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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14. London Calling II

I’m in Love with a Stripper:

London Calling (Part II)

Leila’s P.O.V:

I was in the washroom examining myself curiously in the mirror. Turning from side to side, I observed the expanse of my body, coming to the conclusion that I indeed had not changed physically, aside from the soreness of course, I thought to myself sheepishly. Everything was still the same; same long black hair, same wide brown eyes, same tanned skin. I found myself trailing my fingers across my lips, down the length of my neck, past my collarbone, ending at the curve of my hips, remembering Zayn’s soft lips delicately kissing his way down my body. I shivered at the memory, my blood beginning to race. Last night still felt like a dream, a hallucination. Closing my eyes, I could picture Zayn and I outside in the storm, the wind and the rain whipping around us. I began to trace the two intertwined hearts engraved so deeply into the rose gold of my locket. Zayn loved me back. The concept was still so foreign to me, still so difficult to believe. As I stared at myself in the mirror, I found myself wondering if I could trust Zayn, if I could trust him with my heart while also thinking that perhaps, Harry had been wrong to trust me with his.

Plucking Zayn’s red and white varsity jacket from where I had left it hanging two nights ago, I slipped into it, marveling at how soft the fabric felt against my bare skin. Buttoning it up, I left the washroom and headed downstairs towards the kitchen, still expecting to find the house empty, still expecting to have imagined everything.

Poking my head into doorway of the kitchen, I saw Zayn standing in front of the open refrigerator, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he gulped orange juice directly from the carton. I grinned in spite of myself, appreciatively taking in Zayn’s lean frame, his black sweatpants hanging dangerously low on his hips, the dark stubble littering his cheeks. Even with him standing right in front of me, I feared that he would disappear.

Suddenly Zayn was looking at me. “Hi.” Zayn said with a goofy grin, wiping the juice from his pink lips, his brown eyes smiling. Returning the juice, Zayn leaned against the fridge door, his eyebrows raised and a playful smirk on his lips as his dark eyes flowed over me.

“Don’t mind me.” I said with a grin, allowing my eyes to scan over Zayn’s chest, fondly remembering pressing my lips to the black ink of his tattoo. “I’m just enjoying the view.” I told him with a shrug, biting my lip.

“Are you now?” Zayn said, corking one of his dark eyebrows upwards, an amused look on his face. “Why don’t you come and have a closer look?” He suggested nonchalantly, a devious grin threatening to appear on his lips. I was beginning to think that I’d never get used to this, to Zayn reciprocating and meaning it.

Sheepishly, I stepped out from behind the door, tugging Zayn’s varsity jacket as far down my thighs as it would go, mentally kicking myself for ever thinking this was a good idea. Looking up to meet Zayn’s gaze, I saw that his jaw had dropped and his eyes were dangerously bulging out of his head.

“Zayn.” I observed, cocking my head to one side. “You look unwell.” I said slowly, almost certain that Zayn’s face was growing paler with each passing second.

Gasping, Zayn suddenly had me pinned up against the counter, his chest pressed up against mine. My blood was pumping and my heart palpitating dangerously, Zayn’s close proximity causing me to grow light headed. Zayn’s pink lips were parted, one of his eyebrows corked upwards. “Are you trying to drive me mad?” Zayn whispered huskily, his breathing quick and shallow, a teasing smile on his lips and his arms wrapped around my waist.

 My eyes were boring into his as I trailed my fingers along the hardness of his jaw, the stubble on his cheeks like Braille beneath the tips of my fingers. “Apparently it doesn’t take much to.” I returned with a whisper, a prominent grin forming on my lips.

And suddenly Zayn had me propped up on the marble countertop, my legs on either side of him. Zayn’s hands were running up and down my thighs, a devious smirk on his lips. “No, it really doesn’t.” Zayn agreed playfully, his lips finding the curve of my neck.

“Zayn!” I yelped, giggling in spite of myself and smacking him on the chest, unsure of how much longer I could resist his hot lips against my skin. “Let me down this instant!” My cheeks were flushing a brilliant red. And then to my chagrin, Zayn began to sing as his lips continued to travel down the expanse of my neck.

Got the body of a goddess.

Got eyes of a pecan brown, I see you girl.

Dip it low.

She coming down from the ceiling

To the floor

Yeah, she know what she doing

Oh yeah yeah yeah

She doing that right thing

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

I need to get her over to my crib and do that night thing

Zayn paused deliciously, biting his lip and grinning widely, likely aware of the torture he was inflicting upon me. I was shaking my head, grinning in spite of myself.

Cause I'm in love with a stripper

Zayn began to plant feather-like kisses onto my lips with every line of the song, leaving me giggling against his lips, my arms wrapping around his neck.

She popping she rolling she rolling

She climbing that pole and

I'm in love with a stripper

She tripping she playing she playing

I'm not going nowhere girl, I'm staying

I grinned widely at this line, hoping thinking that perhaps Zayn was referring to my ongoing fear, the fear that he would leave me once again. Zayn was reassuring me, letting me know that he wouldn’t be going anywhere.

I'm in love with a stripper

Zayn’s angelic voice concluded. “I’ve been wanting to do that for months.” Zayn told me, a goofy grin on his lips.

“You’re ridiculous.” I told Zayn, planting a warm kiss on his cheek, biting my lower lip in amazement.

