Check, please.

“I knew it was your month to pay the bills, so I made sure to use a lot of hot water.” I watched as he used the towel to dry between his legs and his torso, admiring his cleanly shaven male parts when the towel flicked up just high enough. “And your hair looks fine, Miss Over-Dramatic.” I bit my lip as I looked up and down at the bare and glistening body in front of me. “Been working out?”

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30. chapter 27

“Scotlan…” Harry groaned. I kept my arms crossed tightly over my chest and continued to peer around the edge of the window. I had been standing there at the window almost all day, except for when Harry and I left to get food for dinner. “Scotlan!” Harry called again. Irritated, I turned and huffed at him.

“What?”

“Can we please eat?”

I glanced back out the window for a second and down at the street where Therese was having a little party. She set up plastic chairs and tables in her tiny driveway, Alexander was grilling something (by himself) near the garage, and a mass of people – who I assumed were all doctors and nurses from the hospital – were all standing and sitting, drinking beer, smoking expensive cigars, and laughing loudly.

“She’s doing this to get under my skin,” I mumbled quietly.

Harry rolled his eyes and came to stand by me at the window. “Scotlan, she’s just having a little party with her friends.”

“In her driveway? Right in front of our apartment?”

“Jesus, she lives right across the street.” Harry shrugged. “And even if she didn’t, it’s not like she has a backyard anyway. You know that.”

The sun was beginning to set but I didn’t take my eyes off of Therese. I could have sworn I saw her glance up here at least four times. She threw back her head and laughed more and more loudly each time someone said anything to her. She knew I was standing at the window. She knew…

“Scotlan, should I be worried? If I can be honest here for a second, you’re being creepy as fuck,” Harry stated bluntly. I finally tore my gaze from the window and gasped at him. He innocently flashed a toothy grin and reached for my waist. “But I loooove when you’re creeping on the neighbors…” Harry took my hand. I sassily whipped my hand away from Harry’s, making him chuckle, so instead he cupped my face in his hands and stared down at me. “Can we at least turn on some lights?”

“They’re not just neighbors… And no, I don’t want the lights on.” I hadn’t realized that the sun was no longer streaming in through the windows. I was straining my eyes just to see Harry standing in front of me.

“Well fine,” he said, taking my hand in his again and leading me around the couch to the island in the kitchen. As if he planned on me saying no to the lights, Harry had a lighter on the island that he picked up and used to light six or seven white candles. When my eyes finally adjusted, I saw two steaming plates of food sitting on either side of the island. I sighed and allowed a small smile to spread across my face. I wrapped my arms around Harry’s waist as he stood and admired his work before we sat down.

“I’m sorry,” I said, unfolding my napkin and placing it in my lap. “I shoulda helped you with dinner and I didn’t.”

Harry laughed. “I didn’t want your help. I wanted to do something nice for you. I just wish you would leave the window.” He winked.

I raised my hands in surrender. “I’ll stop,” I agreed. “I’m just so paranoid.”

Harry smiled softly at me. “You have a good reason to be, but I want you to relax. Don’t worry about something until you know you have to.” He raised his wine glass full of water and slipped my glass between my fingers. “To being relaxed?”

I toasted with him. “To being relaxed.”

Harry grinned. “To not standing by the window?”

I shook my head giggled. “To not standing by the window.”

“To good neighbors?”

I shook my head. “No.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry, I was feeling positive. To the future? No, to OUR future.”

The flickering candles on the table made it seem as if Harry’s face was glowing more than ever as he smiled at me and clinked his glass against mine. Gosh, I loved him.

Before I could take a sip from my glass, I heard a commotion on the stairs in the garage. Harry and I waited silently and listened as the visitor climb to the top of the steps. “Scotty? Harry? Are you in there?”

I gritted my teeth and sent Harry a look as if to ask, Ugh, what? What did she want?

“Relax!” Harry whispered and put a single finger to his lips. “She’ll go away.”

“Guys?” Therese knocked again. Her hands were tiny but she had a strong and almost frightening knock. “I just wanted to invite you over for some steak! We’re having a shindig in my driveway and I could have sworn I saw Scotlan standing by the window watching us-“ She chuckled darkly.

