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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1. Neon Green

Moving out of home was supposed to be one of the greatest milestones in growing up. It was a sign of maturity, of independence, and I was finally doing it. Technically I was going to live with my 23 year old brother, Noah, but because I was leaving my home in Australia for a little village in Cheshire, England, it was like moving out on my own. I liked to think that the plan was all mine, but there was no denying the fact that my parents were the ones who wanted to ship me off. Ever since my second last year of school and my downfall of grades, they thought it was in my best interest and theirs that a new environment was just what I needed for my final year.

     But there I was, standing on the hot pavement in the car park of Brisbane Airport, two suitcases under my sweaty grasp. I turned around to look at my parents, who were leaning against our red Ford Falcon. My mother scanned my person for what seemed like the last time and pulled me into an embrace. She muffled words into my hair, only hearing "I love you" on the end. I know she did, but I still had resentment for her and Dad's decision to lug me off to another country. When I pulled away, Dad was next in line. There was an awkward space between us for a moment, but then he made a stifled noise and wrapped his arms around me. He was so warm, smelling of the same Old Spice he'd used for many years. The last time I could remember hugging him like this was when I was a child. It seemed so long ago, and now his little girl was travelling half way around the world.

     "Take care of Noah, won't you?" he said, and when I looked up into his eyes, they were watering.

     "You bet, Dad," I reassured, grabbing my suitcases once more. My parents blew kisses and waved goodbye as I headed for the airport doors. Before the automatic doors slid open, I had a second to stare back at my appearance. In the reflection stood a girl with dyed jet black hair flowing around a face, her eyes rimmed with black and a stud in her nose. Her outfit resembled her koala eyes, black stockings and a Parkway Drive t-shirt. For the first time, I didn't recognize myself. I'd been sporting this fashion ever since I befriended this group of people at school. I gained their friendship, but lost both the dignity in my appearance and my high marks. My parents tried everything to separate me from them, their last resort being England. For the first time, I hated what I looked like.

     Ignoring the girl in the glass, I made my way through the threshold and was greeted by the cool air-conditioned International Terminal. People flooded the room, scrambling from lines and clasping flight tickets in their free hands.

     "10am flight to London for Ellie Harper," I said to the lady behind the desk as I hauled my luggage onto the conveyor belt. My tickets printed out and I took them after thanking her.

     I had about half an hour before my flight departed, so I allowed myself to wonder around the variety of stores and food places the airport offered. I past another shop window and again I caught my reflection in the clean glass. After averting my eyes, I realised I was looking into a clothing store, an idea sparking instantly. A week ago, I wouldn't have dared looked at the clothing in that shop, but since I was changing country, I should change styles. A new Ellie, I thought to myself.

     I eventually picked up a cream cardigan, a pair of dark denim skinny jeans and ballet flats to match. At first I cringed, but this was the style I once followed, and I was more than eager to dress like it again. Once paid for, I hurried to the bathrooms to change from my grunge phase forever. It felt good to shove those rotten black clothes in my bag, only feeling a tiny bit of longing for my print tee. The cardigan draped softly around my curves, and I pulled the sleeves up to my elbows. The bathroom mirrors still reflected the girl with a pale face and heavy makeup, even with her change of clothes. Scrubbing frantically, I washed off every ounce of the black eyeliner, leaving my eyes free and natural. I could almost see the girl I once was, and I smiled lightly. Every step counted towards my transformation.

     I had completely lost track of time when I exited the bathroom and looked at my watch. It was 9:50 and my flight was leaving in ten minutes. My feet broke out into a speed walk, dragging my suitcase wheels faster than they were manufactured to cope with. After five minutes of searching in every direction for the right terminal, I declared myself lost. The different flights flashed continuously on the screens, and I couldn't pick up on mine. Finally, after my tired legs had turned the next corner, I had directions to my terminal. With only minutes to spare, I got my ticket checked, walked down the tunnel and was inside the plane. My assigned seat was by the window, thankfully, and I sat down on the velvet material covering soft cushion. I allowed my eyes to trail out the small window for my last look at Australia.

     A lady in business attire sat next to me, seemingly out of breath but relieved nonetheless that she had boarded the plane in time. She gave me a brief smile in which I returned before going back to the window. The engines of the plane started to roar to life, humming as the machine gained pace and lifted off. It soared towards the sky, followed by the popping of my pierced ears under pressure.

     "Goodbye, home," I whispered to myself, leaning my chin against my palm.

