Frat Boy Pt. 9
IT’S BEEN TOO LONG FRATTY FRIENDS! Literally - Six. Months. Or longer. Here’s the RECAP if you need to catch up on your infuriating frat boy shenanigans in a fun and easy fashion! It’s been a while, and we’re learning about Harry now… be fragile with him. As always, please tell me your thoughts after reading! It takes a moment but when I feel people are involved in this project it motivates me to continue with it. Anyways, I’ve already kept you waiting long enough…Thank you for sticking with us. ENJOY! xx
18 Morning View Drive
Coast Hills, CA
Then, exactly an hour and thirty minutes later:
Those were the only things Harry had texted you. Just the address.
“I don’t even know if I want to go anymore,” you whined, looking at your phone once more before tossing it on the bed. “He clearly hates me and doesn’t want me to go.”
“I thought you told me he said you could though!”
“Only because it sounded like he had to! His sister was practically forcing the words out of him.”
Renny cringed. “Sister…Yeah I’m sorry, I’m still not over it.” You groaned at the reminder and she sighed in response. “Okay listen, just be yourself! Try not to hate him.” You felt your eyebrows rise higher than hairline.
“And this is coming from a girl who loathes him more than her entire being?”
She rolled her eyes. “I just think he’s an entitled asshole, but you clearly don’t otherwise you wouldn’t be going to the dinner. Now, nude pump or suede bootie?” She held up the two shoes she was gracious enough to let you borrow and you bit the inside of your cheek. You did think he was an entitled asshole, but… you were curious. So undeniably curious and how many girls could say they went over to a family dinner at the Styles’ house? Not that that was your primary reason for going but…
“Uh, Y/N?” she prompted.
“Bootie,” you said quickly, snapping yourself out of further self-analysis. You weren’t sure if you liked the boy, but you were definitely… interested. Renny went to the closet and came back with two dresses.
You shook your head.
“What do you mean?”
“They’re a little…fancy.” You bit your tongue, not allowing ridiculous to form. You shook your head.
“Yeah it’s a family dinner. Jeans will be fine,” you reasoned. You plucked your favorite denim from the drawers and Renny gasped as if you’d smacked her across the face. “And a t-shirt,” you added with a smirk. She gasped louder and clutched her chest.
“No no no no no. No!” She raised her finger to you, stalking to the closet again, the cocktail dresses abandoned to the floor. “If you’re wearing these booties you’re at least wearing a blouse. God, who are you?” She plucked a peachy top and a blazer from the inside of the closet, but you snatched the blazer from her hands and put it back on the hanger, opting for the cream sweater instead.
“I want to be comfortable, not looking like I’m going to a business meeting ya dingas.” She snorted at the term and you pulled her in for a hug, clinging to her for a moment. She always seemed so soft and you weren’t sure if it was the Victoria’s Secret body lotion she used or if she was just blessed with naturally smooth skin.
“Renny?” you mumbled against her chest, arms still securely wrapped around her.
Your mind raced with hundreds of questions. What were you doing? Was this absolutely stupid? How do you know if you like someone?
“Your boobs are comfy,” you finally sighed. You knew she couldn’t possibly give you explanations for any single one of those things. She wasn’t exactly a love guru, but she was entirely the best at texting and the art of flirting.
“Thanks. Niall thinks so too.” You squeezed her tighter before it registered what she’d said. “Gross,” you mumbled, letting go with a laugh. You only let her put the bare minimum makeup on you and she was just finishing up with a coat of mascara when there was a knock on the door. She stopped.
“I thought you said he wasn’t going to pick you up.”
You shook your head. “He isn’t. I’m driving.” Renny paused, listening, as if she’d be able to hear what was going on just beyond the door. The mascara wand was set on the bathroom countertop and she crept to the door. You weren’t under any illusions that he would swing by your place beforehand so you weren’t going to bother wasting precious energy on “what-if”s, though your heart still picked up its pace in expectation. The door creaked open at the last swish of the mascara wand.
Expectations you didn’t want in the first place fell when you heard her voice raise in pitch. Of course it wasn’t Harry.
“What’re you doing here?”
“Thought I’d stop by.” His satisfaction at having surprising her was evident in his smug tone and you tip-toed out, not having had a proper one-on-one with Niall since the night of the party.
“You alone?” he whispered to her.
You saw Renny shake her head before you took a step out. A bit of guilt hit you thinking about the spontaneous kiss, but it was so long ago. I mean, you were going to Harry’s house tonight and Niall just came for some one-on-one time with Renny. At this point the kiss just seemed…a bit irrelevant. Renny faced you as if to gesture “see! Not alone” and his blue eyes focused on you as if nothing had changed. But then they did.
“Oh, hey Y/N, what’re you doing here?” he shrugged and shifted his weight. Renny was oblivious to the awkward shift.
“Um, I live here?” you crossed your arms, brows furrowing a bit.
He thought it over but for a second before he shook his head, lips quirking up in their innocent schoolboyish charm. “Right. Must be tired or somethin’.”
“Or somethin’” Renny teased. Niall poked her sides and she twisted out of reach, only leaning back again to smack him playfully across the chest.
“Alright love birds, I’m headed out. I’ll see you later.”
“Bye then,” Niall said, arm already sneaking around Renny’s waist. She mouthed an “OMG” to you at his display of affection while you tried not to vom. But when the door closed shut you couldn’t help but think about how natural it seemed for his arm to wrap around her waist.
