Disclaimer: credit due to the original writer. This is not my work!
We’d both said it. Both expelled those words that I hadn’t had the courage to say until five days ago. And that’s how long it had been since I’d seen Harry last. Those final few seconds had been etched into my brain, replaying every small detail as he soundlessly shaped the words on his lips, “I love you.”
It was a commonly used, commercialised phrase that seemed to hold little worth in the current day. But coming from Harry it gained new meaning. Apart from his family I doubt he had ever uttered the words to another individual. Maybe he had never desired that sort of connection with someone, too many emotions, too intimate. To love another human being.
Harry’s words had given me a new type of strength I didn’t know possible. One that allowed me to suppress the heavy fear that weighted in my chest as the sound of rushed footsteps approached behind me. I was walking back from Zoe’s house, the night clouded in an eerie darkness. My fingers pried the popper on my bag open to grasp the can that lay at the bottom. I didn’t want to be the victim of intimidation any longer.
“Back off!” I yelled, stumbling around to face the pursuer.
My right hand tightly held the can, arm outstretched as I aimed it at the figure.
It was only then I recognised his slightly panicked features. Harry stepped back as he waited for me to lower my weapon. My heart thumped against my chest, relieved I wasn’t forced to confront a stranger.
“Is that pepper spray?” He spoke in disbelief. The small can was taken, Harry reading the label as I attempted to calm my breathing. “Where the hell did you get it?”
It was handed back to me, dropping it safely into my bag.
“Lucy’s dad works for the police.” I explained. “You shouldn’t have crept up on me.”
“I won’t make that mistake again.” He teased.
Even through his playful tone it was obvious that my defensive gesture had surprised Harry. But as seconds passed a noticeable silence loomed over us. The few texts we had exchanged seemed easier to communicate than a phone call, at least then we weren’t pressured to speak. As I stood before him I didn’t know what to say. The last time we had properly spoken to each other we had confessed our love. Where do you go from there?
I looked to Harry whose bottom lip being chewed between his teeth, an indication of nerves. It gave me a little comfort to know he was in the same boat.
“Shall we..” He gestured to continue our journey along the path.
As we walked I covertly observed his hesitant hand, not certain if attempting to hold mine was crossing the imagery line drawn between us. I hadn’t placed it there, it was Harry’s fear.
“They’ve noticed, Harry.” I abruptly spoke.
“What?” His tone hinting at misunderstanding. “Who’s noticed what?”
“The fights, pub brawls.” I lightly shook my head, continuing to walk alongside him. “They’re on the rise and the police have noticed. Look, Harry, I just want you to be more careful. I’ve told you before that I’m not visiting you behind bars and I stand by that.”
“Alright.” He replied simply.
“Just like that?”
I was expecting a little more protest, Harry’s quiet confirmation causing me to stop in the middle of the pavement. He turned to face me, still looking somewhat cautious. The warmth of his hand moved to reached out to mine, but it dropped almost instantly back to his side.
“I’m not losing you.” Harry paused. “If it means I have to be more restrained then I’m willing to try.”
I was astounded with his reasoning. Harry’s stubborn nature was one of his more bold characteristics, finding it difficult comply to other people’s instructions. He was never one to go along with the crowd.
A shy smile was displayed before it quickly disappeared, transforming to one of amusement. His playful side was a part of Harry I quickly came to love and I had a feeling that I was one of the more privileged when it came to seeing what most didn’t.
“Come on, Sean’s show starts in forty minutes and you still need to change. I know how long it takes you women to get ready.”
“I resent that.” I teasingly scolded.
His laugh made me smile.
“Yeah, yeah, come on.”
Even after breaking the ice our touch was kept to bare minimum. Upon walking my head turned to glance at Harry. I hadn’t taken the time to thoroughly absorb his appearance until now, his torso adorning a white shirt revealed by the open an blazer. He wore black jeans, finished off with a pair of shoes I’d never seen him wear before.
“I like your hair.”
The normal unruly mess had been pushed back from his forehead, the straighter style suggesting fingers had been combed through multiple times.
“Thanks.” He breathily laughed.
We had been warmly greeted at the door by my mum, ushering us in and offering us food before she had to leave for work.
“I’m going to go and start getting ready.” I informed them.
Harry nodded as I began to ascend the stairs, unsure if he was being invited to follow. But he didn’t have a chance. Curiosity sparked as my mum quietly spoke Harry’s name in an attempt that proved successful in catching his attention. He lingered at the bottom with her as I secretly took a seat on the top stair.
“You’ve probably noticed, it’s difficult not to, but Bo took quite a substantial knock to the face.” I held my breath as I waited for her to continue the hushed conversation. I hadn’t expected her to raise the issue with Harry. “She told me she fell into a door, but I’m not certain that’s the case. I’m not doubting that you don’t look after her, Harry. I’m just worried. You see more of her than I do at the moment; I just wanted to ask if you could keep an eye on her?”
