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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8. There's No Place Like Home

I’m In Love with a Stripper:

 

Chapter Eight: There’s No Place Like Home

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

 

I secured my scarf around my neck tightly, shivering as another gust of the bitter December wind blew through the London Underground. It was the last day of the fall semester at Westminster University and I had just written my final exams for literature and maths. Although I most likely achieved decent marks in both courses, I could not help but think I would have faired even better if not for the persistent whispering.

 

“Isn’t she shagging Harry Styles?” I heard one girl so graciously put it while sitting behind me in class. Some had even gone to the lengths of photographing me (I tried to smile when I could); during our lessons with their mobiles, in the cafeteria while waiting in line for coffee, and most disturbingly, while in the loo. Shortly after the girl took a picture of me, she initiated stall-to-stall banter by asking me if I had a Tampax to spare. Luckily I had an extra. The potential lawyer in me proposed a deal with the girl. If she deleted the incredibly unfortunate picture of me rushing into the washroom with a full bladder and desperate-to-find-an-empty-stall-without-piss-on-the-seat expression on my face, I would give her the tampon in return.

 

The girl hesitated, but fear of the flood gates remaining indefinitely open resulted in her agreeing to my terms. “Right, you have got yourself a deal!” She agreed exasperatedly. No self-respecting woman could have declined at that point of desperation.

 

“It was very nice doing business with you!” I rejoiced deviously, handing her the sacred feminine product underneath the door. “And you know, I don’t mind you taking pictures of me, just not when I’m ready to piss myself!” I told her good naturedly before exiting my stall, going to wash my hands.

 

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I heard her mutter as I went to leave the loo altogether.

 

I looked up as the sound of the approaching tube reached my ears. Even now I could see from the corner of my eye someone observing me curiously, looking back and forth from their newspaper to me in awe. I let my gaze fall on the girl, causing her to quickly look away, flustered. With my own Metro newspaper clenched in my cold hands, I would see for myself what she had been reading. The train finally came to a swift halt and the doors swung open, its inhabitants rushing past those of us waiting. Quickly making my way inside, I managed to secure a vacant seat, still warm from the person who had been occupying it before. Setting down my things, I began to furiously flip through the newspaper, passing the world news and even the horoscopes until I reached the entertainment section. I felt my jaw drop in shock.

 

Dedicated to Harry and I was a two page spread, titled: TROUBLE IN PARADISE FOR ‘HEILA’? I was mortified. We even had a portmanteau now?! I remembered thinking that Brangelina had been funny at one time, but now I really thought otherwise. On the far left of the article was a photograph of me entering Victory clutching a warm cup of coffee between my hands while next to that was one of Harry smiling and chatting with a girl, and a very pretty one at that. Apparently it had been taken in Sweden where the boys had been recording songs for their new album for the past four months or so. I closed my eyes in meditation, attempting to gather my feelings on the matter. I would be lying if I said the photo didn’t bother me to some degree, but I’d also be lying if I said it bothered me a great deal. After all, I hadn’t exactly been the perfect girlfriend myself when referring to certain scandalous events.

 

I thought back to the last night I had properly seen Harry. It had been at Simon’s party which in turn ended up being a big night for ‘Heila’ (for the lack of a better word) in more than one sense. For starters, Harry and I had been exposed by the paparazzi as a couple when they had caught us departing from Simon’s Holland Park manor hand in hand. And then when we reached my flat, Harry had wanted to get…intimate, to take our relationship to the next level.

 

I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat at the memory.

 

Harry Styles was as attractive as a male could get, and yet there I found myself unable to go through with it. The shame had only festered since then, the reason for me rejecting Harry being none other than Zayn Jawaad Malik, my former best friend as well as the cause of all my problems. How had the boy from my past in Bradford so effortlessly gotten under my skin once again? Why, oh why could I not shake him? …His stupid smoldering gaze, his ridiculous assortment of varsity jackets, and his stupid annoying face on the whole. Not only did he irritate me so, but he couldn’t even leave me be in my dreams.

 

Right here.” I flinched at the memory, still so clear in my mind that I could hear it. Why hadn’t I thrown myself onto the tracks when I had the chance?

 

Unable to mull over the situation any longer, I began to read the article.

 

TROUBLE IN PARADISE FOR ‘HEILA’?

 

Sorry ladies, thus far One Direction’s Harry Styles still appears to be taken, but for how much longer exactly? While girlfriend Leila Karim has remained at home in the UK for the past eight months since One Direction departed for their tour of Australia and New Zealand, Harry and co. have just concluded recording part of their newest album in Sweden. Curiously, Miss Karim has not visited her boyfriend, who happens to be one of the most sought after men in all of England (yes, even surpassing Collin Firth) if not the world. This calls into question, if something is perhaps amiss? Does absence truly make the heart grow fonder?

