"I love you,” I said again, emphasizing the second word.
The corners of Harry’s mouth turned upward as he grinned at me. “Well I love you too Scotlan.”
I started to smile but stopped and studied Harry for a moment. “Like, love me?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, I love you.” We weren’t talking about the same love though. He said it so casually… it didn’t sound any different from when he said it before. He wasn’t overly happy about it either. Was I overthinking this? I thought with all of the things he said while holding me in the bathtub a day earlier, there would be more to this moment.
“Okay.” I tossed the keys to Harry and waited for him to unlock the car.
“Scotlan,” he groaned. “Don’t be mad.”
I shook my head and looked at him over the top of the car. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t completely sad either. Like I told him earlier, I didn’t know what I was feeling. I was just… okay. “I don’t think you’re really understanding what I’m telling you, Harry.”
Harry sighed and walked around the side of the car to me. He pulled me into his chest and held me for a few moments. I let my arms dangle by my side, almost afraid of what might happen or what I might feel if I were to hug him back. “I hear what you’re telling me and I do understand. You’ve been kind of emotional because of your mom the last couple of days and I just remember when your mom died our senior year, you convinced yourself you were in love with me then too. The feelings will go away in a few days, just like they did then too.” Harry pushed me away from him gently and brushed my hair behind my ear. He kissed me on the forehead and walked back around to the drivers seat. I stared at the concrete beneath my feet, stunned. This wasn’t completely about my mom. I was older now. More mature. I knew what I was feeling.
Or at least I thought I knew.
I dropped down into my seat and sat back. I stared at the white dashed lines on the road as the Celica passed between them. The air was tense in the car and it was too silent for my liking. Leaning forward, I reached for the power button on the radio.
“Scotlan,” Harry said before the music came on. My hand hovered over the power button as I waited for Harry to say what he wanted. “I don’t mean to just shut you down like that. I just really do love you and I don’t want us to do anything that could mess up the friendship that we have.”
I raised my hand up, hoping he wouldn’t say anything more. “Check, please? You’re right, okay? I don’t want to talk about it.”
For the rest of the car ride, we didn’t talk. For the rest of the day, we didn’t talk. However, like most Friday nights if we weren’t going out, Harry put in a movie – tonight’s choice being the second Sherlock Holmes. He had a pepperoni pizza delivered to our plac, like usual, he grabbed two bottles of water, also usual, placed himself on one side of the couch with the pizza beside him and left a spot open for me on the other side of the pizza, like he always did. He didn’t wait for me to sit down to start the movie. It was almost weird, like he was giving me the silent treatment while still acknowledging me. I wasn’t so much watching the movie as I was watching him out of the corner of my eye. I could see him occasionally looking my direction, taking a bite of pizza, and then looking back at the TV screen. He didn’t laugh or get excited when his favorite parts came up. Instead, he sat silently and chewed on his pizza indifferently.
Around 9, my phone buzzed. It took me a moment to realize it was a phone call instead of a text so I hurriedly swiped the screen before it went to voicemail.
“Hello?” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Harry look at me. He paused the movie politely so I could hear the person on the other end of the call.
“You and Harry coming out tonight? You haven’t been out for like a week!”
I turned and watched Harry as he snatched up the last lukewarm piece of pizza from the box and bit into it. “Zayn wants to know if we’ll come out.”
Harry shrugged. “Where are they going?”
“Where are you going?” I repeated into the phone. I heard Zayn ask Louis the same question.
“We’ll probably head down to Alka. I heard there were a lot of people there tonight.”
A crowd of sweaty drunk bodies was probably what I needed to break the awkward tension between Harry and myself. Harry didn’t want to come. I felt weird not going with him, but I wasn’t going to stay there and just mope around, avoiding conversation with him. I think we both just needed the space. For the first time in nine years, we needed to be apart from each other.
Niall honked the horn of his car as the boys pulled up in front of the apartment. I took a last look at Harry while he sat on the couch and watched the rest of the movie before slipping out the front door. As I approached the car, Zayn rolled down the back seat window and stuck his head out. “No Harry?”
I shook my head, waiting as Louis jumped out of the front seat and opened the back door for me. “He’s not up for it tonight.”
When I climbed in the back seat, I was pleasantly surprised to see Liam was going with us as well. He grinned excitedly and wrapped his arm around my neck. “Good to see you, Miss Ray.”
“Always a pleasure, Payne-o.”
