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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11. Open Your Eyes I

I’m in Love with a Stripper:

 

Open Your Eyes (Part I)

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

 

I was running so fast that it felt like my lungs were going to burst. I had not stopped for anything, not the glass shards that had cut up the bottoms of my feet a little while back, not for the cyclist I had knocked over, and certainly not for the car that had swerved to miss me when I had darted across the street and into the rush hour traffic. I ignored the stabbing pains in my chest, ignored my stomach plummeting through the floor, the sense of dread that would not go away and wiped at the steady flow of tears obscuring my vision, continuing to run. Taking a sharp left past a convenience store, I ran headfirst into a group of boys, ramming into the chest of one of them, the slurpie he had been sipping on splattering all over his expensive looking winter jacket. Fleetingly, my brain recognized them as students from Tong High School.

 

“Oi!” The red-headed boy exclaimed, his arms extended outwards, gesturing to the iced drink on his jacket. “Look what you’ve done you stupid bitch!” His freckled face contorted with anger.

 

“I’m so sorry.” I sputtered quietly, desperately trying to maneuver my way around the group of boys. I could feel the panic rising in my throat, the urge to scream until I couldn’t any longer. Suddenly, all I could see in my mind’s eye was Zayn; his dark eyes, smoldering gaze, warm touch. Zayn and I had not spoken in a year. It had been a year since I last heard his voice, a year since his gaze fell on me, a year since he had given me one of his crooked smiles, but here I was wanting no one but him, needing no one but him. He’s left you Leila, a small voice spoke up in my mind. And so have your parents.  An anguished sob escaped my lips. You’re all alone.

 

“Just a minute!” The boy blocked my escape route, his eyes taking in my disheveled appearance. “She’s got no trainers on!” The boy exploded into laughter, turning to his mates who followed suit. “I’d consider buying you a pair if you sucked my cock?” He sneered, his face so close to me that I could see the stained blue of his lips. I was trapped, my back pressed up against the brick wall of the convenience store. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out except for a weak croak.

 

Run, Leila!” A faraway voice screamed. Their voice was muffled, as if they were yelling through a tub filled with water. I took a sharp intake of air, my eyes darting around the alleyway. Who had said that? It was empty except for the group of boys surrounding me. Even in my delirium, I was sure of it, as sure as the breath in my lungs, as sure as my beating heart that the voice I had heard belonged to Zayn.

 

“What’s the hold up?” The boy sneered. “Get on your fucking knees!” He spat evilly, crushing me up against the damp brick wall, the wetness from the spilled slurpie on his jacket seeping through my thin shirt.

 

What did it really matter? My whole life had already disintegrated right before my eyes. Zayn had left me, and now my parents…my parents were gone too, everything I had ever loved had been taken from me. What purpose did I have now? What did I really have to fight for? I bit my lip to cease it from trembling, drawing blood. I wanted to fold in on myself, to be scattered to the wind, for the ground to open up and swallow me whole. Perhaps I deserved this; perhaps I should stop fighting my fate, I should start embracing it. I was destined for misery, for tragedy, to be violated in a back alley of my home town. I closed my eyes, allowing the will to survive, the fire in me to slowly burn out.

 

Don’t you dare.” Zayn’s familiar voice reverberated in my mind, startling me. “Don’t you dare give up, Leila.” His velvety voice scolded me passionately. I could picture Zayn in my mind, his unwavering dark gaze, his black untamable hair, his words imploring me to fight. I refused to listen. The voice I was hearing was not Zayn’s, it was mine, my consciousness, the part of my brain that knew I’d do anything Zayn told me to. Not this time, I told myself. I would not let him invade my thoughts, or my heart any longer. Zayn was off living his life, having disappeared from school without a trace weeks ago. The fact that he hadn’t even bothered to say goodbye told me that Leila Karim was the last thing on his mind, or worse still, not on his mind at all. 

 

The red-haired boy’s blue eyes were narrowed at me, momentarily intrigued. “Wait a minute,” He paused, eyeing me with disgust. “I know you.” He licked his lips amusedly, slowly forming them into a smirk. “You’re the girl whose parents were killed last night aren’t you? I saw it on the news.” His eyes flowed over me in revulsion, his nostrils flaring.

