Always and Never

Ariel Tanner believed that love was nothing but an illusion, a sick prank your brain pulls on you. But when she meets Harry Styles she begins to question everything she has put together about love. This frustrating boy was the only truly genuine person she'd ever met. How someone like him could even exist blew her mind. Harry, on the other hand, was amazed at how closed off Ariel acted. He made it his mission to knock down the walls she'd built around herself, because behind the flirting and the sarcasm, he got a glimpse of a girl that he wanted to become as close as humanly possible to. But did he really want to know everything behind those walls?

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10. Markings

Harry's Pov.

“Come on! Her shift will be over soon!” I exclaimed, checking my watch.

“Calm down curly, we're coming.” Louis mumbled as he shuffled past me out my door. I reached out to pull the hair on the back of his neck as he walked, in response to his little nick-nickname for me.

He jumped, a sharp “Ow!” shot from his mouth. I grinned when he looked back at me accusingly, and he couldn't help the small smile in response to mine. Instead of making another snarky comment, he did what he was supposed to and went to Niall's car. We were carpooling to the restaurant Ariel worked at.

“You only just met her mate, don't you think she might think it's kind of weird that you show up at her job?” Zayn asked. Yes, that had crossed my mind...

“We're just going for tea.” I answered simply. I hurried Niall, and Liam out the door.

We were just in time to be her last table! Perfect! I requested her as a waitress at the front desk, but told them to keep that fact to themselves. I found myself giddy to see her again. I knew it was stupid, because she wasn't exactly the type who seemed to settle down and stay in long term relationships. But oh well, I'll enjoy it while I can, and when she decides to leave, I'm sure I'll be bummed, but there are plenty of fish in the sea. Right?

It was dim in the restaurant, hard to see. I almost didn't recognize her when she began to approach. Her hair was different, and she wore a very short skirt and tight shirt as a uniform. Again, being my stupid self, I didn't like her wearing that, because other men could ogle at her... Idiot. She doesn't belong to you. She didn't recognize us right away either. Her eyes were focused on her notepad as she spoke.

“Hello, my name's Ariel. I'll be your server, may I take your order or do you need a few more minutes?” She greeted then looked up at us. We already know your name, Love, I almost said, but her reaction to us made me stop... At first she was smiling, but when recognition reached her eyes her smile vanished. Which was strange, really strange. I'd also been grinning, but it faltered when I couldn't see her beautiful teeth anymore...

“Hello Ariel. I think we're ready.” Liam said from beside me, I didn't look at him. I was too busy trying to figure out why she'd stop smiling at us.

“What's wrong?” I asked without thinking.

“Nothing. What can I get for you?” She questioned, scrambling to get her pen from her pocket. Maybe she didn't like me as much as I thought. Maybe she was going to stop responding to my calls soon. Maybe I won't be able to kiss her again... All these thoughts caused me more pain than they should have, I pushed the hurt away, not allowing it to continue. Feeling pain over this girl was ridiculous, we only just met.

The lads ordered while I tried to read her face. Normally people are easier to understand... She was hard. Not the heart-on-sleeve type. I couldn't translate her expressions like I could with most women. It frustrated me, a lot. I had to order when the lads were done, and then Ariel left. She was gone for longer than I would have thought needed to make tea, but I blamed that fact on faulty chefs.

“Did she seem strange, to you?” I asked while we waited.

“I don't know, maybe a little bit... Maybe she is weirded out that we're here.” Niall answered.

“God, I hope that's not it...” I mumbled. If that's why she's being strange I might die.

“Don't worry about it, I don't think, if I were her, that I'd think it was weird. I'd probably think it was sweet, that a lovesick boy showed up just to see me at work.” Louis teased, well, at least the last part was teasing. I'm pretty sure the first part was serious.

“I'm not 'lovesick'” I argued, making air-quotes with my fingers.

“Think back to what you've done and talked about for the last few days. Now, are you still able to say that? Truthfully?” Louis smirked. I was silent. I am not lovesick, it's just a crush. Crushes are completely rational! And being 'lovesick' is not. Thankfully, Ariel returned then, with our tea.