 

***

 

About 12 hours into the flight and finishing the only book I decided to bring on the plane, boredom struck at its cruellest. There was nothing much to do but keep replaying the same playlist on my iPod until it hurt to listen to the screaming singers. Another step in changing Ellie was to adjust my taste in music. I ripped the earplugs from my ears and shoved the menacing device into my bag. The woman next to me was furiously typing her red nail polished fingers against the keypad on her laptop, the soft white glow of the backlight exposing the shadows under her weary eyes. She noticed me staring and closed the laptop, smiling. We submerged into conversation, me telling her about my first trip to England and her telling me how she was going to a business conference. I eventually convinced her to get some rest and be away from her workaholic habits, which she was quite grateful for. I, too, needed sleep, so leaning my head against my seat pillow I dozed off into a deep slumber.

 

The dream that followed blended together both common surrealism and a daunting nightmare. I was walking the streets of London, sightseeing with my brother by my side. He was laughing and eating his hot chips from the greasy paper bag. The sky was a strange kind of pink as I stared at the grey clouds invading. The day had turned from the perfect tour of my new country to dark and gloominess the same moment as an unfamiliar boy headed in my direction. Noah was laughing still, but no sound came out. It was as if the world was still continuing normally around me, but I was trapped to only sharing the atmosphere as the approaching boy. His breathing was calm and soft, but the sound hummed loudly in my eardrums. Now he was close enough to touch, his neon green eyes blazing abnormally against the saturation of my surroundings. He cocked his head to the side curiously, taking me in as I took in him. A smile played at the corner of his lips, but nothing of friendliness. It held something dark and sinister, making me shiver beyond control. At the last second, he whipped out his arms to catch mine in a tight grip. I panicked, trying to struggle out of his grasp unsuccessfully. A blow met my skull, knocking me to the pavement. Deep red smudged across my sight, the last thing I saw were his black Converse shoes.

 

I woke with a gasp, breathing hoarsely and staring into the eyes of the woman beside me. She had nudged my shoulder, disconnecting me from the green-eyed boy that plagued my nightmare.

     "I'm sorry to wake you," she said. "I just thought you'd like to see us land in England."

     I turned to the window, noticing the descent towards land. "I did, thank you," I said, smiling gratefully. I rubbed my tired eyes against the material of my cardigan sleeve, arching my back in a feeble attempt to stretch my cramped limbs. I positioned myself comfortably against the window so I had a perfect view of the scenery. It was about 6 o'clock in the morning, the soft orange glow of the early sunrise visible through the misty dawn clouds. The plane dived lower and lower, the same pressure against my ears popping them once more. The wheels hit to the runway with ease, eventually slowing down to a complete stop. I was eager to get off of the plane to both stretch my body and fulfil my stomach's anticipation. I was about to see Noah for the first time in two years.

     We departed the plane and I was greeted by the London International Airport. It was different to hear British accents as people talked and walked by. I made my way for the large conveyor belt, awaiting my suitcases to appear. Once I recognised my black bags with lace bows on them, I reached out and pulled them off. Next step was finding Noah. He had messaged me that he'd be waiting outside, so I headed for the exits. The moment I stepped through the revolving door and into the condense atmosphere, I felt the sudden alteration in the chilled air, the air of my new country. I wrapped my cardigan around me firmly to lock in my body warmth.

     The streets were filled with heavy traffic, taxies loading in arriving people. I looked out into the busy crowd for Noah, and when I saw my pet name "Elliephant" being held up on a piece of cardboard, I knew I'd found him.

     With my feet gaining in speed, I ran for my older brother, leaping onto him and embracing in a bear hug. When we parted, he took me by the shoulders and scanned my person.

     "Wow, Ellie, you have grown," he said in a thick British accent. I had completely forgotten what he sounded like when he was Australian, and I knew after at least six months of living here, I would lose all aspects of my accent too.

     "So have you," I said, noticing his once shaggy brown hair now clipped up short and spiky. He had changed a lot from the brother that used to sport guitar pick accessories and rock band shirts.

     Noah led me to his small, blue 1996 Toyota Prius in the car park. I managed to dodge the fast food wrappers and empty cups before sitting in the passenger seat.

     "God, Noah, do you ever clean out your car?" I asked, repulsed by the mess.

     "I've seen you for fifteen minutes and you're already complaining," he said, making me laugh.

     The trip from London to Cheshire was about two hours, two hours being enough time to catch up with Noah and to exchange life stories between the times we'd been apart. I found out that he lived in his own house under a mortgage with his girlfriend, Lottie. I was yet to meet her, or even know what she looked like. Noah had forgotten about filling in that little detail about his life, but I didn't seem to mind. At least his mind didn't completely revolve around being in love with that girl.

     "Here we are, Ellie. Welcome to Holmes Chapel," Noah said as we crossed into the village. The buildings stood tall and ancient, locking in time and history within the bricks. I found myself glued to the window, staring out at my new home. It was such a contrast to living in Brisbane city, and I felt like the silence of the village would be much more soothing than the sounds of motorbikes at 4 o'clock in the morning.