 

Suddenly I was gritting my teeth, my voice returning with a vengeance. “Don’t talk about my parents!” I screamed, my sudden outburst causing a few of the other boys to jump in surprise. However, the red-haired boy stood his ground, his eyes blazing fiercely.

 

“And who’s going to stop me?” He smirked. “Your parents?” He raised his eyebrows, challenging me, a cruel grin plastered on his face.

 

With this statement, I had my hands on the boy’s shoulders, bringing my knee to his crotch in a flash, hitting him hard enough to hopefully render him unable to have children. The boy’s eyes bulged out of his head and then he was on the damp cement, gagging violently. I was off, running, running as fast as I could, the bleeding soles of my feet screaming in protest. I ran from Zayn, from my parents, from myself until I couldn’t any longer, collapsing against a red telephone booth. Panting, I wiped the collection of sweat and tears from my face, brushing away my matted hair from my eyes, a desperate sob escaping my lips. I observed the telephone booth, attempting to fight my desire to enter it, but failing to do so. Before I knew it, I was inside, the cool black receiver pressed against my ear. With shaking hands, I was dialing the familiar numbers of Zayn Malik’s mobile, astonished that I hadn’t forgotten it. Breathing shallowly, I waited for it to ring, my hand planted on the glass door of the booth to support my swaying form.

 

The phone rang once, cutting to the soft robotic female voice of the operator. “We’re sorry, the number you are trying to reach has been disconnected or is no longer in service at this time. Please hang up and try your call again.” I stood in a stunned silence as the message replayed, insisting and assuring me that Zayn Malik had perhaps always been a figment of my imagination. Letting the handset fall with a thud against the glass, I felt myself slip into blackness, my agonized scream causing me to jolt upwards in my bed, awake. And like every other time following my nightmare, the stark realization that it had all been a reality left me screaming still.

 

Zayn’s P.O.V:

 

My eyes flew open, the sound of Leila’s screams reaching my ears. In a flash, I threw off the blankets and was on my feet, struggling into my sweat pants, not bothering with my shirt when Leila’s terrified shrieks increased.

 

“Leila!” I yelled, dashing towards the stairs and blindly bounding up them two at a time. “Leila, I’m coming!”

 

Slamming into the wall when I reached the top of the steps, I took a sharp right down the hallway and burst through Leila’s bedroom door, expecting a bugler, or worse, Victory’s new manager, Clive. As my eyes adjusted in the darkness, I could see Leila illuminated in the moonlight, rocking back and forth sobbing, her knees curled up to her chest, alone. I let out a sigh of relief.

 

“Zayn!” She choked, calling me to her. “Zayn!” She sobbed. Fear coursed through me, seeing Leila like this. In my mind, it made perfect sense to blame myself; it made all the sense in the world. When I stopped being Leila’s friend, when I left Bradford, Leila had been the one to pay the price, and I would do anything, anything at all, to never be responsible for her pain again.

 

Rushing over to her, she flung her arms around my neck, burying her face into my bare shoulder, her lips pressed against my skin. I pulled her close to me, running my fingers through her long dark hair, holding her in my arms tightly. “I’m here, I’m here.” I cooed softly, my eyebrows furrowed in concern. She had had a nightmare, I was sure of it.

 

“No, you’re not!” She cried, the bed squeaking in protest. “No one’s here, everyone’s gone! Everyone’s left me!” She exclaimed, furiously trying to push me away, her hands on my chest.

 

“Leila.” Carefully I took Leila’s small hand, planting her palm on my cheek, my hand resting on top of hers. “I’m right here.” I said quietly, rubbing my thumb over the back of her hand soothingly, erasing any qualms in her mind that I wasn’t indeed sitting right in front of her. And I’ll never leave you again, I thought to myself. I closed my eyes in the darkness, indulging in Leila’s gentle touch. Opportunities like this were rare, so rare.

 

“Oh.” Leila breathed, sighing softly. I opened my eyes at the sound of her voice. I could see the silhouette of her face in the darkness, her long eyelashes fluttering as she blinked, the outline of her small button nose, full lips, thick black hair curling at the bottoms.

 

Taking her hand from my cheek, I held it in mine. “Do you want me to stay?” I whispered, my words shocking even myself. These words sounded so loud even though they had been spoken quietly. Leila would never have asked me even if she wanted to, so I decided to offer this to her, this little comfort I could provide her, if any.

