The thought of seeing Harry and the party that evening had gotten me through the day. I had spent most of it attempting to avoid Dan, and I was doing pretty well until he entered the storage room which had been my hiding place for most of the afternoon. The space I occupied was towards the back, the light on that particular row of shelves had needed to be changed about a month ago, meaning I had to work in shadows.
“Bo?” He called out.
The sound of soles on tiled flooring echoed around the space.
“Shoot.” I mumbled, backing up further into one of the shelves.
My endeavour at covertness was ruined, stumbling over a box I had placed on the floor earlier. The commotion of CDs and records scattering across the chilly ground brought awareness to my presence. Dan was soon stood over me, his hair flopping over his forehead as he offered me a hand. I accepted, eager to brush the dust from my clothing.
My quiet “thank you” was received with a nod; after a few short seconds I turned away. I knew it was rude, but I didn’t know what else to say, we hadn’t exactly been on speaking terms lately especially after he had gone behind my back. He shouldn’t have told Harry, not like that.
I bent down again, stacking the items that had been knocked from their elevated position, organising them into piles. It surprised me when an extra pair of hands proceeded to aid in the retrieval. The noticeable twitch to his mouth made me believe that he was preparing to communicate his thoughts.
“I’m sorry, Bo.” Dan burst out. “I know it wasn’t my place to say, and I feel awful about it. But I was just worried about you. Harry had to know.”
His abrupt confession left me somewhat bewildered. Dan appeared a little panicked with my lack of response, placing the record down and shifting to sit beside me. Both of our backs were to the shelving. I hadn’t been expecting an apology, more concern had been given in the assumption of an imminent shouting match, but that never came about. I wasn’t prepared.
“If I can do anything to make it up to you, I will.” Dan offered.
I cautiously placed my hand over his that was resting upon his knee. I hoped the soft rejection of his attempt to entwine our fingers wasn’t recognised by Dan. The gesture hadn’t been meant in anything other than a friend.
“I was kind of annoyed with you at first.” I admitted. “But I understand why you did it, you were just looking out for me and I really appreciate that, Dan.”
The blue in his eyes seemed to lighten, relieved that what he’d done hadn’t left a horrible brand on our relationship. I removed my hand from his, placing it in my lap.
“Can we go back to the way it was before? I like hanging out with you at work.” He smiled.
“Of course, as long as you help me tidy this up.” I gestured to the mess around us.
“Sure.” He laughed.
The process was made much easier with an extra set of hands, placing the box back on the shelf and walking out onto the shop floor. I took notice of Dan’s more reserved demeanour, a change in how he carried himself around me. Despite us burying our differences there was just something about the situation that normality couldn’t reach. Maybe he was starting to realise just how far Harry and I were willing to go to make our relationship work.
“Are you doing anything after your shift?” Dan casually inquired, smiling at a customer as he handed them their change and receipt.
“Yeah, we’re going to a party.”
I shoved the replacement bags under till’s shelved area, flicking my hair from my face once finished.
Collecting the nuisance hair into one hand I brought it over my shoulder.
“Harry and I, apparently the house is out in the country somewhere.”
Patting down my pockets I discovered the tube of lip balm I searched for. Pulling the cap off and twisting the bottom, I smoothed the stick over my lips. My eyes found Dan’s, and I quickly came to realise just how intently he had been watching me. I replaced the tube, slipping it back into my pocket.
“That will be fun.” He weakly smiled, the usual happy aura he projected dimmed a little.
“Are you doing anything?”
My hands pressed to the work surface at the back of the till area, attempting to hoist myself up to sit. To say it surprised me when Dan caught hold of my waist was an understatement. The shock resulted in me stupidly bumping my head on his shoulder. I winced, rubbing the sore area with my fingertips.
“Are you alright?”
His eyes widened in concern, palms still snuggly holding my hips. I nervously laughed, reassuring him it was fine, only then did he withdraw his presence. It felt nothing like Harry’s touch, his was electrifying, brought butterflies to my stomach, warmed me. But with Dan there was just no spark.
“Think I’m meeting up with some friends to mess around on the basketball court.”
“I didn’t know you played.”
“Yeah, I’m not amazing, but it’s a lot of fun.” The almost childlike excitement he displayed made me smile. “Do you know how to play?”