I had overlooked my mum’s concern, believing she had bought into my lie.
“Of course I will. You don’t need to worry. Bo is safe with me.” Harry replied.
I stood from my position, calling out down the stairs
“Harry, can you come and help me pick out a dress?”
“Do you like this one?”
His attention darted back to me, setting his phone down by the side of him on the duvet. I had forced him to endure a few outfit changes, settling on the last few choices.
“That one’s nice.” Harry nodded at the green material.
“You’ve said that about all four.” I huffed.
“That’s because you’ll look lovely in all of them.”
His answer made me question whether his mum and sister had trained him for dangerous situations like this, where a few simple words could mean a matter of life and death for a man. Or maybe just having to sleep on the sofa. My unconvinced expression forced Harry to sit forward, assessing the choices again.
“The purple one.”
He pointed to the dress hung up on the outside of the wardrobe. Boys were oblivious. I wanted him to pick one, but not that one. Judging by the baffled look on his face I could see he was going to need some help. I raised a hanger a little higher giving him a small smile as I wiggled it slightly. The material fluttered with the movement, the confused haze lifting from Harry’s eyebrows.
“Um, the navy blue one.”
“Yes! This is the one I like as well.”
He grinned at me, proud of his guided decision.
“Good choice, Styles.”
Harry had gone to the bathroom as I finished off my makeup, sighing heavily and combing my hair through one last time. The brush was placed on the side as my mother’s familiar voice called out my name.
My bare feet crossed the carpet to my bedroom door, tugging it open to discover worry in her desperate eyes.
“Mum, what’s wrong?”
“Where’s Harry?” She peered around me.
“He’s in the bathroom. What’s going on?” I gushed. “Mum.” I spoke taking hold of her hand.
“I thought you were outside.”
Her statement left me confused.
“No, it’s dark out and we’ve been getting ready to leave for art show.”
“That’s what I thought.” She confirmed quietly to herself. “Bo, I think there’s someone outside. I was in the kitchen…there’s a man in the back garden.”
Thoughts of Scott infiltrated my unsettled mind, how furious he looked, the task he had yet to complete. What if he’d discovered where we lived? Dad would have known what to do; he always took care of things like this. My mother and I were useless. She was ignorant to the dangerous situations her only daughter had been thrust into. I didn’t want her worrying. But if Scott was here it would affect both of us.
Thoughts of the bat that lay at the bottom of my wardrobe distracted me from Harry’s presence as he emerged from the bathroom. I was too wrapped up in the current situation.
“Is everything alright?”
His voice startled both of us, dragging my attention away to face him.
“There’s someone outside in our garden.” I rushed.
The inside message I was communicating came through loud and clear and I knew his first thought mirrored mine. Scott. Darkening eyes flicked between the two females stood in front of him.
“I’ll go and have a look.”
I didn’t have time to react as Harry lightly brushed passed and on to the landing, making quick work of the stairs and having me running to keep up. I reached out, grasping hold of his blazer.
“Harry.” I pleaded.
He turned, our heights similar for once as I stopped on the last couple of steps. He knew I didn’t want him leave, exiting out the back door to be consumed by the black landscape of the unlit garden.
“Stay with your mum.”
My anxiousness was clear, desperate for him not to go. But the determination in his features softened as he raised his hand, brushing away strands of hair obscuring my vision and tucking them behind my ear. I absorbed his light sigh as he broke the invisible lingering barrier between us.
“You look really pretty in that dress.”
His voice was quiet and calming, an attempt to distract me.
“I want you to stay inside with your mum.”
I gulped down my apprehension as her figure could be seen at the top of the stairs. The small reassuring smile Harry wore reached my mother as he looked beyond me.
“Be careful.” My voice broke.
We sat and impatiently waited at the bottom of the stairs. What felt like moment gaps were left between the worried glances out the kitchen window down the hall. The beam of light emitting from the torch Harry carried scanned the garden for the intruder. The clammy feel of my mother’s hand enclosed around mine as she returned my comforting gesture from earlier. When a slam was heard we both shot up from our position, relieved to see Harry locking the back door once more.
“There’s no-one there.” He confirmed.
“Thank you for checking, Harry.”
He nodded at my mum, giving her a dimpled curve of the lips. I hurriedly closed the distance between us, wrapping my arms around his waist and squeezing. It wasn’t an instant reaction to place an arm around me, fair to say he wasn’t expecting my sudden gesture.
“Bo, it’s alright.”
My hug was returned as I inhaled his heavy scent, burying my face into his chest. The expanse of his right hand rubbed against my back as he bowed to kiss the top of my head. My cheeks were tingling with pink as I drew back, aware that we were being observed by my almost cooing mother.
