The Real Rose

‘I had never been good at saying no to the devil, so I didn't bet on keeping my sanity.’ A brief romance in which a girl invents a fantasy to escape from a terrifying scenario, only to make her situation worse… (Originally a short story I wrote, but I have adapted it as a Harry Styles fan fiction for the 1SHOT41D competition.)

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He was on the dance floor, and I wasn’t; that was usually how things worked. Rhythmic movement to a throbbing pulse of synthesized music was the least of my concerns, and I felt comfortable just watching him from my seat at my table. I slouched with my back to the wall, and my cerulean eyes took in his swaying frame, the actions slightly out of time to the deafening beat, which I recognised as a David Guetta track. Most girls would have been driven away by his awkward dancing, resembling that of a drunken father, but I was quite the opposite. In fact, I was drawn in, and I couldn’t even see his face yet as a result of the blinking neon lights. There was at least a metre radius around him to stand clear of his less than fluid arm rotations, and I chuckled despite myself. He reminded me of my own attempts at co-ordination, and cringe worthy memories drifted to my mind’s eye. I beat them down with a hard mental fist.

       In all of my cringing and punching, I failed to notice that he had stopped his dancing – if that’s what you’d call it – and was walking towards me. As he got closer I felt extremely exposed. Who was he? What must he have thought of me, sat there alone? I must’ve looked like a right loser, someone who was no fun at all, and my arms folded across my generous chest instinctively. I begged the Lord that my table wasn’t his intended destination, and that he would alter his course to stand by a friend – or better, a girlfriend. But with that dancing, you never know nowadays; it could have been a boyfriend for all I cared.

       God, who was usually nice to me, decided that my fate was absolute, as he continued to advance, his silhouette lit by flashes of pink and green alternatively. The closer he got the more I saw; his hair was a bouncing mop of dark curls, and his face was pale, in contrast to his rubicund lips. His shadow cast over me as he stood opposite, his large, veined hands resting on the table top, and I noticed the colour of his eyes. At first glance, I thought they were grey, but on closer gazing the swirling tones of green became predominant, and his high cheek bones below protruded pleasingly. All hopes of me starting the conversation took their own lives off of a cliff top as he smiled warmly at me, and my words melted to boiling liquid dripping through the gaps between my fingertips.

Damn, he was hot. Why would girls – or anyone actually – avoid that?

       I didn’t have the first clue what to say to him. I was a bit out of practice, as people who had his level of allure usually avoided my company. Up until that point I hadn’t realised I took my solitude for granted.

       The stranger seemed to realise that he had stunned me into silence – it must’ve been written on my face – as he broke it. I was expecting a greeting, but instead he blurted, “Why aren’t you dancing?”

       Getting over my initial exhilaration, his comment irritated me. While his voice may have been warm enough to liquidise metal, and the tones deeper than a bass, his question bugged me. My temper had always been my downfall, and I put my faith in my anger to make him, and the way he made me feel, go away. I raised my voice above the music, “Because I don’t want to dance. Why were you dancing? You evidently can’t.”

       He smirked, and I gave him a frown infused look. He barked out a short laugh, and it sent an unwelcome shiver down my spine. His mouth moved, but I didn’t catch his words. “What?” I looked confused as I yelled.

Olive eyes iridescent, he shook his head, and decided to shuffle round the crescent moon sofa of the table booth, and slide in beside me on my right. My breaths were ragged as he leant in towards me, brushing my hair behind my ear so he could whisper something to me. I felt his warm exhales on my neck send a ripple of goose bumps over my rosy skin, and I sucked in a sharp breath. I had never had this kind of attention before, and it scared me.

His smooth hand skimmed my bare arm as he brought it down, and a playful smile tugged at his lips as he said to me, “Do you want to know a secret?”

I nodded a bit too enthusiastically.

He laughed again, and he brought his lips so close to my ear I could feel the inviting warm moisture of his mouth. In a light-hearted voice he said, “I’m in disguise. I’m actually a really good dancer.”

