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“Harry, just do it. She’s going to leave any minute. It’s now or never, dude.” Nick’s tone is harsh as he pats his friend’s back roughly. They both eye the girl who is standing at her locker, across the hall. Hadley Hale is her name. She’s one of the most popular girls in their grade. She is tall and beautiful, with tan skin, blonde beach waves, and a contagious laugh. Harry has had a crush on her for the longest time and shares a few classes with her. Thankfully, they’re classes he excels at, so he doesn’t look like an idiot.
Harry nods his head and runs a hand across the back of his neck. “I’m going to do it. I will. I’m doing it. I’m going to walk over there and ask to talk to her in private. Then I’m going to say, ‘Hadley, do you want to go out to dinner with me tonight?’ and try not to faint. I’m going to do it. Yeah, I was born ready to do this.” He’s giving himself a pep talk and Nick only hopes that it will work. He really doesn’t want to see his friend alone on Valentine’s Day, because this is the first year that Nick won’t be able to join him for the night of video games and pretending that they aren’t forever alone. This year, Nick actually has a boyfriend, and he wants Harry to have a date, too. So that’s why he’s forcing his best friend to ask the hottest girl in school out. To take a chance, even though they both know that he probably doesn’t have a chance with her.
“Yeah, man. You got this,” Nick reiterates. Harry smiles and punches his friend’s shoulder lightly as he begins to walk away from him.
“Thanks. Here I come, Hadley Hale.”
Harry’s steps are long, just like him. He has long legs, long fingers, and a long smile. If that makes sense. There’s something hot about it. And although he isn’t popular, the vibe that he gives off attracts people. Maybe it’s the combination of curly brown hair and green eyes, or the tight black skinny jeans he always wears and the endless amount of band shirts he owns, or how when he talks to you he focuses on only you and makes you feel like the only person in the world. Harry Styles is just a sweet boy disguised as a high school senior, stuck in the middle of nowhere, getting shit from jocks and the usual reminder that he will be rejected. If only people would recognize that.
And then there’s Hadley. Harry’d started liking her from the day they first met, which incidentally was the first day of school, which was also the first day that anyone had met her. They had both been kindergartners, and were in Mrs. Lillian’s class. They had been assigned to the same table, along with Sam Bauregard who dropped out of high school in Sophomore year, and Jenna Darauwitz who had won the superlative of “most likely to become president”. Harry remembers the day perfectly. Hadley had worn a little blue dress with black shiny flats. Her hair had been as curly as an onion ring, except it was way more beautiful. The curls had bounced around her cute, chubby face as she had walked toward the table, her arms swinging by her sides. That day, they were supposed to draw portraits of a partner, and they had been partners. Harry remembers the concentration in her shining blue eyes as she studied him and carefully let her purple marker scribble across the paper. Harry had sat still patiently. That might have been the greatest connection they had ever had. Because drawing someone means that you have to look at them, really look at them. Harry thinks that that was the last time that she had ever looked at him.
And he wants to change that.
As she becomes bigger to him in his vision, the butterflies in his stomach begin to multiply. It feels like his entire existence has led up to this one moment. This one moment where he’s putting it all out on the line. He’s opening up his heart and hoping that she doesn’t take it apart. All he’s hoping for is for her not to laugh in his face. Hadley Hale laughing in Harry’s face might just trigger tears, and that would be terribly embarrassing.
When she’s only about ten feet away, Harry focuses on her instead of keeping his breathing even. She really is beautiful. Even though it’s winter, she’s perfectly tan. The kind of sunny tan, not spray on tan. Where they live, it’s cold, so most people are completely pale, but she goes to Florida every weekend with her parents. The tan is something that just suits her. The curls she used to have in Kindergarten have faded down to waves that still bounce when she walks. She has blue eyes that are often brought out by the blue clothing she wears, and Harry loves it. Today, he thinks she looks the absolute prettiest that she’s ever been. Then again, he thinks the same thing every time he sees her. He’s head over heels in love with her, and she doesn’t even know.
Now it’s time to tell her. Or at least ask her to dinner.
Finally, he makes it over to her. She’s surrounded by her friends, who all look up when he stops in front of them. There’s Ashley Lake who he sits next to and often talks to in History, and Carly Lee who he barely knows. Ashley smiles at him. She’s popular, but she’s practically friends with everyone, including Harry.
“Hey, Harry! What’s up?” she asks, her black hair falling over her shoulder as she tips her head to see him better. Ashley is pretty short, and Harry is pretty tall, which makes them an awkward combination.
He smiles at her, too, despite his eagerness to talk to Hadley, who is watching the pair with a calculated blue gaze. “Hey, Ash. Just getting ready for the History presentation today. Are you ready to go?” he replies, sneaking a glance at Hadley and Carly.
Ashley makes a face. “Not in the least. I’m praying that Mr. Steffer doesn’t pick me to go.”
They laugh. “I’ll be hoping for you too, then,” he adds brightly. At this point, he turns to Hadley. “Hey, would you mind if I talked to you in private really quick?” He’s surprised by the calmness of his tone. He thought that his voice would be shaky and that he would stutter, but he’s doing fine. She looks taken aback. Hopefully not in the ‘ew, why is this loser talking to me!’ way.
Hadley arches her back off the locker. “Uh, yeah, sure.”
Ashley eyes the two of them and assesses the situation, before gently grabbing Carly’s arm and pulling her in the direction of the cafeteria. “Carly and I will go find a table. Had, you want us to get you a soda or something?”