“And you love it.” Zayn said with a smirk, tucking a tendril of my black hair behind my ear.

“I do.” I paused, eyeing Zayn in astonishment. “I love everything about you.” I whispered, feeling liberated at my ability to be honest with Zayn at last, at being able to be honest with myself after all this time. But still, still I had the irrational fear that none of it was true, that all of it was a lie. Zayn’s eyes were on mine fleetingly, aware of my apprehension, aware of my mistrust. Carefully, Zayn leaned in, placing a sweet kiss upon my lips, its warmth akin to a summer’s day. Zayn’s forehead was resting against mine, the both of us reveling in the silence.

As if on cue, our moment of peace ended as quickly as it had begun, Zayn’s mobile going off in the pocket of his black sweat pants. Whipping his Blackberry out of his pocket, Zayn starred at the caller ID in dismay. “It’s Simon.” Zayn said in astonishment, his eyes wide with surprise.

The elusive Simon Cowell, I found myself pondering. From what I knew of the music mogul who had a hand in the creation of One Direction, he only ever spoke to the boys on the most important occasions. I then began to wonder in horror if perhaps the jig was up; if perhaps Zayn and I were exposed. If that was the case, that meant that everyone knew, that meant Harry knew. I suddenly began to feel faint.

“Hello?” Zayn answered, his eyes still searching mine as he spoke. “I’ve been really good, just been relaxing and with family and what not,” Zayn continued boisterously, running his hand through his unruly black hair, shooting me a look of terror.

I could make out Simon’s voice launching into a lengthy explanation. “The Queen?” Zayn exclaimed in surprise, his left eye flinching a moment after.

My eyes widened. Had I heard Zayn correctly? “The Queen?!” I hissed at Zayn who promptly covered my mouth with his hand. What could the Queen of England possibly want from One Direction?

Zayn nodded his head as Simon explained further. “Right, of course…London.” Zayn’s eyes were on mine. “I’ll see you then.” Zayn concluded promptly, ending the call, letting his hand fall from my mouth.

“What’s this about the Queen?!” I asked frantically, but at the same time relieved that Harry and the others were still in the dark in regards to Zayn and I.

Zayn was running his hands through his hair again, evidently stressed. “Apparently the Queen is hosting a Christmas charity Ball in honor of the Duke and Duchess…and we’ve been invited to go…” Zayn said trailing off in horror. “I really need a smoke…” Zayn muttered under his breath as he began to gingerly rub his temples, closing his eyes.

I was staring at Zayn, realizing that our time together in Bradford had both swiftly and assuredly, come to a close. “When do you leave?” I asked him quietly, my voice disguised with nonchalance in an effort to stifle my urge to cry.

Zayn’s eyes were open then, a pained expression on his face. “Today.” He told me conclusively; aware that there was no way he could get out of it.

I was nodding my head, my eyes falling to the floor, realizing that once again, I was alone. My eyes began to water relentlessly at this. Suddenly, Zayn tilted my chin upwards, his deep brown eyes on mine and a fleeting smile on his lips.

Come with me?” Zayn whispered with conviction, his eyes searching mine hopefully. I almost found myself swayed by his optimism, almost believing that nothing could go awry if I were to join him in London as he asked me too.

Opening my mouth to answer, I was interrupted by the familiar ping of my cell phone, indicating that I had received a text message. Giving Zayn a quizzical look, I carefully trudged over to the kitchen table where I had abandoned my purse. Sifting through it, I plucked my mobile from inside, expecting another text from Eleanor or Danielle which up until now had gone unanswered. Flipping it open, my heart began to thud loudly in my ears as I realized that the message was from none other than Harry Styles.

We need to talk. The message read.

My thoughts began to run rampant, wondering what Harry and I had to talk about after these few months of little to no contact. I wondered curiously if Harry intended on ending things with me officially or if he perhaps hoped to rekindle our expired relationship. I could never be sure until I spoke to him, a thought that left me with fear, with guilt. When Harry and the others had left for Australia and New Zealand, we had spoken nearly each night, my heart thudding wildly when I’d see Zayn appear in the background of our Skype conversations, when I’d hear his familiar laugh in the background of our phone calls. I did, I did have feelings for Harry during our time together. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t enjoy Harry’s company, that I didn’t find his green eyes to be both beautiful and mischievous at the same time. Things with Harry were easy, simple. But could the feelings I had had for Harry ever rival those I have for Zayn? No, they couldn’t, nothing could. Even through everything, I could not refuse Zayn Malik my heart.

“It’s from Harry.” I revealed weakly, my eyes finding Zayn’s.

Zayn was staring at me in minor shock, a prominent grimace finding his lips. Walking over to me, he gently leaned over my shoulder, reading the contents of the text message, his warm breath on my neck.

 “It looks like I’ll be coming to London after all.” I told Zayn with a whisper, sighing deeply as his strong arms wrapped around my waist from behind. Turning around in Zayn’s arms, I was facing him then, his expression unreadable, his dark eyes swimming with worry, dread. “There’s one thing I’d like to do before we leave.” I told Zayn quietly, stroking his cheek with my hand.

Zayn nodded silently, his eyes searching mine.  Resting his forehead against mine then, a small smile appeared on Zayn’s lips. “Anything.” He told me quietly, the both of us wondering what horror would find us once we left the sanctuary that was Bradford. 

