I woke to the sound of a shrill ringing directly in my ear.
I moaned, flipped on my stomach and groped for my phone, hitting it blindly until the noise shut off.
To my left hand side I heard a similar but gravelier groan and whipped my head around.
Harry lay on his back, with his hand thrust into his curls and his eyes still shut.
My breathing slowed a little when I realised who it was but not by much.
It was utter madness that I was lying in his bed but he had been true to his word. We had merely slept and well for that.
I pushed myself into a sitting position and pulled my plait around to cross my shoulder.
'Do we have to get up yet?' Harry grumbled, opening his eyes blearily.
I looked at at my phone and at the time; 5.15am.
'No, you've got another half an hour' I replied dragging myself out of the bed.
'Why are you getting up now?' He asked through half shut eyes.
'I have to get myself dressed and sorted' I yawned in explanation.
'You're fine the way you are' he replied drowsily.
I laughed and made for the door.
'I'll be back in half an hour' I said.
I tiptoed across the hallway to my room, feeling like some sort of forbidden mistress.
I made for the bathroom, threw my hair up and stepped into a hot shower.
As I lathered myself in shower gel I pondered last night.
I had only worked for one day and already I had ended up in Harry Styles bed.
I would be sacked on the spot if anyone found out.
Despite the fact that we had done nothing but sleep I felt guilty and inexplicably dirty.
Harry was well known for his flirtatious nature and his reputation with women.
Somehow I had forgotten that; the Harry I met seemed totally different to the one the media portrayed.
I couldn't help but wonder which one was the real one.
I wasn't going to risk this job to find out though.
Besides my heart was off limits, closed for business; forever.
Sleeping in Harry's bed would mean nothing only trouble.
As I thought about the last time I shared a bed with a guy I shuddered and ran my hand down my right side, across my ribs; remembering but wishing I didn't.
I pulled myself out of the heat of the shower and into my room where I tugged on underwear and opened the cupboard door.
The day ahead was busy and after my appaling attire yesterday I needed to show that I did actually know how to dress appropriately.
In saying that suits weren't really my thing and I didn't really think this job called for one so I'd go for semi-casual.
As I took my clothes out of the cupboard I got a glance of myself in the full length mirror and paused.
I was thin; I always had been but some days, after everything, I needed to remind myself of that.
With this thought I drew my finger across my tattoo just below my bra line and smiled to myself.
It always made me feel better, reminded me that the past was in the past and that I had moved on from then.
I was in a better place now.
Within half an hour I was dressed, makeup done, hair primed and feeling like a woman in control.
Now to get the boys up.
I took a deep breath, braced myself and went out to the hallway.
I started at the top end of the hall with Louis room.
I knocked briskly, I didn't want to just barge in after all.
When there was no reply I slowly pushed the door open and stuck my head around the door.
Louis was on his side, one leg thrown over the covers, fast asleep.
'Louis' I called from the doorway.
There was absolutely no response.
Sighing I walked tentatively in and shook him by the shoulder.
'Louis, you need to get up' I said, trying to be gentle about it.
He started and blinked up at me.
'Arianna?' He asked, confused.
'Morning Lou, you need to get up' I said.
'Ahhh' he groaned 'What for?'
'The gym' I replied.
'There isn't even a gym here!' He exclaimed, tucking his head back under the covers.
'There is, it's in the basement' I explained pulling the covers back off him.
'Eugh, ok, I'm up' he conceded.
'Good boy' I replied leaving the room.
I progressed down the hallway, waking each of the boys.
Liam proved the easiest, throwing himself out of bed like a man ready to tackle the world.
Zayn was a complete disaster, I was ready to throw a glass of water over his head by the time he finally stirred.
When I knocked on Harry's door and looked round the door he was lying flat on his back with his arms flung above his head.
How on earth did he sleep like that?
'Harry, time to get up' I called.
'No worries honey' he shocked me by replying immediately and opening his eyes.
He hadn't been sleeping at all.
I smiled tentatively at him and retreated back out to the hall.
It took a further shaking of Louis who had lied and not got up the first time and a blatant yell at Zayn before they were all actually out of their beds.
Fifteen minutes after I had first woken them the boys were all assembled downstairs in the kitchen, dressed in shorts, t-shirts and trainers and glaring at me as though I were the devil.
Thankfully they didn't have much time to dwell on this as the doorbell rang and two of their personal trainers arrived bang on 6.00am.
I introduced myself, thrust water bottles into the boys hands and took a deep breath as they disappeared.
Step one of the day; success.
I took the opportunity to nip upstairs and make all of their beds. Thankfully they hadn't had much time to make a mess so there wasn't much else to do other than put their clothes away.
I grabbed my rucksack and made my way back downstairs.
I had forty five minutes before they were due to finish so I flicked the coffee machine on and put some bread in the toaster.
As I waited I pulled the two packages my Mum had gotten me out of my bag. With all the furor of yesterday I hadn't had a chance to open them yet.
I opened the smaller one first.
Inside I found a beautiful cream multi-rope bracelet that connected with a delicate gold anchor. Attached was a note;
Arianna, mia bella figlia.
This is just a little token for you to wear.
The anchor is there just to remind you that no matter where in the world you go you always have a home to come back to.
Remember there is never anything you can't tell me.
Don't forget where you've come from and don't forget you can come back no matter what.
Don't lose yourself mia bella figlia because you have a beautiful soul that is so very rare.
Ti amo sempre
I felt tears in my eyes as I read and gulped, willing them not to fall.
I paused and poured my coffee and buttered my toast before I opened the next, larger gift.
Inside were two of the the thickest, most beautiful A3 notebooks I had ever seen. They were leather bound, each with gorgeous, shimmering illustrations carved into them with folded over sides which locked.
Attached to these was another letter;
Arianna, mia bella figlia
These are for you to record the wonderful adventure you're about to have.
One day it will all be memory and these will be the only things that help you to remember.
I want to sit with you one day and hear you read them to me, I want them to make you laugh as you remember.
Write about the big things, and the small.
The good things and the bad.
Write about the people you meet and the places you see.
Write about how you feel.
One day mia bella figlia you will remember what it is to feel again, you will remember to love and to trust again.
Don't guard your heart too closely mia bella, you are doing both yourself and the world an unkindness.
I am immensely proud of you, you know.
Your padre told me you were strong and brave all those years ago.
But not even I could have guessed how much you would proove that to be true.
You are my greatest adventure; now go and have your own.
