A Harbor to Call Home

Since it happened, Charlotte has been keeping her heart guarded, protecting herself by living only in the present. She knew she had feelings for Harry when she took the job working for One Direction, but she never knew their relationship would become as serious as she's let it become. What is she going to do when she's forced to decide whether to truly let anyone into her heart again?

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1. Chapter One

Because I’m Tired of the Fangirls Trying to be the Iceberg to My Ship

The rumor mill is thick with disgust toward me for being a bad girlfriend, this I know. Diehard fangirls and gossip magazines trash talk me as often as they can for not being in the audience during every single of of the boys’ shows.

It’s a curse of the world knowing I travel with them, I suppose.

Besides, they’re not wrong. I’m not in the audience every night. That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is that no one seems to consider that there may be less antagonistic reasons for my absence.

I choose not to be in the audience every night because I do support them, not because I don’t.

Think back to the first time you ever had a PB&J sandwich. It completely blew your mind with how incredible it was, no? And you thought “I could eat this everyday of my life and never get tired of it.” And then you did eat it everyday for awhile, until you started knowing exactly what to expect from it and it stopped having any sort of appeal. So, you stopped eating it every day, but now every time you have a PB&J sandwich, because it’s a rare event, it’s like that first time all over again and blows your mind.

The same concept applies to my approach to the tour.

As it stands, I try to make it into the audience at least once a week. And when I do, I’m a total fangirl about the whole ordeal, emotionally.  I may leave out the novelty t-shirts (although I have a few) and the handmade signs, but I’m right alongside the fans openly weeping with pride or clenching my fists and gritting my teeth to stop myself from launching onto the stage and letting Harry rock me, rock me, rock me, yeah in front of millions of people.

I cannot physically or emotionally handle watching him on stage. I’ve taken to calling him Hazzard because he’s so detrimental to my well-being.

And it’s not just him.

I’m entirely emotionally unstable when it comes to those boys doing what they do best, and I want to keep it that way. It would be less supportive of me as a girlfriend to spend every single night in the audience and let the whole thing become a routine:“Oh, this is the bit where Louis thanks the audience,”or “this is the bit where Harry will probably change the lyrics to something absurd.”

I don’t want to be that person.

It’s easy for the boys to stay present and continue to be blown away by every single night of the tour because it’s so real for them, getting to do what they love and seeing all of the fans every single night. I’m just afraid that I’d stop being amazed by them and that’s the absolute last thing I want.

It’s a tricky dichotomy that the fans don’t understand. So I take the flack about not watching the show every night and I accept the rants about it being obvious that I don’t enjoy their music and how the boys shouldn’t let Harry date someone who doesn’t even like their band. And I accept that the fans only say those things when they’re being nice and that it’s a lot worse when they’re being mean. I take all of that.

Because while they’re haranguing me as much crap as possible, I’m in the audience for one night a week, completely blown away by how incredible the boys are as musicians and friends and entertainers and human beings.

And I wouldn’t give that up for

 

     I sigh and hit “cancel”, removing the potential post from my Tumblr and from existence. It doesn’t matter what I wouldn’t give it up for.  While I know my approach is the best for everyone, throwing it in the fans’ faces will only cause a backlash and get me more press coverage than I want or need. Extended rants will benefit no one, but typing it at least relieved some of the fury from the pit of my stomach.

     I shouldn’t have let the free stadium wifi tempt me into checking twitter.

     Most nights, I sit back stage with noise canceling headphones and a book light, helping to cater to the boys whenever they come off stage. Other nights, like tonight, I spend the show time in the boys’ dressing room with a book. It’s the only thing I’ve found that works well enough to distract me from the pandemonium nearby. I’ve been working my way through Jane Austen recently. I read Pride and Prejudice with my Year 10 Literature teacher but decided now was as good a time as any to make it through the others. It adds a bit of an extra distraction because I constantly have to look up vocabulary.

     I’m halfway through Chapter 13 of Emma when I’m startled by the heavy, wooden doors slamming open.