Harry sighed and shook his head. “Don’t stand by the window anymore,” He whispered.

I pulled the corners of my mouth downward with my fingers. “Sorry.”

Therese knocked again. “Guys are you okay? Are you in there?”

The handle turned and the door flew open. Therese strutted into the room, flicking on the lights as she passed through the front door and grinning when she spotted us at the island. We were both hunkered down on our stools as if we thought it might help us hide from her. “Well there you are! I’ve been knocking for an eternity.” She walked over to Harry and put her arm around his shoulders, studying the candles and slowly cooling dinners we had plated before us.

“Yeah…” Harry mumbled. “We heard you…”

Therese giggled. “I wasn’t interrupting anything, was I?”

“Actually-“ I started calmly.

Therese interrupted me. “Well I want you to come down and meet my friends! I’ve told them all about you,” she told Harry. “They’re dying to see you in person and not in some commercial or ad… although those are nice to look at too.” She ran her fingernail over the sleeve of his t-shirt like there was some dirt on it, but I knew there was none. Harry shrugged Therese off of him and stood up.

“We were eating dinner actually, maybe we can stop by later.”

“Nonsense,” Therese said, blowing out the candles on the table and smiling at me. “You can eat with us! Scotlan can even come too.” She took my hand and pulled me off of my stool. I made eye contact with Harry as I allowed Therese to pull me out the front door. On the way down the steps, she dropped my hand, allowing me to fall back closer to Harry for a minute while we crossed the street. Harry put his hand on my lower back and leaned down to my ear.

“I was expecting you to punch her just then. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you two even brush arms before.”

I shook my head and spoke softly so Therese couldn’t hear. “I’m not going to let her know that she gets under my skin, like you said. We’ll stay for a minute and leave.”

Before we reached Therese’s driveway, she turned and grabbed Harry’s hand. I tried not to glare at her or tackle her to the ground as we neared the group. “Guys!” Therese sang. “Look who it is!”

The girls of the group spun quickly on their heels to face Harry. Their eyes lit up and they dropped the hands of their dates. The men glanced my direction but were more upset with the fact that Harry was stealing the attention of their women. Everyone in the group looked young and healthy, despite the fact that all of the men were smoking giant, expensive-looking cigars. They all had skin that glowed naturally and their eyes sparkled no matter which way they looked. Nurses and doctors. They just had to be. Their khaki pants and Bermuda shorts along with their pastel-colored polos. The way they stood and nodded as you talked, the way they checked every aspect of my body for sickness – the whites of my eyes (were they yellow?), my nose (was it red or runny?), they watched me swallow and waited for me to wince in pain. I hated doctors.

“I’m Lisa,” one of the brunettes said, stepping forward and sticking her hand out to Harry. He shook it politely.

“Harry.”

“Well duh,” a second, shorter blonde said. She batted her eyelashes and held out her hand like she wanted Harry to kiss it. “How could we not know who you are? I’m Cindy.”

“I’m Cherry.”

“I’m Gail.”

“I’m Taryn.”

They just kept coming. It was like a never-ending line of girls all standing in a line to shake Harry’s hand. I should start charging people money to stand in a line and shake my boyfriend’s hand. I bet we could make a fortune off of that.

“Geez, you look amazing in person,” Cherry said. I couldn’t help but stare at the large mole beneath her right eye as she spoke. It moved up and down as she smiled and relaxed her face… and then smiled again and relaxed her face. She was trying hard not to seem too excited.

“I know, right?” Taryn said, pushing her long reddish-brown braid over her shoulder. “I always thought that they photoshopped a tan on you in all of your pictures but I can see clearly that they don’t use much of that at all…” I frowned when she looked Harry up and down and licked her lips.

“This is Scotlan,” Harry said clearly feeling the awkwardness of the situation and pushing me forward. “My girlfriend. She also takes all of my pictures and does the photoshop to make me look good in those magazines.”

The guys laughed and nodded at me respectfully, but the girls looked right over my head and were still fawning over Harry.

“I really just don’t believe that they ever have to photoshop you! You’re perfect,” Therese said, placing her hand on Harry’s shoulder and running her hand down his arm. He shifted away from her and stood behind me with his hands on my biceps. I wished I could stand behind him again. It was only without Harry standing in front of me that I realized how much of a bum I looked like – I was wearing black capri spandex and a large baggy tee. I didn’t even have makeup on.