 

In April, Harry and Leila were finally exposed as a couple when they were spotted leaving X-Factor creator Simon Cowell’s Holland Park mansion, a fact that would eventually have faired well with ‘Directioners’ if not for the fact that Leila works as a stripper when not attending the University of Westminster. Some fans found Leila’s occupation even worse than the notorious age gaps between Harry Styles and some of his former flames. Although Leila has received quite a bit of backlash from fans, her place of work, Victory Strip-Club located in the low end of Central London has only prospered, owing its new found popularity to Leila’s high profile relationship. Victory Strip-Club is currently undergoing renovations and is set to reopen this Friday. And as for ‘Heila’, it’s very possible that the ship that is Harry Styles and Leila Karim may soon be going under its own renovations as well.

 

Looking out into the darkness of the tunnels, I knew very well that there was some truth to the article. I thought back on the previous eight months. At first Harry and I had been doing so well, Skyping every other night and texting when we weren’t. Slowly but surely however, our contact had become less and less frequent with all the commitments to One Direction that he had, the last time I heard from him being over a week ago. I supposed that all the beautiful Australian, Kiwi, and Swedish girls also proved to be rather distracting for not only Harry, but likely for all the members of One Direction.

 

Finding myself in a sour mood, I turned the page of the newspaper in search of the funnies, only to come face to face with the bane of my existence instead, which really wasn’t funny at all. I gritted my teeth, feeling my face flush with anger. Was nowhere safe from the presence of Zayn Malik? I found myself staring at the photograph of him with the girl I remembered from Simon’s party, the Tracey clone, leaving me shaking with fury and seething.

 

IS LOVE IN THE AIR FOR ZAYN MALIK? The article was titled, causing me to scoff at their penchant for originality, or lack thereof more like it. Just below the photograph was a small blurb:

 

Photographed above is One Direction member Zayn Malik departing from a Swedish bar with small-time model Fiona Applebee while Niall Horan can also be seen leaving with new girlfriend Charlotte Spencer, best-friend of Fiona Applebee and fellow model. We’re thinking Fayn or Ziona, but we’ll leave it up to our lovely readers to decide what we shall deem this blossoming couple. After all, they’re the ones who conjured up Narlotte.

 

“The next station is Brixton.” A soft female voice spoke over the intercom as the train came to a stop. I got to my feet, Brixton was my stop. Crumpling the newspaper between my palms, I threw the mashed up ball into the rubbish bin. Climbing the damp stairs towards the light, I found myself thinking that neither Fayn nor Ziona were that hysterical, really.

 

*

 

Closing the door of my apartment behind me, I walked over to my newly installed house phone, pressing the play button of the answering machine which was flashing a digital ‘1 NEW’ in red. Hopefully it was a real message for me instead of just another request for an interview by the numerous British tabloids.

 

“Hello Leila, it’s your Nanni calling.” I froze, halfway through unzipping my coat at the sound of my Grandmother’s thick Pakistani accent. “We miss you…” Her voice trailed off.

 

I began to feel my throat closing up at the sound of her voice. Although I was hearing it from right next to me, it felt so distant, from a far away place and time buried deep in my memories.

 

“We want you to come home for the holidays…come home to Bradford, come home to us, please…it’s been a year since we last saw you, Leila,” She pleaded, her voice cracking. “Call us back soon…we love you.” The message ended.

 

I almost felt my mask slip, the cold and unfeeling mask that I had worked so hard to maintain. I grasped at my chest, trying to hold myself together, a small sob escaping my lips. I allowed it to pass, letting the pain wash over me until it dulled. They were delusional if they thought I would ever step foot back in Bradford…there was no way.

 

I had not had any contact with my Grandparents since I had left Bradford on my eighteenth birthday. Being around them was too painful, too much of a reminder of my parents; not to mention the fact that we had completely different beliefs from one another. To them, I was a bad Muslim. To them I had lost my way. But really, losing my way had everything to do with losing two of the most important people in my life. My Grandmother had told me to have faith, to attend Mosque regularly, that I would find peace. To be honest, peace was that last thing I wanted and the last thing I deserved. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had even stepped inside a Mosque, but all I could recall was ever feeling when I did suffocation. And I wasn’t all bad; I still didn’t eat pork out of habit. 

 

Discarding my coat and purse on the sofa, I grabbed the clicker and switched on the tele. I had left it on MTV which suited me fine; I would listen to music as I prepared my supper. Heading into the kitchen, I opened up the fridge, corking my eyebrow upwards at the lack of food that there was in it. Beans on toast it was! I popped a piece of bread into the toaster hoping to God that it wouldn’t burn as it chose to do on some occasions. Next, I struggled valiantly with the can opener which never seemed to cooperate well with my left-handedness.

 

After a few tries, I finally managed to pry the can open.

 

“Ha, I win!” I told the wretched kitchen utensil with a laugh.

 

Buttering my toast, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Give Me Love’ was playing, drifting softly into the kitchen. I hummed along with it as I popped the beans into the microwave to warm them up.

 

My my, my my give me love, lover.

My my, my my give me love, lover.

 

I stirred milk and sugar into my tea, openly singing along with Ed.

 

My my, my my give me love!

My my, my my, give me love!

 

“And after a long wait…we have…performing at Madison…!” I heard the muffled voice of the announcer state excitedly.

 

Plopping an enormous heap of beans onto my toast, my head shot up when I heard the voice, his voice, unmistakable amongst the cheers of the crowd.

