I jolted awake.
I stared at the ceiling above me.
My fan turned slowly over my head, casting shadows along the walls that would shorten and lengthen with each time one of the fan panels would pass the window. It wasn’t daylight that was shining through my curtains, but rather a dim light from the street. I tapped the home button on my phone beside me which Harry plugged into my charger before he left me the day before. It was 1:57am.
I knew that I had gone to bed almost immediately after Harry laid me down when we got back from the reunion but I didn’t expect myself to wake up this early in the morning. Maybe 5 or 6, but definitely not 2. My mind was racing and wouldn’t let me rest. I couldn’t help but think about my mother and Therese.
“That bitch,” I whispered, shaking my head when I remembered Therese delicately digging her fingers into the black fabric, building up the suspense for me before she ripped the sheet off of the car. I hadn’t remembered how horribly beat up the car was. Anyone who might have seen the wrecked car without having much context might have thought that the driver was dead. Since I was so drunk at the time, I didn’t tense up my muscles when we collided with the other cars. Since I didn’t tense up (or Harry), the doctor said we were at risk for less injury. It just all seemed so backwards.
I rubbed my sore lower back as I stood up from my bed. I tiptoed around the room and searched through the darkness for a pair of sweats and Harry’s old hoodie. I threw on a black beanie over the top of my hair and let the rest of my hair fall limply over my shoulders. I slipped my Keds over my heels quickly and looked across the hall. Harry’s room was dark. I peered into the room and on the bed and spotted a shadow that looked like a mixture of his body and numerous pillows. I didn’t hear him breathing, but I continued down the hallway anyways, thinking maybe he was sleeping with his face in the pillow. When I got to the kitchen, I slid my hands all up and down the counter, searching for the keys to the Celica. When the cold metal brushed my fingers, I wrapped my whole hand around the keys and tried to pick them up without them jingling.
It had been so long since I felt the need to sneak anywhere that I was getting physically tired. My toes were beginning to hurt from me standing on them for so long. I stepped across the kitchen and onto the welcome mat before the front door, causing the wood panels of the floor to squeak.
“JESUS-” I screamed and whipped around, pressing my back to the front door and dropping the keys. “What, Harry? What?”
I strained my eyes to see his silhouette as he rose from the couch. “What are you doing?” He asked quietly.
I sighed heavily. “I just… I don’t know. I can’t sleep. I can’t stop thinking about my mom.”
Harry walked to me and wrapped his arms around my neck. He kissed my forehead and backed up to look at me as if he could even though we were in the dark. “Were you going for a drive? Do you want me to come?”
For an instance, I thought about telling Harry no. But when I thought about it, I hadn’t driven in years. Maybe it was safer if he did come. I nodded, and despite not being able to see me, Harry walked down the hall and put some clothes on. Moments later, he reemerged in front of me with my wallet. “You might need your license.”
I giggled half-heartedly and took my wallet from him. Harry opened the door for me and followed me into the garage. He had a few other things in his hands, but I couldn’t tell what they were because we kept the lights off.
It felt weird sitting on the left side of the car with the wheel in front of me and the pedals beneath my feet. Before cranking the car, I pushed lightly on the gas and break.
“Remember to put the clutch in before you crank it,” Harry reminded me. I probably wouldn’t have thought to do that were he not with me, reminding me. I used my left foot to push the clutch in, cranked the car, and put the car in reverse. I cautiously let the clutch out as I pressed on the gas and the car began to roll backward. I shuddered and slammed both feet onto the breaks, making the car stall and the engine shut off. Harry put his hand on my shoulder and rubbed lightly. “It’s okay. Take a breath. You’re fine. Just try again.”
I gulped and nodded. Once again, I shifted the car in reverse and pushed the clutch in. I released the clutch slowly as I pushed on the gas and the car started rolling backward. I was glad that no one was out on our street as I straightened up in the road. If Harry was driving as slowly as I was, I would lose my patience. He, on the other hand, sat completely still, observing my movements until I was ready to start driving.
“Good, Scotlan!” He said quietly, taking my hand and kissing the back of it. “I’m ready when you are.” He nodded forward.
Driving the Celica wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. After all of these years, I figured I wouldn’t even have made it out of the driveway, but the motions all came back to me the farther away from the city we got. It started to feel natural again. Harry and I drove in silence, both feeling so weird sitting in each other’s seats. I was still a bit jumpy any time we passed a car or truck, but eventually Harry recognized my restlessness and wrapped his fingers through my own. He held my hand more tightly as I let the car coast slowly into the parking lot of my mother’s cemetery.
