But I'm in Love With You

If I could burn my memories, I would. If I could take a lighter to a series of photographs and words and music and everything I associate with him, I would. And if I could show you everything I’ve seen, you’d burn them too.

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6. #6

Scarlett

There was a small wedge of lamplight that had leaked through the heavy curtains; it sat on the Persian carpet in the hotel room with a dazzling brilliance, its rays catching at the strings on Harry’s guitar. He can’t even play it.

Winding a stray thread around my index finger, I give it a sharp tug and snap it from the hem of my skirt. The red nail-varnish adorning my fingernails was drastically chipped, and I made a mental note of either repainting or removing it altogether.

Zayn shifts on the duvet beside me, his eyelashes fluttering slightly as he emerges from unconsciousness. There is a long pause before he speaks, and even when he does his voice is unreadable. ‘What’s the time?’

‘Eight,’ I say. ‘We were going to wake you soon.’

‘We’re on at nine?’ he murmurs.

‘Yes, but –’ I begin, but before I can speak further he has sat upright and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His slight figure bows a little as he rubs his hand over his face, and I can see that his fingers were shaking; shifting slightly, I eventually crawl across the bed and perch beside him. Our fingers only touch for a moment but suddenly they are interlocked; he is crushing my own in his, and yet I can’t pull away. Not yet.

Not yet.

***

The screams were stinging.

Harry grabbed me as I passed him in the hall – his fingers were tight with concern; leaned over and whispered several words across my neck and into my ear. The others watched as we stood like this for a moment, all with their eyes brimming with anxiety. I force a smile at Niall, who seemed to be chewing the life from a piece of gum.

The chants begin, the lyrics easily decipherable backed by hundreds of voices. I can’t even hear my own ragged breath as I shove past a door and find myself in the dressing room corridor.

‘Zayn?’ I yell, my voice rolling over the linoleum underfoot before dissipating into the warm air. Several runners emerge from a door on the far right, and when I ask them for Zayn they thumb a room at the end of the corridor.

My heels click as I approach the door and rap my knuckle against the solid oak. ‘Zayn?’ I repeat. Silence. Dragging in a deep breath, I lean my forehead against the door and release it in a ragged gust. ‘You can tell me, you know.’

Silence.

‘Zayn?’ I say quietly. There is an abrupt shift in movement on the other side of the door, a sharp click, and I press my palm against the frame and slip the other into the handle. When I push down on it, the door gives.

The stench catches at my nostrils and they flare, burning. It lingers at the back of my throat, and I desperately suppress a spluttering cough. Zayn perches on the edge of the sofa, a cigarette between both his forefinger and thumb – not his first, I imagine. His eyes flicker to mine, and I can see now that he has been crying.

Taking several steps forward, I pause before kneeling before him; my dress flurries a little before pooling on the carpet. ‘Spit it out then,’ I murmur softly.

There is a long pause whereby he crushes his cigarette and takes the other from behind his ear. He doesn’t light it. ‘I can’t go out there,’ he says quietly.

‘And why’s that?’ I ask.

‘Because...’ Trailing off, he meets my gaze once more; taking another strand of my hair, he winds it around his free forefinger. Dragging in a deep breath, his breath smells sweet when he exhales in a gust. ‘Because.’

‘Because what?’ I say. ‘They’re chanting for you.’

‘Not everyone,’ he murmurs, and his voice breaks a little. He humphs before shaking his head, and the pendant on his necklace chinks a little against the chain.

‘And you’re going to listen to the minority?’ I ask, my eyebrows rising. ‘Since when did you ever?’

He opens his mouth as if to say something before closing it again; the strand of my hair tugs a little when he cannot wind it anymore, and he releases it only to begin again. There is a long pause, and when he does his words are like a whisper of a summer breeze – so soft that I wonder whether I had heard it at all. ‘Since they started saying that I blow people up.’

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