 

Leila hesitated before finally speaking. “I couldn’t…I couldn’t ask you to.” She mumbled, gently rubbing her temple with her free hand, her eyes downcast. I observed her, knowing fully well that she wanted to be anything but alone.

 

“I want to.” I murmured softly. Leila’s head shot up at my statement, her eyes wide. Taking Leila’s stunned silence as an opportunity; I slid past her, climbing under the soft covers of her bed, Leila watching me in utter astonishment as I went. Settling in, I was on my side, my head propped up on one of Leila’s silk pillows, waiting for her to lie down beside me.

 

After a few moments, she hesitantly laid on her side as well, facing me. Leila’s eyes were on mine, a safe distance between our bodies. Carefully, I closed the gap between us, draping my arm across her waist tentatively. Leila froze into place as I did this, blinking at me. I was about to recoil my arm, the last thing I wanted to do was make Leila uncomfortable when without warning; she inched closer to me, snuggling into my chest, her face pressed up against me. I could feel her warm breath against my skin, relaxed, no longer erratic like it had been before. I tightened my grip around her, closing my eyes.

 

“It’s the eleventh today, isn’t it?” Leila whispered quietly, the anguish in her voice unmistakable.

 

Leila didn’t need to tell me the significance of this date; I was able to fill in the blanks for myself. She had lost her parents on this day.

 

“It is.” I breathed; rubbing the small of Leila’s back gently, hating myself for leaving her to survive this on her own, knowing that I could never correct my mistake, knowing that Leila would never have abandoned me if the tables were turned.

 

Leila was quiet for a moment, but finally spoke. “It’s been two years.” She whispered so quietly that I almost didn’t hear her.

 

“I know.” I whispered into her soft hair, knowing that I would never have the right words to say, that there was nothing I could say.

 

Sighing quietly, Leila finally whispered, “Goodnight, Zayn.”

 

I squeezed my eyes shut, wanting so much for Leila’s pain to go away, for her to have her parents back, for her to have the happy life that she deserved. “Goodnight, Leila.” I replied softly.

 

There were so many things I still wanted to tell her then. I wanted to tell her that I had been blind not to see her the way I did now from the very start, that she had been the only constant in my life, even when we had been apart, that all the money and all the fame was never able to replace her and it never could, that I would give it all away just to be able to go back and change things. But there were some things I just couldn’t change, like the fact that Leila was with Harry. Just because Leila told me that she hadn’t slept with Harry didn’t mean that her feelings for him were any less. I love him, she had told me, and love didn’t just evaporate into thin air. The conviction in her voice alone when she had said it spoke volumes, slapping me across the face and telling me that I was too late.

 

“You love him, but I love you.” I found myself whispering. Hitching my breath, I realized that I had spoken aloud, my heart thudding against the walls of my chest, waiting for Leila to say something, for her to hit me, to push me out of her bed, but nothing happened. Looking down, I saw that Leila was slumbering peacefully; unaware of the world around her, the small smile on her lips suggesting that the dream she was having was much more pleasant than the last.

 

*

 

I woke to the sight of white light pouring into Leila’s room through the large windows, feeling so warm considering the bitter December cold. I blinked wearily, momentarily unsure of what I was doing there until I felt the movement of Leila’s dark hair against my face. My eyes were alert now, and the events of the previous night had come rushing back to my mind; finding out that Leila had never slept with Harry, Peaches almost ousting Leila and I, and finally, climbing into Leila’s bed when she woke up screaming. Leila’s back was against my chest, my arm slung over her waist, our hands intertwined. Sighing, I couldn’t think of any justifiable reason for me to move at all for the rest of my life. Glancing at my watch, I groaned inwardly, knowing that if I didn’t get out of bed now, I would be late meeting with my lawyer Allen.

 

Today, I would be buying Leila’s house for her, which really was the simple part. It was the idea of meeting her Grandparent’s however that frightened me to no end. I was no stranger to the world that my own Grandparents came from, my Father, being Muslim myself and I knew that regardless of how much money I threw their way, Leila’s Grandparent’s would not be enthused by any offer made by me. I had to convince them that I had Leila’s best interest at heart, that I didn’t expect anything from her, that I wasn’t the same selfish bastard that abandoned their Granddaughter years ago.

