My Brother's Best Friend

Jasmin Smith is no one special to the eyes of the public. A normal pretty barmaid at a pub, a talent for singing and a flat in London. But not too long ago, Jasmin received some horrible news. Her twin brother, her other half, James has passed on, and she is now alone.
Jasmin and James are originally from Holmes Chapel, and James's best friend was no other than Harry Styles. The two boys lost touch when Harry started getting whirled around in the famous life, but even after all the time that has passed, Harry is devastated at the news of James passing away. When he and Jasmin meet by chance, he makes it his mission to help her recover after the great loss she has suffered, and perhaps recover himself with her help. He feels it is his duty towards James to protect and shelter her, but never did he expect that those feelings should grow much stronger than that.

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40. Chapter 37

Chapter 37

Jasmin

Late at night, I wake up from a nightmare of James convulsing in pain, and me not being able to reach him, stopped by some invisible force. Maria is sound asleep next to me in Gemma’s bed, oblivious to my panting and sweating next to her. I carefully climb out of bed. The sweat on my forehead and body immediately feels like ice from the cold in the room. It may be spring, but it is only early March, and as I wander quietly out of the room and down to the kitchen. I turn on the tap and wash my face a little before turning around and going back up. Dressed only in a t-shirt stolen from Harry, and a pair of spandex, I’m freezing, and I wrap my arms around myself trying to ward off the cold.

On my way back to Gemma’s room, I see the lights in Harry’s room are still on, shining into the hallway through the crack by the floor. Getting closer to his door, I can hear a page flipping, and I knock twice, lightly, before I step into the room. He looks up from his place spread out over the bed, holding a book above his face. He rushes to hide it, and I think back to a time in school, when I found Harry looking at the books on my desk.

**

“Harry? What are you doing?” I asked cautiously, closing the classroom door behind me. He turns around, all brown curls and stupid smile and shrugs. That small gesture made my schoolgirl heart skip a beat, and I smiled back easily.
“I got bored. Thought since you’re the only person I know with a shred of taste in literature I might learn from your reading list.” He replied, and I stepped closer, seeing that he was looking at my copy of Little Women.
“James knows good literature from bad, he just won’t admit it.” I said with a crooked smile. “And somehow I don’t think Little Women is the book for you.”
He laughed. “Yeah maybe you’re right.” And shook his head, making his hair dance. I ached to reach out a play with those curls, but restrained myself. This was Harry. I couldn’t.
“So what is the book for me Jas?” He asked, leaning forward, and resting his chin in the palm of his hand, following me with his green eyes. I pulled a chair closer, and careful not to wrinkle my uniform, sat down.
“I don’t know. What do you feel like reading?” I shrugged, crossing my legs.
Whether it was a construct of my imagination or not, I thought I could see his tongue flick across his bottom lip just then, and realized I was looking at his lips. Quickly, I redirected my gaze to his eyes.
“I don’t know. Something with a cool, male protagonist I guess.” He replied. I ran through a list of books in my mind and stopped at a series I’d read earlier that same year.
“Ah. You, my friend, need Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes books. They’ll do you wonders.” I said with a smile.
“Thanks Jas.” He said with a happy grin. “I’m gonna go find your brother.”
**

