. I had to prove to her that I would never leave her again, that I didn’t want to, that she was everything I wanted, everything I needed. “Open your eyes, Leila. I’m right here.” My voice was shaking, and I was smiling like a maniac. “And I’m not going anywhere.” I reassured her in anguish, breathing heavily.

Leila’s eyes softened and I knew that she was back, that she had returned, that it wasn’t too late. I was inches away from her, my hands resting on her cheeks. “It was you.” I choked out. “It was always you.” In a way, I was telling this to myself as well as Leila; it was an epiphany, a realization, the first time I had been honest with myself in years, and it was freeing, liberating.

Leila was squinting against the rain. “You’re going to be the death of me Zayn Malik.” Leila’s hands were on mine then, and I found myself apologizing to her.

“For what?” Leila asked, her eyes searching mine.

I was sorry, sorry for everything. For leaving Leila, for not loving her from the start like I should’ve, for not knowing exactly how I felt and for not being brave enough to know that my heart had been hers from the very beginning. “For not doing this years ago!” I yelled, grinning like a mad-man as I planted a kiss onto her soft lips, the rain pouring down around us as we swayed back and forth.

We found ourselves back at Leila’s house then, creeping up the stairs and into her bedroom. The air was thick with tension, Leila’s dark eyes on mine, the both of us breathing erratically. Leila’s hand was resting delicately on my chest then, her eyes boring into mine, my heart beating rapidly beneath her fingertips. I was scared, so scared that I would hurt her again somehow, certain that I would end up being the reason for her pain all over again.

“I want to.” Leila said quietly, her pink lips parting.

Breathing deeply, I was unable to fight my heart any longer and my lips were frantically on Leila’s once again. I was ready to show her that my heart beat for her and only her and that I would never leave her again. And here we were now, Leila sleeping next to me peacefully, her words reverberating through my mind, my soul; I love you too, I never stopped. I was smiling so wide that it felt like my face was going to break, like I had never been as happy as I was in that moment. Leila loved me. She loved me back.

“Zayn.” Leila’s voice broke through my thoughts. Leila was staring at me, her brown eyes blinking slowly and the white sheets pulled up to cover herself, still exposing the soft tanned skin of her collarbone. I realized then that I was still stroking her arm gently.

“Good morning.” I whispered, tucking a lock of Leila’s silky black hair behind her ear, still unable to believe everything that had happened. Taking Leila’s small hand into mine, I pressed my lips to her palm, Leila watching me curiously as I did it.

Leila was staring at me, the expression on her face unreadable. “What are we going to do?” She whispered after a moment, her eyes filled with terror, with guilt, a crease forming between her smooth eyebrows.

I paused for a moment before finally addressing the topic that neither of us had spoken of yet. “Harry.” I whispered conclusively, my eyes closing for a moment. Leila and I, we had inflicted the worst sort of betrayal upon Harry. I let out an anguished sigh, not prepared to regret what had happened the previous night, but regretting the fact that Harry would be a casualty in all of this, that we would hurt him.

I wondered fleetingly if my conclusion regarding Harry had been correct. I had admitted everything to Niall at Simon’s party before we had departed for Australia and New Zealand, about my past with Leila in Bradford, about the fact that we were best friends, that she had loved me, and that I now found myself in love with her. I knew, knew that I had a rich history with Leila, knew that my feelings for her had changed me, brought out the best in me even, but did that give me the right to discard any thought of Harry when it came to Leila? Harry was my best-friend, through the X-Factor, through these past two years where One Direction exploded, the five of us becoming brothers. What would Harry think of me for this? Would he ever be able to forgive me? I loved Harry, but this love I felt for Leila, it was blinding, consuming, it was both selfless and selfish, it was my every thought, my every breath. There was no way, no way that I would be letting it go twice, no way that I’d walk away from Leila a second time.

Leila sat up suddenly, her long black hair tumbling behind her. The rain had left it falling in soft waves, curling into tendrils at its ends. I sat up as well, examining Leila as she allowed her face to fall into her hands.

“I don’t want to hurt him.” Leila mumbled through her fingers, her voice trembling.

Sighing, I knew that no matter what we did, Harry would be hurt, and in turn, so would One Direction, something that was too difficult to even think about at the moment. Pressing my lips to Leila’s shoulder, she looked up at me suddenly, a wounded expression on her face. “We’ll hurt him worse if we don’t tell him at all.” I whispered, knowing that no matter what, Harry at least deserved the truth, even if it meant that he would hate us for it.

Leila was nodding in agreement then, her black hair slipping over her tanned shoulder. “So we tell him.” Leila said quietly, her eyes searching mine. “When we’re back in London.” Leila concluded, her hand stroking my cheek softly, her touch so comforting that I almost felt confident that everything would work out in the end, that everything would be alright.

I nodded, thinking that it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do. The longer we lied to Harry, the worse things would be, the more impossible it would be for him to ever consider forgiving us, if there was any chance at all that he would. “Together.” I told her, my eyes on hers. I wasn’t due back in London until after Christmas, giving Leila and me enough time to figure out what we were going to do, and most especially, what we were going to say to Harry.

I found myself pondering then about the others then, what they would say. I know that Niall would be happy for me, but I truly felt that he had not considered the consequences, how this would all affect One Direction as I had mulled over tirelessly. If One Direction was important to anyone, it was to Niall, and I felt that if the band was at risk, he would most certainly change his mind regarding my feelings for Leila, especially if he found out what had occurred here in Bradford, how real things had gotten. I already knew that Liam would be disappointed in me from the start, from the very moment I started having feelings for Leila in the first place. Liam was moral and sensible while one could say that at this point I was neither, falling madly in love with my best-friend’s girlfriend while Louis would most certainly side with Harry. Louis was especially protective when it came to Harry, the two of them having a bond that the rest of us never really understood.

Gazing at Leila, I knew that this would all be blowing up in our faces if we planned on telling Harry. The effect it would have on my friendship with Harry would likely be irreversible, with the band as a whole even, the tabloids and the paparazzi having a field day at our expense, at Leila’s expense. I remembered how ruthless the media had been with Leila when they discovered that she was working as a stripper, and this would be no different, in fact, it would be worse, the things people would call her would be much worse. All I knew is that I had to do my best to take the blunt of it, to protect Leila from the fallout that would most assuredly occur. Leila leaned her head against my chest then, her fingers drawing circles on my outstretched palm, the both of us silent as we pondered our fate and if it had in fact, been doomed from the start.

A/N: Thanks for reading and please continue on to Part II of London Calling

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