“Oh no, not really.” I admitted.
It was mandatory in school P.E. lessons to take part in ball games, but I had never been very good at coordination. The majority of the time was spent on my bum. But if you gave me something to hit that ball with, say a racket or bat, now that I was good at.
“Maybe I could teach you how, get you scoring some hoops.” He joked.
“I don’t think basketball is my forte.” I humorously replied, swinging my legs back and forth.
My laughter dissolved as I raised my head, Dan had stepped closer, his smile warm. I shifted slightly under his intense studying as an index swiped away stray strands of hair from across my eyes.
“We could work on that.” He spoke softly.
Dan had insisted on waiting with me until my ride home had arrived. We chatted outside the shop for about 10 minutes before the familiar black vehicle pulled into the car park, becoming stationary in a spot where spaces still remained.
“Harry’s here.” I informed Dan.
“Oh ok. Well, I’ll see you soon, Bo.” Dan smiled, lightly stooping to envelop me in a friendly hug.
My eyes widened in alarm upon hearing a door slam, peering over his shoulder to discover Harry storming towards us. Thunderous determination drew him closer.
“Have a good weekend.” I replied, rushing our goodbye.
Thankfully Dan had made it around the corner before the annoyed male became known to him. My boyfriend had walked straight passed, fingers barely catching the material covering his right arm.
“Why did he do that?” Harry admonished as he finally addressed me. “He knew I was here, why did he do that?”
His rhetorical questioning was left unanswered with my desperate plea to hold him back. I shoved at his shoulders in an attempt to get him moving in the way he just came. At times Harry’s strength was a pain in the arse, mine was no match for his.
“Harry, please just get in the car.”
Harry’s reluctance was noted, his stubbornness felt as I practically dragged his resistant weight to the safety of the vehicle. He tugged away from my hold, grumpily entering the car.
“You’re friends again now?”
I clambered up, resting in my seat and turning to him. The tell-tale sign of aggravation was displayed in the furrowing of his brow, the crease between the middle becoming prominent. All I wanted was sponge kisses to it and make it disappear.
“Yeah, we talked today.”
“He didn’t try anything, did he?” Harry flinched.
“No.” I shook my head. “And I can be friends with whoever I want.” I replied cuttingly, fed up with the constant argument.
Harry’s eyes squeezed closed in frustration, hands tightly gripping the wheel, knuckles paling.
“I’m not saying you can’t, obviously I’m not going to forbid you to do anything, that’s crazy.” He countered. “But come on, Bo. He’s a fucking twat.”
His aggression wasn’t directed towards me, it was Dan. Harry didn’t frighten me. I knew how to handle his tantrums.
Our shouting had attracted passers-by, exiting the nearby shops and heading for their cars. They didn’t need to know our business.
“You need to calm down now, or I’m not going anywhere with you.” I scolded.
An amalgamation of hurt and anger consumed Harry’s features, grunting in annoyance and turning away. The driver’s door was swung open, feet touching the tarmac. The car shook with the abrupt slam and I was left in silence. I carefully observed the back of him through the window. His backside rested against the door as he leant over slightly, hands to his knees. Harry’s torso deeply inhaled the air around him, fighting for the equilibrium he desperately clasped at.
I was ready to jump out of the vehicle when Harry suddenly shoved away from the car, frightened that he might pursue Dan. But I needn’t have worried as he diverted his course in the opposite direction, striding over to the wall. The thoughts of doubt were pushed to back of my mind, climbing down from the car and following after Harry. When I reached him, his weight was supported by the low wall, palms flat to the top of the brick. His body was once again bent over slightly, head hung down.
My effort was soon rewarded, enabling me to sit to the side of Harry on the wall. I left him for a few minutes, allowing his breathing to stabilise before raising my hand and combing my fingers between his hair.
“You alright?” I asked somewhat warily.
“Fine.” He grumbled.
Visibly, he seemed more relaxed, leaning slightly into my touch. It amazed me how a simple gesture could provide such comfort, a tranquil state making itself know and releasing the tension in his muscles.
He stood to his full height, my hand falling to his chest. A frown was held, but this time it wasn’t accompanied with pursed lips. Instead they were soft and pouted, attempting to find the right words.