It was my turn to momentarily laugh, but it was shaky and also releasing a held breath. He withdrew his head, satisfied he had done his job, and I swiftly turned my own so that our lips brushed each other’s briefly. The sudden sensation of his skin on mine stole my breath from my lungs, and I silently gasped at my actions. What was I doing? I didn’t know, and in this boy’s presence, I hardly cared anymore. I was experimenting with emotions which had never previously shown their faces.

His curls came down over his jade eyes, and the intensity of his gaze drifted into light at our encounter, the joking manor shoved rudely aside. I don’t know what my face looked like, but my lips were parted, and all my muscles were relaxed, only focusing on his face, and resisting the urge to fall into in infinite dark abyss I would probably never climb out of. I had never been good at saying no to the devil, so I didn’t bet on keeping my sanity. He slowly, unsure if I was going to pull away, lifted his hand and after a hesitation, stroked my warm cheek with soft hands. I tilted my head into it, and sighed pleasurably.

We sat there listening to the music waltz with the atmosphere of the club, looking at each other for a length of time I don’t recall. After a moment, still cupping my head, he asked me, “What’s your name?”

       “Gemma,” I replied a little too instantly.

       He took in the information, and I saw my reflection in his smiling green eyes. “My sister’s called Gemma.”

       “Oh. She sounds cool.”

       “You don’t even know her.”

       “Well, she shares my name, so we must have other traits in common as well.”

       There was another moment’s silence, and wondered if my attempt at a joke had gone down well with him. His face gave no hint of amusement, and I inwardly cursed my crappy sense of humour. A flurry of heat rushed to my face and I felt my cheeks ignite. I turned a bright shade of raspberry, and my fair fringe stuck to my sweat clad forehead. I felt vibrations through his arm as he exhaled a deep chuckle at my embarrassment, and he smiled as he replied, “Yes, you must do.”

       I breathed a sigh of relief. He obviously recognised my inability to converse like a normal human being. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself; this was a genuine fact. I was suddenly starting to feel as if I had a hold of the situation confidently, and I cautiously moved my hand and placed it on his leg, looking down to watch that I didn’t miss my target and touch something a bit more inappropriate; I wasn’t the type of girl who did that on the first meeting.

       He looked at me with a more lustful gaze as I firmly ran my hand over the inside of his thigh, like I had seen people do on television. For a moment, I thought I had power over him like other girls, and that I was doing what I wanted for a change. Something that was dangerously close to exactly the opposite type of girl I was.

       Then things started to go wrong, too out of control.

       The stranger whom I thought I knew removed his hand from my face, and brought his whole hand confidently down my neck, leaning into me as he did. Our wet lips met as his hand found my cleavage, which was ridiculously uncovered because I had chosen to wear a top that was too bloody low cut…

       I didn’t like it at all. The sensation was all wrong. I felt his mouth vibrate against mine as he moaned stridently, and his mouth roughly pressed into me, begging me to kiss him back. I couldn’t. I was too scared, and all attraction towards him was extungished. His hand cupped my chest and was applying maximum pressure, and I winced in pain. I didn’t want this, and I panicked with a spurt of energy. My hand leapt from its position on his thigh and I squirmed back under his grip, his mouth still glued to me as I pulled back. As he released me, I gasped for an urgent breath, and pushed him back as hard as I could. Falling back onto the seat, his model’s expression was one of confusion and disappointment, and I choked out tears as I stammered, “No. No way. I need to get to my friends.”

       I scrambled out of the booth as fast I could, hooking my thin strapped purse off the table as I passed. Wiping tears out of my eyes as I stalked away from him, I realised I was lost in a haze of lights and music, with no-where actually to go to. My friends had abandoned me earlier in the night, and I had been sat on my own stupidly thinking they would come back for me. They had forgotten I existed, and had moved on to go back to somebody’s house to continue the party elsewhere. I only stayed to watch the awkward dancer, unsure of what to do with myself other than except the truth; I had been abandoned by the people I had thought cared for me, and latched onto a fantasy to protect myself from the pain of that. Why did I always have to do that to myself?

