One Struck

Gwen Evans is looking forward to summer - until she finds the One Direction, England's top-selling band, hiding in her barn. Now, she has to deal with rock star egos, an unwanted admirer, and the dark force that sent them into hiding in the first place.

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2. stars in her eyes

Lily did a double take.

No, it couldn't be them. Not here. Not in her barn. Not in flipping Gryffindale, for crying out loud.

But as many times as she tried to blink the image away, it remained fixed in front of her wide eyes: five boys, all with horrified expressions on their faces, all looking exactly the same as (if a little more disheveled than) she'd seen them in the posters plastered all over Sydney's pink walls. There was Zayn Malik, the one with the flashlight, sporting his long-ash, ragged black locks and those dark good looks he was so famous for; Liam Payne, wise one, the whole deer-in-the-headlights look throwing off his usual act of intense seriousness; Louise Tomlinson, with his brown  eyes, who was often banished to the far back of group pictures for exactly these reasons; Niall, only blond one; and finally, Harry Styles, the charmer, who seemed to have misplaced his trademark crooked grin for the first time in his life as he stared at the two girls in terror.

Oh, it was them alright.

But... how?

And more importantly, WHY?

Gwen might have voiced some of the questions whizzing around in her mind, but the shock was too much to handle. She stood completely still, rooted to the spot with her tongue tied. She could do little more than take in the scene over and over again, her eyes repeatedly skimming from left to right as she tried to assess the situation: The One direction, a band who'd done nothing but irritate her since their rise to fame, and yet a band so famous around the world that she'd never really thought of them as solid human beings, more an unattainable fantasy of teenage girls worldwide—here, right in front of her, in the flesh. She could only imagine what Sydney must be going through right now.

At that thought, she chanced a look at her sister—and oh, dear Lord, was it ever a sight to see. Sydney looked like she'd been doused in liquid nitrogen from head to toe. Every muscle in her body seemed to be frozen; she didn't even appear to be breathing. Her lips were parted, her eyes widened in astonishment and fixed firmly on the four boys in front of her—but she wasn't looking at them, really. Her gaze was so blank, it was almost as if she'd fainted while miraculously managing to stay on her feet. Gwen had half a mind to prod her and see if she would fall over, but tormenting her sister was the last thing on her mind right now—and besides, before she had the chance to test such suspicions, a male voice—its pitch heightened a little out of nervousness—shattered the intense silence.

"Hey there," it said hesitantly.

Slowly, she turned to face the one direction again. It was Harry who had spoken; though Gwen was loath to admit it, she recognized his voice fairly easily for its smooth, melodic quality.

Because Sydney still looked like a film stuck on pause, Gwen was forced to respond. "Hi," she deadpanned back.

All five pairs of eyes had shifted onto Gwen now, making her uncomfortable. She had a feeling Sydney would speak out in protest at this if her vocal chords hadn't ceased all function.

Zayn, who was still holding the flashlight stupidly against his fallen jaw, cleared his throat and moved it away, placing it on the hay beside him. Its intensity was diminished a little, but it still managed to cast an eerie glow over the scene.

"Err... right. Sorry, we were just trying to spook each other a bit—seemed like the right sort of setting, you know?"

Gwen did not answer.

"We didn't realize this place actually belonged to anyone," added Harry. "It looked sort of forgotten, a bit of a pigsty rea—"

"Not that this isn't a lovely barn," Liam put in hurriedly, shooting an admonishing look at his dark-haired friend.

"Yes, we're, err, very glad for your... hospitality and everything, but we really ought to be going, so..."

Harry stood up and the others followed; they began to make their way cautiously toward the exit. Gwen, still quite baffled, was about to step out of the doorway to let them through when all of a sudden—

"ARE YOU THE ONE DIRECTION?"

The ear-splitting shriek pierced into the awkward atmosphere, causing all five of the One direction—as well as Gwen—to jump about a meter in the air and turn, startled, to the undeniable source of the noise. Evidently, Sydney had recovered from her temporary state of refrigeration; she still looked just as blown away by the sight of the five boys she so idolized, but her stunned silence had been replaced by a giddy sort of excitement as she stared at them, bug-eyed and jittery.

The five boys exchanged wary glances, probably trying to communicate telepathically in order to get their story straight. When they didn't answer straightaway, Sydney took this as an opportunity to resume her fan girls fussing.

"I mean, that's a stupid question... Of course you are!" she corrected herself, shaking her head in a flustered gesture. "I would recognize you anywhere—the lot of you! But Harry... especially Harry... I swear, I'm your biggest fan! I know I've never been to any of your concerts so you won't have seen me before, but it's only because I can't; we live too far away, and my parents are stupid about it—they won't let me go anywhere faraway unless Gwen goes with me, and Gwen's a freak, she doesn't want to go, she thinks you're all a bunch of egotistical morons... but I don't, not at all! I have all your albums! And posters—seventy-six, to be exact! Harry, you're my favorite! I love you so much, I can't believe it's really y—"

Harry coughed loudly and rudely, causing Sydney to cut her mindless rambling short and stare at him. She didn't look embarrassed at all; it was more of an awed expression she wore—awed at having been interrupted by somebody as famous as Harry Styles.

"Look, I'm sorry if you thought we were somebody you knew," said Harry slowly, as if talking to a small child, "but you must be confused—we're not who you think we are..."

Zayn scoffed unconvincingly. "Yeah, I mean—us? The One direction? Aren't they supposed to be like, really, really ridiculously good-looking?"