*

We sat in silence during the drive, Zayn taking his eyes off the road to glance at me occasionally, a concerned expression on his face, his gaze lingering on the bouquet of white lilies lying delicately across my lap. I found myself gazing out the window, my stomach churning nervously. The day was a miserable grey, the clouds obscuring every trace of the sun that had been shining this morning when Zayn and I had been laying in bed together. As I ran my fingers through the white petals of the lilies, my mind began to entertain how perfect it would be if we could stay here forever, if the whole world would simply forget our existence, if once again we could be the Zayn and Leila we used to be three years ago, before our lives had changed so.

I had not visited my parents since I had fled Bradford, bidding them farewell on the morning I left for London, having had no mind to return ever again. Here I was two years later, Bradford having not changed at all, but the lives of Zayn and I having changed in such significant ways.

I turned to examine the boy beside me, still bewildered that he had not yet vanished, still in awe of the words he had spoken to me in the rain. As the rolling hills of the cemetery appeared into view, Zayn’s gaze once again, anxiously found mine. A thin layer of fog was blanketing the green expanse of land, and I could not help but close my eyes, reveling in its silence.

“Leila.” Zayn began pointedly, one hand strategically steering the wheel as the other combed through his thick black hair, gelled tactically into place. “Are you absolutely sure you don’t need me to come with you?”  

Opening my eyes, I found myself observing Zayn in awe, his concern for me still managing to take me by surprise. Zayn had showered, shaved, and was now clad in his usual attire for all occasions One Direction, a pair of cream coloured chinos and a red and green flannel shirt. Zayn would be meeting with Harry, Liam, Niall, and Louis to discuss their upcoming appearance at the Queen’s charity ball in honour of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in other words, Prince William and Kate Middleton.

After breakfast, Zayn and I had hurriedly packed our things away into his SUV, our sights set on London after it had so suddenly beckoned our return, via a phone call from Simon Cowell as well as a text message from Harry. The text message still left my heart thudding with dread, wondering exactly what it was that Harry and I had to talk about.

We would be travelling separately after some very diligent arguing on my part, informing Zayn that he was raving mad to even suggest us leaving for London together. Zayn had valiantly offered to take the bus from Bradford to London alongside me, but it was simply too risky. The consequences of being caught together were unimaginable to even consider, but then again, I couldn’t seem to conjure up any consequence worse than the anger and the betrayal that Harry would feel after finding out about my and Zayn’s past, about what had occurred here in Bradford. 

I gave Zayn a small smile, sweeping my dark hair, still fragrant of my favourite vanilla scented shampoo past my shoulder. “I’ll be fine, Zayn.” I told him quietly.

Nodding silently, Zayn pulled over onto the gravel, parking beneath the dangling vines of a willow tree. It was then that the deep pang I had felt for so long, for months following the loss of my parents returned, reverberating mercilessly in the pit of my stomach.

I felt Zayn’s hand squeeze mine, his eyes on mine. “You’re not alone, Leila.” Zayn told me quietly. “Not this time.” He said with conviction, his warm hand stroking my cheek.

Swiftly throwing my arms around Zayn’s neck, I closed my eyes tightly, refusing the tears that threatened to spill from my eyes. Zayn held me close to him, the both of us silent. Breathing the comforting scent of Zayn in deeply, I pulled back from him, a small smile on my lips. “I won’t be long.” I whispered.

With this, the both of us exited the car quietly, the frigid December air raising gooseflesh on my arms and the white lilies clenched tightly in my hands. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that Zayn was leaning up against the rough bark of the willow tree, his dark eyes on me as I walked. Taking a deep breath of the cool air, I was walking across the damp grass, quietly passing the numerous tombstones lining the path. I observed the passing names as I walked on, thinking that it was such a shame that some had lost their lives so young. At last, I had reached my destination, my lower lip trembling as their names came into view, Kalila Karim and Irfan Karim; my parents. Crouching down, I kneeled onto my knees, gently placing the flowers between them.

Hot tears began to flow down my cheeks, a cool breeze blowing through my hair. “I miss you both,” I began, choking on a sob. “So much.”

 

flashback

I was lying on my bed, my mind drifting away from ‘Wuthering Heights’ as I attempted to read it. I could not, for the life of me, stop thinking of Zayn. Shutting my book closed in frustration, I knew that something had changed, that something was different. Curiously, I reached over to my bed side table, plucking the framed photograph of Zayn and I from the other month, pictured for the school newsletter. Zayn’s arm was carelessly tossed around my shoulder, my arm wrapped securely around his waist, Zayn smiling widely in the direction of the camera while I was smiling widely up at him. I felt a shiver run up my spine, my skin tingling in dreadful realization. Could it be true? Did I have feelings for Zayn, for the boy I had known most of my life? Was I in love with my best friend?

Just then my bedroom door gently creaked open, my Mother entering my room quietly. My Mother was beautiful still even in middle age, her skin dewy and her eyes clear, her hair as long and startlingly black as mine was. Our hair was where our similarities ended, however. My Mother was graceful, feminine, and I was the complete opposite, opting for a pair of baggy jeans and a hooded sweater when my Mother was never caught in anything but a dress.

“Hi, Mum.” I said quietly, placing the picture of Zayn and I back onto my bedside table, sure that she had seen me looking at it.