“She's back!” Niall cheered. We all followed up. That made her smile a little bit, but not much. I studied her face again, still finding nothing. She gave us our tea, first Niall, then Zayn, then Louis. When she reached across me to give Liam his, I noticed the discoloration on her wrist. My breath hitched in my throat, and I felt my heart beating faster in my chest. My hand took a hold of her arm before she could pull it away, I made sure to be gentle. It was bruised.

“What happened to your wrist?” I questioned.

“Nothing, I just hit it.” She sort of shrugged. But her voice sounded... worried.

“On someone's hand?!” I almost shouted, shooting up to stand next to her. The markings were fingers. The markings were fucking fingers. My anger faltered slightly when she cringed away from me. I didn't let go of her wrist, trying to will the injury away. Trying to make it not exist.

“What happened?” I said. I tried to make her look at me, by putting my index finger under her chin and pulling her face up, but she refused. She only shook her head. Someone did this to her. Someone hurt her. I gently placed her wrist back at her side when she didn't speak, and examined her more closely. I hoped to God it was only her wrist... I felt like I was going to be sick when I saw her arm. Resting out of her short sleeves reach, was another shadow of a hand...

“Your arm too?” I whispered, pained, lightly stroking the purple bruises with the back of my fingers.

“Please just leave it Harry.” She mumbled, still not looking at me. And suddenly, I was mad again. She was going to go get beat up and then not let me do anything about it?? If she can't protect herself, then I'll protect her!

“No. Who the hell did this to you?” I demanded. She looked at me, and now that I had her eyes, I was hoping I could convince her to answer my questions. Prod her, be kind, gentle, loving. Then she might tell me, and I could go rip the douche bag's head off.

I concentrated on making my face kind, and I brushed the hair that covered the right half of her face to the side. I felt my eyes widen dramatically. Her left eye and the skin next to it was purple. She had a fucking black eye. Now I really was going to throw up, I had to hold it back. Honestly, the fury that exploded inside me, scared me for a moment. I felt like I wasn't in control of myself, but I didn't speak until I knew I would be in control.

“Did he hit you?” I was quiet, my voice not quite working. She didn't answer.

“Tell me the truth Ariel.” I insisted, louder. I placed my hands on her shoulders, trying to urge her to speak. I need to know. I need to know so I'll know how hard to punch the guy who caused this. She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Yes.” She whispered. And I wasn't in control again. Some dick, actually hit her, so hard it left a fucking bruise. Not only did he do that, he grabbed her arm and wrist so hard, that it left finger marks. He was a dead man. How dare he even lay eyes on her!

“I'll kill him.” I whispered. It was promise, not a threat.

“It's no big deal, just leave it alone.” She muttered. How could she possibly say that?!!

“Yes it is a big fucking deal!!” I exclaimed, outraged. She was being ridiculous! I didn't notice the people watching our little scene until she started looking at them. I guessed she didn't care about the audience, judging by her next move...

“You don't even know me! You don't have the right to come into my work and pretend to be my father!” She shouted, louder than me. I was kind of blown away for a second. She knew how to argue, and if I was being totally honest it was kinda hot... She backed away from me, angry. After my split second of being impressed I felt the pain creep into my heart. She didn't want me to help her. That's all I wanted to do. I just didn't want her to get hurt! 

“Ariel, I'm just trying to help.” I forced out. I stepped closer to her, wanting to comfort her with a hug, or anything else I could do. It broke me a little bit when she backed into a table in order to keep away from me.

“Just let me deal with my own problems!” She shouted again. She slammed my tea onto the table, spilling a good amount on the marble top and her hand. It probably burnt her. Just another injury to add to her list. But this one is my fault... That realization caused a sharp pang of hurt, like an icicle, stabbing into my heart. I stood there, watching her run away, unable to make myself sit down. My arm was partway extended toward the direction she'd disappeared in.

“Harry, you're trembling...” Liam commented gently behind me. I looked down at my extended arm. I was, I was shaking like I was in Antarctica without a jacket... But my veins were boiling with rage and pain.

“Sit down Harry.” Niall said softly. My hands suddenly flew up, pulling on my hair and massaging my throbbing temples. A few quiet moans reached my ears, but it took me a few seconds to realize that they were coming from my mouth. I almost got sick again, but then I sat down, my head instantly on the cool table. For the first time since I was a young boy, I felt tears threatening to accompany the fury...

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