Liam elbowed him furiously in the ribs as if to say "too much, mate". Indeed, it was a feeble attempt at throwing them off; even Gwen could tell they were lying, and she rarely (if ever) studied pictures of them in detail. Sydney was another story altogether—she'd probably memorized every square inch of their faces, every hair on their heads, every birthmark or freckle that would distinguish them from uncanny lookalikes. As expected, she hurried to demonstrate this disturbingly extensive knowledge of their physical appearances by saying:

"You are the one direction! I'm sure of it—and I can prove it!" Practically shaking with excitement, Sydney lunged into the barn, snatched up the flashlight off the dilapidated bale of hay and brandished it like a weapon. "If you're Liam," she said, starting with the director farthest from the door, "then you'll have a tattoo of feather print on the right forearm. Do you mind if I check?" She had, seemingly, built up a little more confidence in addressing the one direction now that she had the means of proving that she was indeed their number one fan.

"Sydney, shut it—this is ridiculous. Just leave them be," said Gwen, shocking herself a little by speaking for the first time in ages, not to mention—wait, had she really done it?—defending the One direction. It wasn't so much defending them, she realized, as trying to put an end to this mayhem. She'd never liked the one direction, and the whole experience of running into them on her home turf was getting a little too weird for her. While she would like to give them a piece of her mind for several reasons, she found herself thoroughly uncomfortable seeing them here, in person, and would be quite fine if they left without another word. Now, however, Sydney had put them in a tricky situation, and while they could probably make a run for it, they had apparently deemed that out of the question by now.

Liam froze up; if he showed Sydney the tattoo that (Gwen was certain) was most definitely on his arm, she would, no doubt, start squealing her head off again and probably stalk them for the rest of their lives. If he didn't... well, that would elicit a similar reaction, because his reluctance would give them away. Liam, apparently struggling with this decision, looked apprehensively at the others. They shrugged helplessly (all but Louise, who looked a little oblivious), leaving Liam with no choice. He sighed and lift up his right sleeve up.

Sydney gave a little leap of excitement and hastened at her chance; she shone the flashlight at Liam's arm .Sydney gasped, even though she could only have been expecting it. "There, see?" she said triumphantly. "You're papa smurf."

Liam sighed in defeat and stepped aside, allowing Sydney to turn the flashlight on Niall. The boy looked scared as she pulled back the collar of his jacket, but all the same, allowed her to complete the examination as he tugged nervously at his sleeves. “Fresh Prince of Mullingar," Sydney deduced.  She moved to Louise who know what she was going to do. “SassMasta from
Doncasta” she said. She moved on to Zayn, whose shaggy hair she had to lift out of the way in order to reveal the tattoo. (As soon as her hand made contact with his dark locks, he shouted "Hey, watch the hair!" but she ignored him.) "Bradford Badboi." At last she turned to Harry, seemed to realize that pretending was a lost cause at this stage and proudly displayed his mark. Sydney sighed dreamily; "Curly..."

Gwen snorted. Despite the circumstances, she couldn't help letting a little bit of resentment toward the one direction show through. "What the hell kinds of names are those?"

This was one of the many moments when Sydney looked exceptionally embarrassed to be her sister. "Don't you know anything?" she exclaimed in exasperation. "It's his nickname in the band, of course!"

Sydney had, no doubt, memorized those lines from some pathetic teen magazine whose editors were just as enraptured with the One direction' supposed "charm" as she was. Gwen rolled her eyes, folded her arms and took a step back in an attempt to remove herself from this twisted situation; unfortunately, Harry noticed this gesture and turned his attention to her, plastering on that crooked grin of his.

"I take it you're Gwen?" he asked, clearly amused. "The one who thinks we're 'egotistical morons'?" His eyes twinkled playfully, and she couldn't help but notice them wandering—down the length of her body, and back up again to her face. She'd known him to be full of himself, but this was something else altogether; here he was, unashamedly checking her out, as if it wouldn't bother her in the slightest, as if she should be somehow appreciative of the fact that he had taken an interest in her. Gwen felt sick, insulted.

"Yep, that was me," she said icily, narrowing her eyes at him. "Although if I'd met you in person at the time, I'd have used much str—"

Sydney slapped a hand over her mouth before she could let rip the string of insults she had prepared for him. "Ignore her," she said pleasantly, as Gwen yanked at her wrist. Thanks to Sydney's pathetic upper body strength, it was an easy feat, but Gwen didn't bother picking up where she'd left off; instead, she crossed her arms in defiance and glared at the four dirt-covered boys.

Harry smirked at her outburst. "Bit touchy, aren't you? Kind of like a firecracker with that hair of yours."

Gwen glared and ignored this comment. "Well, as much of a pleasure it was to meet you all," she began acidly. "You can leave now. You're trespassing, you know."

"Gwen!" Sydney gasped in horror before the one direction had a chance to reply. "You can't just tell them to leave! It's the one direction!"

"Do I look like I care, Sydney?" She turned back to face the five boys and crossed her arms defiantly. "Well? What are you waiting for? The door's right there."

The One direction ignored Gwen's hand, which was pointing toward the exit, and exchanged similar expressions—expressions that Gwen didn't like the look of one bit.

"Actually," Harry started, with something resembling apology in his tone. "We err, can't really do that."

Gwen raised her eyebrows. "Excuse me?"

"The truth is… we're in a bit of trouble right now," Liam admitted.

At this, Sydney gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth dramatically. "Of course! I almost forgot! You're on the run!"

Gwen, too, had temporarily forgotten the news report they'd seen that morning—with Dale DeMort, the Dale-Mart opening, and the One direction' no-show—but, now that she was reminded of it, the whole One direction-in-Gryffindale thing made a lot more sense. If they were on the run from Dale and those who worked for him (who, from what she'd learned about Dale DE Mort’s business methods, were more henchmen than employees), it would only be fitting to go someplace small and remote; someplace nobody would think to look for them. But what that didn't explain was why they had to stay here, of all places, and couldn't just leave Gwen and Sydney alone.

