The Direction of Fate

When Ellie Harper's parents ship her off from Australia to live with her brother in Holmes Chapel, England, the arrogant and obnoxious Harry Styles enters her life. Their frequent encounters have them both suspicious, but Ellie shrugs it off as just an irritating coincidence. But the more they see each other, the more she questions if this is something more than just chance. And it doesn't help that she has vivid nightmares involving her quite dominant and sadistic curly-haired neighbour.

Was this the direction of fate, or was the universe honestly burdening her with this pompous boy band member?

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22. "Just a game"

Another week passed and there was less closure than the one before. A simple daily check of my social network connections and I regretted it immensely. I didn't have a Twitter account, but I made one under a discreet name so it couldn't be traced back to me, all to see where my status was under the Harry Radar. There was a new photo from a gossip website of him leaving my house a couple of days ago.

     They actually caught him going home from our last tutor lesson!

     If I couldn't be a normal teenager and escape my problems with the Internet, then I just needed another activity to pass the time. As if on call, Louis Tomlinson's ID flashed on the screen of my buzzing phone.

     "Your fans are relentless," was the first thing I said.

     Louis laughed into the phone and replied, "That's what you get when you befriend two-fifths of One Direction, love."

     "I didn't ask for this," I grumbled.

     "Oi! You distracted me from what I called for," he said. "Are you free this weekend?"

     "Depends. If it involves you and outdoors, I'm going to have to pass."

     "What about if it were indoors, and at night?"

     "What have you got in mind?" I asked.

     "Because I am such a party animal, I'm having a small gathering with the boys at mine on Saturday. Keen to join?"

     I was about to respond when there was a rustling and a loud, muffled voice behind Louis'. "Get off! Okay-I'll ask her, just be quiet! Sorry, Niall wants you to know that you can bring a plus one, and I think he's hinting towards your friend from the other week."

     "Abby?" I laughed, slightly surprised. Huh, maybe that once-over was more satisfying for Niall than I had read. "And sure, I really need a distraction."

 

***

 

"You're lying," Abby said we walked into class. We had double History for the first two periods of the Friday, which I was not too excited about. But I was eager to see Louis tomorrow, just to relax the tension over this whole fiasco. He was the kind of person who could do that, whereas Harry tended to provoke it.

     "I am dead serious," I said. "Niall wants a slice of Abigail pie."

     "He saw me, like, once," she countered, flipping a few stray curls from her face. I couldn't be sure if her cheeks were flushed from the cold weather outside or she was genuinely too flattered to accept the idea that a pop star could be interested in her.

     "And obviously he wants to see you again. Just come tomorrow night, for me at least?"

     She narrowed her eyes. "I have nothing to wear."

     "Didn't stop Niall's eyes when you were in nothing but a tiny top and shorts," I winked, and we laughed so hard that the teacher separated us before the class had even begun.

 

***

 

I felt so insecure standing next to Abby in her short, flowing red dress. Her lips equally matched the vibrancy, and it went well with her long curls draped over one shoulder. She seemed nervous, but when she spoke or cracked a joke, it couldn't be less than confidence. I, however, tried a little too hard to come off as unwavering. The only thing I owned was a plain, black dress Lottie gave me a while back. I remember thinking how I'd never wear it, but now I was desperate to appear attractive in case cameras were to flash in the bushes.

     Louis greeted us at the door, and he looked so formal. He had on a navy blue dress shirt buttoned to the top and rolled to the elbows, with beige chinos to match. The perks of dressing like a millionaire was that it could take girls' breath away. Abby had raised one eyebrow at him, and as we were walking in she whispered, "Look at that ass."

     I kept my composure and tried not to focus on how fit he looked in those pants, and directed my attention to the few people in the room. Of course, I counted all the boys in the band, and there was one or two girls seated on Louis' leather couches. They had to be famous too, and there was too much intimidation to go say hello. It didn't really look like they could have cared less either of Abby's existence and mine.

     Harry was seated on the corner of the couch, leaning his bottle of half-empty beer on the rest. His eyes flickered somewhat over our presence, and he gave me a short smile and nod.

     Niall, of course, was already up and he said to us, "Can we get you ladies anything to drink?"

     Oh, I couldn't count the many times that I'd gotten wasted with old friends. Being underage and binging aided towards the enjoyment of coming to the brink of alcohol poisoning, but now that I was over that point in my life and am almost 18, it lost its appeal.