“What makes you so irresistible, buddy?” One of the men spoke up to Harry. “You’ve got my fiancé here wet from just shaking her hand.” He and his friends laughed as Taryn’s face turned red. She slapped her fiancé’s hand away from her and dropped down into a chair facing away from the group, humiliated.

“It’s the butterfly tattoo,” One of the other guys claimed. “You’ve got a giant butterfly on your stomach, don’t you?”

Harry chuckled and nodded. It was one of his favorite tattoos and yet he always got flustered when anyone asked about it, especially guys. “I don’t think that’s it. Maybe it’s the hair or something.”

“Who can resist those curls?! Am I right?” Therese nearly yelled, reaching over me to run her fingers through Harry’s hair. Harry backed up slowly and took me with him, almost as if he was using my body for protection.

I was relieved when a white car pulled up to the house and distracted everyone from the two of us.

“Ohh!” Therese squealed. “That must be Mr. Smith and Momo!”

While everyone was distracted by the newcomers, I grabbed Harry and yanked him to the side of the driveway. “Momo was the doctor that talked with Louis and I. She gave me the other pregnancy test.”

Harry held my hand and watched the car as Momo emerged from one side, her brown bob shorter than the last time I saw her, but her face still as pleasant as ever. All of the younger people in the driveway greeted her excitedly. “Thanks for inviting us!” Momo said, “Sorry we’re late. We got lost.”

The second half of the “we” that she kept using stepped out of the drivers side of the car slowly. He still had his white lab coat on, but soon shrugged it off to reveal a white button-down and some khaki pants.

A large and yet seemingly insincere smile spread across the man’s face as he looked over the car at the group. “Ahh! My favorite guys and gals from the hospital! Smells awesome here! Much better than that last patient’s room I was in. She shit herself like ten times.” He let loose a laugh that was more like a roar than anything.

Some of the men in the group laughed along with him. “Who was taking care of her? Who got to clean up the crap?”

The older man thought for a moment. “I wanna say it was Dennis.”

The group laughed again. “He deserved it.”

“Aww Dennis. I’m gonna make fun of him for weeks.”

I frowned and gripped Harry’s hand more tightly. How could they just talk about patients and coworkers like that? I shifted uncomfortably on my heels and looked over to Alexander. I almost forgot he was there. He was sitting by the grill with a plate of steaks, but they looked cold. I wondered how long he had been done with dinner and just sitting behind everyone silently. I almost felt bad for him. Why did he stick around? He looked like he wanted to kill himself every time I saw him.

“Hey! I know you!” Momo blurted suddenly, pushing through the crowd and walking over to me. She embraced me tightly. “How are you? Shoot, I remember your name… it’s like a country or something… don’t tell me. England? No, Finland? Shit.”

“Scotlan,” I smiled politely. “I’m doing okay.”

She patted my shoulder. “That’s good. I have to apologize. I was a little insensitive to you whole false pregnancy situation a while back.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw everyone in the group turn to look at me, especially Therese. She grinned wickedly and crossed her arms. Harry’s grip around my hand tightened. I wondered if all doctors were so open with all of their patient’s information. I could have sworn that it was supposed to be kept private.

I took a deep breath and smiled. “It’s okay.”

“Aww, Dear,” the man said, addressing me for the first time. He walked through the group and stood before me with Momo. “False pregnancies are hard. But don’t worry,” he added, patting my free hand. “Try again soon.” He winked at Harry. If only he knew that Harry wasn’t the father the first time… and I wasn’t trying the first time either. “I’m Doctor Smith. You can call me Declan. I’m in charge of the hospital around here.”

“Declan Smith?” Harry asked, shaking his hand. “Is that really you?”

Declan eyed Harry closely. “Yeah… it’s me. Have I had you as a patient before?”

Harry laughed harshly and shook his head. “No, no that’s not it.”

Declan laughed. “So you saw me on Doctor Oz? The TV show? Or maybe you’ve just heard of me. I’m amazing.” He grinned cockily and held out his hands. The girls and guys behind him laughed.

