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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12. Protector (Long)

When I woke I couldn't remember what happened the night before. Oh dear god I hope I didn't sleep with anyone... I noticed the arm around my shoulders, but then realized it was Harry's. Relief flooded my body, but I still prayed that this was as innocent as it had been yesterday.

“Are you feeling well?” Harry's raspy voice came from above me. I scrambled to sit up, but took in a sharp breath when I realized it hurt my waist when I moved. I moved more slowly this time, sitting to look at Harry.

“What the hell happened?” I demanded gently rubbing my sides where they hurt.

“Does the name Brad ring a bell?” Harry replied. I gasped as everything came flooding back. Yesterday he ambushed me at my car, but wait... Then he hurt my arm, wrist and face, he didn't hurt my sides... I thought really hard, my head was throbbing. Then it began to come back to me, last night, here. Brad was here again. He kissed me again, and must have hurt my sides. Harry saved me...

My eyes widened as I remembered. Harry realized instantly that I knew now. I flung my arms around his neck, wincing slightly at the action. I wasn't hurt that bad, just a bit sore where the jackass had grabbed me. Harry seemed shocked. Not as shocked as me, I'm not the most loving person (again, I bring up my earlier adjective: bitch). I don't hug often, well, never really... Kissing, and sometimes sex was the norm. Just fun, but hugging? Cuddling? That was new to me.

“Thank you for saving me. If you hadn't showed up who knows what he would have done...” I trialed off, tears forming in my eyes and spilling over at the thought. Horror attacked my senses. Harry held me to him, being careful not to touch the tender spots.

“Don't worry about it, it's my job now.” He laughed quietly. His job? He was going to protect me like it was his job. Something about that made part of me uncomfortable and part of me ecstatic. No, stop. Don't get excited. When your brain tricks you into thinking you're in love, it always hurts in the end. Getting emotionally invested in someone, means bad news. So knock it off, Georgia Rose.

Harry pulled away to look at me when a dry sob left my chest. It sounded like I was being strangled. He used his thumb to turn the corner of my mouth up. I laughed softly at his action: trying to make me smile. He grinned at his success.

“You don't need to think about what he could have done, because now he's gone and as long as I'm here, he won't touch you again.” He assured, cradling my face in his hands. So I'll be safe until you realize how awful I am? A few more days maybe, a week tops... Then I might as well get a restraining order against Brad. He won't even know the woman who serves him, I thought darkly. Who the hell is Ariel Tanner?? I could picture him exclaiming.

“Thank you Harry.” I whispered, fighting back tears. He hugged me to him once more, then checked his watch. I sat next to him, what just happened really beginning to sink in. My flirty night at a club ended with a guy who's willing to protect me (so far)... How strange...

“I want to make sure that you know that it wasn't your fault. What Brad did.” Harry said quietly, he looked anxious. My mood instantly shifted. Hurt flooded my veins but I didn't allow it to register on my face. Harry was wrong. It was my fault. I got involved with Brad, I chose to sleep with him. If I wasn't such a slut I wouldn't be in this mess.

“Ariel.” He stared deep into my eyes when I didn't reply. I sighed quietly, Harry took that as me disagreeing with him, though he was right, it shocked me how well he read my reaction.

“You didn't make him come back, you didn't make him hurt you. This isn't your punishment for being with him, this is his mistake. This is a control-freak jack-ass who's trying to scare you into loving him. Alright? And it's not what you deserve. Not at all.” Harry continued. I felt my face soften, the emotions beginning to rise to the surface. I pushed them down deeper.

“Thank you.” I choked, no one has ever told me that I deserved better. That I deserved... to be happy. I laid back down on my pillow, Harry's hand stroking smooth lines into my arm. It was a long time before he spoke again.

“We should get you something to eat, your shift starts in two hours.” Harry stated.

“I slept until one??” I exclaimed, jumping out of bed and running to get in the shower. Oh, shit, head rush! Harry chuckled behind me. He laid in bed with me until one?!?!

“You can order food if you want, take some money from my wallet for mine.” I insisted before I closed the door. I stripped down and was about to get into the shower when I caught sight of myself in the mirror. Oh my God... The bruises were even darker today. My lips were swollen and red, but not that noticeable.

Covering up the bruise next to my eye would be the hardest... I sighed, shaking my head as I got into the shower. I'll have to call Kate and have her do my make up... While I was in the shower the fact that Harry was out there, prepared to protect me, made my worries wash down the drain with my grapefruit shampoo... But it also made new anxiety rise about that terrifying r word.

I began to sing quietly, ignoring the r word thoughts, allowing that feeling that was in me yesterday before Brad showed up to return. I couldn't figure out what it was... My singing ceased and my conditioner bottle clattered to the floor when I realized what emotion was taking over my body. Let me rephrase, was supposedly overtaking my body. No,no,no. Not the r word and the l word! They're normally seen together, I'll give you that, but never are they seen in me.

