☠ Chapter Forty-Five ☠
➳ ZAYN'S POV
When I wake in the morning, I'm a little disappointed to find that I'm alone in bed. I wish there was a naked, flustered, sexually satisfied woman beside me to boost my ego, but unfortunately, there isn't. The only thing in this bed right now is a half-naked, tired, sexually frustrated me, and a dog—frantically kicking its feet somewhere in a dream.
Annoyed, I rub sleepily at my eyes and push the blankets off my body. If I had it my way, I'd never leave this bed, but I have shit that I need to do, and staying in bed all day won't get any of it done.
I look around my room, taking in the many quotes and drawings on the painted surface. There are a few quotes that stand out among the others, since I don't remember writing them, but it doesn't seem all that unusual. They're just quotes, there's no hidden meaning behind them. Probably half of them were written by Kit, and the thought instantly makes me want to erase all four walls, and the ceiling.
I lazily stand from the bed and saunter over to the washroom. I run the shower and strip down, stepping underneath the rain head. As I'm reaching for the soap, I notice an unfamiliar bottle of strawberry-scented body wash. The thought occurs to me that it's probably Kit's, but out of curiosity, I end up popping the lid open and inhaling the scent.
Instantly, an old, long-forgotten memory appears.
In her small hands she holds a black marker. She steps back up onto the bed and moves to straddle me.
Her hands run over my torso. She carefully traces the tattoos littered all over my skin. "I like this one," she says so quietly I almost don't hear it. She taps lightly on my upper chest—directly between my collarbones. She lightly traces the wings before leaning forward and placing her lips upon the lips that've been inked there. The feeling is exquisite.
My hands reach forward and massage the soft skin of her hips. I hear a slight pop! sound as she pulls the lid off the marker. She looks to my chest and her free hand runs over my skin again, eliciting goose-bumps in its path. I inhale the scent that lingers on her skin—it's a mix of strawberries with a slight hint of my own scent.
She touches the marker to my skin. After a few moments, she pulls away and I look at what she's written on the skin above my heart.
I place my hand over it and smile at her. She places her hand directly on top of mine while returning the smile. "Kiss me," I demand, and she does. She tosses the marker onto the side table and crashes her lips onto mine.
For a moment, I'm taken aback. I stand motionless in the shower, with the water streaming down my body. What just happened? Did I actually just remember something that I don't remember happening? Does this mean that I'm finally on the path towards remembering everything I've forgotten?
But more importantly, who was the woman in my memory? And why couldn't I see what she wrote on my skin? The thought almost gives me a headache. How could I suddenly remember a memory, but not who was in it? It's like her face was just . . . missing.
What could've caused this sudden jolt in memory? I look down at the body wash that I'm gripping tightly in my hand. Could it have been this? The woman in my dream smelt of strawberries, and I'm standing here, holding strawberry-scented soap. That means that the woman that was in my memory most likely lived here.
Kit? No, it can't be. She never smelt of strawberries . . . She always reeked of overly expensive perfume that smelt of fucking nauseating cotton candy or some shit.
The doctor told me that scent was the best way to trigger memories, but never did I think it'd be this strong. I desperately inhale the scent again, hoping to trigger some other sort of memory, but am severely disappointed when nothing happens. I throw the bottle against the tiled shower floor in anger.
I finish washing my hair, as well as my body, with that damn bottle staring at me the entire time.
I have shit to do, and the first thing on my list is to rub my new—or rather old—car in Louis' face.
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
I've been staring at his naked bottom for longer than I even realize. I know it's been minutes, but I can't begin to fathom what I've done. The man stirs in his sleep, probably because he's cold now, but he doesn't wake.
Staring at the full head of hair, and the length of his skinny legs, I know exactly who it is, but all I can think about is how badly I wish this was just a dream. I desperately pinch at the skin on my left arm, but it just makes me scrunch my face up in pain, and whisper out a harsh, "fuck!" It does nothing to ease my worry, it only heightens it.
