"I met Lena Ioanneu and her sister Sarah Ioanneu ten days ago..."
He was speaking so smoothly, so clearly into the microphone. Her mouth felt dry, her hands clammy in his grasp under the table. He stopped and smiled at her. Shit, was it her turn already?
She spoke too close to the microphone and it squealed, making everyone in the room wince.
"Sorry." She cleared her throat. "Even though we've been t-together for only a short time," she spoke, squinting at the words on the paper, "we are very serious about our relationship and would like to ask for the full support from One D-Direction fans. As soon as I go home to the United States I will be obtaining a visa for residency in the UK and My sister and I will be moving in with Louis as soon as next month-"
She paused, and turned towards him.
"This isn't what we agreed on," she hissed, yanking her hand out of his.
Louis looked mortified. Glancing towards the now excitedly murmuring press and back at her, he muttered out of the corner of his mouth,
"I thought you read it on the way over and you were fine with it. Just say the lines. It's for image's sake."
Lena glared at him.
"I will not be a housewife for you, not now, and not ever," she said bitterly. "I'm not someone you can lock up and forget about. I've worked my ass off for the past three years, staying in school for my major instead of dropping out to support Sarah. Do you know how hard that was? I've got a job lined up for me. And what about Sarah? What if we broke up? Do you think she'd be fine switching schools to the UK? Or moving back to the USA? She's a human being, Louis, not someone I can drag around with me with my every whim and fancy. I'm responsible for her. I told you this already."
She turned back to the mic. In full fury, not thinking about the consequences, she announced,
"I will not be moving in with Louis Tomlinson, not next month, not ever. Originally we agreed that we would take it slow, but seeing as how he cares more about his image more than my career goals and the well-being of my little sister, I would like to regretfully inform you all that this relationship is over."
The press was now in full uproar, snapping photos, flash going off left and right. Louis simply stared at her dumbstruck. Good.
"Lena! Comment please! What is your career choice?"
"Engineering," said Lena into the mic as she stood up.
"Would you say that you are an example for women everywhere, choosing not to rely on a man for support?"
"What do you have to say to fans?"
"Lena, comment please!"
She did what any normal girl would do in the situation. She ran. Like a filthy coward, she ran, grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and burst open the room. Sarah was sitting on the bed, eating oreos and watching the live press release.
"You really messed that up," said Sarah solemnly, not turning towards her as Lena puffed in the doorframe. "You never even asked me if I would be ok with switching schools. The answer is of course I am."
"Forget it," said Lena. "I don't want to hear it, do you hear me? I AM DONE!" she screamed, collapsing into sobs.
She straightened up, wiping away her tears furiously.
"Here's the plan. We are going home tomorrow. If Louis stops by, don't let him in. It's over, Sarah. The vacation's over. We're going back to our hell-hole apartment tomorrow, and it's soup all over again, and I've got a job that starts Monday. After a month, we'll move somewhere nice."
"You're the boss," said Sarah emotionlessly.
"I'm going to go now, I'm sorry, I just need some alone time. You'll be fine here alone, right? Of course you are, you're a big girl."
She tossed some of her clothes into her bags.
"Can you start packing? Please?" Her voice cracked with the plea.
"Yeah," said Sarah wordlessly.
"Thank you." She wiped her eyes again and huffed. She went for a walk along the River Thames until she felt better. It was over. It was over.
She didn't feel better. She felt like she was being split in two. Like she'd torn her heart out of her chest. Still, she wasn't going to take him back. He had moved her too fast.
The feeling didn't fade in the evening. Someone knocked on the door and Sarah had answered it.
"It's Louis," she said gingerly, probably afraid of another meltdown from Lena. Their roles had reversed, thought Lena ironically.
"Tell him to go away."
"Lena says to go away," repeated Sarah diligently. She closed the door.
She dreamed of him all night and woke up crying silently, holding her pillow. God, is this what a normal break up felt like? Her breakups before had never felt this raw, this painful. She dried her tears and put on a stony mask to face the day. Any shred of emotion, she feared, would crumble her charade and bring her to tears, and Sarah didn't need that. She needed to be strong for Sarah.
The next day, he didn't show up at the airport either as he had planned to. Sarah took that as a sign that things were very well and truly over.
She unlocked their apartment and breathed in the familiar musty smell. Dust had settled on the countertops and kitchenette. It felt small, cramped. Everything felt wrong, and she couldn't shake the feeling. Even Sarah seemed lethargic, unlike her normal energetic self. She spent all day on the computer instead of playing with the kids in the apartment block like she normally did on summer break.
And on Monday, when she showed up at the office for work, she did what was told of her, fiddling with the CAD program to make some mock up models, taking notes from the clients about the bridge the firm had won a contract for, fetching coffees for her superiors and her new co-workers took her out for lunch but she couldn't do more than nibble at it. She felt physically ill, like she'd made a terrible decision. But her sister came first. She was making the right decision, she tried to convince herself, but deep down it just all felt wrong.