Steal a Kiss

Charlotte has a past.

Hadley doesn't quite know what to do with her future.

But the two friends since middle school always seem to know how to get through everything.

Charlotte takes a leap and takes a job as One Direction's stylist that will bring her face-to-face with a past lover, while Hadley decides to leave college altogether and join her best friend on tour, despite the secret she's harboring that could ultimately ruin their friendship.

Will the girls be able survive the strain and struggle of broken trust and instant fame, or is all that will remain stolen kisses?

*Hadley written by Lexie Spencer (Official1DLuv), Charlotte written by Haley Randolph. Check out the story, here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/9563703-steal-a-kiss*

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4. One- Charlotte

 

Charlotte-

“I can’t say thank you enough,” I chirped. “I promise you will not be disappointed.”

Both Mr. Arnold and the other management man next to him sat solemnly in their respective seats, not an ounce of emotion present on either of their faces. Of course, there I was – an overly-excited candidate for the job.

“We expect perfection, Miss Parker.”

“I don’t expect to give you any less.”

“Good,” Mr. Arnold cleared his throat as he leaned forward to prop his elbows up on his oak desk top. “We’ll call you with a meeting date. The lads should know who their head stylist is before the tour begins.”

“I’ll be waiting by the phone,” I joked, though neither of their lips even twitched.

Such expressionless men.

Silence followed before they announced the meeting was over and I let myself out the French doors and took a deep breath. It was almost like the air in the dreary office was so much thicker than the air outside.

But it was over.

I have a job. I have a good job. Charlotte Parker, you deserve a pat on the back.

The phrases echoed blissfully through my head as I stood outside the building, my nose growing pinker in the cold air and my breath forming in tiny cloud puffs outside my mouth.

“Hello?” my mother answers her phone as I sit down in the driver’s seat of my car.

“I just left my—”

Cherie, how did it go?” Her voice has grown weak. I don’t blame her. This is practically my last chance.

“I got the job, Mum.”

Her voice broke. “I’m so proud of you, Charlotte. I knew you would get it.”

“You’re going to make me cry.”

Only sobs come from the other end.

“Mum, I’ve got to drive home still. See you when I get home, okay?” I tell her.

“I love you, Cherie.”

“I love you, Mum.” Shakily, I tossed my phone onto the passenger seat and stare out at the road ahead of me.

Slush was kicked up around the cars in front of me and icicles dripped from the sides of buildings. The beauty of Cheshire in the middle of winter – if that’s even the word one would use.

The ten minute drive dragged on for longer than usual, but soon enough I pulled into the small parking lot of Cedar Village Tenement, the location of the flat I share with my mother.

Anxiously, she, Evie, and Alex were waiting at the foot of the steps to our home. Evie Grace sat atop my boyfriend’s shoulders, clapping her hands together when she caught sight of my car pulling up into a parking spot near her.

Alex knelt down to let her off his neck and she hobbled towards me on short two-year-old legs of hers. I enveloped Evie’s entire body and lifted her into the air.

“Hi, Mummy,” she giggled, her face pressed into the shoulder of my jacket.

This was it - what Evie and I had been waiting for the last two years. Too many nights had I cried over the piles of debt that surrounded me, but now I had a real, steady job that could keep us on our feet.

“Have fun with Grammy?” I chirped, tapping my finger on her nose. She nodded jauntily.

“How about we head inside?” Mum suggested, rubbing her hands together for warmth.

Shifting Evie Grace in my arms so I could walk, I began up the steps to our flat, leaving the bitter air outside where it belonged.


Mum and I added the dishes to the sink when dinner was finally over. Neither of us would’ve ever made something this great, but it had been insisted by Alex and my mother that the occasion called for it.

“So when do you start?” Alex asked as he hopped up to sit on the countertop. Evie Grace came to his feet and frowned up at him until he lifted her onto his lap.

“I get to meet the lads this week,” I said.

“It’ll be so long,” Mum said, stroking my shoulder. “I don’t know how easy that will be for any of us.”