Harry followed me to her grave but gave me space as we got close. I used to come to her grave so often that I could find it easily, even in the dark. I wasn’t scared of being there at night either - I spent plenty of sleepless nights there after the accident. I stared down in the dark at the tombstone, so plain. “Bella Ray,” it read. “1969-2009.” I wished at this point that I asked for them to engrave more.
“A wonderful mother.”
“An inspirational woman.”
“A loving individual.”
Anything. At the time, I didn’t know what else to have them engrave, so I told them just to put the years and leave the rest blank.
I didn’t realize how long I stood there until a flash of light came at me from the left. I blinked a few times to regain my vision. “Harry?”
He chuckled quietly and walked to me. I eventually saw that he was holding my camera in his hand. “I had a feeling we would be coming here. I figured it would be a good opportunity for an emotional picture… and maybe some Moon Pies?” Harry placed the camera on the grass next to us before he reached into the pocket of his sweats and removed two chocolate Moon Pies. My mother lived off of these tasty delights.
My eyes welled up with tears but I grinned and wrapped my arm around Harry’s waist. I took one of the Moon Pies, opened the wrapper, and held the chocolate treat up to Harry’s mouth for him to take a bite. He opened his mouth wide and nearly ate the whole thing in a single bite. I laughed as crumbs fell down onto his shirt. He ate the rest of his pie from my hand and began to feed me mine.
“Nooo get a bigger bite, get a bigger bite!” He said with his own mouth full, forcing the pie into my mouth. I laughed and tried to chew as much as I could but ended up spitting half of my pie back out and onto the grass.
“Awwwwh look what you did!” Harry blamed me sarcastically, taking a step away from me. “You probably have chocolate on your face now too.”
Before Harry could react, I threw myself on him and wrapped my arms and legs around him. I pulled myself up to his face and wiped the chocolate from my face to his. He laughed as I rubbed the corners of my mouth all over his prickly chin and cheeks.
“Hey now, that’s not fair!” He said, forcing my back up against a tree near us as he grabbed my face and pulled it away from his. He peered into my eyes and wiped the remaining crumbs and chocolate off of my face. “Are you okay? Really?”
I nodded. “I was upset, but I shouldn’t be. I should move on.”
Harry cocked his head at me sympathetically. “I mean, it was your mom. And with the situation… it’s always going to be something that affects you. It’s okay to be emotional sometimes.”
I nodded again. “But I guess I should just work on not getting super worked up anymore. It’s okay to cry sometimes but I just feel silly at this point allowing myself to get physically ill over it. And driving… maybe I can drive again.”
“You did well driving here,” Harry said, dipping his head so that my eyes would meet his. I smiled.
Even in the dark, I could see the green of Harry’s eyes shift colors as his mood changed. He pressed me into the tree slightly harder, forcing my head back and my lips up to be at the same height as his. He inched closer to me, his lips barely parted. I could smell his breath minty from the toothpaste that he used earlier that night yet sweet from the chocolate he had just eaten. My eyes flickered to his lips as I bit my own.
“So…” he whispered. He cleared his throat and backed away from me. “So do you want to drive home or me?”
Why did he back away? My heart ached and I yearned for him to come closer again. What ruined the moment?
Disheartened, I unhooked my feet from behind his back and lowered myself to the ground, letting go of my grip around his neck when I felt the grass under my Keds. “You can drive. I think I’ve driven enough tonight.”
Harry and I both laid down and cuddled up in his bed when we got home. I didn’t sleep though and neither did he. I could tell he thought I was asleep though, moving gently any time he needed to and breathing as silently as he could. At one point, he tried to clear his throat inaudibly, but when he realized he couldn’t do it without being loud, he swallowed hard and ignored the junk in his throat.
I rolled out of bed when I saw the red numbers on his alarm clock hit 7am. I jumped in the shower and rinsed off the dirt and emotionality of yesterday’s drama. When I passed Harry any time in the hallway as we walked between our rooms and the bathroom, he would smile. I would smile. Then we would continue on.
On the way to work, we didn’t talk.
Even when the assistant from Calvin Klein showed up for the photoshoot, Harry helped me to do most of the work that Anna would usually do when she was here, but other than that we didn’t talk. Niall, Zayn, Harry, and Louis all dressed up and each took their turn posing in the newest underwear for my camera, but when it was Harry’s turn, I could tell that something was… off. He didn’t have his game face on. At one point, Louis even started to give him instruction to try and help him out. Whenever Harry stared my direction, I almost felt as if instead of looking at the camera like he did usually, he was looking through it at me. I could barely focus myself.
The Calvin Klein assistant eyed Harry as he struggled, clearly unimpressed. “Is he okay?”
I stopped gazing through the camera and looked up at the assistant. “Yeah, he’s just a little tired I think.”
