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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20. “Thanks for my sexy knickers.”

Last night was nothing.

     Just because I went on quite an intimate walk with Harry, it didn't change the way I felt about him. The need to be wanted and cared for last night clouded how I experienced it, but there was no chance in hell that I could fall for Harry Styles. The reasons were:

     a. Harry seems incapable of real emotions.

     b. Getting involved with someone emotionally unavailable is self-explanatory.

     c. Above all the rest, I am emotionally damaged.

     It's all fun and games with flirting and boy chasing, but the one thing I can't handle is falling for them. Over a year ago, back in Australia, there was a boy called Jay. This boy I considered a beauty amongst the crowd of pubescent high schoolers, and I adored the attention he gave me. We'd share jokes no one else would get and he'd laugh even when no one else did. You could say that I fell pretty hard. I dedicated my heart to catching his gaze in class and doodling his initials absentmindedly on the corners of pages. This pursuit lasted three months, and in that time, my distant longing for Jay was returned, but it also passed. I had the opportunity to advance on our friendship, but I chose to stay in one place and enjoy imagining what it'd be like to kiss him rather than actually doing it. And as all crushes begin, it's inevitable that they end too. Jay fell in love, but it wasn't with me. Oh, the regrets and the teenage angst and the new shield to guard my heart. A girl will always have her heart broken, but only some are willing to heal it back up again to repeat the process. I wasn't one of them, and I locked away my damaged heart for safekeeping, and no one, not even Harry Styles, could drag it back up to the surface with his lazy smiles and forgiving eyes. It's simple to chase a boy, but winning them was never my strength. Hence why I now never allow the process to start in the first place.

     In the cafeteria at school, I watched as Abby played out her own distant longing for Oliver. I could see why she'd fall for him too; he was very attractive in both looks and personality. I'd only been here for a little over a month, but I'd already acknowledged Abby's great choice of friends-and for Oliver, a little more too. The way her eyes fluttered at him in the hope that he'd catch hers too was painfully obvious, and the naivety struck such familiarity. She laughed and he laughed and her body made an unmistakable jolt of happiness that her witty comment was received effectively. Her admiration for him reflected what I'd once gone through, and it wrenched my heart and dragged it back over the hot stove. I burned too easily, but hopefully (in her worst-case scenario) Abby was more resilient.

     Seeing Harry for the first time since the other night brought up the vile memories of past heartbreaks, and it lead me to push every ounce of emotion into the bitter pit of emptiness inside me.

     "Hey," Harry said in his surprisingly husky voice, leaning against his fence as I walked home. God, did he know exactly what minute I'd be walking up, clammy and tired, from a day of studying at school? His whole demeanour was casual but full of a confidence that said, we went on a moonlight walk and you sought companionship from me. Well, so much for trying to keep my emotions away. I guessed they really did have an imagination of their own.

     My response was brief and distant, and Harry felt it too, which lead him to pursue me. "Ouch, that was very cold," he mocked hurt.

     "Don't you have better things to do right now, like open fan mail or something?" I said as Harry caught up behind me.

     "I could, but aren't you flattered in the slightest that I've chosen to see how you are over my love-crazed fans?" I refused to look at him. Not looking was the first step to removing these unwanted feelings that I wasn't even sure were real. "And my fans treat me better than you are right now!"

     Harry clasped my arm and turned me around slowly, and I tried my next step of How to Stop Having Feelings For Your Neighbour with a Few Easy Facial Expressions bybeaming brightly at him. "What do you want to talk about, pal?"

     "Okay, you're officially freaking me out. I mean, you're odd on a daily basis, but this time I'm actually concerned," Harry said warily.

     "Um, well, about the other night..."

     "What about it?" he said almost too quickly. "You were alone and you came to me so we could embark on an adventurous quest for five blocks down the road."

     "Yes, exactly, that's it," I confirmed, letting out a little breath.

     "But something else is on your mind-" Harry was cut off by the sound of my phone buzzing loudly and bellowing the tune from a Bullet for My Valentine song. Harry raised one eyebrow slowly as I pulled it from my skirt pocket. The caller ID flashed pretentiously in the presence of Harry, the name bold for both of us to see on the large touch screen.