I began to panic, slowly moving to sit down on the shower floor. I put my head between my knees before I passed out. No. It couldn't be! I liked Harry sure, he was, great... But I was me, I don't fall in 'love' with guys I meet at bars. I don't fall in 'love' with guys I meet anywhere! I rarely ever go out on a second date, but Harry's already achieved that hasn't he? I have to stop. I think by now you can assume my views on the l word, it always screws you over. It always finds a way to fuck up your entire life.

I promised myself I would never fall in love! I thought I was smart enough not to let my brain fool me! I decided quickly that denial was the best tactic in this situation. There was no way I was falling in love, no way. It's not even a real thing. Just made up. And even if I was- not possible- Harry was not falling in love with me. Who would?? I sighed in relief as I came to the conclusion that I must just be in a good mood lately, that love still isn't my style. Styles... Focus!

I continued my singing as I stood up and finished my shower. I didn't want to get out, but figured I had to. I didn't want to face him, even though it's not like he can read minds. It felt like he knew what I was thinking about... I got dressed into my second uniform that I kept in case I didn't get time to wash the first one. I did my hair, not putting on any make up because I was going to call Kate and have her come over to deal with that.

When I left the bathroom Harry was sitting on my bed, tv turned on, eating a chip out of a fast-food bag. He looked up at me with a smile, but when his eye caught mine his smile began to fade and his eyes widened.

“What?” I asked. Did I forget to put pants on or something??

“Nothing...” He mumbled, looking back at his food.

“Is it really that bad?” I frowned, bringing my hand up to rest on the purple spot on my face.

“No, you just did your hair different, so I can actually see it, that's all.” He shrugged. He was more upset than me! That's so... Knock it off Ariel! He's a guy! He's no different than the rest of them! Don't say that, I thought harshly. He may be just a guy, but he's a infinite times better than Brad. I didn't prod Harry any further, now busy with my own battle going on in my head. I sat down on my bed next to him, he gestured toward a second bag that sat in front of us.

“Help yourself.” He grinned slightly, still not looking at me. He looked a little bit like he was going to be sick... Before I began to eat I took out my phone and dialed Kate.

“Hello Ariel.” She answered brightly.

“Hey Kate, are you free, like right now?” I asked.

“Well, I'm still in my pajamas...” She trailed off.

“I don't care can you come over? Please.” I begged.

“For sure, what's wrong?” She asked, concerned now.

“I'll explain when you get here, just bring all the makeup you have.” I answered.

“All of it? Really? Seriously, why?” She questioned.

“I just need your help.” I replied, desperate.

“Okay, I'll be there in a few minutes.” She agreed.

“Bye.” I breathed out in relief.

“Bye Air...” She replied, I could almost hear her shaking her head. I pressed the hang up button then began to eat quickly. I had to be done eating by the time she got here.

“Why do you need Kate to come over?” Harry asked.

“To cover up the bruise on my face.” I answered. Harry winced.

“I can drop you off at work if you want.” He offered. Oh yeah, my car was in the parking lot at that bar.

“Okay. I'll call you when I get home tonight.” I agreed.

“Stand up quick.” Harry said, jumping off the bed and coming over to my side. I stood up in front of him.

“Hold your fists up like this.” He ordered, posing to show me.

“Why?” I laughed.

“I want to teach you how to throw a proper punch.” He answered simply. I sighed, copying his position. He grinned.

“Okay, now hit my hand, as hard as you can. Throw all your strength into it, but make sure it's controlled.” He instructed, holding his open hands up in front of me.

“You're kidding right?” I groaned.

“Nope, come on.” He grinned wider. I punched his hand, my face scrunching up in distaste.

“I know you can do better than that.” He rolled his eyes at me. Irritation flooded my senses, I tried to brush it away.

“I feel stupid, Harry.” I whined.

“Just hit me.” He ordered. Might as well get it over with... I punched his hand again, this time as hard as I could, causing Harry to step back.

“Wow, see. Nice. Okay, now if that douche shows up again, you smash his face in, got it?” He stood there grinning.

“Yup, with a smile.” I smirked.

“That's my girl.” He grinned wider, sounding proud. Butterflies flitted around in my stomach in reaction to his words. My girl... Before I could mentally shout at myself again, there came a knock at the door.

“That would be Kate...” I said quietly. I walked around him, heading toward the door, but I only got a few feet past him when he snaked his arm around my waist, spinning me into his chest. He pressed a soft kiss to the bruise next to my eye. Then let me go again as another knock reached my ears. He smiled at me as he sat back on the bed to eat again. I am not falling in love. I opened the door. Kate stood there in her pajamas with a huge bag on her shoulder. She looked at me, her eyes widening to an impossible size.

“What the hell happened?” She demanded.

“I need you to do your magic and cover this up for me. I'll explain while you do.” I said. She caught sight of my arm as she entered the room.

“These are hands!” She exclaimed, sounding furious.

“Kate it's not what you think-” I started as she stormed over to Harry. Before I could finish she slapped him across the face. Now, I felt kinda bad because of the laughter I had to bite back at this, but you should have seen how surprised Harry was!

“Ow! Shit! What was that for?!” Harry squinted up at her, holding his hand to his face.

