Paradox (Harry Styles)

"We're like fire and gasoline; I'm no good for you, you're no good for me"

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2. One

Empty. The only word in the English language that was fitting enough to describe my current mood. I should have known it was coming, every year on the same day this strange but all too familiar feeling pulses through my veins. The one date that haunts me without exception every year. And the worse part was that I couldn't escape it; this empty feeling of desolation and dread building up in the pit of my stomach.

It would be ten years ago today. December twentieth, 2004; the haunting date that mocked my thoughts one way or another every year. A whole decade ago and it still seemed so fresh in my head. I still could picture the scene in my mind perfectly. It was as if that day was permanently etched into my brain and there was no cure for my ongoing struggle. Every last detail was forever wedged firmly into my mind; my mother hunched over the kitchen counter top sobbing silently, my two older brothers glumly gazing around the room mute, and me, a nine year old clueless little girl who had no idea how something so horrid could come upon her seemingly perfect life.

But I realized instantaneously that life wasn't full of sunshine and happy fairy tale endings like Disney portrayed it. No, ever since my father left us with nothing I came to the conclusion that life sucked. It sucked a lot.

But everything changes, and if you don't allow yourself to indulge in new ideas you'll get stuck in the past. That's why I try to busy myself every other day of the year with friends and work, but mostly songwriting. I would lose myself countless times in unusual new lyrics and guitar chords that I fooled around with in my spare time, spending hours on end in my music room isolated from the outside world. But that's just how I liked it.

I couldn't help but tug at my chestnut colored shoulder length hair which was horrendously tangled. I had woken up this morning dreading work and the stinging reminder of my own father's desertion. Nevertheless I dragged my limp self out of the cozy, welcoming duvet and gulped down a cuppa tea before apathetically trudging out the door and towards the subway.

Once I was comfortably sat on the train resting my elbow against the cool window, I took multiple deep breaths to relax myself. The anniversary of my father's departure always jabbed at my heart, knowing that now my mother was cooped up in a nursing home because she was too vulnerable and weak to care for herself, and my eldest brother Jason a world away in the United States working on some huge Hollywood film debut.

Nothing was ever the same after dad left and I knew it would only continue to change and mold into different ways to cope as I grew older. Unfortunately one of those was my relationship with my family. I rarely every visited my mother, too caught up in the guilt of sending to a nursing home she despised to see her. Shortly after, my brother Jason and I had a falling out which caused me to lose all connections with him. I haven't seen or talked to him in two years and still think about him every day.

The only family I had left was my other brother Marcus. He worked at a fancy local nightclub as a bouncer. He was the only one I had left of my family relations. And if I was honest with myself I clung to Marcus more than I should. But he didn't mind; he knew how much dad leaving us effected me as a child. I don't think I've ever been the same girl since that day. It haunted me every single second of my life but it was the worst when the anniversary of it rolled around each year.

I snapped out of my dazed thoughts at the screeching stop of the train and the feeling of my body jerk forward. The train had come to a stop and I hastily booked it out of there before all of the other passengers could get up and block the exits, for I couldn't afford to be late to work.

Luckily I made my way to Liberty -the store I've worked at for four years now- in no time. It would be open and ready for customers soon. Walking into the dead store I could see my co-worker and good friend Lana. She was dressed in her work uniform which consisted of tan dress pants and a blue button down blazer and yet she still made the simple outfit look so good. She waves at me, popping her pink gum in her mouth. Smiling back I set my bag in the employee lounge and check in with my boss Vince.

"Mornin' Laurel" Vince mumbles, his nose buried in the day's newspaper like every morning.

"Good morning Vince. Have a nice weekend?" I asked. He smiled to himself and tore his eyes from the paper to glance at me.

"Too short. But work is work and if I don't do the job who will?"

I chuckled at him and waved goodbye, exiting the lounge and entering the first floor of the gigantic clothing shop. My job usually consists of assisting customers find what they are looking for. It's a simple job really, not too demanding yet extremely boring and dull.

"Laurel," Lana beckoned me to come over, an excited expression plastered on her bright face, "Guess what?"

"Let me guess, you went clubbing this weekend and met a really hot guy to shag and now you're dating" I asked, knowing all to well that that was most likely her exciting news to tell me.

It was something Lana would do, and if my memories serves I think it did happen not too long ago. She was just one of those wild and care free girls who didn't take anything too seriously, something I was definitely not.