“Interesting,” the man said, folding his hands behind his back. I knew that this man had seen Harry work before so there was no reason to be disappointed. Anyone who knew Harry would know that today was just not his day… but that almost never happened. “Maybe we could throw in my female model? Perhaps if he could work with her like a prop, he would do a little better,” the assistant suggested.
I hesitated and exchanged glances with Niall, who was standing beside me listening. He shrugged.
“Wouldn’t hurt,” I sighed, straightening up and giving my back a rest. “Is she ready?”
“Christina?” The assistant called. “Christina, are you ready, dear?”
A completely nude model walked into the studio from the hallway. My jaw unintentionally dropped as I watched her strut onto the set next to Harry. I looked to Niall, who was staring straight at Christina’s perfectly perky breasts. When I looked at Louis and Zayn, they were both doing the same. I caught Harry looking the model up and down as she got closer to him.
“No… uh no clothes?” I stuttered, watching the model jealously.
The assistant stared at messages on his phone as he answered. “No. We don’t want to distract from the men’s underwear. Christina, remember that Harry is the main focus here. Just stand behind him or something. Use his underwear as a shield for yourself… or something.” The assistant pointed his finger in all different directions as he instructed Christina. When he finished, he looked back at his phone.
I rolled my eyes and shoved Niall out of the way. “Okay. OKAY. It’s not like you all haven’t seen a naked girl before. Let’s get started. Harry, focus.” I was trying my hardest not to act irritated, but it was difficult, especially as I watched Christina walk behind Harry and wrap her arms around his waist, letting her fingers dangle just above the elastic of his briefs. She put her chin on Harry’s shoulder and brought her lips close to his cheek. I knew that especially for these kinds of shoots, it was all about the sex appeal, but something about this shoot was messing with my head. I snapped five or six frames and then huffed. “Okay, that’s it. We’re done. That’s enough. Niall, please bring me some water,” I said, putting my camera next to my computer. “And put on some goddamn pants. We aren’t part of a fucking nudist colony…” I added, muttering the last part under my breath as I looked in Christina’s direction. She now had on a robe, but the front of it hung open, still revealing her chest and other bare female parts. What’s the point? I thought.
It seemed like it took longer than usual to finish up the CK shoot and I finally realized it was because Anna wasn’t there. I never realized how quickly she worked and made a mental note to praise her for her speed and efficiency when she got back from her honeymoon. Niall, Louis, and Zayn invited Harry and I to go out later that night, but when I declined, so did Harry. Once everyone left, I started to clean up the set. I flipped through some of the other pictures from the shoot when Harry walked into the room, pulling his shirt over his head and buttoning up his pants.
“Hmm?” I tapped the right arrow button on my laptop and looked at another picture of Louis. He was damn handsome. Sometimes I wondered why I wasn’t in love with him. Or even Niall. Sometimes even Zayn.
“Scotlan,” Harry repeated.
“Hmm???” I hummed again. I frowned at a picture of Zayn. There was a shadow across his face, probably from Niall walking on the set and in front of my lighting when I told him not to.
I looked up. “What?”
I hesitated but shrugged. “Just tired.”
“Yes, Harry. Just tired.”
“Scotlan… I’ve known you too long for you to be lying like this. Are you okay?”
Harry slapped his sides and heaved a sigh. “Please just tell me the truth!”
I shut the computer off and stood up quickly. “That was the truth! I’m okay! I’m not horrible, I’m not great! I’m just okay!”
I tried to pass by Harry to get to the hallway but he stepped in front of me and grabbed my shoulders. I turned my head and refused to look at him. He swerved left and right to try and meet my eyes. When I gave up and finally looked at him, his eyes pleaded with me. “Please…”
“I don’t know.”
Harry frowned. “You don’t know what?”
“I don’t know what I don’t know. I just feel… I don’t know.”
Harry blinked and stared at me blankly. “Scotty, you’re not giving me a whole lot to work with here…”
I slapped my sides and pulled my shoulders out of his grip. “I just have been feeling different lately.”
“Dammit Harry, why does it matter?! If I said I’m fucking okay then just drop it!” I yelled. I shoved him out of the way as I rushed to my office and grabbed my purse and the studio keys. I gulped as I heard his footsteps in the doorway.
“Scotlan, we haven’t talked all day. We never don’t talk. Ever. It’s not like you and I just want to make sure you’re okay. I care about you.”
“Well maybe I just… care about you too.” I watched the floor as I pushed past him again and walked out into the parking lot. Harry closed the door behind him.
“Well that’s good to know…” Harry muttered.
I felt bad. I spun around to face him. “I mean like I love you.”
Harry laughed, but I could tell from his furrowed eyebrows that he was still confused. “I love you too, Scotlan.”
“No, Harry! I mean I love you! Like, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you!”
Did I just say that out loud?