The ruins of this relatively little known abbey are remarkably intact, and stand in a part of Ayrshire steeped in history. As well as being historically interesting there are many enigmas associated with the abbey, which could well be worth further research. There may have been a Pictish site here, and some people suggest that the abbey may have a Templar connection.
The abbey was founded by Duncan the Earl of Carrick around 1244, after he donated money to the monks of Paisley to build an abbey on the spot. After some legal wrangling the abbey was completed and monks from Paisley were sent to run it, after which it became independent in its own right. The name of the abbey is possibly related to an ancient cross which stood on the spot, and it may mean abbey of the royal (regal) cross, or the abbey of the cross of Riaghail, perhaps an ancient king, in truth nobody is certain. Crossraguel was a Clunaic abbey, which was a branch of the Benedictines, and the monks were known as the ‘Black Monks’ from the colour of their habits.
The abbey saw its share of turmoil, in 1307 an invading army led by Henry Percy under Edward I sacked the abbey. The defeat of his forces may have led to the destruction in a bid for revenge before returning home. In any event the abbey was rebuilt in a much more grandiose scale and lasted until after the reformation in the hands on the charismatic abbot Quintin Kennedy, who died in 1564. His influence in the area is probably down to his bloodline with the powerful Earl of Cassilliss. Even after his death a few monks were said to have stayed in the half ruined buildings, in spite of great secular changes in favour of the Protestant creed. As with many ancient abbeys it was plundered for building stone after its ruination, mainly to build some of the local housing, but it is still remarkably intact.
The Enigmas The abbey is atmospheric to say the least, perhaps in part because of its mixture of complete buildings vying with gaunt ruins, so that one minute you can be walking through a part of the abbey as the monks would have seen it, and the next forward in time to the shell of the church, open to the elements. It is easy to visualise the monks in their every day activities.
You can get carried away with the romance of the place but there are other clues within the abbey to perhaps greater mysteries. One is the stone which is set into the lower wall of the abbey, anybody who is familiar with the Burghead Pictish bull carving will see the similarities in shape straight away, and the stone may date back much further than the abbey.
Just what it is doing in the abbey wall is anybody’s guess but it is definitely hand carved, and not in a place where it was put for show. It may be pictish - who knows - if it is it suggests a Pictish stronghold much further West than is usual, and it would be interesting to know if anybody has any ideas about its origin. Perhaps - to speculate more wildly - this is part of the carving from the ancient cross from which the abbey took its name.
The abbey - particularly the chapter house - is full of mason’s marks, although these are not unusual in themselves (they were used to identify which stonemason should be paid for what work) some have been traced back to that enigmatic tapestry in stone Rosslyn Chapel (this may be coincidence). This has led some people to conclude that the Templars were involved with the abbey in some way, another clue being the beehive dovecot, although this dates to the 16th century.
Another 'unknown’ relates to the meaning of the hearts carved on to the cross, which surmounts the remains of the church. It has been speculated that this is related to Robert the Bruce in some way, as he was known as Braveheart (not Wallace incidentally) and it may relate to his hearts posthumous journey to the East, where it led his followers into battle for the last time, but then such tenuous ties are open to debate and may be the grounds for further research, who knows what might turn up?
The abbey also has a green man, and a carving of a mermaid a rare find in a Scottish abbey.
Shell Valley’s Church of the Peteran Faith, mostly decorated for the Christmas service. (ignore the fact that i still need to finish the side garden)
I can’t take any credit for this lot as the church was originally made by @mmmork for the @simscommunityprojecthere, because i had limited space needed to rebuild it instead of making it over to match the town, but believe me that the original is fantastic, go ahead and test it!.
It’s not a part two so much as just more little stories of the similar characters and scenarios. Enjoy. I hope. I am so exhausted so I hope these are still good.
He absolutely never knew what to expect when he saw Evelyn Tomlinson. His chest would ache when he read any message from her over the screen of his phone, instantly and always fearing the worst. He took his relationship with her very seriously and had since she first came into his world all blue eyes and laughing lungs. He asked twice what she wanted to meet up about, but Eve was cryptic and simply said that she just wanted to talk.
It had been years since Zayn had sat on the floor of any stadium with her though, reading books or chasing her in an effort to seem something like a boogeymen. Eve had grown up and was a young woman now, studying English with a focus on Children’s Literature at the University of Manchester while keeping her father’s charity organization running. Zayn knew life hadn’t been particularly benevolent to the charming girl, but he could not have been any more proud of his niece for preserving and transforming herself from smartass bookworm to curious intellect.
In true Zayn Malik fashion, he sat preserving his voice in the back booth of one of his favorite restaurants in London, a Mayfair based Italian spot that he had managed to make a reservation at with very little notice. He kept glancing at the black sleeve of his shirt, noting the time on his gold Rolex. One thing everyone could count on with Eve was that she was forever running late. She could leave a day ahead for a doctor’s appointment and still arrive minutes after she was scheduled to. His mind tried not to curve around the idea that any kind of tragedy could be keeping the girl.
He glanced down at the wine menu placed perfectly in the center of the small white place setting at the table, none of the fancy names or varieties interesting him nearly as much as the cold beer to his right did. Zayn wrapped his tense fingers around the sea glass bottle bringing it to his lips before his deep set eyes were pulled forward, the sound of Eve’s sing-song voice excusing its way through the other patrons and tables in the place, making her line to the back where Zayn was sat.
“I know. I’m late.” First right and then left, Eve put up her hands in front of herself one by one, explaining herself somewhat, before leaning around the table to bend down and give her pseudo Uncle a quick ‘hello’ squeeze. Zayn reached one arm up to pat her gently, smiling as she held him for a moment.
