Wednesday, 13 June 2018

AFTER ROMANCE 2 Episode 36-40

When I unfold the paper my eyes widen in surprise. The entirety of the sheet is covered with black scribbles, both front and back. I immediately recognize Harry's handwriting and examine the page. It's a letter, a hand written letter from Harry. I am almost afraid to read it but I know that I must.
Since I am not good with words, I may have stolen some from Darcy whom you fancy so much.
I write without any intention of paining you, or humbling myself, by dwelling on wishes which, for the happiness of both, cannot be too soon forgotten: and the effort which the formation and the perusal of this letter must occasion, should have been spared had not my character required it to be written and read. You must, therefore, pardon the freedom with which I demand your attention; your feelings, I know, will bestow it unwillingly, but I demand it of your justice. ..
I know that I have done so many fucked up things to you and I in no way deserve you but I am asking, no begging you to please look past the things that I have done. I know I ask too much of you, always and I am sorry for that. If I could take it all back I would. I know you are angry and disappointed by my actions and that kills me. Instead of making excuses for the way I am, I am going to tell you about me, the me that you never knew. I am going to start with the shit I remember, I am sure there is more but I swear not to purposely hide anything else from you from this day forth. When I was around nine, I stole my neighbors bike and broke the wheel, then lied about it. That same year I threw a baseball through the living room window and lied about it. My father left shortly after and I was glad when he did. I didn't have many friends because I was an asshole. I picked on kids in my year, a lot. Every day basically. I was a dick to my mum, that was the last year I told her I love her. The teasing and being a dick to everyone continued until now, so I can't name all the times but just know it was a lot. Around thirteen me and some friends broke into the drug store down the road from my house and stole a bunch of random shit, I don't know why we did it but when one of my friends got caught I threatened him to take the blame for it and he did. I smoked my first cigarette when I was thirteen, it tasted like shit and I coughed for ten minutes, I never smoked again until I started smoking pot but I will get to that soon. When I was fourteen I lost my virginity to my friend Mark's older sister. She was a whore and seventeen at the time, it was an awkward experience but I liked it. She slept with all of our friends, not just me. After I had sex the first time I didn't do it again until months later and then I kept doing after that. I would hook up with random girls at parties, I always lied about my age and the girls were easy. None of them cared about me, and I didn't give a fuck about them. I started smoking pot this same year and did it often. I started drinking around this time, me and my friends would steal liquor from their parents or from that same drug store that I mentioned already. I started fighting a lot too. I got my ass beat a few times but most of the time I won. I was always pissed off, always, and it felt good to hurt someone else. I would pick fights with people all the time for fun. The worst one was this boy named Tucker who came from a poor family, he wore the oldest rattiest clothes and I fucking tortured him for it. I would mark on his shirt with a pen just to prove how many times he wore it without washing it. Fucked up, I know. So anyway, one day I saw him walking and I knocked him in the shoulder just to be dick, he got angry and called me a dick so I beat the shit out of him. His nose was broken and his mum couldn't afford to even have him see a doctor, I still kept fucking with him afterwards. A few months later his mum died and he went into a foster home, a rich one luckily and he drove by me one day, it was my sixteenth birthday and he was in a brand new car. I was pissed at the time and wanted to find him just to break his nose again but now that I think about it I am happy for him. I will skip the rest of my sixteenth year because all I did was drink, get high, and fight. Actually that goes for seventeen too. I keyed a few cars, busted some windows as well. When I was eighteen is when I met James, he was cool because he didn't give a fuck about anything, like me. We drank every day, our group. I would come home drunk every night and I would puke on the floor and my mum would have to clean it up. I would break something new almost every night.. We had our own little gang of friends and no one fucked with us. They knew better. The games started, the one's I told you about, and you know what happened with Natalie. That was the worst I swear.I know you are disgusted by me not caring about what happened to her. I don't know why I didn't care but I didn't. Just now, when I was driving here to this empty hotel room I was thinking about Natalie. I still don't feel as bad as I should but I was thinking, what if someone did that to you? I nearly had to pull over to get sick even thinking about you being in Natalie's place. I was wrong, so wrong for doing that to her. One of the other girl's named Melissa got attached to me as well but nothing came of it. She was obnoxious and loud. I told everyone that she had hygiene problems, down there... so everyone gave her shit about it and she never bothered me again. I got arrested once for being drunk in public and my mum was pissed, she left me there all night. Then when everyone found out about the Natalie shit she had enough. I threw a fit when she mentioned sending me to America , I didn't want to leave my life back home no matter how fucked up it was, I was. But when I beat the shit out of someone in front of a crowd during a festival, she was done. I applied for WSU and got in. When I got here to America I fucking hated it. I hated everything. I was so pissed that I had to be near my father so I rebelled even further drinking and partying all the time. I met Steph first, I hooked up with her at a party and she introduced the rest of her friends. Niall and I hit it off the best. Dan and Jace were dicks, Jace was the worst. You already know about Dan's sister so I will skip that. There were a few girls that I fucked since then but not as many as you think. I did sleep with Molly once after we kissed but the only reason I did it was because I couldn't stop thinking about you. I couldn't get you out of my head Tess. I kept thinking it was you the entire time, I had hoped that would help but it didn't. I knew it wasn't you, you would have been better. I kept telling myself, if I only see Tessa one more time I will realize this is just a ridiculous fascination, nothing more. Purely lust. But every time I saw you I wanted more and more. I would think of ways to annoy you just so I could hear you say my name. I wanted to know what you were thinking of in class that made you stare at your book with a frown, I wanted to smooth the crease between your brows, I wanted to know what you and Liam whispered about. I wanted to know what you were writing in that damned planner of yours. I actually almost took it from you once, that day when you dropped it and I handed it to you, you probably don't remember but you were wearing a purple shirt and that hideous gray skirt you used to wear almost every other day. After that day in your dorm when I fucked up your notes and kissed you against the wall I was in too deep to stay away. I thought about you constantly. My every thought was consumed by you. I didn't know what it was at first, I didn't know why I had become so obsessed with you. The first night that you stayed the night with me is when I knew, I knew that I loved you. I knew that I would do anything for you. I know that sounds like bullshit now after all that I have put you through but it's true. I swear it. I found myself daydreaming, me daydreaming.. about the life that I could have with you. I pictured you sitting on the couch with a pen between your teeth and a novel on your lap, your feet on my lap. I don't know why but I couldn't get the image out of my head. it tortured me, wanting you the way that I did and knowing you would never feel the same. I threatened anyone who tried to sit in that seat next to you and Liam to make sure that I could sit there, just to be near you. I would tell myself over and over that I was only doing all of this weird shit to win the bet. I knew that I was lying to myself, I just wasn't ready to admit it. I would do shit, like crazy shit to fuel my obsession with you. I would mark lines in my novels that reminded me of you. Do you want to know the first one? It was,
"He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking."