The One direction remained silent, but it was clear that Sydney had hit the nail on the head. They shuffled their feet awkwardly and Louise began tugging on his sleeves now more. Gwen, however, still didn't understand exactly where they were going with this.

"So go be on the run somewhere else then," she said slowly, irritation dripping from every syllable.

The boys exchanged those looks again, and Harry hesitated before replying: "The thing is, now that you know who we are, we can't leave."

Gwen, whose patience was quickly wearing thin, felt her eyes open wide in exasperation. "Why the hell not?" she demanded.

"Because!" Zayn exclaimed, sounded almost annoyed. "We've got to keep an eye on you now, haven't we?"

While Gwen sputtered angrily, Sydney looked delighted. "Keep an eye on us?" she asked in a dreamy, hopeful tone. Her eyes were focused intently on Harry. "Like, twenty-four-seven supervision?"

"Sydney," Gwen snarled. "Don't encourage them!" She rounded back toward Zayn. "'Keep an eye on us'? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, how do we know you're not going to tell everyone that you saw us?" Niall said in his Irish accident finally piped up by way of explanation.

This comment only made Gwen's blood go from a simmer to a violent boil. Could they be any more arrogant? "Why would I tell anyone?" she snapped. "None of my friends care about the freaking one direction."

"Ouch," Zayn commented, eyebrows raised.

Harry was still regarding her with that appraising expression. "You know, you're kind of hot when you're angry."

"Ugh!" Gwen exclaimed, inexplicably infuriated by the arrogant grin on his face. She spun around and stalked toward the door, calling over her shoulder: "This is ridiculous! I'm going back to the house. Come on, Sydney." There was a pause, and her sister failed to respond. "SYDNEY!" she barked.

"You go ahead," Sydney said faintly. "I'm going to… stay here for a while."

Were her head less clouded by anger, Gwen might have forced her sister to come with her. Given the circumstances, however, the only thing on her mind was getting as far away from the barn and its despicable inhabitants as possible.

"Fine!" she snapped. "But they'd better be gone tomorrow, or else!"

The following morning, Gwen was awoken by a very strange, very loud noise.

"Mmph, go 'way," she muttered sleepily, rolling over in the sea of tangled covers that was her bed. As if in response, the sound picked up its intensity until it was blasting shrilly in her ears. God, what was it? It sounded like a plane taking off, or someone being mauled by a rabid grizzly bear, or…

A hairdryer.

"Sydney," Gwen growled, throwing back her bedspread with a murderous expression on her face. Half-asleep, she stumbled down the hallway, zigzagging back and forth and bumping into the wall several times in her state of disorientation. At last, she made it to the bathroom doorway and stopped in front of it, fully intent on giving Sydney a piece of her mind—unfortunately, she was momentarily blinded by the intense light issuing from within and stumbled backward, hitting her head on the wall.

After blinking the bleariness away, Gwen squinted into the bathroom, and her suspicions were confirmed.

Sydney stood in front of the mirror, her brown locks billowing up around her face as she took aim with the hairdryer. Around the bathroom sink, various items were scattered—including a comb, an assortment of earrings and several makeup compacts—and in the far corner, the shower showed signs of recent use. Sydney herself was dressed impeccably in slim white pants and a lightweight, rose-hued sweater, her neck adorned with faux-pearls.

The moment she caught a glimpse of Gwen's figure in the mirror, she screamed.

"Gwen," she whined, switching off the hairdryer and spinning around to regard her sister's matted hair, crumpled pajamas and generally gremlin-like appearance with disdain. "Stop trying to scare me!"

Luckily for Sydney, the insult failed to register properly in Gwen's half-asleep brain. "For God's sake, Sydney," she moaned, rubbing her eyes. "It's like five in the morning; what on Earth are you doing?"

Her sister picked up a foundation brush and began sweeping it across her face. "Nothing that concerns you," she replied stiffly.

Gwen scoffed. "Anything that gets me out of bed before nine o'clock definitely concerns me," she retorted, folding her arms. "So yeah, I would like to know why I had to be blasted out of bed at this ungodly hour."

Sydney exhaled and calmly deposited her brush next to the sink. She bit her lip, and for a moment, it looked as though she was about to explain herself—but instead, she blatantly ignored Gwen and picked up a tube of lip gloss. She pouted stupidly and began to spread it generously across her lips, evidently trying to forget that her beautification routine had been disrupted at all. That was okay, though, because Gwen had figured it out on her own. She was loath to accept the incident at the barn had been anything more than a horrible nightmare, but seeing Sydney here, dressed to impress at five o'clock in the morning... Well, it wasn't doing wonders for her denial. Granted, Sydney was always obsessed with her appearance—but at this hour? If this were a regular occurrence, then Gwen would have beaten her sister to death with that hairdryer years ago.

"Please don't tell me you're going out to see if the one direction are still there."

Sydney said nothing. She was leaning in close to the mirror now, carefully brushing mascara over her eyelashes. That was all Gwen needed; from Sydney, no response was as good as an admission of guilt.

The earlier it was, the lower Gwen's tolerance for Sydney's snobby antics became—so, purely out of vengeance, she decided to mess with her sister's mind just a little. "Well, I hate to break it to you, but you're too late," she said, trying to look nonchalant as she pretended to inspect her nails. "I saw them leave just then, while I was looking out the window. They're gone."

Sydney froze up at once. Gwen could see every muscle in her body go tense, even though she—or anybody, for that matter—would have to be an idiot to fall for Gwen's half-assed lie. Apparently, though, this was too sensitive a subject for Sydney to dismiss it so easily; with an expression on her face that was positively lethal despite her visible attempts to control her anger, she turned to Gwen and said, "No, they said they had to 'keep an eye on us', remember? They aren't going anywhere."