     "Got Coke?" Abby asked, and I smiled. She was the better, more responsible, half of me. Niall handed us both two glasses and he took a sip out of his own beverage.

     We joined the group of seated people, talking loudly and pouring glasses and listening to unfamiliar music. It turned out that the two girls were actually very friendly, and I only caught the name of one simply because her hair was lilac and her name was Perrie. She was in a relationship with Zayn, I gathered, and the other one seemed focused on Liam, assuming they were too. It was hard for me because Niall seemed fixated with chatting Abby up, which left me in the middle, winning attention from Louis' bouncy demeanour and Harry's solemn stare.

     "Gosh, it's like Louis can't take his eyes off you," Perrie whispered to me in a faint, wine-laced slur. If only she knew that contradicted how Harry was looking too, observing quietly and yet to be detected. I swear he'd be no fun at parties. As if the thought had already left her mind, she clapped and said over the music, "I want to play a game!"

     "If you say ‘Truth or Dare', you're going home," Louis said. Perrie pouted and replied, "What's with everyone and not enjoying the classic teen games?"

     "I'm in!" Niall piped, and we all knew he wanted the Dare. Abby looked over at me with her eyes wide, but I just chuckled.

     "I get to start then," Louis said. "Harry."

     Harry snapped out of his inner world and drew his attention into the circle. His lip curved up and he said, "Yes?"

     "Truth or dare, pal."

     His eyes flickered over me and back to Louis and he said, "Truth."

     "Tell me, Harry," Louis said slowly, tauntingly. "What do you think of our girl Ellie here being the topic of your love life right now?"

     My neck and cheeks burned hot. I didn't expect to feel this much attention until it was my go, yet even through the question was directed at Harry, the awkwardness was high for me.

     "Like I already told Ellie," he said, not bothering to look at me this time. "Rumours are always forgotten."

     I wasn't sure if it was supposed to come out that harshly. Yet, the tension held thickly in the air, until Perrie broke the silence. "Louis," she said brightly. "Truth or dare?"

     "You ask it as if you don't know the answer!" he said, mock offended. "Who am I if I don't pick dare?"

     "Oh boy, I'm going to sound so 13 right now," she said giddily. "I dare you to kiss this pretty one." Her hand landed on my shoulder. Her. Hand. Landed. On. My. Shoulder. Did she just say what I think she just said? My eyes were huge with surprise, and looking over at Harry's, they were too. But once looking at Louis' tipsy smile, he sat between Perrie and I and said, "With pleasure."

     And then he kissed me.

     His lips were damp with light wine, my breath caught between the sudden texture and the fact that I actually enjoyed it. I was kissing Louis! I screamed in my head because it just couldn't make it past my captured lips. I was kissing Louis, the boy with the cheeky jokes and the wayward smile. A part of me didn't want it to end, and the pressure of his mouth indicated that we shared a mutual agreement. Yet, this was just for the purpose of a game, and though it was slow in my head, it was over within seconds.

     Why was Harry the first person I looked at?

     Seeing his expression, too, dragged out into a slow turn of events. His eyelids were low, faltering with every blink of his distant stare. His jaw clenched and unclenched amidst his overall stone expression, but absolutely nothing could deny the look in his eyes. It was, unmistakably, hurt.

     "Yep, that just made my night!" Perrie said. No one saw Harry's face; no one even thought to look. Yet, for some reason, I found myself drawn to his reaction despite everyone else's unawareness. That was until Harry turned away.

 

     The game went on, more embarrassing truths and dares were unleashed, and the night ultimately grew old. Abby's mum picked her up early because she had somewhere to be the next day, but I hung around and chatted with a drunk Perrie.

     "Louis can't stop smiling," she giggled in her heavy accent. "I think he has a thing for you."

     I heard a faint scoff and saw Harry's dark eyes from the corner of the lounge. Perrie was too intoxicated to even acknowledge it, and I said, ignoring him, "I don't think he does."

     "You're Australian! That makes you totally exotic."

     "Babe, you need to sleep," Zayn said as he stood above her, grabbing her by two wrists covered in bangles and charms. Perrie pouted but said, "It was lovely meeting you, Ellie!"

     "You too," I smiled, watching Zayn wrap his arm around her waist and lead her to a room. Before they completely disappeared, she pecked him on the cheek and whispered what could only be a sweet I love you.