I knew I loved you when I was highlighting fucking Tolstoy. When I told you I loved you in front of everyone I meant it, I was just too much of a prick to admit it once you dismissed me. The day that you told me you loved me was the first time I felt like there was hope, hope for me. Hope for us. I don't know why I kept hurting you and treating you the way that I did. I won't waste your time with an excuse because I don't have one. All I know is that you make me happy Tess. You love me when you shouldn't and I need you. I have always needed you and always will. When you left me just last week it nearly killed me, I was lost. So completely lost without you. I went on a date with someone last week, I wasn't going to tell you but I can't stand to chance losing you again. I wouldn't even call it a date really. Nothing happened between us, I almost kissed her but I stopped myself. I couldn't kiss her, I couldn't kiss anyone but you. She was boring and nothing compared to you. No one is, no one ever will be. I know it's probably too late for this, especially now that you know all of the fucked up shit I have done. I can only pray that you will love me the same after reading this, if not that's okay. I will understand. I know you can do better than me, I am not romantic, I won't ever write you poetry or sing you a song, I am not even kind. I can not promise that I will not hurt you again, but I can swear that I will love you until the day that I die. I am a terrible person and I don't deserve you but I hope that you will allow me the chance to restore your faith in me. I am sorry for all the pain I have caused you and I understand if you can not forgive me. Sorry this letter wasn't supposed to be this long, I guess I have fucked up more than I thought.
I love you. Always.
I sit and stare at the paper for an unknown amount of time before re-reading it twice. This is not what I expected to read. I had no idea what I expected but this was not it. How can he say he isn't romantic? The charm bracelet on my wrist and this beautiful, somewhat disturbing, but mostly beautiful letter shows how romantic he can be. He even used the first paragraph of Darcy's letter to Elizabeth. Now that I know everything he has done I can't help but love him more. He has done a lot of things that I would never do, terrible things that hurt many people but the thing that matters most to me is that he doesn't do them anymore. He has just written a long letter to me explaining every discretion that he can remember committing. I know he hasn't always done the right thing, the video is terrible but I can't ignore the amount of effort he has made to show me that he loves me. I hate to admit it but there is a sort of poetry to him never caring for anyone except me.
I stare at the letter once more and there is a knock at the bedroom door. I fold the page up and put it in the bottom drawer of the dresser. I do not want Harry to try to make me throw it away or tear it up now that I have read it.
"Tessa?" Harry's voice calls from the other side of the door.
"Come in." I walk over to the door to meet him.
"Did you.." He stares at the ground.
"I did.." I reach up and lift his chin to look at me, the way he usually does to me.
"it was stupid... I knew I shouldn't have.." He begins.
"No, it wasn't. It wasn't stupid at all." I move my hand from under his chin but he keeps his red eyes on mine.
"Harry it was everything that I have been wanting you to say to me for so long."
"I am sorry that I took so long, and that I wrote it down.. It was just easier, I am not good at saying things."
"I know you aren't."
"Did you... do you have anything to say about it? Do you need more time now that you know how fucked up I truly am?"
"You aren't. You were.. you have done a lot of things.. bad things Harry."
"I know." He frowns and looks at the floor again.
I can't stand to see him feel so bad about himself even though he has done wrong.
"But that doesn't mean you are a bad person. You have done bad things but you aren't a bad person anymore."
"What?" He takes my face between his large hands.
"I said you aren't a bad person Harry."
"You really think that? Did you read what I wrote?"
"Yes, and the fact that you wrote it proves that you aren't."
"How can you say that? I don't understand, you wanted me to give you space and now you read all that shit and you still say that? I don't understand." The confusion is clear on his perfect face.
"I read it, and now that I know everything that you have done, my mind has not changed."
"Oh.." His eyes become glossy.
The idea of him crying again, especially in front of me pains me. He is obviously not getting what I am trying to say.
"I already made my mind up while you were gone to stay and after reading what you wrote, I want to stay more than ever. I love you Harry." I say.
"Really? You're sure?" He smiles.
"Yes. Positive." I assure him.

"You didn't think I was going to stay?" I ask him and take his hands into mine.
I have asked that too many times since I have met him.
"No, not after everything that I have done. Not now that you know everything. You know everything" He repeats.
"Yes.. I do." As I say the words I realize how freeing this is.
I no longer have to worry that the secrets from Harry's past will come back to haunt us. I no longer have to wait for someone to drop a huge bombshell on me. I know everything. I finally know everything he has been hiding. I can't help but think of the phrase "sometimes it is better to be kept in the dark than be blinded by the light."
I don't think that applies me to right now, I am disturbed by the things he has done but I love him and I have chosen to not let his past effect us any longer.