“You made it. It’s all okay.” He was impatient and being kept ten minutes was ridiculous, but he would excuse the scenario for Eve. Anyone else would have to deal with a rude voicemail, his wrath in length, or cold remarks, maybe even him simply leaving all together, but Zayn would always forgive and carry on with Eve. “You look lovely.” He mentioned as she started to pull off her loose sweater by the sleeves, revealing her figure 8 shaped body in a blue shift dress that made her eyes seem like they were actually made of DeBeers’s sapphires. Knees bent, Eve slipped her hands under her dress and tucked herself under the table. She was always trying to be quiet and understated, but it was impossible. She was just way too much like her father in every way. All of her gestures had to be performed on a large scale and even when she was trying to be quiet, she inevitable made too much noise.
As Eve situated herself at the small table for two, their waiter approached with a plate of mussels, setting it down evenly between them both, catching Eve off guard while Zayn looked as ready to dig in as he knew his stomach was. The waiter poured Eve a cold glass of San Pellgrino from the green glass bottle waiting at the side of the table before giving the two time to be alone.
“I ordered a starter, just in case.” Zayn explained as he reached over, helping himself to one only after he put a single mussel on Eve’s plate with his fork.
“You know me.” Eve cleared her throat with a fast sip of bubbly water, washing out the taste of her studies that had kept her busy all day from her peach colored mouth. She was particularly fond of nude lips, always showing up with little to no make up on and somehow looking as if she could be Elizabeth Taylor’s young doppelganger anyway. “I don’t turn down food.” Spoken like Dame Liz herself, Eve told him and shoved the silver prongs into her mussel, trying to fish it out.
“So, why’d you wanna get together?” She had come late and Zayn wasn’t willing to waste any more time in suspense. His words came out altogether, mixing in a deep pool that was his Bradford accent. Regardless of how little time he spent out there, Zayn just couldn’t shake his birthright. “You know I always fear the worst…”
“When have I ever delivered bad news to you?” Laughing lightly as she reached across the table for a mussel from their communal plate, Eve asked.
She had never come to tell Zayn anything too terrible. There had been a time when her ponytail barely reached the height of his knee where she confessed to him in a whisper that it had been she who spilled water all over Harry’s satchel, but beyond that it had actually been Zayn coming to her deliver hard blows to her gut. After all, he would always be the one to tell her that her father wasn’t going to be leaving the hospital, that the chemotherapy wasn’t taking to his tumour as everyone had been so optimistic it would. The stern words followed by choked apology came out of his mouth, not Liam’s. Liam had just sat beside the sixteen year old, shaking hand on her shoulder with a blubbering mouth, dry at the corners. Zayn swore he could still feel her painted black nails against his chest, pushing at him to get out of her way so she could return to her father’s bed side, the venom in her words when she raised her voice, free of its general sweetness, and told him to ‘Go to Hell’. Maybe that was why he always expected her to break his heart, he was sure he had ripped hers out years ago.
“I just worry.” Zayn chuckled back, taking another mussel for himself and beginning to fish it out as soon as it was on his plate. “So, do I have to guess or will you tell me?”
“Well, Owen and I have finally found a location…” She began, clearing her throat before a smile slid like butter over her matte skin. That was all it took, saying her fiancé’s name and Eve was a beaming child in her chair, unable to keep herself in control. Zayn had been more than hesitant about Eve’s impending engagement at first. She was worth a lot of money thanks to Louis’s will leaving most of his estate to the girl for when she turned eighteen, but Zayn had been near her age when he was first engaged. He knew the feelings that were taking off like rockets inside of her well. He wasn’t going to be the one to shoot hers down.
Instinctively, Zayn put down his silver fork in order to reach inside of his jacket to fetch his check book. He didn’t care that Eve had enough money to keep her secure for her entire life if he he wasn’t reckless with it. Eve was as much a daughter to him as his own and she wasn’t going to pay for her own wedding. He knew that this was what Louis would have wanted too.
“Stop that.” Reaching across the table with an open palm, she shook her hand. “That’s not what I’m asking.”
Reluctantly, Zayn did as he was told and went back to cracking open another mussel shell.
“We found a church in Manchester.” Despite having been born in London and raised around the world, Eve felt a kinship with her father’s hometown. She could feel him there as he was well celebrated and often made trips by train to visit or just feel closer to the man who had been her superhero from day one. “So, I’m finally starting to make plans. The location made it feel more real.”
Nodding, Zayn smiled at the evident excitement attacking it’s way through Eve’s eyes and active hand gestures. It was moments like this where she radiated her father. She looked just like him when she was lit up.
He was confused though. He didn’t know why she would have asked to get together to discuss wedding plans with him. He hadn’t been any help during the planning process for either of his. This seemed like a conversation better suited for her mother or his wife. Maybe Harry, but even he would have just tried to throw money at her.
“What I wanted to ask you,” Eve brought Zayn to the edge of his seat, his knees bouncing lightly under the table together. “And, please say no if you’re uncomfortable, but would you walk me down the aisle?” She was wiping the greasy tips of her fingers on her fabric napkin over her lap, blue eyes looking up at him like magnified glasses. “Give me away, so to speak.” Eve giggled at the term, licking her tongue across her teeth and tasting the seafood flavour she had just enjoyed. Faintly, her cheeks were blushing. It was a strange question for her to pose out loud, but Eve managed to ask it without exposing how uneasy it had her reeling. Some girls never had to ask, it was just assumed their fathers would fulfill the tradition. She hadn’t had to think about it though. The pair of them, her and Zayn, had always got on famously and when pancreatic cancer took her father from her years and years too soon, he fulfilled his promise to an ailing Louis that he would look after Eve and keep her well. He would never replace her father for her, but Zayn had been an outstanding second.
