Solace ~ h.s.

If he weren't there... I don't know what would have happened.

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16. ⪻ 16 ⪼

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Finally, after what seemed like years of dragging a snippy boy from the flat, into Harry’s vehicle, and then into a restaurant of Harry’s choice, we were all sat down together. Seconds after we had settled a familiar fake blonde waltzed into the restaurant joining Harry on his side of the booth, but not before giving me a hug and trying to greet Edward.

Dinner had since come and was immediately scarfed down by the four of us, with appetites all worked up from a hard day. The three of us adults have been engrossed in an uplifting conversation since our plates were taken, as Edward focused on the film that was playing on my tablet. His headphones blocked the conversation, as well as the world, around him.

“I’m worried about Edward.” were the words blurted from my mouth the first second of silence that was placed between us. The two men across the table lose the laughter that had been floating around the table and switch their attention to me.

“Why so? I mean, clearly he’s a little, um, difficult during this time, but is that it?” Niall wonders, glancing to the boy at my right. Edward has no clue to the topic of conversation between us, which is good. I fear if he knew the topic was of him, he’d flip out.

“His attitude is the main component, yes, but he’s starting a new school on Monday. Before we left Northwich, his teacher expressed her concerns of the move on Edward. She said that he was more distant, slacking his workload off, and of course he sported his signature mood consistently. I mean, what if he gets made fun of at this new school or he gets in a fight? I don’t know what I’ll do.”

My concerns for the small boy are high and mighty. I don’t know if the events that occurred last month could make him violent, or cause him to want to lash out on other kids. I don’t know how the other children will react to a distant boy with a salty attitude either.

“I’m really worried about him and he won’t talk to me. He won’t even give me the time of day. He’s five, not sixteen.”

“He probably just needs time.” Niall suggests with a watchful eye on my brother and a shrug of his own shoulders. For him being a pediatrician, he’s not really being all too helpful in a time like this.

“How much bloody time? Because I don’t know how much longer I can take this side of him.”

“He’s a child, Annabelle. They cope in different ways than an adult will, or even a teenager. It’s hard for them to express the emotions they’re feeling, but when they find a way, it’s not always easy on family. You have a right to feel the way you do, but just remember he’s still suffering.” Harry mentions, making me feel like the absolute worst human in the world.

“I know, I know he’s suffering. I just don’t know how to help him anymore.”

“Do you want one of us to take a crack at him? Maybe take him off your hands for a day? We could take him out, get his mind off things.” Niall offers. The offer itself sends a small sliver of relief through me.

Edward has only been surrounded by me and my presence, and one after school friend, in the month since our parents’ passings. He hasn’t had a lot of human interaction where he can be the centre of attention. Perhaps giving him a boy’s day would be good for him, and his healing.

“I think that could be really beneficial for him. Thank you, Niall.” Niall simply nods his head towards me in response, picking up his Guinness and taking a sip.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned today, it’s that this Irish doctor loves his dark beer. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a dark brew, he’ll drink any kind. Whereas I on the other hand cannot stand the taste of beer. It’s like piss.

“How about you?” Niall wonders, changing the subject from a five year old with attitude problems to the responsible and “maternal” adult caring for him. “How have you been?”

“I’m good.” I answer in short, not wanting the subject of my mental health to go into too much detail during this nice night out.

Truthfully, my mind hurts, as does my heart.

“And the new job? How is that going?”

“Oh, well it’s alright, I suppose. It pays the bills, keeps food on the table, so I really have nothing to complain about.” Other than my boss is kind of a bitch and I’m tired all of the time. “Of course, it’s not my dream to answer phones and schedule meetings for a living, but it will suffice for the time being.” My dream is a money pit, and can wait.

“So, how is everything else going?” Harry asks with a clear of his throat as he shifts in his seat.

He’s changed from the scrubs into a pair of black skinny jeans and a button-up patterned shirt, something I’ve found he’s very fond of wearing. His sense of style is quite refreshing for a man and I can’t say that I hate it.

“Everything else? Like life in general? It’s fine, staying out of trouble.”

Niall rolls his eyes with a sideways glance at his friend and I can’t tell if his gesture was towards me or Harry.After the harsh nudge he sends into Harry’s side I can tell it’s not in my favour. Harry slaps Niall’s elbow off of him and gives him a glare before turning his attention back to me.

“Right, and your head? How is your head?” I want to laugh at how odd he’s behaving all of a sudden.