"What are you thinking? Do you have any questions about any of the things in the note?" He sits on the edge of bed and I stand between his legs.
He flips my hands over in his and traces small patterns on my palms as he searches my face for clues to how I am feeling about all of this.
"No.. I do wish I knew what happened to Natalie.. but I don't have any questions."
"I am done being that person, you know that don't you?" I already told him this but I know he needs to hear it again.
"I know that. I really do babe." His eyes dart to mine at the use of the word.
"Babe?" He arches his brow.
"I don't know why I said that.." I flush.
I have never called him anything other than Harry, I am not sure why I did just now. I love when he calls me that but I doubt he likes it the way that I do.
"No.. I like it." He smiles.
"I have missed your smile." I tell him.
His fingers stop their movements.
"I have missed yours too. I don't make you smile enough." He frowns.
I want to say something to remove the frown from his face but I don't want to lie to him. He doesn't make me smile enough and he needs to know that.
"Yea.. we need to work on that." I say.
"I don't know why you love me."
"It doesn't matter why I love you, only that I do."
"The letter was stupid wasn't it?"
"No! Would you stop with the self loathing? It was wonderful. I read it three times straight. It really made me happy to read the things that you were thinking about me.. about us."
"You knew I loved you."
"Yes.. but it was nice to know the small things, the way you remembered what I was wearing. Those types of things. You never say those types of things."
"Oh." He looks embarrassed.
It is still slightly unnerving to have Harry be the vulnerable one in our relationship. That role has always been mine.
"Don't be embarrassed." I say.
His arms wrap around my waist and pull me onto his lap.
"I am not embarrassed.:" He lies.
I run one of my hands through his hair and wrap my other arm around his shoulder. It hasn't been long since I have been in his arms but it feels that way.
"I think you are." I call him out and he laughs, burying his head into my neck.
"What a Christmas Eve. It's been a long ass day." He complains and I agree.
"Way too long. I can't believe my mother came here. She is so unreasonable."
"Not really." He says and I pull back to look at him.
"She isn't unreasonable, really. Yea she goes about it the wrong way but I can't blame her for not wanting you to be with me." He tells me.
"What? Since when are you on her side?" I am offended. I stood up to my mother for him, for us, and here he is telling me she is right.
"I never said I was on her side but if you were my daughter I would never allow you to be with someone like me."
I scowl at him and move off of his lap to sit next to him on the bed.
"Don't look at me like that, I am just saying now that I have really thought about all the shit I have done, I don't blame her for thinking we shouldn't be together."
"Well I think she is wrong, can we stop talking about her." I whine.
The guilt from my harsh words to her earlier is trying to surface and I have had enough emotional trauma for the day. The year really. The year is almost over, I cant believe it.
"Yes. what would you like to talk about?" He asks.
"I don't know.. not her.. let's talk about something lighter. Like how romantic you can be." I smile.
"I am not romantic." He scoffs.
"Yes you most certainly are. That letter was one for the classics." I tease.
"It wasn't a letter, it was a note. A note that was only supposed to be a paragraph at most." He rolls his eyes.
"Sure, a romantic note then." I smile.
"Would you shut up." He groans.
"Is this where you annoy me to get me to say your name?" I laugh.
He moves too quickly for me to respond, he grabs my waist and pushes me back onto the bed, hovering over me with his hands on my hips.
"No, I have since come up with other ways to get you to say my name." He breaths, his lips against my ear.
My entire body ignites with only a few words from Harry.
"Is that so?" I say in a thick voice.
Natalie's faceless figure appears in my mind causing my stomach to turn.
"I think we should wait until your mother isn't in the other room." I suggest.
Partly because I need more time to ease back into our relationship, but mostly because Anne is in the other room. It was awkward enough doing it once while she was here.
"I can kick her out now." He jokes and rolls off of me to lay next to me.
"Or I could kick you out."
"I wouldn't leave, I am not leaving again. Neither are you." The certainty in his tone makes me smile.
"So this is it then, we are done with the back and forth?" I ask.
We are laying next to one another, both of us staring at the ceiling.
"Yes, this is it. No more secrets, no more leaving. Do you think you can manage not leaving me for a week at least?"
I push his shoulder with my arm and laugh.
"Do you think you can manage to not piss me off for a week at least?"
"No, probably not." He answers, I know that he is smiling.
I turn my head to the side and sure enough a huge grin covers his face.
"You'll have to stay with me at my dorm sometimes too. The drive is far."
"Your dorm? You aren't living in a dorm. You live here."
"We just got back together, do you really think it's a good idea for me to live here?"
"You're staying here, we aren't discussing this any further."
"You are obviously confused to be speaking to me that way." I smile and raise myself up on my elbow to look at him.
"I don't really want to live in the dorm, I just wanted to see what you would say." I admit.
"Well I am glad to see you are back to being annoying." He says and lifts himself up, mirroring my actions.
"I am glad to see you are back to being rude. I was getting worried after that romantic letter that you had lost your edge."
"Call me romantic one more time and I will take you right here, right now, whether my mum is here or not."
My eyes widen and he laughs louder than I think I have ever heard him laugh.
"I'm joking! You should see your face!" He bellows.
I can't help but laugh with him.
"I feel like we shouldn't be laughing after all the stuff that happened today." He says after we stop.
"Maybe that's why we should be laughing." I say and mean it. This is what we do, we fight then make up.
"Our relationship is sort of fucked up." He smiles.
"Yea.. just a little." It has definitely been a roller-coaster.
"Not anymore though, okay? I promise."
"Okay." I lean over and give him a quick kiss on the lips.