I end up pacing the hotel room, trying to account for what the hell happened last night. The last thing I can remember is Louis buying us shots of tequila, and that was that. Those tequila shots were the nail in my coffin. I was done for the moment the liquor slipped down my throat. From there, I'm sure it was grinding of hips, and kissing strangers, and hands all over my body, and now here I stand—confused and at yet another low point in my life.
I grab his shirt, slipping it on my body and slowly doing up the buttons. I wince when I notice that two or three of the buttons have been ripped off, and I can only imagine exactly how that happened last night. Ugh.
I open the patio door to the room and stand out on the balcony. The sun's just begun its rise in the sky, and so I just stand there. I stand there and admire its beauty in a desperate plea to forget what's happened. It doesn't work either, and I end up closing my eyes, wishing that I could just miraculously dissipate into the colourful sky.
"Good morning," I hear his voice coming from behind me. I think he notices my sharp intake of air, because he asks, "you alright love?"
I run my hand along the back of my neck, eyes still closed. "Yeah, sorry. Good morning."
I hear his feet take steps towards me, until he's standing directly beside me. I'm forced to finally look at him when he asks, "sleep alright?"
I nod my head, "you?"
"Very well," he smirks.
I have to look up at his eyes because he's so much taller than me, with a mop of unruly brown curls, and tattoos littered all over his skin. He's staring at me with those green eyes, and still smirking—that dimple in his cheek as deep as ever. He's still naked, but that's Harry. He has the utmost confidence, and he's always been that way.
How in the hell did I sleep with the same guy that Zayn beat up all those months ago? That same guy that asked me to sleep with him—like I used to years ago, back in Minnesota. We were friends with benefits, which was eons ago now, but I promised myself I'd never go back to that Arielle.
I don't even like thinking about that time.
Let's just say that my mother really fucked me up. Leave it at that.
I scratch at the back of my neck awkwardly. I need to know how we ended up here, and so I end up blurting out, "what the hell happened last night?"
Harry chuckles, "you really don't remember?"
No shit. I shake my head. "The last thing I remember is tequila and then waking up beside you."
"Well, you were pretty pissed, weren't you?" I don't respond, and so he continues. "Let's see . . . I went to the bar, and I was dancing when all of the sudden, some woman stuck her arse right into my crotch. It wasn't until two songs later when I realized it was you. And one thing led to another . . ." He points towards the bed.
"I know this is going to sound stupid, but . . . did we have sex?" I'm forced to ask the question because the two of us were butt-naked, in bed together, and I have absolutely no recollection of it.
He nods his head. "We were both really drunk—you were worse than myself—but you practically dragged me up here and ripped my clothes off."
I wince at his words, but he doesn't seem to notice, because he steps forward and yanks at his shirt, pointing towards the missing buttons. "This was an expensive shirt," he says, jokingly.
"I'm sorry," I apologize quietly.
"It's quite alright. Trust me, it was definitely worth it."
"Look, I hate to just dash, but I have somewhere to be." Liar.
"Oh," he replies, seemingly sullen.
"I'm sorry, it's just—"
"Don't worry about it."
I turn around and walk back into the room, beginning to gather my clothes that've been strewn about the room. Jesus, how badly did I want him? I find my panties on the far side of the room, near the little sitting area, and my dress on the other side, near the door.
Once I've gathered my clothes, I head into the washroom, and quickly change into them. I have to do the walk of shame out of this hotel, with my heels in one hand, smelling of sex and old tequila, and I'm already dreading it.
How will I explain this to Louis? I mean, I came with him and then I just disappeared into a hotel room with Harry, who's a stranger to him. Where is Louis? Did he go home? The thought pops into my head that Harry could've easily been Louis. I was so drunk that I'm sure I would've fucked anyone, Louis included.
Imagine how awkward that would've been.
After I've quickly fixed my hair, I step out of the washroom to find Harry sitting at the edge of the bed. I'm thankful that he's decided to put on his boxer-briefs, but he also wears a look of concentration.
"I guess I'll be going then," I announce as I step up to him, handing him the shirt. He takes it lightly from my hand, staring at its buttons.
"Alright. Well, last night was fun."