Plopping down at the foot of my bed, my Mother gave me a knowing smile. She was wearing her favourite yellow sundress, the one I always could remember her in as a child, running around in the garden. “How come you’ve been cooped up in your room all day, Leila?” My Mother asked curiously.

Sighing, I let my head fall back onto my pillows, unsure of why exactly myself. “It’s just one of those days, Mum.” I told her quietly, stealing a glance at the photograph of Zayn and I once again, imagining how his lips would feel against mine, how it would feel to be held in his arms. My face was flushing then, and I turned my gaze away from the photo, observing my hands with great interest instead.

My Mother paused before speaking, observing me in silence, a playful smile on her lips. “Is there something you need to talk about, Leila?” My Mother had a way of knowing when things had gone completely awry in my life, always coming to my rescue as if I had told her I needed her help myself.

My cheeks reddened further, my mouth opening and closing in hesitation various times. “Mum,” I began, choosing my words carefully. “How did you know you were in love with Dad?” I coated my voice in nonchalance, but still I fear I had been found out.

“Hm,” My Mother sighed in amusement, adjusting so that she was sitting more comfortably. “Well as you know, your Father and I were classmates in college.” My Mother began, corking her eyebrow upwards.

I nodded, letting her know that I was following.

“I didn’t think anything of him at first,” She went on. “And either way, I had already been promised to someone by your Nanabapa, so the thought of finding someone else hadn’t even crossed my mind. It was out of the question.” She revealed pointedly.

Suddenly, my Mother began to dreamily stare out my open window, a warm spring breeze rustling her hair. “Your Father and I would study for our exams together, and at first we were all business.” She told me with a smile. “But one day, we stopped studying and began talking instead -about ourselves, the things we liked, the things we found funny.” I could tell that she was reflecting upon her conversations with my Father then, a secret smile appearing on her lips as she fingered at the hem of her dress. “We became friends, best friends.” She concluded, eyeing me, her expression unreadable.

I was starring at my Mother in horror, terrified that perhaps I had been correct, perhaps I no longer saw Zayn as a friend, but more. “But how did you know?” I whispered, emphasizing the last word of my statement.

My Mother sighed deeply, her eyes darkening. “I was to get married right after I graduated. That was the deal I made with your Nanabapa,” My Mother paused, the years passing by her eyes. “Graduation had ended and your Father and I were standing together, not saying a word. I had told him about my engagement, but he had never really reacted so I thought that perhaps he did not feel how I did.” My Mother stroked her dark hair behind her ear.

“And then?” I was leaned forward, absorbed in the story, seeing hints of myself in it already.

My Mother smiled in amusement. “We said our goodbyes and as I was walking away, I was hoping that Irfan would chase after me and tell me he loved me.”

“Well did he, then?” I yelped incredulously, wondering how I had managed to not hear this story yet.

My Mother was grinning then. “No.” She was shaking her head. “Which is why I turned around and chased after him, telling him that I didn’t want to marry the man my Father had chosen for me, that I wanted to marry him instead!” My Mother was laughing her flowery laugh then once she saw the look of shock on my face.

“You had to tell Dad how you felt?” I screeched in surprise, shocked that my Mother had had such courage, that she was brave enough to do that. I gulped nervously as I imagined myself telling Zayn of my strange feelings for him.

“Your Father always was a bit of a coward.” My Mother was laughing good-naturedly. Suddenly her eyes were on me, her eyebrows raised. “But it paid off in the end, didn’t it?” She whispered with a smile, a gleam of mischief in her eyes.

With this, my Mother was on her feet again, heading quietly for my bedroom door. Halfway out the door, she turned back to me, a determined look on her face. “Tell him.” She whispered with conviction, giving me a departing smile as she went into the hallway, shutting the door closed behind her.

Tell Zayn? That was easier said than done wasn’t it? I tried to imagine Zayn’s reaction, tried to imagine what he would say. Would he think I had gone mad? Or like my Father, perhaps he felt the same way all along, perhaps all he needed was a little push in the right direction. Would I do this? Could I tell Zayn Malik I was in love with him? Turning to face the photograph once again, I found myself wondering if telling Zayn how I felt would pay off in the end as well.

*

Getting to my feet, I brushed the dirt from my knees, glancing over my shoulder to see Zayn still patiently waiting for me beneath the Willow tree. Zayn’s eyes found mine, a sweet crooked smile appearing on his lips when he saw that I was watching him. A gentle breeze rustled the dangling leaves of the willow tree, showering Zayn with the remaining flecks of green and brown that winter had not yet claimed. Returning my gaze to the resting places of my Mother and Father, a fleeting smile appeared on my lips as I quietly whispered, “I think it paid off.”

Fiona’s P.O.V:

Harry and I were seated comfortably on a plush white ottoman, watching Dr. Marshall as he scribbled placidly in his leather-bound notepad. Dr. Marshall was a man in his late forties with a mop of salt and pepper coloured hair and small watery brown eyes, occasionally shooting Harry and me an anxious glance, his mouth forming into a notable grimace and his thin wired glasses sliding down the bridge of his nose. I had heard of Dr. Marshall and his tendency to accept forms of bribery from numerous clients, some being aspiring models or actresses who required an excuse for their sometimes erratic behavior in order to still be considered for work. Dr. Marshall’s diagnoses would assure clients that their self harm or drug fueled tendencies would be written off as some sort of psychological imbalance instead of what it really was, a fetish for designer drugs or the occasional finger down the throat. I myself had gone to Dr. Marshall when Charlotte had suspected that I was throwing up, but unlike Charlotte, not everyone was a size one naturally.

