“I am not sure Juliane is going to be very happy with this,” I muster up the nerve to say. Harry slips in behind the steering wheel of his old Cadillac. He turns to look at me as he plugs in the keys.
“What do you mean?” He turns on the engine and the car roars sweetly. I sink a little further down in the leather seat and shut my eyes. The air is clean and fills my lungs calmingly as I take a deep breath. I am starting to doubt whether this is a good idea or not. Truth is that I do want to be sitting in his passenger seat, with his eyes shifting to me every once in a while. But the last thing I want is to be caught between Juliane and some guy. Not some guy, the guy. Harry Styles.
“I heard what she said to you,” I admit in feeble voice after a minute of silence. Harry has not pushed it and was patiently waiting for my answer.
He places his right hand on the gear stick and slides it into reverse. “Were you listening?” He asks dispassionately.
I nod. The seats are comfortable and the alcohol in my blood leaves my eyelids heavy. I keep them shut.
“That’s not in your place to do.” He states and backs the car out on the empty road.
“You were talking about me, so of course I was listening.” I try to defend myself, but it comes out a small and tired mumble. It is not easy talking to someone who seems so in so much more control. It is not easy to for me to stand up for myself, when the person I am standing up to is so superior.
“But what makes you think that Jules won’t be happy about me taking you home?” He changes the subject back to my opening sentence. The car spins nicely as he takes a turn to the left.
“You guys are… Sort of an item, right?” I peak one eye open, and watch as his face falls in utter and complete confusion.
“What?” He breathes sharply in surprise. I let my eyes flutter wide open, despite their yearning to stay closed.
He looks away from the road for a brief moment and a grin forms on his face. “Wait, you think Juliane and I are dating?” All of sudden he sounds amused, and I get confused by his changing mood. I am not sure what is funny about this. Doesn’t everyone think they are seeing each other?
“Barbie,” he chuckles and shakes his head. “Juliane is my cousin.”
Now it is my turn to be taken by surprise; “What?”
Everything suddenly falls into place. The way Juliane came up to him in the parking-lot. The way they laughed and the reason he was sitting by her side when we played Never Have I Ever. She must be making sure that he gets his piece of the cake, but with a face like his and a charm like that, we both know that he does not need Juliane Summers to survive in high school.
“But wait… Why did she ask you what you were kicked out for on the first day?” I wonder, almost as if I do not believe him. It feels like a lot to wrap my mind around. I was so sure that they had a romantic interest, and now I am forced to adjust to their actual relationship.
“She is my cousin. She does that. It was just a game.” He explains with a smile.
Here I thought Juliane was trying to get with him; the new exciting guy from Holy Cross. Everyone wants to and it was so easy to believe that Juliane Summers felt the exact same. Now the thought of them makes me cringe. Cousins? I shake the thought out of my system, while Harry’s car slides over the asphalt in an almost sexual way.
The red Cadillac moves like a tiger and spins like a cat.
“Where do you actually live?” The subject is now off Juliane Summers, and I realise that I have forgotten to tell him my address.
“Up my Beacon Hill Preserve, Rose Hill Road.”
He nods and looks over his shoulder, before turning right. I am not very familiar with these streets, but I do know that we are only short four miles away from my home. The closer one gets to the water, the bigger the houses get and the less streets I know well. The girls and I all live close to Branford, which is a few miles from the sea. I know that area like the back of my hand.
“So, Barbie,” Harry’s hand shifts to the gear stick, “What are your plans after high school?”
I see my chance to lean back in the seat and close my eyes again, then I response with a light shrug of my shoulders.
“Come on, you must have some idea what you’re going to do.” He pushes it.
Truth is that I have a very clear idea about what I want to do. I have a plan for how I am going to get there too, but when I sit here beside him, the thought of going away to college and study English Literature and Creative Writing, seems so far away and for the first time, I am living in the moment. I am living in East Haven. My mind is not somewhere far away, travelling off to greater days and sunnier shores.
“You’re right,” I then finally say. I am sure that I can feel his eyes on me. “I know what I want to do, but right now I just want to get a good last year here. Focus on that instead.”
It is the first lie I tell him and I have a feeling that it will not be the last. I have never wanted anything more than to get out of East Haven. I have always dreamed of life away from the small-town, but instead of saying that, I throw him a lie. There is a nice silence hanging over us for a while, and I feel relieved that the silence does not feel awkward nor tense. It might have something to do with the alcohol I have consumed.
I jump a little in my seat as I feel him place his right hand on my knee. My eyes shoot open and when I turn my head fast, I can feel the beat of my heart quicken.
He has a smug grin on his face, and I now understand that he is well aware of the effect he has on me. I can not believe that I believed he did not know. A guy like him seems too experienced in the opposite gender, to be unaware of the way they react to his slick act.
“You should try being honest with me.”
“What?” I grow small beneath his touch.
He moves his thumb slightly, just enough to send a small electric shock up through my leg. “I don’t like people lying to me,” he says nonchalantly and looks back at the road.
“I was not,” I mumble.
He cocks an eyebrow and sends me a momentary glance.
“Okay,” I give in. “I was.”
A smile pulls at the corner of his lip, but he does not look at me this time. I am waiting for him to move his hand, but when he leaves it cupping my knee gently, I know that he has no intention of doing so.
“You don’t like it here, do you?” He asks, while I wonder if he feels the night getting warmer too. I can not help but think if he does this a lot. I can only think about who sat here before me. A big part hopes it was no one important.
“Am I that transparent?”
He lets out a low laugh, “Sort of.”
My eyes are resting on him. I am not sure that is how I want him to see me. Transparent is not a compliment. People are not attracted to transparent people. They are attracted to people who they can not quite figure out. It is the uncertainty that makes people interesting. It is the unknown that makes Harry so captivating. It is the fact that he is furthest thing from transparent.
“But no,” I try to push the disappointment away, “I don’t like it that much here.”
“How come?” He does not sound very interested, but before I realise it, I am spilling my every thought of to this self-assure Cadillac driving kid. “I want something more. I strive for something bigger. This town lacks inspiration, and I am so thirsty for some new adventures - some new perspective. I guess…” I look down at his hand on my knee, “I guess I am bored with my life here.”
“And you don’t think there is anything that can spice life here a bit up?” He looks expectantly at me, and closes his hand a bit harder around my leg.