“Well, aren’t you two the cutest..oh shoot, I’m going to be late for work.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as she unintentionally lifted the mood. Her frantic hands packed a bag for a shift at the hospital before spinning to address both of us.
“Glad to know everything is alright, have fun at the art show.” She hurriedly listed off, eyes scanning the kitchen for anything forgotten. “And um, what we talked about.” Her concern was directed towards harry.
“I’ve got it covered.” He assured her.
“Oh and can you stay together this evening, you’re more than welcome to sleep here Harry. Right, great. I’m off.”
I had never seen my mother move so fast, practically running to the front door in order to sign in for her night shift on time.
“Your mum is funny.” Harry chuckled.
His tone dropped the humour seconds later, gripping my upper arms and connecting our ocean coloured vision.
“You don’t need to worry anymore; I’m going to look after both of you. I’m going to sort this out, Bo.”
His statement was firm, something about the way he voiced the assurance made me believe he meant every word. It warmed my heart to know he was willing to take care of both my mum and I. We’d been without my dad for so long, it felt nice to have someone to look out for us.
“You promised.” I reminded him of our conversation from outside, the agreement made that he would take his expressive violent activities down a notch.
“I haven’t forgotten.” Harry quietly spoke. “But right now we need to go.” I was informed as he peered down at his watch.
We pulled up to the curb of the art studio, people were milling around outside, absorbing the smoke of individuals with cigarettes alight as they conversed. The ignition was turned off, both Harry and myself being released from the seat belts. I observed as he climbed down from his side, my fingers testing the passenger door handle. To my surprise it swung open. I was left a little confused as Harry aided in helping me down, my feet touching the pavement. He didn’t acknowledge the fact that the safety lock normally in place had been taken off as he clicked the button on his keys,and shoved them in his jean pocket.
“You ready?” He enquired.
I nodded, taking his arm as he led us through the small gathering of people outside the venue and beyond the building’s glass doors. There were a number of faces I recognised; I was thankful to have Harry introduce us again, their names previously slipping my memory. It amused me to discover Harry purposefully skirting passed the people I knew he found to be, in his words, “arrogant arty types”. However, the description bore no resemblance to Sean, who greeted us rather excitedly.
“Do you like it?”
“What?” I smiled.
We followed his instruction, dipping our heads to gape at the colours splashed across the floor. Our canvas had been placed under a vast glass pane, allowing guests to trace the patterns under their feet.
“Yeah, that’s normally the reaction I get.” He grinned. “I’m so pleased with how it turned out, thank you both for doing it for me.”
“No problem.” Harry patted him on the back.
As people moved, more of the landscape under our feet was revealed, footprints creating trails, some slightly more smudged than others. The comparison between our prints was obvious, different colours and sizes. I looked closer to discover the pictures we had randomly captured decorating the art. I hadn’t imagined it look so well put together, Sean’s finishing touches creating something quite amazing.
It was when Harry shifted to the side that I noticed what he had been staring at with confusion on his features. I suddenly felt overly heated, my cheeks coloured with a hint of pink. There was no mistaking the shape of Harry sprawled out, the paint somewhat distorting his image onto the white. I just prayed no-one noticed the purple marks my knees had left either side of his leg. The prints were confirming evidence of what activities had played out in the deserted studio.
Harry subtly cleared his throat, attempting to not look as guilty as I felt.
“I’m um, there are some people that I want to talk to.”
I watched as he made an escape, Harry’s height making him unable to blend in with the clusters of individuals.
“Bo, I didn’t have any more space for these.” Sean smiled, handing me some photos. “I thought you might like them.
I gratefully took the pictures.
His head darted in the direction of where his name was being called.
“Oh, sorry Bo. I’ll see you later.”
When I was left on my own I sorted though some of the images, smiling at the funny faces Harry had pulled and the bunny ears I had secretly gestured behind his head. One photo displayed our paint covered faces as I grinned up at the camera. Harry’s eyes were closed, long lashes fanned out as he pressed his lips to my left cheek. I smiled remembering the black streaks I had branded on his skin. His curly hair an unruly mess.
The next picture took my breath away. Of course Harry looked beautiful, sparkling eyes and dimples. His pink lips were spread in a wide smile, head tilted away from the camera. If I were looking subjectively, there would be no doubt that the girl in the photo was utterly smitten. I hadn’t been prepared for the flash to go off. The camera had captured a moment that I would only think possible in those old black and white photographs; the ones of couples being reunited after long distances apart.
“It’s lovely, isn’t it?” A woman’s voice questioned.
I quickly placed the pictures in my bag, unprepared for company. After I sorted myself out I twisted to see a rather large lady stood by the side of me. Her short hair was greying slightly, spiked up from her head. The dress she wore was almost to the floor in length, artistic swirls creating patterns on her clothing. I became distracted by the swing of her ostentatious earrings as she waited for my reply.
