Breaking Free

Ever felt smothered by everyone else's idea of what your life should be like? Have you ever just wanted to say "Stop! It's my life!" to those closest to you? We all have, haven't we? I bet you were too afraid to do it though. So you kept your mouth shut, and did exactly what you always told yourself you would never do: you followed the rules set by people who don't really know you, and let THEM control your life. But what could happen if you finally just said no? If you decided to follow your own dream? Would something amazing happen? Would you fall in love? Would you find what you've been looking for your whole life? What could happen if you just...broke free?

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42. Who I Used To Be

"BELLE!" A chorus of shouts went up as soon as Niall and Belle reached the seventh floor, where the boys and Simon were located.

"Hey g--" Belle was cut off as three boys all encased her in a bone crushing group hug.

"Jesus Belle where have you been?"

"What made you decide to come back?"

"Why'd you dye your hair?"

"Damn I forgot how hot you were."

"Are you really recording today?"

"What happened to that company thing?"

"Did you run away again?"

"How did you--"

"Boys, boys, BOYS!" Belle interrupted, stepping back from Harry, Liam, and Zayn so she could breathe again. She was grinning from ear to ear though. "Can you save all the questions for later and just be happy to see me?" She asked through laughs.

Though in the back of her mind, she was wondering where Louis was.

The boys chuckled. "Sorry love, we're just so damn glad you're back!" Zayn said, giving her a one-on-one hug which she gladly reciprocated. When he pulled back he gave her an odd expression. "You sound American-er." 

Belle laughed. "Well I have been in the States for eight months." She said teasingly.

"You're bloody right you have been!" Liam shouted, grabbing Belle's waist and picking her up in a spin. Belle laughed as he set her back down. "Which is eight months too long for us to go without our Belle in my opinion." He added with a cheeky wink.

"I second that!" Niall shouted from behind her, where he was leaning up against the wall. Belle turned and stuck her tongue out at him before looking back at Liam.

"I missed you too Liam, you have no idea how much." Liam beamed at her heartfelt words.

"Hey where's my individual hug?" Said a familiar slow drawl that Belle loved so much. She turned and threw her arms around Harry, making him chuckle deeply. "That's what I thought." He mumbled cheekily.

When Harry and Belle broke apart, Belle grinned from ear to ear as she looked at the four boys. But then her smile slowly started to fade.

"Where's the other one? I'm guessing he didn't want to see me?" She asked somberly. The boys all looked at each other warily.

"Nah he's here, he's talking to Simon right now." Zayn said with a sympathetic smile.

"Oh." Belle managed to say through the tightness in her chest. Louis was so close, and that scared her.

Suddenly Liam clapped his hands together to break the silence. "So how about you answer our questions now?" He asked cheerfully.

Belle laughed, glad that the air had been lightened. Thank Liam for that. She nodded and they all sat around in chairs that the waiting room of sorts had provided. Niall sat on the armrest of the chair that Belle was currently occupying.

The boys just stared at her for a moment.

"Well? Are you going to ask me or not?" Belle asked teasingly. The boys all jumped and looked away from her for a second.

"Shit, sorry." Harry mumbled. "You just look so...different."

"Yeah." Zayn agreed. "You don't look like the same Belle."

Belle took in a deep breath. "It's because I wasn't the same Belle for eight whole months. And I'm still not quite back to being me yet, but I'm getting there."

"So what happened when you went back home?" Liam asked.

Belle exhaled before speaking. "Well first off I made my peace with Alan's death and spoke with his family. I'm real close with them." She laughed bitterly for a moment. "My dad hated that. He almost didn't allow me to go to Alan's funeral, the rat bastard. But anyways, a few months passed of me just working for that godforsaken company day in and day out. I hated to look in the mirror and see who I used to be, because I wasn't her anymore. So I changed my appearance up a little bit. Grew my hair out, dyed it, started wearing more makeup, different wardrobe, that kind of thing. Honestly I turned into a robot. I had totally grown out of touch with myself. Then my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I became the acting CEO, he died, I turned the company over to Alan's family, and hopped on the first flight out here." She said bluntly. The boys all stared, in shock. "To be honest the last eight months are a big blur."

When nobody said anything for a few moments Belle kept on talking.

"You guys have no idea how much I missed you. It was literally a physical pain for me to wake up every day and know that I couldn't see you, or talk to you, or call, or text you. I stopped playing my music because it reminded me of you all too much. You'd come on the radio, or be on TV, and I'd just burst into tears. I-I--"

Belle was unable to speak anymore as she started to choke on her words, tears welling up in her eyes.

"Hey, hey, we know." Niall said softly, wrapping his arms around Belle and pulling her into his chest. She leaned into him as her body shook from trying to hold back the tears. She'd done enough to these boys already, they shouldn't have to see her cry.

The boys were quiet as Belle composed herself. She drew in a deep breath and pulled back away from Niall, giving him a silent thank you expression.

"Jesus, Belle. We had no idea it was that bad. On the news and on the internet and stuff it looked like you were so happy and successful." Harry said quietly.

Belle chuckled. "Yeah, I was a pretty good actress. I mean, I was technically pretty successful, but I sure as hell wasn't happy."

"Didn't you have any friends there?" Zayn asked. "From school, or...a boyfriend or something?"