Once he had concluded his scribbling, Dr. Marshall cleared his throat pointedly, raising his eyebrows to indicate that it was time. I turned to Harry who was observing the credential covered wall of Dr. Marshall’s office with great interest.

“Harry!” I hissed, giving him a hard nudge in the ribs, “Now.”

Harry turned to me, green eyes wide. “Oh!” Harry mumbled awkwardly, “Right.” With this, Harry unearthed a new checkbook from the inside of his black pea coat along with a gold plated pen. Letting out one exasperated sigh that jostled about his lush brown curls, Harry began to write a check in Dr. Marshall’s name. Signing ‘Harry Styles’ in neat cursive at the bottom of the check, Harry then handed it to me in order to seek my approval at the amount.

I corked my eyebrow upwards at the meager 1000 Euros Harry had planned on offering Dr. Marshall. It would take much more than that to ensure Dr. Marshall’s silence on the matter of us bribing him; I had learned this the hard way. Fluidly, I plucked the pen from Harry’s grasp, giving him a knowing smile. “Don’t be ridiculous, Harry!” I told him, adding an extra zero to the sum.

With this I hurriedly handed Dr. Marshall the check, a winning smile on my lips.

“Right, then…” Dr. Marshall concluded, ripping the filled out form from his notepad, thrusting it in Harry’s direction. “Congratulations, Mr. Styles, you are now clinically depressed.” Dr. Marshall told Harry, his voice coated with mock enthusiasm.

Harry smiled awkwardly, his green eyes reflecting the apprehension he was surely feeling at the whole situation. “I feel sad already.” Harry said with a smile.

 

Dr. Marshall continued to examine Harry, his expression guarded. “You do realize this is a crime, Mr. Styles? I hope you are not being coerced into doing this by Miss Applebee.”

I felt my blood begin to boil. The twit was going to ruin everything! If our plan fell through, Harry would not be able to keep Leila around, meaning that I would not be able to have my chance with Zayn. My cheeks began to redden just at the possibility of Zayn’s lips one day being on mine.

Composing myself, I gave Dr. Marshall a sly smile. “The real crime,” I began, my lips breaking into a full-fledged grin, “Would be not going on that trip to Bermuda like you’ve always planned.” I told him, surer than ever that Harry and I would be getting exactly what we wanted, or should I say who we wanted.

Harry’s P.O.V:

I was sitting in the living room of my and Louis’ shared townhouse, drumming my fingers nervously against the sofa as I waited patiently for Leila. Shaking my head, I allowed my face to fall into my hands, letting out a miserable groan as I began to doubt myself once again. I had already planted the various bottles of anti-depressants throughout my room and in the cupboard above the sink in my washroom for the sake of authenticity as Fiona had suggested, even going as far as leaving various pamphlets for numerous rehabilitation centers located throughout London on my bedside table. But still, I found myself wondering if I could truly go through with deceiving Leila, with hurting her in this way.

My thoughts were interrupted by a bout of soft knocking at the front door, my heart thudding erratically against the walls of my chest in response. Leaping to my feet, I trudged over to the door nervously. Standing in front of it, I took a shaky breath, my hand hovering over the door knob before finally I twisted it, thrusting the door open. Standing chastely on the very center of the welcome mat was Leila.

Leaning against the side of the doorframe, I observed the girl that I had not seen in eight months. Leila looked as beautiful and delicate as ever, her long dark hair parted down the center, falling in waves past her shoulders, the tanned skin of her cheeks flushed in the cold and her pink lips parted in surprise at my appearance. Leila was clad in a khaki coloured trench coat, stopping just above her knees, a red umbrella clenched in her hand. Leila’s warm brown eyes were wide and staring directly into mine.

“I wasn’t sure if you were going to come.” I breathed, trying to suppress the urge to coat my voice in bitterness. I could not give Leila any sense that I knew what she had been up to in Bradford, what she and Zayn had been up to in Bradford.

Leila’s face fell for a moment, her eyes telling a story that I knew now as well. “Of course I was going to, Harry.” Leila’s voice was pained, apprehensive. A crease appeared between her eyebrows, and I knew that what I was seeing flash across her face was guilt.

Running my hand through my curls anxiously, I stepped to the side. “Come in out of the cold.” I told Leila with a small smile, her deep brown eyes on mine as she breeze past me and into the warmth of the house.

“Thanks.” Leila whispered, the both of us heading into the living room as we had naturally done many times before. Carefully, Leila sat next to me on the squishy black sofa, the both of us unsure of how to act, unsure of what to say. Hesitantly, I placed my hand on Leila’s knee, Leila’s breath hitching in her throat at the unexpected contact. I wondered then if Leila was thinking of Zayn, if she possibly had come here to end things with me. A flicker of anger flashed across my face, but as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. I wanted to be with Leila, I wanted things to be as they were, and if it took deceiving her, then so be it. In that moment, all of my doubts and all of my second thoughts were gone, while thoughts of Leila and I being happy once again remained.

“I missed you.” I murmured, my voice cracking, stroking the skin of her knee with my thumb.

