Spring 2017 – London
Elise paced the floor of her flat so many times since arriving back home, she could have sworn her feet would have worn a path into the carpet. Her bottom lip was raw from her teeth biting at it. Her fingernails were nearly bleeding from the same thing.
She saw him – right on the sidewalk outside her cab, she saw him.
Harry Edward Styles. Right as she looked out the cab window, she saw his bewildered face. He was staring straight at the cab she was in, watching it as it went by. Did he see her? Was that really him? Or was he just a figment of her imagination? She didn’t give it any real thought – whether or not she’d ever see Harry again. She didn’t even think he lived in London. He was rich and famous after all and had houses all around the world. Elise did her best to shut him and his band and his family out of her life – the same way he did to her when he left her behind for bigger and better things. She didn’t go on any celebrity gossip websites. She didn’t read tabloid magazines. She didn’t watch anything on TV having to do with young celebrities in fear of seeing his face. He ripped her heart out. He ripped it out and never looked back. He was gone. He was a ghost. Forever just a figment of her imagination.
Harry Styles didn’t exist to her for all she was concerned. That was until she saw him on that sidewalk, staring straight back at her. She was certain he couldn’t see her through the tinted windows of the cab, but she was also certain he did see her before she got in. It was the only explanation for his surprised, almost terrified face as he watched the Uber drive further and further away from him.
He saw her. She was sure of it. He saw her and she saw him. Five years. It had been five years. She couldn’t breathe.
Summer 2013 – Manchester
One Direction sold out the Manchester Arena where they auditioned for X-Factor. Pride didn’t even begin to cover the feelings Elise felt. The five boys – Harry, Louis, Niall, Liam and Zayn had been touring for almost two years straight. One Direction were everywhere. They were literally the biggest boy band in the world. They were playing sold out stadiums across the world. They were blowing up everywhere, including the United States, which was a massive feat in itself. They were being compared to the Beatles, which was the absolute highest honor. They were huge – but they were still her friends. Harry was still her best friend. But while he was out globe-trotting, she was stuck in Cheshire rotting. She missed him. She needed him.
She tried to kiss him before he took the stage that night – she tried to get a shred of closeness before he gave himself to the thousands and thousands of fans that packed the venue. But he was in a mood – a funk. One Direction had been in the UK all week, spending time with their family before they played the epic show – a sold out Manchester Arena.
Harry was her boyfriend for the past year. It was inevitable they would go down that road. They meant the world to each other, they were inseparable. Harry was her whole entire world, her family. But something was different with him that time around. He was distant and not the same boy she’d known for all those years. She tried to kiss him. Just a simple gesture to show him she cared – that she still loved him with every part of her. But he was retreating from her mentally and physically. She could feel the rejection in everything he did or didn’t do in last week they were together. She was so desperate to hold on to what they had – so desperate not to lose the most important person in her life.
“What are you doing, Ellie?” Harry asked as she pulled him to the side before he took stage.
She could see his eyes watch as his bandmates and their entourage headed on without them. She just wanted one little moment alone with him. She felt like there hadn’t been any intimacy in the entire week they spent around each other. He was still so busy and there were always people around them.
“What do you mean, what am I doing? I am trying to have a moment with my boyfriend,” Elise said, knitting her brow together in confusion.
“Now’s not a good time, for obvious reasons,” Harry scoffed, holding his hand out to show her how everyone was getting away from them.
“Harry…” She said, disappointment in her voice.
“I’ve gotta go, Ellie,” he said as he began walking away.
“Harry, just stop! Just stop for a second,” she said, pulling him back to her.
“Ellie,” he sighed and she tried not to let the roll of his eyes deter her.
“Just slow down for five seconds,” Elise said as she moved her lips toward his.
“Elise, come on. Not now,” he said, steadying her shoulders to hold her back.
Her brows knit tightly together once again. She couldn’t comprehend if he knew how badly he was hurting her feelings. If he did, then he was just being cruel.
“Why are you trying to corner me right now? I need to go,” he snapped.