Throw caution to the wind mia bella figlia and live the life you were meant to have.
Remember I am here, no matter what.
So is your padre.
As only he could have, he prepared for this day too and I enclose in your notebook his letter to you.
Remember he loved you more than I can ever tell you.
Ti amo sempre mia bella figlia
I could not help the tears that fell this time as I stroked my hand over the letter and the last two lines;
'I love you forever my beautiful daughter, Mummy'.
She told me those words every night before I went to sleep in her native Italian tongue and in my fathers Irish one even if we had fought or I had arrived home drunk.
Sitting atop the two notebooks were two thin gold chains each with an intricate key attached; the keys to the notebooks.
I took one, the key with a heart atop and tried the first notebook, it didn't fit so I tried the other one which had a globe above it and it slid into the lock easily.
I opened the hard cover with care, on the inside there was a pocket and I could see the edge of an envelope poking out from it.
A letter from my father.
That would have to wait; I would need time and quiet to read it.
I slipped the letters from my mother inside the pocket, shut the notebook and placed the chains around my neck with my others.
I shut my eyes and took a few steadying breaths, that had been full on for so early in the morning.
I flipped open my iPad and observed the timetable I had drawn up for today; it was hectic to say the least.
I had managed to email all of the team so they knew who I was and confirmed all the details with them that I could.
In a daring move I had also emailed all of the boys mums.
Their details had been on the list and considering I was going to be the next best thing these guys had to mothers for the best part of the next year it seemed important that they knew who I was.
Still, I would remain nervous until I received replies from them.
I took five minutes to email my own mother;
Mamma, è Arianna
This is my new, work email address.
I have just opened your presents and they are beautiful, I cannot thank you enough!
Life here has been hectic and so much had changed and happened since I left you only yesterday.
I cannot begin to write it all and I want to hear your voice so I will ring you later tonight.
I miss you already Mamma.
At 6.45am I was waiting in the foyer for the boys.
The came through the door, sweaty and out of breath.
'Upstairs, shower and get dressed we need to leave here in half an hour tops' I ordered as they groaned and followed my instructions.
'And dress decently, people will see you!' I yelled at their retreating backs.
I went back into the kitchen were I dug out the takeaway coffee cups and paper napkins I had had the foresight to buy yesterday.
I made five regular coffees in the cups and wrapped two rounds of toasts in five separate napkins.
Thankfully the boys came back down the stairs on time and I called them into the kithchen.
'Ok, Niall, sugar or no in your coffee?' I called to him.
'Eh, yeah two' he replied confused.
I dumped two sugars in one of the coffees, stirred and put the lid on. I pushed it and one of the toast filled napkins across the counter at him.
'Zayn' I called.
'None' he replied bemused and so I put a lid on the cup and pushed it and toast across to him.
They stood, staring at me.
'Go get in the car!' I exclaimed and he and Niall hurried out the door as though I had burnt them.
At this the rest of the guys caught on, formed a line at the counter and answered me quickly.
We were in the car twenty by 7.20am.
We had just over an hour to get to London.
So far everything had gone to plan but it was still early days.
I turned to the front seat where Geoff and Steve sat blearily eyed. I handed them two coffees and some toast as well, I didn't know what way they took their coffee but it didn't matter; I was rewarded with a smile and a thanks.
Even from Steve.
Now that was a success.
I looked over at the boys.
They were a completely different story to yesterday morning.
Today I was surrounded by frech faced, delicious smelling, artfully dressed guys who couldn't look happier as they sat munching their toast and drinking their coffee.
I tried not to look as Harry's tongue darted out to lick a crumb from his bottom lip.
He had the most gorgeous lips, pink and plump; almost feminine.
I shook my head at myself and pulled my phone out, scrolling on to my emails.
Flip, I had 10 new emails already, the journey would be the perfect time to catch up on them.
I clicked into the first one, elated when I realised it was from Louis Mum.
Thank you for your email, it's nice to hear from you.
I'm glad they have a new PA, Louis and the rest of the boys really didn't seem to like the old one.
I must thank you for what you done with Louis room, he sent me a picture yesterday, it was really very kind of you.
I know it's a new move to have the PA live with the boys but I think it's a much better idea, that way you'll have a much better chance at controlling them.
There's not much for me to tell you about Louis.
Generally he's a very normal teenager. He's a prankster, he loves joking and messing about so he might be hard to handle sometimes. He's even worse when he's with the boys, especially Harry, they are like two peas in a pod so watch out for them.
He's incredibly messy but don't pick up after him, make sure he does it himself!
Louis also sleep walks so just be careful of that.
Other than that there's not much else I can think to tell you.
Good luck with the boys, as long as your firm but fun I'm sure you'll be just fine.
If there's anything else you need or want to ask of me just let me know.
I breathed a sigh of relief, at least emailing the guys Mums hadn't been considered a crazy idea, Joanna seemed happy I had contacted her and it was nice to get a heads up about a few things about Louis. I was surprised he had sent her a picture of his room, had that really affected him that much?
It also made me wonder how much the boys were in contact with their families; it was easy to forget they were the same age as me.
I let them finish their coffee and toast before I filled them in on the day ahead;
'Ok so first stop you have a breakfast radio interview, please remember not to swear!' I began as they nodded and grinned along.
'Then you have a photoshoot and interview followed by tour rehearsals at the O2'.
'Gene will be coming to the tour rehearsal just to see how you're getting on and what the format is but he's coming back to the house after to rehearse with you all properly ok?' I confirmed.
'Sounds cool, I'm looking forward to meeting Gene' said Zayn thoughtfully.
'Yeah it should be good, we've only really ever had the one vocal coach since X Factor' said Liam and I could tell they were actually excited.
We arrived at the radio station in good time just as the boys were getting restless and rowdy to be greeted by at least 60 fans screaming outside.
How on earth did they know where we were going to be?
Instead of taking a back door entrance the boys insisted on using the spare time to sign autographs and have photos with the girls.
I couldn't help but smile when I saw Harry plant a kiss on one of the girls cheeks, he really was such a flirt.
The girl looked ready to pass out.
Finally Steve hauled them all none to gently inside the station and up the stairs to the studio as I hung around not really knowing what to do.
After that though the morning ran away with us all together, we were barely finished at the station before we arrived for the photo shoot.
'Where's my beauties?' A blonde woman cried as we entered into the dressing rooms.