Carefully, Leila placed her hand on top of mine, her expression unreadable. “I missed you too.” Leila whispered, a storm of confusion brewing in her eyes. I wondered if she meant it, if Leila had even thought of me once during her time in Bradford, her time in Bradford with Zayn. I would be seeing Zayn later, and I found myself wondering if I would be able to contain myself from punching him in the gob as I had imagined doing so many times.

“I owe you an explanation, Leila.” I began, regurgitating the words that Fiona and I had rehearsed shortly after leaving Dr. Marshall’s office. Fiona was so naturally devious that without her, it would be a challenge to pull this off successfully; but I had to try.

Leila sighed with remorse, shaking her head. “You don’t owe me anything, Harry.” She told me, her voice shaking with regret.

Leila began to rub her temples gingerly, her long dark hair falling over her shoulder, forming a thick curtain between us. It was then that without warning, the well-rehearsed spiel that I had practiced with Fiona came tumbling out of my mouth before I even had a moment to second guess myself.

“I’ve been dealing with depression, Leila.” I said quietly, my eyes falling to my hands. I couldn’t look into Leila’s eyes and lie so flippantly, this was the only way that I could do it. “Since during the beginning of our tour.” I continued.

Leila turned to me in horror, her face draining of all colour and her eyes wide with shock. “What?” Leila sputtered, blinking furiously.

I looked at Leila briefly before returning my eyes to my outstretched palms. “I had been going to therapy, but then it got worse,” I paused, running my hand through my curls. “So now my doctor is advising that I go on medication.” I added slowly. “It’s no excuse for neglecting our relationship for all these months, but I thought you should know the truth.” I concluded, swallowing hard and wondering if the real truth was that perhaps I didn’t deserve Leila at all.

Leila’s breaths were shallow as she nodded to herself, her eyes brimming with tears. “Oh Harry, I am so sorry.” Her voice cracked, and I knew that Leila was apologizing for more than just my predicament but perhaps for her time with Zayn as well.

“It’s been hard.” I told her quietly, glancing out the window, rain drops creeping their way down the glass, but then my eyes were on Leila again. “But seeing you has already made me feel so much better.” I said quietly, reaching out to stroke Leila’s cheek.

Leila’s eyes were on me then, her eyes narrowed in anguish. “What would you have me do, Harry?” Leila whispered, clutching the locket that hung around her neck, fearing or perhaps dreading my answer.

I gave Leila a small smile, brushing her soft hair past her shoulder. “Can we give us another shot?” I asked her, a hopeful look on my face. “Pick up where we left off?” I added quietly, my voice hardly a whisper.

Leila opened her mouth to speak, hesitating, and something unreadable flashing across her eyes. Carefully, Leila then began to nod in assent, a small sad smile appearing on her lips. “Of course, Harry.” She said weakly, her hand on mine then and her skin as soft and comforting as I had remembered. Pulling Leila into my arms, I held her tightly to me, breathing in the familiar scent of vanilla floating off her hair. Sighing into her neck, my eyes opened suddenly as I felt Leila’s hot tears soaking through the fabric of my shirt.

Zayn’s P.O.V:

Taking a deep and fulfilling drag of my cigarette, I was leaning against the damp brick wall of Victory Strip Club. It had felt like years since I last roamed about the unforgiving and cold city of London, having grown so used to the lush green forests and fresh air of Bradford, used to the scent of the cardamom that had seeped into the walls of Leila’s home. A small smile flickered across my lips at the thought of Leila’s home truly being hers now, although she was yet to find this fact out. With one problem solved however, that still left one more that had to be dealt with. As if on cue, the heavy back door of Victory swung open, the large and stocky form of Clive emerging from the darkness and into the alleyway.

Tossing my cigarette onto the cement, I crushed it into the floor with the bottom of my shoe, rolling the black ski mask that I had propped on top of my head over my eyes and mouth, obscuring my face. Securing the solid wood baseball bat that I had leaned against the wall into my grasp, I stepped out from the shadows, approaching Clive from behind.

“Oi, Clive!” I yelled, my voice bordering mania. At the sound of his name, Clive whirled around to face me, his blue eyes wide. With this, I swung the bat at Clive’s head, all my strength behind the blow, distinctly remembering the blue and purple bruises on Leila’s neck as I did it. The bat came into contact with the side of Clive’s head, a sickening crack echoing through the alleyway. A flow of blood erupted from Clive’s nose as he crumpled onto the damp pavement.

I stared at Clive in disgust, crouching down so that he could see the revulsion in my eyes. “You’re a sick fuck you know that?” I spat hatefully, Clive staring at me in delirious horror. Jumping to my feet, I directed a hard kick into Clive’s gut, followed by another and another, remembering how the prick had put his hands on Leila so viciously. Clive spat blood from his mouth, a sick gurgling sound emerging from his throat.

I leaned over Clive menacingly, placing my shoe directly onto his throat. With a little bit of pressure, his windpipe would be crushed. “Touch Leila one more time, and you’re dead.” I spat through clenched teeth, trying to refrain myself from killing him altogether. Standing to my full height, I winded up, kicking Clive once more for good measure, plucking the blood covered baseball bat off of the damp cement once I was through. Rounding the corner I ripped off the mask, wiping the bat clean of the blood and shoving it into my pocket, tucking the bat into my winter coat, the desperate sound of Clive’s cries faded in the distance as I made my way through the bustling London crowd.