"His name is Tristan. We met at that club you're brother works at, um I think its called Fabric or something like that. Anyways, we hit it off really quickly and now I'm going on a date with him tomorrow! Isn't that amazing?" she rambled on, spinning around in her chair like an eager five year old who cannot sit still.

"Yeah, good for you Lana. Make sure you're safe" I wink at her and she gasps, giving me the middle finger before laughing. I roll my eyes and check my phone. Liberty opens up in less than ten minutes and I have to be at my designated station before the doors open or Vince will have my head. 
 

Bidding Lana a farewell and booking it to the escalator I checked my social media profiles. Multiple websites were mentioning some sort of robbery that happened late last night at one of London's finest jewelry stores. It wasn't too far away from Liberty so I took the time to research it while I waited for us to open.

"...The biggest robbery of the century occurred last night at an expensive jewelry store by the name of 'Fraser Hart.' It was said to have taken place at around midnight last night and police reported that the alarm system had been defused before anyone entered. Seems like we have a technical dangerous robber roaming around London. The owner had claimed to have lost over 45,000 dollars worth of jewelry just last night. Police are questioning other store owners around the area and any other citizens who have some insight for questioning. More info to come..."

I reread the article once more, twice, a third time wondering what would drive a person to rob a jewelry store. 45,000 dollars was a ton of cash and they had said whoever did this defused the alarm system before hand. 
 

"Alright everyone, Liberty is open. Be ready for a busy day back" I snapped out of my thoughts, instantly forgetting the news article at the sound of Vince's voice booming on the intercom.

And as soon as the front doors open, groups of customers eager to get their holiday shopping done before Christmas bursting through. It was a festive time of year so of course we were busy and everyone was bustling about. It seemed as though all of the other families around me took this holiday time as a time for bonding and joy. But for me, it was the opposite, the fact that my father had left us five days before Christmas, taking my mother's funds and stealing anything of value from our house that night before slipping away from us forever.

Realizing that I couldn't dwell on it at the moment since there were customers asking for assistance I blocked my miserable thoughts from my mind and slapped on a fake smile. Another year gone by with the same stinging reminder of my dad's betrayal.

That night, after I finished work and said goodbye to Lana and Vince I trudged home more depressed than this morning. I usually wasn't one to be a Debbie Downer but I simply couldn't shake the horrible memories from my head. I frequently asked myself what if...

What if he didn't leave us? Would things be the same? Would mom still be living with her family instead of a wretched nursing home? Would Jason still live in England?

I could only wonder and imagine my own scenarios when I slipped into these moods where everything became a swirling ecstasy of dread and hopelessness. I desperately needed some friends or any company really, but it was too late and I knew I would just have to stick it out and sleep it off.

Tucking myself into my cold, empty duvet I sighed and gazed blankly at the ceiling. I had half the mind to dial up anyone, Lana, my mother, Marcus, and even Jason. I craved human contact, for the feeling of loneliness was going to consume me and wouldn't let me out.

Before I could think straight I ringed up Marcus, seeing as he always tried to be a decent big brother when I needed him. He picked up after the third ring with a simple "Lauri?" which was my nickname he teased me with as big brothers usually do.

"Hey Marcus, I just wanted to call to talk...to someone" I said trying to hide the fact that I was fighting sobs from coming and spilling out.

"You alright?" he asked worriedly, knowing that if I called him late at night then something was usually up.

"Fine" I lied. Although I don't think Marcus was too convinced I was fine.

"Lauri, I know there's a reason why you called. I'm your brother for god's sake I know when you need someone" he warned me, sighing on the other line.

"I know" I whispered, unable to find my full voice.

"Do you want me to come over?"

"No"

"I will if you need m-"

"It's okay Marcus. I just wanted to tell you that I miss you" I choked out meaning every word. I didn't want him to come over and see me in this vulnerable state. And I really did miss him; not a day went by where I didn't think about him or Jason for that matter. They constantly swam around my mind reminding me of my shattered relationship with my own flesh and blood.

"I miss you too Lauri, I'll try to visit you soon yeah? Stay safe, love you" he said calmly on the other end of the line.

"Love you too," I paused to take a deep breath, "bye"

The line went dead three seconds after and I set my phone down on the bedside dresser. Shuffling onto my side and wrapping the fluffy duvet around me I closed my eyes, trying to rid myself of all the grief that has appeared in my life. I wanted nothing more than to be lulled into peaceful sleep where nothing bad could happen and everything was perfect, knowing very well that I'd have to awake and face reality again tomorrow.

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