It isn't enough though, it never is. I bring my lips back to his, this time I let them linger. Both of our mouths open at the same time and he slips his tongue inside of my mouth. My hands fist his hair and he pulls me on top of him as his tongue massages mine. No matter how messed up our relationship has been there is no denying the passion. The passion we have together is incredible and all consuming. I start to move my hips, grounding down onto him and he smiles under my lips.
"I think that's enough for now." He says.
I lay my head on his chest and revel in the feeling of his arms wrapping around my back as I lay on top of him.
"I hope tomorrow goes well." I say after a few minutes of silence.
He doesn't respond and when I lift my head up his eyes are closed and his lips are slightly parted in sleep. He must have been exhausted, then again so am I. I climb off of him and check the time. It's past ten. I pull his jeans off of him, without waking him, before I join him back in bed. Tomorrow is Christmas and I can only pray that it goes much better than today.
Harry's POV.
I faintly hear Tessa's damn alarm clock buzzing, waking me too early. I will not complain though because I am lucky enough to hear it. Lucky enough for her to be here after everything. She turns it off and climbs out of bed, leaving me alone. I have half the mind to follow her into the bathroom, not to do anything to her, just to be near her. The bed is too warm so I decide against it. A few minutes later I force myself out of bed to make a pot of coffee.
"Merry Christmas." My mum says when I enter the kitchen,
"Same to you." I walk past her to the fridge.
"I made coffee." She says.
"I see that."
"Harry I am sorry for what I said yesterday. I know that I upset you when I agreed with her mum."
"It's just that she belongs with me mum, no where else. Only with me." I grab a towel to wipe up the excess coffee spilling over my mug.
"I know she does Harry. I see that now. I am sorry."
"Me too, I am sorry for being a dick all the time. I don't mean to." She seems to be surprised by my words, I guess I don't blame her. I never apologize, regardless if I am right or wrong.
"It's okay, we can move past it. Let's have a nice Christmas at your lovely father's house." She smiles, sarcasm clear in her voice.
"Yea, let's move past it. I love you mum." The words taste odd coming out but her expression makes it worth it.
"What?" Tears immediately pool in her eyes from hearing the words I never say to her.
"I love you mum." I repeat, a little embarrassed.
She pulls me into her arms and hugs me tighter, tighter than I usually allow.

I decide to wear my hair straight today to try something different but when I finish it looks odd so I end up curling it as usual. I am taking too long to get ready and it is probably getting close to time to leave. From the steam in the bathroom when I first entered I know that Anne has already taken a shower which is good because I won't be hogging the bathroom. I am nervous for today and how it will go. I hope Harry is on his best behavior, or at least tries to be.
I go with simple makeup, only wearing a little foundation, black eyeliner and mascara. I was going to use eye shadow as well but I have had to remove the messy line from my top eyelid three times before finally getting it right.
"Are you alive?" Harry's voice calls through the door.
"Yes, I am almost done." I reply and brush my teeth once more before exiting the bathroom.
"I'm going to take a quick shower then we need to go if you still want to go to my dad's." Harry says when I enter the room.
"Okay, I will get dressed while you are in the shower."
After he leaves the room I walk over to the closet and grab the black dress I bought to wear today. The black material is thick and the neckline is high. The bow covering my waist is much bigger than it looked when I tried the dress on the other day but I will be wearing a cardigan over it anyway because the dress is sleeveless and it's freezing outside. I retrieve my charm bracelet from the dresser and clasp it over my wrist. My stomach flutters each time I read the perfect words.
I can't decide on what shoes to wear, if I wear heels I will probably look too dressy. I go with black flats, pull my white cardigan over the dress and wait for Harry to get out of the shower. Minutes later he opens the door wearing only a towel tied around his waist. Oh. No matter how many times I see him, I still lose my breath at the sight of him. Staring at Harry's half naked body I do not understand how tattoos were not appealing to me before.
"Holy shit." He says as his eyes rake up and down my body.
"You look.. incredibly innocent."
"Is that good or bad? It's Christmas, I didn't want to look indecent." I explain, unsure of what I chose to wear.
"Good. Very good." His tongue snakes over his bottom lip and I have to look away before we start something that we should not finish. Not right now at least.
"Thank you. What are you wearing?"
"What I always wear."
"I am not dressing up to go to my dad's house."
"I know.. maybe you could wear that shirt your mother got you for Christmas?" I suggest even though I know he won't.
"Not happening." He says and walks over to pull his jeans off of the hanger. The hanger falls to the ground and he leaves it there.
I decide not to say anything, instead I walk away from the closet as Harry's towel falls to the floor.
"I'm going to go out there with your mom." I tell him and try to force myself not to look down his body.
"Suit yourself." He smirks and I leave the room.
When I find Anne in the living room she is wearing a red dress and black heels, much different from her usual track suit.
"You look so beautiful." I tell her.
"You're sure? Is it too much, with the makeup and all?" She asks nervously.
"No, not at all. You look great." I assure her, she really does look great.
"It's not that I care really, I just don't want to look bad when I see my ex-husband after all these years." She smiles.
"You certainly do not look bad." I tell her and she smiles.
"Are you two ready?" Harry asks when he joins us in the living room.
His hair is still wet but somehow it manages to look perfect. He is wearing all black, including the black converse he wore in Seattle. I forgot to tell him how much I liked them. Harry grabs the bag that holds the gifts and stands by the door to wait for Anne and I.
"Why are you so dressed up?" He asks his mother during the elevator ride down.
"It's a holiday, why wouldn't I be?"
"It just seems weird to .."
"She looks lovely Harry. I am just as dressed up as she is." I cut him off before he says something to ruin his mother's day.
During the drive everyone is quiet, even Anne. I can tell she is nervous and rightfully so. I would be incredibly nervous if I were her. The closer we get to Ken's house, the more nervous I grow. I really just want a calm holiday.
"Are you cold?" He asks as he pulls onto the freeway.