*

Climbing the steps of Harry and Louis’ townhouse, I took in a shaky breath, praying that I would not be the first one there. I had texted both Niall and Liam to gather their whereabouts after I had paid my visit to Clive, but had not heard back from them yet. A satisfying smirk appeared on my lips as I thought of Clive on the wet floor of the alleyway, suffering just as he had made Leila suffer. Having abandoned the baseball bat and black ski mask in two separate dumpsters on my way to Harry and Louis’ place, I found myself sure that Clive would not be bothering Leila again. Just the thought of Leila made me smile like a madman, remembering the happenings in Bradford so fondly, the feeling of Leila in my arms, the taste of her lips, the scent of her hair wet from the rain. However, our problems were far from over I thought to myself, a pit forming in my stomach at the thought of Harry. I had not seen Harry since we had landed in Heathrow after our Madison Square Garden performance in New York, and I found myself dreading seeing him again, dreading him finding out about Leila, about Leila and me. Harry, Niall, Liam, Louis and I would be video conferencing with Simon, so hopefully there would not be much time for chatting. Simon had to depart for LA last minute regarding an emergency meeting of some sort, but he had assured us that he would be back in London within a night to further assist us with our appearance at the Queen’s Christmas Charity Ball which I too was dreading. I knew however, that there would be a point in time when I could no longer run from Harry or from One Direction anymore, and I supposed that that time was now. Timidly lifting up my fist, I pounded on the door.

As the door swung open the first face I saw was Harry’s, a wide grin forming on his face at the sight of me. My face paled drastically when I saw that Harry was not alone. Standing right next to Harry was none other than Leila, looking the same way she did when I had bid her farewell at the bus station in Bradford, the both of us deciding it was best to travel to London separately. Leila was staring at me in momentary shock, a look that I fleetingly returned before wiping my face of any reaction to her presence. I thought Leila would have left Harry’s by the time I had finished with Clive but apparently I had been mistaken. Before Leila decided to tell Harry anything, we had agreed that she speak to him alone in case he had planned on ending things with her as we had suspected from his text message, but from the look of Harry’s arm slung casually over Leila’s shoulder, perhaps we had thought wrong.

A playful grin appeared on Harry’s lips. “Zayn,” Harry greeted slowly, his gaze unwavering. “Just the man I wanted to see.” My eyes flickered from Leila, whose cheeks had flushed to a brilliant red, to Harry who was eyeing me mischievously.

“Hey mate, long time no see.” I replied trying to hide the anger in my voice as Harry hugged Leila closer to him, his arm wrapped protectively around Leila’s waist.

“Yeah.” Harry agreed. “We have loads to catch up on, don’t we?” Harry added, his smile wavering. With this Harry turned to Leila, biting his lip as he gazed upon her. “See you later, babe.” Harry said to Leila softly, leaning in to gently place his lips upon hers. I felt my eye twitch as Leila squeaked in surprise at Harry’s kiss, her eyes wide and blinking as Harry pulled away from her.

“Bye!” Leila replied with flushed cheeks, her voice rising to an octave higher than usual. Making her way outside, Leila squeaked once more as Harry playfully smacked her on the behind. Clenching my jaw, I was shooting daggers at Harry with my eyes, refusing myself from stealing a glance at Leila who hurried past me, her eyes on the ground as she click-clacked down the stairs and out of sight, leaving the faint scent of vanilla in her wake.

I remained still, my eyes unblinking and fixed on Harry. Harry was staring back at me, a pleasant grin still on his lips. “So I reckon you and Leila sorted things out, then?” I asked slowly, narrowing my eyes and trying to sound as casual as possible.

Harry’s smile widened as he leaned against the doorframe with a shrug, “Yeah.” Harry said with bright eyes, his lips still turned upwards. “Yeah we did.”

The air pulsed, Harry and I regarding each other silently. “Good.” I said through clenched teeth. “That’s good.” I affirmed, nodding my head.

“So.” Harry began, his smile unwavering and his green eyes blazing. “Been having fun in Bradford?” Harry’s eyebrows raised slightly, his tone casual, innocent.

The colour drained from my face then, my blood running cold as fear coursed through my blood. Could it be? Did Harry know? I found myself thinking this in shock as my heart thudded erratically in my chest. Opening my mouth to reply, I was interrupted a slew of familiar voices emerging from behind me. Whirling around, I was met with the familiar guffaws of Louis, Liam, and Niall who were sprinting towards Harry and I.

“Hello Zayn!” Louis exclaimed jovially when he reached me, putting me into a headlock and messing my hair about knowing fully well that I hated it.

“Get off, Louis!” I growled, trying to swat him off of me. I was still buzzing from the tense conversation I had had with Harry, my eyes wide and staring blindly at Louis’ shoes. Louis finally let me up for air, allowing Niall to throw his arms around me in a tight embrace.

“Zayn!” Niall exclaimed with glee. “I missed you man! How have you been enjoying your holiday?” Niall asked as he let go of me, his joyful expression disappearing from his face when he saw the expression on mine. “We’ll talk about it later.” Niall whispered, so that only I could hear his words. Nodding silently, I was then greeted by Liam who began to gush about his holiday with Danielle in Barbados. Finally, the five of us piled into the town house, Harry grinning at me and pulling me into a hug.

“I missed you man.” Harry said into my ear quietly, giving me a hearty pat on the back. Pulling back, Harry was all smiles once again, leaving me no choice but to grin back at him.