Her logic was undeniably... logical. Gwen had tried hard to push that factor out of her head; she simply couldn't fathom the thought of those idiot boys staying in her family's barn all summer, but come to think of it, they had sounded very serious about all that secret business last night. All the same, she raised an eyebrow at Sydney. "Oh, really? And what if they were just messing with us—trying to throw us off so that they could make a quick getaway this morning without us suspecting anything?" she challenged, trying to give her voice a mysterious edge.

With their eyes narrowed and their gazes fiercely locked, they glared at one another for a lengthy moment—Gwen keeping up the presence, Sydney trying to decide whether or not to believe. In the end, she stuck her chin out in determination and stormed out the door, around Gwen and down the hallway. She was headed for the stairs, and after that, no doubt, she would be on her way out to the barn to see for herself if the one direction had stayed put overnight. Gwen heaved an exasperated sigh and turned to follow her.

"Sydney, please, don't go out there," she said to her sister's back; there was a strange, almost begging quality to her voice that startled her a little. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into! They're rock stars, for heaven's sake! They're arrogant and manipulative, and they're just going to treat you like dirt, the same way they treat every other ordinary person they meet—you do know that, don't you?"

Sydney's shoulders rose an inch or two, so Gwen knew her comment had hit hard—but not hard enough. Sydney's step didn't even falter as she skipped over the last few stairs and headed for the back door; Gwen should have known from the beginning that there was no stopping her.

"Sydney, get back here!" she yelled insistently, just as her sister's cashmere-clad back disappeared from sight. When Sydney failed to comply, Gwen let out a groan of frustration and launched herself down the staircase. She scrambled toward the door, which was falling shut, and heaved it open.

Squinting against the bright sunlight, she saw Sydney's tall figure a short distance in front of her, making a deliberate beeline for the barn. Without pausing to think about what she was doing, Gwen broke into a run and managed not only to catch up with her sister, but to station herself in front of her, effectively blocking her path.

"What are you doing?" Sydney hissed, pushing her to the side and continuing on her way, quickening her pace.

Gwen rubbed her shoulder and glared at her sister, but didn't relent. She inhaled deeply and took off after her again, easily gaining ground. Though she hadn't been fully aware of her motives to begin with, she now had it down to a couple of reasons for which she was so intent on stopping Sydney: one, going out to visit the one direction in the barn wouldn't be a favorable move at this stage. Coming to them only went to show that they were obedient and easily controlled, and would make the one direction think that they had Gwen and Sydney eating out of their stupid, lazy, guitar-strumming hands. Plus, maybe Gwen was just being naive, but she couldn't help hoping that, if they stayed far away from the barn, the one direction might get the message and just go away. (Again, she was just being hopeful.) And two, it pained her to admit it, but... she would hate to see Sydney get shot down by the boy she'd spent the last four years of her life pining for. Not really because she cared that much about her sister's feelings, but because she was so pathetically oblivious to everything and, well... it would be cruel not to feel pity for somebody who was about to make a horrible fool of themselves in front of an internationally renowned rock star.

"Sydney, I'm serious!" Gwen shouted at her sister's back.

"No, you're not," Sydney shot back without turning around. Her voice was cool and razor-sharp. "Zayn is in there." Gwen saw her shoulders rise and fall as she sighed in exasperation. "Not that he matters. I know you're jealous, Gwen, but you can't stop me from seeing my Harry."

"Argh! I'm not jealous, Sydney—you know full well I think they're bumbling idiots. And besides, he's not your Harry—which is exactly my point. You're delusional. I think it would be best if you stayed away from them all."

"La la la, I can't hear you!" Sydney shouted immaturely, stuffing her fingers in her ears as she hurried on.

"ARGH!" Gwen burst out again, feeling very much inclined to stomp on the ground and throw a tantrum out of frustration. "You are such an idiot!"

Sydney took her fingers out of her ears and called back derisively: "I know you are, but what am I?"

Normally, Gwen would have had an equally pathetic remark to throw back at her sister. She was dismayed, however, to notice that Sydney had stopped abruptly in her tracks. They had arrived outside the dreaded barn.

With a goading look, Sydney reached out a hand toward the ramshackle door.

"Sydney, please." Gwen's tone had taken on an air of desperation. "Don't—"

But it was too late. She could only stare on in horror as, with a malicious grin, her sister gave an almighty shove and pushed the door open to reveal the five boys inside.

Correction: The five snoring boys inside.

Needless to say, Sydney was a little bit taken aback when she saw her idols in this state. (How she hadn't expected this when she'd decided to barge in on them at the crack of dawn was beyond Gwen, but when Sydney was on a mission, she had a tendency to forget little things like, say, timing.) The One direction, Gwen was slightly amused to note, had done a terrible job of setting up sleeping quarters. They'd scattered bales of hay everywhere in their attempts to create a couple of bed-like structures on the ground level, where Louise, Niall, and Liam slept in uncomfortable-looking positions, limbs hanging off in every which direction. Zayn and Harry (rather idiotically, given the questionable condition of its support structures) had taken up residence on the upper level, and were lying across the narrow platform on a bed of hay.

The arrangement itself wasn't what made the scene so comical, though. Zayn had an arm dangling over the edge of the wooden plank across which he was sprawled haphazardly, and was snoring in a faint but even rhythm. Harry' mouth was wide open; a fly was buzzing around it, and a thin line of drool ran down his cheek. Liam had fallen halfway off of his raised bed of hay, twisting his spine into a painful-looking position. Niall was hugging bed of hay. Louise, perhaps the most comical of the five, lay face-down in the straw, his knees tucked up underneath him, his arms limp, his bottom raised into the air. His back rose up and down and he emitted a series of snorting, choking sounds as he attempted to breathe through the hay.