Belle barked out a laugh. "No, definitely no boyfriends." She said casually. "And Alan was the only friend I ever had back home." The room got quiet again.

"So are you recording today?" Liam suddenly asked, once again saving the day from an uncomfortable situation.

Belle smiled, perking up. "Yeah, I am." She said cheerfully, then looked up at Niall. "Niall here told Simon I wanted to come home, so he said I could record today and if he likes it, I'll sign with Psycho."

"That's awesome!" Zayn said. The boys looked genuinely happy for her. 

"So what do you think you're going t--"

"Hey boys has Niall got here yet with B--"

Louis cut himself off as everyone in the room turned to look at his entrance, including Belle and Niall. He had been immersed in his phone, so he hadn't looked up to see that Niall and Belle were in fact there.

Belle paled, peering around her seat to look at her ex boyfriend, the former love of her life.

He looked different, and yet the same. His hair was styled differently, swooshed more to the side with his hair wax. He had on simple jeans and a white tshirt, the bottom of his pants rolled up like always. There were dark streaks underneath his eyelids, and his normally bright blue eyes seemed to have dulled.

The room got tense, Belle and Louis staring each other down.

"H-Hey Louis." Belle finally managed to call out, her voice giving away her nervousness. Louis just continued to stare.

Taking in a deep breath of confidence, Belle stood up and slowly walked towards Louis. Every pair of eyes in the room was on her.

As Belle stood up, Louis took the moment to look her up and down. He couldn't help but be shocked. She looked so...not Belle. She still looked amazing though, like she always did. Her darker hair just made her pretty brown eyes pop even more. There was no denying the tightness in his chest and the tightness in his groin.

Belle stopped about two feet away from Louis, and they looked at each other seriously. The sexual tension in the air seemed to actually pop between them. The other boys couldn't tear their eyes away.

"So..." Belle finally spoke first. "Long time no see." She was able to muster a slight smile. Louis remained stoic though. "Uh, I wanted my arrival to be a surprise, but Niall kinda ruined that for me." She chuckled awkwardly.

When Louis didn't say anything, Belle glanced over her shoulder at the others. In doing so, Louis observed her yet again. She was so beautiful, so graceful. He looked at her exposed collarbones and shoulders, taking in the places he used to kiss and caress. Her skin was clear, without any love bites or blemishes. Did that mean she didn't have a boyfriend? He couldn't help but hope not.

"Why'd you come back?" Louis suddenly blurted out, not being able to contain himself much longer.

Belle whipped her head back around, eyes wide. "What do y--"

"Why are you here again?" He interrupted harshly, making Belle jump. "Do you think that you can just disappear, without warning, breaking my heart in the process," Belle winced but Louis continued, "And be gone for eight fucking months without letting us know that you're even okay? Jesus Christ Belle, you could have been dead and we wouldn't have known! And then just when we all start to heal from the wounds that you inflicted, you show up again? We were doing fine without you Belle!"

"Louis!" Zayn shouted, but Belle turned and shook her head at him.

Belle turned back to Louis. "Go on." She said simply.

Louis chuckled bitterly. "I can't believe you Belle. You don't even care who you hurt anymore. You're just selfish. I'm doing just fine without you honestly, I couldn't be happier." He lied. "So if you think that I'm going to get on my knees and ask for you back, you're wrong." He laughed harshly again. "How did your millionaire daddy even let you come back here? Or did you run away again?"

"Louis her dad--"

"No, no." Belle said, holding up a hand to Liam without looking away from Louis. "Let him speak."

"But Belle he--"

"Go ahead Louis. Just get it all out." Belle said, crossing her arms and putting her weight on one leg, jutting her hip out.

"Yeah I bet that's it, you probably ran away for the second time." Louis said, picking right up where he had left off. "I wouldn't be surprised. You just wanna be a little rebel and have some fun to piss off daddy, don't you? Who knows, maybe he'll come back and try to kidnap you again. Well I can tell you this Costa," Louis said, putting emphasis on Belle's last name. He leaned forward and hissed through his teeth, "Don't count on me to save your ass again. You and I are done." He leaned back.

Belle bit down on her lip to keep it from quivering. Louis wasn't finished though.

"You know what, maybe you should just call up your dad and tell him to come pick you up again. We all know you'll ditch us again at the slightest hint of trouble. So just call him. Go on." Louis taunted. "Do it."

"I can't." Belle said through her teeth.

Louis threw his head back and laughed. "Why? Daddy not pay your phone bill this month like he probably pays for everything else? Or did you--"

"I can't because my dad is dead you fucking asshole."

The room went quiet.

"What?" Louis asked, his tone drastically changed.

"Yeah." Belle said, plastering a fake smile on her face while tears threatened to spill over from her eyes. "My dad's dead, that's why I came back. And you know what Louis? You can try to hurt me, try to make me feel like shit, but it won't work. You wanna know why? Because I'm numb. The Belle Costa you knew died right along with Alan Fuller. So just stop trying Louis. I may look a little bit different on the outside, but I'm a helluva lot different on the inside. So don't hate me." 

Belle paused for a long moment, a single tear rolling down her cheek. Finally, she spoke again.

"Hate who I used to be. Because trust me...I hate her just as much as you do."

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