'Hey Lou' they called running over and near toppling the poor woman in a rugby, scrum like hug.
This must be Louise Teasdale, the boys head hairdresser and make-up artist. I went over and introduced myself shyly but she immediately enveloped me in a hug.
'Welcome to the team!' She cried happily with a smile I couldn't help but return.
After that I met the stylists and set to work helping them get the boys clothes set out for their first photo.
I was surprised to realise that of all the boys Louis hair took the most time to style and Harry's the least. In fact Louise done nothing but artfully ruffle Harrys curls, I was envious that someone could just wake up with such naturally beautiful hair. I wasn't at all surprised that he was constantly running his hands through it, if I had it I would have done exactly the same.
Getting them to behave on the photoshoot and interview proved nearly impossible, especially when Louis stole the hat Harry was meant to be wearing and took off at a sprint with it around the entire studio, Harry running after him. It was only when Louis threw the hat to an awaiting Zayn who was tackled by Niall (who had taken Harry's side) and the two of them barrelled into a huge light, narrowly missing their heads that I intervened and reprimanded them that they finally started to behave.
Eventually the photographer was able to get the equal amount of happy and mysterious shots he required. As I poured over them whilst the boys spoke to the interviewer I noticed that of all the boys Harry seemed the most adept at the brooding look, that was odd as he never had a smile off his face.
As soon as we were done it was immediately off to the O2 with the boys still dressed in their photo shoot clothes and buzzing with excitement.
I felt the same surge of adrenaline from all the constant moving, this was exhilarating and stressful in equally addictive measures.
When we arrived at the O2 we were met by a hoarde of people who all hauled the boys on to the stage straight away without as much as a hello.
An hour and a half later Niall was tugging at his tight fitting chinos as he tried to run from one end of the huge stage to the other without tearing them; Liam had pulled off his jumper to reveal sweat dripping down his naked torso; Zayn was find it increasingly impossible to hit the right high note and getting more and more frustrated at everyone shouting different advice at him; Louis had kicked off his shoes so he didn't slip and break his neck and Harry was constantly pushing his sweat soaked curls out of his eyes so he didn't run into someone else.
It was utter madness and it was clear the boys earlier good mood was evaporating fast along with their patience. They needed a break.
Going by my own famished state I guessed the boys must be even hungrier so I got a number for the food bar and placed an order for all six of us. Then with a deep breath I walked out on to the stage.
'Ok, ok' I called over the various people shouting.
'I think it's time for a break' I voiced.
'A break?' Someone from the sidelines who I couldn't see said in an incredulous tone.
'Yes, a break, it's half 2 and the guys have only had a slice of toast to eat all day' I said feeling brave.
'Yeah but we've only got to 6 O Clock before we have to leave so lets press on' the voice replied as though the matter was settled and I felt my temper soar; didn't this man have a heart?
'I wasn't asking' I replied curtly 'They're having a break now' I said in conclusion.
I turned back to the guys;
'There's food on its way' I explained and they smiled weakly.
'Thanks Arianna' said Zayn in a weary tone as they traipsed off the stage.
I turned back around to whoever was assembled on or below the stage.
'They'll be back in half an hour, in the meantime I think it would be a good idea if you got more organised, five different people yelling different things isn't helping anyone and we need to make good use of the time we have left here' I said abruptly.
I knew I sounded rude but I didn't care, the guy who had answered me back earlier had really ticked me off. If they thought they could walk all over me because I was young they could think again. Penelope had told me specifically that my job was to organise and look after these boys. So far I had managed to organise them but that would prove pointless if I let them faint with hunger or exhaustion before the tour even started. In the meantime everyone else needed to sort themselves out because the approach of just yelling various instructions over the top of one another wasn't helping anyone.
I left the arena and went out to the car where I collected the boys clothes they had been wearing earlier. Returning to the dressing room where they were all eating the huge baguettes I had ordered I set the clothes beside them on the sofa.
'Aww thank God, I can't move in these things at all' Niall sighed when he saw the clothes. He immediately proceeded to strip the chinos off and pull on his sweats from earlier. The rest of the boys also began to strip and change without a second thought as I blinked rapidly. Clearly modesty was not an issue with these guys. I gulped and took a bite from my own baguette not quite sure where to look.
Within minutes they were all dressed and ready for the stage once again. As they all stood up and made for the door I saw Harry push his damp hair out of his eyes.
'Harry' I called him, he turned at the doorway with a dramatic flourish and waving of hands.
'Yes my love' he crooned. Clearly food had a positive effect then.
I rummaged in my bag as he approached in a playful skip, searching and finally finding what I was looking for.
'Here' I said thrusting my thin cream and black scarf into his hands.
'Eh thanks' he replied in confusion.
'It's for your hair you eejit' I laughed.
'Eejit?' He replied with a grin and I felt my cheeks tinge pink.
'Just take it and be gone with you' I said turning away from him and hiding my embarrassment by fiddling with my bag. Maybe it had been a stupid idea to give it to him.
'Aria I can't take this off you' he said.
So it had been a stupid idea.
'I'm all sweaty, I can't ruin your scarf' he continued and I turned back to him in suprise.
'Don't be be silly, it's only a scarf Harry, I can wash it anyway' I assured him.
I was rewarded with the most blinding grin, glinting white teeth and dimples complete. I started suddenly but seconds later I felt Harry's lips on my cheek and his damp forehead pressed against the side of my own.
'Thanks Aria' he exclaimed before bounding out of the room and leaving me stationary with my heart hammering.
What had just happened? It was all so quick that I hadn't had time to process it.
*** Harry's POV ***
I rushed out onto the stage adrenaline pumping once again now I had been fed and sat down for a break.
Arianna had managed to suprise me again, for someone so slight and unassuming she was feisty. I had been relieved when she had stepped up on our behalf and impressed when she had held her ground upon being challenged, I would not have expected that.
As we had gratefully retreated backstage I heard her suggest that the team get themselves more organised, that was markedly brave although sensible too. Rehearsal time at the O2 was nearly impossible to get and therefore precious but I felt like we had spent the whole morning running around in chaos to all of our frustration. When we had gotten into one of the backstage rooms we found Arianna had ordered us all huge baguettes which we dived for immediately, minutes later she had returned with our clothes.
As I got back on stage with the guys I folded up Arianna's scarf and tied it round my head, pushing my curls out of my eyes and off my damp forehead, it felt so good. Within minutes it became apparent that the team had listened to Arianna and combined with our own clothes and newly restored enegery things began to run much more smoothly.