Sydney, however startled by the sight before her, was undeterred. With alarming speed and accuracy, her eyes zeroed in on Harry' sleeping figure and she began drifting toward him as though in a trance.

Gwen, who was standing anxiously at the door, let her jaw drop at her sister's impertinence. "Sydney! What the bloody hell are you doing? You're going to wake them!" she exclaimed, lacing her voice with as much anger as a whisper would allow.

"Shh!" Sydney spun around momentarily with a finger held up against her lips and daggers in her eyes. Turning her back to her sister, she rolled up the delicate sleeves of her sweater and cast a glance toward the barn's upper level.

Gwen felt her throat go dry. There was no way she was possibly considering …

Oh, she was. Gwen felt like smacking a hand to her head as she watched Sydney grab hold of the rickety ladder and begin hoisting herself up, face set in determination.

"You idiot!" she hissed, taking another step into the barn. "Get down from there! I swear to God, Sydney, this is the dumbest thing you have ever"

At that moment, Zayn let out a monstrous snore and rolled over, causing the entire barn to shift with a noisy creak. Halfway up the ladder, Sydney froze and held her breath.

By some miracle, however, none of the five slumbering teenagers was awoken by this disturbance. With a sigh of relief, Sydney continued the rest of the way up the ladder and climbed onto the flimsy wooden overhang at the top.

Gwen watched in dismay, filled with an inescapable feeling that this was not going to end well. "Sydney…" she croaked, although she knew that her protests were futile at this stage. Indeed, her sister did not even seem to be able to hear her anymore. With wide, reverent eyes, she crawled toward the sleeping Harry, stretching a hand out longingly…

And then there was a thunderous crash and a blood curdling scream and everything disappeared in a cloud of dust and hay. Coughing, Gwen squinted through the haze and realized that the entire upper story had collapsed; apparently, it couldn't handle all two pounds of Sydney's rail-thin figure.

"ARGH!"

"What the—?"

"Bloody hell!"

A string of assorted yelps and profanities echoed through the partially destroyed barn, and as the dust began to settle, Gwen made out four disheveled figures rising from the debris. Louise, in the corner, stumbled to his feet with much coughing and sputtering and almost ploughed right into a sleep-worn Liam, Niall who was rubbing his back with a grimace. On the other side of the barn, Zayn emerged from a pile of rubble, looking confused and bleary-eyed. Not one of them seemed to have noticed Gwen's presence—probably because they were all slightly delirious from sleep.

"Err… would you mind getting off?" A muffled voice wafted up from somewhere on the floor and Gwen glanced down to see her sister lying on top of Harry, staring into his eyes with awe and clearly quite comfortable right where she was.

Any sane person would have been extremely embarrassed to be caught in such a position, apologized fifty times as they righted themselves, perhaps invented a hasty excuse before running away and hiding in a hole for the rest of their life. Sydney, however, was not sane. Gwen had known this for a long time. And as her sister continued to stare at Harry as if he were the answer to all life's problems (and, more specifically, as if he hadn't just asked her to get off of him) she realized that nothing had changed on that front. Or maybe she'd just slipped into another episode of star-struck immobility. Harry' expression shifted from polite to uncomfortable and from there to downright disturbed, but Sydney still did not move.

"SYDNEY!" Gwen barked, unable to bear it any longer. She felt like she was reprimanding an animal who'd managed to slip off its leash; at the sound of her raised voice, Sydney jumped a little in alarm and quickly leapt off of Harry, who inched away from her as soon as she was on her feet.

"Oh, Harry, I'm so sorry!" she burst out in a high-pitched, sickly sweet tone. "There was a spider coming down from the ceiling right over your head, and I only came up there to s-swat it away..." She trailed off as Harry yawned and stretched, practically shoving his well-muscled arms right in her face. Sydney gulped. "You... you aren't hurt, are you? I honestly didn't mean to cause any trouble..."

But Harry' attention was elsewhere. He let his arms fall down to his sides, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and then blinked, focusing on the doorway where Gwen stood.

"Morning, Firecracker," he said with a huge grin. "And might I say, you look absolutely stunning."

Unintentionally, Gwen glanced down at her clothes; in all her determination to drag Sydney back inside, she'd quite forgotten that she was still wearing her pajamas, which—at this time of year—were composed only of a skimpy camisole and paisley pajama shorts. She scowled and folded her arms across her chest.

Sydney, meanwhile, wore a look of deepest repulsion. "Uh, if by stunning you mean shocking," she said scathingly, "then I agree." Apparently unaware of how disheveled she looked after the collapsing-barn catastrophe, she brushed a bit more dirt off her pink-and-white get-up, blatantly showing off the effort she'd gone to in order to dress up for him. "I mean, come on—she hasn't even done her hair!" She flipped her own burnet locks over one shoulder. "And those horrid dark circles..." She batted her eyelashes and pouted, but it was no use—Harry simply refused to take his eyes off Gwen.

"Um, hello?" said a new voice from the other side of the barn. It was Zayn, staring at them with wide, angry eyes. "Are you lot crazy? We just fell like... ten feet; I think I broke my back. Is anybody going to explain themselves here?"

"That's hardly ten feet, Bradford Badboi," replied Liam skeptically, regarding the ravaged holes in the wall where the brackets had been yanked out, and where the morning light was now filtering into the barn.

"It doesn't matter how bloody high it was! What the hell is going on?"

Gwen rolled her eyes and spoke from the doorway, her voice tainted with annoyance. "Sydney's just full of bright ideas this morning, that's what's going on. If you want a full explanation, she'll be happy to give it to you." She smiled tightly at her sister; Sydney glared in return before plastering back on her mask of sweet innocence and turning to the one direction—or, well, mainly just Harry.