“What are you reading?” I ask, my voice still croaky from the tears I’ve shed in my sleep. I pad into the room on my bare feet and sit on the bed with him.
He looks at me with tired eyes, surprised to see me.
“Nightmare?” He asks making room for me to sit comfortably. I scoot further onto the mattress and nod.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
I shake my head, and he opens his arms. I immediately fall into his chest and snuggle against it, my arms around his torso, hands on his back. He closes his arms around me as well, and hugs me a little closer. My head digs into his long sleeved t-shirt, and his warmth soothes my freezing limbs from the cold of the hallway.
“What were you reading?” I ask again.
“Don’t get mad, but I didn’t go straight home after I rented the movie.” He says, and I look up at him with furrowed brows.
“Where did you go?”
“Your parent’s house.”
Suddenly the cold is back, and I sit up straight, separating our bodies.
“Why would you go there?” I ask, analysing his every move, looking for a lie.
He moves forward on the bed again so that he is a little closer to me.
“You know how you told me once that you and James left town without that many things? That you couldn’t bring your book collection because there was no space in the backpack?” He asks, and I nod, remembering a day last fall when I’d told him all this in the sparse October sunlight coming through the window of his flat.
“Jas your books meant everything to you back then. Don’t think I don’t remember. You always had at least one, usually two on you. And I know where you guys kept the spare key, so I locked myself in. You know, legally the place still belongs to you. And I got all the books I cold find.”
In shock, I reach over to where I saw him hide the book moments ago and pull it out. Pride and Prejudice. My all time favourite. My own copy, with all the creases and crumpled page corners and dog ears and mysterious spots from when I’d been eating and reading at the same time.
I can’t hold it back, and I sob, hugging the book close to me. Harry gets up and finds my old duffel bag with my name on it, James’s gift for me on our 14th birthday. He puts it in front of me, and I open it, seeing all of my books lying there, all of them, A Tale of Two Cities, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, The Chronicles of Narnia, even my fairytale books from when I was a little girl, all intact and just the way I remember them. I cry uncontrollably, sobbing at the familiarity and the comfort that they bring, comfort I didn’t know I needed. These books carried me through my childhood, through my abusive upbringing, and being reunited with them is like seeing old friends laid out in front of me. I look up and see Harry looking at me with eyes full of concern.
“Jas I didn’t mean to make you cry. I’m sor-“ before he finishes the sentence, I fly into him, hugging him tightly.
“Thank you.” I whisper through my tears.
My emotional whirlwind ebbs, and soon, I fall asleep in Harry’s arms, reading my worn copy of Pride and Prejudice.

The next morning, I wake up in Harry’s bed alone with my book lying dog-eared and closed on the nightstand. A blanket has been draped over me, and I sit up slowly, looking around me in the dim light coming through the closed curtains. I stand and pull them apart, and sunlight comes blasting through, warming my face. I smile and look over my shoulder at the bag of books behind me.
As I come downstairs, there is a strange lack of sound in the house, and I find Harry alone in the kitchen, pouring milk onto cereal.
“Where is everyone?” I ask, opening the fridge and grabbing a mini yogurt.
“Mum left a note. She and Robin took Maria into town. She wanted to see where you came from.” Harry explains, stepping up behind me. He presses against my back as he puts in the milk, and just like that, the pressure is gone again.
“What do you want to do today?” He asks, sitting at the kitchen table. I follow him, and open the yogurt.
“I was thinking about what you said last night. About the house.” I say with a shaky voice, dipping my spoon into the pink dairy.
“Yes?”
“Officially it’s mine. Which means I can sell it.” I say. “But first I have to clear out the last of our old things.”
Harry’s hand reaches forward on the table and grabs mine. I look up, and I find him staring into my eyes.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this Jas?” He asks, his other hand grabbing the free one of mine. He brings them together between us, and gives them a squeeze.
“Yes.” I nod, any trace of shakiness gone.
“Okay. Let’s leave in 15 minutes.

He starts by driving us to a local DIY store, where we purchase a load of cardboard boxes. Our next stop is at the house.

Stepping out of the car, I look through the overgrown front yard at the house from which I fled so long ago. While Harry grabs an armful of boxes yet to be unfolded, I slowly step up to the small terrace and reach down below the windowsill to the right. Sure enough, the spare key is hanging there, and my fingers close around the icy metal. I stick it into the keyhole, and suddenly, my childhood home is in front of me. I step inside, and for a long time, I simply walk around the different rooms, reliving moments of joy and moments of pain, seeing young James and Jasmin playing on the dirty rug in the living room, seeing four year old James eating the remains of a half-devoured burger from the gas station, and looking out the window at the swing that had always been there, now rotten and unsafe, I saw seven year old James pushing his twin sister, both children laughing. I see myself being beaten at 15 and I see my mother apologizing in a drunken state of guilt, making promises she will never follow up on. No tears are shed until I reach my room, where most nights, James would end up staying as well, comforting a bruised and weeping Jasmin, or getting cuts treated for him by his sister. This was the very room in which we agreed that we would be gone as soon as we turned 18. This was the place where we planned our escape. I sit down on the small rug in the middle of the room. It used to be light blue, but years of dust, and the absence of a vacuum has reduced it to a dull grey. In there, I sit and cry quietly. Though I am not completely silent, I am not sobbing either. All of the emotions that I have felt in the past, in this very spot, come back to me, and for a few minutes, I simply sit, and let myself process them all. This moment is not about grieving James. This moment is about grieving the childhood I was robbed of.