 

Baby, I don’t want a lot for Christmas… The voice sang sweetly, sounding all too much like an angel.

 

Floating out into the living room, I abandoned my beans, toast, and tea without a second thought. Approaching the television slowly, I could already see him, a wide grin on his face as he looked out into the crowd, clad in a red and green Christmas sweater. It was him. It was Zayn. I quickly pinched my cheek to see if I was dreaming.

 

There is just one thing I need.

I don't care about the presents…

Underneath the Christmas tree.

 

His clear voice echoed cheerfully, the crowd of girls unrelenting in their screams. Zayn took a moment to take it all in, his smile infectious. I fell to my knees, my eyes glued to the screen.

 

I just want you for my own…

More than you could ever know!

Make my wish come true…

All I want for Christmas,

Is you!

 

Zayn’s eyes focused on the camera as he pointed towards the audience of Madison Square Garden, as if he was pointing at me through the screen of my tele. I felt my breath catch in my throat, my hand flying to my chest as I felt it begin to ache. There was an explosion of light and an eruption of fake snow as Harry began to sing. Unable to process the rest of the performance, I sat silently thinking that even if I didn’t go back to Bradford, it wouldn’t make a difference, because no matter how hard I had tried to resist it, Bradford had already come back to me.

 

Zayn’s P.O.V:

 

Taking a large gulp of whiskey straight out of the bottle, I plunked it down on the bedside table. For the past two days since our performance at Madison Square Garden, I had barricaded myself in my hotel room in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, drinking myself into a stupor and eating whatever was available in the mini-bar. Ignoring the determined knocks at the door of Niall, Liam, Fiona, and the others, I hadn’t even left my room to shower. Lifting up my arm, I sniffed myself gingerly, thinking I didn’t smell half bad considering I had performed on stage and sweated buckets.

 

Reaching for my iPod, I scrolled through the list of songs, finding that only Ed Sheeran could successfully capture exactly how suicidal I was feeling. Shoving the iPod into the hotel provided iDock, the sound of ‘Give Me Love’s’ delicate guitar accompaniment reached my ears.

 

Give me love like her,

'Cause lately I've been waking up alone.

Paint spotted tear drops on my shirt,

Told you I'd let them go.

 

I hadn’t seen Leila in eight months…eight months, and still I found myself thinking of her and only her; her wide brown eyes, her pillowy pink lips, the soft curve of her hips, her thick black hair. What was she doing right now? Did she ever think of me? After what I had seen the morning of our departure for Australia, I knew that the only person she was thinking of was Harry. The last I had seen of Leila was her saying goodbye to Harry in the hallway of her apartment, him thanking her for having him overnight. Just the thought of Harry touching Leila…kissing her… and I was blinded with a combination of rage, frustration, and self-hatred. I had had a chance with this girl years ago, in fact more than a chance. I had won her heart, and I threw it away, and for what exactly? Because I was shallow, because I had to date the most sought after girl at our school, and most of all because I was a coward. Leila deserved better, much better. I took another swig of whiskey. Someone that would make her happy, someone that would keep her heart safe, not break it.

 

And I'll fight my corner,

Maybe tonight I'll call ya,

After my blood turns into alcohol,

No I just wanna hold ya.

 

I began to sing along under my breath.

 

Give a little time to me; we'll burn this out,

We'll play hide and seek, to turn this around,

All I want is the taste that your lips allow,

 

My my, my my oh give me love,

My my, my my oh give me love,

 

Give me love like never before,

'Cause lately I've been craving more.

And it's been a while but I still feel the same,

Maybe I should let you go

 

Wasn’t that the truth? It had been a great deal of time, and I still felt the exact same. Nothing had changed. Each time I had thought of the night in the limousine, I had an overwhelming urge to book the next flight out of wherever I was at the time, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and now New York. I could have been anywhere, and the only place I wanted to be was next to Leila.

 

My eyelids began to grow heavy, but I was startled awake by loud banging at the door.

 

“FUCK OFF!” I yelled at whoever was knocking, angry that I had been so rudely awakened. I hadn’t opened the door in two days, and didn’t intend on opening it now.

 

“Room service!” A high voice sang from outside my door.

 

As if on command, my stomach growled at the thought of food, real food, not the crap I had been rationing throughout the past two days from the mini-bar. Sighing deeply, I hopped out of bed.

 

“I’m coming, I’m coming.” I said, wrapping one of the hotel’s towels around my waist, not bothered enough to actually put on trousers.

 

My hand hovered over the door knob in hesitation, but finally my stomach got the better of me and I opened the door slowly, planning on peaking around the corner of it. The door was pushed open roughly from outside, swinging to hit me in the face, Niall barging into my room.

 

“Oi!” I yelped, my hand flying to my face. “You dirty little prick! You’re not room service!” I yelled accusingly as Niall shoved me back into the room, shutting the door behind him.

 

Niall stared at me shaking his head. “Look at you, Zayn. You’re a mess.”

 

“Yeah, I know I’m pathetic, thanks for the reminder.” I spat bitterly as I walked back to my bed, collapsing on it.