"Err... Just came by to see if you needed anything," she offered, giving him a giggle and a phony smile.

This got Niall’s attention, and for once, he actually look at her. "Breakfast would be great," Harry said, flashing his trademark grin.

Sydney practically melted under his gaze. It was a wonder she managed to maintain any scrap of composure at all; her eyes glazed over, she expelled a giggly sort of sigh, and she stood staring at him for a lengthy moment before nodding hurriedly and straightening up.

Perhaps sensing that the One direction had acquired an eager new servant (or, more appropriately, Gwen thought, a puppet), Zayn tossed in his two cents from the corner. "Bacon!" Niall said. "Could we get some bacon? Oh, and something to drink, thanks."

"How about some actual pillows?" Liam suggested, rubbing his back with a half-smile.

"And a toilet!" Louise put in. This elicited several weird looks from the others, so he hastened to add: "What? I'm sick of... you know... doing it in the bush."

Grimacing, Gwen tried not to think about where she'd stepped on the way over to the barn and instead decided to put her foot down. Just as Sydney nodded obediently, she stepped further into the barn and exclaimed angrily, "What do you think this is, a hotel service? Get your own bloody food!"

"Gwen!" Sydney scolded, as if she'd just insulted the Pope or something. "How can you be so—?”

"Of course it's not," said Harry, cutting her off and smirking. "No offense, but we've never stayed in a hotel this bad." He gestured around at the broken walls, the dirty floors, the dust and hay scattered everywhere.

Gwen let her jaw drop in indignation. "We didn't ask you to stay here!" she exclaimed disbelievingly. "You might be used to people waiting on you hand and foot, but just because you decided to start living in our barn doesn't mean you can have every little thing you want delivered to the front door! We're not your slaves!"

Instead of looking sheepish or humbled—or any of the reactions Gwen had hoped for—the One direction gave a variety of irritating responses: Louise looked shocked, Niall even a little frightened; Liam tried to hide a smile and kept glancing over at his friends, as if trying to gauge their reactions; Harry and Zayn, however, looked downright awestruck—and a wee bit amused, too—and stared at Gwen as if she were some sort of species they'd never seen before.

"Forgive them," said Liam. "I don't think they've ever had a girl say no to them before."

Zayn scoffed (while Harry remained completely speechless). "Actually, Lee, I'm starting to doubt if this actually is a girl. No offense, err... Q... Quinn?"

"Gwen," spat the accused, her incredulity growing with every passing second.

"And I'm Sydney!" piped up a squeaky voice from over by Harry. Nobody played her any attention.

Gwen rolled her eyes. "Come on, Sydney, let's get out of here before they start asking for ice cream and movies."

"Good idea," said Harry. "Why don't we add those to the list, hmm?"

"SYDNEY!" Gwen repeated, eager to make an escape. Unfortunately, her sister still had her eyes glued to Harry and was smiling like an idiot, probably dreaming up all the platters of food and comfort items she was going to bring out here in order to impress him. "SYDNEY! Did you not hear me? Come on!"

"I don't reckon she's listening," said Zayn. "See that stupid look she's got? Classic symptom of Styles-it’s. Might have to get her to a doctor."

"But not until after you get us our ice cream," Harry corrected.

"Argh!" Gwen had had enough. She stomped into the barn, grasped Sydney firmly around the elbow and began to yank her out of there. Even if she had protested it would have been easy enough for Gwen to overpower her, but as it was, Sydney was still stuck in that dreamy state she seemed so prone to lately and, as a result, offered no resistance whatsoever.

Halfway out of the barn, though, she turned around, grasped the edge of the doorframe and stuck her head back inside. "I'll be back soon with everything you need! Promise!"

Adamant, Gwen readjusted her grip on Sydney's arm. "No, you won't," she growled, and gave one final yank.

"Girls!"

The moment Gwen and Sydney stepped through the door, they were swooped upon by a frantic Sue Evans, who looked frighteningly harebrained as she hurried down the hallway toward them, pink bathrobe billowing out behind her.

"Where have you been?" she demanded, and then turned around to call: "Max! I've found them!"

Mr. Evans appeared from the kitchen, clutching a mug of coffee and still sporting his favorite pajamas – an old soccer shirt with The Gryffindale Griffins printed across the front in faded lettering and a pair of flannel pajama pants. When he saw the two of them, he sighed. "Girls, you gave us a right fright, running off like that."

Sue, meanwhile, was fussing over her eldest daughter. "Goodness, Sydney, you're covered in hay!" she exclaimed, brushing the remains off of her sweater. "Where on Earth did you go?"

Gwen and Sydney, for once in their lives, seemed to be on the same page. They exchanged a subtle, anxious glance—clearly both wondering what they should tell their parents.

"Err… We went for a walk," Gwen finally offered, and then mentally kicked herself for not choosing a more believable story. Sydney, clearly thinking the same thing, stomped on her foot and glared at her murderously.

"A walk?" Sue repeated doubtfully as Gwen hissed in pain. "At six in the morning?"

"Together?" added Max, scratching his head. "In your pajamas?"

Gwen squirmed for a moment under her parents' disbelieving gaze.

Luckily, Sydney was quick to take over. "It's never too early for exercise," she said brightly. "And everyone wears pajamas when they go out walking now—it's the new fashion, mom."

"Right," said Sue, clearly not quite convinced.

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, and then:

"I'm starving!" Gwen burst out, brushing past her father and escaping to the kitchen. "Anyone for pancakes?"