“I didn’t mean to…”
“I’m glad that you’ve calmed down.” I interrupted his wavering sentence.
Guilt was all he had to offer me, remorse at raising his voice, for storming off. But I much preferred him to walk away rather than stay and let that anger boil over. Sometimes you just needed to remove yourself from the situation and apparently he was learning to do just that.
I pressed a kiss to his cheek, a gesture to show all was well.
“We’ve got a party to go to, right?”
He lightly laughed, the dimples I loved making a welcomed appearance. Harry displayed his athletic boxing skill, dodging away as I failed in poking at the adorable features. Not that I was any sort of challenge for his training, he would always be too fast for me.
“We should get going.” He grinned, making a drastic turn in mood.
I held Harry’s forearm, hopping down from the wall and linking my hand with his to walk the short distance to the car. This time I was aided in negotiating my climb by a pair of warm hands, which cheekily patted my backside before I not-so-politely told Harry to clear off.
We’d driven back to my house in a somewhat happier mood, Harry already changed and waiting in my bedroom whilst I swapped outfits in the bathroom. Before emerging, I checked my appearance in the mirror, fixing a few stray strands of hair that hadn’t been taken up in the ponytail. My fingers tugged at the hem of my new top, the pretty neckline scooping a little lower than I was used to. My friends had given it their approval, along with the denim shorts. I had applied some makeup, checking the mascara was waterproof before coating my lashes.
“Come on, Bo.” Harry called.
One last fleeting glance in the mirror confirmed I was ready, slipping out the bathroom door and into my bedroom. I paced out in front of Harry, heading straight for my bag. Even with my back turned I could sense the curious stare tingling over me. A squeak escaped my mouth when slender fingers tugged at the bottom of the denim shorts.
“What are you doing?” I questioned in surprise, boldly turning to face Harry.
A snapback was now taming the unruly flicks of curls, a tight black t-shirt clinging to his torso. He wore a dark checked shirt over the top, jeans and a pair of grey Nikes.
“Trying to find the rest of these shorts.” He lightly tugged again.
I huffed in annoyance, batting his hands away.
My reassurance refused to subdue the frown Harry wore. We stood together as he played with the end of my ponytail, running the hair through his fingers. My head fell forward, resting on his chest and listening to the thrum of his heart. It made me feel tired for some reason.
“Did you pick them out?”
Arms were now banded around my body, comforting and warm.
“No, Hayley did.”
“Hmm.” He pondered.
I fought my desire, pulling away. Harry’s embrace still remained, cupping my elbows until I raised my arms to loop his neck. I rose up onto my tiptoes.
“Don’t you like them?” I asked somewhat disappointed.
Despite my effort I still wasn’t able to match his height, and by the subtle kink to his lips I knew Harry had taken notice. Of course he had.
“Love them, and I’m sure the rest of the guys at the party will do, too.”
“But I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” A kiss followed my quiet words. “Just you.”
I succeeded in making him laugh with the tap of my index to his nose, reaffirming my point. Once flat on my feet I wandered over to the wardrobe to find a cardigan to coordinate with the rest of my attire.
“What shoes are you wearing?”
“Don’t know, thought I might go barefoot.” I informed him with a fleeting wiggle to my toes.
I wore my favourite colour nail polish, sparkly navy blue. Harry seemed to like it as well.
“You’re so funny.” He mocked.
“I’m hilarious.” I turned, purple cardigan in hand.
“Yeah, yeah, come on.” Harry lightly encouraged, fighting the grin.
I watched him carefully yank out some sandals from the mess beneath my bed, holding them out to me as he got up from his knees. They looked smaller than usual cradled in his hands.
“I don’t want to wear those.” I mumbled.
“Pick something else then.”
Despite what Harry endured during my outfit changes and faffing around, he remained somewhat patient with me when we got ready to go out. He never lost his cool, often picking bracelets up from the side and playing with them as he sprawled out on my bed. He was quite happy to wait and watch. This routine was probably new to him, never having to set aside extra time for a female. Especially an indecisive female.
“Are my Vans still at your flat?”
“No, I think we brought them back.” Harry mused, scanning my room for the shoes.
Rolling from the bed, he rummaged in my overnight bag.
