Lena giggled as Louis pushed open the door, wiggling his eyebrows at her. So far, the night had been unconventional, yet lovely. She felt as though she could trust him.
Just twelve, no eleven days, it's nearly twelve, she reminded herself. Don't get attached. Her inner-self warred. You deserve some fun. Why not sleep with him? It's not like everyone gets this chance.
Because I'm not ready, she answered her own question. Because I want more than just fun when it comes to a real relationship. And you can't have a real relationship with someone you've only just met.
Or could you? She didn't know how else to explain the sudden onslaught of feelings and emotions she felt for him. But she pushed all the confusion aside as she stepped inside.
"Wow..." she said, entering. "Is this mahogany? And real crystal chandeliers?"
"Yes, how did you know?" answered Louis, amused. "I'm going to go grab some champagne, I'll be back in a moment."
"My parents used to be in on that sort of thing. Decor. My mom was an interior designer. I guess she taught me a lot. Actually, we used to live in a house a lot like this," she called out to him as he disappeared into the blackened doorway.
She paused, lost in thought.
"Of course, I'd be ashamed to show you where we live now."
"Why?" called Louis. "I'm sure you make it lovely."
"Well, it's not exactly in the nicest neighborhood," admitted Lena as she stepped into the family room. There, on the couch was a teenager texting on her phone silently.
"Oh! Hello," said Lena, surprised.
"What?" called Louis.
"You have another guest," replied Lena.
The teenager smiled, mouth only.
"Hey, are you a cocksucker like the last one?"
"What?" Lena was shocked by the caustic tone.
"You heard me. Hey, Louis am I interrupting your make-out session?" she called sarcastically.
"What the hell- Lottie?" said Louis, stepping into the room, hands full with a bottle of champagne and two flutes. "What on earth are you doing here?"
"I ran away again. Oops," shrugged Lottie. "Seriously, bro, just because you got out of hell doesn't mean we all did."
"I- I'm going to go to the bathroom," mentioned Lena.
"Uh, thanks," mumbled Louis, setting down the glassware. "Just a moment, I promise you."
"Where is it?"
"On the left."
She shut the door and sat on top of the toilet lid and tried not to eavesdrop too much, but she couldn't help it.
"Lottie, you HAVE to go home, I'm sure Mum is worried sick right now!"
"I don't want to go back! She's making us call him Dad! He's not Dad and he never will be! She divorced Dad!"
"Lottie, to me you know our Dad will always be Dad to us, but you know she loves him."
"She's so irresponsible!"
"No, she's being responsible. Trust me, you don't want her to be stuck in a loveless marriage and miserable. Think of how it could affect the younger ones. Remember how much they were fighting by the end?"
"Then why even get married in the first place?"
She could hear Louis sigh.
"I don't know. Maybe she loved Dad but not anymore. That's life, Lottie, I don't know what to say."
The high pitched, bitter tones of laughter rang out across the room.
"Hah! Is that why Eleanor cheated on you? Because she just somehow fell out of love with you? Or did you believe her stupid lie that one of your fans attacked her? And what makes you think this new girl won't pull the same kind of shit that she did?"
Silence. Then, calmly, Louis spoke. Lena had to strain her ears to hear his words.
"Lena's different, Lottie, and I'd prefer it if you didn't talk about her like that." He paused. "You're upset with Mum, not me. Please, talk with her. She's not evil like you keep saying she is. She's just not perfect and you're being too harsh on her. That's something I've realized as I've gotten older and I think you're realizing it too now. Just because you're older doesn't mean you have it figured out. Most of us grown ups don't have it figured out at all. Now, I'm going to call Mum and have her pick you up."
More silence. Then she heard Lottie say begrudgingly,
"She's going to yell at you again for staying out this late. I'll tell her I invited you over to meet my new girlfriend."
"What's so special about her anyway?" asked Lottie cynically. "She's not exactly a looker like Eleanor was."
No. I might not have beauty, thought Lena fiercely, but I have brains. I got into one of the toughest schools in the USA, even though I couldn't graduate from it. And I'm not stupid or selfish enough to cheat on my significant other. The comment stung at her confidence though. She looked at her arms, thin and bony. She had filled out a little from eating more over the past few days, but she still looked too thin for her frame. Her hair was dull and brittle from lack of nutrients. She wasn't ugly but she wasn't pretty either.
"She's kind, Lottie. Kind and smart, way smarter than me. I love seeing the way her eyes light up, and when she laughs it comes from the heart. She's genuine. And she's beautiful in her own way."
She cried silently at that. She couldn't help herself. Big fat tears rolled down her face. He barely knew her and he was saying such nice things about her. Would he still say those things about the Lena that fought with her parents, the Lena that argued, the Lena that broke down over Sarah's tantrums?
She didn't know. She just felt guilty. He's already fallen for me and yet I can't bring myself to take the plunge too, not entirely. He's up to his eyes in it and I'm only up to my waist. One tug from him is all it will take, but is it what I'm looking for? Can he really offer me the stability that both Sarah and I need? Or is it just fun and games?
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.
"Lena? Are you ok?"
"I'm fine," she called out, quickly wiping her eyes again. She usually never cried so easily, but the entire day she'd just been a ball of emotions.
"I'm so sorry, Lena. Lottie's gone now, I told my chauffeur to drive her back because my mum's busy and our night's been interrupted too much as is. Can I get you that drink now, love?"
She opened the door, and his face looked miserable.
"Sure," she said, and out of nowhere hugged him.
"I'm so incredibly sorry," he repeated, whispering it.
"It's ok," she said smiling into shoulder. He was taller than her by just a little bit, but not enough that she had to stand on her tippy toes to hold him. "I know you wanted tonight to go differently, but it's ok. Life gets in the way. I can't say I haven't had a memorable first date."
"I've gone and ruined it," he said sadly. She shook him gently.
"No you haven't. I'm impressed with how you handled that with Lottie, with how you handled Sarah." She paused.
"I've never met anyone like you, Louis Tomlinson, and it scares me. You're kind and caring, and you're also a million dollar celebrity. Meanwhile, I'm just a girl who's fallen down to lower-class, barely making ends meet and trying to take care of her little sister. I mean, yeah I have an engineering degree-"
"And that's amazing," finished Louis. "You are amazing. School wasn't my strong suit. I failed. But you've succeeded in something I genuinely never could. And I respect that. You're a hard worker, Lena, and a smart one too. Don't put yourself down around me. Don't let my fancy status intimidate you."
She stopped, and smiled, a true one from the heart.
"How about that drink then?"