"A little." I tell him. He turns up the heat and the car remains silent.
When Harry pulls up to Ken's house Anne gasps.
"This is his house?" She gapes.
"Yep. I told you it was big." Harry says and turns off the car.
"I didn't think you meant this big." She says quietly.
Harry reaches the sidewalk first and waits for Anne and I before he walks up the steps leading to the large house. I see the apprehension on his face as he rings the doorbell. I take his hand in mine to try to calm him and he looks down at me with a small but noticeable smile.
Karen answers the door with a welcoming smile. Harry walks in first with Anne and I behind him, my hand still in his.
"Thank you for coming." She says.
She approaches Anne first.
"Hello, I am Karen. It is so nice to meet you. I really appreciate you coming." Karen appears completely calm but I have gotten to know her well enough to know that is not the case.
"I'm Anne, it's nice to meet you too." Anne says.
Ken joins us in the living room and he stops in his tracks at the sight of his ex wife. I lean into Harry and hope that Liam told Ken we were coming.
"Hello Ken." Anne's voice is strong.
"Anne.. wow.. hello." He stutters.
Anne seems to be pleased by his reaction and she nods her head once.
"You look.. different." Anne says.
I have tried to imagine what Ken looked like back then, eyes bloodshot from liquor, forehead sweaty, and face pale, but I can not seem to.
"Yea.. so do you." He says.
The awkward tension is making me dizzy and I am beyond relieved when Liam joins us.
"You look beautiful." He compliments me and pulls me in for a hug.
Harry's grip on my hand tightens but I manage to pull my hand from him so that I can hug Liam back.
"You look very handsome yourself Liam." I tell him.
He is dressed in blue slacks and a white dress shirt with a black tie. Harry hooks his arm around my waist and pulls me back over to him, closer than before. Liam rolls his eyes at Harry then turns to Anne.
"Hello ma'am I am Liam, Karen's son. It is great to meet you." He politely says.
"Oh please don't call me ma'am." Anne laughs and continues. "It is nice to meet you too. Tessa has told me a lot about you." She tells him.
"All good things I hope." He smiles and she nods.
"Mostly." Anne teases.
Liam's charm has seemed to ease some of the tension in the room.
"Are you hungry yet? Or should we wait to eat?" Karen asks the group.
No one answers and Harry looks down at me.
"We can eat now." I say and Karen smiles.
Everyone walks into the dining room and I am not surprised to find the table perfectly set. Platters of neatly arranged food cover the table. A large centerpiece full of flowers and ornaments sits in the middle and everything looks perfect. Karen is always an amazing host.
"Would anyone like a drink, I have some delicious red wine from the cellar." Karen says. Her cheeks flush red as she realizes what she just asked. Alcohol is definitely a sensitive subject with this crowd.
"I would actually." Anne smiles.
Karen disappears and returns with an open bottle of red wine. I consider asking for a glass to calm the uneasy feeling in my stomach but decide against it. Each of us take a seat, Anne next to Liam and no one says a word as they fill their plates with food.
Liam makes eye contact with me and I can tell he is debating whether or not to speak, I give him a small nod. I don't want to have to break the silence. I take a bite of ham and Harry puts his hand on my thigh.
"So what do you think of America so far? Is this your first time here?" Liam asks Anne.
"Yea, it's my first time coming here. I like it, I wouldn't want to live here but I do like it. Are you planning on staying in America when you finish schooling?"
"I am not sure yet, my girlfriend is moving to New York next month so it will depend on what she wants to do." He says.
I selfishly hope he doesn't move to New York anytime soon.
"I will be glad when Harry finishes so he can move back home." Anne says and I drop my fork onto my plate.
All eyes focus on me and I smile apologetically before picking the utensil back up.
"You're moving back to England after you graduate?" Liam asks Harry.
"Yea of course I am." Harry rudely answers.
We haven't discussed any plans after college but him moving back to England never once crossed my mind. We will need to discuss this later, not in front of everyone.
"Oh." Liam says, looking directly at me.
"So... how do you like America Ken? Are you planning to live here permanently?" Anne asks him.
"Yes, I do. I love it here. I will be staying here for the remainder of my life." He answers.
"You always hated America." Anne smiles and takes a sip of her wine.
"Yes.. I did." He half smiles back at her.
Karen and Harry both shift uncomfortably in their seats and I concentrate on chewing the bite of potato in my mouth.
"Does anyone have anything to talk about besides America?" Harry rolls his eyes.
I gently kick him under the table but he doesn't acknowledge it.
"How was your trip to Seattle Tessa?" Karen asks me.
I have already told her about it but I know that she is only trying to make conversation so I tell her again. Once everyone is finished eating I help Karen take the dishes to the kitchen. She seems to be distracted so I don't probe her for conversation as we clean up the kitchen.
"Would you like another glass of wine Anne?" Karen asks Anne once we all move to the living room to open gifts. Harry, Anne, and I sit on one of the couches, Liam sits on the chair, and Karen and Ken sit on the other couch across from us. It feels as if we are on teams with Liam acting as a referee.
"Yes please. It is really great wine." Anne replies and hands over her empty glass for Karen to fill it.
"Thank you, we got it in Greece this summer it was such an amazing .." She stops mid sentence.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to.." Karen searches for words.
"Oh no, it's fine really. The wine is excellent." Anne does her best to calm Karen.
I really applaud her for being so strong and forgiving. She is making a huge effort to be polite especially given the circumstances. Karen has gotten the Ken that Anne never had. She gets trips to Greece and all over the world, a huge home, new cars, and most importantly she gets a loving and sober husband.
"Any one else? Tessa would you like a glass?" Karen asks after pouring Liam a glass of wine.
"Yes please." I finally give in. I am going to need a glass of wine if the day continues to be this awkward.