     "Louis," Harry muttered. His tone held surprise and an ounce of what I could only recognise as disappointment. I'm sure he didn't expect his best friend to be calling his neighbour. "Aren't you going to answer?"

     The harshness in Harry's voice lead me to press the green answer button, but in the time it took for me to put the phone to my ear, Harry was already crossing the street.

     "Hello?"

     "Don't you sound dreary," Louis' light and playful tone cut through the thick tension on my end.

     "Sorry, just getting home from school." It wasn't entirely a lie, and it wasn't entirely the truth either. But, I'd rather not dwell on Harry's sudden brash coldness to the call I'd so unexpectedly received from Louis. "Anyway, what's up?"

     "I don't want to make this awkward, but..." Louis coughed. "When's a good time for me to come pick up my briefs?"

     Oh my God. I'd completely forgotten that I'd worn Louis' pair whilst I stayed at his place and I told him I'd take them home to clean them. It didn't feel as embarrassing then as it did now.

     "Oh, right, um-any time is fine, I'm home most afternoons but I do go to work around 6," I said uncomfortably. My cheeks were hot and heavy with nervousness. What I couldn't deny was that Louis Tomlinson, from the biggest boy band in the UK and the world, made me undeniably nervous. How ironic.

     Then I was thinking about Jay again. I'd just crossed the bridge with Harry, but Louis was an entirely different situation. He seemed like the kind of person to flirt and speak in tongue-and-cheek without all the long-term commitment. Maybe that's why I allowed myself to feel nervous; because I knew he was just as unavailable as Harry. Yet, the question still stood: Why was I trying so hard to block Harry then?

     "Well I was thinking maybe the weekend," Louis said slowly. His voice indicated that he was leading towards continuing. "Would it be totally uncool if I came over on Saturday?"

     "Totally," I teased.

     "Great, well I'll see you in a couple of days," Louis' said and I could feel his grin over the receiver.

 

***

 

"Do you know what I haven't done yet," Abby said as we walked down the school hallway on the dreary Thursday morning. Storm clouds tainted the sky whilst drops of rain beaded the windows, ultimately trapping everyone inside the damp and confined space. I even had to layer up with two jumpers to fight the overbearing frostiness when I made my way to school. "I haven't christened your house."

     "That's a thing?" I laughed.

     "It is when you've befriended someone long enough and consider him or her a keeper, yes," she said, matter-of-factly.

     "I don't have a shift at work tomorrow night, so you could stay over then," I suggested. Abby beamed and clapped her hands. "Yes! You're home alone, right? Oh my God, I can make you my famous Spaghetti Bolognese!"

     She continued to go on and on until the eccentricity eventually decreased. And soon enough, Abby was knocking on my front door the next afternoon to fill the empty gap of loneliness in my house with liveliness and comfort.

     "Cute house!" she beamed as she came inside. I filled her in on how Lottie was an interior designer, in which Abby responded with her own aspirations in design. Her parents wanted her to study Law, but nothing could mask the creative streak she most desperately desired to release.

     "Direct me to the cooking utensils and I'll start on the best food you'll eat in the next two months," she said. And she wasn't kidding. Her final product smelt delicious, but tasted even more incredible. I didn't realise how hungry I was until I devoured a deep bowl full. It had been a while since I last ate a satisfying home-cooked meal, so having Abby brought me great happiness. Food was my favourite thing; I just couldn't make it myself.

     We spent all night talking about pointless things that reminded me of when I once lived a life where I enjoyed girly sleepovers. The last year stripped away that to leave sleepless nights smoking and binging amongst a group of people that make most others uncomfortable to be in the company of.

     "So, the famous Harry Styles lives directly across from you," Abby said as we lay on our backs on my bed. "Aren't you living a Fan Fiction or what?"

     "I'd hardly call it a ‘fate' situation, just a mere coincidence," I said casually.

     "Are you literally telling me that you're not attracted to the pop star who takes time off from being a pop star to tutor you French?" Abby deadpanned.

     "It's not like that," I sighed. "He's made it very clear that we're friends and I am happy it's a mutual agreement."

     Abby huffed. "Boy, some guy must have really broken your heart for you to speak about this with such dismissal."