Hadley nods and brushes a lock of hair out of her eyes. “A lemonade would be great. Thanks, guys.”
Once, they’re clear out of hearing range, Hadley turns to Harry. She gives him a smile. “What’s up?”
And this is the moment. It’s finally come. After all of those years of wanting and wishing, he’s finally going to see if she would actually go out with him. Her hands fiddle with the strap of her backpack as she patiently waits for his response. It feels like hours have passed, but it’s only been a second.
Harry takes a breath. “I was just wondering if you wanted to go out to dinner with me tonight?” He poses the statement as more of a question. His voice doesn’t waver and he’s glad for that. She tilts her head, and there’s a beat of silence. This is when Harry starts to panic.
Oh no. She thinks I’m a loser. She’s going to laugh in my face. No, she’ll spit on it. Why did I let Nick talk me into doing this? Crap. Crap crap crap. I’m so stupid for thinking that she would maybe say yes. Of course I don’t have a chance with her. Of course-
“I’d love to,” she says, interrupting his thoughts. His eyes go wide and he trips backward a little. Hadley watches him amusedly.
He blinks a few times. “Wait, really?” It’s his automatic response. He’s positively astounded, and can’t believe it. After a moment, he catches himself. “I mean… Uh, yeah, cool.”
Hadley smiles. “Pick me up at seven?” she asks.
He nods, feeling jitters in his stomach. It’s happening. It’s actually happening. He’s going out to dinner with Hadley Hale on Valentine’s Day. “Yep, right at seven, um…” Now he’s rambling nervously and it’s kind of embarrassing.
She laughs. “Don’t be nervous, Harry. I’m a person, just like you. Oh, could I see your phone?” He reaches into his back pocket, and pulls it out. As he realizes how warm it is, his cheeks redden.
“Putting in your number?” he asks, before unlocking his iPhone and finding the Contacts app. She nods, and he opens up a new contact. “Here,” he says, and gives the phone to her. He waits awkwardly as she puts her number into his phone. When she’s done, she smiles brightly and hands back his phone.
Hadley picks herself off the lockers and starts to slowly walk backwards to the cafeteria. “I’ll see you later, then.”
He grins. “Bye, Hadley.”
As she walks away, Harry can’t help but do fist pumps with happiness. He runs across the quad, a smile on his face, over to Nick. The smile on Harry’s face is extraordinary, wider than it should be possible. His dimples are basically craters.
Nick arches an eyebrow. “Well?”
Harry wants to spin around and dance and jump, but he fears it would be weird. Instead he settles for stretching his hands above his head and then moving them down to cover his eyes, then down the sides of his face. “I’m going out with Hadley!”
It takes Nick a moment to process this information, and then he’s tackling Harry, roughly patting him on the back, and they both are laughing. Harry doesn’t know if that’s how male best friends are supposed to act, but he would rather show emotion instead of being one of those guys who only does fist bumps and chest bumps. He thinks that’s stupid, so he’s glad Nick is the kind of guy who will tackle him this way. Basically, he’s just very glad for Nick’s existence, because he wouldn’t have even asked Hadley without Nick’s persuasion.
“Shit, man! Congratulations!” Nick exclaims.
Harry takes a bit of a bow. “Thank you, thank you.”
They laugh again. “So where are you taking her?” his best friend questions, and they begin walking to their next class. All of the color drains from Harry’s face.
He pulls at his hair and looks frantically to Nick. “Crap! I didn’t think she would even say yes, so I didn’t plan! I have to make a reservation somewhere. Right now. Crap!”
Nick laughs. “It’s fine. Don’t worry. Call the restaurant in the mall. It’s fancy, but not too fancy. She’ll like it.”
Harry breaths hard. “You think?”
He nods. “Yeah. Hold on, let me look up the number. Then you can call and make a reservation and it will be all good.”
“Jeez, thanks, man. Don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Nick laughs as his fingers tap his phone screen. “You’d die, that’s what’d happen,” he mumbles. Harry just laughs and thinks about what tonight will bring. He’s insanely excited that Hadley Hale will be involved, though. There’s nothing better than that, he’s sure.
“Have fun, honey,” Harry’s mom calls to her son as he rushes out the door. He pauses in front of the door and smiles at her. She stands in the kitchen which can be seen from his position in the foyer.
She blows a kiss as he turns and closes the door behind him, jogging down the steps and hurrying across the lawn to his car. When he slides into the driver’s side and inserts the car keys into the ignition, the dashboard lights up. It’s 6:46 PM. Harry’s incredibly nervous that he’ll be late picking up Hadley.
As he’s driving over, humming along to Passenger’s ‘Let Her Go’, he has a blood curdling thought. What if it’s a joke? What if she’s playing him? What if she’s going out with a different guy and only told Harry yes to trick him? Harry swallows hard and tightens his grip on the steering wheel. He can only hope that’s not true.
Nearing Hadley’s house, his nerves are jumping. He’s not sure how calm and collected he’ll be able to be and can only hope that he doesn’t make a fool out of himself, and that the date isn’t a setup. That would be a cruel Valentine’s Day trick.
He parks his car just next to the lawn, outside the driveway. Hadley’s house is big, and intimidating. Big, Victorian, and cold looking. Harry can see a large crystal chandelier shining from the insanely large window in the front of the house. He climbs his way up the driveway, hoping he looks okay.
Harry has dressed modestly. He has his usual skinny jeans on, and a white shirt with a pressed and buttoned black jacket over it. His hair has been gelled back into a quiff instead of being its usual curly mess. However, the gel has dried, so it’s not like his hair is wet. That’d be gross.