“OH GEE, THANKS for putting on your BLINKER - not. ASSHOLE!” you shouted, almost wishing your window was down and that the pompous senior citizen wearing ray bans at night could hear you. Since you were a decent and intelligent human being you put on your blinker and switched lanes, trying to follow Siri. Grandpa was driving a Porsche and he cut you off only to go 5 miles per hour. Your 1990 Chevy Cavaleir was driving faster than that and he thinks he can cut you off just because he has a better- you exhaled hard through your nostrils. No. He wasn’t worth it. You’d left in plenty of time, 30 minutes early actually, even though it’d only take about 20 to get there.
The only problem was your phone was verifiably ancient and your navigation was the slowest thing known to man. Once you’d gotten off the freeway, you’d made three wrong turns because your navigation was being ditzy and not telling you how close 600 feet was. And now the entitled drivers of Coast Hills decided you’d be okay with them cutting! you! off! Your hands squeezed the steering wheel a little too tight.
The ocean hugged your side on the highway for another five minutes, but each glimpse you tried to steal to it was futile. It was dark, an expansive pitch-black body stretching as far as your eyes- well, couldn’t see. It left you with a chilling feeling as you turned up the winding hills to the mansions waiting at the top. They were nestled all along the drive up, though hidden by hedges and various gates, and at the very tops all you could see were their lights already glistening, making the hills twinkle with light. Perhaps tonight they could see the water better from their perch above, but a part of you doubted it. No matter which way you tried to look at it, darkness somehow refused to be penetrated.
But you bet it looked gorgeous when the sun came up.
In 200 feet, make a right on Coast Hills Drive.
“Shit,” you cursed, quickly getting in the right lane and ignoring the honk of a horn. You didn’t have time to put on your blinker and as soon as you slammed on the accelerator to turn, you were slamming on the brakes. The iron gates were intimidatingly high and the guard that hopped out of his security room didn’t look amused. A mounted sign read “Coast Homes” behind a trickling waterfall that fell against a stone wall and massive palm trees stood beside it. And then there was you.
A knock on your window practically had you jumping out of your skin.
“Are you lost?” the guard asked. It looked as if his mouth was already open to give you directions, hands raising to point you someplace else, but you shook your head.
“No, not lost.” And his mouth closed at your words, hands quickly dropping to his sides and confirming your suspicions.
“Are you here to see someone then?” he prompted.
“Harry. Uh, Harry Styles.” A slight buzz ran through you saying those words. You were here to see him. You were actually invited to the Harry’s house. Oh god, what if you saw his bedroom?
His eyes narrowed a bit at the name.
“I mean, I’m here to see his family?” you suddenly clarified. As if it were necessary. As if he wouldn’t believe that you were here to see him alone. It didn’t make it much more believable though.
“What’s your name?”
He looked to the back of your car to check the license plate and you felt a twinge of annoyance. “Pull up then.” He used two fingers to beckon you forward before quickly jogging to the security room. You stopped closer to the gate and he scrolled through the computer with a furrowed brow, clucking when he found your name. “You’re here.” But it sounded like “wish you weren’t.” The heavy mechanics of the printer and a dull screech sounded as something printed, and he plucked a sheet of paper from the machine, holding it out to you.
“This is your pass. It’ll last until tomorrow in case you spend the night so don’t worry about tickets or anything like that as long as this is properly displayed on your dash.” He tapped your windshield as if you weren’t aware where your dash was located and you smiled.
“Thank you, it’ll only be for a few hours- tops.”
He nodded and then, as if you were old friends and he was admitting you into a secret club of his, said quietly, “Their visitors don’t usually last too long.” He straightened up instantly, his moment of gossiping weakness vanished with his once-again professional posture. He gave you a nod. “Have a good night!” The gate opened and you called out a quick thank you before entering the most brilliant display of wealth you’d ever seen.
Lawns were perfectly manicured as you passed, some opting for Mediterranean fashions and others expansive Spanish villas with imported tropical plants. Most cars you assumed were inside of the mansions in their garages, but the ones that weren’t inside weren’t any less impressive. “Ferrari, Porsche, oh! Tesla,” you muttered. It was like all the fancy cars you’d ever seen in passing on the highway had the same destination. Here. You stopped counting how many you saw on your hand when you got to 14. And the houses… they were the largest you’d ever seen. They were more like hotels than mere houses.
You’d seen glimpses from below, and recalled the many times you’d stare up at them dreamily on late night cruises to get back home from work, the lights beautifully transforming the hilltops and making you feel like it was an early Christmas. From below you seemed to forget how massive they would be in person. How they hinted at lives being lived just out of reach. Staring at them up close now, you somehow felt they were even more so.
Make a right on Morning View Drive, then, in 500 feet, your destination is on your right.
You swallowed hard despite yourself as you turned right, suddenly thinking that Renny’s idea of a dress wasn’t that ridiculous of an outfit. But it was too late now, especially when you drove down a street just as manicured as the rest, but somehow seemed wider. The streets alone…They were about twice- no, three times the size of your own in width. And the houses were separated far from each other, far enough that one property easily took up the space of four large houses. You tried to zero in on the numbers along the houses – only to realize they were hidden. By gates. More gates? What were they hiding in there, the Crown jewels?
Your destination is on your right.
Your body jolted forward as your twitchy legs hit the brakes too hard and your car started drifting forward again as your foot relaxed.
Another jolt to stop before you ran into the mailbox.