“Aha, here’s one!” I exclaimed, lifting the shoe in the air after trawling through a pile of clothes.
“Got the other one.”
Harry was already knelt before me, my legs dangling off the side of the bed.
“Can you put them on please?” I grinned on hope, assuming he would laugh in refusal.
“I don’t think they’ll fit me.” Harry eyed the lace up shoe which he held.
“I meant on me!”
His joking made me giggle, nudging my foot into his lap. The right shoe was adorned with ease, Harrys tongue poking through his lips on concentration as he tied the bow before knotting it like the many times he had seen me carry out the action. I wiggled my toes at him, resting my foot on his thigh for him to lift and slip it into the remaining left of the pair.
“Hey.” Harry warned as I swiped the hat from him.
I placed it on my head, the brim to the back just how he wore it. The laughter was unrestrained as Harry’s hair was ruffled under my teasing.
“Ow, it’s too tight.”
He really could be a little too heavy handed at times. The laces were loosened slightly, Harry proceeding to tie the bow and knot again.
“Good, thank you.” I replied with a smile, admiring his work.
He rose to his feet, clasping hold of my ankles in response to my failed attempt at keeping him at bay.
“That’s mine.” He spoke in reference to the hat, reaching for it.
“We can share it.” I offered.
His quick reply was coupled with playful kisses up the bare expanse of leg which was being held captive at the ankle. I soon recognised the gesture as a distraction, a ploy to draw my interest away and steal the hat.
Happiness churned in my stomach as Harry leaned in through the passenger window and pecked my cheek. He walked away with a grin, taking hold of the petrol pump and placing it into the open cap. I rested my chin in my palm, elbow propping me up as I watched him fill the car with fuel.
“Are there going to be many people there?” I enquired, poking my head out.
“Yeah, probably. Hayley’s got quite a big house.”
“Is it her house, or her parent’s house?”
“It’s her uncle’s, but he’s hardly ever there, that’s why she stays around her friend’s most of the time.”
I deliberated over the information for a short while. Harry had watched the numbers flick up on the screen, squeezing the nozzle just enough to hit the amount he desired. Content with his effort, he placed the pump back in the hold.
“That’s kind of sad.” I spoke solemnly.
“What is?” He questions, rooting around for his wallet.
“That she doesn’t really have anyone.”
“She has us and everyone else.” Harry shrugged. “Do you want anything from the station?”
He flicked his head in indication to the small petrol station shop, adjusting the snapback he wore as he waited for my reply.
“I’ll come with you.” I spoke, releasing the door handle.
“You don’t have to, Bo. Do you want a drink?”
He grasped my hand, aiding me in the short jump down to the tarmac. I bumped into him as I closed the door a little too forcefully. I knew Harry would be wincing at my actions. Boys and their cars. A quiet apology was all it took and I was forgiven.
“I want to peruse the sweets.” I informed him, leading the way to the entrance.
“Oh course you do.” He mumbled in amusement behind me.
“I heard that.”
The shop was small, a few refrigerated units at the back containing bottles of soft drinks. The products on the stands mainly consisted of sugary items, packets of crisps or the dwindling supply of dirty magazines; apparently everything you might need for a long car journey.
I cringed at the wink I was given, the guy stood next to me looked at little older than Harry, but not half as charming. Blonde hair was messily tousled back from brown eyes, a rounded stomach protruding from under his shirt. It’s almost as if he wanted me to catch an eyeful of the magazine he held, the brunette on the front flaunting her cleavage.
A presence around my waist guided me further away, Harry stepping in between us both.
“Back off.” He roughly instructed.
I decided to not call attention to the situation, continuing to distractedly scan for chocolate.
“Have you picked something?”
Harry was back and the suggestive male now gone. I softly bumped my forehead to his arm, squeezing at his hand. He took it as a thank you, reciprocating the gentle compress of my fingers.
“Umm.” I moved forward, releasing our connection and selecting an item on display.
“M&M’s?” I smiled in hope, holding a bag out in front of me.
Harry’s nose scrunched up with my suggestion, pushing the hand away that contained my choice. The bag was still clutched between my fingers, curious to his rejection as I peered at him.
“I don’t like the peanut ones.”
I observed as he continued to scan through the selection of sweets on display. My arm slowly sunk down in defeat, the contents of the bag rattling slightly as it hit my leg.
