I walk down the stairs, a constant smile on my freckled face. I find my mother bent over, fighting to reach into the over-heated oven. She pulls out a black pan with her favorite gingerbread colored oven mitts, keeping her from getting a burn. On the pan sits a dozen or so chocolate chip cookies.
I open the white plasticy fridge and pull out one of the two milk cartons Harry and I had bought at Tesco. I jump up onto the counter and grab a Coffee cup. "What did he do to you?" My mother says, straightening her back, placing the pan on the oven. She pulls off her mitts and walks over to the dinner table, grabbing the table salt, then returning to my side.
"What do you what did he do to me?" I ask, emphasizing the word he. She rolls her eyes and waves her hand in the air between us, leaning her weight on the counter with the support of her scrapped elbows.
"You! You seem all happy and lovey dovey since, i guess, Harry had entered your life." She says, going back to her cookies, using a spatula to transfer them to a white china plate. I slide off the counter and pour the milk into the cup, downing it all at once. I lick my lips, erasing the milk mustache that seems to always appear right over my upper lip whenever I drink the creamy milk substance.
She walks over to me and pinches the tip of my nose, shaking her head in a teasing disapproving manner. I shake her off and sit at the wooden diner table on the other side of our small open kitchen. "I don't know what you're talking about mum. I don't care about Harry. We only met two days ago." I say, lying to both my mother and I. Just then, I hear thuds coming from the stairs. Bret comes running wearing only a white diaper to my mothers legs.
"There's no soap left mommy!" He says, pulling on the red Canada apron my mother wears over her neck that drapes past her knees.
"Brittany, can you go down to the cellar and grab some more soap? I left some in a paper bag down there." She says, rubbing at Bret's blonde hair, playing with the curly strands.
"Sure." I say, and grab Bret's tiny hand, taking him down the hall to the cellar's door. I lead the way down the cool room, switching on the faded light as we walk down the stairs. I quickly scan the boring room, in search of the paper bag. It's nestled on the corner of my mothers old oak desk, next to several untouched photo albums of both Bret and I when younger. I give the bag to Bret to hold and tell him to go up himself. He does as he is told, like usual, closing the door on his way out, stranding me alone in the chilling grey walled room. I take a hold of two large albums, covered in dust and sit down on my old blood red bean bag. I swipe my hand over the cover of the first, cleaning the muck off of its surface, opening it as it takes me back into my non-memorable past.
I flip through the sticky plastic sheets, looking at myself grow up in front of my very own eyes. The album's photos are organized so that the time line fits perfectly with them. Most of them are of me, with my father. Not many with my mother. The only one so far that I have seen with both mother and I, is of my birth. Her holding me in a towel, as I scream and she smiles. I hear the door creak open. I instinctively throw the albums away, and turn my head to see the visitor.
"Hey." His voice has lowered and some how sad? Harry's hands are tucked in his front pockets, forcing him to bend his elbows as he walks closer to my location, across the square room from where the door stay solitary. I jump up from the old bean filled chair and twirl one lose strand of hair with my finger, not knowing what to do. "Hi." I reply, looking down at the carpet floor. He keeps his distance, unlike his touchy self. "Hello." He says, looking down, as do I. "Is it true?" Harry's voice becomes unreadable, monotone and low. What is he talking about? Is he talking about my father's death?
"What are you talking about?" I ask, curiosity lingering on my tongue. Harry shake his head to its sides, staring down at his booted feet. "Never mind then." He plainly says, heading back up the stairs. "Wait!" I call to him, stopping him in his tracks. He turns his body towards mine, and takes cautious steps back to my side. I'm not entirely sure why I told him to wait. I do like his company, but I don't want him to know that. He looks at me, crossing his muscular arms, his star tattoo clear in view. I smile, figuring out what to say.
The female high pitched voice rams through the ceiling over our heads, telling us to come back up for dinner. Harry and I head up the creaking stairs, and to the kitchen.
Niall sits in his usual spot. There are 6 chairs around the table. 2 on either side of the length and one of the each width. Niall and I normally sit side-by-side, my mother and father sit on the widths, and Bret parallel to Niall or l, depending on his mood.
My mother has already set the table. Bret sits in my father's spot, playing with his fork and knife as if they are swords. I take a seat next to Niall and let him set a soft kiss on my cheek. Harry stands awkwardly in the hall, staring at Niall. "Take a seat wherever you may please." My mother smiles at him, placing Shepard's pie on the table, next to Bret and I. Harry looks across the table, staring darkly into my eyes. He had changed from his shy nice guy to his dark mysterious one. He takes a seat across from me, next to Bret. He doesn't stop his glaring as he fills his plate with food.