Let's not do it again. "Again, I'm sorry about the shirt."
He shakes his head to let me know not to fret about it. I'm honestly not all that concerned about a few ripped buttons, I'm more concerned about leaving this hellishly awkward situation.
I step around him to grab my purse from the nightstand. "I'll, uh . . . I'll see you around," I mutter.
"Yeah," he says unenthusiastically.
I give him one last look before I turn and exit the hotel room. I stand against the opposite side of the door, clutching my heels in one hand and my purse in the other. I take a moment to regain some sort of composure, although my palms are still sweating furiously, and I have to take a few concentrated breaths to focus on leaving this hotel.
Just as I'm taking another breath, I hear a door close. Turning my face to find the noise, my eyes meet Louis. Seeing him causes bile to rise in my throat. The fact that he just emerged from a hotel room makes me think that he slept with someone last night, despite the fact that he's dating my best friend.
"Fancy meeting you here," he says with a raised eyebrow. "You're looking pretty rough."
I roll my eyes and purse my lips while purposely making a point of looking away from him.
"What?" He asks obliviously, as if it isn't obvious that he just came from a one-night stand.
"What do you mean, what? You just cheated on my best friend!" I'm tempted to slap him across the face, but frankly, I don't have the energy. My stomach feels as if it wants to spill its contents, and all I want right now is a massive fucking Belgian waffle.
"Did not!" He yells back. "I was alone in that room!"
"Bullshit!" I spit.
"Oh really? Shall we go knock on the door? Do you want to question some imaginary stranger about whether or not I fucked her last night? Jesus, Arielle. You fucked some stranger last night, so don't give me those damn judgy eyes when I spent the night alone!"
"Shut up!" I scold, hitting his arm with my clutch. "He was not just some stranger, okay? Look—"
"You don't have to explain anything to me, Ari. You're single. You can sleep or not sleep with whomever you please, darling."
"I just don't want you thinking I'm some—"
He interrupts me again, "stop right there. I don't think anything of it. Just . . . let's forget about this entire encounter and go home, alright? C'mon," he says, placing his hand on my lower back to lead me towards the elevator.
➳ ZAYN'S POV
When I pull into Louis' driveway, I don't find his car. In fact, it seems as though no one is home. So when I knock on the front door, I don't expect anyone to answer, but a strange girl with brown hair answers. I'm left staring at her, unsure of how to greet her. Did Louis have a one-night stand last night? Or is this his girl?
"Zayn, hi, come in." She steps aside, allowing me entrance into his house. I reluctantly step inside, because it's obvious that the woman knows me, although I haven't a fucking clue who she is.
"Um, I hate to sound like a dickhead, but who are you?"
"Oh, shit. Memory loss, duh." She points to her head and laughs before stepping towards me. She extends her hand, introducing herself. "I'm Zoe. Louis' girlfriend. Also Ari's best friend."
"Ari?" I question.
"Yes, Arielle. She—"
"Oh, right. I remember her. Anyways, do you know where I can find Louis? I figured he'd be here, but it's obvious he isn't."
She stares at me like a deer in headlights, but I think that's just her normal expression. She seems jumpy, jittery almost, as if she's on some sort of drug, but I don't spot track marks or excessive sniffing, so I assume this is her normal demeanour. How does Louis put up with it? Jesus, I've been in her presence for a measly three minutes and I'm already proper ready to rip my hair out.
"Y'know, I was wondering the same thing. I came over to surprise him this morning, but silly me! I totally forgot to give him some sort of warning—"
Isn't the point of a surprise to not give a warning?
"—and of course, he isn't here. I tried calling his cell and texting him, but they go unanswered, unfortunately. Ari isn't here either, so I assume they went out to do something together, but I can't be sure. They've been known to go out for dinner and shit like that because Louis can't cook and Ari's too tired by the time she gets home and yeah. But, how are you? How's the ol' noggin' been?"
"Ol' noggin'?" I question with total confusion because she's rambling on so quickly that I can't comprehend anything.
"Y'know," she points to her head, "your head. Brain. Melon."