Gene, Arianna's uncle had stepped in to help Zayn with his note and we abandoned what we were each doing and gathered around to listen.
'Right Zayn try this' he said starting with one of the scales.
Zayn mimicked him.
'Ok now let's keep going' he said 'the rest of you join in' he added when we joined and so we started to go up the scales.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw him gesture to the side of the stage; moments later Arianna joined us.
For some bizarre reason I felt shy singing in front of her, especially seeing as the higher up we went the more I began to struggle. There was only so high my voice could go after all, I might sing some tenor but generally I was a baritone.
Niall cut out first. I pushed myself further but soon I had reached my limit too and Liam closely followed.
'Arianna?' Gene asked and she nodded.
I was perplexed; what was going on?
I was shocked when she began to voice the scale for Louis and Zayn to mime.
Her voice was crystal clear, strong and pure and it was obvious she had no problem coaching the boys on further. I understood now that Gene had asked her to step in when he too had reached the upper limit of his vocal range.
We all had good ranges but Zayn and Louis could hit the highest notes, we were worried that as our voices matured we would lose our ranges and our edge; it was part of the reason Simon had called Gene in. We were all anxious to get properly rehearsing with him, we might openly admit to our inability to dance but we were passionate about our music and so it was key we looked after and trained our voices. We weren't stupid, we knew as we got older our voices would change and settle and so we each needed to find our range and sound before that happened.
I watched in awe as Arianna led the boys higher, it was clearly no problem for her but after a while Zayn too reached his limit, Louis persevered on, his voice becoming thinner until he too was done and they stopped.
Gene smiled at us all.
'All right guys, at least now I've an idea what we're working with and Zayn you got that note there so keep going over it and you should have no problem for the rest of the day. It will be much better when I get working with you all properly later' he concluded and I could sense his enthusiasm from where I stood. That was good, our last vocal coach was completely exhausted by the time he left, we needed someone with energy and passion to make this work for us and it seemed Gene had it in bucket loads.
The rest of the day flew in and before we knew it we were being kicked out. I was buzzing as we left, psyched for the upcoming tour.
We all hit a downer though as we began the journey home and hunger began to set in once again, it was shocking how much food it took to keep us all going. Arianna was quiet on the journey home, occasionally checking her emails and replying to them but mainly spending the time staring out the window. I couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking about.
We arrived at the house in relatively good time and all made for the kitchen in search of some food. When Arianna followed us in it was to find us all looking blankly into the cupboards and fridge.
'Cereal?' Suggested Louis pulling a box of Coco Pops down.
I nodded, it wasn't the most appetising of suggestions but it was quick and easy which was why we all agreed.
'Don't be silly you can't have Coco Pops for dinner' Arianna chastised.
'Well what then?' Asked Niall as she made her way over to the fridge, pulling out a packet of mince.
She then progressed on to the cupboard where she pulled out a bag of pasta, two jars of sauce and some seasoning.
'What about meatballs and pasta?' She suggested.
'How are we going to make meatballs from this?' Zayn asked holding up the packet of mice, sceptically. Cooking was not our strong point.
'I'll show you' Arianna replied with a smile.
Minutes later she had us spread across the kitchen performing different jobs, it soon turned out that there wasn't all that much to do and that in fact the dish was really simple to make.
'Harry will you set the table?' She asked me quietly and as she did so I realised it was the first time she had addressed me directly since she had given me her scarf earlier in the day.
Perhaps I had been too forward in kissing her on the cheek but the action came so naturally to me and no one had ever expressed annoyance over it that it became almost second nature.
'Sure' I grinned in reply as I squeezed into the cooking area and to the cutlery drawer.
'You fling the pasta at the wall to check if it's cooked right don't you Arianna?' Louis piped up.
'What?' Liam exclaimed.
'Yeah Liam you throw it at the wall and if it sticks it means it's cooked, that's how you check' Louis assured him in a knowledgable tone.
'So you're telling me Lou that every time we order pasta at a restaurant the chefs are throwing our food at the wall before they serve it to us?' I enquired sceptically.
'Yeah that can't be right man' Zayn supported me.
'Ok it might not be the only way to check but you can do it that way' Louis defended his ridiculous theory as we sniggered.
'Do you Arianna?' Niall asked as we all spun to look at her.
She paused; 'It is one old method of checking...' She began.
'Ha, told you so!' Louis exclaimed punching the air.
'Lets try it!' Niall exclaimed sticking his hand into the pot as I rushed round to join.
'Ok, ok but only one strand each!' Arianna put in 'Whoevers sticks first wins' she said as we fought over the pasta.
'Cool, what do we win?' Zayn asked.
'Hmm' she thought 'You don't have to help clean up and you get first go at FIFA after rehearsals' she supplied.
They were awesome terms and so we squabbled further over the pasta.
'Enough! We have to eat this!' She said and we relented and retreated with our pasta clutched in our hands, juggling it so as not to burn ourselves.
'Right on three' said Louis as we all took aim 'One, two, three!' I flung the pasta with force at the wall were it hit and immediately fell straight back off.
'Damn!' I exclaimed rushing forward to collect it and try again, within seconds the rest of the boys were following suit and chaos ensued as we continuously threw and collected our pasta in an attempt to make it stick. Finally;
'Stop! Stop!' Yelled Arianna stepping in front of us and waving her hands.
Unfortunately at that exact moment my pasta string flew out of my hand and hit her on the side of her face.
Before I could even react she had screamed;
'I'm sorry, I'm sorry!' I implored desperately.
To my horror I saw her reach into the pasta pot and come out with a handful of the stuff. I nearly tripped over my own feet as she came at me and I tried to get away from her.
'Aria I'm sorry' I yelled over my shoulder as I dashed round the table.
'Come here you little shit' she called after me and I laughed out loud at her vulgarity.
The boys intervened at this stage holding me back so I couldn't get away.
'Ahhh!' I cried as Aria reached me and dumped the handful of pasta in my hair.
The boys backed off rapidly and out of the firing line as Arianna progressed to rub the pasta into my hair.
'Aria!' I yelled trying to grab her hands and stop her, I eventually succeeded in getting both her wrists in my hand and suspended above her head.
I backed her into the counter so she couldn't get away from me and the I took some of the pasta out of my own hair and rubbed it into hers as she squealed and squirmed against me.
'Harry, stop! Stop!' She yelled.