He didn’t feel right. His throat went taut in a matter of seconds and he wondered if his skin was as pale
as Niall’s. This was Louis’s job. Louis was supposed to be the one to lose his breath at Eve all grown up in satin white, take her down a church aisle with a gleam in his eyes while trying not to trip over his own nerves and overwhelming emotions. Louis had talked to him about it when he was first diagnosed with cancer, when Eve was still in high school. He had told Zayn how he wanted so badly to see his little girl finish high school and walk up as her full name was read to earn her diploma. Zayn had promised him that with a good fight and the right treatment, he would. Instead, Zayn had been the one to sit in the crowded hall and watched the four hour ceremony all for the moment the school’s headmaster called: Evelyn Johannah Tomlinson. He told Zayn that he wanted to see his daughter pursue her dreams of writing stories and being a published author and while Eve read to her father every day during the end, it was Zayn now who was hearing about her progress in University and proofing any little story she typed up during a stiff bout of insomnia. Louis had made it abundantly clear to everyone that he the idea of missing out on Eve’s adult years was the hardest pill to swallow. He could take the chemo, operations, and days of throwing up in between blood samples and respiratory tests, but thinking he might miss out on proudly watching Eve become a woman, a wife, and a mother, was just devastating for Louis. Zayn was internally breaking at the notion that he was going to once again tie up and wear the shoes that Louis had custom made himself. It didn’t feel right, but he was honoured from the tips of his dark mane to the dry tips of his toes under his leather boots. How could he say 'no’? He tried to think of his old friend and what he would have wanted, but Zayn couldn’t say 'no’ to Eve, not when she was so deserving and not when she felt like his own daughter.
“Are you sure?” It felt like eons has passed, but eventually Zayn coughed around his throat to check. “I won’t be offended if…”
Wildly, Eve began to shake her head back and forth. She looked absolutely shocked that he could even think she wasn’t one hundred percent sure in her decision.
“Of course, I’m sure.” She insisted as soon as she had swallowed. “I knew as soon as Owen and I decided to marry that I’d want you to.” Zayn was touched at her honest words, but they didn’t help put his worries to rest. He wondered, fearfully, if, maybe, he was overstepping his boundaries somehow. “I understand if it’s weird because I’m not your daughter, but you’ve been so good to me.” Showing just how much she had grown up from the screaming teenager in the hospital hallway, Eve explained. She had felt nervous on her way over, via subway, to ask her Uncle Zayn. He had a daughter all his own and this was his job when it came to her big day, but Eve’s fiancé, all blond hair and chiseled jaw insisted that it did not hurt to ask. He could see clear as day how much Zayn and Eve cared for one another. “You know…you’re important to me.” Vaguely sheepish, she admitted. Eve would never dare to call someone else ‘Dad’. She had had her father and there wasn’t a beautiful soul on Earth that could hold a candle to the flame he left behind, but Zayn was her Zayn and that was pretty damn special.
Zayn melted. He let his fears vaporize like rings of smoke he had blown outside the half rolled down window of his car on the way to the dimly lit Italian spot. He knew, at his core, that Louis wouldn’t want his precious treasure to be alone on a day that was so important to her. Zayn felt proud that Eve thought to ask him, honored even, and he knew he could never really fill any boots that Louis had donned. He was merely a half ass understudy, but he always gave a hundred percent when Eve asked him to show up and perform.
“Of course, I will. I’m absolutely honored. Thank you.” The moment was so bittersweet, but Zayn kept himself calm by breathing deeply, but slowly out of his nostrils, leaning in and lifting out of his chair to reach around and hug her. He tightly took her by the shoulders and groaned as he held her close for a count of a few seconds. “Absolutely honored.” He whispered again, hoping he could be what she needed him to be on the big day.
It felt incredibly strange to be out at a pub without a ring around his forth finger. He didn’t think he would feel any different. After all, he was the Niall Horan. Women flocked to him like flies to shit regardless of his relationship status. Hell, plenty of them were committed themselves. Temptation always lingered, offers were forever stuck to the table top, and he knew he could just point and take whatever woman he wanted home with him. Niall wasn’t really on the prowl though. He had come out to spend some time with old friends. If he met someone, great, but he wasn’t there with his eyes peeled on anything besides the beer, cold, in his grip.
“I sink this and I get dibs on the girl at the bar.” Niall’s friend from home, an Irish bloke all accent and alcohol, nodded with his pool stick firmly pressed into the dirty bar floor, covered in scuff marks, parking stubs, and bottle caps. There were plenty of girls perched at the bar’s edge, sitting on the cushioned stools with straws in their mouth and their tightest dark wash jeans painted over their hungry skin. Niall glanced over the row of heads, a variety of colors and long locks left down greeting his blue gaze.
“Okay.” He didn’t know who was being marked, but Niall didn’t really care either. He was a family man now himself, even if not a very present one, and he doubted that any girl, right now, was worth claiming. His therapist said he needed to just lay low and date himself for a while. It was cheesy, but Niall decided to give it his best shot.
He watched with the concentration of great leaders as the white ball knocked right into two solid colors, splitting them apart like unfaithful partners and sinking the red one right down into the hole. His friend lifted his heart shaped chin, the point close to poking into his protruding Adam’s apple as he smugly congratulated himself for a perfect shot.
“Let’s quit before I embarrass you.” Snorting, his friend handed his cue over to Niall, fisting it into his fingers before he wiped both hands quickly on the front of his tight gray shirt and headed over to “claim his prize”.
Shaking his head, Niall could only laugh. He had been a late bloomer himself and it wasn’t all that long ago that he had been making competitions out of friendly games just to give himself an excuse to talk to pretty girls and try to get laid. He just wasn’t much in the mood. He was aching to grow up, a constant complaint from his soon-to-be ex-wife, but it hadn’t come at all naturally for him. He was born a boy and never quite grew into a proper man.
On a search to find his other friends in the room, Niall placed the two pool cues in their holders mantled up on the wall and walked directly to the bar. He headed opposite as his mate had, not interested in watching him flounder and make an absolute mess of himself in front of some prissy English girl, probably ages too young for him. With a simple nod, Niall caught the bartender’s attention and ordered himself another beer, his eyes tracing the walls of the room for a familiar face.