       Openly sobbing, I turned aimlessly one way and then another, hoping for an escape route to come to me like an epiphany. A lump was beginning to rise in my oesophagus, and my breaths were in quick succession. Heat from sweaty dancers consumed me in a cloud of humidity, and I was struggling to swim to the surface for air; I couldn’t breathe. The lights flickered as my vision distorted, and the music taunted me, getting quicker as my pulse sped far ahead of its beat…

       Suddenly, a warm hand grasped mine and pulled me into a firm torso. I sobbed into the material of their silvery shirt, and my shoulders shook uncontrollably as the figure stroked the length of the top of my head to the small of my back, and hushed my hysteria in shushes. He took his blazer off and draped it over my shoulders.

       “I’m so sorry,” he soothed in my ear. “I thought that was what… Never mind. Do you want me to drive you home?”

       I threw the stranger-danger manual out of the window, and agreed.

       The whole journey, I couldn’t meet his eye. His attractive presence only embarrassed me further, and I knew he wouldn’t like me after my pathetic behaviour. I had always been childish, never growing up, and I was foolish to think I had a chance with him. He must have been at least two years older than me to drive with the ease he did, maybe even older. There were traces on his jaw and upper lip where he had missed hairs whilst shaving and I secretly admired from my passenger side seat the set lines of his jaw bone and, the sculpted marble finish to his features. Once or twice he ruffled his curls as if he knew I was watching, and a rush of chemicals swept through my veins as I had impulses, urges. I used my mental fist to beat my imagination into its place, and managed to force my head the other way, instead watching the amber street lamps of the roads sweep past in the swallowing early morning darkness. We only spoke when I gave him directions.

       He pulled up outside my house, and I went to get out, but the door sprang open as he beat me to it. I felt uncomfortable as I slid out as gracefully as I could from the black Jaguar, and I folded my arms again as he lead me to the warm light of the porch.

       “Thanks,” I muttered, looking into his green eyes for what I supposed would be the last time. “Um, I don’t know how I would have gotten home.” I removed the jacket I was still wearing. “Here you go.”

       “Thanks, love,” he shrugged back into it and straightened the cuffs. “What happened to whoever you were with?”

       “They left me,” I answered honestly, but I also noticed the tone of acceptance in my voice, as if I had added again onto the end of my statement. Even to my ears it sounded pitiful. I adjusted my purse strap on my shoulder.

       “Oh,” he was unsure how, or if he should comfort me. “Um, I’ve got something for you.”

His hand suddenly dived to his back pocket, and came back with a flower in his fist – a wilted red rose. It hadn’t been squashed before; he had been sat on it in the car. He held it out to me, and I took its thorny stem between thumb and forefinger, unsure what else to do. I frowned, examining it, and I confirmed it was real. “Thanks,” I smiled cautiously, “but why?”

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“It’s not Valentine’s Day.”

“I know.”

He leant in and kissed me on the cheek, his warm lips moist on my skin. I knew it was a sympathy kiss, but I didn’t care. He was far away from the man who had taken advantage of me. He was more like the man I had envisioned when I saw him dancing.

“Thanks,” I said again as he drew back, and he smiled in acknowledgement. I watched in awe as his tall frame walked back down the path and out of the gate, closing it behind him. He was just about to get into his car when I yelled, “Wait! What’s your name?”

“Harry!” He replied with a cocky grin, curls tumbling to the side as he tilted his head to towards me and sent me a salute. He slammed the car door with a click, and before I could fully absorb his image the black car slipped through the night. Harry was gone.

I knocked on my door, and as I waited for someone to let me in I figured out where he got the rose from. In the club, there were single roses on every table, stood in a tall black ceramic glass on a mauve cloth. I smelt it, and I was wrapped in a delicious floral scent, which instantly reminded me of Harry. I giggled to myself, intoxicated by his memory.

As I lay in caressing cool sheets that night, the last thought which came to me before drifting into black unconsciousness was this, and it would have confused me if I wasn’t so tired:

All of the roses on the tables had been fakes. The one Harry had given to me was real.

 

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