“Shay… pssst, Shay,” she heard as she stood by her locker on the last day of school before winter break.
She looked around, but didn’t see anyone trying to get her attention, so she went back to loading her books into her bag.
“Shaaaaylynnnn,” she heard someone whine her name and her head snapped in their direction, but still didn’t see anyone.
“What?” She called out to whoever it was.
“Shit, Shay. I’m over here,” she heard them say louder and she realized it was Harry. Her vision followed the direction of his voice and saw him peaking his head around the corner at her.
“What are you doing?” She asked, smirking widely at him.
“I don’t know. Sneaking up on you,” he laughed, shrugging his shoulders passively.
“You’re being stupid. Just come over and talk to me,” Shay laughed, shaking her head as she went back to packing her bag. He immediately abandoned his stealth routine and walked over to her with a smirk on his face.
“What’s up?” She asked him nonchalantly.
“I just… I didn’t want Louis to see me over here talking to you… or anyone, I guess,” Harry shrugged.
“Well, I figure that people know we know each other. It’s not that big of a deal if we’re like… talking, right?” She said, talking in a hushed tone as she eyed him.
“Yeah, I guess,” he said, shrugging again.
“Are you excited to be flying out to California for Christmas?” Shay asked, even though she knew he wasn’t.
They were both pretty bummed about being away from each other for four days. She didn’t like it. He didn’t like it. Stupid Holidays.
“That’s what I came over here to talk to you about,” he said with a smile.
“What?” She asked, furrowing her eyebrows in question.
“I’m not going,” he said happily.
“What? Why not?” She asked him, confused.
“There’s a Penn State college rep that’s going to be in New York. Louis and I are going to see him the day before Christmas Eve. My parents weren’t very happy about it, but I’m going to be with you guys for Christmas,” he said, smiling widely.
“What?” She asked again, feeling the excitement bubbling up inside her.
“Yeah. We already worked it out with your parents,” Harry said, smiling proudly.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Like, sooner?” She asked, smiling just as wide as he was.
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up. I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” he told her.
“Oh my god. I want to hug you right now,” she told him and he smirked slyly at her.
“Later,” he chuckled.
“I’ll be doing more than hugging you later,” Shay laughed out loud.
“Ooh. I can’t wait,” Harry cooed.
“So what was that about doing more than hugging me later?” Harry breathed against Shay’s ear as he pushed her inside of her bedroom and shut the door behind them after school that day.
Shay giggled as his mouth immediately attached to the skin on her neck.
“Harry…” She giggled.
“Mm, Shaylynn…” He moaned against her skin.
“You know, I am so grateful that Louis and Danielle started dating. God, these days after school… mmm…” Shay hummed as Harry coaxed her toward her bed.
“I enjoy these days after school too,” he said, moving his mouth swiftly over the sensitive skin of her neck. He was sending shivers and goosebumps all over her skin with just the movement of his lips.
“Mm,” Shay hummed, biting her lip as she pulled Harry’s shirt over his head.
“Getting down to business. I like it,” he said, smiling eagerly at her.
“Your impatience is rubbing off on me,” she laughed as he pushed his hands up her shirt.
“Mm. I’ll rub off on you,” he chuckled, gyrating his hips against her goofily.
“God,” Shay giggled. And he laughed along with her.
“That was so cheesy,” Shay laughed, smacking his arm.
“You love it. Shut up and kiss me, you brat,” he scolded her as he threw her shirt over her head.
“Oh my god,” Shay laughed as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He used his weight to topple them onto the bed and Shay giggled as they fell together in a heap onto the mattress. Harry immediately crawled on top of her, connecting their lips again.
“When are we going to tell people about us?” Harry asked, stopping mid-kiss.
Shay’s whole body tensed underneath him at his words. She thought he was just as content as she was about keeping this a secret.
“Uh…” She stammered.
“Does it scare you?” He asked.
“How do you mean?” She asked, eyeing him.
“I mean, that at just the mention of telling people your whole body contorted and you looked completely scared out of your mind,” Harry said, rolling off of her to sit on the mattress.
“Well… I mean…” She stammered, unable to look at him. What did she mean? What was she thinking? How did she feel about this subject?
“I don’t know,” she said quietly, sitting up next to him.
“You don’t know what?” He asked, looking over at her.
“I don’t know. I just… I like where we are. I like this, Harry. And I feel like… I almost feel like if we tell people, that it will ruin it,” she said, still unable to look him in the eye.
“What? Like you won’t like me as much if people know about us?” He asked, looking more than a little concerned.
“No. Nothing like that,” she sighed.
