Solace ~ h.s.

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

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54. ⪻ 54 ⪼

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“We’re here!”

Harry hadn’t even taken one full step into the massive house before he’s trampled by a gorgeous black woman with a lean body and a larger than life smile. I presume this is his stepmother Juliette. She’s slim, her figure absolutely to die for, especially for a woman in her fifties. She has a huge welcoming smile and she appears extremely pleased to see Harry.

It warms my heart that Juliette, though not truly related to Harry, still treats him as her own. You hear horror stories about a relationship between step-parent and step-child, take Cinderella for instance. And watching her now with Harry, squealing and throwing her arms around him, makes me incredibly happy and relieved that she isn’t one of those creepy step-parents.

Juliette gives Harry multiple pecks on the cheek, all whilst Edward and I stay back and watch the interaction, smiling.

“Oh my goodness! I’ve not seen you in so long! How long has it been?” She questions as she takes Harry at arms length and looks him up and down. She nearly stands at his height with the heels she wears in her own home.

“Since Christmas maybe?” Harry ponders, glancing back in our direction as if to make sure we hadn’t gone anywhere.

“Well, it’s been too long. I don’t get to see any of my kids anymore. You live the closest to us, yet you never stop by.” Juliette playfully scolds Harry as he apologizes profusely for his absence over the last year.

“I may be to blame for his absence.” I cut in, taking a step forward so that I’m standing beside the man that I love.

Juliette turns her attention to us, gasping before pushing Harry aside. Her hands are immediately wound around my body, squeezing me so dearly that it’s almost painful. I had no idea a woman so slim could be so strong.

If there was any doubt in my mind that Juliette wasn’t going to be friendly, it’s all out the window now.

“Harry, how could you forget to introduce us!” Juliette scolds in Harry’s direction, causing me to laugh and hug Juliette back.

“Juliette, we just got in the door!”

“Nonsense.” I find myself chuckling to myself at their bickering before Juliette is back to looking me up and down. I almost feel like I’m under a microscope, but for some reason I’m not that intimidated. “Oh my God, you are even more beautiful that Harry described. Annabelle, right? Is that what you like to be called?”

“Yes, Annabelle is fine.” I answer, my cheeks still burning at the fact that Harry told his step mum I was beautiful. “It’s absolutely a pleasure to meet you. Harry has told me so much about you. You have a gorgeous home.” I compliment, motioning to the incredibly foyer that surrounds us.

The ceilings in the entrance way are high and everything looks so clean and polished. The floors shine as if they had been freshly waxed this morning; I can practically see my reflection in them. The walls are covered in artwork, beautiful artwork. I know next to nothing about art, but they look expensive. I’m afraid to let Edward at my sight. Who knows how much trouble he could cause around here; one wrong move and something is sure to break.

“Why thank you. I like to dabble in interior design; I can show you around later if you’d like.”

“I would love that.”

“Oh!” Juliette gasps, her eyes glancing to Edward, who is nearly hiding behind me. If it weren’t for his arm wound around Harry’s, I suppose Edward would be completely hidden behind my body. “You must be Edward.” She says, kneeling down to be closer to Edward’s height. I give Edward a little shove forward, making sure he’s not entirely behind me anymore.

“That’s me.” He mumbles, clearly nervous as he looks up to Harry and I.

“Go on.” I give him another little push of encouragement.

“It’s nice to meet you.” He tells Juliette as she coos and stands to her feet.

“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Edward. I’ve heard so much about you from Harry. Now is it my understanding that it’s your birthday today?” She questions, raising her brows at Edward. Looking slightly more comfortable, Edward nods his head. “Well, happy birthday, young man. I have a special treat for you in the kitchen, how does that sound?”

Instead of Edward looking up to me for permission, he looks to Harry. Harry gives him a nod and a pat on the back before Edward is off following Juliette further into this maze of a house. It warms my heart that he is comfortable enough with Harry to look up at him as a parental figure.

“Harry,” Juliette glances over her shoulder, “your father and John are in the sitting room.” She says before her and Edward are out of sight.

“May I take your coat?” I roll my eyes at Harry’s proper behaviour and shrug off my raincoat into Harry’s arms. Thinking he was going to set it on a post or in a coat closet, but instead he tosses it on the clean floor, leaving me scolding him like a child. “What? It’s my house I can do what I want.”