Dinner is awkward. The only conversation is a slow Mother-Harry one. I stay silent. "So what school do you go to?" My mother asks Harry, who is now staring at Niall. "Same as Niall and Brit." He says.
"That's great!" She says, looking at me, giving me a fake smile. I can tell she is a bit scared of him. Now that I think of it, she is faking a smile every few seconds, something she does often when she hosts. But it isn't just nerves. She is trying her best to cover her fear up and act normal. It completely flew over my head, but now that I am thinking about it, Harry, Niall, my father, it's clear.
"Seconds Harry?" She asks, taking a sip of her favorite Spanish red wine.
"Nah. Thanks though." He says, looking over to her, then back to me.
She nods, getting up and taking her plate to the counter. Harry gets off up his chair and takes mine as well as Bret's empty plate and places them in the sink. Niall rolls his eyes, and brings his to the sink. "I better get going it is getting pretty late." Harry says, giving me a hug and leaving the door. Niall takes my hand in his, leading me up to my room, with out a word, and closes the door behind us.
I sit on the edge of my hard bed, watching Niall as he paces back and forth, deep in thought. "Harry invited us to his party Friday." I tell him, making Ni stop from his actions, wiping his head up and glares at me.
"What do you mean, he invited us?" He says harshly.
"He invited us." I answer.
Niall shakes his head, showing an angered smile. "I can't believe you." I move closer up my bed to lean against the head board for support, knowing what is to come. "I can't believe any of this!" He flings his hands in the air, slamming his back into the door. I jump up, never seeing him this way. Niall is never violent or harsh. He is always calm and sweet. "Stop it will you!" I try to say calmly. "I don't want this okay! I don't want to fight, or to worry Bret or mother."
"Oh okay, so you're worried about your damn family, but not for me?" He gives me a glare that shoots goosebumps up my skin. I move closer, but still giving us enough space. "Don't." He says monotone. "Niall. Please cut it out will you? Please?" I rub his arm, but he jerks away. I back up, crossing my arms and feel my eyes starting to water up. He turns his glare away from my eyes to a picture of us that sits alone on my side table.
"Will you stop it! Why are you so angry?" I uncross my arms and take the picture off the small table, looking at the memory. His arm wraps around my shoulders as we smile for the camera in our skiing suits. My hair is in a side plait under the Canadian ski tuque Niall had bought for me when I noticed how cold it was on the top of Whistler.
"This is about Harry isn't it." I wipe my tears off my cheeks and place the photo back in it's original spot. "Am I not allowed to have other friends?" I ask, a bit louder than I had intended.
"Friends? You two seem like fucking lovers!" He screams, shoving me onto the bed, causing tears to ignite. He spins himself away, and back to the door. "You don't know him! We are nothing but friends Niall! Why can't you see that!" I scream back, causing him to punch the huge stuffed gorilla he had won for me at a fair we went to last summer.
"Why won't you see!? You're so fucking juvenile Brittany. I can see it clearly. You will fall hard for him and dump me. Or even damn worse, cheat. Then he will break your heart, the way I never could. I would never hurt you. You know tha-"
"You are." I cut him off. "You are hurting me." I lie. He looks surprised. His blue eyes widen and he opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. "I'm sorry for whatever I did. Or didn't do. I just don't want to loose you. I love you." I say, walking up to him, and rub his back. He doesn't flinch like the last time I tried to touch him, but he glares at me.
"Look Brittany." He walks away, sitting on my white wooden chair standing in the corner. "You don't love me." He says lightly. I open my mouth to tell him he's wrong but he puts up his hand to stop me. "You don't love me the way I wish you would. Could. You love me as a friend. Maybe more, but not enough." He looks up to me, for reassurance. I sigh, allowing his words to absorb. "I love you more than you will ever know. And that means, I will always love you." His Irish accent making the words soft. "I once read a saying. My mother had said it about my father before. 'If you truly love someone, you will let them free'." He gets up and walks over to my frozen body. He pulls my chin down and kisses the top of my head. Tears no longer run down my face. I don't feel sorrow. I don't really feel anything. I feel numb is what I feel.
"It's my time to set you free." He says, leaving me alone to sink.