     Was she a psychic, or was did she have such a high aptitude for distinguishing a girl desperately attempting to avoid all conversation alluding to the chance that she might be attracted to her famous neighbour? (No chance, might I clarify.)

     "Anyway," she continued after my not-so-enthusiastic responsiveness. "What about Louis? You've told me all about him and he seems super keen on you. And might I add how incredibly weird it is talking about not only one, but two members of the boy band I distaste like they are just boys from our grade."

     "It's weirder for me because I've only ever seen them as boys who could just be from our grade," I said. "And Louis is a good friend."

     "Wow, even felt the friend-zone," Abby mocked hurt. "Be careful, they might write a song about you."

     I couldn't help but laugh. From then on, we laughed until we fell into a mutual coma.

 

***

 

Abby was a morning person. I was not.

     I slept restlessly, but not enough to wake screaming in the middle of the night. Harry had kept himself at bay.

     "Your sleeping is boring me," I heard her huff. I still had my eyes squeezed closed, tightening them more when she ripped open the blinds. There was no telling whether or not it was cloudy; all I knew was that the brightness burned my lids.

     "Did you know that someone is parked in your driveway right now?"

     "I call your bluff," I mumbled into my pillow.

     "Oh, God. The literal Louis Tomlinson from One Direction is getting out of the car parked in your driveway."

     My eyes flew open, and I sprung to the window. She wasn't lying. "Why do people always come to my house at ungodly hours?!" I wailed, chasing the steps as I descended down to the front door. I was in poor shape in every form. My hair, no doubt, was bunched up in fistfuls of tangled nests, and my mouth tasted of horrible early-morningness.

     I don't know what startled Louis more: me opening the door just as his fist went to knock, or my slightly deranged appearance.

     "Well, aren't you a delicate morning person," he winked, giving me a brief but obvious once over. I self-consciously tugged at my knotted locks and averted my eyes to the person standing behind him. Niall was silent until I recognised his presence, in which he greeted me with a hello in his thick, Irish accent.

     "Niall just got his license and he's my ride, so turns out I can't stay for very long," Louis pouted.

     "Okay, well, come in and I'll just go get your-um, clothes," I stumbled as I went and fetched his briefs from my room. Abby was still standing at the end of my bed, looking at me with startling curiosity. "So, why is he here?" her eyes sparkled.

     "Came to pick up something I borrowed from him last week," I said as casually as I could without the risk of her knowing what exactly it was. I commended myself for putting them into a bag beforehand.

     "What's in there?" Abby asked nosily.

     "Just some clothes," I said.

     "What kind of clothes?" she leaped towards me, but I backed off. "Please tell me you have a celebrity's knickers in there."

     "Have you ever considered being a psychologist or something?" I said in awe. Abby was insanely accurate sometimes, and it wasn't exactly for the better.

     "Oh my God, you do!" she squealed. "I have got to see this!"

     Groaning, I didn't stop her following me down the stairs to where Louis and Niall stood rigidly inside the entrance of the house. Upon seeing Abby, they both sent her nervous smiles.

     "Oh, don't mind me," she said, leaning against the railing on the stairs and watching deviously. "I'm just waiting for Ellie to hand over your sexy knickers."

     Surprisingly enough, Niall was the first to burst into laughter. Louis and my embarrassment was the first priority for us, though. I shot her daggers, but she just grinned. God, if we were on the topic of morning people, Abby was definitely the definition of a decent one. Her thick, curly hair that I'd usually seen plaited and hidden with a beret now flowed in long ringlets around her face and shoulders. She was slanting so her curves under a pair of shorts and singlet rested on the weight of her arms holding the railing. I wasn't the only one noticing this, for I caught Niall giving her a long, fulfilling once-over whilst he dragged out his laugh.

     "And who is this delightful creature?" Louis said sardonically. I laughed and said, "This is Abby, and she's a rotten apple."

     "Oi, lay low on the insults, Harper," she said. "You have to allow me to enjoy this because it's just too good to pass."

     "Well, we better be off, we're going to some last minute interview for a magazine I've never even heard of," Louis laughed and the two boys headed out.

     "Oh," he said, turning back around. "And thanks for my sexy knickers." I was left with a wink and Abby chortling from inside and a blush that would surely bruise my cheeks for days.

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