“Then what?” He asked.
“I’m scared of what Louis will think and do. I’m scared that if our parents know, that they’ll censor us – that they’ll regulate when and where we can see each other. Because they will, Harry. I’m sixteen. We can’t hide from that. I mean, we’re doing this – we’re doing this all behind everyone’s back… because if they knew… if they knew, they’d try to stop us. And I don’t want to be stopped, Harry. I like this. I like us. I like being this way with you. I like that you sleepover with my brother and sneak in my room in the middle of the night. I like that I can tell my parents that I am going to Rachel’s and sneak out to fool around with you in the woods. It’s just… if they knew, then there would be way too many restrictions and I don’t want that. I want my freedom with you. I want to have adventures with you. This is all an adventure, Harry. And I love it,” Shay explained, finally meeting his eyes.
“Well…” He said, nodding his head.
“I’m sorry. That’s just how I feel,” she said, bowing her head, hoping he wasn’t going to get upset with her.
“No, it makes perfect sense. I hadn’t thought about it like that,” he told her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to his body.
“Yeah,” she said quietly as she let him pull her down with him on the mattress. She cuddled up in the crook of his arm and enjoyed their skin to skin contact.
“Although, I would like to hold your hand in the hallway and kiss you before class,” he said quietly. Shay smiled widely and nuzzled her nose into his ribcage. He was perfect.
“I’d like that too,” she said through a wide smile.
Harry leaned down to kiss her forehead and then sighed.
“If you really want to tell everyone, we can,” Shay said quietly.
“No. I agree with you. I like our adventures,” he said, squeezing her lightly in his arms.
“I don’t want it to end,” she said, looking up at him through her long eyelashes.
“Me neither,” he said finally, smiling down at her before kissing her lips.
They laid cuddled up in each other’s arms for a few peaceful moments. She wasn’t Harry’s girlfriend, but she was the closest thing he had. Harry wasn’t her boyfriend, but she considered him hers anyway.
“Shay…” He breathed.
“Hmm…” She hummed against his skin.
“We’ve been doing this for a while…” He pointed out.
“Yeah,” she said quietly, unsure where his train of thought was leading the conversation.
“I mean… we’ve done everything…” He stammered. Shay propped herself up to look at him.
“Everything but…” He said. Suddenly she knew exactly what he was getting at.
“Yeah,” she said quietly, sitting up all the way.
“Did I make you uncomfortable? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable,” he said, sitting up next to her.
“No. No, I’m fine,” she told him.
“I just… I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it in a while. I was just kind of wondering where you are at on the topic,” he said awkwardly, shrugging his shoulders passively.
“I don’t know,” she breathed out.
“I mean, are you still… is it still something that is completely out of the question?” He asked carefully.
“It’s never been completely out of the question,” she told him, causing his eyes to shoot up to hers.
“What?” She giggled at his reaction.
“I don’t know. I just knew you weren’t ready,” he said, shrugging his shoulders again.
“I don’t know exactly where I am when it comes to that, Harry. But I promise that you’ll be the first to know,” she said, smirking slyly at him and he smiled back.
“Okay,” he said with a nod of his head.
“We ask God to bless this meal and this family. We thank you God for bringing us all together. And we welcome Harry here for our Christmas dinner. Thank you God for our health and our happiness. In Jesus’ name, Amen,” their father prayed, blessing their Christmas feast.
“Amen,” everyone iterated before they began passing the food around the table.
It was Christmas Eve, which was also Louis’ 18th birthday and Johannah had Christmas music playing around the house all day long as she prepared the meal. It was their family tradition to have dinner as a family on Christmas Eve before going to the Christmas church service. Then on Christmas Day they spent the entire day shoving our face with food at both their grandparent’s houses after spending Christmas morning opening presents. Now this year, they would add Harry to all of that. Their parents were happy to have him. They considered him one of their own anyway – he’d been around since grade school.
Shay gave Harry a smirk as he sat across the table from her, next to Louis. He smirked back as he scooped a helping of green beans onto his plate.
“So boys, tell me about this Penn State meeting,” Dad said to the Louis and Harry.
“Well, it was pretty much just this like… I don’t know… seminar,” Louis shrugged.
“It was more like a… an open discussion. Like, there were representatives there and we could ask them anything we wanted to. And like, prepare for applying,” Harry chimed in.
“Yeah. Like they told us everything we’d need in our applications. How many reference letters that would be impressive enough and what kind of references we’d need. They helped us out with a lot of the fine print crap. I’ve got like a whole crap load of notes and pamphlets and stuff,” Louis told him.