     "And here's our house," Noah concluded, parking his car in the driveway of his vintage wooden two-story home. He helped me get my suitcases from the boot and allowed me to open the front door. My fingers barely even grazed the doorknob when it opened, a bubbly blonde standing in the frame.

     "Ellie!" she squeaked, pulling me into a tightening hug. I tried to breathe, but the more I sucked in a breath, the tighter her embrace. She finally let me go and I was able to inhale properly again. "I can't believe you're finally here! I'm Lottie, by the way."

     "It's really nice to meet you," I said, bringing a smile to her face.

     "Oh, you're just the sweetest! C'mon upstairs, I've decorated your room especially for your arrival!" I was then being pulled along by Lottie's firm grip, looking back at Noah for help. He simply shrugged his shoulders in a way that said "that's just her".

     Lottie swung open an upstairs door and led me into the purple room. A double bed was pressed against the far wall, a large window allowing me to look out into the street below too. A deep russet study desk was placed opposite the bed, the perfect place for my studies.

     "This is amazing, did you design this yourself?" I asked.

     "She did," Noah's voice came from behind her, wrapping his arms around her small waist. "Lottie is an interior designer."

     Lottie giggled at Noah's words and snuggled into his neck, him placing a soft kiss to her blonde curls. I bit back the urge to gag at the thought of my brother with a girl.

     "Well, it is perfect, thank you," I said, Lottie only waving her hand in dismissal. "It's the least I could do to warm you up to Holmes Chapel."    

     An idea struck my mind. "Speaking of Holmes Chapel, do you think it'd be okay if I took myself on a little tour around?"

     Noah nodded and shrugged. "Sure, why not? I'm honestly just glad you're warming to the idea of living in such a remote little village."

     "I feel like it's going to be a really good experience," my lips wondered off on their own, my thoughts trailing behind. I finally snapped from my reverie and headed for the front door again and down the street.

     The village was just as spectacular on foot as it was in Noah's slow Prius. I got the opportunity to physically touch the old buildings, reliving their history through my fingertips. It had been raining a couple of hours ago, puddles of water still pooling on the sidewalk. My flats splashed into one, drenching my feet in the process. I was momentarily distracted and didn't see the businessman hurry past me quickly, resulting in him knocking me to the side. Just before I went to shove my middle finger in the air at his ignorance, my foot stumbled off of the sidewalk and onto the road, just as a bus was pulling in. It screeched to a halt and honked loudly after seeing me, but the wheels didn't slow in time. I shut my eyes and awaited the big red machine to knock me over, but a hand grabbed on to mine and pulled me away, seconds from impact. I fell into a pair of arms, looking up at my saviour. I was steadied onto my feet by a boy about my age with his grey hoodie over his head and sporting Ray Bans.

     "Watch where you're walking," he said in a raspy, deep British accent. I also picked up a hint of annoyance, but I was too grateful to care.

     "Sorry," I said quickly, followed by, "thanks for that."

     He smirked casually and walked off, leaving me with my beating heart fuelled with adrenaline. Choosing to put my near-death experience behind me, I continued on my way. I didn't get very far when something on the ground caught my eye and I curiously picked it up. It was some kind of package with the name "Harry Styles" on the front. Thinking it could have been the property of the boy who saved me, I pursued him in the direction he had headed.

     "Hey!" I called out, gaining on the back of his hoodie. I repeated it again and tapped on his shoulder. He winced under my touch and turned around, massaging his fingers to his temple.

     "Look, I've got a wicked hangover," he intervened before I could say anything, pulling back his hoody and removing his sunglasses. Wild brunette locks escaped and curled in different directions, his squinting green eyes reminded me of a certain pair in my nightmare, but these ones were dull and natural. If it weren't for his scowl, he'd be quite attractive.

     His fingers combed through his hair and he said, "Do you want a photo? Or an autograph? Whatever, just make it quick and please don't scream. I'm sensitive to girlish fits at the moment."

     What was this guy on about? I gave him a wary expression and pulled out the package. "I was actually going to see if this was yours, you may have dropped it back there," I said. He tore his surprised gaze from me to the item.

     "Right, thanks," he said, taking it from me. "Er, about what I said-"

     "It's okay," I reassured. "I get it, you're still drunk. I'm sure some other girl would love the signature of a random off the street."

     He raised an eyebrow, shaking his head and letting out an incredulous laugh. "Thanks again," he said as he went on his way.

     That was so weird. Instead of thinking too much about it, I shrugged it off and kept walking, enjoying the rest of my personal tour.

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