 

Niall gazed at me, clearly sorry for my predicament.

 

“You’ve got it bad, hey?” He said, making his way to my bed and sitting on the end of it.

 

I took another swig of whiskey, flinching at the dull burn it left as it made its way down to my stomach. “I’m all fucked up, Niall. It’s been eight months, and I’m still…” I trailed off, shaking my head.

 

“You still love her.” Niall finished my sentence.

 

I let my silence confirm his statement, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Lego House’ beginning to play quietly in the background.

 

We sat in silence for a moment before Niall spoke up. “You should take some time for yourself Zayn, go home, see your family…”

 

“Yeah, maybe I’ll do that…” I agreed sullenly. I had to go home for the holidays anyways, what were a couple more days? “Thanks mate…for everything.” I told Niall sincerely, knowing fully the great weight he bore by keeping knowledge of Leila and I a secret.

 

“You’d do the same for me.” Niall said with a smile. “Now go on, have a shower, you smell worse than my farts.” Niall scrunched up his face as he stood up.

 

“I thought it wasn’t too bad!” I told him with a grin, referring to my filth.

 

The talk with Niall had made me feel immensely better, and had even managed to leave me looking forward to returning to Bradford. I thought of Bradford’s grey skies and tendency of rain, realizing just how much I missed it. It’s true what they say; there really is no place like home.

 

*

 

The unforgiving cold of December in New York nipped at my fingers as I attempted to light a cigarette. I flicked at the switch of my lighter, once, twice, and it finally caught onto the bottom of my fag. Moving it between my lips, I could finally feel myself begin to warm up as the smoke entered my lungs. I was up on top of the roof of the Waldorf-Astoria, gazing out at the snow covered streets below. We were flying back to the UK later that night, so I thought I’d take in at least a little bit the ‘city that never slept’ having locked myself away for two days.

 

My ears pricked as I heard the heavy metal door to the roof creaking open, soft footsteps padding through the snow, approaching me.

 

“Zayn?” I heard Fiona’s voice from behind me.

 

I turned around to face her momentarily before looking back out into the distance. “Hey, Fiona.” I said, trying not to sound too dismissive even though I was miserable.

 

“What’re you doing up here?” She asked, coming to stand beside me.

 

I turned to look at the girl, realizing that what I had done to Leila three years ago, I was doing to Fiona now. I hadn’t done anything to provoke her feelings whatsoever, I hadn’t even spoken to her all that much, but I knew how she felt, and for that I was sorry.

 

“Just having a smoke.” I told her, falling silent, not really sure of what else to say.

 

A moment passed before she turned her blue eyes onto me. “You don’t fancy me, do you?” It was a question, but she said it in a way that told me she already knew the answer. I tossed my cigarette onto the ground, smashing it into the concrete.

 

The media had paired Fiona and I together, regardless of the fact that we had never been seen kissing, holding hands, nothing. They’d do anything to sell more magazines, even if it involved stretching the truth much further than was called for.

“You’re a nice girl, Fiona.” I told her looking up to face her. She was starring back at me, tears already forming in her eyes. “I have feelings for someone, Fiona; I have for a long time.” I explained quietly, letting my mind drift back over the years, the memories of Leila and I.

 

I heard Fiona let out a soft laugh, shaking her head as she chuckled.

 

“What?” I asked her smirking; wondering what could possibly be funny about what I had said.

 

“It’s just a relief,” Fiona said, still shaking her blonde head to herself. “There’s nothing wrong with me, it’s you there’s something wrong with.”

 

I found myself smiling thinking that she wasn’t so dim after all. There certainly was something wrong with me. I found myself never having agreed with her more than in that precise moment.

 

“Can I bum a smoke?” Fiona asked after a few moments.

 

Handing her a cigarette, I tucked another into my mouth, lighting mine and then passing the lighter over to her. The two of us stood there for a while, watching the sun set over New York, thinking of the people we wanted that would never want us back.

 

Leila’s P.O.V:

 

Tonight was the reopening of the newly renovated Victory strip-club. The entire club had been revamped from top to bottom, looking nothing like it did before. It would have been fine if just the appearance of the club had been changed, however to the misfortune of Kitty and I, the internal affairs of Victory had been affected as well. Victory was now under new management, our beloved Tommy having disappeared without a trace. I felt that a huge part of this had been my fault, but it was too late to do anything about it now.

 

I generously applied rouge to my cheeks, struggling to blink with the weight of the false eyelashes weighing down my eyelids. Every Friday for the next month, we would be choosing a time era to represent in our strip routines, the first Friday (the night of our reopening) being the roaring 20s. I was dressed as a flapper, wearing a blood red corset and matching panties, my hair styled into lose finger waves like the women of that time while my lips were slathered in the darkest red lipstick I could find at the drug store. As a final touch, I went to clasp a pearl necklace around my neck that I had picked up at Forever21 when I heard a knock at the door.

 

“Come in!” I said, still struggling to clasp the necklace.

 

In my mirror, I saw a man enter my room. I let my arms fall to my sides, the pearl necklace forgotten.