Suddenly, he’s face to face with the wooden door that leads into the Hale residence. It’s made with windows on the side, but they’re the type that’s blurry so he can’t actually see in. He spots a doorbell on the right of the door, and reaches over to press it. A chiming sound can be heard through the house.
Harry waits patiently, looking at his feet, until he hears footsteps nearing the door. He looks up just in time for the door to open. He’s expecting to see Hadley, but he’s met with a different face.
A man dressed in an expensive looking suit, smiles at Harry, extending a hand. “Hi, you must be Harry. I’m Hadley’s father.”
Harry reached forward and shakes his hand. His grip is tight. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Hale,” he replies good-naturedly.
Mr. Hale steps back and motions for Harry to come in. “Why don’t you come in,” he suggests, and Harry obliges. Once he’s in the house, he takes a good look around.
“You have a beautiful home, sir.” Hadley’s father smiles and closes the door behind him. He puts his hands into his pockets, and walks around to the living room, indicating for Harry to follow. Harry does, wondering where Hadley is.
“Thank you.” He picks up a glass from the counter in the living room and holds it out. It’s filled with a gold liquid. “Scotch?” he asks.
Harry shakes his head. “No thank you, sir. I don’t drink.”
Mr. Hale nods, and sets the glass back on the counter. He then turns back around to study Harry. Harry feels extremely insecure at this moment. He thinks he’s getting some sort of test. And he doesn’t want to fail. After a few moments, Mr. Hale speaks. “Harry, I think you’ll be a good person for my daughter. The last few people she’s dated have been dicks.” Harry’s eyebrows jump at the language. It’s odd to see such a trashy (for lack of a better word) word come from an expensive mouth. “Excuse my language. Anyway, I hope that you won’t do anything to make this opinion incorrect. Do you understand what I’m saying?” he asks.
“Of course, sir.”
Mr. Hale takes a step closer to him and lowers his voice. “Just keep in mind that if you do anything to hurt my daughter, you will be very sorry. So if you catch yourself doing something bad or inappropriate either in her presence or around her, just stop. Because I can easily find out where you live, and—“
There are frantic footsteps down the stairs. “Dad!” It’s Hadley. Harry is extremely grateful, because Mr. Hale has begun to scare him. The man is quite intimidating with his perfectly shaved face and expensive coat and dark eyes. Hadley rushes to Harry’s side. “What were you threatening him with?” she asks.
Mr. Hale makes an innocent expression. “Threatening him? I did nothing of the sort! We were just discussing the football game yesterday, weren’t we, Harry?” Mr. Hale slaps him on the back.
Harry swallows and looks to Hadley. “Uh, yeah. Football. I love football.”
Hadley rolls her eyes, and gently tugs on Harry’s arm. “Let’s go.”
He lets out a breath. “Yeah.”
They rush out the door, but Harry gives one last glance at Mr. Hale. Mr. Hale points at him and gives him a look that scares the shit out of Harry. The look itself, is a threat.
He follows Hadley out the door, and they bound down the steps, into the cool night air. Harry feels eyes on his back, probably coming from the window, but he already knows whose eyes they are. He doesn’t need to look. He doesn’t have enough time to really look at the girl walking slowly next to him, because they walk down the driveway quickly. Plus, it’s kind of dark already. All he can really see is a white jacket and her beach blonde hair curling at the bottom. Harry doesn’t even have to see the rest of her clothes. He already knows she looks gorgeous.
When they reach the bottom of the driveway, Harry goes over to his car and opens the passenger side for her. She smiles and slides into the car, murmuring a quick thank you. While she buckles herself in and is looking down, he rushes over to his side and takes a deep breath.
“Be cool, be cool,” he mutters, before opening the back car door and grabbing the bouquet of flowers resting on the back seat. He then closes the door, and goes to the driver’s side, sitting down. He buckles his seat belt, and she watches, her hands in her lap. He hasn’t been on a date since he dated Katharine (you don’t want to get into that story), so he doesn’t remember perfectly how they work. He thrusts the flowers in her direction.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” he says.
She smiles, accepting the flowers. “Thank you, Harry. These are beautiful.” She lifts them to her nose and inhales. “And they smell really nice.”
“You’re welcome. I was going to bring them up to your house, but I forgot.” After a second, he realizes how idiotic that sounds. “Oh wow, I didn’t mean to say that. Oops.”
She laughs and continues to look at the flowers. “That’s okay. You didn’t have to do this, so it’s already awesome of you.” He smiles, and pulls out from his parking spot, beginning the short drive to the restaurant. He glances over at her. She’s looking at him.
“Thanks for not being late,” she says quietly.
He grins. “I don’t think there’s a way I could’ve been late.” He widens his eyes. “That sounds really weird.” She laughs. “Sorry, all I meant is that I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
She makes a small sigh. “Me neither.”
She stares out the window and they sit in silence for a moment. Harry feels like he’s doing something wrong, and thus wracks his brain for something to say. Anything. He could talk about school, but who really wants to talk about school? Before he can actually say anything, Hadley turns back over to him instead of the window. “Can I tell you something? It’s kind of embarrassing.”
He glances over to her. “Sure. I have a lot of embarrassing things, so I doubt this could be any bad.”
She laughs, which makes Harry feel a lot better. “Okay, well this might sound stupid, but I was really, really happy when you asked me out today.” Her confession hangs in the air for a moment. Harry almost puts the brake on out of shock. “Oh God, that did sound really stupid.”