“Thanks.” Niall mumbled as he accepted the drink loosely, agreeing with another head swerve when asked if he just wanted the brew put on his tab with the rest. His focus was elsewhere, looking for someone to attend to or to occupy himself. Niall had half a mind to just leave, go back to the hotel he was living in until he figured out what his next step was post-marriage. He was nervous about being left alone though. It had been a long time since he was left to his own devices. Niall was just about ready to prep himself up to be a big boy and call a cab, take himself home and mope over how the bed was too large without another body, preferably that of his ex, filling a side, but his eyes found a sight that made him spit his beer like a sprinkler system out of his mouth, cold musky mist coating two waifish red heads kissing by his side. He was too distracted to even apologize though they cursed him out under their mumbles.
Niall stomped around the bar, playing the role of the Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, fee, fi, fo, fuming his way over to where his friend was leaning his side into the bar, talking on and on about how he could teach the girl by his side how to play pool if she let him. Niall couldn’t make out the girl’s face anymore even though it was clear as day to him when he was on the other side of the bar. Her cascading curls, the shape of soft s’s as they flowed effortlessly to her shoulders, blocking his vision. He remembered when that hair was much kinkier, a mess of tangles that her father had tried to tame, but she would run out in a fury of pain from the hotel washroom, hairbrush still attached to the back of her head, and climb under the covers beside Niall, asking him in a tiny whimper for him to hide her from the demon barber that was her father, Harry Styles.
“Move.” Niall elbowed his friend as hard as he could, not even an inkling of concern for his wellbeing.
“Hey, we agreed.” His friend paid him absolutely no mind whatsoever, just throwing up his hand to wave Niall away. “Fuck off, mate.”
“No, fuck off.” Even harder this time around, Niall nudged his friend enough to force his feet to move whether or not his upper body wanted to. Wobbling on his feet, nearly spilling his drink onto the curly haired girl, his friend left just enough space for Niall to swoop in. “Fancy running into you here, Josie.” The girl had obviously been uncomfortable and was putting in her best efforts to ignore the efforts of the man before, but she swooped her hair away like an overdrawn curtain at the sound of her uncle’s unmistakable voice. Everyone knew Niall was coming from a mile away based on his peppery Irish accent, but when he was angry, you really knew where to place him in a room. There was fear in her almond eyes as they set in on the last person she assumed she would run into at The Toad in the Hole. Of all the pubs in all of London, Niall and Josie Styles had to have chosen the same one to drown their sorrows in. She parted her peephole lips to speak, but Niall already had a firm grip around her arm, loudly putting his beer down on the bar’s surface by her half-finished tumbler of vodka lime. He raised her from the vinyl stool without a hint of trouble even though she tried to protest by forcing her suede blue Charlotte Olympia flats into the ground.
“Please don’t call my Dad.” Even if she looked older than she was, Josie Styles sounded every bit sixteen as she pleaded with her Uncle. Niall was a rock though. He was set in his ways as he moved at light speed to pull his young pseudo niece from the pub and out into the blustery midnight air. Josie tried to shake his grip off of her, his fingers pushing into her skin, as soon as the bitter breeze bit into them, but it was no use. Niall was still dragging her away as they left the pub. He only stopped when they arrived around the corner of the block, right in the lot he had parked his oversized black SUV in. Niall let go of her with a jolt, shaking her before she fell still on her feet. He pulled his phone out of his pocket quickly, thumbing down his recent contacts to find Harry’s phone number while Josie adjusted her white lace skirt that she wore as her favourite garment. There were pictures of her, candid, with her father snapped all over London where she was donning the same skirt. She had been called a ‘repeat offender’ on a handful of blogs. “No, stop!” As Niall held the phone up to his ear, a look of irritation and concern dressing his face the way H & M dressed her body, Josie pleaded. She reached up, but Niall backed away, swivelling his shoulder back. He was thinking of his own daughter, nine years younger than Josie, and how terrified he would be if he knew she was out in some dodgy pub underage. Josie was miles away from the Chelsea town home she had lived such a sheltered existence in. He hadn’t the slightest clue what she was doing in Hackney. “Please, don’t, Uncle Niall. He’ll be so upset. Please, don’t get me into trouble.” Her eyes were blinking up at him as she clutched her hands together in front of herself, trying to pout in an effort to be convincing. Niall had spent far too much time in his life with Harry to be convinced by cute facial expressions. “Please, let me explain…” Her voice trailed off, her begging sincere as an angry gust of wind pushed her hair upwards and rifled through his. The cold was causing them both to shiver.
“Get in.” Niall put his phone away, hanging up on the third ring and reached behind himself to open up the passenger side door for his niece. He slammed it behind her as she climbed in, looking away in order to keep himself from even seeing for a second what his friend inside had. He had known Josie since she was in diapers, he had cleaned some of those diapers. She would always be Harry’s little lady to him, the mop top with an affinity for princess parties. He walked around the car and tried to cool himself down. She was Harry’s daughter, not his, he could only do so much. It wasn’t as if he Niall had been an innocent and never snuck in anywhere before his eighteenth birthday. “So…” Gripping the wheel ahead of him without turning the car on, Niall watched his knuckles as he curled his fingers tighter on the leather in front. “You want to convince me why I shouldn’t call your dad?” Sternly, he asked Josie who had her knees facing his side, watching him with the eyes the leading lady in a horror movie would wear during a big chase scene. She was so nervous of being on the receiving end of a Niall Horan and Harry Styles duo lecture. Generally, Harry was not a scary individual, but when you were his daughter and you broke his rules, he could be akin to any mob boss in his wrath.
“I had plans with someone and he wouldn’t let me go. So it’s not like I could meet them somewhere around my neighborhood…” It had sounded so much wiser in her head. Mindlessly, Josie began to wrap a curl around her finger as she looked down, shamefully, at her pink bare knee, still cold from standing outside.
“So, you arranged to meet them in a pub in Hackney? Who is this person?” Suspicious, Niall asked. He finally looked over at his niece and gave her his attention. He stepped out of his furious thoughts long enough to see how sorry she appeared. It was easy for him to understand how she hadn’t been ID’d. Josie dressed as if she was a librarian, a quirky librarian, but one none the less. She had delicate porcelain doll like features, thanks to her mother, and just came across like a mature woman more than she did a girl of sixteen. Well, until she opened her mouth, of course.
