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?”


35. chapter 31

Having gotten caught up in Harry’s unexpected, romantic gesture of bringing me roses and telling me he never wanted my dreams to come true anyway, I half-expected the surprise to be Harry proposing to me in front of everyone. I nibbled my lip nervously and squeezed his hand over and over (feeling it, he cocked his head and asked if I was okay) as I thought of all the ways it could happen – the boys would catch it on camera in the studio… but would I say yes? Were Harry and I ready for that? Of course we were ready… but we were so young… but it didn’t matter, we were going to get married eventually anyways, right? I glanced casually over at his pants and searched the outside of his pockets for a bulge from a ring box or something… but I saw nothing. I glanced around the car without trying to make it seem like I was searching for anything, even checking in the back seat.

"You okay?" Harry asked again.

I laughed and nodded. “Just making sure I got my shoes…” I lied.

"Babe," Harry chuckled, pointing down at my feet. "They’re right beside your feet."

"Oh, right." I finally squeezed my eyes shut and stopped any proposal thoughts from running through my mind anymore. I don’t know why it made me so nervous to think about.

When we got to the studio, Harry opened my door for me and grabbed my hand to pull me through the front door and down the hallway. When we got to the actual studio, confetti exploded into my face. I tried to jump back but Harry squeezed my hand more tightly and pulled me right through the explosion into the room where I saw the walls were covered in twirled crepe paper and balloons scattered the floor.

“Welcome Home, Scotlan!” all of the boys shouted from different corners of the room. I laughed as I was engulfed in a tight hug by the four boys and they all tried to talk loudly over one another about how happy they were that I was back.

“How was the interview anyway?”

“We got a cake and ice cream-“

“Holy shit, we thought you were leaving us-“

“I thought ‘there is no way she could leave us…’”

“And here you are!”

“I almost died trying to get the crepe paper on the ceiling-“

“We love you so much-“

A balloon beneath us popped, silencing the boys and scaring a yelp out of me.

“Lads, I said not too many balloons. You know Scotlan is terrified of balloons,” Harry said matter-of-factly, kicking some of the balloons away from me.

I laughed nervously and kicked one red balloon gently away myself. “It’s okay. This place looks awesome. The interview was horrible but I don’t care. I could never leave you all, and I love you too.” I looked from one boy to the other, each of them beaming as they stood around me.

Zayn took my hand and lead me toward a man and a woman in the corner of the room who I hadn’t noticed yet. “Remember how you and I talked about that one photoshoot that we could do promoting uniqueness and such?” Zayn asked.

I nodded and smiled at the man and woman as Zayn pushed me toward them. The man was much older with a balding head and glasses while his assistant looked like she could be no older than myself. Her straight, blonde hair was secured back in a tight ponytail that actually worked well with the shape of her face. I was jealous of her gorgeously long eyelashes.

“Miss Ray, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jordan and this is my assistant, Lillian. We’re from Office Depot.”

I shook the outstretched hand of both Jordan and Lillian as the man kept talking.

“I know that you’re usually more into shooting for fashion, but Zayn here gave us a call about our anti-bullying campaign and said that maybe you all could help us out. I know a lot of the younger girls of this generation know all about your handsome guys here and we feel that they might be good promoters for this anti-bullying campaign. The guys and girls might pay more attention to what we’re saying if they have a hot guy telling them to ‘Live Nice.’” Jordan grinned and laughed. Lillian blushed all over her face and neck as Louis nudged her arm playfully and winked down at her.

I didn’t realize I had been nodding along the whole time Jordan was talking. I was thinking about how much it would have meant to me to have someone there encouraging me along when I was being bullied by Therese… but then I remembered Harry. It was crazy to think about how much I - or how much people in general - try and look for someone important or someone famous to tell us that everything will be okay when really there are more important people, people who actually KNOW us, who can tell us the same things and actually mean it. I glanced over my shoulder at Harry and smiled, remembering once more just how much he had done for me in my life. Harry grinned back and me and nodded as if to say, “Yes, we should do this.” If only everyone had a Harry Styles in their life…

Zayn nudged me when I didn’t say anything for a few seconds, causing me to turn back to Jordan and Lillian and stammer. “Oh- I’m ea- I mean yes. Yes I would love that. It’s a little different from what we usually do but I think it would be a good little break from the norm.”

Jordan shook my hand and I hugged Zayn as Jordan and Lillian worked on some paperwork.

“We’re doing this shoot today,” Zayn said, pushing me back out of the hug and looking into my eyes.

“Today?” I asked hesitantly. Normally it took a few days to prepare, if not a few weeks.

“Today,” Zayn confirmed.

Behind him, Harry was nodding vigorously and giving me a toothy grin and a thumbs up. I giggled when Niall joined him as well as Liam and they all thumbs-upped me and nodded along with Harry. “Do it! Do it! Do it!” Louis began to shout, grabbing ahold of my shoulders and forcing me up and down.

“OKAY! Okay you crazy motherfu-“ I stopped when I realized Jordan and Lillian were still figuring out paperwork behind us. “Crazy Mofos…” I muttered quietly enough for just the boys to hear.

Niall’s laugh echoed around the room. “Didja hear that, boys?” He asked, putting Liam in a headlock. “We’re a bunch of Crazy Mofos.”