You couldn’t see a number, but you didn’t think you had too. Forget the other houses - this was the largest home you’d ever seen, fitting for how well known the Styles family was. It was a Spanish Mediterranean style mansion with golden lanterns adorning windows and balconies…and this was just what you could see from what was rising above the iron gate surrounding the property. It sat prominently in the middle of the street, both intimidating and more striking than any of its neighbors, and the largest too – your gaze ran all the way down the gate; it took up the rest of the street until the end of the hill where it’d drop off into a deep valley and eventually run straight into the ocean. You’d seen that view from the highway a thousand times, but it was different to be on the other side of it now. You knew the Styles were rich, but you didn’t think they owned an entire coastal hilltop.
You awkwardly repositioned the car and drove up to the callbox, but paused, looking to your purse hesitantly. Should you just call Harry on his cell? You rolled your eyes and leant out to press the little call button and the buzz that instantly droned in the air made your hand recoil in a snap and left your mouth suddenly very dry. This was real. This was happening.
You swallowed hard, trying to convince yourself you shouldn’t peel out of his driveway and drive straight back home to Renny and your ducky pajama shorts.
The droning stopped, and a long high-pitched beeeeeep sounded, which triggered the gates. There was muffling on the other end of the line as the iron gates started peeling back, and you could’ve sworn you heard a voice say, “Is that her?” Your hands were mildly shaking as they reached to put the car back in drive, from fear? Excitement? Admittedly, a bit of both.
You drove up the cobblestone drive through a yard lush with tropical plants that had to have been imported, but your gaze was quickly stolen by the resort-like property you’d be entering at any moment. Columns stood tall and the encased chandelier emitted a warm glow where the intricate glass doorway stood. The click of your booties walking along the cobblestone seemed loud as you walked to the front and tentatively raised a hand to the door. You knocked softly for fear the intricate glass would break, though it did seem expensive and thick enough…
You looked back to the only car in the driveway – yours. Their cars were probably hidden and well-kept from the elements in one of the three garages you’d parked in front of. The dent you’d received from last year’s fender-bender was still obvious even in this dim lighting. The crickets seemed peaceful tonight.
You turned sharply at the high-pitched voice to see Gemma. She held a full champagne flute in her hand, and leant a bit on the dark wood rim of the door, looking every bit as beautiful as you’d remembered – more so, now that you saw the cocktail dress she was wearing.
“Hi!” you mirrored her enthusiasm. She ushered you in, not noticing it was a mere mask for how totally unprepared you felt. “Was I, uh, was this like a formal occasion?” you whispered, eyes darting down the long hall. The blank stare she gave you made your anxiety about being the most awkward human bean rise to new levels.
“What, formal?” Gemma looked baffled for a moment. “Oh! No, not at all. All my other clothes are dirty and I’ve been refusing for Sven or Eli to do them.” She took in your lost eyes. “The house maids- or, housemen? Not sure which,” she clarified. Her eyes quickly darted over your cardigan and jeans. “You look wonderful by the way. Dinner’s only just begun, I promise.” You smiled warmly at her, suddenly becoming aware of the chatter and silverware scraping the plates. A grand piano sat in the entrance, and there was a surprising amount of marble for the Spanish exterior of the house. Chandeliers lined the tall ceilings all the way down and some orchestra music you weren’t sophisticated enough to name filled the air.
She started walking down the hall, and you trailed behind her, your heart rate accelerating from the anticipation of seeing Harry in his home. It sounds weird, but you’d never been able to picture him at a proper house, with a family, with a childhood really… just the fraternity.
“Y/N is here!” She called out just as she turned the corner. Seven pairs of eyes locked on you and you instantly tugged on your sleeves. Especially when you only recognized two. Harry sat beside the head of the table, his eyes locked on the plate of food, and a surprise. Sorority Viv was beside him. You wanted to scowl, but you tugged the sleeves of your sweater down instead.
“Hi,” you put up a hand and braced a smile.
“Well we didn’t think you were coming,” a woman said. Her blonde bob looked strangely familiar and Harry’s eyes snapped to her when she spoke. Even from here you saw them harden.
“Oh..uh,” you looked down at your watch. 6:55. “I’m sorry, I thought dinner started at 7.”
“You’re fine dear,” the man at the head of the table assured. Mr. Styles you assumed. He had kind features and softened wrinkles by his eyes when he smiled like now. He was like a George Clooney and, even though he had gray hair, he was tan and somehow it was fashionable. But something was off.
“It was meant to be 6,” she noted, and her pearl necklace jostled as she leant over and placed her empty glass of champagne on the table and beckoned you to the seat in front of Harry. “Well come in! Please,” her voice sounded sincere but the thin smile radiated about as much warmth as a frozen potato. Gemma squeezed your shoulder as she passed and sat at the next empty one a few chairs down. You pulled yours out next to a fair-skinned boy with light dull brown hair and he offered his hand. It was like porcelain, so it was a little unnerving when you grasped it and found he was actually warm.
“Charlie,” he said, and you realized he was the boy you saw kissing Gemma.
“Y/N,” you smiled. You looked across to Viv and did the same, and she returned it, if a little unwilling. She looked to Harry again, who’d busied himself more with food.
“Hey,” you said, but it was into the void, his eyes elsewhere probably looking at the thousand dollars worth of décor – your embarrassment was swallowing you up until Viv nudged him. He looked up, eyes distant, and they locked on your own for only a second.
It was mortifying.
“So-” Charlie cleared his throat- “You guys are mates then I reckon?”
“We’re not sure what they are,” Gemma piped in.
“What do you mean?” Viv asked, looking to Harry.
“Yes, what do you mean?” Mrs. Styles suddenly halted the conversation at the other head of the table with the couple beside her. Harry’s face morphed into a scowl.
“Gemma,” he warned.
“Mary, please,” Mr. Styles sighed.
“Harry,” Gemma and Mary spoke at the same time.