“Corner you? Like I’m one of your adoring fans?” She choked out.
“Elise,” Harry sighed again.
“I am not cornering you. I want to spend time with you. I want us to connect like we used to,” Elise explained, trying to fight back the tears that were threatening with each one of his little rejections.
“We do. Gahh, Ellie. How many times do I have to say this? I’ve got to go,” he said, trying to dodge her.
“What is the matter with you? What is going on with you lately?” Elise choked out.
“Nothing is going on,” he said quietly as he looked down at the fingernail he was picking at.
“You’re lying to me. You’re lying right to my face. Why won’t you talk to me? Talk to me, Harry,” she said, getting frustrated with him. He stayed silent, just picking at his fingernail.
“TALK TO ME, DAMN IT!” Elise growled as her frustration boiled over. He looked up, his eyes on fire – burning into hers.
“I think you’re jealous,” he spat out. Elise took in a shuddered breath. She felt like she’d been slapped across the face with his words.
“Jealous?” Elise choked out.
“You’re jealous of me. You’re jealous that I’ve made a name for myself while you’re still stuck back in Holmes Chapel. You’re jealous that you haven’t gotten out yet. And you want to pull me back. Well I can’t, Elise,” he said with a hint of malice in his tone. Her jaw dropped in disbelief. Was he joking?
“Jealous? You think I’m jealous?” She asked as her own anger began to surge inside of her.
“Yeah,” he said finally.
“Oh, yeah. I’m so fucking jealous when I’ve been nothing but supportive for the past three years. Remember who was there for you when you didn’t make it through to judge’s houses right away? Remember who was there for you when you came in third in the end, Harry? Remember who has ALWAYS been there for you? How dare you say I am jealous!” Elise growled.
“I’m done talking, Ellie. I need to go,” he scoffed as he turned to leave.
“The hell you are!” Elise said, grabbing onto his arm to pull him back.
“Let go of me,” he growled through his teeth. She was taken aback by the anger in his tone. She dropped his arm immediately.
“Who are you?” She choked out, no longer seeing the boy she loved in his eyes. He’d never been so mean to anyone in his life, let alone her. She had no idea what she did to set him off in that way.
“Why are you treating me like this?” She asked through the barrage of tears that stung her eyes.
“I’ve gotta go,” he said with no remorse, with no emotion in his tone.
Elise watched him walk away, ready to take the stage, while she was ready to fall apart. She stumbled toward the exit – toward the buses outside. She caught a ride to Manchester with the tour on the bus Harry now called home. Luckily Harry gave her the pass code to get onto the bus or she would have been stuck. She would have been stuck listening to the songs Harry wrote about her, for her. She would have been stuck seeing the monster that took the stage in place of her boyfriend.
Stepping onto the bus, her whole world crumbled at her feet. She couldn’t comprehend the side of Harry she just witnessed. Everything – the fame, the money, the status – it was all going to his head. It was ruining the boy she fell in love with, the boy that kept her whole for so many years.
Elise curled up in one of the empty bunks, wanting to not feel anymore. She wanted to not think. She wanted to not deal with the feelings of heartache that Harry always helped her face. But now Harry was the cause of it and she had no one to ease the pain. And knowing that brought on the worst pain of all.
Elise was awoken some time later from the sound of the tour bus door opening, followed by quiet chatter. She looked up at the ceiling of the bunk she was in and realized she fell asleep. As she felt the dampness of the pillow below her head, she remembered why she was there in the first place – Harry. Her tears stained the pillow. Her heart was broken.
“Where’s Elise?” She heard Liam ask. There was silence following the question. No one answered.
“What? Are we just going to leave her behind? Did she get a ride home? Where is she?” Liam asked.
“She’s got to be around here somewhere,” Niall said as his voice got closer and closer, before he bypassed the bunks and moved toward the back lounge.
“She’s not back here,” Niall informed Liam, moving back toward the front lounge.