“Promise not to tell my Dad?” She checked, offering him her hand to shake.
“Nope.” Niall just shook his head back and forth, remembering what Harry had asked of him when they were both so much younger than they were now. Josie was still in the womb, months away from entering the world, when a drunk Harry whispered from his bunk if the guys would look after his kid if anything was to happen to him. Louis had agreed quickly, Liam was already fast asleep, Zayn had been in a hotel room elsewhere, and Niall just told Harry to shut up and get to bed. Now, though, he was going to make good on that promise.
“I was going to meet Theo.” She admitted to Niall, her shame vanished and was simply replaced by conflict. She looked absolutely torn over the words that sprang from the back of her throat. Niall was caught off guard by the sound of his nephew’s name. He tilted his head over one shoulder and traced his squint up and down Josie’s matte face. “Don’t get me wrong, Dad likes Theo, but he’s so terribly against us being together. He’s always telling me that Theo is too old for me and I’m still just a little thing,” Theo was nineteen after all, a boy growing into a man. “It’s like he’s completely forgotten about when he was with Caroline Flack.” Through Google, Josie had gathered more ammo on her father than she could have ever wanted.
In the back of his mind, Niall could somewhat remember how his nephew told him that he had become good friends with Josie and how the blond Irish boy had joyfully beamed by simply saying the girl’s name. He realized that he probably should have seen it all coming since the two had been quite close as little children when they would visit on tour or go on playground adventures together.
Niall took a look back at his knuckles, his fourth finger on the left hand appearing so naked without the gold band that he used to wear daily. He thought about his own wife and how he felt being away from her despite wanting to be curled up by her side right now, not anywhere in Hackney as he currently was. He wondered what it would be like to be told you couldn’t be with someone you wanted to spend time with. On one hand, Niall respected Harry’s decisions as a father, but he remembered the thrill of being young, of believing your love was so much more important than it ever had a chance of being. Theo and Josie were two of his most favorite people on the planet and he didn’t feel like he had any business telling them whether or not they could spend any time together. As he unwrapped his fingers from the car, he felt his phone buzzing and fished it out.
“It’s your father.” Much calmer than before, he told Josie and showed her his screen before she pulled her own cell phone from the bottom of her large black purse. As if on cue, Theo had texted her to ask where she was since he had just arrived at the pub.
Josie, in return, displayed the message for Niall and they both stared at one another in silence before Niall allowed a deep exasperated sound to travel into the air, leaving him decompressed against his car seat.
“Promise you’ll behave? Don’t hang out in the bar, okay? Just go hang out somewhere nice and…” He tried to fix his windblown hair with one hand mindlessly while considering what he would tell his own daughter. “Don’t do something you can’t undo.” It was the most mature thing Niall had probably ever advised in his life.
“I promise.” Josie swore only to have Niall’s hand out in front of her. Without thinking twice, she reached over and shook it vigorously, a pact made. “Thank you, Uncle Niall. I owe you so much.” She pushed open the door beside her, the wind nearly ripping it right off and gathered up her things as she fled the car. “Thank you.” She blew him a kiss before tossing the door closed and running against the blowing winds in the direction of the pub.
Niall scrolled to his text messaging screen, finding his eldest nephew’s name fast, and sent him a brief message, just so everyone was on the same page.
If you hurt that little girl, there won’t be a damn place you can hide, got it?
In under ten seconds, Niall was greeted with a terrified emoticon face, a flat line in a yellow circle accompanied by a simple, ‘You got it’.
Sitting on the rooftop of the hotel, Catlee Horan was messier than the piglet she had had to leave back home while visiting her dad on tour. When she first took Mr. Ketchup home, a gift from her Uncle Harry, he would run laps around their English garden and roll over his back into the mud their carrots and tomatoes grew in only to bring it inside the house when he would trot behind her tiny bare feet. It drove her father absolutely mental. He would stomp around their kitchen, cursing in Gaelic before trying to chase after the pig and almost always tripping in the hallway over himself as the swine would squeal in delight. Catlee wished that she was cradling her pig in her arms right now.
With her feet dangling into the pristine blue water, lit up by floor lights and the dim moon, she was crying and wondering how fast her body would fit the bottom of the pool and if she could hold her breath long enough. The sound of the roof top door squeaking as it opened up behind her brought her wrists instantly to her raining eyes. She wiped at them over and over, hoping to remove any signs of running mascara or puffy lids.
“There you are.” Her Uncle Harry sounded so proud of himself, finding the tiny Irish-English lass when not even her father was able to reach her downstairs on the 19th floor of the Ritz-Carlton where they were currently staying in San Diego. “Everyone’s been trying to find you. Why did you come up here?” As his words led on, Harry began to sound more concerned. He circled the pool slowly as Catlee was gathering herself up onto her feet. She was planning to walk the other way, away and in front of her messy haired Uncle, but he stopped her as she stood up from the cement, picking her up her sneakers with two fingers under the tongue. “Hey Cat,” Harry put up both palms, catching the middle of her arms and leaning in to try and see a good angle of her face. She was sniffling and she wouldn’t look him in the eyes. It was a clear indication to Harry that something was wrong especially since out of all his nieces and nephews, Catlee had always been the loudest and cheeriest, her father in raw female form. The moment she was born, he felt an unreal kinship with her. She was such a happy baby and madly creative child. It was inspiring to be around her, Harry always walked away with brand new thoughts on the world since he was seeing it all over again through her spread eyes. “Catlee, what is going on?” He wasn’t going to ask if she was okay since she so clearly wasn’t. “Look at me.”
Catlee refused. She gruffily pulled away from him and began to walk towards the door, accidentally leaving her cell phone and backpack behind on the ground.
“If you go down there, your dad is just going to bug you to tell him.” Harry shouted at the fifteen year old’s backside. He wasn’t going to come right out and say it, but Harry always felt like he handled emotional situations so much better than Niall did. He noticed she stopped in her barefoot tracks, so Harry bent at his knees and gathered her things in his hands. “You’re better to just tell me.” Slowly, he approached her again. He was certain he hadn’t let her down before. Harry always tried to be like a friend on the road to Catlee. He knew it probably wasn’t easy at any age for the children of his band brothers to be pulled apart from their families so frequently as if it was normal.