“So!” Charlie let out a nervous laugh. “The chicken’s really good isn’t it?” He forked another bite into his mouth and you were envious you couldn’t do the same. Just like that, a gloved hand reached down and gingerly set down a china plate with the juiciest piece of chicken and capers you think you’d ever get the privilege of eating.
“Thank you,” you looked back to the kitchen help before he could disappear, black and white uniform and all. “You have a lovely home Mr. Styles. And Mrs. Styles.”
“Oh honey my mother-in-law is Mrs. Styles. I’m Mary, and he is Lionel.” Her voice was bubbly like the champagne she twirled around, but so was her friendly tone – full of air.
“Oh, okay.” You busied yourself with picking up the silverware before stealing a glance to Harry. His demeanor was different than usual, eyes glued to his food, cheek sucked in as he lightly gnawed on it. He was still, but .. sad? No.
“Did practice tire you out?”
His eyelashes fluttered at the sound of your voice and he looked up, lips pursing just the slightest. It was a miracle he hadn’t ignored you.
“No…”- a brief lift of his shoulders, a shake of the head, then- “No,” he repeated, forking a piece of chicken into his mouth.
“Yeah, you have been awfully quiet-OW,” Charlie began coughing and Gemma threw him a glare.
“Harry’s never quiet.”
“And how would you know that?” Harry suddenly snapped to life and the room dropped by ten degrees. She raised the napkin neatly to her mouth before slowly tucking it below her.
She took a deep composed breath.
“Oh please Harry,” her oddly placed laugh made you tug your sweater tighter to your body. “I’ve lived with you long enough don’t you think?”
“Long enough? Yeah I completely agree.” A sarcastic half grin spread across his face and something tugged within you that made you want to kiss it away. You heard yourself thinking and it made you sick. Kiss? KISS??!
You stuffed another bite in your mouth.
“So Y/N what’s the story here?”
You look up, cheeks full. Mr. Styles – Lionel, laughed a bit at the sight and his laugh didn’t make you want to cringe into your sweater like his wife’s. “Sorry darling, I’ll let you finish.”
You swallowed a little too fast.
“What are you studying here? How do you know Harry?”
“I’m majoring in Biology, but we’re in English class together.”
“Biology! I’ll drink to that,” Lionel lit up and raised his flute.
“Lionel’s the best doctor in Southern California.” Mary crossed her heart, and Lionel shook his head lightly.
“She exaggerates.” Her eyes narrowed slightly at his comment, but he continued, “If you ever need an internship or if you want to come visit one day…feel free.” He slipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out an extremely thick, extremely white business card as if it was the most normal thing in the world. “So… just class?” He gestured between you and Harry once more.
“Well, he’s also quite a good soccer player so I’m pretty sure the whole school knows him.”
“I wouldn’t say the whole school,” Harry started, but his eyes were fixed on Lionel and the way he broke into an easy smile.
“So we’ve heard. We’ve seen him play once or twice, haven’t we?” He looked to Mary who nodded. She soundlessly raised the napkin to her mouth again but she didn’t speak. “Yeah, he’s quite good.”
“Really good,” Viv crooned.
“Could you pass the water please?” Gemma asked.
“What?” Mary arched a thin brow.
“The water,” Gemma repeated.
“Water,” Lioinel mimicked the accent and broke into a smile. “You can’t ever leave Gemma, it’s decided. I’d miss your voice too much.”
Something snapped in you. He lifted the heavy vase of water effortlessly and passed it on to her, oblivious of the gears turning in your head. The accent.
Mr. Styles didn’t have one.
And neither did Mary?
“You don’t have accents?” It was out before you could stop it and the table fell silent. It was one of those awful moments when everyone’s brows were squished and slow side glances were given. And a nauseating feeling spread through you when you realized you might have said a very wrong thing. Viv nervously looked to Harry.
“What do you mean?” Mary asked.
Harry cleared his throat. “I mean, technically we all have accents.”
“He’s right,” Gemma said, pointing her fork.
“But you’re…are you British?”
“I am!” Charlie said.
“Yes you idiot,” Gemma nudged him, and Lionel laughed a bit before shaking his head.
“No darling, we’re from here. Born and bred beach bums.” He threw up the shaka sign in true dad-fashion but Mary tipped her champagne flute back.
“Never say that again.”
“Why am I embarrassing you?”
Harry didn’t bat an eye.
“Oh come on…Charlie smiled.” Lionel innocently looked over for support, but Charlie’s gaze was locked deep on his chicken by then.
“You’re lying,” Harry shrugged. “You never go to the beach. Can’t be a host that lies to its guest can we?” Harry turned to you and you froze. “You don’t like liars do you? Cause I don’t.”
“What has gotten into you?” Lionel’s voice was breathless, incredulous.
The table fell silent and the two looked at each other from opposite ends of the table. Lionel set his glass down and a tint of disbelief reflected in his eyes.
“I’ve never seen you there it’s just funny to hear you say it,” Harry continued calmly.
“What’re you talking about I took you sailing all the time.”
“I’ve seen pictures!” Viv said, “Oh you were so cute in your little outfits, don’t you remember?” But her voice sounded overenthusiastic, keen to change the subject.
“Sure and how old was I again Vivvy?”
His retort was instant, the question harmless enough, but it was the way he said it that made Viv’s face instantly fall. For a moment, you even felt bad for her she seemed so genuinely hurt. Mary rubbed her mouth with the napkin so hard you weren’t sure if the red on her lips was blood or makeup. Do you speak? Make a mad dash for the door? Sorry, I didn’t sign up to be on an episode of the Housewives - gotta blast! Then you could throw the thumbs up sign to Harry on your way.