'Say sorry' I said between my hysterical laughing and ruffling the pasta through her hair.
'No!' She retorted bucking her hips against mine in order to get away and sending an unexpected thrill through me.
'Say sorry' I repeated pushing the lower half of my body closer to hers and putting my hand on her hip to stop her moving, feeling a slither of her soft skin beneath one of my fingers were her top had rode up as I did so.
'Alright, alright, I'm sorry!' She conceded between squeals and laughters and I backed off somewhat reluctantly.
We were both panting for breath and I had not doubt my cheeks were as flushed as hers but we were grinning too with pasta dripping down the sides of our faces.
Laughing we began to pull the pasta strands out of our hairs.
'Hey who won?' Louis piped up breaking my reviere; I had nearly forgotten the boys were there.
'What?' Arianna asked, confused.
'The game? Who won?' Louis asked exasperatedly.
'Oh yeah Zayn' Arianna said smiling and pulling more pasta from within her hair as I mimicked her.
'Yes! Zayn exclaimed punching the air and dancing around.
'Hold on' said Niall.
'How do you know that's Zayn piece? I think it's mine!' He said pointing to the piece of pasta that still clung to the wall.
'Fair point' I put in. How did we know it was Zayns?
'Aww don't be sore losers guys' Zayn teased grinning.
'Because I was watching' Arianna supplied 'And I promise it was Zayns' she said with a smile I wasn't quite sure I believed.
'Until next time Malik' I said through narrowed eyes.
'Bring it on Styles' he replied.
Eventually we were sat at the table with steaming bowls of pasta and meatballs in front of us, all smiling and joking.
My hair was still sopping wet from the pasta and I couldn't wait to wash it but the fight had been fun and I couldn't quite forget the feel of Arianna's hips bucking against me and the slither of her naked skin that I had felt.
These were dangerous thoughts.
Despite my confident demeanour and playboy media portrayal the fact of the matter was that I didn't really date much. I was always conscious that women wanted me for the fame and not for the real me which made it difficult.
Yes, like any guy my age I loved women and I was notoriously the most flirtatious of the group although I was unaware I was doing it most of the time. So I had kissed and fooled around a little, not nearly as much as I was made out to have but I hadn't been in love, I was too guarded for that.
The women that were in my life therefore I was especially close to and particularly protective of. Arianna was going to be living with us for the next year, to have any involvement with her would be madness and it would be unfair on all of us. I had to remember that.
Besides, Arianna was one of the few women I had met who seemed totally uninterested in me, in fact my natural flirtation had actually seemed to unsettle her.
After dinner we all helped to clear up the mess we had made of the kitchen while Zayn insisted on sitting at the table with his arms folded, watching us with a grin as big as the Chesire Cats.
I then ran upstairs alongside Arianna to wash up before Gene arrived for our vocal session.
By the time I got back downstairs he had already arrived and was sitting around the kitchen table with the rest of the boys, mugs of tea in front of them all.
I felt a rush of excitement course through me, this was so important to our job that it made me itch to want to get started. As I was pouring myself a cup of tea Arianna entered, pulling her damp hair into a plait across her shoulder and so I poured her a cup too.
'Thanks' she said, smiling as I handed her the cup.
'No problem. I like your top' I said pointing at the yellow pikachu midi top she was wearing. It left from just above her belly button down bare, exposing her flat stomach and she had paired it with leggings and white calve length knitted socks. It was a casual outfit but it gave me a lump in my throat as it hugged her figure. Her top was pretty funky, I knew Zayn would appreciate it too.
'Thanks' she said again as she went to greet her uncle.
I watched as she went over, leant down and hugged him from behind.
He turned at her touch and smiled gently at her, I could see him speaking to her softly but I couldn't make out what he was saying.
As I took a seat beside Niall Aria finished her conversation and sat down beside Gene.
'Hey cool tee Arianna' Zayn said as if on cue and I couldn't help but smile. I forgot how much we knew about each other some times.
'Ok guys' Gene started.
'It's good to finally get speaking to you properly, I know it's all been a bit mad but I get the feeling that's the way the rest of the year is going to be' he smiled as we laughed in agreement.
'Before we get rehearsing I just want to chat to you about what you want, give me a general overview of your strengths and your weaknesses individually and as a band and what your performance styles are. That way we know where we're working from and where we want to go' he said as we nodded in agreement. That seemed the most efficient way to go about getting started.
'Ok Liam let's start with you' Gene said.
'Give me a general overview, guys the rest of you chip in' he said with a smile pulling out a notebook and a pen and taking a slurp of his tea.
It was then that I noticed Arianna had a pen and notebook too.
'Ok em well I sing a lot of the lower ranges of our songs although I do sing in falsetto too' Liam began.
'I'd say my biggest weakness is projecting and moving at the same time, I can project ok but I find it a lot harder when I'm moving' he said.
He was being ridiculously modest, Liam was a very powerful singer, clearly I wasn't the only one who thought this as in a rush all the boys started adding to his strengths.
Somehow we managed to race through coherent descriptions of the rest of the boys vocal and performance qualities and then it was my turn.
'Ok weaknesses, my range, I mean it's quite good but I can't get anywhere near the falsettos of Liam or Zayn, I'm ok with that but I just don't want it to shorten anymore and I think I need to strengthen the tenor I do sing, I want to push myself further' I explained honestly.
'Em strengths, well I do project well and I think my voice is quite strong in many areas so yeah...' I trailed off.
'Aww come on Harry man you have way more strengths than that' interjected Zayn.
'Ok well like what guys?' Asked Gene of the other boys.
'Well your voice is really good mate, there's like a gruffness to your voice that the rest of us don't have' said Liam as I smiled in thanks.
'Yeah but it's more than that' said Zayn to Gene and the table at large 'Harry's got the most charm it's almost like when he sings the fans think he's singing to each of them alone' he said as the rest of the guys nodded and I blushed.
'Zayn has the high voice edge and he's mysterious, Liam is the powerful singer with the serious kind of side, I'm the joker and I can sing pretty high, Niall is the funny, cute one who can sing and play the guitar' said Louis summing us up well before pausing.
'But Harry's different, he's got a rough edge to his voice and he sings very well but there's something else, he's more confident or something...' He explained tailing off with a frown as I became intensely interested in the table top.
'Harry was born to do this' said Niall with his usual bluntness, making my heart stop and my head snap up 'He's the perfect popstar' he concluded and the rest of the guys echoed with yeahs.