     They didn't look like a fame-engrossed couple. They just looked happy.

     "I think it's time I headed off," I announced too. "Thank you, Louis, I had a great time."

     "Yeah," he smiled, leading me out. "Me too."

     I greeted the night air with a new sense of clarity. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been kissed, and to be kissed by a boy whom millions of girls would claw at the chance to gave me this aura of confidence within myself. That was better than thinking, "Well, at least I didn't repulse you!"

     I was half way down the footpath when a voice burst out, "Ellie, hey! What the hell was that?"

     I turned around, startled. My wide eyes faced Harry, his boiling expression eminent under the streetlight. "What was what?"

     "That kiss," he hissed, standing dangerously close to my body, threatening with his eyes.

     "That kiss was for a dare," I said, and in return he scoffed.

     "You know it was more than that- even though you've always said there's nothing going on between you two."

     "And there still isn't! Just get off my back, Harry." I pushed his shoulders away from my space and turned on my heel again, only to have his hand grasp my arm and spin me back around.

     "He doesn't need you," he said hotly into my ear. "He's had his eye on you for weeks and he's wasting his time. You'll either lead him on or bring him down when you trip and fall."

     "Are you done?" I whispered harshly, trying to not show any signs of the frustrated tears that were extremely close to bleeding. I was in this satisfied world, but no matter how far I hid, Harry was always there to tear it down.

     I was responded with silence, so I took a step back and continued on my way, and this time I wasn't stopped.

 

I didn't take a proper breath until I finally made it home. There was complete silence in the house, all bar the ticking of the clock on the kitchen counter that read 11:54pm.

     I fetched the cold water from the fridge and poured myself a glass. With a sigh, I took it into the lounge room and turned on the television, only to see late-night commercials and talk shows on every channel. It didn't really matter anyway; my thoughts were entirely consumed by the argument that had taken place an hour ago with Harry. More, in fact, the look he gave me when I finished kissing Louis. That bitterness and solemness that I still didn't understand. It just made it worse that he had to make sure I knew where my place was with Louis, and with Harry himself.

     A rustling noise coming from the kitchen stopped me mid-thought. At first I thought it was just a trick of my imagination, but there it was again, the distant sound of banging and clicking. Almost like footsteps.

     I quickly got up from my seat, spilling my water on the floor and cursing to myself. I'd clean it up later but what mattered now was why the sounds in my kitchen were growing louder. It was coming from the back door, and I braced myself in the corner of the kitchen, waiting for what was trying to get into the house. I sucked in a sharp breath when the figure emerged into the room, prepared to see some kind of masked burglar ready to kill me and rob my things. But instead, staggering and supporting himself against the walls was Harry Styles. My shoulders sagged in relief, but once again stiffened when I remembered what he said to me at Louis'.

     "What are you doing in my house?" I demanded.

     Harry looked up and gave me a dopey, lopsided grin. His eyes were a shade of pink around the green of his irises.

     "The back door really shouldn't be left unlocked. People like me could walk straight on in," Harry wavered his arm about before nearly losing his balance.

     I pressed my lips together and narrowed my eyes at him.

     "You're drunk."

     "Your observational skills are getting better, well done," he smiled again and pointed approvingly at me. It was a weak smile, but his intoxication allowed his mouth to run wild with fake, cheesy grins.

     "Why are you here?" I asked bitterly. "Have you forgotten what you said to me?"

     Harry pouted and started making small, wobbly steps towards me. "I haven't forgotten, no. I meant everything I said. Louis doesn't need some clumsy hussy in his life."

     My breath staggered and heart unmistakably raced.

     "Don't call me that," I gritted, just as I backed up and banged into shelve and had to grab the kitchen countertop for support. Harry came closer, snickering.

     "See? You are clumsy! Can't you stand on your own two feet? I honestly don't know what Louis sees in you. He must just go for that."

     He was now only inches from my face, and he smelt of strong spirits mixed with cologne. The fragrance made me dizzy, but I controlled myself.

     "Why are you here, really?" I said, my temper ready to burst. "You've said all this, yet you're here telling me how bad I am for Louis again! And why can't he like me!?"

     Harry motioned forward quickly, cupping his hand around my cheek, his green eyes intent on my brown ones. I didn't even have time to catch my breath before his lips pressed harshly against mine. The shock of the situation kept me in place, and when he parted, I gasped for air.

