Thursday, 9 August 2018

AFTER ROMANCE 3 Sequence 36-40

Tessa's POV.
"Harry!" I push open the door and call his name. He's halfway across the front yard already.
When he turns around, his face is twisted in confusion. "Yeah?"
"Can you tell Liam to call me if he doesn't want to come inside." I quickly respond. I know Liam would come inside my mother's house but I'm sure Harry wants to leave now, and unlike Liam, he wouldn't be okay with sitting in the car waiting.
"Oh, okay."
I wait for him to turn back to me, I don't know what it is exactly that I'm expecting, a goodbye, a hug, something, but it doesn't come. He opens the passenger door of Liam's car and climbs inside.
My hand moves through the air in a small and pathetic wave goodbye. Liam rolls the window down and waves back, promising to call me tomorrow. Harry must have insisted that Liam get on the road, now.
The moment that Liam's car is out of sight, the emptiness weighs heavy on my chest and I walk inside. Noah is leaning against the threshold between the living room and kitchen, "Is he gone? " he asks.
"Yeah, he's gone." My voice is distant, unfamiliar.
"I didn't know you guys weren't together,"
"We, well.. we are just trying to figure everything out."
"Can you tell me one thing before you change the subject?" His eyes scan my face, "I know that look, you're about to find a reason to." Even after being apart from me for months, he still knows me so well.
"What do you want to know?" I ask before agreeing to his request.
"If you could go back would you? I heard you say you want to erase the last six months, would you really?" He asks, his blue eyes stare into mine.
Would I?
I sit down on the couch to ponder his question, would I take it all back? Erase everything that has happened to me in the last six months? The bet, the endless fights with Harry, the downward spiral of my relationship with my mother, Steph's betrayal, all the humiliation, everything.
"Yes, I would, in a heartbeat."
Harry's hand on mine, the way his inked arms wrapped around me, pulling me to his chest. The way he would sometimes laugh so hard that his eyes would pinch closed and the sound would fill my ears, my heart, and the entire apartment with such a rare happiness that nothing could erase the memory.
"No, I wouldn't. I couldn't." I change my answer and Noah shakes his head.
"Which is it?" He chuckles and sits on the recliner across from the couch.
"I wouldn't erase it."
"You're sure? It's been a bad year for you and I don't even know the half of it."
"I'm sure." I nod, meaning it. "I would do some things differently though, with you." I tell him again.
"Yeah, me too." Noah quietly agrees and grabs the television remote from the cup holder attached to the recliner. Whistles and cheering crowds fill the small living room and I stare at the screen, replaying Harry's laugh through my mind until I eventually fall asleep.
"Theresa," a hand grasps my shoulder and shakes me, "Theresa, wake up."
"I'm up," I groan and wriggle out of my mother's grip. "What time is it?"
"Seven in the evening. I was going to wake you up earlier," she purses her lips. I know it must have been driving her insane to let me sleep the day away on her couch. Oddly, the thought amuses me.
"Sorry, I don't even remember falling asleep." I stretch my arms and stand to my feet. "Did Noah leave?" I peer into the kitchen and I don't see him.
"Yes, Mrs. Porter really wanted to see you but I told her it wasn't a good time."
"Thank you," I do wish I would have had a proper goodbye with Noah but I know that I will eventually see him again, the same with Liam. I will see Liam much sooner than Noah.
"Harry brought your car, I see." I can hear the disapproval in her voice as she turns from the stove to hand me a plate covered in lettuce and grilled tomatoes.
I haven't missed her idea of a good meal.
"Why didn't you tell me that he was here? I remember it now."
"He asked me not to."
"Since when do you care what he wants?" I urge, nervous of her reaction..
"I don't. I didn't mention it because it is in your best interest not to remember."
My fork slips from my fingers and onto the plate with a sharp clink. "Keeping things from me isn't in my best interest." I am doing my best to keep my voice cool and calm. I dab the corners of my mouth with a perfectly folded napkin.
"Theresa, do not take your frustrations out on me. Whatever that man has done to you that made you this way, is your own fault. Not mine."
The moment her red lips pull into a confident smirk I stand from the table and toss my napkin onto the plate before walking out of the room.
"Where are you going young lady?" She calls to me.
"I'm going to bed. I have to get up at four in the morning to shower and get on the road. I have a long drive ahead of me." I yell back and close the door.
The light grey walls seem to be closing in on me as I sit on my childhood bed. I hate this house, I shouldn't, but I do. I hate the way I feel like I can't breathe without being scolded or corrected. I never realized how caged and controlled I have been my entire life until I had my first taste of freedom with Harry. I love having pizza for dinner, spending the entire day naked in bed with him. No folded napkins, no curled hair, no hideous yellow curtains.
Before I can stop myself, I'm calling him and he's answering on the second ring.
"Tess?" He's out of breath.
"Uhm, hey." I whisper.
"What's wrong?" He huffs, catching his breath.
"Nothing, are you alright?"
"Come on Styles, get back over here," a female voice says in the background.
"Oh, you're.. I'll let you go," my heart is hammering against my ribcage as the possibilities flood my mind.
"No, it's fine. She can wait." The background noise gets softer and softer by the second. He must be walking away from her.
"Really, it's okay. I'll just go, I don't want to.. interrupt you."
"Okay," he breathes.
"Okay, bye." I quickly hang up and hold my hand over my mouth to keep myself from vomiting on my mother's carpet.
There has to be some sort of logical..
My phone buzzes next to my thigh, Harry's name clear on the small screen.
"I'm not doing what you think I'm doing, I didn't even realize how it sounded." He immediately states, harsh wind blows around him muffling his voice.
"It's okay, really."