 

I turned around to face the man. He was tall and handsome with dark hair and kind blue eyes, likely in his mid to late thirties.

 

“How can I help you?” I asked out loud, trying not to panic at the random man’s presence in my dressing room.

 

The man observed me silently before answering, his blue eyes taking in each and every bit of me. “I’m Clive,” the man uncrossed his arms from behind his back and began to approach me. “I’m your new manager.”

 

“Oh!” I exclaimed standing up from my seat, regretting my initial hostility. “I’m Leila or ‘Bambi’,” I said with a smile, forming quotations with my hands, “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”

 

“And you.” Clive said, sticking out his hand.

 

Taking it in mine, I shook it.

 

“Need some help with that?” Clive said, nodding to the pearl necklace I had discarded on my vanity, a small smile playing upon his lips.

 

“Yes, actually!” I told him, wishing Tommy well, but happy that Clive seemed quite agreeable. “I’ve been having such trouble with it!”

 

Sitting down on the stool of my vanity, I handed him the pearl necklace. I watched him in the mirror as he located the necklace’s clasp.

 

“So,” Clive began. “I notice that you only agree to go topless, why is that?” He asked, putting the pearls around my neck.

 

“Well I mean, stripping is already demeaning enough as it is.” I told him with a laugh.

 

Suddenly I felt the pearls pull tight across my throat, cutting off my airway. I began to thrash around, choking, desperate for air. Clive held the pearls in place, his face red from the exertion of pinning me down.

 

“You will take everything off from now on.” He said, making eye contact with me in the mirror, my eyes wide in horror. “Understood, love?”

 

I could feel myself beginning to lose consciousness. I nodded desperately. The pearls tightened for an instant, but then they were gone. I gasped for air, coughing in between deep breaths, gagging at points. My eyes watered as I continued to cough, holding onto the vanity for support.

 

“Well, I’m glad we sorted that out.” Clive said genially, brushing off his hands. “I look forward to seeing you on stage, Bambi…all of you.” He said before stalking off.

I was still coughing and sputtering as I heard the door open and then slam shut behind him.

 

Finally catching my breath after a few minutes, I was able to look into the mirror. My mascara had smudged everywhere and around my neck was the unmistakable imprint of the pearl necklace. I began to sob as I ran my fingers over the indents on my neck, knowing that I had no other choice but to get out of there, and fast. I looked to the doorway desperately. There was no way I could leave through the front, Clive would see me. I looked towards the window, knowing that it was my only way out of Victory. If I didn’t go now, there was a chance I’d never be able to leave again.

 

Jumping to my feet, I gathered my things, wildly shoving them into my purse. Struggling, I pushed the Victorian sofa to the window, climbing up onto it and opening the window, the cool air hitting my face. Tossing my purse into the alleyway behind Victory, I heaved myself out of the window, landing on my ankle badly, rolling it. Hissing in pain, I secured my purse over my shoulder and began to run despite the pain, not stopping until I reached the entrance to the underground. I had to get to my apartment and pack. There was no way of knowing if Clive knew where I lived or not, and I didn’t plan on taking that chance. As it turned out, I would be going to Bradford after all.

 

*

 

I stood outside of my Grandparent’s home, running my fingers over the chipped white paint of the front door. 3847. I read the numbers over and over, my heart beginning to race. I never thought that I’d be reading those familiar numbers again, never thought I’d be standing outside this door again. Turning around, I took one more look at my surroundings, finding it so difficult to believe that I was truly here.

 

Bradford. I breathed the moist air deep into my lungs, fresh after it had stopped raining.

 

Coming off the bus, I had walked the cobblestone streets in a daze, walking past the long strip of stores I used to frequent all the time. The video store where I’d rent films, the candy shop, the comic book store where I’d accompany Zayn, while others were no longer there, wooden boards covering their windows. I had stood there for a while, just staring, letting the rain soak my hair. Now I found myself standing here, with every instinct to run and never come back.

 

Hesitating for a moment, I finally lifted my hand, knocking lightly before I changed my mind.

 

I pressed my ear against the door, listening. It wasn’t too late to run. I could catch the ferry to France, I could go anywhere, I thought fleetingly, my thoughts interrupted when the door flew open.

 

My Grandmother stood staring at me in disbelief, her warm brown eyes observing me curiously as if she thought she was imagining my presence. She looked older now, the lines in her face far more pronounced than they used to be, and her hair which she would always dye the deepest black she could find left grey. 

 

“Leila.” She said, her face contorting as she began to cry, reaching her hand out to stroke my face.

 

“Nanni.” I breathed, putting my hand on hers.

 

*

 

I was sitting on one of the sunken in fabric sofas, my hands resting on my knees, waiting for my Grandmother to return from the kitchen. I looked around the living room tentatively. It looked exactly the same as the last time I had seen it, faded pink walls with collectible china plates lining them. I saw that next to the piece for Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding was a new addition for the union of Kate Middleton and Prince William that had taken place in April of last year. I remembered watching it on the tele sipping on a cup of tea, impressed that William had actually married for love and sighing in awe at Kate’s beautiful Alexander McQueen gown. I purposely avoided looking into the mahogany hutch, littered with various pictures of my parents and myself when I had been younger; our holiday in Hawaii, my parents’ wedding photos, the trip they took to India before I had been born. I had memorized each pixel, could smell the air in each photo, but still I found myself unable to look at them.