“The tour breaks for a week when its five months in, if that helps.”

“A week out of eight months.” Alex tapped his chin. “Fair enough…not.”

“Which band is it, anyway? Or is it one of those teenage-girl-pop groups?” he joked. I chuckled for a moment until it faded into question that arose in my mind.

“Didn’t I already talk to you guys about all this?”

They only shake their heads.

I remember distinctly the phone call I’d shared with my best friend, Hadley, just last week. An hour long conversation just about all this.

“It’s um…One Direction.”

I jumped when a plate shattered on the wooden floor. As soon as I regained my breath, Evie began to cry.

“Sorry about that, everyone,” Mum said, breathless. “Alex, will you get Evie changed into her nightclothes? I need a moment with my daughter.”

Alex, as confused as he appeared, didn’t question a thing and left the room, Evie Grace atop his shoulders.

The atmosphere of the kitchen was harsh and bitter. No one spoke for minutes even, as my mother took the broom from the closet and began to sweep up the shards of glass amongst the floor.

Half-finished, Mum turned her entire body away from me. “What have you done, Charlotte?”

“I know what you’re thinking—“

She turns toward me, “Then you know I’m thinking about why in the world you would do this.”

“I don’t know, Mum,” I confessed. “I wasn’t thinking at all.”

 “Well, you can’t get out of it now. You’re already jumped inside the hole you dug for yourself.” She went back to sweeping up the remains of the plate, as if this conversation was over.

My eyebrows furrowed. “Not helping.”

“I know, Char,” she sighed, dumping the pan of broken glass into the waste basket. “I can’t go on this trip with you. You’re a woman now - you’ve got to learn how to handle these things like one.”

“Harry won’t even look at me. I know it.”

Mum turned to me. “Charlotte Marie Parker, why did you take this job? I know you had a reason.”

“You know why. I want to make a life for Evie Grace. I needed it.” I bit down hard on my lip to keep from weeping.

This entire thing had been thrown right back into my face.

“Do it for Evie.”

“I am.”

“Stop thinking about Harry,” she stated. “You’ll just have to keep your mind set on your daughter, not Harry.”

Involuntarily, I drew in a sharp breath. “He did this. It’s not my fault.”

“Charlotte, you know he tried.”

“He could’ve stayed the day of his daughter’s birth.”

“You’re using this as an excuse to hate him,” Mum said. She placed her hand gently on my shoulder for comfort. I jerked away. “We don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to. We have other matters to discuss anyway.”

“Like what?”

“Where will Evie stay during the tour?”

Ugh.” I dropped my head. “How could I have not thought about all this?”

“We’ll figure it out, okay?” For the first time tonight, it actually seemed like my mother was taking some amount of pity on me. She wrapped her arm around my shoulders and sat down next to me at the kitchen table. I laid my head on her shoulder, inhaling the mint scent of her perfume - almost like I was a child again.

“How about we talk about it tomorrow?”

“That sounds better,” I confessed. “I think I’m getting a headache.”

“Go put Evie to bed. I’ve got to get ready for work,” she told me, standing up to go back to her bedroom. Mum worked the night shift.

I rounded the corner from the kitchen into the living room. Softly, I knocked on the half-open door to my bedroom, where I could hear Alex reading to Evie softly. They sat against the far wall, Evie Grace in his lap and a small picture book in front of them.

“I think she’s getting tired,” he said. As if on cue, Evie Grace let out a wide yawn.

“Well, I’d hope so after all the running around she’s done today,” I joked, kneeling down in front of her. “Ready for sleepy time, Evie?” I lifted her into my arms and walked toward the bed. She was already in her worn-out nightgown. A faded picture of Sleeping Beauty showed on the front.

“Music?” Evie mumbled through a yawn as I pulled back the covers of our bed.

“Pick one,” I chirped, pointing to the shelf full of records. She crawled off the   queen-sized bed and stumbled to find a disk.  After running her fingers over the different cases, her fingers landed on a burnt CD with words scrawled on the front in black permanent marker. There was only one song on the disk.