He glances at her again. “No, no, that’s not stupid. I was really happy when you said yes, although you probably knew that. I didn’t think you would actually say yes.”
Her eyes widen. “Really?”
He bobs his head and drums his fingers on the steering wheel. “Yeah. You’re like the prettiest and most popular girl in the school, and I’m just this loser who has had a crush on you since, like, Kindergarten.” His blood turns ice cold after he realizes what he said. He keeps doing it! “Shit, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”
She giggles. “You’ve had a crush on me since Kindergarten?” she asks shyly.
He winces. “Yes, but I never meant for you to know about it. This is awkward. I’m awkward.” He’s rambling now.
“No, Harry, it’s okay. Seriously. I’ve had a crush on you for a long time, too.”
He nearly screams. “Really?”
She’s turned pink. “It’s embarrassing. Yes. I don’t know why I told you. Oh, God, I’m rambling now, too. But I mean, tons of girls have had crushes on you. I hear them all talking about you. Then I get jealous. Shit, I should stop talking.”
He smiles, hiding his shock. “The same actually happens with you. Almost every guy I know has a crush on you. I get jealous a lot, too.” He’s quiet for a moment. “And what do you mean? A lot of girls like me? I’m a loser.”
She stretches her legs out in the seat. “You didn’t notice? At least a quarter of the female population loves you. And you’re not a loser. Like, at all. You’re nice, and you’re really cool. Not to mention that you’re attractive enough to make any girl swoon.”
He makes a funny face. “Huh. That’s interesting. I mean, thanks.”
She smiles. “You’re welcome.”
“And then there’s you. You don’t know about everyone liking you?” Hadley shakes her head. “Wow. That’s crazy. Well, you’re gorgeous, for starters. And you’re smart and good at talking to people. You’re really, really, nice even to people who are mean. And to people who are awkward as hell, like me.” She giggles. “I can’t believe you can’t see it.”
“Well, I can’t believe that you don’t know what people think of you.”
They sigh at the same time. “I think we’re both a little nervous right now, so let’s just forget all of the nerves and everything. We are two people going out for dinner. Let’s not be nervous,” Harry suggests.
She seems to be holding her breath. “Pinky promise?”
He glances at her. Her pinky finger is in the air. He smiles and interlocks his finger with hers. “Pinky promise.”
At that moment, it feels like the air is letting out a breath. It doesn’t make sense, but it feels like all of the tension and room for screwing up has been let go. It just feels nice and calm, and normal. Harry feels a ton better.
“I’m glad we did that,” she admits after.
“Me too,” he agrees. “So how is your song coming along?” he asks.
In music class, their most recent assignment was to write a song and perform it. You could work with a group, or alone. It has to be a certain length with a certain number of lines, and incorporate at least 7 of the 20 things they’ve learned so far, which is hard to do. It’s been pretty stressful. Performances start next week.
She sighs. “It’s rough. I’m in a group with Halle Mitchell. You know her?”
Harry bursts out laughing. Hadley looks over at him, smiling just because he’s laughing. “Halle was the one who tripped over the guitar on the first day of class, wasn’t she?”
Hadley giggles. “And then Mrs. Finch had to get her foot out of the guitar.”
“Except Mrs. Finch couldn’t do it,” Harry chimes in.
Hadley’s smiling incredibly wide, and Harry feels crazily accomplished. “So they had to call in the nurse, and then firefighters, and the police.”
They both laughs. “Jeez, sorry you have to work with her.”
Hadley’s eyes are twinkling in the mirror. “It’s fine, really. Jessica and her boyfriend are doing it with us, too, so it’s not that bad. All she does when we work is go on her phone, so she’s not putting in too many of her ides, which is good. How’s yours?”
Harry turns on the left blinker and waits for another car to pass. “I think we’re doing okay. Lillian and I are doing a duet.”
Hadley freezes. “Lillian?”
“Yeah. She didn’t have anyone to work with, so Finch asked me to work with her. She’s the quiet girl who always sits at the back of the classroom. Doesn’t have too many friends.”
“Oh. Well… is she any good to work with?” Hadley asks, and Harry catches something in her voice. Is that… jealousy?
“She doesn’t talk a lot and her singing voice is pretty quiet, so it’s a bit hard, but I’m managing. And Hadley, you have nothing to worry about.”
“What do you mean?” she ponders. Harry reaches over to pat her hand.
“She has a boyfriend in Merlin.” Merlin is the small town next to their town. Hadley lets out a breath and smiles, grabbing Harry’s hand so that they’re holding hands.
“Oh.” She laughs. “I should probably deny being jealous, but I’m not going to.”
Harry smiles and rubs his thumb on her knuckles. “Good. And I would be jealous of Jessica’s boyfriend working with you, but he’s already dating Jessica. Makes it a lot easier for me.”
“Oh, I forgot to ask, but where are we eating?” Hadley wonders aloud.
Harry grins. “We’re here now.”
“The Local?” she asks.
“Yeah. Would you rather go somewhere else? Because we can go anywhere you want.”
A smile creeps up on her face. “No, this is perfect.”
He finds a parking spot relatively easily and parks. He lets go of her hand to open the door and climb out. Before she can open her door, he’s there and has opened it for her. She smiles shyly and climbs out. Under the street light, he can finally see her. He was right earlier. She is gorgeous.
Hadley’s wearing a casual red dress with a white jacket and a pair of white boots. The dress is pretty plain, with a braided white belt around her waist, but it looks amazing. The dress ends a few inches above her knee, where a pair of white patterned tights begin. The pattern is argyle, with little dots poked into the material. From there, are white boots laced at the front. Her hair is braided at the front, with two braids going from the front of her head, over to the side, and then let loose at the back of her head, where the rest is curled in loose ringlets.