 

My Grandmother emerged from the kitchen carrying a cup of chai balanced on a small tea plate accompanied by some digestive biscuits, placing it on the coffee table in front of me.

 

“Careful beti, it’s hot.” My Nanni said smiling as she went to sit down, using the word for daughter or child in Urdu.

 

“Thank-you, Nanni.” I said, delicately picking up the tea, blowing on it to cool it down. I hungrily plucked a biscuit from the plate having not eaten since fleeing London. Dipping it into the tea, I stuffed it into my mouth, chewing loudly.

 

I could sense her watching me as I ate, thinking of how she could trick me into staying as she tried to do when had when I turned eighteen and informed her of my plans to leave.

“An eighteen year-girl will never be able to make it on her own, and in London of all places!” My Grandmother had screeched dramatically. “Mark my words; you’ll be running back to Bradford in no time!”

 

“Let her go, Katija. She won’t learn until she sees for herself what the world is really like.” My Grandfather told her as he was flipping through the evening paper. He had never cared for me much, seeing me as the unfortunate result of a love marriage, and now all that was left of it. I could see it in his eyes each time he looked at me. He asked himself what if? What if Kalila had married the boy he had picked out for her? What if she hadn’t run off with the boy she met at college? What if she hadn’t become pregnant? Would she still be alive?

 

“What made you come back, Leila?” My Grandmother asked after a long pause, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.

 

My hand instinctively rose to my neck where the scarf I wore obscured my bruised flesh. I silently answered my Grandmother in my mind...Clive, but then something curious struck me, a discrepancy.

 

I returned a calculated stare in her direction. “What made you ask me back?” I said after a few moments.

 

My Grandmother’s face fell. She looked scared now.

 

“What is it?!” I whispered angrily. She was hiding something, I just knew it.

 

Sour that I had caught on to her, she finally answered me. “It’s the house, your house.” She paused. “We’re selling it.”

 

My home. The house I grew up in. My parent’s house.

 

“YOU’RE WHAT?” I slammed the tea cup onto the coffee-table, its contents splashing over the brim.

 

“We simply can’t afford to pay the mortgage anymore, Leila.” My Grandmother sounded sterner this time. “You must understand!”

 

I jumped to my feet. “How dare you?” I screamed. “You’d sell my home, my memories, all that is left of your daughter!” I informed her of the gravity of the situation, the consequences. “You’d sell me if you could!” I added, my teeth clenched.

 

A bemused look appeared on my Grandmother’s face. “Don’t you already do that, beti? Sell yourself to the men in that club?”

 

I froze, my face unmoving, my gaze steady. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I told her, shaking my head, backing away. Had she seen it all? The photos? The articles?

 

“I read the papers, beti. I know exactly what you’ve been up to in London.” She told me, a cold smile playing on her thin lips.

 

I was gasping for air, sweating. Everything I had worked so hard to conceal was exposed, the web of lies I had weaved, unraveled. If I didn’t leave soon, I would faint.

 

“I knew you were up to something, but I never expected…that.” Her coated in resentment, her brown eyes cast towards the ground.

 

“This was a mistake.” I told her, scurrying to gather my things.

 

Her eyes had not left me. “Perhaps it was.” She agreed unkindly.

 

“Thank-you for your hospitality.” I said bluntly as I rushed out of the lounge and towards the door, leaving without a backwards glance, cursing myself for ever falling for the allure of Bradford. It’s true what they say; there really is no place like home.

 

*

 

It looked the same as it had; painted white, black shutters, a red door. I secured my bag further up my shoulder and tightened my grip on the glass bottle of Smirnoff Red Label Vodka I had just purchased at the corner market. I crossed the street and rounded to the left side of my house, trudging through the muddy and overgrown flower beds. It was raining again and I liked it. Finally making it to the side glass door, I put my things down, and making sure that the Vodka was far enough from the site of impact. Steadying myself, I rammed my elbow into the glass, flinching at the pain. I kept at it until finally the glass gave way, shattering around my elbow. I hissed as I felt a piece jam deep into in to my arm. Pushing out the shards that remained, I stuck my arm in, unlocking the door. Easy enough. I ignored the blood I felt gushing from my arm, sure that my coat would absorb it well enough and entered, hauling my things inside.

 

The smell of home filled my nostrils, coating my every fiber. I inhaled deeply, breathing memories back into my mind. I walked into the kitchen, expecting to see my Mother rolling pastries for her famous Samosas, but instead seeing everything as it had been left on the last day of my life as Leila. I switched on the lights, leaving everything looking so real when it instead felt like a dream. Leaving muddy footprints on the tile, I ran my hand over the granite countertop, the stove, still sticky will old bits of burnt food. Looking over at the kitchen table, the Christmas cards I had been writing for our friends had been abandoned.