Isn’t She Lovely - Harry Styles (cover)

Why I still owned that disk, I have no idea. Maybe I’d just never gotten around to throwing it away. Either way, Evie Grace wanted to listen to it. How convenient for the timing.

I slipped the disk into the stereo and hit play. Softly, the music began to play at low volume. I lifted Evie onto the bed and pulled the blankets over her.

“Keep those eyes closed,” I whispered, heading toward the door and shutting off the light. “Goodnight, my angel.”

Her voice was muffled by a yawn. “Na-night, Mummy.”

I closed the bedroom door at last and turned toward Alex. “When do you get off work tomorrow?”

“Five o’clock, why?”

“Could we meet up or something?” I cleared my throat. “It’s about the tour and Evie and all that.”

“All right, I’ll come around here after work,” he said. “I should be getting back to my flat now. My mate needs help moving his things in.”

“See you soon, then,” I said, leaning up to peck him on the cheek. He nodded and snatched his coat from the back of the sofa.

I stood at the window, watching him back out of the parking lot and shivering in our cold living room. We kept the thermostat low.

“I’m leaving now,” Mum said, shuffling toward me as she slipped on her work loafers. She kissed me on either cheeks. “Get some sleep tonight, all right? For me?”

“Will do,” I mumbled through a yawn. I shivered in the cold.

Mum gave me a few chores to finish up and told me to give Evie a kiss for her, then she slipped on her coat and disappeared out the front door. It was the usual night schedule. Alex stayed for a bit, then left for his own home. Then Mum did the same, except for work. And I stayed home with Evie all night, every night, then worked all day, every day.

I stumbled back to my bedroom. The fatigue had hit me like a boulder. I flipped off the light of the kitchen disappeared into the darkness of my room. Evie slept soundly on the left side of the bed. “Isn’t She Lovely” repeated over and over in the corner, wafting softly up to my ears.

Such a beautiful song.

Such a beautiful voice.

Isn't she lovely

Isn't she wonderful

Isn't she precious

Less than one minute old

I never thought through love we'd be

Making one as lovely as she

But isn't she lovely made from love

 

Harry-

“Harold!”

“I’m coming, Martha!” I called, attempting to tie on my apron whilst stripping out of my school clothes and into a pair of blue jeans. This employees’ locker room was too small.

I successfully got the apron on and smoothed it out over my hips. “Sweetie Pie’s”, it read in curly maroon letters. On emerging from the employees’ room, my eyes fell on a beauty as she opened the door to the small bakery on the corner.

“Welcome,” I said, bolting to the counter to greet her and gasping for breath. It was only twenty minutes ago that I had gotten out of school, and the run here had taken fifteen.

“Hello,” she said, only glancing up at me once as she browsed through the choices of pastries.

Very small, I observed. Doesn’t look like much of a doughnut eater. But she was very pretty, her wavy whiteish hair cascading to the middle of her back and a faded pink color streaked through it.

I extended my hand over the counter to her. “I’m Harry.”

Might as well make some conversation with her.

“You’re in my literature class. I know who you are,” she said. “I’m Charlotte.” She shook my hand lightly.

“Well, now I’ll know to say hello tomorrow.”

Charlotte smiled, her eyes falling to the shelves of pastry again. “Cherry filled, vanilla,” she said.

“Hmm?”

“That’s the doughnut I would like.” She gave me a pointed look. “And a fresh cuppa for my mother. Lemon, please,” she added, reaching into her purse to pay.

“How about I buy for you?” I suggested.

Charlotte’s eyes widened. “No, I can’t ask you to-”

“As long as you agree to go on a date with me…” I smirked. She blushed. I felt a bit of heat rise to my own cheeks.

“That’s a bit up-front, isn’t it?”

“You’ve got that right.” My smile enlarged involuntarily. “So will you?”

“Okay.”

 

Wake up!” I took a hard hit to my gut and I let out a moan. The bright lights of the flat’s living room were all too bright, I learned when my eyes flew open.