     “Hey nerd girl! I’m extra sweaty tonight!” Louis shouts, charging toward me. I pull my knees to my chest and hold up my hands in an attempt to ward him off but he dives on top of me and wraps his arms around my shoulders, doing his best to get as much sweat on me as possible. He starts rubbing his head against my arm like a sweat-soaked cat. I cringe.

     “You’re going to give me diseases! Haaaaarry!” I squeal, pushing Louis off me as hard as I can. He’s giggling, his full weight against my legs as he prepares to ring his t-shirt out on me, when Harry finally comes into the room.

     “Oi! Off the lady, mate!” He yells and drags Lou off me onto the floor. He flops onto the black leather couch and pulls me against his side. I reach up and run my fingers through his sweaty hair. He’s always especially beautiful after shows, with flushed cheeks and tired eyes.

     “Hey!” Louis grabs my side from the floor, making me squeal, “Harry’s sweat can give you diseases too!” I stick my tongue out at him.

     “Don’t worry, mate, she’s forgotten that I’ve already given her your cooties,” Harry quips, leaning in to kiss me. I let my jaw drop and do my best to push him away, but then his lips catch mine and I can’t stop myself from leaning into the kiss. Louis starts making gagging noises, and I feel Harry smile against my mouth. He brings his hand up to lightly touch the side of my chin as he deepens the kiss. The butterflies in my stomach flit around a bit.

     Louis leans his head against my leg where it hangs off the couch. He’s lost interest in tormenting me.  I hear the door open again as Harry breaks our connection.

     “I’m the hungriest I’ve ever been! I could eat a hippopotamus!” Niall wails, flopping into the matching leather chair and feigning weakness. This is the case every night.

     I eye him for a few seconds, wondering if I could get Caroline to shorten the straps of his stupid bro tank without him noticing, carding my fingers through Harry’s hair.

     “There’re burritos in the microwave,” I finally tell him. I barely get the words out of my mouth and he’s bolting across the room. The boys had a couple of hours of interviews before the show that I wasn’t interested in attending and the suite at the hotel had a decent enough kitchen. I had a bit of time to kill.

     “Just two minutes! Two!” I remind him. I didn’t realize how easy it was to over-microwave food until I started hanging around the boys, and they’re not even bad cooks.

     Louis dramatically grabs my leg and kisses my knee, “Char, you might actually be my favorite person in the entire world. Don’t tell El,” and he scrambles across the room to stand with  Niall at the microwave, watching the plate of burritos spin behind the glass.

     “Don’t you want to eat?” I ask Harry, running my fingers through his hair again. He shakes his head. I shouldn’t have bothered to ask. He’s always a bit quiet after the shows. He says the sudden lack of adrenaline makes him feel a bit sick, so it’s always a while before he wants to eat. I’ve always suspected it’s more than that. He leans his head against mine and I thread my fingers with his and feel him breathing, his shoulder slowly raising and lowering my head.

     Our quiet moment is interrupted by the door getting pushed open again.

     “No one’s in the shower? Okay good,” Liam says as he makes a beeline from the door to the bathroom, grabbing his bag from where he left it under the long vanity counter. The boys could probably wait until they got back to the hotel to shower. But they never want do.  They like to be together after the shows while they wind down. They tell everyone they want to leave everything behind them at the arena, but they really just want to be together while they wind down and they have separate rooms at the hotel.

     Zayn meanders in a few seconds behind Liam, bringing traces of smoke with him.

     “Burritos!” Niall yells with a full mouth.

     “Oi!” Zayn cheers, tugging a hand through his quiff, and heads toward them.

     I reach up and turn Harry’s face toward me and he leans his forehead against mine.

     “How’d it go tonight?” I ask. The best way to get him out of these moods, I’ve found, is to prompt him to talk to me. He won’t start the conversation, even if he wants to have it.

     He shrugs. “ ‘Salright. I messed up a bit on ‘Moments’.”