“What? Why not?”
I hadn’t meant for my voice to sound so hurt. Why was I getting emotional over chocolate? Or the more important question, why didn’t he like peanuts?
“I don’t like them, I prefer the chocolate ones.” Harry admitted, shoving his hands into the front of his jean pockets and side stepping to the right, away from my uncomfortable stare.
I followed him, squeezing into the gap between his body and the display, determined in my choice.
“But there’s no peanuts in them, you might as well just get Smarties.” I dramatically called.
“I could go for some Smarties.” His face lit up in excitement.
“Nooo, that’s not what I meant.”
Neither Harry or I had anticipated for it to take quite so long to choose something to share. We had spent a good 7 minutes surveying our options and we were no further forward.
“How about we get what you want, I suck the chocolate off and then you get the peanuts.”
He grinned like it was the best idea in the world. So young and…happy, nothing like how I had seen him before, when his eyes would flare with anger before moving in and impacting his target with a solid blow to the face.
“So basically what I get out of this deal, is a peanut that’s already been in your mouth?” I concluded in disgust.
“You said you liked peanuts.”
“Not saliva covered ones, Harry.” I shook my head.
“We share saliva all the time..”
His statement was cut off by a swift smack to the arm, a wince of playful complaint.
“Fine, I’ll get plain, you get peanut.”
“Sounds good to me.” I smiled.
During our decision making process there had been an apparent rush for fuel, leaving us at the back of the lengthy queue. Harry held our chocolate as I linked our arms.
“Were you planning on letting me know the party was in a garden…with a pool?” I tested.
His body stiffened with my question. He knew.
“I mentioned it to you.” Harry spoke, finding it difficult to look me in the eyes.
It was at that point he conveniently became preoccupied with back of the packaged sweets, index trailing down the table of nutritional information. I always found there wasn’t much point counting the fat or calories, by the time you were finished absorbing the knowledge it would put you off actually eating it.
“No you didn’t.” I countered.
“Oh, well Hayley only just called me.”
“Uh, I think you were in the bathroom.”
His weak story was changing by the second, becoming less and less believable.
Harry wasn’t quick enough to prevent me from lifting the front of his black t shirt. His tan tummy came into view, but that wasn’t what I was interested in this time. Harry protested in a rough call of my name. My fingers hastily hooked into the front of his tight jeans to pull them down just enough to confirm he wasn’t wearing underwear.
“You’ve got trunks on. If Hayley only just phoned you back at my house you wouldn’t have had time to change.”
I released him, the fabric falling back into its previous job of covering Harry’s tummy, much to my dissatisfaction.
“Coincidence?” He tested, smiling like a guilty child.
“You’re not very good at swimming.”
The shrug to his shoulders annoyed me, bending down to retrieve the bags of chocolate dropped in the struggle. It was silly, but I was a little embarrassed for him to point out one of my weaknesses.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t want to swim.”
I was surprised by his abrupt levelling out, snapping back up to face me.
“Well anyway, I thought you’d want to watch meget wet and swim around.” Harry winked.
“As much fun as that sounds for me, I’ll be getting in the pool as well.”
“You can’t.” He gushed. “You don’t have any swimming stuff.”
It was then I realised his plan, he had no intention of informing me of the pool because he didn’t want me to strip down. I couldn’t help the small smile on my face as I tugged my top down a little to expose the material of the green bikini currently hugging my chest.
“You already knew?” Harry inquired quietly, head hung a little lower.
“Yes, Hayley told me when we were shopping.”
Fingers looped into the neck of my top once more, nudging it down just enough for his eyes only.
“It’s a bit small, isn’t it?”
“Excuse me?” My eyebrows rose.
“If you jump up and down you’ll fall out.” He attempted to explain with example, gesturing to my bikini covered chest.
His hand retracted, gazing at me with oblivious thought. If harry had his way I would probably stay in a baggy jumper and jeans all year around. I decided to act on his point and make one of my own.
“Like this?” I asked before proceeding to spring up and down on the spot in front of him.
Eyes widened as Harry followed my movement, or more the movement of my chest.
“Alright, alright, I get it.” He desperately admitted, halting me with heavy hands to my shoulders as I laughed.