 

Carefully, I untangled my fingers from Leila’s, regretting having to be away from her soft touch. Breathing in the scent of vanilla drifting off her dark hair one last time, I quietly slid out from under the covers, getting to my feet, thinking with a smile that I had not slept this well in a long time. It was suddenly freezing, gooseflesh rising on my arms and chest as I gazed upon Leila sleeping, heavily entertaining the idea of climbing back into bed with her and telling the world that it could wait. As if on cue, my pocket began to vibrate, informing me that I had received a text message. Whipping out my BlackBerry, I saw that the message was from Allen.

 

Opening it, I began to read.

 

Zayn, I will be in Bradford in one hour. I will meet you outside the Grandparent’s house as planned. Dress well, Allen.

 

See you then. I replied quickly, stowing my mobile away.  

 

I glanced into Leila’s mirror, a slightly disheveled boy staring back at me. I was in great need of a shower and shave, and a change of clothes that covered up my tattoos well enough, I thought as I absentmindedly ran my fingers over the Arabic writing on my collarbone. Leila told me that I didn’t have to go all the way home to shower, so I had brought a few of my things over having decided to take up her offer. With one last look at Leila, I silently made my way out of her room and towards the washroom. Shutting the door behind me, I undressed, switching on the shower. Stepping into the hot stream of water, I was warm, but not quite as warm as I had been sleeping next to Leila.

 

*

 

Pulling up to the sidewalk, I squinted my eyes through the windshield, observing the man standing by his white BMW, parked just across from Leila’s Grandparent’s place. Cautiously, I hopped out of the SUV, slamming the door shut behind me. Popping my Ray-Bans on incase I was wrong; I slowly approached the man, narrowing my eyes suspiciously.

 

“Allen?” I called out to him, praying that it was my lawyer and not somebody else, somebody who would recognize me.

 

The man whirled around to face me, and it was indeed Allen. “Zayn! You’re early!” He exclaimed. Allen was in his early thirties, a relatively well dressed man who reminded me quite a bit of Jude Law in the movie Alfie, not that I’d ever admit to having watched it. Over the past two years of him handling my earnings from One Direction alongside the signing of various contracts, he had become a close friend of mine. I had called him for advice, telling him bits and pieces of the scenario regarding Leila and her house, not expecting him to volunteer his help, but leaving me relieved when he did.

 

“It’s a first, I know.” I said with a grin. “Went ahead and finally bought it?” I asked, gently patting the side of the sleek sports car, a grin still on my face. Allen had been talking about buying it non-stop since the first day I met him, deciding to hold off on going through with his plans when his wife became pregnant. 

 

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Allen grinned back. “Claire had an absolute fit when she saw it.” Allen said sheepishly, referring to his wife.

 

“How is Claire? And how’s Charlie doing?” I asked after Allen’s newborn son. “Last time I saw him I’m pretty sure he was teething.” I smiled, fondly remembering Charlie chewing on my fingers the last time I had stopped by Allen’s. I couldn’t help but fleetingly entertain the idea of Leila and me starting a family one day, me leaning my ear against her swollen belly and singing to the baby sleeping inside of it, perhaps even reading it Wuthering Heights. My cheeks grew hot at the realization of my deranged thoughts. The girl hardly tolerated me, and here I was thinking of knocking her up one day. I was losing it, and fast. I flinched, knowing that I couldn’t even have a cigarette to calm my nerves in fear that Leila’s Grandparents would smell it on me.

 

“She’s good, and Charlie’s walking now.” Allen said, a far off smile appearing on his youthful face. “More like stumbling, but it’s still amazing to see.”

 

“That’s really terrific, Allen.” I said quietly, hoping that one day I would be as happy as he was; that one day I’d be able to experience the joy that fatherhood had to offer. The only problem was that I couldn’t picture being happy or growing old for that matter with anyone but Leila.

 

“Let’s have a look at you.” Allen said, observing what I was wearing, all business once again. Looking down, I too observed myself. I had clad myself in black dress pants, a white button up dress shirt, and a maroon coloured jumper on top of it, opting out of wearing a varsity jacket of any sort or anything to remind Leila’s Grandparent’s of my boy band status.

 

“Well done mate, looking sharp.” Allen said, clapping me on the back in approval. “Now, the good news is that Leila’s Grandparents were impressed by the offer you made on the house, the only problem is that they of course don’t know it’s you who made it.” Allen informed me, lines appearing on his forehead as he raised his eyebrows.