Twenty minutes later, Gwen stood over a hot burner, armed with a spatula and churning out pancakes at a record pace. On the weekends, Sue tended to slacken her healthy eating policy to the extent where they were allowed to have a proper Sunday breakfast, complete with low fat chicken bacon, scrambled eggs and pancakes (so long as they were made with whole wheat flour). Needless to say, Sunday was Gwen's favorite day of the week. Humming lightly, she flipped off two new steaming creations onto a plate… and then frowned. The platter, which had held a moderate sized stack of pancakes only moments ago, was now empty. Not only had that, but the two fresh ones disappeared almost as soon as they hit the plate, whisked away by a pale, bony hand.

Narrowing her eyes, Gwen spun around and her suspicions were confirmed: Sydney stood behind her, shuffling the pancakes in question onto an enormous tray that was already laden with a mountain of scrambled eggs and about a pound of bacon.

"Surely you're not going to eat all that," Gwen commented, regarding the heap of food in mild astonishment.

Sydney scoffed and rolled her eyes in a classic don't you know anything? Expression. "As if I would eat any of this junk," she said, turning toward the fridge and pulling out a bottle of orange juice.

"Then why—" Gwen stopped cold and dropped the spatula in annoyance. "Sydney, you'd better not be doing what I think you're doing."

Struggling to balance the plate and the juice, Sydney fetched a few forks from the silverware drawer. "We can't just let those go hungry, Gwen," she whispered, cautious of the fact that their parents were in the next room. She walked slowly toward the back door and stopped, attempting to turn the handle without dropping anything.

"Sydney!" Gwen hissed for the umpteenth time that day. "Do you even have a brain? If you give them food, they're going to stay here!"

"But I want them to stay here!"

"Well I don't!"

"Well that's too bad!" With that, she managed to push the door open. Unfortunately, their rising voices had drawn the attention of Sue, who poked her head through the doorway. Her jaw dropped when she saw Sydney exiting the house with enough food to feed a small army.

"Sydney, what in heaven's name are you doing?" she asked faintly, and Gwen smirked a little as she watched her sister grasping for an excuse. With desperate eyes, Sydney glanced at the platter of food and then back at her mother.

At that moment, a meowing noise broke the silence as Copper came trotting up to Sydney, rubbing against her legs and gazing longingly at the food. Sydney's eyes lit up with inspiration and she finally managed to squeak: "Just feeding the cat!" before letting the door slam closed.

Mouth open, Sue turned to Gwen. "Honey, what's your sister doing?" she asked, sounding slightly fearful.

Gwen gave her mother a wry smile and flipped a pancake expertly. "Trust me, mom—you wouldn't believe me if I told you."

By eight o'clock that evening, Gwen's patience was wearing very, very thin. She'd spent the entire day trying to convince herself that there wasn't a world-famous rock band hiding in her barn, and that, even if there was, they weren't going to stick around and make her summer Hell. Just one more day, she kept telling herself, and she'd be off to the family lake house, where the One direction were out of sight and out of mind—where all that mattered was the sun, the water, the fresh air, and possibly a good book or two.

Sydney, however, made it difficult for this mantra to have any effect. She buzzed around the house all day, making pathetic excuses to go out the barn, carrying things back and forth like a maid (and then dumping all the actual clean-up work on Gwen), and, when she couldn't possibly justify making a visit to her beloved One direction, sitting inside and blaring their songs at full volume so that they could probably be heard even from the very back of the field. This, Gwen realized after a while, was undoubtedly her intention.

Even though they were at least a hundred and fifty meters away, the one direction were a constant presence, grating at Gwen's nerves until she could bear it no longer. So it was a welcome reprieve when the sun went down and she indulged in a bit of normalcy, sitting down in front of the TV with her father for their traditional Sunday evening relaxation time. (Sydney and Sue, meanwhile, were on the treadmills downstairs.)

Max Evans sat reclined in his armchair with the remote in one hand as he browsed the channels. Gwen, lounged on the adjacent sofa, gazed at the screen with tired eyes, suddenly unsure whether or not she would be able to stay awake for any length of time; she had, after all, been woken much too early this morning, and all this Marauder business had taken a toll on her energy level.

"What D’you want to watch, Gwen bear?" said Max, and held out the remote for her to take. "Doesn't look like there's much on tonight."

Gwen took the remote and flipped absentmindedly through a couple more channels, finally settling on a cop drama she'd seen a few times before. If anything could hold her attention tonight, she thought, an hour of excessive blood, gore, and theatrics certainly would. Much to her satisfaction, she managed to lose herself in the far-too-complex plot of the show fairly quickly, sharing her confusion and skepticism with her father every now and then, laughing out loud whenever something completely unbelievable happened, and generally forgetting everything that had been on her mind up until now.

And then, during a commercial break—when her dad had gone to fetch a bag of chips—a face popped up at the window, scaring the living daylight out of her.

Startled, Gwen jumped up from her horizontal position on the couch and scrambled onto her knees, moving as far away from the window as she could manage and preparing to run far away if need be. And then she noticed who it was, and her heart rate settled—but only a little.

Harry Styles.

She thought she spotted one of the others a little way behind him, too.

What did they think they were doing up here at the house? Taking over the barn was one thing, but wandering up to the Evans' back deck, where they could easily be spotted by Max or Sue? That was entirely another. Not only would it get Gwen and Sydney into trouble if their parents found out they had something to do with these mysterious boys lurking around the property, it was also incredibly stupid of the One direction to risk exposure like this when they were so adamant about not being seen. Gwen's expression mirrored these thoughts as she stared out the window in horror, but all Harry did was smile and offer a cheery wave.

"What are you doing?" she mouthed, aghast.

Harry lifted a hand to his mouth and tipped his head back as if drinking from an imaginary cup. After assuming his regular stance once again, he gave her two thumbs up and nodded. Evidently, this wasn't just a stupid, pointless charade—it was another request, and she was expected to fulfil it ASAP.