Hadley catches Harry staring at her, and nudges his shoulder with hers. “What’s wrong?”
He looks up, his gaze stopping on her lips, which are red with lipstick, and then continuing to her eyes. “Nothing at all. You’re just really beautiful.”
Hadley blushes and goes to hide her face with her hand, but Harry grabs her hand instead. Their fingers intertwine and they both smile, before weaving through the hundreds of cars in the parking lot. Later, they reach the restaurant, and climb up from the curb. Through the window, they can see people talking and eating. It makes Harry hungry.
He opens the door for her and she walks into The Local. The mood that has been set for tonight is romantic. There is delicate classical music wafting through the speakers and the tables have all been dressed in white tablecloths. People sit in the waiting area talking quietly and Hadley goes to find a seat with them, but Harry continues walking to the hostess, guiding Hadley behind him.
The hostess looks up when they stop in front of her. She gives them a plastic smile. “Would you like to put your name in?” she asks.
“No, we have a reservation for two under ‘Harry’.” Harry squeezes Hadley’s hand and she squeezes back.
The hostess looks down at the desk that she stands in front of. “Ah, here you are. Follow me,” she says. She grabs two menus from a stack behind her and walks out of the desk, into the restaurant. Harry and Hadley follow. They work their way through the tables until they arrive at a smaller, closed off section in the back.
In the back, it’s a lot quieter and more intimate. There are only ten tables, where in the main part of the restaurant, there are maybe 25, or more. The hostess leads them to the table in the corner, motioning that it’s theirs. Harry sits where he can see the entrance, and Hadley sits across from him so she can see Harry and only Harry.
The table is nice. There’s a square candle flickering slightly on the side of it and flower petals have been sprinkled across the tablecloth, under the plates and napkins. The napkins are white and were folded on top of the plates in a way that Harry couldn’t possibly do himself.
The hostess sets down their menus and smiles. “Your waiter will be right over.”
When she’s gone, Hadley leans over the table. “This is really nice, Harry. Thank you.”
He grins at her. “You’re welcome. But wow, I feel so grown up.”
She giggles. “Me too.”
Then, they go to their menus. Harry’s eyes wander through the choices. He doesn’t find too much appealing to him at this point, except maybe a burger. He feels like that would be too messy for a date, though. He’s at a loss, and slightly panicking. At this moment, Hadley speaks up.
“Hey, Harry?” she asks, her voice small. He looks up. Her face is red. “I know it’s Valentine’s Day and all, and we’re supposed to be fancy or whatever, but do you want to order a pizza? They’re killer here.”
Harry lets out a breath. “Yes, please. To share?”
She looks back down at her menu. “Yeah. What type do you want to get?”
He thinks for a second before answering. “I’m in the mood for cheese. Do you want to get a cheese pizza? Otherwise we can split it in half and get one half cheese and one half of something else.”
She nods. “No, I’m good with cheese.”
He smiles. “I’m glad you suggested that. I was looking at everything there and just thinking that nothing looked especially good right now.”
Hadley laughs. “Me too. And then I saw the pizza and didn’t know if you would be into it, but I’m glad you were.”
He gazes at her. “Totally.”
Hadley is about to say something else when a shadow comes over them. It’s the waiter. “Hello, I’m Markus, and I’ll be your waiter this evening. Would you like to hear the specials?” he asks. His voice is deep, and he’s really tall, towering over their table. He makes Harry feel like only a little boy.
Harry looks at Hadley to confirm, and then says, “no, thank you.”
Markus nods. “What would you like to drink? Miss?” he asks as he pulls out a notepad and pen.
Hadley sits up in her chair and clears her throat. Harry is confronted by the fact that she really is on a date with him. He almost wants to scream, but he refrains. This is Hadley Hale. It’s pretty hard to refrain.
“I’ll have a lemonade, please.”
Markus writes this down, and turns to Harry. “And for you?”
“A Diet Coke, please,” he orders. Then, Markus leaves the table, taking the menus and promising garlic bread in a few minutes, leaving Hadley and Harry to themselves.
Hadley reaches into a purse that Harry hadn’t even seen before, and pulls out a tube of chap-stick. It looks like red lipstick, but isn’t. She applies it quickly, and then drops it back into her bag. “Sorry about that. My lips are just so chapped.”
Harry’s tempted to make a comment about how he could help, but he stops himself. Truly, her putting chap-stick on gave him an excuse to stare at her lips, which look plump. He badly wants to kiss her, but doesn’t know if that’s how first dates are supposed to go. “It’s fine. Mine are too. Winter just sucks that way.”
“Oh, yes. One time I was skiing with my camp friend and…” Hadley keeps talking, but Harry isn’t listening to the story as much as watching her enthusiasm while telling it. He loves the faces she makes while telling parts of the story, or her wild hand motions to explain it better. Her face gets entirely animated and into it, and Harry doesn’t want to interrupt that, besides a few “yeah”s, and “that’s awful!” during the times when she takes a breath.
Maybe it’s love.
Or maybe it’s just a crush.
Harry doesn’t know.
Within a few minutes, Markus is back with bread, and their drinks. They order their food and continue talking. Once Hadley finishes her skiing story, Harry tells her about the time he fell off a ski lift, but makes it into something funny. Hadley laughs so hard that the people at other tables look over at them. This makes Harry chuckle, too, just because she’s so cute and adorable in this way. He can’t help it.