 

Dropping my bag on the floor, I headed to the living room with only my bottle of Vodka. Pushing open the doors cautiously, my breath caught in my throat as I saw the natural light pouring into the room through the skylights. The sun was setting, and the entire room had been illuminated in soft pinks and purples. Everything was absolutely still except for bits and pieces of dust catching the light as it floated throughout the room.

 

Stepping inside, I went straight for the pictures lining the mantle. Wiping the dust off the frame with my fingers, I began to cry at the sight of my Mother, Father, and I smiling. We were happy. We were ignorant, unprepared. Twisting off the top of the bottle, I drank and drank until half the bottle was gone, my vision hazy after just a little while.

 

Ripping open the cupboard to my right, I began to furiously sift through CDs, tossing them onto the hardwood floor, one after the other until I found the one I had been looking for. After a swift kick, the ancient sound system finally began to bellow Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.  I turned the dial up the entire way, sure to disturb the suburbia that was Bradford. Shrugging free of my heavy coat and scarf, I was still in my flapper inspired outfit. All the better to get pissed in.

 

With the lights out, it's less dangerous.

Here we are now, entertain us!

 

I continued to chug the chemically tasting liquor, realizing to my chagrin that I had only eaten a biscuit in the entire day. But that didn’t matter, because I was entertained, the last thing I heard being the distinct sound of shattering glass.

 

Zayn’s P.O.V:

 

I popped my head into the living room where my Mum and the girls were watching Notting Hill, all of them so senselessly charmed by Hugh Grant that they didn’t even notice me enter the room.

 

“Mum.” I whispered to no response, her eyes glued to the screen.

 

“Mum!” I said louder, finally catching her attention.

 

“Come watch darling! It’s just coming to the best part!” She clapped her hands together in delight, giggling at a joke.

 

Fat chance of that ever happening.

 

“I’m going for a walk.” I told her half the truth. I would be doing a bit of walking and a bit of smoking as well. I planned on clearing my head like Niall had recommended, with only my thoughts as company.

 

I saw her look at her watch in the dark hesitantly. “Isn’t it a little late, sweetheart?”

 

“Come on, Mum, it’s only half eight.” I could feel my fingers begin to twitch. I hadn’t had a smoke all day under her watchful eye.

 

My Mother mulled over it for a moment and then waved me out of the room. “Fine, fine,” she said, her eyes drawn back to Hugh. “Keep your phone on you!” She called after me as I slipped out, shutting the door behind me.

 

Walking out into the fresh air, I walked about half a block towards Lower Fields Primary until I felt it was safe to light up. Holding a cigarette to the flame of my new Zippo, the bottom of it caught. I inhaled gratefully, the smoke warming my lungs. I continued to wall along, enjoying the deserted sidewalks. I imagined what Leila was doing. I had read online that it was the grand reopening of Victory, an event in which Leila would assuredly be participating. I had fleetingly thought about attending the event in disguise, but knew that it wouldn’t change anything at all…between Leila and I. She had made her decision already, and it was the right one. I ran my fingers over the two engraved hearts on the front of the locket, tucked safely in my jeans.

 

I was drawn from my thoughts by the sound of loud metal music playing in the distance. Loud music in Bradford at this time of the night wasn’t unusual considering it was a Friday night. The seniors had learned to deal with it over the years. They reckoned that partying the entire night would tucker youngsters out for the rest of the weekend and leave them without the need for mischief for the rest of the school week. As I approached, I saw that the music was coming from Leila’s house. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. My heart began to thud in my chest at this realization. But that was impossible? Impossible unless after all this time, someone had finally chosen to break in. Snuffing out my cigarette, I made my way towards the house, ready to sort out whatever was going on inside. As I got closer, I saw that the lights were on inside.

 

Making my way up the porch steps, I was unsure of what to do next.

 

“Fuck it.” I muttered under my breath, slamming my shoulder into the door. It flew open on the second try. I poked my head inside, taken a back at my familiar surroundings. I could even smell the faint scent of cardamom that was always lingering in the halls when I’d come over after school. Stepping in, I shut the door behind me, and began to pad down the hallway in the direction of the loud music. Swinging open the doors to the living room, I was ready to give the intruder a pummeling. I looked around wildly seeing no one. Walking over to the sound system, I switched it off; my eyes suddenly drawn to the unmistakable form of a bloodied Leila sprawled out on the floor, surrounded by shards of glass. My stomach plummeted through the floor, panic rising in my throat.

 

“BLOODY HELL!” I cursed, frantically bounding over to where Leila was laying. She reeked of alcohol. Was this real? Was I hallucinating? She was right here in front of me. I leaned in to see if she was breathing, examining the large cut on her arm and the others on her legs from the broken glass.

 

“LEILA! LEILA!” I stroked her hair away from her face, choking on my words. Please let her be alright, please let her be okay. I would do anything, anything. I should have told her I loved her, I should have, I should have! I was a coward then and I was a coward now!

 

Slowly but surely Leila’s dazed brown orbs opened to look at me, framed by her long dark lashes. An overwhelming sense of relief washed over me. She was okay, she was okay, I kept telling myself.

