O N E
Harry was at a peculiar point in his life where he wasn't quite sure whether he was happy or simply playing the part. He didn't know when this thought had quite started, but it had. He just didn't think it could possibly be that simple...you know...that you could wish yourself happy and it would magically occur. He was truly stuck in a hellish purgatory in which he had to question whether said smile was only a reflex or if he truly meant it.
This particular morning, he sits at his wooden kitchen table, reading a book. The book in question was not just any book, it was Bukowski. But it wasn't just any Bukowski novel either, it was You Get So Alone At Times That it Just Makes Sense. Yes, in this case he had judged a book by its cover, or rather it's title. But, when he had found it in the bookstore, in that utterly pretentious bookstore, it was a day in which he needed some validation. The night before he had gotten into a row with his flatmate about not wanting to play the field. To his flatmate, being single was not an option. It was unhealthy. But to Harry... it just seemed right. It made sense. And Bukowski got that. He got him. In the matter of one fucking sentence, he got him.
Of course at first he used the book as a rouse. Yes, he played the "I'm an intellectual" card. But, when you get to a point in your life where you're working at a bakery, you've just quit uni, and all of your friends are well on their way to becoming bloody prime minister or world renowned surgeons, you tend to need validation.
This book was perfect in the sense that he could sit at the cafe he liked to go to for his morning cuppa tea, crack open the novel, and watch the people around him. Women would nod in silent adoration. Men would smirk, knowing it was a ploy. And uni aged people like him would stop to ask him what he had thought of the book, or even if he had read any of Bukowski’s works. It pleased Harry to show people that he was a literati. Or at least...that he looked like one.
Not to say that he didn't enjoy a good book. He did. In fact, this one...this one really spoke to him. But, alas, he’s more of a writer than a reader, he preferred to see his own words on a page that someone else’s and as narcissistic as that may be, he thought it anyways. But, that sentiment alone does not impress people as much as waving around Shakespeare or Thoreau, or whatever the bloody hell people think is "fine literature". But Bukowski, he and Harry are on par.
"Again with that rubbish?" Harry’s flatmate mumbles as his feet slide across the wooden floor to get to the fridge.
"It's not rubbish." Harry replies without looking up from the book of poetry. "What time did you get in last night, mate?"
"Niall, don't you have work?"
Niall looks up at him sleepily, scratching his blonde head and drinking straight from the carton, "Is that what I had to do today?"
"Go get ready, Niall."
Niall turns around, carton still in hand and starts to slide towards the staircase. Harry reminds him that he doesn't need the orange juice to put on some pants by simply saying, "Carton." And watches as the blonde Irishman slides back to the fridge, yawns, and places the carton back into it.
Harry smirks to myself as looks back at his book and flips the page to continue reading.
“Lighting new cigarettes, pouring more drinks. It has been a beautiful fight. Still is."
He could only think of how fitting the poem was for Niall. What a life his flatmate lives, filled with tipsy one night stands and pubs with strangers that screamed his name whenever he walked in. Cigarette smoke and whisky flavored kisses. He could never see himself leading a life like Niall's, but how fitting that life was for him. It truly was.
And that's when the curly haired young man feels a smile come on. But, again, he had the constant pang of “Is it a real one or not?”
If only life were as simple as it was for Niall. Then, perhaps, he too could live in a drunken bliss for the rest of his life.
"Fuck! I'm late!" Niall says running again through the kitchen and to the front door.
Then again, maybe it wasn't all as blissful as it seemed.
"It's half past eight." Harry mutters.
"I know.” Niall grabs his knapsack off the floor and opens it to look through it. “Oh, Mia's coming over tonight."
"The fit one? Amelia?"
"Oh." Harry replies trying to play it cool, but he has no idea who he's talking about.
"She's making dinner. Lost a bet she did." He says grabbing his ray bans and perching them upon his nose.
"She fancies you, you know."
Harry puts down his book and looks at Niall with a very unconvinced glare, "I don't even remember what she looks like."
"She was at the pub I took you to a few months back."
"I don't remember." he states brushing him off and reopening his book.
"You probably had your fucking nose in a book that night too."
"I thought you were late."