They pick at their bread rolls as they talk, talking more than eating. Harry realizes that it’s actually incredibly easy to talk to her and doesn’t find it awkward at all, anymore. He’s no longer nervous and it doesn’t look like she is either. Ten minutes after they’ve finished with the bread, the pizza comes. It’s hot and smells fantastic. Harry’s stomach grumbles at the sight of it, and so does Hadley’s, which makes the pair laugh.
“Can we agree on something?” Hadley asks after they’ve both put a slice onto their plates.
Harry takes a sip of his Coke and then nods. “Yeah, what is it?”
“Not to eat daintily or anything. To go all in.”
Harry smiles. “Deal. I can’t stand trying not to eat like a pig.”
Hadley giggles. “Me too.”
So they eat, not even trying to be dainty, as Hadley put it. They get sauce all over their faces and giggle when they look at each other. They’re cute and young and in love with each other. Neither of them really knows it yet, though. But everyone around them can tell.
It’s the way they look at each other. The adoration, the feeling of being so lucky to have the other, and how when one is happy, so is the other, simply because they’re happy.
After a few minutes, Harry raves, “this is so good.”
She widens her eyes and nods. “I know! One time, I went here with my sister, like before she died, and we ordered, like, five pizzas just for ourselves, and just ate and ate and ate. It was so fun.”
Harry freezes. Her sister died? And he didn’t know? “That sounds really nice.” She nods, eating her pizza again. “Your sister died?” he asks after a moment, hoping he’s not on a touchy subject. She finishes chewing and he pauses before going for another bite.
She shrugs and looks him in the eyes. Usually, people talking about death would avoid eye contact, so he takes this as a good sign. “Yeah. It was last year. She was hit by a car.”
He bites his lip. “Wow, Hadley, I’m so sorry.”
She smiles. “It’s fine. Really. I’ve gotten over it.”
He moves his hand on the table to cover hers. “Well if you ever need to talk or something, I’ve dealt with something similar so I can contribute.”
“Yeah. My step-sister died three years ago.”
“I’m sorry, Harry.”
She picks her hand up from under his and caresses his. “It’s fine. Thank you.”
They go back to eating in silence. It’s not too awkward though. Their hands still are touching, and it’s nice, even though Harry thinks that both of their hands might be a little greasy from the pizza. She seems to realize it too and goes to wipe off her hand. He does the same.
Other people in the section of the restaurant begin to clear out, even people who came after them, and Harry realizes what time it is. It’s almost nine o’clock, which means the mall itself will be closing soon. They’ve been there for a long time.
But Harry’s fine with that.
Because he really likes Hadley.
They finish the pizza within a few minutes, and Markus comes back right as they finish, whisking away the pizza stone and their plates. They decline dessert, after Harry and Hadley agree that it was much too filling. They sit at the empty table, in the empty restaurant, and talk. Hadley fiddles with the straw in her water glass, and Harry licks his lip a lot for no reason. Their knees touch under the table and they both smile every time they bump into each other, like it’s their little secret.
The experience feels more like a dream than reality.
Markus walks over to the pair with the bill and sets it on the table. “I’ll leave you with this.”
Harry grabs his wallet and reaches for the bill. “Hey!” Hadley protests, reaching her hands across the table, trying to grab it.
Harry smirks. “Nope. I’m paying.”
She whines. “Why can’t I?”
Markus walks over again, seeing that Harry has put his money into the little leather booklet, and takes it. Hadley slumps back in her chair defeated. “It’s a Valentine’s Day present.” And he winks.
She groans. “Now I feel rotten. You got me flowers and you paid… And I haven’t done a thing.”
He bumps his knee with hers and smiles. “Your presence is a present.”
She rolls her eyes but bumps his knee back. “That’s cheesy.”
“But it’s true.”
She looks away, at the entrance to the section of the restaurant they’re in. “Should we go now?”
He looks past her head and stands up. “Yeah, let’s go.”
Hadley stands up, too, and puts on her jacket. She puts her hands under her hair and swipes it out from under her jacket so that it sprays across her back. She offers out her hand, and he takes it. Their fingers intertwine. She smiles.
They walk out of the little private section and wave to the hostess, who looks exhausted. Then, they begin to walk to the door. There are two. One leads back into the mall, and one leads back outside to the parking lot. They came in through the parking lot one. Here, Hadley hesitates.
“Uh, I’m not exactly ready to go home yet. Do you want to wander around the mall?” she asks. He can tell she’s a little nervous.
“Yeah, I’d love that,” he responds. They go out the mall exit. It’s absolutely deserted, not a shopper in sight. There’s a security guard leaning against one of the big columns, his back to them. Hadley makes a face that says to be quiet, and they sneak past him, slyly tiptoeing behind the large wall which is actually a set of stairs that goes to the second floor. After going behind that, they walk with their backs to the wall until the mall cop can’t see them anymore. Then, they hold hands again and walk freely. This is the big stretch of the mall, where the most stores are. Hadley points out different stores and talks about things that have happened in them. Harry laughs quietly.
Harry takes his hand away from hers, and jogs in from of her and then turns around so he’s facing her, and walking backward. “Do you want to skip with me?”
Her face is a mask of confusion. “Skip?”
He begins to skip. “Skip.”
She grins and laughs. And starts to skip. She hasn’t done it in a long time, so the movement seems foreign. They skip around the mall, ending up just dancing around and twirling until they’re both laughing. Almost all of the lights in the mall are off and the only lights come from the dimly lit lanterns at the ceiling, and from the stores that haven’t completely shut down yet.