“Correction, it’s your father’s. Pick that up, he might think I did that.” I tell him, eyeing the coat on the ground. Harry merely shrugs before lurching forward and grabbing my hand. “Harry!” I whine, glancing behind us to where my coat sits as he drags me further in the home.

“Relax, Nat will pick it up.”

“That’s not her job.”

“So?” Harry mutters, laughing to himself as he squeezes my hand. If I didn’t know him any better I would have thought he was acting like an årse.

Harry leads us into the large dining hall, that sits directly in what appears to the centre of the home. I find myself holding back a gasp at the sheer size of the room. The dining hall itself probably bigger than my flat, or should I say soon to be old flat, back in Manchester. Harry points to random photographs, artwork, and items on our journey to the lounge, sharing little stories here and there. It’s nice to see him so relaxed in a place that isn’t his flat or mine.

“Dad.”

We enter the massive lounge after a few more minutes of exploring, to find Harry’s father and step brother, John, watching television. They both don’t actually acknowledge our entrance until Harry repeats his father’s name, the two so engrossed in whatever it is they’re watching.

As the two greet each other, I gaze around the room. The lounge itself houses two massive sofas, a large television, and some book shelves; everything feels so cozy, especially in this room. It feels like just the type of room to spend a night in watching television, just Harry and I.

“There’s my boy!” Harry’s father exclaims, standing from the sofa and setting a beer down on the table in front of him. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Not even with Juliette shouting?”

“You know I tune most of that out.” His father says at the two hug, sharing a laugh and a few words to each other.

“If that isn’t the truth.” John adds in, joining the conversation whilst I stand back and watch. I don’t want to intrude, even if Harry is supposed to be introducing me to his father. “Hey Harry, alright?” The two brothers share a hug, John towering over my tree of a man.

“Yeah, you?”

“Yeah.” John responds, taking a sip from his beer bottle whilst their father looks between the two of them. He’s about as baffled by their short-lived greetings as I am, but then again nothing much has changed since last we saw John.

“Wow, what a greeting.”

“Des, we only just saw each other a few weeks ago.” John groans.

John had been in Manchester a few weeks ago and he, Harry, Edward, and myself had dinner together. John is a stockbroker in London, which means he makes good money and is really good with numbers, he even helped Edward out with some maths homework whilst he was in town. He’s unmarried, but apparently has been seeing this Japanese woman for the last month or two. All in all he’s a charming, funny lad, just like Harry.

“Hey Annabelle.” John greets, walking over to me and giving me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“Hi John, good to see you.”

“Where’s Edward?” He wonders, looking around for him.

“In the kitchen with your mum.”

“Dad,” Harry walks over to me, wrapping his arm around my waist before turning me towards his father, “this is Annabelle, my girlfriend.” He introduces, giving my waist a squeeze with his hand. Smiling over at the man across from us, I reach out to shake his outstretched hand.

“Mr. Styles, it’s truly a pleasure to meet you. Like I told your wife, your home is absolutely exquisite.” Comments are always the way to a parent’s heart, or so I have read before. It seemed to have worked in the past, so I guess you can trust some things on the Internet.

“Oh please, call me Des, Annabelle. It’s lovely to meet you, dear. Harry, here, has told us a lot about you.”

“So I’ve heard.” I mention, causing the men to laugh as I give a sideways glance up towards Harry. He doesn’t seem to notice the laugh as I’m catching him zoned in on my face.

“Has Harry here told you that you’re the first girl he’s brought home, since before university.” My eyes widen slightly, looking up to see Harry out of his trance and glaring over at John. I’m not totally surprised that I’m the first in a very long time, mostly because of what Harry has told me about his past with dating.

I feel special. I feel loved.

“He has not, but I feel honoured.”

“Hey, where’s that birthday boy I was promised to meet?” Des exclaims, clapping his hands and looking around the room as if Edward will just come bouncing out from the depths of this wonderous house.

“He ran off with Juliette a bit ago, something about a treat.” John chuckles and Des merely rolls his eyes at his wife.

Even with all the teasing Des does to his wife, it’s clear that he loves her very much. There’s this sparkle in his eye whenever he brings her up and his smile gets slightly wider, a pair of tiny dimples that mimic Harry’s start to peek through as well.

“Well, let’s go to them before she ruins his appetite for dinner. We’re having my famous roast and I can’t have him missing out on that.” Des motions for us all to follow him, back towards where Harry and I just came from. “I love that woman,” Des breathes out, “but her sweets have a way of ruining dinner.” 

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