Moments later, the curtain of the bunk she was in ripped open and she saw Liam’s face staring back at her. A look of worry crossed his face once he saw the anguish on hers. She shook her head lightly as she bit her lip and somehow he knew exactly what she was trying to get across – that she just wanted to be left alone.
“Are you okay?” He whispered. She shook her head again.
“Harry?” Liam questioned immediately.
Elise closed her eyes tightly and he knew. He just knew. She wasn’t the only one who noticed a change in Harry. Elise turned her back to Liam, rolling onto her side and he quietly closed the curtain, giving her privacy. She heard Liam stalk forward, away from the bunks.
“Why is Elise so upset?” Liam’s bold voice ripped the silence.
“She’s upset?” Niall asked, his voice full of concern.
“She’s been crying,” Liam pointed out. Elise winced as she shook her head. Of course Liam had to say something.
“Harry…” She heard Niall say.
“What did you do to her?” Liam asked sternly.
“What? I didn’t do anything,” she heard Harry’s voice come through finally, giving her the first real proof that he was even on the bus.
“Why aren’t you even concerned that she’s crying? And why are you acting so guilty right now?” Liam questioned.
“I’m not. We had a fight,” Harry admitted.
“About what?” Niall asked.
“Why can’t my business just stay my business?” Harry asked in defense, blowing up on his bandmates. There was most definitely something going on with him, and Elise had no idea what it was.
“Whoa. Calm down. We’re only trying to help,” Niall said.
“I don’t want your help!” Harry growled as Elise heard a nearby bunk curtain rip open.
“Fine, then!” Liam stated in annoyance.
She heard Liam swoosh passed her bunk, heading for the lounge. She heard another swoosh and assumed it was Niall before the lounge door slammed shut. Seconds later, she heard Harry sigh before he crawled up into his own bunk and ripped the curtain closed on himself.
Elise laid there holding her breath until she couldn’t anymore. She and Harry were so physically close in that moment, yet they were so far away from each other emotionally. He was an entirely different person and she didn’t know how to get the old Harry back – or if he even existed anymore.
Elise swore she wouldn’t let someone hurt her ever again, not the way Harry did. So for the past five years, she never let anyone get close to her. She was a ghost – moving in and out of people’s lives. She was independent and she didn’t need to rely on anyone for anything – not ever again. She learned her lesson. Harry Styles broke her, but he also made her into a stronger person.
Spring 2017 – London
It was hard for Harry to even get any sleep that night. All he could do was think about Elise. He was so stupid and selfish back when he had her. He would never be able to forgive himself for the way he treated her. It didn’t take him long to realize how badly he messed up with her. He knew the way he treated her brought him to a whole new level of douche-baggery. But for whatever reason, his pride wouldn’t let him go to her and apologize. He just let the years slip by them. And the worst part about it was he had countless opportunities to try and make things right with her over the last five years. He could have tracked her down when he was in town – it wouldn’t have been hard. But he let the chances pass him by.
And now look where he was? He was twenty-three with a whole handful of failed relationships. His newest one was still looming over him, fresh in his mind. But none of them compared to Ellie. No girl ever would. It was just a plain and simple fact.
Harry never forgot the way she looked the last time he saw her – how helpless her whole being seemed. The tears in her eyes, the sobs that escaped her lips when he told her he thought it was for the best that they end their relationship. Back then, all he wanted was to be single – to live the rock star life with the girls fawning all over him and knowing he could have any one of them if he wanted to. He wasn’t the nice boy everyone pegged him for and soon enough he developed a womanizer persona in the media, which he only had himself to blame.
Summer 2013 – Holmes Chapel
It was the afternoon after playing for a sold out crowd at the Manchester Arena. Harry should have been on the high of his life. What they just did was epic, it was life changing. But he wasn’t happy. There was too much going on in his personal world to even think about that. Not with everyone hounding him about Elise – about how he treated her the night before. Truth was, during the last month or so of tour, he wanted to end things with her. They never saw each other. He was always halfway across the world from her and frankly, the distance was getting to him. He knew it was getting to her too because it was all he heard about from her. He knew she had a lot going on in her life – he knew all about her problems. But he couldn’t be everything for her anymore. He wasn’t there. And he didn’t have it in him anymore. He was exhausted.