Hadley runs over to Harry and grabs his hand. “Dance with me,” she murmurs, and he grins. His heart beat is racing, and when his finger slides to her wrist, he can tell that hers is too. They’re crazy teenagers.
She directs one of his hands to her back, and the other to her hand while she puts her hand on his shoulder. They end up shuffling around while Hadley rests her head on his chest. It is a comfortable spot. Her stomach and his stomach rise and fall against each other. They’re both breathing hard.
Hadley’s hair sticks to her heat with a little bit of sweat. It turns out that running around in heavy-ish clothes, and just skipping around in general can make one very hot.
“I didn’t know how tonight would go, but I’m glad it turned out like this,” Harry says. His hand rubs circles in her back. Her hand that’s resting in his slips out of his, and the hand that’s on his shoulder does too. She moves them so that she’s hugging his chest. He moves his the same.
She sighs contentedly. “Me too.”
They shuffle around for another minute, and then they hear footsteps. Harry looks up to see the security guard walking toward them. “Hey! You two!” He walks faster toward them. “You have to leave!”
Harry looks down and whispers, “let’s go,” into her hair. She nods, and they pull out of the embrace. The mall cop pulls up short in front of them. He’s old, with thin white hair and wrinkles. With the mean look on his face, he scares them. “You need to leave,” he repeats.
“We’re going,” Harry responds. The cop looks at the both of them and moves to the side. They pass, and he continues the way he was going. He’s probably making his rounds, checking that people are leaving.
Harry and Hadley meander back the way they came. She holds his hand and their arms swing between them. She’s still out of breath from running, and still a bit sweaty. Harry doesn’t find it gross at all. He finds it attractive.
“This has been the most fun I’ve had in a while,” she tells him. He looks sideways at her.
“Really?” he asks.
Suddenly, she breaks their hands being held and runs over to the wall, slamming her back against it. She’s breathing hard and her hair has fanned around her face. She looks beautiful. He walks slowly toward her.
“I never gave you a real Valentine’s Day gift,” she says. She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, and Harry stops a few feet away from her.
“Your presence is a present,” he protested. He had said it back in the restaurant, and he was saying it now.
She’s quiet. “Come here, Harry,” she commands in a light voice. He takes a step toward her. “Closer.” Another few steps toward her. “Closer.”
Their eyes penetrate each other’s soul, their gazes so dark that they could be demons. His pulse races with anticipation and hers with excitement.
He’s five steps away.
Her voice gets quieter with each step he takes.
Two more steps.
He takes another step forward, and then he’s right there. The chemistry between them is insane. He wants to kiss her so badly, since her lips are so, so close. If he leaned forward just a little bit, they would touch. Her eyes search his face, and her breath mingles with his.
He doesn’t know what to say, so he goes with sarcasm. “Is this close enough, or should I come closer?”
She rolls her eyes, and puts one arm around the back of his neck. “Just shut up and kiss me.”
He obliges, and it’s amazing. He puts his arms around her waist and hers go around his neck. The second their lips touched, there was a spark. A heat that grew between them and that they know will remain there even if they separate. But there won’t be any separating in the near future. They’re together, as close as can be.
Their tongues intertwine with each other, and they kiss kiss kiss. There’s nothing compared to kissing Hadley. Nothing at all.
She pulls away once she has no more breath in her system. “I’ve been wanting to do that all night, and every night since I saw you,” he pants.
Hadley agrees. But she’s hungry for the taste of his lips. They can talk later. “Kiss me. Just kiss me.” They attack each other again, their lips and tongues learning the feel of another. They move in sync.
Harry moves his hands from her waist to just under her butt. She gets the idea, and jumps up, wrapping her legs around his middle. They slam against the wall and make out with indescribable fervor.
The way their bodies fit with each other is enthralling. It’s like they were made for each other. They kiss with passion and intensity. It’s simply addictive. Her taste is like nicotine.
“Hey, you two, I said to get out of here!” Harry hears distantly, but he simply doesn’t care. All he cares about is Hadley. This beautiful angel who has, for some reason, decided to choose him. He doesn’t care about a stupid mall cop. He cares about her.
“Don’t stop,” she murmurs during a short intake of breath.
The security guy’s voice gets louder and louder. “Take it outside!” he yells at them, waving his hands at the pair, who are still in a heated make out session. They ignore him. The guy taps Harry on the shoulder.
Harry pulls away for a moment. Hadley kisses his neck while he turns, planting red lip stains on the skin. He finds it hard to concentrate.
“You two need to get out. The mall is closed. Do you understand, or are you deaf?” the guy booms. The sound echoes throughout the empty area.
“Yes. We’re leaving, now, sir.” Harry’s voice is hoarse.
“You’d better,” the man snaps. Harry turns away and rolls his eyes, but does as the man says. He checks his grip on Hadley, and then begins to walk to the exit of the mall, Hadley still around his chest, kissing his neck. Once they’re outside, she burrows into the crook between his neck and shoulder because of the cold. But she hears her yawn and feels her eyes close, so he also knows she’s really tired. He kisses the top of her head and she lifts it.
“Do you want to go home now?” he asks.
“I want to be with you,” she says, and then yawns, tired again. She slumps fully into his arms, and he asses the situation.
“Okay, Hadley, honey, I’m going to put you down for a moment, okay?” She doesn’t react. He slowly lowers them to the ground, and untangles her legs and arms from him. She makes a small sound of loss, but then he picks her up again, bridal style.