No. You couldn’t. You didn’t even dare to breathe right now.
Gemma watched wordlessly, just as much at a loss as you. More so, it seemed, for her mouth open and closed multiple times, but each time it was a hopeless attempt. Lionel rose his brows, took a deep breath, and leaned back. He looked tired.
Harry’s eyes had barely flitted over to yours before retreating again and in that brief moment you looked at him, it’s as if he realized what he’d said. His cheeks flushed, but his jaw was locked.
“Okayy, someone woke up on the wrong side of his small fraternity bed this morning. But you’re welcome to come back and live with us. Have your nice king sized bed again…” It sounded like a nice offer but if you listened hard enough you could’ve sworn you detected something sharp.
“Oh funny joke Lionel,” Mary laughed humorlessly, slowly turning to you. “Harry’s always been independent.”
I wanted Gemma to reach out, to whisper a concerned Harry as a warning, because right now his eyes were dark, brewing a storm of blood rain from invisible scars he’d cut open himself. How deep did they run?
“Yes, funny, funny, that’s what we are,” Lionel said, but there was no smile on his face, he was rubbing the corners of his mouth with the napkin and setting it down on his clean plate. “Sorry about this.”
As if Harry wasn’t in the room. As if you didn’t feel as though you were in the most awkward position you could’ve been placed in, plopped in the middle of a tug of war you didn’t really remember signing up for. Were you supposed to be on a side?
“Dinners aren’t usually like this, I don’t know why he’s-”
“I don’t know why we’re having this dinner. Are you done?” Harry asked Viv. Her plate was still full of vegetables and at least half the chicken.
“Great! Are you done?” He turned to you in all his over-animation, and in his dark green eyes you felt a sudden sympathy. It wasn’t right what he was doing, but he could only be acting out for a reason. Or multiple.
Or perhaps he was a just a selfish petulant boy.
Whatever the reason there was a wild plead in his gaze and you didn’t want to disappoint.
But you were also very much aware of Lionel waiting for your answer.
“If everyone’s done, then I’m done too.” And in fact, your appetite had disappeared.
Gemma seemed close to tears, but she blinked them away and tossed her napkin. “Yes, I’m actually quite tired.”
Charlie halted his fork mid bite and with one look from Gemma he reluctantly put it down.
“Stuffed full actually,” he mumbled.
“Great, well, I’ll grab dessert.”
Mary rose with her napkin but the scrape of Harry’s chair against the wood floors made her do a sharp turn.
“Where are you going?”
He didn’t answer as he headed to the marble staircase, footsteps loud as he jogged up them.
“Let him go,” Lionel sighed, and with it, he shrunk smaller in his chair.
“Harry!” she screeched. But he didn’t answer and with a turn at the top of the stairwell he was gone.
Everyone dispersed after that. Lionel received a conveniently-timed phone call to which he had to dismiss himself into one of the many rooms. Mary headed immediately into the kitchen but she never came back -
And then there were four.
“I’m-” Gemma bit her cheek, folded her hands. “Nevermind.”
“I think I should get back.”
Gemma looked at you understandingly, a sad sort of reluctant smile gracing her face. “Perhaps that’d be best. It was really nice meeting you though, and as much as Harry doesn’t seem to get on with loads of people, he mentioned you multiple times. I thought-” Her eyes got misty again and they glazed over the multiple paintings hanging over the dining table. “Nevermind what I thought,” she looked down to her feet but for a moment before that, her warm eyes had smiled at yours. You didn’t know her, not at all, yet somehow you could tell the warmth behind them was genuine. And you liked her instantly.
“Alright, I’ll just – I’ll head out then. Thank you so much for the dinner, it really was delicious.”
“Thanks for coming,” Charlie offered, swinging his arm around Gemma.
“Guess I’ll see you at school.” Viv appeared beside them and the unexpected head of jealousy showed its face again. Well, not its whole face. Just the tip of its nose as it peered behind the pillars of your heart, because would you really want to spend more time in there?
You were shocked when that tiny part of you said yes.
You were only halfway to your car when you heard Viv shout out.
“Wait!” You obeyed, feet halting as her fast jogging in heels made record time. She let out a breath. “Back there, what you said about the accents, it’s not like it’s a big secret, but um.” Her eyebrows slightly knitted together. “I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, I guess just so you don’t make it a big deal.”
“Yeah. Wait- why, did I make it a big deal? I really didn’t mean to.”
She shook her head, then stopped. Her head leaned slightly to the side and her eyes pinched as she pondered your questioned. “Maybe a little.”
She put her arm around you and steered you to your car.
“Harry’s adopted, it’s not bad that I’m telling you this because they don’t try and keep it hidden or anything it’s just – they don’t advertise it. And most people don’t ask. They just assume long-term boarding school or something. They don’t look into it.”
Adopted. Of freaking course.
“It was when he was young, seven or something. Uh-” She stopped, perhaps she’d said a bit too much. “But anyway it’s not that big of a deal.” But it sounded like she was trying to convince herself. She looked to you.
“Yeah,” you agreed, “Totally fine. I mean I’m sure his other friends know anyways.”
She smiled then, and stuck you at arms length. “See you later.”
After revving the engine, and drawing up to the gate, you sat there for what must have been a solid twenty seconds, throwing the engine in reverse and then approaching it again. It didn’t move. Shouldn’t this thing be automatic from the inside? You threw it in park and trudged to the front door again, but no one was moving inside the house. You tried knocking. Everyone was gone. Fantastic.