 

“Right.” I nodded, glancing over at the white door of Leila’s Grandparent’s home and feeling my stomach begin to churn nervously.

 

“Now you’re here because they wanted to meet the buyer of the house. They don’t want to sell it to someone who doesn’t intend on living in the house or to someone who wants to break it down and build a new one or whatever, so let’s hope you haven’t made them hate you enough to not want to sell it to you.” Allen said hurriedly, brushing his fingers through his short brown hair. “If that’s the case, there’s not much I can do.”

 

“I’m just worried that they hate me enough to stop them from doing something good for their Granddaughter.” I told him, promising myself that I would try my very best to sway them, promising myself that I wouldn’t go down without a fight.

 

“Right.” Allen nodded, plucking his briefcase off the hood of his car. “Let’s do this, Malik.”

 

Allen marched valiantly down the sidewalk and towards the quaint looking home of Leila’s Grandparents, knocking on the front door confidently. “Come on!” Allen turned around and hissed at me. Groaning, I jogged over to stand beside Allen, knowing that it was the moment of truth. I bit down on my lip, running my fingers through my hair anxiously. My ears pricked at the sound of approaching footsteps and without warning, the door flew open, a small Asian lady standing in the doorway. Right away, I recognized the woman from Leila’s family photographs; Katija Sheikh, Leila’s Grandmother, her Mother’s Mother.

 

“Mrs. Sheikh, it’s a pleasure.” Allen spoke up right away. “We’re here regarding the offer my client made on your property.” Allen had smoothly avoided using my name, opting for ‘client’ instead. It was highly possible that she didn’t recognize me; after all we had never actually met before.

 

I watched as the old woman regarded us, her dark eyes narrowed. “You.” She said definitively, ignoring Allen completely, a scowl beginning to form on her face. I stood speechless, opening my mouth to say something but nothing coming out of it. To my misfortune, Leila’s Grandmother knew exactly who I was.

 

Allen looked nervously from Leila’s Grandmother to me. “Well Mrs. Sheikh, we’re here with hopes to finalize-” Allen began politely.

 

“There’s nothing to be finalized.” Katija interjected, cutting Allen off and turning her gaze onto me. “Haven’t you done enough damage already? Can’t you just leave our family alone?” She spat at me, jabbing me in the chest with her index finger, her wild grey hair flying out of her bun.

 

Allen began to speak, but I held up my hand to stop him from going on. “Please, Auntie.” Allen watched on in horror as I spoke, his eyes bulging out of his head. “Give me a chance to explain myself.” I pleaded. It was evident that this woman hated me with every fiber of her being, leaving me all the more determined to not leave without the deed to Leila’s house.

 

“Why should I?” The old woman exclaimed. “Haven’t you done enough damage already?” She was outright yelling now. I could definitely see who Leila inherited her argumentativeness from.

 

“Because we both care about Leila’s well being.” I told her firmly, refusing to look like a coward in the presence of this overbearing woman. I was more than certain that she would respect me more for it later. “And you owe it to Leila to at least listen to what I have to offer.” I added, raising my eyebrows in earnest.

 

A smug look appeared on the woman’s face. “Fine.” She said in the most condescending manner she could muster, a smirk forming on her lips. “Let us hear what you have to say Mr. Pop Star.” She emphasized the last bit and turned on her heel, strutting down the hallway, the door left wide open for Allen and I to follow her in.

 

Allen turned to me, his blue eyes wide, a sheen of sweat having appeared on his forehead. “I’m scared.” He whispered hoarsely.

 

“You should be.” I told him definitively, knowing better than to underestimate the wrath of angry Pakistani seniors. Stepping into the quaint little home of Leila’s Grandparents, it felt quite like I was entering shark infested waters instead.

 

*

 

Allen and I sat uncomfortably on the plush, sunken in sofa, our eyes landing anywhere but on the strict old man staring at us over his newspaper in displeasure. I made the mistake of stealing a glance at Leila’s Grandfather. The man’s lower lip was curled in disgust, a prominent scowl on his face, his eyes boring into mine. He was quite fair for someone of Pakistani descent, his complexion almost equivalent to mine, and his eyes a light brown. It was likely that far up the line, Leila’s family like many others, had some English injected into it during the almost three-hundred year British rule over India. Averting my eyes nervously, I found myself gazing upon the mahogany hutch on our left, recognizing the familiar photo of Leila and her parents on holiday in Hawaii that had been stuck on the fridge in Leila’s London apartment. Distantly, I remembered my promise to them; that I would take care of Leila. And I would, I thought fleetingly..