“Great. So are you glad you went?” Dad asked, smirking at the guys.
“For sure. 100%,” Louis said, nodding at his father.
“Definitely,” Harry chimed in.
“Hey, Shay. I’ll make sure to keep all this information for when you apply to Penn,” Louis said before he shoved a forkful of mash potatoes in his mouth.
“What?” She said, nearly choking on the sip of milk she’d just taken.
“Didn’t you say that you wanted to go to Penn?” He asked.
“Uh… I think you and Harry said I wanted to go to Penn,” she countered.
“You don’t want to go to Penn?” Louis asked, almost looking hurt that his little sister didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. Meanwhile, she could feel Harry’s eyes piercing into hers, but she kept hers steady on Louis, scared to meet Harry’s.
“I never said that…” She said, averting her gaze from everyone.
“Penn is a great school, honey,” Mom said, patting her wrist.
“I know,” Shay said quietly.
“They’d be lucky to have you. They’d be lucky to have you all,” Dad added in.
“I know,” Shay said.
She didn’t want to come clean on the true hesitation she was feeling over Penn State. She was thinking logically. Logic told her that even if Harry became her boyfriend, that they’d never last in a long distance relationship for two years while he was in Pennsylvania at college and she was back in New Jersey in high school. They’d never last and she wouldn’t want to put either of them through that. Long distance relationships never work. So imagine them being apart for two years, dating different people, possibly finding long lasting relationships with other people… what happens when Shay show up at Penn State two years after her fling with Harry? It would be weird and awkward and she didn’t know if she wanted to deal with that.
But then again, on the other hand, she thought of how ridiculous it all was to base her decision about college on a boy.
“I just… I haven’t decided on where I am going to apply yet. I’m keeping my options open,” Shay said, finally looking up, only to meet Harry’s stare at the most inopportune time.
His eyes narrowed at her and she wasn’t quite sure if he took it as a hidden meaning or not, but she hadn’t meant it to be. Her options were strictly closed off when it came to him – she wasn’t looking for anyone else to spend her time with. Harry had her attention – her sole attention.
“Well, you’ve got time. Penn State is always an option though,” Dad said, taking a bite of turkey.
“And we’d be there to protect you, Shay. Remember that,” Louis said proudly.
“Thanks,” she said quietly, giving Harry a small smirk.
“I love that my children aren’t afraid to love each other,” Mom beamed as she looked back and forth between Shay and Louis.
“Mom…” Louis whined, rolling his eyes as Shay shook her head.
“What? I love this family. You too, Harry,” Jay said, patting Harry’s arm.
“Thank you. I love this family too,” Harry said, smiling at her, before looking over at Shay.
After dinner, Shay helped her mom with the dishes and the cleaning of the kitchen as the guys went to watch football, of course.
“Mom, I can take care of the rest of these dishes. Go get ready for church,” Shay told her.
“Are you sure?” She asked skeptically.
“I’m sure. I’m almost done anyway,” Shay told her.
“You’re my favorite daughter,” Jay smiled wide as she kissed Shay’s cheek.
“I’m your only daughter,” Shay chuckled as Jay headed out of the kitchen.
As Shay washed the dishes, she tried to expel the thoughts of the future – of how this thing with Harry was destined to fail no matter what. Even if they fell madly in love with each other, it wouldn’t work out. Even if they wanted so badly for it to work out, it wasn’t going to work out.
“Hey. Do you need any help?” Shay heard Harry’s voice come from the doorway of the kitchen, startling her out of her thoughts.
“Oh. Ha. I’m almost done,” she said as she pulled the plug from the sink drain after the dishes were all done.
“Oh,” he said, walking farther into the kitchen toward her.
“I’ve just got to dry these last few…” Shay told him.
“Let me help,” he said, grabbing the towel from the counter top so he could dry the dishes.
“Okay,” she said quietly, grabbing a clean towel from the drawer.
The two of them stood in the kitchen, silently drying the dishes together.
“Come to my house with me tonight,” Harry said, looking over at her.
“What?” Shay asked, looking at him oddly.
“Come with me to my house after church tonight, after everyone goes to bed,” he told her.
“To your house? Why your house?” She asked.
“Cause nobody’s there. Because we won’t have to hide,” he told her.
“But…” She began to protest, but didn’t have much to say in the way of a rebuttal.
“I just… I want to be with you. I want to be able to talk above a whisper. I want to be able to be open,” he explained. Shay smiled widely at him.
“You’ll come with me?” He asked.
“Yeah,” she agreed with a nod of her head.
“Awesome,” he said, smiling proudly as they went back to silently drying the dishes.