     My best bet is that everything else went perfectly and whatever mistake he made wasn’t noticeable. Besides, that song is difficult. His primary responsibility for quite a lot of it is to provide harmony, a task that many “successful” singers would be hard pressed to do.

     “Meet with Helene in the morning to practice a bit?” I suggest.

     He nods and then shivers. From a chill, I assume; His white v-neck is soaked through.

    “I better get in queue for the shower.” He kisses my forehead and gets up off the couch, grabbing his bag on his way to lean against the wall next to the bathroom. I lean back against the arm of the couch and watch him rub his hand over his face. Then the door opens. I will never stop being amazed at how quickly men can shower.

     “Payno, Charlotte made us burritos!,” Niall announces as Liam drops his bag on the floor, he turns to me before taking another bite and mumbles, “Chazza, these are amazing.”

     “Wait, you made these?” Zayn asks, looking up from his place at the table.

     I nod, “I had some time this afternoon during the interviews. Don’t get used to it.”

     I pull my Kindle app up on my iPad again. The boys are having a quiet conversation at the table. For being as energetic and crazy as they are during interviews and performances, seeing them like this would surprise a lot of people. But it speaks to their level of dedication. They give everything they have during the shows. Afterwards in the dressing room is the most subdued they ever are, unless they’re asleep. Even Niall, who is known for always being loud and happy and excitable and outspoken is hardly saying a word. Part of it is the burrito, but he doesn’t say much even when there isn’t food.

     There’s a knock on the dressing room door and one of the band members, Dan, sticks his head in, announcing that there’s a meeting down the hall in five minutes.

     “But I haven’t showered!” Louis whines.

     “Neither have I, you twat,” Dan chides, “but Sally says meeting in 5.”

     Louis lets out a dramatic groan as Harry steps out of the bathroom.

     “What is it?” he asks as he heads across the room to pop a burrito back in the microwave. The shower must have relaxed him a bit. I’ve always thought the adrenaline nonsense was a bunch of crap. It’s obvious to me that the shows get to him more than the others. He gets so involved in the songs that it’s like he’s lived through a million emotions in the span of an hour and a half. I suspect that him feeling a bit ill after shows has more to do with emotional exhaustion than lack of adrenaline. He can’t keep his heart guarded when he’s singing.

     “Sally’s called a meeting in five,” Niall announces to him.

     Harry grabs his burrito out of the microwave and takes a bite before putting it on a plate fashioned out of paper towels and making his way toward me.

     “What for?” Harry asks as he sits down, taking another bite.

     “How should we know?” Louis’ sass, I’ve found, is as reliable as the sun.

     “Hopefully we’ll be back soon,” Harry says to me, leaning over to kiss me on the cheek before getting up and nodding for the boys to follow him down to the meeting.

     I lean back and stretch out on the couch. A wave of exhaustion has seeped into me, but I’m hoping I can fight it off until we get back to the hotel. Being on tour coupled with my inability to hold a consistent sleep schedule leaves me with days where it’s almost hard for me to move I’m so tired, but now that I’m with them I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

 

     The next thing I know, my iPad is moving out from under my hand.  I start to sit up but then Harry runs his hand over my hair. “Shhhh, darling. It’s only me,” he whispers.

     I let my eyes fall closed again. I can still feel the fear of what was about to come pulsing through me, my heart beating hard in my chest. My eyelids are so heavy, the starry blackness that starts it all is still there, just beyond my vision.

     He kisses my forehead before reaching under me to pick me up fireman style. I open my mouth to protest, but he shushes me again. There’s something tugging at the edge of my conscience telling me to drag my body awake and walk on my own. I hate letting other people take care of me. I hate needing to be taken care of; the weakness of it makes me sick. But the dread in my veins makes my body feel weighed down with sandbags. The nightmare had just started. And no matter how much something in the back of my mind is protesting, it’s such a relief to let myself be saved from it this once, to feel safe in his arms, to let myself be vulnerable.

     So I just let him hold me. I nestle my head against his left shoulder, sliding my right hand around the side of his neck, my thumb finding his pulse, and let him carry me out of the room.

 

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