"What about you dad? You want a glass of wine?" Harry remarks.
Everyone looks at him with wide eyes and open mouths. I squeeze his hand to try to silence him.
"What? Don't you want a glass dad? I'm sure you do. You miss it don't you?" He continues with a wicked smirk.

"Harry." Anne snaps.
"What? I am just asking a question." He says.
I can tell that Ken is debating whether or not to take Harry's bait. I hope to god he chooses not to.
"Stop it." I whisper to Harry.
"Don't be rude." Anne tells him.
"It's fine." Ken says and takes a drink of his water.
Karen's face has paled and Liam is staring at the large television on the wall..
"I know it's fine." Harry smiles.
"You are just angry so go ahead and say what you please." Ken says.
He shouldn't have said that.
"Angry? I am not angry. Annoyed and amused yes, but angry, no." Harry says calmly.
"Amused by what?" Ken asks. Oh Ken just stop talking.
"Amused by the fact that you are acting as if nothing ever happened, as if you weren't a massive fuck up. You two are being ridiculous." He explains.
"You are crossing the line here." Ken says. Jesus Ken.
"Am I? Since when do you get to decide where the line is?" Harry challenges him.
"This is my home Harry, that's why I get to decide." Ken responds.
Harry is on his feet immediately, I grab his arm to stop him but he shakes me off easily. I sit my glass of wine on the table next to me and stand up.
"Harry stop." I beg and grab ahold of his arm again.
Everything was going well, awkward but well and Harry had to go and make a rude remark. I know he is angry at his father for his mistakes but Christmas dinner is not the time to bring this up. Harry and Ken had began to repair their relationship and if Harry doesn't stop now it will get much worse.
"I thought we were moving past this, you came to the wedding?" Ken questions and stands up.
They are only feet away from one another and I know this will not end well.
"Moving past what? You haven't even owned up to anything! You are just pretending that it didn't happen!" Harry is yelling now.
My head is swimming and I wish I would have never suggested for them to come. Once again I have caused yet another family argument.
"Today is not the day for us to be discussing this. We are having a nice time and you had to go and start a fight with me." Ken speaks.
"When is the day then?" Harry asks and raises his hands in the air.
"Not Christmas, I haven't seen your mother in years and this is the time you choose to pick a fight with me?" Ken says to his son.
"You haven't seen her in years because you fucking left! You left us with nothing, no fucking money, no car, nothing!" Harry shouts and steps into his father's face.
"No money? I sent money every month! A lot of money! And your mum wouldn't accept the car that I offered her!" Ken yells back, his face red with anger.
"Liar! You didn't send shit that's why we lived in that shit house and she worked fifty hours a week!"
"Harry.. he isn't lying." Anne interjects.
"What?" Harry turns to Anne.
This is a disaster. A much bigger disaster than I saw coming.
"He sent money Harry." Anne explains.
"Where is the money then?" Harry asks his mother, disbelief clear in his tone.
"Paying your tuition." She explains.
"You said he was paying the tuition!" Harry yells.
My heart aches for him.
"He is, with the money he sent that I have saved over the years." She tells her son.
"What the fuck?" Harry rubs his forehead with his hand. I move to stand behind him and thread my fingers through his free hand.
"I didn't use all of it for your tuition, I paid the bills as well."
"Why wouldn't you tell me? I would pay my own tuition! He should be paying it! You still left us, whether you sent money or not! You just left without so much as a fucking call on my god damned birthday." Harry turns to Ken.
"What was I supposed to do Harry? Stay around? I was a drunk, a worthless drunk and the two of you deserved better than what I could give you. After that night... I knew I had to go." Ken says, excess saliva pools in the corners of his mouth and he blinks rapidly. Harry's body goes rigid and his breathing increases.
"Don't you speak of that night! That happened because of you!" Harry screams and pulls his hand out of mine.
Anne looks angry, Liam looks terrified, and Karen is already crying. I realize I am the one that is going to have to stop this.
"I know it did! You don't know how much I wish I could take that back son, that night has haunted me for the last ten years!" Ken says, clearly trying not to cry.
"It haunts you? How do you think it was for me to see that shit! I fucking watched it happen you prick! I was there to clean up the fucking blood off of the floor while you were out getting shit faced!" Harry balls his fists.
Karen whimpers and covers her mouth before leaving the room. I don't blame her. I hadn't realized that I am crying until the warm tears hit my chest. I had a feeling something would happen today but nothing like this.
"I know Harry! I know! There is nothing I can do to erase that! I am sober now! I haven't had a drink in years! You can't hold that against me forever!" Ken puts his hands in the air.
Anne screams as Harry lunges at his father, Liam rushed over to try to stop Harry but he is too late. Harry pushes Ken back against the china cabinet, the replacement for the one Harry had broken months ago.
Ken grabs Harrys shirt and tries to hold him back as Harry's fist connects with his father's jaw. I stand frozen, as always, as Harry attacks his own father. Ken manages to turn himself and Harry around before Harry can hit him again, Harry's fist punches through the glass on the cabinet door. I break out of my motionless state and fist Harry's shirt in my hand. His arm jerks back, knocking me into the table next to me. My glass of red wine topples over, covering my white cardigan.
"Look what you did!" Liam yells at Harry and rushes over to my side. Anne holds a horrified expression and Ken looks at his broken cabinet then me as Harry stops his attack against his father and turns to face me.
"Are you okay?" He asks and I nod.
I didn't get hurt, my shirt being ruined is too trivial to mention in the middle of this chaos. Anne is standing by the door giving her son a murderous glare.
"Move." Harry snaps at Liam and takes his place next to me.
"Are you okay? I thought you were Liam." He says and puts his busted hands on both sides of my face.
"I am fine." I repeat and move from under his touch.