Harry shook his head. “Nah, I know you from way before you were even a doctor. And you know, you are all a bunch of assholes.”

“Excuse me?” Declan exclaimed, taken aback by the sudden change in Harry’s tone.

Harry frowned. “Maybe you can get one of your buddies here to check your hearing. I said assholes. What kind of asshole doesn’t recognize his own daughter?” Harry motioned toward me.

I had been too stunned to speak. I stood silently with my jaw on the ground as I studied Declan. My father? It can’t be. He looked so different. He looked horrible. He had gotten so much plastic surgery that he looked like a completely different person. When Therese said that “Mr. Smith” was here, I just didn’t think to associate the name with my own father, Mr. Smith. Declan wasn’t a common name though. Hearing the name struck a nerve in me, but it just didn’t look like him… it couldn’t be him. Despite his ears and nose and chin and cheeks and hair and body all being different, his eyes were the same. The same brown eyes that I had. My surprise turned hatred, and before I could control any more of my emotion, I caught myself glaring at him.

“I didn’t know you had a daughter…” Momo interrupted the awkward silence.

“I didn’t… I just- I mean, I did… I do…“ Declan was at a loss for words. “It’s been so long.” He started to reach for me - for a hug, a pat, some sort of physical connection – but I turned my body protectively into Harry’s body and glared harder. Declan gulped and shook his head. “I’m so sorry I didn’t even recognize you… you look so different. So grown up.” He spoke quietly. “How’s your mother?”

“Dead.” Therese blurted.

Declan’s face fell. “What happened?”

“Car accident,” I stated quickly before Therese could reveal me, once again in front of a huge group.

Declan blinked down at the concrete for a few moments before snapping back to reality. He sighed and straightened up. “I’m sorry to hear that. Are you doing okay?”

I nodded. “It was a while ago. I’m fine.”

“Are you doing okay financially though? Have you been alone all this time? Can I lend you some money or-“

“No.” I blurted, turning my body into Harry’s more. I don’t know why I did it. Declan wasn’t attacking me in any way, but I just felt like being closer to Harry helped me. Saved me. From what? Emotion? Kept me from leaping at Declan’s cheating, lying throat?

Momo was holding Declan’s hand supportively and was studying me, probably trying to figure out how we were related because we looked so different. “Maybe we can all get lunch sometime?” Declan offered, finally shifting his gaze from me to Harry.

“No,” Harry said. “I think we’re fine, thanks.”

Declan sighed and looked back to me. “Are you… Are you sure you don’t need help-“

“Scotlan is doing well on her own. She’s become one of the most famous photographers in the fashion world. Wentz is considering her – which,” Harry turned and faced Therese and Alexander. “-is not a silly little fashion magazine. It’s one of the best. What about you, Mr. Smith? Do you need help? Or did you cheat your way to the top? You seem to like to cheat so it wouldn’t surprise me-“

“Harry-“ I pushed lightly on his tensed torso.

“Excuse me? Who are you?” Declan asked, suddenly red with fury.

“I’m Harry Styles, Scotlan’s boyfriend. I’ve been there since the day you cheated on and then scurried away from Miss Ray and Scotlan like the little rat you are-“

I had never seen Harry so sensitive over this before. He knew that I hated my father but I never thought that he would stand up for me like this. I guess it never crossed my mind that I would ever run into my father again. I attempted to shove Harry backward a little more toward the street and our apartment, but he wouldn’t budge.

“Now you listen here, son,” Declan said, taking a step toward us. “I’ve made some mistakes in my life, but I’m only human. You don’t know the situation so-“

A fire lit behind Harry’s eyes. His grip around my body was beginning to scare me. “I don’t know the situation? I know it better than you do. I’ve been watching the effects of the situation for years.”

Declan’s eyes flickered from Harry to me.

“Harry, please-“ I patted his stomach, to scared to do anything else. I hadn’t prepared myself for this day. I never imagined it would happen like this and I certainly wasn’t thrilled that Therese was there to see it go down. She was learning more and more information about me by the second and it killed me because I knew she would use it against me some day.

“Look son-“ Declan lowered his voice and stepped toward me and Harry. I stifled a whimper as Harry pushed me behind him. I saw Momo gently pull at Declan’s hand. Declan tore his hand from her grip and spoke to Harry through gritted teeth. “Look where I am. Look at my success. If I was still hanging around with the same people I was 15 years ago, I would be nowhere.”