“I missed you too.” I replied, patting him in reply. Harry could not know anything about Leila and I and still be acting this way, like I did not betray our friendship, like I had not lied to him from the start about knowing Leila for almost my whole life. Relief washed over me and I was convinced that Harry did not know a thing about Leila, about Bradford. It would simply be impossible.

Leila’s P.O.V:

I was curled up on the sofa, sullenly regarding the interior of my London apartment, noticing how dreary it was compared to my home in Bradford. A deep pang resonated throughout my body, wondering when exactly my home and all of its memories would be sold. Shaking my head of the thought, I instead found myself mulling over the insanity that had just occurred outside of Harry’s townhouse. Shutting my eyes, my face flushed violently as I recalled Harry’s arms around me, and Zayn’s eyes blazing as he regarded the two of us with no expression on his face whatsoever. My heart began to palpitate as I contemplated how cross Zayn must be with me. I had been so naive, walking into Harry’s living room and thinking that he would be ending things with me as I had both expected and hoped for, but Harry had completely taken me be surprise, confessing that he had been suffering from depression since during One Direction’s tour of Australia and New Zealand, alluding to the fact that this had caused our relationship to fall through.

I still cared for Harry; deeply, and did not want to hurt him, especially in his time of need. For everything I had done to him these past few days, the least I could do was play the role of the supportive girlfriend that I should have been the entire time. I could not imagine what it was like for him, suffering in silence while I was off frolicking in Bradford with Zayn. I was selfish and blind when it came to Zayn, my feelings for him so strong that I did not remember the world outside of Bradford, a world in which Zayn and I both led separate lives. Taking a sip of my now cold cup of coffee, I knew that Zayn and I would not be able to tell Harry anything, nor could we be together, at least for the time being. As if on cue, a gentle knock came at the window, and I knew that it was Zayn. Setting down my cup, I hurried over to the window, thrusting it upwards when I saw Zayn regarding me silently from beyond the glass, his expression unreadable and his black hair rustling in the cool evening breeze.

“Zayn please don’t be angry…” I pleaded softly as I watched him climb through the window and into my apartment, his eyes on the floor.

I followed Zayn away from the window and further into the living room. Zayn was shaking his head, and muttering something under his breath. Turning to me finally, his unwavering gaze was on me. “What happened, Leila?” Zayn asked, his brown eyes drilling into mine.

I sighed deeply, hugging my arms around myself and wishing that Zayn would hold me. “I went to Harry’s like we planned,” I told Zayn, pushing him over to the sofa so that we could both sit. “By the tone of his voice it seemed like he was going to end it with me for sure.” I was shaking my head. “And then Harry told me that during the tour he was suffering from depression,” I told Zayn. “And still is.” I concluded with a whisper, Zayn’s face contorting with confusion at this.

 

What?” Zayn exclaimed incredulously, his brown eyes wide with shock. “Depression?”

I was nodding my head then, twisting the bottoms of my dark hair. “And when he asked me if we could pick up where we left off,” I said carefully, averting my eyes from Zayn’s. “How could I refuse him?” I concluded with a whisper, meeting Zayn’s gaze, a storm brewing in his narrowed eyes.

He didn’t seem depressed when I saw him.” Zayn told me softly, the anger having vanished from his voice.

I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes as I sniffed. “He had anti-depressants in the loo.” My voice cracked as I let out a soft sob, allowing my face to fall into my hands as I burst into tears. This whole thing had turned into such a mess, and it was my entire fault.

“No, no, Leila, please!” Zayn begged softly at the sight of my tears, taking me into his arms and kissing the top of my head. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have been upset with you.” Zayn continued. I felt myself begin to calm as I inhaled his familiar scent, snuggling into his warm chest. “…I was just jealous…” Zayn trailed off sheepishly, his voice quiet. “Insanely jealous.” Zayn clarified playfully.

I lifted my head at this to observe Zayn in astonishment, a hint of a smile on my lips. “You were jealous?” I whispered in shock. I silently recalled the numerous bouts of rage I had felt over Tracy and Fiona, and found myself grinning with satisfaction at Zayn’s confession. “Oh how the tables have turned.” I whispered scandalously, still smiling as I stroked Zayn’s cheek.

With this Zayn was smiling too, a beautiful crooked grin appearing on his lips. “I don’t like sharing.” Zayn whispered flirtatiously, inching towards me at a sickeningly slow pace, his brown eyes gleaming and a teasing smile on his lips.

“Neither do I.” I whispered in agreement, swallowing hard once Zayn’s lips were an inch away from mine, my cheeks burning when he licked his lips.

A ghost of a smile appeared on Zayn’s lips. “…Well now we’ve got that settled…” Zayn trailed off huskily, deliciously pressing his lips to mine. With this my arms wrapped around his neck, Zayn pulling me onto his lap with one swift movement, causing me to giggle against his lips as we kissed. My blood ran hot as Zayn moved against me, the both of us breaking apart for air after a minute, our cheeks flushed and our lips swollen.

“We’ll figure this out,” Zayn whispered comfortingly, his forehead against mine. “Together.” Nodding, I rested my head against Zayn’s chest, closing my eyes as I listened to his heart beat and thinking that it would all work out in the end; that it simply had to.

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:

Who am I to say – Hope

I’m in Love with a Stripper – T-Pain

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