"We are leaving." He growls and wraps his arm around my waist. I move away from him once more.
I look over at Ken as he uses the sleeve of his crisp white button up to wipe the blood off of his mouth.
"You should stay here, Tessa." Liam urges.
"Don't fucking start with me Liam." Harry warns him but Liam doesn't seem to be phased. He should be.
"Harry stop it now." I snap and he lets out a breath but doesn't argue.
"I'll be fine." I tell Liam. It's Harry he should be worried about.
"Let's go." Harry walks toward the door, looking back to make sure that I am behind him.
"I am sorry.. about all of this." I tell Ken as I follow Harry out the door.
"It's not your fault, it's mine." He says and turns away to go to the kitchen.
Anne stays silent, along with Harry and I as he turns on the car.
I am freezing, the leather seats are ice cold on my bare legs and my wet cardigan isn't helping either. I turn the heat all the way up and Harry looks over at me but I focus out the window. I can't decide if I should be angry with him. He ruined dinner and literally attacked his father in front of everyone. However, I feel for him. He has been through so much and his father is the root of all his problems. The nightmares, the anger, the lack of respect for women. He never had anyone to teach him how to be a man.
When Harry puts his hand on my thigh, I don't move it. My head is pounding and I can not believe the way everything escalated so quickly. I thought he would at least try to be nice today but I should have known better. Spending Christmas at Ken's house with Harry and Anne was a recipe for disaster.
"Harry we have to talk about what just happened." Anne says as Harry turns of off his father's street.
"No, we don't." He responds.
"Yes we do. You were way out of line."
"I was out of line? How can you forget everything he has done?"
"I have not forgotten anything Harry. I have chosen to forgive him, I can not hold onto anger for him. That type of anger will consume you, it will take over your life if you let it. If you hold onto it, it will destroy you. I do not want to live that way, I want to be happy Harry and forgiving your father makes it much easier for me to be happy." She explains.
Her strength never creases to amaze me.
"Well I don't want to forgive him. I thought I could but not after today."
"He didn't do anything to you today, you provoked him about his drinking for no good reason." Anne scolds her son.
"He doesn't get a free pass mum." When Harry removes his hand from my skin, he leaves a smudge of blood behind.
"This isn't about free passes. Ask yourself this, what do you get out of being so angry with him? Where does that get you besides bloody hands and a lonely life?"
Harry doesn't answer her.
"Exactly." She says and the rest of the ride is silent.
When we get back to the apartment I walk straight to the bedroom.
"You owe her an apology Harry." I hear Anne say as a cabinet closes.
I pull my ruined sweater off and let it fall on the floor. I am in no mood to worry about being tidy. I slip my shoes off and push my hair from my face, tucking the strands behind my ears. Seconds later Harry opens the bedroom door, his eyes go to the red stained fabric on the floor then up to my face.
"I am so sorry, Tess. I didn't mean to push you like that." He stands in front of me and takes my hands in his.
"You really shouldn't have done that not today."
"I know.. are you hurt?" He asks, wiping his wounded hands against his black jeans.
"No." If I felt like he physically hurt me we would have much bigger problems.
"I am so sorry. I thought you were Liam and I was so pissed." He explains, his eyes pleading.
"I don't like when you get that way, so angry." My eyes pool with tears as I recall Harry's hand smashing the glass on the cabinet.
"I know baby, I would never hurt you purposely. You know that don't you?" He bends his knees slightly so he is eye level with me.
His thumb traces over my temple and I nod slowly. I do know that he would never hurt me, physically at least. I have always known that.
"Why did you comment on his drinking in the first place? Things were going great." I ask.
"Because he was acting like nothing happened, he was being this fucking pretentious prick and my mum was just going along with it. Someone had to stand up for her." He explains, his voice polar opposite of how it was thirty minutes ago when he was screaming in his father's face.
My heart aches for him again, this was his way of defending his mother. The wrong way, but to Harry it's the only way he knows. When he pushes his hair from his forehead blood stains his skin.
"Try to consider how he feels about this, he has to live with that guilt forever Harry and you don't make it any easier. I am not saying you shouldn't be angry because you should but you out of all people should be more forgiving."
"I..." He begins but I interrupt him.
"And you have to stop with the violence. You can't just go around beating people up every time you get pissed off. It's not right and I don't like it at all."
"I know." He looks down at the concrete flooring.
"We need to get you cleaned up, your knuckles are still bleeding." I sigh and take his hands in mine, leading him to the bathroom to clean his wounds for what feels like the thousandth time since I met him.

Harry doesn't even wince as I run the damp towel over his wounds. I dip the towel back into the sink full of water, attempting to dilute the blood from the white fabric.
He looks up at me as I stand over him. He is seated on the edge of the bathtub and I stand between his legs. He holds his hands up once more.
"We need to get something to put on your thumb." I tell him as I twist the towel to wring out the excess water.
"It will be fine." He says.
"No, look how deep it is. The skin is already purely scar tissue and you just keep tearing it back open." I scold him.
He doesn't say anything, he just studies my face.
"What?" I ask him.
I drain the pink water and wait for him to respond.
"Nothing.." He lies.
"Tell me."
"I just can't believe you put up with my shit." He says.
"Me either." I smile.
"It's a lot of shit to put up with."
"Yea it is.." I say and watch as a frown takes over his face.
"It's worth it though." I add, meaning it.
He smiles and I bring my hand to his face, running the pad of my thumb over the pit of his dimple.
"Sure it is." His smile grows.
"I need a shower." He says and stands up.
He removes his shirt before leaning down to turn the shower faucet.
"I'll be in the room then." I tell him.
"Wait.. why? Take one with me?"
"Your mother is in the other room." I explain quietly.
"So.. it's only a shower. Please?"
I can not refuse him, he knows this. The smirk on his face as I sigh in defeat proves it.