A miracle, one of the garage doors started to open and you walked closer.
“Oh good, I was about to be stuck!” you called out as the doors clicked back, expecting Gemma to return your smile from the other side. But it was dark and no one was there. You did see the shadow of three other cars though. Three very nice racecar material cars.
“Hello?” You called out. You swallowed harshly when you saw two brown booties.
“What’s going on?”
You felt like you should be the one asking him that, but you just shrugged your shoulders. “The gate won’t open.”
Harry stood expressionless before retreating to the back of the garage.
“Wait- where are you-”
The sound of the gate opening shut you up. “Oh, thanks,” you mumbled. You didn’t really know what else to say, and Harry wasn’t exactly making conversation, so you were silent as the clank of your door closed you in again. Back to reality. This night had been a disaster.
The spluttering of your engine lasted longer than usual and you stilled.
Come on grandpa!!!!
You twisted the key again but it was refusing to give you the satisfying thrum when it finally gave. You were so close!! It couldn’t give out now!!!! It could literally break down, say, in a total hypothetical situation that did NOT happen, when I’m trying to avoid human contact after being pantsed in front of hottie toddie physics professor but it CAN’T give out now.
You tried again but it failed.
And you tried again.
Harry’s figure approached the car window with a beer in hand and he took a deep swig of it before knocking on the window. You barely heard it above the spluttering but you gave grandpa a moment of silence.
You rested your head on the steering wheel before bouncing up again and rolling down the window.
“What Harry,” you sighed.
You got out and waited, crossing your arms while Harry ran into the garage to check if he had any jumper cables or whatever else he’d need to fix this. At least it wasn’t smoking.
“We don’t have any.” He sauntered over, scratching the back of his neck and looking at the car. “Can stay here if you want.”
“I can call an Uber.” You hit your phone’s lock switch but it was a black screen. DAMN you Renny for hogging the charger before you’d left. DAMN YOU. “Can’t. Can’t call an Uber. Could you call one for me?”
“Are you trying to use me for my money?”
“I- no.” Your mouth parted but it closed again. Was he for real? Was he….kidding? “I can pay you back you know.”
“Lionel won’t hear of it. He doesn’t trust Uber.”
“Doesn’t trust Uber. What is he? A binge-watcher of late night crime shows?”
“No.” An almost smile shone through and you crossed your arms.
“Well I can’t just block the gate.”
“No one’s going anywhere for tonight.” He headed for the garage again. “Come on,” he called back.
“Renny will be worried about me!”
“You can call from our landline.”
People still had those?
“Sh they can hear you these walls aren’t 12 inches thick!!” you whisper-yelled into the receiver. You gave Harry an awkward smile and twirled the cord around the vintage phone. “Mary picked it up at a Parisian market or something. It’s mainly for decoration but they got it hooked up just in case,” he’d said, only walking to the end of the hall to give you some “privacy.”
It was literally from the 1920s. You felt like a vaudevillian actress about to break into song about how she wants to live a normal life but mommy and daddy keep her locked in a tower.
“I DON’T CARE IF THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD HEARS ME YOU ARE BETRAYING YOURSELF IF YOU SPEND THE NIGHT THERE.”
“Renny- ! Oh my- ! Could you just- could you just LISTEN?”
“Let me call you an Uber.”
“Lionel already knows and they’re-” you looked over at Harry who seemed to be distracted by a painting he’s probably seen a thousand times before and you lowered your voice- “Apparently one of the maids is already making my bed.”
“ARE YOU ROYALTY NOW?! Are they going to give you complimentary chocolates in the morning?! Are you going to be giving him complimentary HEAD-?!!!”
Harry’s head whipped towards yours, but his lips were still set in his pout. You grimaced, putting your back to him and facing the end of the hallway.
“Now you have me thinking about the wizard’s wand. I literally hate you,” you grumbled.
“You know I’m joking. Well, half-joking. You can stay there if you want it’s just-” she sighed- “What is this, are you guys like dating now? Because the last I heard you were literally running away from him and wanting to punch his face in.”
“He does give off that effect. And no! We’re not-” your voice lowered more- “We’re not dating. My car’s just broken down.
“You keep lying to yourself.”
“I’m not lying to anybody.”
“Keep telling yourself that kid. Because the last time I was with you was when you were literally RUNNING away from him. But you’re going to spend the night at his house. Voluntarily. I mean geeze you’re giving the poor guy a headache you can at least suck his dick.”
She’d hung up before the words even processed.
“This is the living wing, I dunno why they call it that it just makes it sounds depressing.”
“What do they mean by living?” you asked. Each word sounded heavy on your tongue, each sentence carefully constructed. It was weird to be talking with him when he clearly wasn’t in the best frame of mind. When you didn’t know if he’d snap and turn sour all of a sudden.
Though you didn’t think that’d happen. He seemed more sullen to you now more than anything, apologetic maybe, if a word like that could describe him. Think: a toddler after being scolded for something he’s done wrong. Eh? That image seemed to work.
“It’s where my dad keeps his…creatures. Birds, fish, I don’t know I never fucking go in. It’s also where their bedrooms are.” He poked his head around the hallway before muttering, “I guess.”
Your feet stopped following him when you met a tall window. Their backyard was….spectacular. It was dark and the twinkle lights only exposed so much, but there was a very nice long pool, tile patio with sunbathing chairs, and more green beyond it. The all black on the horizon you assumed to be the ocean.
You didn’t realize Harry was behind you until he muttered, “What’re you thinking about?”
“You know I could ask you the same question. Like at least half the time I’m around you.”