With her eyes still on the ends of her toes, Catlee turned to face her Uncle. She didn’t know where to begin. She was embarrassed and felt like she wouldn’t have even be able to tell her mother if she wanted to and she didn’t want to. However, if she couldn’t tell her mum than she certainly couldn’t begin to be honest with Harry.
“Let’s have a sit.” Like a horse shaking out it’s mane, he knocked his head to the side towards the lounge chairs behind them. He led the way and took a seat at the end of one of the fold out plastic chairs, leaving her things on the ground between them as she gathered herself up on the spot next to him. Catlee held the bottoms of her feet as she laid down on her side, holding herself close for comfort. “What’s going on?” Harry couldn’t even begin to guess.
“It’s stupid. You’ll think I’m stupid.” Her words were spit, careless pollution from her mouth filling the world as she looked down at the cracks between the plastic of her chair.
“I’m sure I won’t, but try me.” Harry knew this was no time for jokes. He clasped his hands together, a breaking noise echoing above them, and leaned forward with the flaps of his broken boots bouncing as his feet did.
“It’s about a boy.” She grumbled, picking at the plastic on the chair between her arms and knees. Harry only nodded, knowing full well this was not his area of expertise. He would always want to be there for Catlee, but it was right now that he realized she wasn’t the little girl who struggled to put her shoes on the right feet or who had requests he could fulfill with a VISA card such as a pet pig or a new snowboard. “I did something stupid.”
“What happened? What did you do?” He didn’t want to sound freaked out, so Harry controlled his voice in order to act as if he didn’t care what the answer was. Of course, he was plenty nervous internally. On the inside, there was a shaking in his bones that couldn’t be ceased though he tried.
“He said…and I thought…” She couldn’t figure out the right way to begin her story, the plot was all so jumbled up in her head like a word search without a key. “So I did but I knew it was dumb …and he kept saying…”
Harry’s head fell forward, a heavy brick in his stomach as he pieced together her puzzle. He saw every young girl that he had ever upset sitting before him, curled up on a lounge chair, confused about herself when the answers were so clear and had absolutely nothing to do with her at all. He sighed heavily before resting his elbows over his bruised knees, grabbing at his roots with his fingers.
“Did you sleep with him, Cat?” Scrunching up his face towards the ground, Harry guessed. He knew he was right, but the whimpering noise coming from his niece sounded so painfully akin to a ‘yes’ that Harry could hear his heart fracturing along with it. He glanced up and caught her crying again, hugging herself even tighter. “And now he’s not talking to you.”
“Yeah.” Her voice cracked, wrinkles in her flawless young skin at the forehead as her face pulled apart in order to make more room for tears to slide downward.
“Oh jeez,” He rubbed at his greasy temple, shutting his eyes in order to think without wanting to kill this mystery boy or die at the sound of Catlee’s broken spirit. “Did you use any protection?”
“He said he didn’t like condoms.” She explained with a sore voice, tired from all the crying she had been accomplishing. Catlee knew if she focused on her school work like she had been on feeling sorry for herself for the last couple days, she would be on the honor roll and not barely passing her courses instead.
“And you’re not on the pill?” Harry rubbed at his chin, studying her while he tried to think of what he should be doing. He wasn’t sure fetching Niall was a very good idea at all at the moment.
As an answer, Catlee merely shook her head from side to side.
“Why isn’t he talking to me anymore?” That seemed far more important to her than the possibility of being diseased or pregnant. Catlee stared at Harry across from her, desperate for him to have all the answers to her burning questions, but he felt like a failure without even the slightest inkling on how to be helpful. He groaned before stretching up. Harry moved over to her chair and sat right by her bare feet, pulling her up by the shoulder and rubbing her back as soon as her messy auburn hair was falling over his shoulder along with her tired head.
“Boys are just garbage at your age, Cat.” Speaking in monotone, he shared. “They’re selfish.” He had been. He only had fame and girls on his mind at that age, not the feelings of others. “But I’m going to take you to the doctor’s tomorrow, okay? I think you should get tested and talk to a woman about this…”
“You’re not going to tell my Dad, right?”
While Harry knew better than to keep secrets from Niall, especially about his daughter, this seemed like a fair exception. What child wanted their parent to know about their sex life? Besides, he knew that Niall would only see red if he found out. He could go on a killing spree and that wouldn’t be good for the band’s image or Niall’s blood pressure.
“No. Let’s just focus on you feeling better, forgetting about this loser…” Harry kissed the top of her head and then ran his hand over it and down her untamed locks, forcing the smooch into her skin. He hoped that she could feel how loved she truly was.
Sydney was nothing like the rest of the Payne family and she never had been. She was the black sheep almost proudly even if it had caused her father’s blood pressure to spike two points this year alone. During the dinner party, a house warming bash, complete with tiny sterloin cuts wrapped in bacon and standards playing from surround sound, Sydney had caused a small scene when she refused to make the rounds and say ‘hello’ to everyone in the room. She had turned eighteen two months and, since then, Liam was finding his first born impossible to control.
“You’re a brat. Try and be more like your sister, could you?!” Liam had hissed under his breath, eyes enraged as he stood in a corner with Sydney. Her Buddy Holly glasses nearly slid right off her nose she eyed him back so narrowly. She only wore her reading specs because her father had asked her to wear her contacts tonight.
Sydney was the sort of beautiful that seemed exotic and like the world wasn’t quite ready to process it. She was gifted with her mother’s body and her father’s dark features while neither parent knew where she seemed to get her hair spun of chocolate lace, they knew it was why she so naturally looked like she could be a Bond Girl. Sydney resented her appearance though. She saw nothing gained in the power of beauty. In fact, she didn’t feel comfortable unless she was wearing her glasses and something that she could fall asleep in. Attending this party in a dress that had been made for her by the hands of some designer who didn’t know what she was like just made her want to gag. Sydney was stubborn and disillusioned by all the things her parents loved.