“Why?” I grunted, struggling to sit upright. Tom stood over me, glaring downward.

“You’ve got a meeting in twenty minutes.”

“It’s only seven AM.”

“Thanks for sharing, Harry,” Tom shot back. The other lads were rubbing their eyes and heading out of the living room, where we’d spent the night watching movies on the television.

I spoke louder as Tom walked away. He was such a grumpy morning person. “I don’t remember hearing anything about a meeting.”

“Management called for it last night. Apparently, it’s important.” He rolled his eyes. “Just get your arse ready to leave in eighteen minutes.” He slammed the front door behind him.

I struggled to my feet and headed toward the staircase. “Am I the only one that thinks a meeting at seven is undeniably insane?” I called out, though none of my bandmates turned to even glance at me.

“I think we should go on strike,” I continued, grabbing a clean shirt from the laundry pile outside my room.

“Get over it, Harry,” Liam grumbled. He disappeared behind his bedroom door.

“Who needs management?” I yanked on a pair of adequately clean pants. My plan to go on strike must have failed, because five minutes later I was sitting in the back of a limo on my way to the management headquarters.

Niall’s head fell onto my shoulders and a snore escaped him. Everyone else in the limo was taking a mid-morning nap - even though it was barely morning in my book.

And just as I was about to lean my head back and close my eyes, the door of the limo opened and a cold rush of air hit me.

I hate winter.

“We’re here,” Tom said.

I was usually a happy person. But the fact that I had woken up fifteen minutes ago and was already at work had ruined the rest of my day. Could one blame me, though?

“Hello, lads,” Mr. Arnold welcomed in his low, husky voice. “I trust you slept well.” He allowed us a moment to nod. “Let’s get right into things, then. Yesterday, we hired a new stylist who will be with us for the duration of the tour. Hopefully longer, too, unless she learns she cannot stand the company of you animals.”

Ouch.

“What happened to Katie?” Zayn questioned, sitting up straighter in his chair.

“Maternity leave - and she won’t be returning,” Arnold stated. “This new stylist is closer to your ages, but I will not expect any fraternizing with her. She is called Charlotte Parker and…”

The rest of the words were a blur to my mind.

“Could you repeat that, Mr. Arnold?” I asked, slightly raising my hand. Maybe you heard it wrong, Harry.

“I expect no fraternizing with her-”

“After that.”

“Her name is Charlotte Parker.”

I slumped down in my chair.

What...how...when...what…?

I stood up so abruptly that I saw spots in front of my eyes. This is not happening. It’s all a dream. You’re going to wake up in a few hours and you’ll never think about it again. “I need some air.”

“Sit down, Styles. This is important,” Arnold said.

“So is this.” I dangled my mobile between my fingers for a moment, then slammed the conference room door behind me.

It’d been so long since I’d clicked on Char’s number in my contacts. I’d simply scrolled past it, ignoring the pain that formed in my chest. But the time was coming again when I could hear her voice.

I had to remind myself I was angry with her in this moment.

“Hello?”

Her voice was so soft...almost angellike. But I kept going. She needed to hear my feelings on this.

“It’s me, Charlotte.”

She only gasped a tiny bit before regaining her composure. “I’m sorry, but who is this?”

“You know who it is, Cherie— I mean Charlotte!”

Dammit, Harry.

“What do you want?” Charlotte questioned, the anxiety evident in her tone. “I don’t have long to stay and chat.”

“You took the job, I hear,” I said, struggling to keep the anger out of my tone now. “This is information I would’ve liked to know before hearing it-”

“I didn’t take the job to see you, Harry.”

“I know.”

“So why are you calling?” Charlotte spat. “I’ve got to get to work soon.”

“Well…” I cleared my throat. Why did I call? “Charlotte, I just wish you would’ve told me first.”

“You’re a stranger to me, Harry.”

“You know that’s not tr-”

“I’m late for work,” she cut in. “Have a good day.” 

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