Gwen couldn't believe her eyes. She'd thought she'd seen the worst of his immaturity, but this definitely took the cake. "NO!" she hissed, shaking her head and using her hand to make I-will-kill-you movements against her throat. "Go away!"

Harry pouted and begged, whimpering like a lost puppy. She was obviously supposed to take pity on him (or maybe even find this facade attractive in some way), but as Gwen gawped at him incredulously, all she felt was rising anger.

"Go away!" she repeated, using her arms to shoo him off. "Get out of here or somebody will see you!"

As if to prove her point, footsteps suddenly became audible from outside the lounge room—and, not two seconds later, Max appeared in the doorway, chips in hand. Gwen turned quickly to look at him in alarm, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw Harry duck down out of sight.

"Were you talking to someone?" her father asked, looking around the room as if somebody else might suddenly have joined her in front of the television.

"No," she lied, and wracked her brain for an excuse. "It was just a... err... fly... buzzing around my head. Stupid thing wouldn't leave me alone."

"Ah." Max smiled knowingly. "Your mother won't be too happy if somebody's left a screen open again... but I suppose she doesn't have to know, does she?" He winked conspiratorially, and Gwen responded with a half-hearted smile. To be perfectly honest, she didn't really care if the screens were keeping the bugs out or not—just as long as they kept the one direction out, she'd be fine.

Once the cop show was over, Max ruffled Gwen's hair and gave her a kiss on the head before retiring to his office, claiming he had some work to finish up. The TV had been turned off, but Gwen remained on the couch, content to bask in the state of half-awareness she'd been able to assume by sinking into the cushions of the couch. Pretty soon her eyelids began to droop, and she was just dozing off into blissful oblivion when suddenly, there was a knock on the window. Her eyes shot open and then narrowed immediately when she realized who it undoubtedly was, and she raised herself into a sitting position to see what he was up to this time.

There he was again, making those "thirsty" gestures with his hand, much more urgently now; behind him, Zayn performed the other half of the act, with the puppy dog eyes and the whining.

That was it. Without even bothering to respond, Gwen stormed out of the lounge room and down the hall. She fetched a bucket from the laundry room, filled it up with water at the sink and hauled it to the back door, which she threw open so vigorously that it rebounded off the wall with a bang. With only one purpose in mind, she rounded the corner to the back deck—and there were Harry and Zayn, hovering by the window, laughing as they (presumably) awaited her return to the lounge room. When they saw her walking toward them, their eyes brightened considerably.

"Hey, Firecracker," said Harry, putting on that stupid grin again. "Finally given in to—"

He seemed to notice the livid expression on her face—and the bucket in her hands—when she was only a couple of steps away, and by this time, it was too late; Gwen put one hand on the bottom of the pail and one on the rim and drew it back, ready to fire. She watched Harry' expression as it changed from one of conceit to one of horror—and then the water hit him full in the face, and he stumbled backward.

Zayn laughed out loud. Grimacing, Harry attempted to wipe the water off his face, but his attempts were futile—his hair was so sopping that water continued to pour out of it into his eyes and down his cheeks, making it practically impossible for him to regain his senses. By the time he finally righted himself, Gwen had turned around and was on her way back into the house.

Unfortunately, she met Sydney halfway.

She was dressed in her workout clothes (and yet mysteriously didn't have a drop of sweat on her body) and smiled gleefully as she carried a pitcher of lemonade and several tall glasses on a tray. As soon as she caught sight of Gwen, the smile disappeared—and as soon as she saw what had happened to her beloved Harry, her entire face rearranged itself into an expression of horror.

"Gwen, what have you done?" she shrieked, rushing forward with her offering and stopping in front of the sodden Harry, who was now looking vaguely amused as he tried to wring the water out of his shirt. "What happened, Harry? What did she do to you?" She sounded like a mother fussing over her child; the overall effect was rather disturbing.

Gwen was not in the mood for a lengthy argument, so she simply shrugged and said, while trying to maintain a tone of perfect serenity, "I gave him a drink, just like he asked."

After taking a moment to shoot her sister a death glare, Sydney shoved the lemonade insistently in Harry' face. "I am so sorry about her, Harry," she said in an incredibly suck-up-ash tone. "I don't know why she feels the need to act like such a freak all the time. Here, have some lemonade—I made it especially for you." She pushed the tray even closer to him, and Gwen snorted quietly from where she stood, because it was her who had made the lemonade earlier that day, and it had in no way been made "specially" for Harry Styles.

Sydney waited for him to respond, but all he did was chuckle and shake his head, continuing his attempts to shake the water out of his clothing.

Zayn took this opportunity to make himself heard. "Um, over here, Twigged," he called. "I'll have some lemonade, thanks."

Pointedly ignoring him, Sydney lowered the tray and looked worriedly at Harry. "Don't you want any?"

At this, Harry laughed and looked around Sydney to meet Gwen's eyes. "Actually, I liked that drink a lot better," he said, and winked. Sydney gasped.

Scowling, Gwen turned on her heel and headed back into the house without a word. She didn't have the energy to fight back right now, and besides, it would be unwise to encourage him. At this point, she decided, the best thing to do was to stay out of it all—let Sydney continue to embarrass herself, and let the One direction have their fun until they got bored of hanging around Gryffindale and fled back to their cozy little rock star lives.

And besides, even if they had no intention of leaving, it wouldn't matter come tomorrow, for the Evans’s were off on vacation, and as long as Sydney didn't do anything to mess it all up, Gwen would have her escape.

Just one more day, she told herself for the billionth time as she climbed the stairs to her bedroom. Just one more day, and this will all be over.

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