Sure, throughout dinner he’s gotten quite quiet and reserved, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

“My head is -”

“Just bloody ask her already.” Niall interrupts, shooting me an apologetic look quickly. I snap my jaw closed and watch the exchanges happening between the two grown men acting like teenagers.

“Ask me what?” I wonder, clearly hearing what Niall had hoped was said in a hushed tone.

“Shut it, Niall.” Harry mutters to his friend, shifting about in his seat a little bit.

The interaction between the two men becomes too painful to watch as Niall shakes his head at Harry and Harry does that adorable nervous tick with his fingers and lips.

“What do you want to ask me? If you want to borrow money, that’s a solid no, but anything else I’m pretty open to.”

Niall flashes Harry a wide grin in which Harry opens his mouth to say something, but Niall beats him to it.

“Even a date?”

“Niall!”

My jaw goes slightly slack at his blunt exclamation as my body goes a bit rigid in my own seat. Never in a million years is that what I thought was going to come out of Niall’s mouth, not even if it’s for Harry’s sake.

Is Harry attractive? Wildly so. Is Harry incredibly kind? You bet he is. Do I see myself being with a strong, brave, smart, independent, man like Harry? I can. And I’ll be honest, have I thought about the possibility of dating the guy that saved my life? It’s come across my mind once or twice. But did I ever expect to be presented with the option of dating the young doctor sitting across from me during a friendly dinner? Hęll freaking no.

We barely know each other to begin with, but that didn’t stop me from handing over my five year old brother to him when he was a mere stranger. That also didn’t stop me from allowing him to sleep on my sofa for the span of nearly four days.

“A date?” My voice is meek and cuts through their quiet argument like a knife. Harry sits up straight, giving Niall one final nudge, before gulping the nervous saliva down in his throat.

“It doesn’t have to be a date.” He says a little too quickly.

“Yeah, it does.”

“Nia-”

“I’ll butt out, okay!”

Thank you!

My brain is working on overdrive again, after taking the night off once we left the house earlier. Pros and cons of dating the doctor race through my mind as any rational human would do when presented with the option of a first date with a friend.

Pro: This could give us a great chance to get to know each other more. Con: This could ruin our friendship indefinitely.

Pro: Harry is incredibly attractive. Con: I think he could be too perfect, even with his flaws of having friends. That could mean there’s some commitment issues in there, somewhere deep down.

Pro: It would be great to be off the market. Con: Am I really ready to be off the market? Was I ever really back on it to begin with. Can I go through with dating someone again?

Pro: He is a good man with a steady, well-paying job. This meaning if it works out between us, he could help support a family. Con: He’s a doctor, meaning high stress, low free time, and late nights.

Pro: I wouldn’t be lonely anymore. Con: My parents just died and I really shouldn’t be looking for a new man right now.

“You want to go on a date with me?” I squeak out, my brain still not being able to process everything that’s just happened in the span of less than a minute or two.

“Um...”

Con: He started off not confident. Does he really want to date you or is this just an opportunity of he’s single, you’re single?

“Yes, I want to take you out on a date.”

Pro: He’s just nervous. Awe, that’s cute.

“But if you’re not up for it, we can call it a friendly hangout. I don’t know if you’re even into me that way, and maybe the timing isn’t right -”

The answer seems to be stuck on the tip of my tongue whilst Harry continues to ramble. I know what I want to say, even if it seems impractical and stupid of me.

“Okay.” Harry immediately stops talking, his eyes going wide and a twitch of his facial muscles showing signs of a grin.

“What?”

“You asked me on a date, horribly might I add, but you did. So I said: okay.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll just have to find someone to watch the little monster.” I finalize, glancing down to the boy sitting beside me. All this time and he’s still cut-off from the world. Even during dinner and the tablet out of his hands, he didn’t want to talk to any of us.

“Niall will do it.” Harry states, a little too quickly for the Irish-lad’s liking. Niall’s eyes go wide and he brings his hand up, slapping Harry in the back of his head.

If I weren’t still shell-shocked that I agreed to a date for the first time in months, I’d laugh at the exchange.

“Mate! I’m not a blimmin’ babysitter!” Niall exclaims, pouting as no grown man should. “No offense.” He mutters in my direction, eyeing Edward briefly before turning his attention back to Harry.

“Please?” Harry begs, causing me to laugh a little at how desperate he sounds all of a sudden.

I can’t help but find the exclamation kind of adorable; him being so desperate to take me out on a date that he’ll beg his friend to watch my kid brother.

“What if I have a date?” Niall counters, giving a sideways stare over at Harry.

“You don’t, now please!”

“Ugh, fine. Fine. You’re lucky I love you.”

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