I was really touched, I had never heard us talk about one another so frankly despite the amount of time we had spent together. I never knew that this was the way the guys felt about me or my ability.
'Thanks guys' I said quietly before continuing 'But Louis just summed it up perfectly there Gene, we each bring something different to this band, that's why it works, if there was any one of us missing we wouldn't be here today. It's literally a group effort' I said with a smile as the guys agreed and slapped each other on the backs in acknowledgement of what had felt like a little counselling session.
'I can see that Harry' Gene ackowledged with a smile.
'It was good to hear from all of you guys, thanks, now I know what each of you think about yourselves and each other I've got an idea what needs to be worked on and emphasised on. It's going to take hard work but from what I hear you aren't afraid of that which means this tour and this album are going to be amazing. On that note lets get started' he enthused.
'Yeah let's go' Niall cried jumping up from his seat.
'Whoo!' Said Louis following suit and launching himself on Niall's back.
Niall caught his legs and carried him piggy back style down to the rehearsal studio.
I noticed that neither Gene nor Arianna said anything, nor did they follow closely behind Niall in case he dropped Louis. This was common practice for anyone around us as they were petrified we would hurt one another or ourselves. It was refreshing not to be minded.
When we went through the creepy doors Gene turned for the dance studio and we followed. When we got in Arianna pointed into the corner of the room to the sofa.
'Niall' she said by explanation and as Niall galloped over to the sofa and dumped Louis unceremoniously upon it I realised that she was actually looking out for our safety, it just wasn't in a patronising, hovering manner.
'Ok' called Gene 'Come here' he said pointing to the middle of the large room so we were standing in front of him and in front of the mirrored wall.
'Right' Gene said as Arianna stood alongside him and I could hear the difference in his tone; this was work time.
'From what I've seen today and what I've heard from you all this evening it's clear we have one main problem'.
There was deathly silence from all of us when he said this.
'The O2 is a massive stage and a massive arena and so are most of the ones you are going to be performing on' he started by way of explanation as we hung on his every word.
'It's clear from today that your performances involve a lot of running around and dancing on these huge stages which means you're often out of breath and you subsequently aren't projecting well enough. Therein lies the problem; your breathing' he said and we nodded, everything he was saying was making sense.
We may be young, excitable and reasonably fit but without exemption we all came off stage at the end of our performances dripping in sweat and struggling for breath. We wouldn't have our concerts any other way, they were fun and they reflect our personalities but it did put extra pressure on our voices.
'From what I've seen so far you aren't breathing properly, a lot of your sound is coming from the back of your throats which is much more strenuous and tiring and harder to maintain when running around. You need to be singing from your diaphragm, that takes practice and training' he explained as we listened.
'Right the best way to explain this is to practice and to look which is why we're here' he said pointing to the mirrors.
'Tops off' he said and I started at this rapid change of events.
With a smile I whipped of my white t-shirt so I was dressed only in jeans as the rest of the boys did the same.
'Come closer to the mirror' Gene said as he made his way over to the piano.
'Now put your hands on your waist' he instructed as we followed somewhat bemusedly.
'Ok I'm going to give you a note and I want you all to sing your parts of the first verse of 'That's What Makes You Beautiful' and as you do so I want you all to keep your hands on your waists and look in the mirror at the way each of your stomach moves, try and be aware of how you are throwing your voices too' he said as we nodded.
He hit the key and we each hummed our note until we were sure we had got it. We nodded when we were ready and he counted us in.
As I sang I did as Gene said but I could neither feel nor see my stomach move and as I sneaked a glance at the rest of the boys torsos I saw there's wasn't either. I did however notice what he said about the key force of my voice coming from the back of my throat.
'Well?' Asked Gene as we finished the verse 'What did you realise?' He asked.
'You're right about a lot of the power coming from our throats' I supplied.
'Yeah' echoed Zayn.
'But I didn't feel or see my stomach moving' he added and we all nodded.
'Exactly' said Gene 'That's why I wanted you all to sing first so you could see yourselves that you weren't singing from the proper place. You're stomach should be moving but like I said it takes training and hard work to get it right. The singers who have the best form of singing tend to be classical singers who have trained from a young age so they can hit and hold particularly difficult notes' he explained.
'How should our stomachs be moving?' Liam asked 'I mean how do we get good at it?'
'I'm going to show you what to do to make you good at it, the exercises are simple enough, it's just about pratique and repetition and you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. First though you need to see how it should look and whilst I'm good Arianna here is an expert' Gene said as Arianna blushed.
'An expert?' Enquired Niall.
Gene nodded 'Yes, Arianna is classically trained so maybe if you ask nicely she'll sing for you to demonstrate' he said with a smile as we gawked at her.
She could see opera? This I wanted to hear.
'Please Aria?' I asked as the rest of the guys pleaded too.
She seemed hesitant and it took some persuasion but finally;
'Ok' she nodded a blush still on her cheeks as we smiled.
'What are you going to sing?' Gene asked Arianna.
'Un moto di gioa' she rhymed off in a fluent, confident tone that left me a little short for breath.
'My exam piece' she clarified to Gene who nodded.
'I haven't heard it before' he said pondering.
Arianna nodded as if in response and asked Gene to key a note for her on the piano. He did so and she hummed it then nodded again. She seemed nervous, nearly miles away from us already.
'Ok guys I want you to watch Arianna's stomach and her chest, notice her breathing and where she is projecting from, also notice how long she holds certain notes' he advised and we nodded.
I could tell the rest of the boys were as intrigued to hear Arianna sing as I was. I hadn't heard much classical music and I had definitely not heard any singing first hand.
We all trained our eyes on Arianna who had taken a deep breath and closed her eyes.
Then she began to sing and the world around me stopped.
She was absolutely breathtaking.
The notes she was voicing were absolutely astounding and yet she seemed to do it with such ease, the foreign language in which she singing only adding to the grandeur of it.
I pulled my eyes away from her face to look at her chest which rose both slowly and quickly in determined control as she sang. I then looked at her flat stomach which was gently inhaling and expanding with regularity despite the mind boggling variation in her notes.
Finally my eyes found my way back to her face which looked nearly blissful as she sang and I couldn't take my eyes off her.
Eventually she lifted her lids and we locked eyes as she sang the last line.
I was speechless, my heart racing as we looked at one another.