One Direction was scheduled to roll out of town that afternoon, so Harry knew he needed to end it. He needed to just get it over with – like ripping off a band-aid. It would hurt momentarily, but the wounds would heal.
He knocked on her bedroom window in hopes that she would be in there. Her father didn’t like him, so showing his face at their front door wasn’t the best option. Harry rather he not know he was there when he was about to break up with his daughter. Her dad didn’t give a shit about Elise, but Harry was sure he wouldn’t be opposed to pulling a gun on him or something.
Elise’s curtains pulled back and he saw her beautiful, sad face looking back at him. A slight twinge of pain shot through his heart. He loved her – he did. He just couldn’t do it anymore. He couldn’t string her along. Maybe somewhere down the road they could find their way back to one another, but in the moment he was more concerned with their relationship growing into something they couldn’t be happy in anymore. He didn’t want there to be resentment and hostility between them. He wanted them to stay best friends. She really was his best friend.
Elise opened her window, but walked away from it before sitting down on her bed. She was silent and he knew she was angry. She had every right to be. He climbed in the window and stood there looking at her for a few moments. She didn’t move or look up at him.
“Look, El. I’m sorry,” he told her. She didn’t respond or even acknowledge him.
“I know I was a complete git last night…” He started.
“You were a git,” she snapped, whipping her head in his direction.
“I know and I’m sorry,” he told her truthfully.
“I’ve never seen that side of you, Harry. It scared me,” she told him with pleading eyes.
“El…” He breathed as he walked slowly toward her.
“Harry… you can’t… you can’t treat me like that,” she said, choking up.
“El, I’m sorry. But we… we need to talk,” he told her, hanging his head.
Her sad eyes looked up and found his. She looked like she cried herself to sleep. Harry took a deep breath, trying to figure out how he was going to let her down easily.
“I-I… there is just so much going on, El. I’m over-whelmed,” Harry began.
“Then let me help you,” she said with hope in her voice.
“You can’t. It’s not that easy,” he told her.
“It is that easy,” she breathed, furrowing her brows in question.
“El, I think… I think we should take a break,” Harry said, ripping it off like a band-aid.
“W-what?” She choked out looking into his eyes. He had to look away. He felt like a complete bastard.
“I… I’ve just been feeling… distant. We don’t see each other. Why live like this?” He asked, avoiding her blue stare.
“Harry,” she choked out.
“El… I think it’s best if we break up,” he told her.
“You don’t mean that,” she said immediately.
“I do. I want to break up,” he said, meeting her eyes finally. She looked absolutely gutted.
“Harry…” She choked out.
“I’m sorry, El,” he said, feeling incredibly sad now that he said it out loud.
“You… you can’t,” she said as the tears streaked down her face.
“I have to,” he told her.
“YOU HAVE TO!? What the fuck does that mean, Harry!?” She yelled, getting to her feet in front of him.
“I’m sorry, El. This is just too much for me. I’m sorry,” he told her.
“Fuck you,” she seethed, pushing at his shoulders.
“El…” He said, eyeing her. He knew she’d be angry, but he never thought she’d physically assault.
“FUCK YOU, HARRY! How… how could you do this?” She cried.
“It’s for the best, Ellie,” he said calmly.
“For who? You? God. You’ve got to be fucking joking right now,” she scoffed. Harry was a bit taken aback. He didn’t think she’d explode on him.
“I’m not joking, El,” he said quietly.
Elise let herself fall back into the seated position on her bed, letting her face fall into her hands. Her sobs were ripping through him. He needed to run. He needed to escape.
“I’m sorry, El,” he said again, giving her one last look. He hated it. He really did. But he knew it was best for them.
Harry climbed out of her window, not realizing it would be the last time they saw each other for five years.
He needed to find her. He needed to make things right with her.