"Unzip me?" I request and turn my back to him.
I lift my hair into my hands and his fingers find the zipper immediately. The black fabric falls to the floor and I step out of it.
"I like that dress." He tells me and removes his pants and boxers.
I try not to stare at his naked body as I slide the straps of my bra down my arms. When I am completely naked Harry steps into the shower, holding his hand out for me. His eyes rake down my body and stop at my thighs with a scowl.
"What?" I try to cover myself with my arms.
"The blood. It's on you." He gestures to the faint marks of dried blood.
"It's fine." I grab the loofa and rub it against my skin.
"Let me." He takes it from me and covers it with soap.
Harry bends down to his knees and I can't help the goose bumps that form on my skin at the sight of him on his knees in front of me. The loofa moves up and my thighs, slowly circling around. Only Harry can make washing his blood off of me feel this intimate. He has a direct line to my hormones. He brings his face close to my skin and I try not to squirm as his lips touch my left hip.
He keeps one of his hands wrapped around the back of my thigh, holding me in place as he does the same to the right.
"Hand me the shower head." He says, breaking me from my perverted thoughts.
"Hand me it, the shower head." He says again.
I nod and lift the metal from the hook and hand it down to him. He looks up at me with a gleam in his eye, water dripping from his nose as he turns the head in his hand, directly at my lower stomach.
"What.. What are you doing?" I squeak as he moves the object lower.
The hot water pulses against my skin and I watch in anticipation.
'Does that feel good?" He asks as the water strums against the lowest area of my stomach.
I nod.
"If you think it feels good now, let's see how it feels if we move it down, just a little." He seductively says.
Every cell in my body is awakened, dancing under my skin as Harry teasingly tortures me.
I jump as the water hits me and Harry smirks.
"How does that feel baby? Should I move it a little lower.. or maybe higher?" He taunts.
The water feels so good, much better than I would have ever assumed it could. My fingers wrap into Harry's hair and I pull my bottom lip between my teeth to stifle my moans. His mother is in the other room but I can not bring myself to make him stop, it feels too good.
"Tessa.." Harry probes for an answer.
"Same..stay there." I pant and he chuckles, pressing the water closer to me to add more pressure.
When I feel Harry's soft tongue run across me just under the water, I nearly lose my balance. It's too much, his tongue lapping with the water pulsing and my knees shaking.
"Harry.. I can't.." I am not sure what I am trying to say but I can't finish my sentence. His tongue moves faster and I pull his hair, hard. My legs begin to shake and Harry drops the shower head onto the floor of the tub so he can use both of his hands to hold me up.
"Fuck.." I curse quietly, thankful for the noise of the shower to drown out my moans. I feel him smile against me before continuing to bring me over the edge.
My eyes screw shut as I come undone under his tongue. Seconds later, he stands and wraps his arms around my waist to support my body until I am able to return from my euphoric state.
My head rests against his chest and I shiver. I step back and bend down, grabbing the shower head from the floor to put it back where it belongs. I don't want to think about how he learned how pleasurable using that could be.
"I think you're clean now." He smiles, licking his lips.
"I'd say." I breath and grab the shampoo.
Once both of us are clean and ready to get out, I run my hands along his abs, tracing over the skull pattern on his abs. My hand creeps lower but Harry's finger grip around my wrist to stop me.
"My mum is just in the other room. Have some self control." He teases and I swat at his arm before climbing out of the shower and grabbing a towel.
"I know I am hard to resist but you need to practice some self control, Tess." He whispers with a big goofy grin.
"This coming from someone who just used .." I flush, unable to finish the sentence.
"You liked it didn't you?" He raises his brow and I roll my eyes.
"Go get my clothes from the room." I tell him in a bossy tone.
"Yes ma'am." He wraps the towel around his waist and disappears from the steamy room. I swipe my hand across the mirror after wrapping my soaking hair in a towel. Today has been a hectic and very stressful Christmas. I am going to call Liam later tonight after I talk to Harry about what he said about moving back to England after college. He has never mentioned it to me and I almost forgot about it with through all the chaos.
"Here." Harry hands me a pile of clothes and leaves me alone in the bathroom to get dressed.
I am amused to find the red lace bra and panties among the sweats and one of his clean black t-shirts. I can not wear the one he wore today because it was ruined by the blood. Once I am dressed I follow Harry and Anne's voices to the kitchen.
"I will not apologize, leave it alone." Harry says.
"Fine, I will leave it alone. Only because I am leaving tomorrow and Christmas has already been ruined." Anne tells her son.
My headache from earlier returns and I pour myself a glass of water, hoping neither of them will acknowledge my presence in the room.
"Are you hungry?" Harry asks me.
"Not really." I drink the entire glass of water and fill it back up.
"What time is your flight tomorrow." Harry turns to his mother.
"Seven in the morning."
"We need to leave here at five then." He groans.
"Next Christmas you two are coming to England, no excuses." Anne rubs her temples and smiles.
The thought of Christmas with Harry a year from now makes my stomach flutter. For the first time since I met him, I can see a future with him. Not necessarily having children and getting married, but for once I feel secure enough about his feelings for me to be able to look a year into our future.
"I am going to call Robin then I want us to have a nice evening, what's left of it anyway." Anne says and grabs her phone from the side table.
"Yell for us when you are finished." Harry tells her and grabs my hand to lead me to the bedroom. I assume he doesn't want to hear his mother talk to her boyfriend, regardless of how happy he looked when he found out she was seeing someone.
Harry closes the bedroom door and sits on the edge of the bed while I grab his dirty clothes and place them in the hamper.
I know today has been stressful enough but I have to talk to him about his plans after graduation. If I don't do it now, I will most likely lose the courage or be side tracked by another disaster.

To be continued..


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