As each of the boys began to tackle one another, I realized Jordan was ready to do work. He watched the 5 as they piled onto one another on the floor and I could see him reevaluating his decision to work with us. Lillian behind him was covering her mouth and giggling. After I signed off on all of the paperwork, I shouted at the boys to dress themselves and do their own hair since I had no time to call in our usual stylist and since Jordan hadn’t brought one. Jordan informed us that he wanted most, if not all, of the pictures to be black and white, so the boys stuck with plain black pants and black, gray, or white shirts. It was funny to see that even without being overly ornate or colorful, the clothing matched the personality of the boy wearing the attire.

“The campaign is called ‘Live Love Move.’ Just come pick which sign you want and stick with it. It’s what you are promoting as an individual,” Jordan explained to the boys.

Liam ended up choosing first, picking a sign that said “Live True.” Louis followed him, picking up a sign and reading aloud, “Live Original.” Zayn immediately went for the sign that said “Live Unique.” Having seen that one before, I hoped that was the sign he would get. Niall picked up one of the last two signs and shouted, “LIVE CONFIDENT!” before striking a ridiculous pose and showing off the bicep muscles that he didn’t really have too much of. We all laughed. Finally, Harry was handed the last sign, which read, “Live Nice,” two words that seemed so simple and yet, if taken seriously, could do so much.

I snapped photos of each of they boys with their signs for what seemed like minutes but was really hours. Time raced past us. The guys were all so goofy and energetic, more so than other photo shoots that we had, and for a second I almost wish that we had invited Bonnie.

I had never seen Zayn so animated in my life. Maybe I should just keep him as my new assistant to take over for Anna. I wanted to ask him what other ideas he had.

Any chance he could get, Harry was beside me, touching my waist, holding my hand, asking if he could do anything for me at all, kissing my cheek… I think he was more grateful that I was there instead of at Wentz than he could express with words.

Niall and Liam had become closer than ever and couldn’t stop talking about a girl Niall had met at his weekly alcohol addicts meeting. I raised my eyebrows nervously when Niall mentioned that she was addicted to drinking too but had been clean for a few weeks. While I was happy for Niall, I was worried that he might slip back into drinking, especially if he had someone influencing him. If anyone understood slipping, it was me and Harry. Liam, catching my hesitation whispered to me after Niall left: “It’s okay, I’m still keeping an eye on him. He’s like the little Irish brother I never had.”

I had never really stopped feeling bad for Louis ever since Anna left. I hated her, but I had to admit that she and Louis were a perfect match. I grinned as I shot pictures of Niall and heard Louis chatting with Lillian behind me.

“So do you go to any clubs around here?” Louis asked.

Lillian giggled. “No, I don’t usually go out too much.”

“Ahh, well we are going to have to change that. Why don’t I take you out tonight?”

“All of us? Or just me and you?”

“Just the two of us tonight. I’ll show you the ropes so that when we all go out as a group, you’ll be a pro at clubbing.”

I heard Lillian giggle again. “Sounds good.”

I could sense the muffled excitement in Louis’ voice. “Perfect.”

Not only did Jordan want the boys to do pictures, but also a commercial. Watching them learn their lines had to be one of the funniest things ever, mainly just because it was so hard for them to seem natural and they couldn’t even memorize just a few words. Even Harry was way out of his comfort zone. After about an hour, we decided it would be best to hold up signs with their lines them behind the camera. I filmed all of them as they said their lines, starting with Liam, Louis, Zayn, Niall, and finishing with Harry. At that point in the day, I hadn’t bothered trying to tell the boys to stop goofing around because it just added to the commercial. They were being themselves. Being unique.

I was beyond thrilled with the commercial when it was all put together, and I could tell the boys were too. They all clapped and shook Jordan’s hand. Louis caught Lillian off-guard by planting a firm kiss on her mouth before turning and high-fiving his fellow-models. Zayn hugged me tightly for a moment before Harry snatched me up from him and showered me in kisses. “This was perfect.”

I couldn’t help but feel so much relief and so much happiness that I was still here. I couldn’t imagine that I would have had the same experience that I did today if I was working at Wentz. Jordan gathered up all of his things with Lillian and turned to all 6 of us as we stood with our arms around one-another. “I’m sure our CEO will absolutely love this. You all are a fantastic team to work with.”

“We’re not a team. We’re a family!” Niall yelled, grinning from ear to ear as he looked down the line at each of us.

“Aww don’t be a cheeseball,” Louis groaned, but he let a quick grin escape his lips as he patted Niall on the shoulder. I knew Louis was probably thinking exactly what Niall said. I’m sure we all were. After Jordan left, none of us moved out of our little semi-circle of side hugs. We all looked back and forth at each other until Liam poked Zayn in the face and said, “You blinked.”

We laughed.

“Seriously though, no more leaving us, Scotlan,” Louis said, raising his eyebrows. Niall, Zayn, and Liam all nodded.

“What’s that thing she used to say all the time to get out of something?” Niall asked.

“Check, please?” Zayn said, mimicking my higher-pitched voice. I reached across the semi-circle and slapped his shoulder. “No check-pleasing away from us ever again.”

I grinned and nodded in agreement. Harry squeezed my shoulder and kissed me on the side of the head before pulling everyone else closer so that all of our foreheads were all touching. “You guys are the family I grew up without,” I said quietly.

“The fucked-up family,” Harry added.

“Those are the best families…” Liam sang.

We laughed again. As I looked around the group, I realized that these were the people I could trust, the people I could laugh with, the people I could be angry at, the people I could come crying to, the people I could be myself around; especially Harry. As I stared up beside me into his excited green eyes, I realized the worst was behind me.

The best was yet to come.

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