Gene sped through the remained of the rehearsals by coaching the boys in breathing exercises they were to practice every day. I was surprised at their level of concentration and their thoughtful expressions, it was by far the most attentitive I had seen them so far but it made me realise just how serious they took their music.
When Gene had finished I walked him out as the boys made for the Xbox in the living room.
'How are you getting on Arianna?' He asked.
'I feel bad for just abandoning you with all this, your mother is likely to kill me but I thought it was too good an opportunity for you to miss' he said and I could tell he was genuinely concerned that he had burdened me with too much.
'I'm fine Gene' I assured him 'Better than fine, it has all been a bit hectic so far but I'm beginning to get the hang of it now' I said with a smile.
'That's my girl' he said and I felt proud at the words.
'And living with them?' He enquired 'How's that working out? I know they're all very hyper but them seem like nice guys' he said as I nodded.
'Yeah living with them is good' I started 'I mean' I clarified hastily 'There's just no way I could see this job working if I weren't living with them'.
Gene smiled again and by it I knew that he had picked up on my haste to assure him I was being totally professional.
I pushed the guilty thoughts of Harry and I in his bed away.
'That's good' he said 'I know it wasn't meant to be this way but I think you're better here Arianna with people your own age as opposed to trailing after dusty old me' he laughed.
'Gene you are definitely not dusty' I replied giggling.
'As long as your happy lovely?' He asked serious again, his eyes catching mine.
I hated this.
Hated the fact that I had caused my family so much worry that they now constantly fussed over my happiness.
I leant in and hugged Gene as we reached the door.
'I am very happy' I assured him 'Thanks again for bringing me along' I said with a final squeeze as the car pulled up at the door.
'My pleasure. Good night lovely, I'll see you soon I'm sure but you know where I am if you need me' he said exiting.
It was only as I stood in the doorway waving goodbye to him that it occurred to me just how happy I had been here the last couple of days and how this place had already begun to feel like home.
With that thought I grabbed my bag from the kitchen and went to join the boys in the living room. They looked up only briefly as I entered, engrossed in their violently competitive football game. I made my way over to the main sofa on which they had sprawled, lifted Niall's legs up, slid underneath them and set them back down across my lap. He barely even blinked as I did this and by now I wasn't surprised, it was clear by this stage that these guys were openly affectionate and unconcerned as to their bodies.
I pulled my pen and notebook out of my bag and one of the chains from around my neck, using the key to unlock the book before replacing it.
None of the boys were close enough or cared enough to look at what I was writing so contentedly I propped the notebook up against Niall's shins and started to try and put my last couple of days in written form.
I was unsure of how long this took but when I raised my neck and looked at the time I was shocked to see it was already 11pm. I needed to ring my Mum before it got any later and by this stage I was exhausted and so I stretched and started to nudge Niall's legs off my own.
'I'm away to bed here guys, I'm wrecked' I stated to the room at large.
In response Niall held out his arms for a hug and smiling I leant down and embraced him lightly feeling him plant a featherlight kiss on my forehead;
'Night lass' he said with a smile I couldn't help but return.
Before I knew it I was hugging all of them goodnight, suprised that they actually paused the game to do so.
Harry was last and as of earlier he kissed me gently on the cheek before he said softly;
'Night Aria' in a tone that made goosebumps emerge on my arms.
I skipped up the stairs in an inexplicable good mood. Call me crazy but I was beginning to feel like a belonged here, I felt free too which was a feeling I hadn't been well used to.
My Mum had stayed up for my phone call and as I told her of all the dramatic events of the last couple of days she oohed and ahhed until I felt like a celebrity being fawned over.
It felt good though to finally share all of my excitement and fears with someone, the last few days had been a roller coaster after all.
Of course there was one particular fact I left out but it was barely worth mentioning anyway.
My Mum ended the call with her usual recitals of love in Italian and Irish reminding me that there was a certain letter I had yet to face.
I scrubbed my makeup off and brushed my teeth before untying my plait and pulling an oversized t-shirt on. With this I sat on my bed crossed legged, took the key from my neck once more, opened the notebook and pulled out the envelope addressed.
Mo iníon àlainn
I sighed at the sight of his familar hand 'My beautiful daughter'. Taking a deep breath I opened the envelope and pulled out the letter.
Arianna, mo iníon àlainn
Congratulations! You've moved out and taken your first big step into the real world.
As I write this you're lying in your cot not three feet from me and so the concept of you out there in the world is a hard one for me to grasp.
I don't know what age you are as you sit reading this or what the circumstances of you leaving home are. You could be 40 odd and only moving next door but somehow I do not think that is you. That is not the life the determined little child so close to me is destined to live.
No, Arianna I imagine that as you read this you are still young, probably still only a teenager and I imagine that you've moved quite some distance from home, perhaps to a different county. You may only be small but you are a determined and explorative little thing already.
All the same I would say that you are probably frightened. Leaving home is a big move and the world seems a very scary place all of a sudden.
You have no reason to fear, the world is a wonderful place, you just have to remember to focus on the positives it brings, not the negatives. Remember to be brave Arianna and to grab life with both hands, I off all people know the meaning of that.
But Arianna I have no regrets in my life, I made daring choices, some others called stupid and reckless but look what they brought me? The chance to see the world and then to meet your mother, the woman of my dreams and, as if it couldn't get any better we got to bring you into this world. What others termed as mistake after mistake came only as joy after joy for me. I may be a very sick man as I sit here Arianna but I am a man fulfilled, there are few in this world who get to experience the happiness I have felt and so I feel truly blessed.
My only grievance is that I have to leave you and your mother, it is selfish I know for I have been so lucky but I love you both so much the thought of existing without you brings me untold pain.
But this letter is not about me Arianna, it is about you and your first brave steps from the nest. I wish I could be there to hug you as you leave for your adventure but I am with you no matter where you go. Please do me a favour and remember to look after your mother for me. I know that your leaving will be all the more difficult for her as I will not be there either. But your mother is a woman of unwavering strength, the pillar of this family and I know she will send you off with joy and hope in her heart.
Just be young Arianna, be free and be wreckless. Live and laugh and love like there is no tomorrow because you never know when your time comes to leave this earth. Take this time to find out the person you are, travel the world, sleep under the stars, talk to people you would never normally meet, eat strange food and embrace other cultures. Take the time to appreciate the beauty of this world and the people in it before the time comes to grow up and then to leave.
I will be there through it all watching you and caring for you, when things are good and bad you have me and your mother to turn to. No matter what we will love you.