"Oh," I say awkwardly, unsure of how to even fucking approach this chick. "It's fine, I'm fine, yeah. Everything's alright. Look, do you know when he'll be back?"
"No, unfortunately not. You know what Louis is like. He just leaves. He's off to run errands and stuff and he doesn't answer his phone because it doesn't occur to him, so who knows? He could be gone for an hour, maybe two, maybe even three. All I know is that he just like, disappears on me."
It's no wonder . . . she doesn't shut up.
"If you wanted to leave, that's okay. I can phone you or text you or whatever when he gets here. I've been waiting around for about two hours now, just watching TV and whatnot so if you want to hang around then that's fine too. But I imagine he'll be home really soon."
"Yeah, y'know what? I'll just come back at a later time. I have some errands to run anyways." I lie to her. I'd rather someone pull every single nerve out of my arm and braid them than sit here with her.
"Okay, that's fine. I'll just—"
As she's talking, I hear the front door open, accompanied with, "we're home!"
"Oh, finally!" Zoe breathes out from beside me. She runs at Louis, who looks on with wide eyes. He seems unsure of how to react as she leaps into his arms and peppers his face with kisses.
I notice the fit girl, Arielle, standing beside Louis. She's looking at me—staring, actually. Her eyes make their way from my shoes all the way up to my eyes, to which she shies away from my gaze.
"So where were you guys?" Zoe asks, still latched onto the poor man.
"Oh—" he begins, but Zoe interrupts.
"You got drunk, didn't you?" She asks, pointing at Arielle. I notice the way her hair is a knotted mess, and her makeup is smudged messily underneath her eyes. She looks a little worn out, but there could be many reasons for that. "Oh god," Zoe says as she nears Arielle, "you still reek of tequila. Barf."
Arielle shrugs her shoulders, "I got drunk. Came home late last night. Louis took me out for coffee this morning to help sober me up. I was pretty rough," she explains.
I notice Louis is fairly quiet . . .
"Coffee?" The hyperactive bitch questions. "You hate coffee."
Arielle nods her head, "that's how bad I was."
"Yeah. I'm just gonna—" Arielle points to the hallway. We make eye contact again as she steps around the two of them and passes me. She's wearing a tight little dress that hugs her curves beautifully. Along with minimal jewelry—a necklace, some decorative rings on her fingers, and earrings in her ears. Though it doesn't seem like she's gone over the top, she still looks fucking fit as hell.
We end up making eye contact for longer than two strangers truly should, but not that I mind. She's hot, and I can't take my eyes off her. Suddenly I'm imagining that Arielle woke up naked in my bed this morning . . . if only. She's a fucking vixen.
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
After stepping into the house, my heart nearly stopped in my chest. It wasn't enough this morning to wake up beside Harry, but now I have to face Zayn, who's standing near the kitchen, staring at me with lustful eyes.
My mind instantly races. Does he remember me yet? Does he know who I am? Did he regain any memories of me? I notice that he's still wearing the ring I gave him—the one with the tread of a tire. Does he even know the meaning behind it, and who gave it to him?
I realize that he probably doesn't have a clue, but just the sight of the metal accessory has my heart leaping out of my chest. He's probably wearing it because he thinks it's cool, or that it makes sense, and just knowing that I bought him something that he truly loves—even without knowing where it came from—is making me melt like snow on a hot day.
That, and the sight of his hair, which has grown out considerably and very fast, might I add. He also has another piercing—a hoop rests on a single side of his nose. I'd be lying if the sight of another piercing didn't turn me on, because fuck, did it ever.
I feel as though my breathing's gone rampant at the sight of him, and he must be able to tell. He hasn't torn his eyes away from me since I've entered the house, and when his lips curl into that infamous smirk, my lips end up parting, desperate to kiss that damn smirk right off his face.
"You still reek of tequila. Barf." I didn't even realize Zoe was near me until she's standing directly in front of me, smelling my shameful aroma.