"Ah, fuck." Niall looks at his wristwatch and winces, "See you tonight. Send my regards to Barbra."
Harry puts down his book as soon as he hears the front door shut. He walks over the closet and pull out his cross body leather bag. He realizes he should be going as well. Of course, he grabs his coveted book and traces his finger along the cover of the book, pondering if being alone was really that bad before letting it fall into his bag.
In Holmes Chapel, England, in the W Mandeville Bakery, Harry found himself more at home than anywhere else in the entirety of his life. Whether it was the smell of the freshly baked loaves, or the lovely older women who doted on him as if he were their own, he found himself happier than he could ever be anywhere else. And that, that made his loneliness subside for at least eight hours a day.
"Hello Barbra. How are you this beautiful morning?" He say as he enters the warm and inviting bakery.
The older white haired woman looks at him with pure adoration, looking up from the new display case she was putting together, and says, "Good morning Harry my dear."
"Niall was late to work again this morning. Sends his regards though."
"Oh, what are we going to do with that boy?" She says, leaning back towards the hooks on the side of the wall and reaching for his apron to throw to him.
"He'll work it out. He always does." Harry replies, catching the apron and putting it on. As far as uniforms went, he’d never felt one more fitting than this one. "Should I pull the loaves out?"
"Yes, dear. They should be done by now."
Harry makes his way to the back of the bakery, the smell of freshly baked goods enveloping him as he walks towards the oven. To him, there was nothing that smelled better than the loaves of bread he got the honor of pulling out every morning. This, he knew for sure, had to be true happiness.
The fact that bread made him happy was a tad worrisome to him. He knew that he needed human interaction, other than Niall and Barbara, that he needed to build a relationship that would bring him that sense of fulfillment and happiness that his mother and stepfather had. A relationship that would force him to bring out the best in himself. But then he doesn’t believe that a woman should be the one to bring out the best in himself, it should be of his own will. It should be because he wanted to be the best version of himself possible. But then, wouldn’t the person who loved him help him reach his full potential?
Harry puts down the sheet of bread he was holding, pulls off his oven mitts, and runs a hand across his damp forehead, “Got it!”
He walks calmly to the register, meeting the eyes of a young woman who radiates sunshine. He gawked at her, bloody gawked at the girl with hair like silk and eyes like the ocean. The loaves in her petite hands blew off steam from their freshness, but Harry was convinced it was the remnants of clouds from her descent onto Earth. Her lips parted to speak, but he couldn’t make out what she was saying.
He was gone.
“Um, can I pay for these?” She asks for the third time, not quite angry, but more baffled that the curly haired worker couldn’t quite manage to move. She was beginning to wonder if he was a cutout, but fluttered away the thought since she had seen him walk towards the counter.
Harry manages to snap back to reality when he realizes that she was indeed speaking, she was speaking to him. To him.
“Oh, yeah...yeah.” He says, looking away. Looking downwards at the old register. Looking at the loaves of bread in her hands. Looking anywhere but at her inquisitive eyes.
“Oh, alright.” She goes into her bag, placing the loaves upon the counter. She couldn’t quite shake the feeling that she had seen this boy before. That his jade eyes had once met her own. But she shook her head and placed the money on the counter.
“Have a nice day.” He says, avoiding her gaze.
“Thanks.” She walks towards the door, turning to look at him once more, when the display catches her eye. “Wow, that looks beautiful.” She says to Barbra.
“Thank you, dear. Freshest strawberries in the country, right from down the road.”
“I love strawberries.” Her mouth waters at the thought of the tart, yet sweet taste of the strawberries her mother and her used to pick every summer. “Is that sponge cake?” The girl walks closer to Barbara and holds the loaves closely to her slim figure.
“Yes, my specialty.”
“Oh, and the strawberries are glazed? They look magnificent.”
“Would you like a slice, dear?”
“Is there any chance I can buy a whole cake? I have a dinner to go to tonight, I think they would love this for dessert.”
Harry leaves the register shakily, not quite sure what’s overtaken him. All he knows is that the thought of strawberries on her lips and the sweet pungent taste of sponge cake on her breath has penetrated his mind. And the smile on his face, he isn’t questioning that one. That smile on his face may have been the first real one in a while.