     "Because you're mine," he whispered hoarsely, his nose grazing lightly on my flushed skin.

     He delicately brushed his lips against mine once more, deepening the pressure until it drove me to kiss him back. I responded by parting my mouth and grabbing fistfuls of his curly hair, its silkiness and maintenance making it slip from my grasp. I never thought I'd ever do it, nor feel the desire to. His hands were hasty but controlled, landing under my shirt and resting against my waist before fondling with the bare skin of my lower back. This new way of being touched by Harry sent my body into overdrive, and I moaned against his mouth. With that reaction, he mingled his tongue with my own, dancing in synchronization. All of a sudden, I wanted all of him, to feel every part that built up his existence. I'd never felt this kind of desire before, nor been the one desired. Harry sighed, his alcohol-laced breath mixing with my shallow one. It was a sound of relief, like a weight on his shoulders was finally lifted, leaving him light and free. His kiss held such passion that it completed me, and he opened up my heart, taking it in soft hands and whispering, "I'll take care of it."

     My heart sank when reality came up to meet me, and I realised that I was kissing Harry Styles, the boy who was maddeningly conceited and thought nothing romantic for me since day one, and now he had my heart. My guards had faltered and let him in, but this had to be some sort of retaliation to Louis so he could crush it, and the fear of that happening led me to break away before it was too late.

     "No, Harry," my voice was muffled as I pressed my palms to his chest and pushed firmly, breaking apart our lips. I remembered back to almost every nightmare in which rejecting him became the main theme. At first I expected to see his expression of fury, but instead it was hurt that stained his beautiful face.

     "Dammit, Ellie! What do you want from me?" his voice was hoarse and tortured, his pained eyes striking me like a whip.

     "What do you want from me?" I snapped back. "You've always made it perfectly clear that you felt nothing for me, but now you want to just kiss me? Why?"

     "Don't you get it?" The fury was slowly colouring his face, and I tried pressing further against the bench. "Why the hell do you think I offered to be your French tutor? Why do you think I even hang around you? A hot girl moves in on my street; I am a male and you wonder what I want from you? You're convenient. I could have any girl, but why go to all that effort when I can get a good shag from the chick across the road? And no, I don't feel anything for you, it's just that I can't have Louis ruining my game."

     It felt as if my weakened heart had lodged itself in my throat, and I couldn't breathe. I stared blankly at Harry as his chest heaved rapidly and his nostrils flared until my sight started to blur. Harry always talked about not having feelings for me, but never like this. This was the demon that only haunted me in my sleep.

     "Is that all you see me as? I'm just a-a game to you?" I whispered, the words choking at the end. My eyes were filling with hot tears, and eventually they overflowed and streaked down my cheeks. Despite my drowning eyes, I could just make out Harry's face softening.

     "No, I-I didn't mean to say that," he stuttered, his voice low-key and ashamed.

     "Why did you, then? Why do you always feel the need to hurt me?" I asked through gritted teeth, wiping away a stray tear that dripped to my chin. Half of the question was directed at the Harry in my dreams too, for in this moment I couldn't tell them apart.

     "Because falling for you was never the plan!" he blurted in angst, trying to keep his raspy, drunk voice somewhat stable.

     "The plan?" I repeated, staring incredulously. "It wasn't a game, it was a plan?"

     Harry's eyes were low, the sway of his drunken body being the only movement in the still space. "What I said before, it was partly the truth. But I had no idea what I was getting into! You-you were so...different...so challenging. And I'm afraid of having these feelings for you-"

     I was already feeling a sickening ache in my heart, and Harry's words just stabbed it with what felt like a shard of glass. He may have been drunk, but there's always that sliver of consciousness behind every word. Lies can still bleed through all that alcohol.

     "Get out," I trembled in a snap. Harry took one clumsy motion towards me, but I slid from him in defence.

     "Ellie-"

      "I said get out, Harry! You're a cruel bastard and I never don't want you anywhere near me!" I screamed, stifling my sobs with immense concentration. His face was twisted with remorse and pleading, but eventually he made the right choice and left, leaving me cold and alone. I caved in on myself, collapsing to the floor and choking on my cries. No matter how hard I scrunched my eyes to shut Harry out, his beautiful face kept appearing in front of them, tormenting my soul until I fell unconscious with exhaustion. Harry took my heart, held the years of protecting it, and crushed it between his hands.

     Now defeated against two Harry's, I was done.

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