His brows squeezed together a bit but a bit of a smirk was starting to form. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“Oh you do. You definitely do,” you started to laugh and back into the window to scrutinize him from afar. Because right now he had a very odd look in his eye. “You’re quiet most of the time,” you said softer. After dinner, you weren’t quite sure what was going on in Harry’s family life. But the longer the adopted word kept being tossed around in your brain and analyzed every which way, you wondered how many different dynamics existed that added or subtracted to their relationship. Take Gemma. How did she fit in? She had the accent too.
So, if you could make him smile by backing up and eyeing him like he was some sort of specimen than so be it. As much as you would’ve killed to see him unhappy a couple days ago, you’d realized you’d been a bit rash to run into conclusions. And yes, you had managed to make yourself look like an utter mentally unstable ass and a half. So you could cut him some slack. The night hadn’t been a nightmare for just one of you.
“Stop it,” he warned. But you started to circle him and you squinted one eye, putting two hands up to frame Harry’s face and the window with the warmly-lit grounds like a director choosing the shot. “Okay seriously. Stop.”
“Nope,” you popped the p, “It’s funny. I couldn’t picture you in a place like this before, but now I can.” You slowly put your hands down and you thought you heard him mumble weird.
“Oi. Did you just call me weird?” your mouth opened in playful surprise. His nose scrunched up at your over exaggerations. He was confused, you could tell. And he was probably being just as cautious as you were, you realized. You didn’t blame him. But he was so close to smiling. Soooo clooosseee-
“S’just weird,” he settled with. And his would-be smile dropped. A little bit of guilt struck you.
“What is?” you began slowly.
“It’s weird that you’re here.” He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Because I can’t picture you here.”
His voice seemed shy. He nodded towards the other end of the hall. “Come on, I’ll show you where you’re sleeping.” And he didn’t give you much time to catch up, nor time to feel offended, as his long legs were once again a disadvantage to you.
You weren’t sure how many bedrooms you’d been passing, and to be completely honest, Harry’s explanations of what each room was went a bit beyond you.
“Theatre’s to your right, sun room’s to the left. That’s the library over in there, elevator’s around the bend. Annnnd… here it is.”
He forgot to mention the multiple living rooms you’d been passing which had killer ocean views, or the full-on mini bars. Yes. Bars. As in numerous. You didn’t see much alcohol in them though and you wondered if it had anything to do with Harry.
“I’ll be at the other end then.”
“Of the house?”
“The hall, just there.” He pointed, and looked back at you with a funny look about him. “No sneaking into my bedroom.”
You coughed. “I’m sorry, was that a joke? A poor one but…Are you making jokes now?”
His smile faltered, but it was finally there. No matter how small or pained it looked. His eyes looked to his boots for a second before settling on your elbow, then your shoulder. Then your chin. Or was it-
“Right. Well. I’ll give you something to wear, just- stay there. Or don’t. I don’t care.” Harry turned quickly and disappeared into the last room at the hall. Your eyes grazed the hallway walls. He may not look necessarily enthused that you were there, but in this whole situation you’d felt like an outsider. And you suspected that was exactly what he needed.
Not that you held any pretenses to know what that confusing boy needed.
Not at all.
Or rather, none at all.
None were there to gather dust, to give you a glimpse into what he looked like as a toddler through to the awkward teen years. No family portraits hung. Each wall’s empty space was filled with a landscape painting of the sea, or the cliffs facing the water. Except for the power portrait of the Styles in the center of the home that looked out over their grounds - it was stark of any traces of family existence. The messy bits anyway. And instantly you compared it to your old stained carpets and walls with so many nails in it if you removed all the pictures and unscrewed the nails, you’d be left with hardly a house at all. This felt like someone had come in, staged it for a potential buyer, and that was it. Like if you opened the dresser’s drawer you wouldn’t find anything in it except for another nail or the assembly instruction manual.
You hummed to yourself, peering into your bedroom. A nice queen-sized bed and bamboo flooring. White canopy drapes covering what you assumed to be a window. The only thing that seemed off was the ceiling. It had stars painted on it. You walked to the center of the room and looked up- there was a name there, inscribed in the center of the biggest star. You sat on the edge of the bed, twiddling your thumbs before wandering over to the ensuite bathroom. It was no less impressive.
A big part of you was wishing to be with Renny right now. Gosh you would’ve paid anything to see her face if she could only see the outside of this house. You never fared well when there was quiet, a lot of it anyway. And in a house this big, it was quiet. A little too quiet. And cold. Was the AC set to 50 or something?
Warm water ran down your face and you briskly turned the faucet off. At least Renny would be able to say “I told you so” tomorrow. Well, not about the blowjob thing. You opened the medicine cabinet to find some toothpaste, or face soap. The last thing you needed was another zit to pop through.
But there wasn’t anything of the sort. No no no.
Pills filled the cabinets. Some with labels, some without. You closed the cabinet. Definitely not toothpaste. Definitely not your business. But who were they-
“Oh my gosh!” your heart flew to your chest.
Mary was sitting on the edge of your bed, silent, hands folded in her lap. Had she seen you? The sudden adrenaline found an escape in an awkward laugh. “You scared me.”
“Oh I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to do that.” She tucked a strand behind her ear and it wasn’t until your hip hit the door frame on the way out of the bathroom that you realized she hadn’t been looking at you this entire time. She would’ve judged you for that blunder. No, her eyes were fixed on the walls, then the ceiling.
Did she need help with something? Were you in the wrong room?
“Is this my room?”