 

Leila’s Grandmother walked into the room, disrupting my train of thought. For a woman of at least eighty, she was anything but frail, carrying a heavy looking platter of tea and desserts for Allen and me. Her gaze flickered towards me before returning it to the coffee table she was approaching. Carefully, she began to place the platter on the table, my eyes widening as one of the dishes began to slide off of it. I reflexively caught the plate of vibrantly orange Jalebis, holding it dumbly in my hands, Leila’s Grandmother letting out a delayed gasp.

 

She was staring at me, her mouth agape, the platter still in her hands and the plate of Jalebis in mine. Placing the platter down onto the coffee table, she took the plate from my hands. Her gaze flickered to me as she placed the Jalebis onto the table. “Thank-you.” She said with a nod, turning on her heel and sitting gracefully in the red loveseat across from us.

 

“You’re welcome.” I said quietly, nodding politely at her.

 

We were then sitting in complete silence, the clock tick-tocked awkwardly in the background. Leila’s Grandmother was watching me with narrowed eyes, drumming her fingers musically against the arm rest of the chair she sat in. Oh how I longed for a cigarette.

 

“So talk.” Katija said with a smirk, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

I turned to Allen who was chewing loudly on one of the Jalebis that I had rescued, seemingly enjoying himself. It was apparent that I was alone on this one, but I preferred it that way. It was up to me and me alone to prove to them that I truly cared for Leila's well being. I turned back to Katija, swallowing hard.

 

“I would like to buy Leila’s home for her.” I said, looking from Leila’s Grandmother to her Grandfather. He was still glowering at me, evidently unimpressed. I gulped, returning my gaze to Katija.

 

“You’re telling me that you will buy this house for Leila, and expect nothing in return?” Katija exclaimed sarcastically, the fine lines on her face becoming more pronounced.

 

“Yes.” I said firmly. “That’s exactly what I’m telling you.” I held her gaze.

 

Katija scoffed deeply, brushing down the fine grey hairs flying out from her bun. “Boys like you always expect something.” She eyed me callously. “I do not want my granddaughter to be indebted to anyone, especially you.” She cruelly emphasized the last two words of her statement.

 

I could feel Allen jab me in the ribs with his elbow, warning me to tread carefully. Ignoring him, I breathed deeply before speaking. “If anyone is indebted, it’s me…to Leila.” The old woman’s expression changed momentarily, appearing to be not as cold as before. “Leila has forgiven me,” I paused. “And allowed me back into her life. She’s let me be her friend even though she’s had every reason not to. I owe everything to her, my success, the life I have today! This is the very least I can do to repay her!” I was trying to hard to control myself, gripping the arm rest of the sofa.

 

Leila’s Grandmother sipped her tea thoughtfully. “Are you in love with my Granddaughter, beta?” Her eyebrows raised, her eyes narrowing. “Or are you in love with how she looks when she undresses on stage?” She said, giving me a cruel smile.

 

My face flushed angrily. This woman knew nothing of my feelings for Leila, how deep they ran, how long and drawn out they were, how they had absolutely nothing to do with her career at Victory. She knew nothing about how moronic I felt for not knowing exactly what I felt before, how shitty it felt to see Harry with Leila, making her happy when all I managed to do was make her miserable. “I don’t want to buy Leila’s love, I want to earn it.” I exclaimed loudly, completely losing my composure.

 

“Buying her love is exactly what you’re doing!” Katija spat, placing her tea down onto the table roughly.

 

I was about to reply when Allen interjected, his blue eyes shining. “Actually Mrs. Sheikh, Zayn does not want anything of the sort.” He said, handing her a document across the table. “The contract you have there in your hands is called a non-disclosure agreement. If the sale were to go through, it would guarantee your silence on the matter of Zayn purchasing the house in Leila’s name, while it would also prevent you or your husband from sharing the knowledge that this meeting ever took place.” Allen concluded, shooting me a sideways glance.

 

Katija looked to her husband incredulously.

 

“Truly, why are you doing this?” She turned back to me. “Why?” She asked vehemently.

