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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19. Love's Sacrifices

When Abby closed her locker at school on Monday, I was there staring at her with slightly twitching eyes. Upon seeing me, she let out a massive gasp and stumbled back.

     "Jesus Christ, Ellie!" she shrieked, clutching her beret before it fell off. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

     "Remember how you kept asking me who drove me to school a few of weeks back, and I told you it was just my neighbour?" I asked lividly, trying to keep the sanity in my tone. Abby nodded confusedly, and I continued. "And do you remember my first day, when I asked you if Harry Styles went to this school?"

     Now Abby let out a laugh. "Don't tell me. Harry Styles is this mysterious neighbour of yours?" she joked sarcastically.

     When I didn't respond, Abby's eyebrows pulled in. "You're serious, aren't you?"

     "Why didn't you tell me!" I snapped, groaning against the locker front.

     "How was I supposed to know! Was I assumed to piece it together, because that's ridiculous!" Abby's eyes were wide. I sighed and closed my eyes, and she said, "Hey, what's wrong?"

     "I'm sorry," I said weakly. "I just found out that my neighbour, who I've known since I first got here, is actually a pop star."

     I laughed at saying it out loud. Oh, how pathetic I sounded, and how equally stupid too. I was still adjusting to the fact that his band were adored by so many girls around the world and I was shielded by my introverted choice of music and my naivety to the media.

     I explained everything to Abby as we walked to class: how Harry and I met, our friendship, and how he blinded me for over a month with lies about his identity.

     "How didn't you know?" Abby exasperated. "If you barely utter the name ‘One Direction', you can hear girls squealing in the corridors from a mile away. They would kill you if they knew you were friendly with their biggest celebrity crush."

     "You're right, and I know how tabloids and paparazzi's work, so why haven't I shown up on any newspapers or magazines? Harry tutors French for me, and I've been to Louis' apartment, for Christ's sake!"

     "Maybe they don't suspect anything to happen in his little hometown. Take that as a blessing."

     Abby could not have been more right. If I even got a mere slice of attention from the media, I'd hit the hills running. Nothing worried me more than having unwanted and spiteful attention that could only be spawned from the world Harry lived in. I came to England to have a fresh start at my degrading life-not to have my friendship with Harry splashed for the public to feed on. We weren't even a couple, but I still feared what they were capable of twisting to make the headlines.

 

I already had one type of paranoia to focus on, but it seemed that my nightmares had to be shared with the anxiety for being friends with Harry Styles. Wherever I walked, I was constantly aware of everyone and everything. Did that person just look at me for a prolonged amount of time? Are they whispering that they know I'm Harry's neighbour? Was that a camera?

     God, I was itching in my own skin.

     I was close to my house when I saw Harry emerge from his, and I darted for the closest cover in sight. Oh, what luck; my saviour was a stick thin sign pole. Harry caught on to my little ‘spy' movement and furrowed his eyebrows.

     "Ellie? What are you doing?" he called from across the road.

     "Don't make eye contact with me, Harry!" I whispered audibly, discarding the pole and speed walking up my driveway. "Anyone could see us together!"

     Harry ignored my plea and crossed the road to meet me half way. "Are you actually freaking out over paps?"

     "They see everything," I hissed.

     "Ellie, stop," Harry said, grabbing my upper arm. "I've been hanging out with you for ages and not once have you been recognised. This is exactly why I didn't want you to know about me, because now you can't even look me in the eye."

     "I'm sorry," I sighed. "This is all just new to me. And I can't look at you because I'm still annoyed."

     A curve in Harry's lip became prominent. "You really haven't forgiven me?"

     "I'm getting there. That smug look isn't helping your case."

     "Do I get points for bringing chocolate croissants for our lesson?" Harry lifted a plastic bag up, a hopeful smile on his face. My craving for chocolate let my frustration slide, and we went into my empty house to begin this week's tutoring.

 

***

 

"I never got to finish what I started the other night," Harry purred as he draped his fingertips down my cheek. I stayed perfectly still, but I couldn't control my irregular, shallow breaths. He circled me slowly, capturing me in a web created by his luminescent, green gaze. He was playing with his food and enjoying the hunt as much as the kill.

     "Are you punishing me for seeing him?" I softly spoke.

     "Oh, sweetheart," he drawled. "Punish is such a tame word. Now torture, or brutal affliction, that sounds much more tempting."

     That's when the first sting pierced my body. It was almost a pinprick to my arm, but the sensation after the initial pain was more excruciating than I'd expected. I let out a startled cry and grasped my arm.

     "Feel that? That is snake venom coursing through your veins. Usually it takes mere minutes for it to turn your blood into glucose, but this poison will bring you a slow, agonising death."

     "Why do you do this?" I wailed as Harry injected another dose into my thigh. He clenched his jaw and grabbed my own, looking me with cold, dead eyes.