“Why would you let someone who hurt you like that stay in your apartment?!!” Kate shouted, now at me.

“He-” I started again, but she interrupted me a second time.

“And you!” She pointed an accusing finger at him, “How could you hurt a girl like that, especially as fragile as Ariel?! That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen! Jack-asses like you don't deserve to exist!” She screeched at Harry.

Kate! It was Brad!!” I yelled over her. She froze on the spot, mouth open, prepared to shout a whole new frenzy of words.

“What?” She demanded sharply, looking up at me. Harry sat in front of her, looking kinda terrified...

“Harry didn't hurt me, Brad did.” I explained.

“That guy you slept with a month ago?” She asked.

“Yeah.” I answered, eyeing Harry, who had frozen momentarily.

“You slept with him?” Harry asked, looking slightly hurt.

“Yes, I did.” I confirmed. Big whup. That fact shouldn't hurt him. Before I met Harry I never went on a second date. Wait, why did I agree to a second date with Harry anyway?

 Maybe it wasn't hurt on his face, maybe it was horror because he knew he'd chosen the wrong girl to take home to his parents.

“Why?” I questioned.

“Nothing.” He shook his head.

“Uh, sorry Harry. I didn't know...” Kate apologized.

“It's fine. Don't worry about it” He sounded distracted. I kept an eye on him as Kate did my make up. Drawing on my arms as well. She really was amazing, a true artist. By the time she was done my bruises had disappeared.

“Wow Kate... You're incredible.” I smiled as I admired her work in the mirror.

“I love working with your face, you have quite nice features.” She grinned.

“Thanks, you know you're a lifesaver right?” I laughed lightheartedly.

“I try.” She grinned wider.

“I have to go to work, but you can stay here as long as you'd like. In fact, why don't you sleep over tonight?” I offered.

“I'd love that.” She beamed.

“Okay, I'm gonna have to kick you out of the bathroom quick but I'll be right out.” I chuckled. She left the bathroom to give me some privacy. I'd been feeling cramp-y lately and I just had to check.... Yep. I sighed as I got a tampon from the drawer next to my sink. How you been mother nature? You look good, haven't seen you in a month or so... I left the bathroom, already feeling moody.

“I'm ready.” I informed. Harry got up from his spot on my bed and followed me out the door. We drove in silence, Harry's mind somewhere other than his car. When he parked I checked the clock. I was a few minutes early.

“What was with your reaction to the whole Brad thing earlier. You looked, hurt almost...” I asked. He sighed, resting his head against the top of the steering wheel.

“I just.... I don't know, it did hurt a little bit.” He answered quietly, like he was more talking to himself than me.

“Why....” I trailed off, not really knowing what to say. It was kind of ridiculous for him to be hurt about something like that.

“I realize it makes no sense but I couldn't help it.” He sighed again. Something clicked in my brain. Maybe he hadn't just felt pain at my past...

“Are you jealous?” I smirked.

“No! Of course not.” He scoffed.

“Then why won't you look at me?” I challenged, a slow smile spreading across my face. He rested his head against the back of his seat now, staring at the ceiling.

“Maybe a little bit.” He mumbled, almost so quietly I couldn't hear.

“Just know, I don't want that, I mean. I do, of course I do, you're beautiful, what guy wouldn't? But that's not the point. If you don't want it yet, then I don't.” He stumbled over his words, not quite knowing how to express his thoughts aloud. I chuckled softly, reaching over and leaving a sweet kiss on his outstretched neck.

“I'll talk to you later Harry.” I said softly, leaving the car and walking through the back door of the restaurant to start my shift. My stomach fluttered as I realized, I will talk to him later. That wasn't just some phrase that filled awkward goodbyes, it was true. I shook my head, so so weird... And so, so wrong.

My shift went well, now that I didn't have to hide behind my hair I could flirt correctly. Winking, smiling, touching arms... And I even slipped a couple wealthy looking gentlemen my number in the bill. Obviously I'll let their call go to voicemail until they give up, but hey, it got me a good tip, every time. No appearance from Brad tonight, thank God. I phoned Harry when I safely made it to my car and was on my way home, like I promised.

“So you're okay?” He asked.

“Peachy.” I grinned.

“Good, good.” He said, I could almost hear him smiling.

“HARRY.” I heard Lou's voice on the other end of the line.

“Oh, sorry Love. Got to go before he finds me.” Harry whispered quickly, laughing.

“No biggie, goodnight.” I smirked.

“Sweet dreams.” He responded.

“So this is where you've run away to? To sneak a phone call with Ariel??” Louis snickered in the background right as Harry hung up. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I parked and walked up to my apartment.

“Has your shift always been this long?” Kate groaned as soon as I entered the room.

“Yes, it has.” I laughed. I changed into my pajamas, and washed the makeup off my face. Then Kate and I ordered pizza and sat on the bed eating it. I pulled my period chocolate from under my bed and poured the bag onto the duvet. We talked and ate until 4 am when we finally crashed. It was a great night really. I loved our girl's nights. Especially when she didn't make me go to a club...

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