“Oh yes, I think it’s brilliant.”
“Sean has such a unique talent.”
I nodded in agreement as we continued to observe the art work hung on the wall. However, the lull in our conversation didn’t last long as I heard the woman disgustedly tut. I curiously followed her line of vision, surprised to land on Harry. He was making his way across the gallery to the far wall.
“As for that one; a boy like that will never be any good.” She almost spat. “I’ve heard he’s been in an unimaginable amount of fights. They should just lock him up, save us all the trouble.”
The way she spoke caused annoyance to build inside of me. She knew nothing.
“It’s not right of you to judge when you don’t know him.” I responded rather cuttingly.
The curved line of her brows rose with my disagreement, obviously expecting me to nod along with her opinion.
“Well, it’s certainly not someone I would want a daughter of mine dating.” She proudly spoke.
I’d had enough of the conversation and her silly dress sense.
“Good, because he’s my boyfriend.”
Her red lips parted with my statement, earrings still stupidly swinging. I proceeded to walk away, turning moments later after collecting my thoughts.
“Oh and he’s a rather good shag.”
“How dare you!” She raised her voice.
I happily strode away, searching through the crowds for Harry who I had lost sight of. I recognised the flop of his curly hair instantly, his posture straight as he quietly examined the painting. The blazer he wore strained across the broad expanse of his shoulders. All I wanted to do was play with the small flicks of hair at the nape of his neck.
I came to stand by the side of him causing our arms to lightly brush.
“Where did you get to?” Harry inquired.
“I was defending your honour.”
“Oh, well thanks.” He humorously replied.
The chatter of people was a great contrast to our silence as we both looked up to the canvas on the wall. Splatters of dark shades littered the painting, creating something I would refer to as a mess rather than art. Then again, I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body.
“I have no idea what we’re looking at.” I admitted out loud.
“Neither do I.” Harry chuckled. “I think it’s supposed to represent your soul or something. I don’t have a clue what half the stuff in here is about.”
“That makes two of us.”
I figured it was as good a time as any, now that I had him talking.
“You let me get out of your car by myself.” I joked, lightly nudging my elbow into his arm.
“I’m trying to change.” Harry paused, glancing to me.
His eyes held a sense of vulnerability, quickly moving on to the next painting.
“I don’t want to smother you, I mean..I don’t want to scare you off.” He winced. “I’ve been thinking about things with you and me the last couple of days. What we have, I don’t want it to end.”
“Neither do I” I admitted quietly. “But don’t change too much, will you. I quite like the bad boy thing you have going on.” I shyly joked.
His laughter brought a smile to my face, which I reciprocated. It was one of my favourite sounds.
“I love you.” Harry spoke quietly, playfully bumping my hip.
The blush on his cheeks was something of a rare sight. But before I could reiterate my feelings the shrill tone of the woman for earlier caused me to divert my attention.
“That’s her.” She pointed a finger at me, notifying the security of my presence.
I grabbed Harry’s hand, nudging my way through the crowd to find a sheltered spot on a bench. He plonked down closely to my right, our thighs grazing as I adjusted the material to my dress.
“Why are we hiding?” Harry laughed.
I gripped his shoulder and leant into his ear to make clear that words that were only meant for him.
“I love you too.” I whispered.
My uncontrollable smile pressed to his in a kiss, my fingers getting lost in his hair as his tips dug into my waist. The numerous people leisurely strolling around took no notice of our heated snogging session, apart from one.
“That’s her, the one that was rude to me!”
Harry pulled away, amusement glittering in his eyes as he looked from me to the pudgy woman.
“What did you say? Was this when you were defending my honour?” He questioned.
I crinkled my nose, laughing as I nodded.
“I’d throw both of them out!” The woman continued to pester the bored looking security guard.
I ignored her as I placed my hand on Harry’s thigh before gently squeezing. I knew he could feel the sparks too, the sizzling current running through our bodies.
“Take me back to your flat.” I breathlessly instructed.
The lady stumbled, catching hold of the stocky man’s arm to regain her balance as Harry abruptly stood. My hand was possessively taken, guiding me with him. She looked fearful as his height loomed over, Harry’s frame dwarfing hers.
“Excuse me.” He roughly asked.
The woman took a hesitant step to the right, clearing a pathway for Harry to proceed.
“See you later, Ian.” Harry casually called back.
“Alright, Haz.” The security guard replied.
Did he know everyone? I pondered over the thought as I quickly said goodbye to Sean who was surround by a group of arty people. We were soon out in the relief of the night air, my body spinning into Harry’s as he turned to face me.
“I can’t wait to get you out of this dress.” He growled.
I squeaked in shock as I was lifted into the familiar hard warmth of his chest; Harry commencing to walk with me in his arms towards the car.