After some time, I go back downstairs to see Harry sifting through kitchen drawers. He pulls out some perfectly good dishtowels and puts them in a box. He looks up and offers me a small smile, knowing that I need my space. I walk over and kiss his cheek.
“You know,” I say, looking around me. “A lot of this furniture is going to the junkyard. I think we’ll need to rent a trailer.”
He nods. “You’re right. Will you be okay if I go do that now? Because it can wait.”
I shake my head lightly. “I’ll be fine. You should go it’s okay.” He nods on response and leans down to give me a quick peck on the lips. Shrugging on his coat, he disappears through the door, and I bring an empty box into the living room to start there.

I am just finishing up in the attic when my phone rings.
“Hello?” I say, pinning the phone between my shoulder and ear while my hands carefully set an original Tiffany lamp that I didn’t know I owned down in a box.
“It’s Anne sweetheart, where are you two? We just got back.” Anne’s confused voice asks me.
“Well Harry’s at the junkyard with some furniture. And I’m at my parents’ house. We’re cleaning out all our things so that next time we come here we can fix it up and then get it sold.” I explain.
“Wow! Do you need help?” She asks after a moment.
“Actually I think we’re almost done. Harry’s going to drop off that furniture, then give back the trailer, and then we’re loading the boxes into the car and coming back. We should be there in less than two hours.”
“Jasmin you surprise me every time. I’m so proud of you going in there and just doing it. So proud. I’ll see you soon.” She says and hangs up. I tuck the phone back into my pocket and close the box with the lamp. I checked it online, tested to see if it was a forgery or not, but it is real as far as I can tell. I could make a small fortune off that lamp. It would make a nice trust fund for Maria.
The attic is actually full of lovely antiquities, leading me to the conclusion that they mist have come with the house, and ended up in the attic when my parents, who had no sense of cultural value whatsoever, moved in. I found a wonderful old dresser that I am going to bring with me home when we came back to clean the house and fix what needs fixing. I found a beautiful mirror that I’m bringing already now, whether Harry likes it or not. It’s perfect for Maria’s room, and when she grows out of it, I can see what it was worth if I didn’t want to keep it. I even found my great grandmother’s bridal gift, along with the card that my great grandfather had given to her with it. It is a beautiful necklace of pure white gold, and I intend to wear it. I have made so many wonderful discoveries up here, and I can’t wait to get it all to London.
“Jas! Where are you?” I hear Harry call from downstairs. I stick my head down through the trap door and lower the ladder.
“In the attic! Look what I found!” I yell back. He follows my voice and climbs up there, seeing all of the amazing things in front of us.
“Wow. I never knew you had all this stuff.” He says, opening his coat and sitting down next to me on the dusty floor.
“Me neither. But it’s amazing isn’t it? There are so many things up here we can use! And I hate the look of Tiffany lamps, but there’s an original one right here that I can sell and turn into a trust fund for Maria.” I say happily.
“You know I’ll set up a trust fund for her any time right?” He chuckles at my excitement.
“I’m her guardian, I’ll do it myself.” I say. “But thank you.”
“No problem.” He says before he puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me into his side.
“Are you okay?” He asks, glancing around him. I understand what he means, but this house, while holding lots of memories with James, has nothing left to offer me. I’m fine, and I tell him so.
“That’s good.” We fall into a silence that lasts until he speaks up again.
“Jas, what are we?”
It’s an odd question, but one that I knew was coming nonetheless. I look up at his face. His forehead is crinkled, showing how deep in thought he is.
“I don’t know.” I answer honestly.
“Well you know what I want.” He says, gazing down into my eyes. His are filled with adoration and hopefulness, and I sit up a little more to be at eye level with him.
“I do.” I answer.
“What do you want?” He asks, and his thumb comes up to run across my cheek. He keeps his hand there, cupping my face, and I lean into his touch.
“You know that I love you. And I know you love me. And I want a life with you just as much as you want it. And this relationship… there’s no going back now. We might as well go forward.”
He smiles, and brings our faces together. We share a long and lingering kiss, and after a few moments of happy laughter and small kisses from the both of us, we start carrying boxes down the ladder. We load the car, and fill up the whole trunk, then drive back to Anne’s.

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