“It’s my youngest’s room.” She looked up again, and her left hand seemed to be a little shaky as she soothed already straight hair behind her ear. You watched her closer and saw her body sway a bit to steady herself when her head lowered. You instinctually looked to the door, to an exit. Harry should be down there. Nerves suddenly held your body like they always do in a situation that’s unfamiliar, in the face of unpredictability.
“She liked astronomy!” She said suddenly, as if she’d just had an epiphany. She walked over to the canopy drapes and peered between them, revealing a balcony as she looked out. “I thought she’d like it. She likes the stars.”
“I bet they’re, uh-” your eyes shot out again- “Beautiful from here.”
She was quiet and she slowly turned to you, pointing to the ceiling. “There. Did you- didyouseeit? There.” She stumbled closer, still in heels, and you crossed your arms tightly, nodding even though you had no idea. You followed her hand briefly. It was the scribble on the wall.
“I picked it,” she said, finger sliding to fall at her heart. “I picked it.”
“Jesus! Mary.” Harry stormed in, a horrified look on his face as he clutched clothes in his hands. They fell to the floor.
“And Joseph,” you muttered.
Harry’s eyes held no humor in them in the brief moment he glanced to you. It was hardly enough time to properly glare. But glare he did. And there was enough fiery gusto in them to realize that now was not the time.
“Jane,” she corrected. “Jane.”
Harry was struck still, and you watched as his eyes frantically observed. But when she was about to sit down again he spoke,
“What’re you doing in here? Y/N is going to try and sleep.”
Mary looked at him, her drunken emotional journey to the past turning sour. Her lips pressed in a hard line and she stood up, swaying a bit when she did so, but the level of composure she emanated was impressive. She went over to him, passing you silently, and for an irrational second you thought she was going to jump you. Instead, she grabbed Harry’s arm when she was almost out the door. “There were two rooms Harry.” She tried to whisper it, but the alcohol had warped her perception and you heard everything.
She let her hand fall and Harry’s fist clenched as it did.
You were struck dumb, again. This wasn’t your domain, you weren’t close enough to comfort him if that was what he needed and you weren’t brave enough to interject if he needed a good slap in the face. You barely knew him. And the realization of that sunk deeper than you’d ever realized. You can get frustrated because of him, infuriated at him even, but you couldn’t be one to judge. Not when he seemed more miserable here than anywhere else.
“Stay here,” he finally said. And then he was gone, leaving you with a pile of clothes that couldn’t explain the half of it.
You stripped quietly once the door was closed, pulling the oversized plaid button up down that fell to completely cover your hands. It still left you cold, barely covering your bum, but your heart warmed a little at how he didn’t just give you a black t-shirt. You almost stepped over the sweatpants that were there before greedily snatching them up with a smile In your fanciful mind you imagined he knew you’d be cold in here.
Harry never came back. You couldn’t text Renny, or anyone, and you couldn’t be bothered with figuring out how to turn on the tv or to find a channel. So you lay there, looking at the ceiling. You didn’t belong in this room. Mary, even if she hadn’t necessarily said get out, still verifiably creeped you out enough so that you didn’t want to be in this room. You never knew Harry had another sibling. Not that you’d even known about Gemma until yesterday. How many other people knew him, truly? Why were you here now? What would you do if you opened your eyes and Mary was just sitting at the end of your bed again - watching you sleep? It made your head dizzy and you closed your eyes. If she was there at least you wouldn’t be able to see her. But the scribble in the sky was still burned in your mind’s eye and it had your imagination roaring. You rolled over on your side, pulling up the thin sheet to cover your ear. The wind smacked a palm tree leaf against the balcony window and you jolted in place. You felt haunted, and it wasn’t like the sheet would protect you from anything except for soothing the little toddler in you who still believed that good always won, evil always lost.
This was an expensive home.
With probably more security than the local bank.
You were safe.
But you didn’t feel secure.
Your anxious thoughts continued like pins pricking your stomach until fatigue made it stop. You didn’t know the time when you fell asleep.
And you didn’t know the time when you awoke. The smacking of the palm trees was as bad as ever , and your nightmare had been worse tonight. The same sick one. A house in the countryside, peeling wallpaper that threatened to wrap itself over your hands if you leant against it a little too long, trapping you there when you needed to run from faceless creatures.
You were being watched.
You jolted-to in a cold sweat.
Was it 2 am? 3? You hoped it was closer to 6, to the sunrise. These days you cherished the times when you’d wake up at 4. You tried closing your eyes again, but the sweat soon chilled you enough to where the sheet wasn’t enough. You silently stood, walking over to the cabinets on the far side of the wall. The painted shutter doors squeaked when you opened them. It must’ve not been opened for a while because the paint caused the two doors to stick together and it only gave on the third tug.
What you saw stilled your heart. Because you didn’t find linens or a big fluffy blanket, and if you’d discovered this just a few hours later in the morning you’d probably glance right over it, perhaps it would’ve sparked a moment of confusion maybe. But now, in a big strange house in the middle of the night you surely felt a chill. And then you were booking it out to the hall.
His door was there. Just like any other door. But you paced around it a few times. He was probably sleeping. Should you just go to the downstairs? Just…I don’t know… grab a glass of water? Try putting on the tv? Like a normal person would? You raised your hand, but it fell just as fast. Gosh who were you?!
You couldn’t yell at Harry for being bipolar when you were basically the perfect spokesmodel. You knew why you were standing outside his door. You knew who’d make you feel secure. This was embarrassing.
But the door opened before you had to knock.
“You can come in,” he murmured.
“Oh,” you said, voice barely above a whisper. “Oh you don’t have to-”
But when he opened the door wider you didn’t waste a second in entering.