Harry curled his fists. “Those ‘people’ were your family.”

“Declan, were you married?” Momo asked.

Declan chuckled and ignored Momo. “I cheated on my wife. So what? She wouldn’t let me do what I wanted. A baby girl just fucked it up even more, so I cheated. I left. I went back to school and now I’m rich as ever with great company and a dream job. None of that would have happened if I stuck around.”

“Declan!” Momo was about to lose her shit.

Declan ignored her again. “You’ll understand one day, Harry. You’ll finally realize that you can go so much farther without someone like her dragging you down.” Declan motioned toward me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and obviously neither could Momo who had shrieked and was gazing at her hubby with absolute horror. A hot tear rolled down my cheek, an angry one or a sad one I couldn’t tell. Harry looked back over his shoulder at me. It felt like everyone was staring at me. Harry turned to face me, smiled softly, and used one warm thumb to wipe the tear from my cheek.

“Don’t cry,” he whispered just loud enough for me to hear, green flecks in his eyes flittering around like they were being blown by a breeze. “He never knew what true love was. But we do. We do. I love you, do you know that?”

I licked my lips and nodded, more tears flowing down my cheeks. Harry smiled and kissed the back of both of my hands.

And without any other warning, he threw all of his body weight into a spin, extended his fist and punched Declan in the face. Harry spat down at Declan as he collapsed on the driveway and clutched his jaw. Momo shrieked and the other doctors and nurses crowded around Declan, none of them bothering to try and punch Harry back or ever shoot him a fiery glare.

“Without your daughter, I would probably be dead in a ditch somewhere with a bottle of liquor in my hand.” Harry grabbed my arm and started to lead me to the street, but before we even left the driveway, he spun around again and kicked Declan while he was on the ground. “The only way your daughter is like you is in the way that while you were creating your own success in the medical world, she was creating her own success in the photography and fashion worlds. Other than that, it’s a mystery you two are related because she is nothing like you. Nothing.”

Harry turned back to me and hurried me across the street. Declan was leaning against Momo and still clutching his face. “You broke my jaw, you fucker-“

Harry spun around and lunged at Declan again, but I grabbed his hand and pulled him back. That didn’t keep Harry from yelling across the street. “Well if you’re such a goddamn magician when it comes to medical stuff, why don’t you fix yourself? Or maybe get one of your kiss-ass doctors behind you to operate? Or I can do it. I’ll fix that piece-of-shit personality while I’m at it-“

“JESus Harry-“ I gasped, dragging him back up the stairs in the garage. I yanked him into the apartment, slammed the door behind us, and locked the bolt, just incase Therese decided to drop by again.

“That was a disaster.”

Harry paced in front of me, flexing his biceps and pumping his fists. “That was awesome.”

“You punched my dad.”

Harry grinned wildly. “Did you see it? I kicked him too.”

I stared at Harry for a moment, pacing around the couch and jumping up and down like he was ready for another fight. “Geez, he’s a bigger asshole than I ever thought he could be!” Harry was almost shouting. He shook hair hair around and roared. I shook my head.

"God, we have such shit neighbors…" I said, looking down at my feet.

"I hate that girl. I really do. I hate your father too. I hate everyone over there-"

“Harry…”

Harry stopped. He stood still across the room and panted heavily. “What? What’s wrong?”

I continued to shake my head. “I’m just…”

Harry’s face fell. “What’s wrong, Love?”

I finally looked up and grinned at him. “I’m so glad you did that. I love you so much it’s insane.”

Harry grinned and hurled his body at me. He collided with me and engulfed me in one of the biggest and tightest hugs I had ever gotten from him before. I laughed into his warm chest and rubbed my nose playfully back and forth against his shirt.

“I love you. I love you so much,” Harry said. “Your dad is full of shit. We’re going to make it together, I swear. I was kind of unsure about it before but now I’m 100% sure that we can make this work between us. I love you. I love you. I love you…”

I was scared for a while at first too. What if this all messed up our entire friendship? But after that moment, I realized the friendship was already gone. We were beyond it, and what we had now was perfect.

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