 

“Because I love your granddaughter.” I exclaimed passionately. My heart was thumping erratically in my chest. There was no going back from this. Leila’s Grandparents knew now, knew that Leila had my heart. “And if you do too, you’ll say yes to this deal.” I implored.

 

Katija glared at me hatefully. “No. I won’t do it!” She said, tossing the non-disclosure agreement onto the table. “I won’t agree to this!”

 

I allowed my head to fall in my hands, certain that I had failed Leila. I was always failing her, always failing her.

  

“I’ll do it.” A gruff voice emerged from my right. I raised my head slowly, only to see that I hadn’t been imagining it. Leila’s Grandfather’s light brown eyes were locked with mine.

 

“Haider!” Leila’s Grandmother exclaimed her husband’s name angrily. “You can’t!”

 

Leila’s Grandfather was still staring at me, his expression unreadable. “Give me a pen.” He told Allen, his eyes only leaving mine for a moment.

 

Allen scrambled through his briefcase, unearthing a pen and another set of documents. Getting to his feet, he crossed the pale pink living room to where Haider was sitting, plucking the non-disclosure agreement from the coffee table as he went.

 

“Haider!” Katija exclaimed once more, attempting to get her husband’s attention.

 

“Enough, Katija!” Haider growled, turning to his wife. “The boy is right!” He exclaimed, tossing his newspaper onto the coffee table roughly.

 

Allen cautiously crouched down next to Haider, handing him the pen and the two documents he had prepared for the transfer of the house. “Sign here, and here, Mr. Sheikh.” Allen said, indicating where Haider had to sign. Haider, plucking the pen from Allen’s grasp, messily signed both documents on the dotted line. Allen looked up at me, a wide grin on his face.

 

“Thank-you, sir.” I said to Haider, finally finding my voice, still in shock that it had been Leila’s Grandfather of all people to come through for her. I had remembered Leila telling me that she had always thought that her Grandfather wasn’t particularly fond of her, but perhaps she had been wrong.

 

“I didn’t do it for you.” Haider said, his light brown eyes drilling into mine.

 

I extended my hand to Leila’s Grandfather, eternally grateful to him. “I know.” I told him, thinking that perhaps there was more to Leila’s Grandfather than I originally thought as he took my hand and shook it.

 

*

 

After bidding Allen farewell, I was parked a few meters away from my own house, watching as a handful of fans mulled about outside. Normally, I would’ve gone to greet them, but I didn’t want anyone to know that I was in Bradford; at least for the time being. Finding me meant finding Leila, and that was simply not an option. I smiled to myself, thinking of the fact that Leila now owned her home, the last reminder of her parents. For the first time, I felt proud of myself, proud that I had finally made some sort of grand gesture for Leila, although she didn’t know it, and she didn’t have to. What mattered was that she would be happy. That was enough for me, it always would be.

 

The group of girls were chatting jovially to each other, so I decided to attempt waiting them out. I leaned my head against the head rest, allowing myself to be absorbed in the music, Ed Sheeran’s ‘The A-Team’ spilling out of the car’s speakers. This song had always reminded me of Leila ever since I had run into her at Victory, the last place I would ever have expected to see her. It is true what they say; life truly does work in strange ways. All I knew was that it was me who contributed to Leila straying from the path she had planned out for herself, and it would be me who would help her get back on it.

 

White lips, pale face

Breathing in snowflakes

Burnt lungs, sour taste

Light's gone, day's end

Struggling to pay rent

Long nights, strange men

 

And they say

She's in the Class A-Team

Stuck in her daydream

Been this way since eighteen

But lately her face seems

Slowly sinking, wasting

Crumbling like pastries

And they scream

The worst things in life come free to us

Cuz we're just under the upper hand

And go mad for a couple grams

And she don't wanna go outside tonight

And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland

Or sells love to another man

It's too cold outside

For angels to fly

Angels to fly

 

I watched as the group of girls carefully placed a few luxuriously wrapped gifts on my doorstep before heading off in the opposite direction and out of the cul-de-sac. Unbuckling my seatbelt, I switched off the ignition, hopping out of the car. Approaching my house, I scanned the neighborhood carefully to make sure that it was deserted. A frigid gust of wind blew as I climbed the porch, causing the string of Christmas lights hanging above the doorway to rattle. Gathering the gifts the girls had left, I thrust my key into the door, quickly entering the warmth of my house, awkwardly kicking off my shoes.