In turn, Louis absolutely loved visiting the Payne family because he was always guaranteed a front row seat to a gong show. There was always material to tease Liam with before the night even began. Sydney had cut through the entire room on her way to the stairs to stomp up them. Louis’s gut reaction was to follow, to go upstairs and offer her a stiff drink and good company. As he held the railing at the bottom, Liam approached him and told him not to go up.
“Just let her be alone. She is always fine after she’s been alone for a bit.” Liam groused as he wiped at his forehead. His eyes were scooting around him, looking for any reason to be more embarrassed than he already was.
Louis nodded in an effort comply and came off the last step to rejoin the party, finding his long-term girlfriend standing with Niall’s wife and drinking white wine from a crystal glass.
Even though the party went on and Louis was surrounded by people he hadn’t spoken to in ages, Sydney wasn’t far from his mind. As he walked around the room to find food or explore the apparently endless mansion, he kept his cartoony eyes open for the teenager, his little woman. He spotted Liam engrossed in conversation with Simon and other managers, so he took the opportunity to tip toe quickly up the stairs and find his niece.
He knocked on the door he assumed was her’s, the gold “S” on the door his first clue as well as the sound of the Red Hot Chili Peppers cruising out through the heavy wood. There was no answer though, not even when he knocked a second time, so Louis pushed open the door to poke in his head. He saw Sydney sitting in her window sill, still dressed as before but her hair up in a messy bun on top of her head, and holding one hand out the crack in the window.
“I know that smell.” Louis laughed and captured Sydney’s attention right away. Her eyes panicked for a second, but then she just shrugged and took her hand back out of the window and brought the freshly rolled fatty to the corner of her lips. “I’m guessing your father doesn’t know.” Louis headed further into the bedroom, shutting her door behind her and nodding his head to a classic song he had loved when he was her age.
“He would if he kept a better eye on his own stash.” She laughed and inhaled a brief hit, offering it to Louis who didn’t think twice about bringing it to the corner of his lips, choking nearly right away before handing it back and blowing out. “He keeps it in a margarine container in the garage.” She laughed lightly and held it out the window again, letting the pungent odor drift away like all of her unpleasant thoughts that she felt she had no control over. “Are you having fun?”
“Kind of.” Louis mused, stuffing his hands into the pocket of his brown trousers and pushing them out. “The house is nice.”
“It’s obnoxious.” Setting her stoned eyes on him, while still beautiful and brown, Sydney confirmed. “We are a family of four humans. This house could be home to a family of a hundred hippos.” Unintentionally, she had Louis cracking up. That was always how it went when the two of them were together.
He backed up and helped himself to a spot on the wooden bench of her vanity, looking at himself in the mirror and watching her take another drag, this one longer than the last.
“Are you going to come back down? A lot of people are asking for you.” As if that would convince her, Louis tried. He had a much gentler approach with Sydney than her father did. Louis had a more successful track record with her than almost any adult did and he was damn proud of that fact.
“I was going to go out actually.”
“Good luck getting past your Dad.”
“I was going to try the drain pipe.” She used to be able to do it in their old home and she prided herself on being fearless.
Shaking his head, Louis smirked at the thought of Liam catching his daughter not up in her room as he suspected she was. He imagined how poorly the musician would react to thinking his daughter was out beyond her curfew, lost in the antics of London beyond midnight. The image of Liam Payne’s head exploding was slightly amusing to Louis, but he couldn’t allow it.
“Do you ever consider giving your dad a break, Syd? He really tries. He tries to understand where you’re coming from.” Into the wee hours of the morning, Louis and Liam had stayed up on the bus, tossing thoughts back and forth on Sydney. It broke Liam’s heart that he wasn’t closer with his eldest daughter. Sydney was so fundamental to his world, so important to his life, and she always seemed as if she wouldn’t care if he wasn’t around.
“We’re just so different.” She sighed, tapping the blunt on the window sill and then tossing it out into the street, landing on the hood of a shiny sports car, one of her Uncle Harry’s, she imagined. “I can’t even believe we are related sometimes.”
“Well, you are.” His lips curled upward into a tight smile as he nodded. “I was in the other room when you were conceived.” Louis showed off some teeth, remembering just how loud Liam was that night in Los Angeles in the house they were renting to finish working on their album at the time. No one in the entire joint slept that night except for Liam who was out like a light as soon as his grand finale had come to a close.
“Don’t be fucking gross.” Her eyes slid over to find Louis and shot at him with a shake of her head, her gumdrop nose turning upward.
“Give the party another hour, okay?” Louis offered out his hand for Sydney. “Walk around with me and say ‘hi’. I’ll do all the rest. You just stand there and try not to look too stoned, alright?” He stood up, groaning as he did, his knees sore. Louis kept his hand out and watched her watching his palm. “I’ll buy you a McFlurry after.” Louis had been stoned enough to know what it would take to convince her to cooperate.
“Fine, but no more than an hour.” She closed her window loudly, the lock snapping instantly into place, before Sydney took her Uncle’s hand. Once she was standing, she stepped back into her kitten heels with the help of Louis’s hand for balance. She let go after though finding Visine in her top dresser and applying it into her strained pupils. “Let’s do this.” Sydney shoved her glasses up the bridge over her nose and followed her beloved Uncle Louis out.
As soon as the two made it to the bottom step, Louis hand back in her’s, they were spotted by Liam. He was about to walk over to her, his feet already in motion, when he saw her extend her hand out of Louis’s to introduce herself to a lady pushing eighty on the couch. Liam relaxed into his broad shoulders, catching Louis’s wink and mouthing ‘thank you’ in return.
Unfortunately, he never had children of his own. His marriages never extended much longer than a few years and Liam’s dreams sort of ceased coming true outside of the world of business and music. In his career, he had nothing, but success, but his personal life always seemed to be an uneven balance. He had a myriad nieces and nephews though between his musical family and his biological clan. In total, Liam had eight nephews and six nieces. They were all uniquely special to him, but today he felt the most excited he had before.