 

Leila let out a slow, pained groan. “Zayn.” She sobbed; scrunching her eyes closed once more, tears spilling from the corners. “Zayn.” She repeated, delirious.

 

I began to clear away the glass. “It’s okay, I’ve got you.” I soothed her. “I’ve got you, love.”

 

Sliding my hands beneath her waist and the backs of her knees, I scooped her into my arms. She had passed out cold once more, her head leaning to one side. Slowly getting to my feet, I headed out of the living room, climbing the stairs, cradling her close to me as I went. I kicked open the door of the loo, flicking on the light switch with my shoulder.

 

Leila moaned, her face contorting. “I think I’m going to be sick!” She whispered weakly.

 

“Almost there, baby.” I assured her quietly. Approaching the toilet, I placed her down gently, lifting up the seat. As I helped her sit up, she flung herself onto the seat, hovering over the toilet, gagging. I pulled her long dark hair away from her face, holding it as she dry heaved, sobbing. At last she began to vomit violently, sobbing in between the intervals. I rubbed her back, keeping her thick hair, fragrant of vanilla out of her way. I kissed the top of her head, inhaling the scent that was Leila. She was here, with me. Completely pissed and throwing up, but she was with me.

 

Leila slumped over onto the toilet seat out of exertion. Leaning her against the bath tub, I reached over, turning on the warm water. I scoured the cupboards until I found some tea towels, running them under the hot water. Gently, I began to clean the cuts on Leila’s legs, making sure that no glass had been left behind. Next I tackled the reasonably deep cut on her arm, wiping all the dried blood away. Frantically, I searched for a first aid kit, finding one under the sink. Ripping it open, I found some Polysporin and bandages. Applying it lightly to her cut, I carefully wrapped the bandage around her arm, making sure not to tie it too tightly.

 

“Leila.” I cooed, causing her to stir. “I’m going to take you to bed now.” I told her quietly.

 

She let out a quiet, “Mmm.” In response.

 

Lifting her into my arms once more, I turned left towards her room as if it was yesterday, as if we were off to watch our shows on her small television. Laying her down, I found myself blushing at the thought of her and I being on a bed together. I shook my head, banishing those thoughts. Now this was the difficult part. I very well couldn’t leave her in what she was wearing, covered in alcohol and throw-up. Walking over to her mahogany dresser, I began to search through the drawers, closing the one with her under things in it as soon as I opened it. Finally I came across a comfortable looking nightgown. Plucking it from the drawer I returned to Leila’s side. She was peacefully sleeping, her chest rising and falling softly. Sitting her up gently, I averted my eyes as I began to unclasp her corset. Regardless of my numerous tattoos and bad boy persona, I was a gentleman; and gentlemen didn’t look unless given permission to. Tossing it to the side, I slipped the nightgown over Leila’s head, pulling it down until it was covering her properly. Laying her back down, I pulled the blankets over her. Sighing quietly, she turned over onto her side, her pink lips parted ever so slightly in slumber. I then understood where the term ‘sleeping beauty’ had come from.

 

Leaning over, I placed a soft kiss on her cheek.

 

“Goodnight, Leila.” I whispered, stroking her cheek with my thumb.

 

Standing up however, I noticed something peculiar. Moving Leila’s hair to the side, I saw that lining her throat was a set of purple and blue bruises. Running my fingers over them, I wondered how, but more importantly, from whom, she had got them.

 

Harry’s P.O.V:

 

Breathing heavily, I threw myself onto my back, sweat dripping down my forehead. Not bad, I thought. I could hear her gasping next to me. I turned over to face her, Fiona Applebee. I would never have pegged her to be the adventurous type in bed. She was beautiful, yes, but also a little on the dim side. Not witty in the least, like Leila. My mood darkened at just the thought of her name. I had countless screaming girls throwing themselves at me, but the one girl who I wanted, did not want me. I hardly knew where we stood at this point, we weren’t broken up, but we weren’t really together either.

 

“That was good.” My breathing was slowing down. The awkwardness was already setting in.

 

Fiona looked at me, a look of uncertainly on her face. It was normal to regret things. I would assuredly be regretting this later.

 

“What’s wrong?” I asked her, curious to see if I was correct.

 

Fiona breathed, her blue eyes blinking confusedly at the ceiling. She turned to me then, covering her breasts with the sheets. “I think I wish I didn’t just do that.” She admitted to me, pushing her blonde hair out of her eyes.

 

“Is it because of Zayn?” I inquired, puzzled at what exactly, if anything, was going on between them.

 

“It is, yeah.” Fiona said, pausing. “I thought that the best way to get over someone was to get under someone else…but I guess that’s not true…” She trailed off.

 

It seemed to work well enough for me.

 

“Well actually, you were on top, remember?” I corrected her, my lips breaking into a slow smile.

 

A/N: Thanks for reading and please review!

Check out the companion tumblr for ‘I’m In Love with a Stripper’. It features each outfit and song that appears in this fanfic and also features some extras and contests! iminlovewithastripperfanfiction.tumblr.com

Music:

Give Me Love – Ed Sheeran (Acoustic)

 

All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey

 

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

 

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