     "Why?" he snarled. "This is how I feel when you go play with your precious Louis Tomlinson. I'm just giving you a taste of the suffering you put me through."

     I could feel my blood thickening by the venom as it burned its way to every vein.

     "Is this how you handle your jealousy?" I asked weakly. By now, I'd fallen to the ground without the support of my own strength.

     "Call it love's sacrifices," Harry said. "If you die, then neither of us can have you."

     The last injection went to my throat, and it almost instantaneously closed up. I gasped for breath, even tried pleading for mercy at the feet of my killer.

     But we all know how this story ends.

 

Choking for air as I woke became a regular occurrence. Yet, it didn't ease no matter how many times it happened.

     Being in the house alone felt like I wasn't safe, like I couldn't hide from the demons even in reality. I was a child scared of the monsters under her bed, but how can she have closure when they haunt her in her head? This time, there was no one to hear my cries.

     I collected a warm coat from the pile of clothes on the floor and left the house. There I was, after an impulse decision, standing in the front yard with the moon shadowed by the clouds. It was only about 10:30pm and the night would still be young for Harry, so I found myself nervously knocking on his front door.

     A woman, quite a beautifully aged woman at that, answered the door. A pair of reading glasses hung from her tired eyes.

     "I-um, sorry to bother you. I'm looking for Harry. I just live across the road," I stammered uneasily.

     Her face softened and she said, "Oh! You must be Noah's little sister. Lottie's told me about you, not to mention Harry."

     "Harry talks about me?" I was surprised.

     "He tells me you're awful at French," she winked. Of course he did. "I'll go get him now."

     I waited awkwardly at the doorstep until Harry emerged. "Ellie? What's up?"

     "Want to go for a walk?" I asked hopefully. I needed something-anything-to take my mind off my nightmare. Even if it were to spend time with the same figure who enjoyed watching me squirm in pain.

     He creased his forehead but nodded nevertheless, disappearing for a moment and coming back with a large brown coat. The door closed behind him, and we set off down the quiet street. All but some lights were out as we passed them, sound asleep and unaware that two young hearts were walking the footpath in the frosty silence.

     "Are you going to tell me what's wrong or do I have to ask?" Harry spoke up, disturbing my comfortable peace. Was it wrong that I just wanted human company to soften the ease of my troubled sleeping?

     "I can't stop thinking about you being famous," I uttered. I paused my thoughts and listened to the sounds of our feet scratching against the loose rock on the pavement. "You have this whole life full of glory and lights and recognition, and I guess only knowing for three days hasn't let it soak in fully."

     "What do you want to know?" Harry asked.

     "I want to know how easy it was for you to just lie blatantly. Did it ever occur to you that I'd hear your name on the radio or see your face in a magazine?"

     I tried not to look at Harry's expression, but I couldn't help it. His face was directed to the ground, his eyes focusing on one foot after another. What I've noticed about Harry was that his jaw clenches and unclenches constantly, almost like he has something to say, but then considers against it. This was one of those moments, and the corners of those familiar green eyes disappeared behind his lids. It gave me a chance to assess his thick eyelashes kissing his cheeks and the frown that pulled together in unison. His plump, pink lips, shadowed by the night, parted for a sigh, and he looked up to catch my staring. I even caught myself in the midst of it too. This was the first time I'd viewed Harry this way, and it brought an uncomfortable ache to twist in my stomach. Perhaps the loneliness that plagued me tonight had me desiring a loving shoulder to lean on.

     "Besides my mum and the band, you see me as a person," he finally said, not taking his eyes off of me. "You were the first person to say ‘you're Harry Styles' and not even bloody knowing who Harry Styles actually was. As full of myself as it sounds, I liked it. I meet people through connections and my fame. I met you because you nearly got hit by a bus."

     "What a fantastic first encounter," I laughed lightly. There was an uneasy kick in my tone, for Harry still had his eyes on me. That sickening feeling erupted once more.

     Oh, no.

     Oh, no, no, no.

     There was no way in hell I'd just felt legitimately nervous over Harry.   
     "Ellie," he said softly, stalling our walk. "Is there anything else that's bothering you?"

     "I-" I hesitated. Sure, there was the fact that I had nightmares about him almost every night, but that was not what bothered me now. "-I'm really tired. But thank you for the walk, I think you saved me some time from being alone in my house."

     Harry nodded carefully. "So we're okay? We're still friends, right?"

     Friends. Oh, such a comforting and disappointing word. For some, that's all they want to be with a person. And for others, it's a stab wound that is slow to heal. Why was I finding that such a challenge to decide which one?

     Soon enough, I was back beneath my sheets, but I was wide awake. Only moments before I'd confirmed my friendship with Harry, so why couldn't I fall asleep with ease?

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