I am so proud of you Arianna, just this morning when you tried to pull yourself up onto your feet and succeeded for five seconds I thought my heart could burst from pride and love. And yet I know that as you read this you will have achieved much more since then, you will be a young woman and I will still be a father bursting with pride and love for all you have achieved.
There are no words yet created by man to explain my love for your mother and for you. You are my legacy Arianna, a testimony to the fact that where there is love between two people like your mother and I only joy and beauty can come from it. Fight for what you love Arianna, no matter how scary the world might seem remember to be the fiery, brave girl because it will be worth it.
I'm watching over you Arianna always and forever.
Is breá liom tú go deo mo iníon álainn
There it was in his own writing, in his own language 'I love you forever my beautiful daughter, Daddy'.
The same words as my mothers, two souls so similar that their thoughts paralleled one another even beyond the grave.
My father, my Daddy, the one torn from my life before I had the chance to have any memories of him.
I loved his letters, those he had penned for every event in my life he could forsee but they brought sadness into my heart too. Sometimes life was a just so unfair. I didn't know you could miss someone you didn't remember but I missed him all the time.
Sobbing I folded the letter away quickly and burrowed myself under the blankets.
Hours later however and sleep had still not found me.
I lay twisted in my sheets, my body covered in a fine film of cold sweat and my throat dry from my crying.
Sighing and pushing myself upright I decided on a glass of water before I would resume my battle for sleep.
The house was deathly quiet as I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen where I filled a glass with tap water before gulping it down.
I felt inexplicably lonely and just so heart wrenchingly sad as I stood pathetically looking into the sink. Perhaps if I watched some tv it would make me tired enough to get some sleep and so I dragged myself out of the kitchen and into the living room.
I flicked the light on and immediately nearly had a heart attack.
There was a face only inches from my own and I nearly tripped over my own feet as I backed away in alarm, my chest heaving as my breath came in short breaths.
'Wow, wow Aria it's just me' said the guy also backing away from me in alarm as I tried to catch my breath whilst refusing to look at the him again.
'It's Harry' he said and I started, I could have sworn it was him.
'Harry?' I breathed chancing a glance at him.
'Yeah just Harry' he clarified in a pacifying tone and as my panic began to fade I noted the brown curls that framed the angelic face.
It was just Harry. I began to breathe deeply as I tried to regain my composure.
'Are you ok?' He asked looking at me in concern.
'Yes, I'm fine, sorry, you just gave me a fright' I tried to explain with a weak chuckle as I took a seat on the sofa, my legs shaking.
He also took a seat a little away from me and I couldn't help but notice he wore only fitted black Calvin Klein boxers.
'Sorry' he said with a smile.
'What are you doing up?' I asked trying to change the topic of conversation. It was past 3am by now.
'I eh, couldn't sleep' he murmured and it occurred to me that he might actually have been telling the truth last night when he said he didn't sleep well alone.
I nodded mutely in response.
'What about you?' He asked breaking my reviere 'Why are you up?'
'I eh came to get a glass of water' I supplied hoping he wouldn't wonder why I had then come into the living room. I didn't need for him to know that I too was struggling with sleep.
'Oh ok' was all he replied before a silence fell between us.
After a while I stood shakily to my feet again.
'Well I'm away back to bed' I said into the awkward quietness.
'Good night Harry' I finished making for the door.
'Night Aria' he replied giving me goosebumps once again. I couldn't help but notice that by this stage he had completely abandoned use of my full name, for some strange reason I didn't mind, in fact, I quite liked it.
Just as my hand reached for the door handle and my thoughts turned to returning to my damp bed with twisted sheets and tortured thoughts I paused and turned.
'Harry' I said.
He looked up at me from where he was sitting 'Yeah?' He asked.
'Would you do me a favour please?' I asked quietly.
'Sure, what?' He answered easily.
'Give me a hug' I replied in a voice barely above a whisper as I stared at the ground.
It was pathetic really but I just needed some sort of comfort. I has no doubt that in time I would see and appreciate the wisdom of my fathers letter, like all his previous ones but right now I just felt weary and so bitterly sad.
The next thing I knew I felt Harry's arms around me and I leant into him gratefully, my hands curled up against his chest, beside his bird tattoos, my head tucked into his shoulder, just at his jaw line.
For a moment I just let go and I relaxed into his strong hold as one of his hands combed through my hair. This was exactly what I needed, just someone to remind me there was an end to this night, to remind me that I wasn't alone.
'Aria' I felt him whisper against my hair.
I titled my head a little up toward him so he knew I was listening.
'Sleep with me tonight?' He voiced and I knew that despite the connotations others might take from it that Harry meant just what he had said. He was asking for a repeat of last night and right now I couldn't think of anything better, I was just grateful for his hold which came question free.
I pulled away and nodded at him as we locked eyes.
He smiled gently at me and then led me by the hand up the stairs.
I led Aria up the stairs silently, alarmed and worried as to her behaviour.
I might not have known her long but in that time Aria had come across as a strong, feisty young woman.
At present though she presented as timid, frightened and passive and it worried me. She had nearly had a heart attack when she had turned on the light just as I had turned it off to leave the room. She had jumped about a foot away from me and had refused to look at me for a number of minutes. I had noticed how utterly terrified she was and I couldn't help but think it wasn't just synonymous with my appearance giving her a momentary fright.
I had only managed to calm her by backing away and assuring her that it was me, Harry in the room. I couldn't help but remember that she had had a similar reaction when she awoke on my chest the previous night.
Despite this odd behaviour I was still totally surprised when she asked me for a hug; this was definitely not something I would have imagined her asking and it reiterated to me that something was wrong with her tonight.
This was confirmed when I hugged her and she fell into my chest, curling up against me with her hands at my chest. Something was definitely up but I didn't know her well enough to ask and besides, I was struck with the impression that she didn't want so speak of it anyway; she just sought comfort.
I had been nervous when I asked her to sleep with me again, aware that it would be the second night in a row and conscious in case she thought I had ulterior motives. I didn't however, I had been truthful when I told her I spelt poorly without company. Most nights I only managed about four hours sleep but for some bizarre reason I slept better when someone lay beside me. It was something I had never been able to figure out.
To my relief however Aria had nodded in agreement and it occurred to me that perhaps she too slept better with company. Or perhaps it was just tonight that she needed comfort, either way I was glad of her agreement and so led her meekly back up stairs.
I crawled into my bed and as of last night she got in beside me.