 

“Mum?” I called out, tossing my keys onto the entrance table. It didn’t sound like any of my sisters were home. Usually it was quite easy to tell by their loud music, occasional shrieks, and a pile up of shoes by the front door.

 

“In the kitchen!” I heard my mother distantly yell.

 

I began to head to the kitchen, but stopping in my tracks when I saw our vibrantly glowing living room from the corner of my eye. Popping my head inside, I saw a gigantic tree was placed in the corner of the mahogany coloured room, already littered with ornaments as well as presents neatly tucked under its branches. Stepping inside, I walked over to the gigantic evergreen, placing the presents that the girls had left underneath it, an idea beginning to form in my mind. A smile appeared on my face as I observed the mantle place, already lined with Patricia, Doniya, Waliyha, Zayn, and Saffa stockings.

 

“How kind of you to grace us with your presence, Zayn.” I turned around to see my Mother leaning on the side of the doorway, a smile on her lips. “I was starting to think you’d forgotten about us.” She said, entering in the room and collapsing on the brown leather sofa with a sigh.

 

“It’s a long story…” I said trailing off, walking over to join my Mother on the couch. Settling in on the plush cushions, I wracked my mind for a way to explain it all to my Mother; Leila, the past eight months, just everything basically. I gazed at the white lights of the Christmas tree, thinking of how exactly to begin.

 

“Might it have anything to do with Leila?” My Mother said, a smug, all-knowing expression on her face.

 

My eyes grew so wide I thought they were going to fall out of my head and roll right onto the hard wood floor. “What are you talking about?” My heart thumped erratically in my chest. How would my Mum know anything about Leila?

 

My Mother rolled her eyes dramatically. “Did you really think I wouldn’t remember her?” She said, raising her eyebrows at me expectantly.

 

I felt my mouth hanging agape. “Well,” I began. “I just, I never brought her round! I didn’t even think you’d remember her!” I exclaimed, finding it hard to believe that my Mother had known about Leila the entire time without even telling me. This left me left me quite sure that my Mother probably knew that I was smoking again.

 

“I know all of my son’s friends.” She said, patting my knee gently, a mischievous smile on her face. “I admit it though; I didn’t recognize her at first when I saw her in the photographs with Harry. She was such a tomboy before, really!” My Mother exclaimed happily.

 

A slow smile appeared on my lips as I pictured Leila as she had looked in primary school and even high school, her go-to outfit being a baggy pair of jeans and a jumper. “I never thought I’d see a day where Leila would be walking around in a pair of high heels.” I said with a laugh, shaking my head to myself.

 

My Mother gave me a small smile. “Leila’s not the girl you went to school with anymore, sweetheart.” She paused. “She’s a woman now, Zayn.” My Mother said this as if I didn’t know it already.

 

I leaned back on the couch, the leather cushions sighing under my weight. “I know, Mum.” I rubbed my eyes wearily, not sure of where I was supposed to go from there.

 

“If I remember correctly, Leila is the girl that you stopped hanging around with when she told you she fancied you.” My Mother was observing me with interest as she asked me this, her eyebrow corked upwards.

 

“That was the stupidest thing I’ve probably ever done in my entire life, Mum.” I told her quietly, letting my face fall into my hands in defeat. I was beginning to think that there was no way, no way at all that I could leave this situation with Leila’s heart again, with her trust. The chance I had with Leila was gone. I had torn her heart to bits and scattered it to the wind, or worse yet, I had put it right in Harry’s welcoming hands.

 

I felt my Mother’s soothing touch on the crown of my head. Through it all, the fame, the money, the paparazzi, my Mother had been there for me, her opinion of me completely unchanging, and I couldn’t help but feel the same with Leila. With her I felt so at ease, so like myself. Leila made me want to be a better person, a better man. She brought out the best in me, and thinking back over the years, perhaps she always had.

 

“It’s not too late to change things you know.” My Mother sing-songed gently.

 

I lifted my head from my hands. “It’s not?” I asked her. The wind was howling outside, there would assuredly be a storm tonight, not that it was strange for Bradford.

 

“It’s never too late, Zayn.” My Mother said, the Christmas lights reflecting in her eyes as she smiled.

 

A/N: Continue on to part II of Open Your Eyes! Thanks for reading and please review! xo

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