Melinda Malik was graduating from high school. He had been there for all of Melinda’s milestones. Her birth in Princess Alexandra Hospital, her first steps backstage at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, her first words of ‘Mama’ on the couch in her Grandma Malik’s basement, and even the first day of school, he had come to see her off. Zayn allowed Liam special access into the world of Melinda since he had been such a specifically terrified first time Dad. Liam babysat weekly and never complained once. He always liked to think that if he did have a daughter, she would be exactly like Melinda. He supposed it wasn’t too late, but it did feel as if it was. He was much older now than he had been when he chased the little dark haired girl around the empty stadiums, pretending to be a monster as he did.
“It’s going to be a long day…” One of Melinda’s younger brothers groaned, handing Liam a water bottle which he graciously accepted once they were seated in the huge atrium on plastic chairs that were lined up neatly.
“This is a big deal. She worked hard for this. You should be proud of your sister.” Excitedly, Liam claimed. He had read the girl’s name over and over in the program. He already folded it into the pocket of his shirt, planning to put it somewhere as a keepsake afterwards.
Liam had offered to video shoot the entire ceremony from start to finish, his backup batteries for his camera ready in his man bag between his feet. He thought that it would be nice for Zayn and his wife to be present for their daughter’s big day. After all, Liam was just the plus one. He always felt like an honorary Malik, but he knew better. He knew was their weird Uncle at best.
It wasn’t for two hours into the ceremony that Melinda was called, but when she was, Liam called on all the noise that his body could make. He yelled above everyone else in the crowd, screamed out her name, and stomped his feet. His hand even met the camera’s side as she tried to applaud.
“Are you crying?” Melinda’s other younger brother asked, sounding weirded out by the idea of tears in their tough Uncle’s eyes, but Liam just ignored them. He hadn’t been expecting to be so emotional himself. Tears were stinging his pupils though causing his stare to be glassy as he watched the raven haired, rake thin, and female version of Zayn Malik collect her diploma in one hand before moving the yellow tassle of her cap across her face. He tried to beam with pride, but his tears made it hard to do anything beyond express the fact that he was, deep down inside, a blubbering mess of a man. Melinda Malik would probably be the closest thing he would ever have to a daughter and she was growing up right before his eyes.
Zayn was holding it together better, snapping pictures with his cell phone and hollering out for his daughter. Melinda, academically, had done fine, but finding friends and making her way through school hadn’t come easy for her, so he was proud that she was able to complete her education and carry on. He was confident her next few years in University would be much better.
After the ceremony, the Maliks were gathered with their extended family out front while Liam excused himself to the washroom. It was a lot like crossing through fans and paparazzi on his way out except very few people wanted actual photos or autographs of him. In total, he stopped for four before two arms wrapped themselves around his muscular chest. At first, he anticipated a crazed fan in the mist, but the sound of Melinda’s humming behind his back brought an instant smile to his bearded face.
“There’s the girl of the day!” Liam spun around, breaking free from her loose arms, and hugged her tightly. “I am so damn proud of you.” He moaned over top of her head as he nearly crushed her between his toned arms.
“Thank you so much for coming.” While she absolutely adored her Uncle, it was unbelievable to her that he would sit through a ceremony so long just for her. He had so many nieces and nephews and better things to do. It really did mean an awful lot to her.
“Are you kidding?” Letting her go, he waved his hand through the air and swatted away her manners. “Where else would I be? This is a huge deal.” He exclaimed. “I got you something.”
“No, Uncle Liam.” Shaking her head, she tried to decline.
“Well, hold on. You only get it if you take a photo with me.” He laughed and fished his cell phone out from the back pocket of his pants. Melinda was already looking around, turning in circles until she waved down someone’s brother to step away from their family long enough to snap a shot of her and Liam. “Put the cap back on.” Liam insisted, giving the young boy his phone with complete trust.
He instinctively put his arm over her shoulder and beamed as she moved the yellow hanging string again before her own smile began to glow, her lips painted a rich plum while her extended eyelashes made her entire face pop like an oversized piece of chewing gum. Liam studied the photo on his screen for a second after thanking the boy and immediately began to send it away to other contacts in his list.
“Where are my parents?” She checked up at him. The school was a sea and she was drowning when she looked around at all the people that filled the place like pollution and streaky oil.
“They’re out by the car. Your grandma was getting a bit claustrophobic.” He explained, putting his phone away and exchanging it in his hand for a small blue envelope. “Now, don’t tell your Dad about this. He told me not to.”
“No. Don’t.” Groaning, Melinda shook her head, but Liam insisted, shoving the thick enveloped, stuffed with cash bills, into her empty hand. “I’m so damn proud of you, Melinda. Your brothers are going to tell you this, so I’ll be upfront, I bawled as you walked up there and collected your diploma. It was like watching my own…you are going to change the world someday, you know that?”
Smiling, she thanked him with just a hug and tears of her own, throwing her arms around his neck.
“Thank you so much.” She whispered into his ear, holding the envelope with both hands around him. “Will you come visit me in Oxford?” Biting down on her bottom lip, she cheekily asked.
His hands were on her waist fast and he pushed her away to study her face for any signs of joking. She wasn’t though. Melinda might have been laughing, but she was one hundred percent serious.
“You got in!?” He jumped on spot, bringing plenty of attention to himself as he did, before throwing his hands over his mouth. “Hey, she got in!” Liam reached forward and pulled Melinda under his shoulder, pointing at the top of her head with his other hand. “She got into Oxford! Melinda! Melinda did it!” He celebrated loudly, applauding her and hooting as they began to wander out to find her family. “I can’t believe it. Melinda, that’s amazing. You’re amazing.” He really could not have been any prouder of her than he already was.
Lieutenant George Hubert Wilkins, an Australian Official Photographer, looking out through the window of the shell damaged village church at the graves of many Australian soldiers. Vlamertinghe, near Ypres,