I felt more and more relaxed as we got closer to Alka. Maybe this really was what I needed. The boys were constantly making me laugh and putting their arms around my neck or their hands on my waist, especially when we got into the club. It felt good to have all of the girls gazing my direction jealously as I stood surrounded by four of the most handsome guys in New York. We stood at one of the tall tables in the back of the club, I sipped on a tall glass of water as they all took shots, and we just made fun of one another. The more drunk they became, the more willing they were to share embarrassing stories from their past, some I had heard before and others I hadn’t. Niall’s story about how his brother deserted him on the opposite side of a town back home in Ireland, butt-naked in the middle of the snowy months with no cell phone or anything was particularly funny, especially when Niall tried to imitate the horrified faces of the townspeople as he sprinted bare through the streets to get home. I ran my fingers through my hair and laughed, watching Niall as he almost fell over. I looked up at Louis who was studying me closely, a dangerous yet sexy smirk on his face. “Wanna dance?”
I shrugged and took his outstretched hand. “Just don’t vomit on me,” I called to him as he pulled me to the dance floor.
He turned around and yanked me into his chest, beginning to sway to the beat of the song. “I’m not that drunk,” he said honestly, breathing into my ear. I looked down and watched as our bodies grinded against each other. I giggled.
“What’s funny?” Louis asked, grinning at me. His eyes reflected the blue lighting of the club, twinkling occasionally as he stared down at me.
“I’ve just always wondered how dancing evolved from slow, coordinated ballroom dances in the king’s courts to this,” I motioned all around at the other bodies just thumping to the beat and rubbing up against other strangers.
Louis ran his fingers through his hair, making his long and uneven bangs look like a sexy mess. “I dunno. I like it though,” he grinned, clicking his teeth at me before raising his eyebrows twice. He grabbed my waist and spun me around, forcing my backside against his hips. I laughed and pushed back against him, forcing a groan out of his mouth from deep within his body.
“Okay,” he said, pushing me off the dance floor. “Let’s take this somewhere else.”
A little red flag shot up somewhere in the back of my mind. It wasn’t like we hadn’t had sex before, but something was holding me back. Someone was holding me back. The feelings will go away in a few days, his voice played in my head. I mentally scolded myself and pushed Harry out of my mind. I allowed Louis to lead me outside and to a taxi.
I giggled as he made faces across the taxi at me. He ran his fingers lightly up and down my thighs, sending chills down my spine. He knew how to keep the sexual tension there, even with simple brushes of his fingertips over the skin of my neck and arms. When we got to his apartment just a few blocks away from mine and Harry’s, he didn’t hesitate to tear my dress off and slam me against the wall. Any time I had sex with Louis, it was rough. And I mean rough. I’m sure he had kinky little chains and toys hidden all around his house but he never bothered to use them on me. In a way, I was glad.
I shrieked angrily when Louis snapped the lace of my thong right in half. He ignored me and grabbed my thighs, hoisting me up and wrapping my legs around his bare chest. I held myself up with my arms as he reached under my bottom and unbuttoned his pants all the while making out with me. He forced his tongue into my mouth, sucking harshly on my own tongue and pulling at my lips. He dropped his boxers on the floor and gave me the impression that we were heading to his bedroom, but before we even got there he forced me up against a wall and thrust into me. I arched my back and bit down on his lip to keep from screaming. I felt bad and wanted to apologize when I tasted blood, but Louis didn’t seem to notice the injury. He smashed into me a few times while we were in the hall, but eventually walked me to the bedroom and threw me down on the bed. As he crawled on top of me and began to thrust again, I became dizzy. My vision blurred. My mind was jumbled. I blinked a few times and regained my vision, but when my mind returned I wasn’t thinking about sex anymore. I was thinking about Harry.
“Louis…” I grunted, furrowing my brow as he rolled over and pulled me up on top of him.
“Ride me,” he ordered. I moved my hips gently, still distracted by my thoughts of Harry.
“Louis, I told Harry I loved him.”
“That’s good,” He said, bucking his hips upward. Apparently I wasn’t riding him fast enough.
“Well I thought it would be good-“ I groaned and put my hands on his chest, balancing myself as he pushed into me more and more quickly. “-But now we’re not talking.”
I finally knew that Louis was listening when he frowned. He didn’t stop or slow down, though. “Well why not?”
“I don’t know. He basically told me that I didn’t really love him.”
“Look, Scotlan-“ Louis said, stopping his jerky hip movements and looking at me. “-can this wait until we’re done?”
I blinked down at him and then nodded. “I’m sorry.” I knew it wouldn’t be too much longer. I could wait to talk about it. I felt bad too, leading Louis into sex and then just letting him do all of the work while I talked about the guy I was in love with.
He immediately picked up where he left off, squeezing his thumbs into my hips as he rocked my hips for me.
I pouted as Harry filled my mind again. “But why would he do that? I don’t understand.”
Louis sighed and pushed me off of him. He rolled onto his side and propped his head up on his elbow, staring at the wall beside me as he thought. I could tell he was pissed that I wouldn’t shut up and just let him fuck me but I didn’t care. I needed male perspective.
He ran his tongue over the part of his lip that I bit into. He touched it with his thumb and looked at the little bit of blood that stained his skin. “Damn, Scotlan, aggressive much?” He grinned at me roguishly.