Now I have to think on my feet. I don't want Zoe nor Zayn knowing what happened with Harry and myself last night, so what do I tell them? I say the first thing that comes to mind, covering both our asses. "I got drunk. Came home late last night. Louis took me out for coffee this morning to help sober me up. I was pretty rough."
Louis doesn't say anything from beside me, and I assume that means he's okay with my little fib. He told me to forget about the entire thing this morning, but what exactly does that mean? Thinking more into it, it makes me think that maybe he did in fact cheat last night, but I can't exactly prove it. The only thing I can do is warn Zoe about my suspicions. But I'll bet any money that she won't listen to me. She's so damn stubborn and stupid about certain things, and boys falls into that category.
Zoe eyes me up skeptically, most likely because she knows how much I despise coffee. "Coffee? You hate coffee."
"That's how bad I was." I mean, that wasn't exactly a lie. I was pretty fucking rough this morning.
"Yeah. I'm just gonna—" I point towards my room, signalling that I want to leave this stupid conversation and have a shower to drown myself in my own shame. I step around Zoe and Louis and immediately I'm making eye contact with Zayn again. Fuck.
How can I stand being around him like this all the time? Even though his arm's still in a sling and he still seems a little stiff and sore, I want to jump his bones. I miss his touch. I miss his voice. I miss hearing my pet-names. I miss our puppy. I miss everything about him and our life together.
I notice that Zayn's staring at my necklace, and it's almost instantaneous—the way my heart races. Does he know that it's the necklace he gave me? I haven't taken it off since that day. But with how I feel about the two of us right now, I'm starting to feel as though I should take it off. I don't want to, but he doesn't love me. It was once a sign of his love for me, but now it's just a memento of our time together, and the bitter end.
We basically have another intense stare-down before I have to break eye contact, out of fear that my heart will permanently stop. It's not healthy being this close to him again. All it causes is perspiration on my palms, and the thrashing of my heart, and shallowness of breathing.
I head into my new bedroom and strip down, carelessly tossing my soiled clothing into the basket. I lay my outfit on the bed for when I'm done in the shower, and saunter into the washroom.
The shower ends up being longer than I intended, seeing as how for ten minutes straight I just stood there. I stood there under the head, letting the water stream down my body. I don't know what to think being around him. I don't know how to act. Kit's got this hold on my life with him, and I'm scared that if I slip, that'll be the end.
I need to be careful around him. But I know from past experience, that being around him seriously affects my self-control. One moment it's laughing and sharing, the next it's completely naked and sweaty.
I don't have self-control around him.
When I'm finished in the shower, I wrap a towel tightly around my torso, and open the door as I comb through my hair. I'm completely oblivious, until I hear a clearing of a throat, and I instantly thrash over-exaggeratedly as I reach for the top of my towel, ensuring that it's secure.
"Jesus Christ!" I swear when I spot Zayn, sitting at the edge of my bed, my lace panties in his hands. He's got them stretched between his index fingers, and once I step into the room to scold him, he shoots them at me. They hit my torso and land against the floor.
"Sexy," he comments with a devilish smirk.
"What the hell are you doing in here?" I berate.
"Mm, nothing." His eyes trail up and down my body, and suddenly I'm self-conscious. He's got that same lustful gaze that he once held for me when we first met and it's making me have flashbacks that intensify the ache in my chest. His lanky fingers reach for my bra, and I quickly step forward to swat at his hand.
"What're you doing? Stop that!"
"Baby," he pouts.
"Don't call me that," I mutter, but my voice falters.
He stands up and takes a step towards me. He's hovering over me and my breath abruptly catches in my throat at his familiar scent. A scent that I've been inhaling from a shirt that's almost devoid of it by now. But standing this close to him again—inhaling that scent so strong—it's like I can breath again, but at the same time I can't.
"Why not?" He asks. His hands reach for my wet hair that rests on my left shoulder, and he pushes it back. My eyes close the moment his index finger runs along my carotid artery—just like old times. He bends over a little, whispering into my ear. "I know you like it, babygirl."
He smirks when he feels my pulse racing against his fingertip.
And then he leaves my room without another word, leaving me with weak knees.