She hides her face in his chest, her breaths soothing to him. He carries her to the car, and gently sets her in the passenger side of the car and buckles her seat belt for her. Before closing the door, he plants a small kiss on her forehead. She smiles in her sleep.
He goes to his side of the car and sits down. Harry turns the car on and immediately turns on the heat, too. He doesn’t want her to be cold. Now in the car and slightly warm, he has to figure out what to do. The obvious choice is to take her home and carry her up to her own bed, but she said she wanted to be with him. So he makes a decision. He reaches into her purse and finds her phone. Then he calls the Home number.
He only hopes that Mr. Hale won’t answer because he knows that the protective father won’t approve of this. Thankfully, it’s his mother who answers the phone.
“Hello?” she answers, and Harry knows it’s her, because he remembers her helping out at parent days back in middle school and elementary school. Because of these things, she knows him, too.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Hale?” he asks.
“Yes… Where is my daughter? This is her phone.” Her voice sounds extremely worried.
“Oh, don’t worry, she’s right here next to me. This is Harry. Harry Styles? I was the one who took her out tonight.”
He hears a sigh of relief from the other end. “Oh, thank goodness. I thought someone kidnapped her or something! How are you, Harry? I haven’t seen you since, what was it? The sophomore trip to the Museum of Science?”
He laughs. “That must have been it. But, uh, Mrs. Hale, Hadley fell asleep and I was wondering if it would be alright if she stayed with me tonight. My parents are home, and everything. I would sleep on the couch and she would sleep on my bed. Would that be okay with you?” he asks, crossing her fingers that she agrees.
She sighs. “You know, Harry, if it were anyone but you, I would probably say no. But I know you. So, of course! Just please have her back early in the morning, and call me if anything happens.”
“I would always, Mrs. Hale. Thank you.”
“Oh, and Harry?”
“Be careful. She has nightmares every night, due to what happened to her little sister’s accident last year, so if she wakes up screaming, call me. If she doesn’t, then it will be the first night it’s happened since the accident. Oh, I wish she could get one full night of rest. Lord knows she could use it.” She lets out a small laugh. “Good night, Harry!”
“Good night, Mrs. Hale. Have a good one.”
“You, too, dear.”
Harry hangs up the phone and puts it back in Hadley’s purse. She looks more beautiful than Harry thinks she has ever been. Her guard is completely down and her face is calm. She’s peaceful and looks like an angel.
He reaches across the center console and brushes her hair back from her face. Her lips part. He takes a breath. And places his hands on the steering wheel. And begins to drive home.
The roads are dark, and his headlights cut through the absence of light. He seldom passes another car. Harry keeps one hand on the steering wheel, and one hand on Hadley. She sleeps soundly.
Finally, he turns into his driveway. Most of the lights are off in the house leaving Harry to use his phone as a flashlight. He turns off the car and only the sound of tree branches rustling can be heard. It’s a quiet night.
He grabs his phone out of his pocket and clicks the flashlight icon. Then he gets out of the car and goes over to Hadley’s side. He opens her door and reaches in to unbuckle her seatbelt. It pops off with a click. He then puts his hand under her legs and under her back and lifts her out of the car, adjusting the way he carries her when they’re outside the car so she can’t hit her head.
Harry carries her up the driveway, somehow managing the pull out his house keys and unlock the door and open the door, even with a teenage girl in his arms. He stumbles into the house, almost tripping inside, but he catches himself. From there, he continues walking through the house until he reaches his room. He kicks the door open and shuffles inside, moving to turn the light on. The house is pretty much silent.
The light comes on quickly, and Harry has to blink a few times before he can see again. He sighs when he sees the clothes on his bed. he gently puts Hadley down on the bottom part of the bed, where it’s clear, and then does a quick tidy of his room. This means that he collects all of the clothes and throws them in his closet to pick up later. Finally, he’s done. He picks Hadley up again and moves her so she’s under the covers. Before doing this, he slowly unties her boots and takes them off, and takes off her jacket, too. Her purse is put on his desk. Harry tries to do this all as quietly as he can, as to not wake her. He couldn’t want to disturb her peace.
At last, he’s finished stripping her of the extra things she was wearing, and that he could get off by being polite. This leaves her in just her dress and tights, with her jacket and boots on the floor. Her hair splays out across the pillow and Harry wonders if sleeping with those braids in will hurt, but he’s too scared to take them out. If he tried, he’d probably end up cutting off her hair. That wouldn’t be good. He changes out of his skinny jeans and jacket and into a loose t-shirt and pajama pants. He finds a blanket from his closet and an extra pillow, and prepares to go sleep on the couch. Before leaving and turning off the light, though, he walks soundlessly over to Hadley.
He bends down and pulls the hair away from her forehead. “Goodnight, Hadley. Sleep well,” he whispers, kisses her forehead, and then straightens up.
Her voice stops him. “Harry? Where are you going?” Her voice is small and quiet and still very much asleep. Her eyes flutter open.
“Sleeping on the couch. You’ll be in here,” he informs her.
Her hand reaches out and brushes his arm, too tired to hold onto anything. “No. Stay…” And then she’s asleep again. Harry is faced with another decision. With a sigh, he does what she asks. He climbs into the bed with her, and stays. Wraps his arms around her stomach and lays his head on her shoulder, so they’re sort of spooning. He falls asleep quite quickly, hoping that when he wakes up, it won’t have turned out to just be a dream. That she’ll be real, and there with him. He doesn’t know what he would do if not.