I flipped onto my back and rolled my eyes.
“I don’t know,” Louis finally sighed. “Maybe you freaked him out. He doesn’t want to ruin what’s there… which it looks like you already did by just saying that you loved him. You’re in the friendzone.”
“Well fuck.” I rubbed my forehead. “I mean, I guess that could make sense, but he told me he loved me too!”
Louis ran his fingers through his messy hair. “So if he loves you and you love him, what’s the problem?”
“Well, he told me he loved me when he thought I was sleeping.”
"So he didn’t actually tell you." Louis scratched his nose. “Wait, he said he loves you? Or he LOVES you? There is a difference. Don’t you guys say that all the time?”
I huffed. “Well yes but this was different-“
“How do you know?”
I stuttered as I tried to explain. “I mean, he just… the tone was different-“
“No,” Louis said, rolling off the bed. He walked just out the door of his bedroom and picked up his boxers. He looked back at me as he started to slip them on. “No, no, and no. You girls overanalyze everything. I can tell you right now, he didn’t mean it like that. And now just because you’ve convinced yourself that this one time was different than the million other times he’s said it, you’re falling for him.”
I didn’t try to hide the hurt that I was feeling. I sat quietly on the bed as Louis picked up the random articles of clothing that littered the apartment. When he returned to the bedroom, he tossed me my dress. “I wish I could help you understand more, but to be honest I don’t know Harry like you do. I wish I knew him better, but I don’t. This is just something I’ve seen a LOT with girls. I’m not trying to be mean. Just trying to help.”
For as much as I didn’t want to accept it, maybe Louis was right. Maybe Harry was right. The feelings would go away. Maybe. Eventually. Hopefully… But did I really want them to go away?
Despite whether I wanted the feelings or not, I couldn’t keep on going about life playing this awkward ignoring-you-but-not-really game with my best friend and roommate. As soon as I got back to my apartment, I kicked off my club outfit and threw on some new underwear and Harry’s old hoodie. I crept into his dark room and crawled under his sheets. I snuggled up next to him and sighed with contentment when he wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
“You back so soon?” His tired, raspy voice called through the darkness.
I nodded against his bare chest. “It’s not as fun without you.”
Harry’s chest rumbled as he chuckled.
I waited a few moments for him to say something else, but when he didn’t, I spoke instead. “I wanted to apologize. I’m so sorry for being weird today.”
Harry sat up, sitting me up straight with him. He flicked on the lamp beside his bed and looked at me. “I’m sorry too. I don’t know why I was so distant.”
I took his hand in my own. “Well I made things kinda awkward between us and I was thinking… well you were right. You’re my best friend and I don’t want to mess anything up.”
With the light behind his head, much of Harry’s face was covered by a shadow, but that didn’t keep me from seeing all of the color drain from his face. He gulped quietly and stared behind him out the window for a minute before taking his hand out of my grasp. “Well, actually… being alone tonight gave me some time to think… and I just-“ He stopped and began to pick at his thumb nail. “I just thought that maybe we could give it a try. The whole dating thing. I’ve been a little confused with my feelings lately too so I just didn’t know how to respond when you told me… well, you know.” He glanced in my direction just long enough for me to see the anxiety in his face. “If you don’t want to though, I think it’s safe to just stay friend-“
“No!” I breathed. I slapped my hand over my mouth when I realized how quickly I answered. A small grin made it’s way to Harry’s lips. I swallowed hard and grabbed his hand again. “I mean, we can try it. If it doesn’t work out, no harm done… right?”
Harry tried not to look too excited as he turned to me and nodded. “No harm done.”
I looked down at his hand to try and hide a blush. I ran my fingers over the small cross tattoo on his hand and then glimpsed back up at him. I blushed again when I saw he was studying my face intently.
“Okay,” I said, standing up off of his bed and looking around the room. It was starting to get dirty again with clothes piles and food wrappers. “I think I’m going to head off to bed.” I used both of my thumbs to point in the direction of my room.
“Okay,” Harry said quietly, watching me as I rocked on my heels.
I pulled the bottom of the hoodie down over my thighs as I turned around and walked to my dark room. I scowled at myself for being awkward as I laid down. I started to drag the covers over my head when someone stopped me. Harry peeled the cover back and climbed into my bed with me. He pulled me onto his chest and held me tightly. As we laid silently, I couldn’t help but think about all that Louis had said. Was Harry just trying to ease the tension between us? Was he just appeasing me for a while until my feelings went away? I also felt bad about having sex with Louis. I never felt bad about sex.
“Scotlan?” Harry whispered, pulling me out of my late-night thoughts.
“Good night Harry.”
I listened to his heart speed up and slow down with my ear pressed against his chest.
“I love you.”
His heart sped up.
“I love you too, Harry.”
Based on what his heart was telling me, there was no way that his “I love you” was a lie.