"No, Tess, it wouldn't be. If I was with someone else right now, that wouldn't be okay so stop acting like it would be." He calls me out and I lay back on the bed, admitting to myself that he's right.
"I didn't think you were doing anything," I half lie, I somehow knew he wasn't, but the idea was still there.
"Good, maybe you finally trust me."
"That would be much more relevant if you wouldn't have left me." His tone is sharp.
"Why did you call? Is your mum being a bitch?" He sighs.
"No, don't call her that." I roll my eyes, "Well she kind of is being one but it's nothing big. I'm just.. I don't know why I called really."
"Well.." he pauses, I hear a car door shut. "Do you want to talk or something?"
"Is that okay? Can we?" I ask him. Only hours ago I was telling him that I need to be more independent yet here I am calling him the moment I'm upset.
"Where are you anyway?" I need to keep the conversation as neutral as possible, not that it's even possible to keep things between Harry and I neutral.
"A gym,"
"A gym? You don't go to the gym." I almost laugh. Harry is one of the few people to be blessed with an incredible body without ever having to work out. His natural large build is perfect, tall with broad shoulders, even though he claims that he was lanky and thin during his teenaged years. His muscles are hard but not too defined, his body is the perfect mixture of soft and hard.
"I know, she was kicking my ass. I was genuinely embarrassed."
"Who?" The woman who's voice I heard, obviously.
"The trainer, I decided to use that kickboxing shit you got me for my birthday." He answers.
"Really?" The thought of Harry kickboxing makes me think about things that I shouldn't be thinking about.
"How was it?"
"Okay I guess, I prefer a different type of exercise but I'm a lot less pissed off than I was a few hours ago,": I narrow my eyes at his response even thought he can't see me.
"Do you think you'll go again?" My fingers trace the flowered print of the comforter. I finally feel like I can breath as Harry begins to tell me about how awkward the first half hour of his session was, how he kept cursing at the woman and she slapped him across the back of his head, repeatedly, which then in turn made Harry respect her, and eventually stop being such a jerk to her.
"Wait," I finally speak, "Are you still there?"
"No, I'm home now."
"You just .. left? Did you tell her?"
"No, why would I?" He questions. I like the idea that he dropped what he was doing just to talk to me on the phone, I shouldn't, but I do.
"We aren't doing a very good job on this space thing." I sigh.
"We never do." I can picture his smirk even though he is over one hundred miles away.
"I know but,"
"This is our version of space, you didn't get in the car and drive here, you only called."
"I guess so," I allow myself to agree with his twisted logic. In a way, he's right. My subconscious is trying to push her way in to make a snarky comment but I shove her right back.
"You didn't say goodbye to me," he mutters.
"You wanted to leave," I remind him.
"Yeah because you told me not to say anything I would regret. I was two seconds away from saying some shit that I didn't mean, so I left."
"Is Noah still there?"
"No, he left a few hours ago."
"Talking on the phone is so fucking weird," Harry laughs.
"I don't know, we've been on the phone for over an hour."
I check the time on my phone to be sure, he's right. "It doesn't seem like it."
"I know, I've never talked to anyone on the phone before. Except when you call me to bother me about bringing something home or a few calls to my friends but they never lasted longer than five minutes."
"Yeah, why would I? I was never into the school aged dating shit, all my friends used to spend hours on the phone listening to their girlfriends go on about nail polish or whatever the fuck teenaged girls talk about for hours on end." He laughs lightly, and I frown a little at the reminder that Harry never got the chance to be a normal teenaged boy.
"You didn't miss out on much," I assure him.
"Who did you talk to for hours? Noah?" Spite is clear in his question.
"No, I never did that talking for hours thing either. I was busy shoving my nose into novels." Perhaps I was never a true teenager either.
"Well I'm glad you were a nerd then." He says, making my stomach flutter. Is this what's it like to date someone? I have only dated Noah and Harry, Noah was always at my house with me and Harry, well nothing about our relationship has ever been conventional.
"Theresa!" I'm snapped back into reality as my mother repeatedly calls for me.
"Is it past your bedtime?" Harry teases. Our relationship, non-relationship, giving each other space but talking on the phone-thing, has become even more confusing within the last hour.
"Shut up," I respond and cover the speaker long enough to tell my mother I will be right out. "I need to see what she wants,"
"You're really going tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I am."
"Okay, well be safe I guess."
"I can call you in the morning?" My voice is shaky as I offer.
"No, we probably shouldn't do this again. Well not often." he says, my chest tightens, "It doesn't make sense to talk all the time if we aren't going to be together."
"Okay," my response is small, defeated.
"Goodnight Tessa." The line goes dead.
He's right, I know he is, but knowing that doesn't make it hurt any less. I shouldn't have even called him in the first place.
"You have everything you need correct?" My mother studies me.
"Yes, everything I have is in my car."
"Okay, be sure to get gas before you leave town."
"I'll be fine mother."
"I know, I'm only trying to help." It's fifteen minutes until five and for once my mother isn't dressed to leave the house. She's wearing a silk pajama suit and has her robe wrapped around her, matching slippers covering her feet. My hair is still damp from my shower but I have taken the time to apply some makeup and decent clothing.
"I know you are." I open my arms to hug her goodbye and start my car to let it heat while I pour a cup of coffee for the road. The small nagging hope still clings to me, the foolish part of me that wishes so badly that headlights will appear in the darkness, Harry will climb out of the car, bags in hand, and tell me that he is ready to go to Seattle with me. That foolish part of me is just that, foolish.
At ten minutes after five, I give my mother one last hug and climb into the car. Kimberly and Christian's address is programed into the navigation on my phone. It keeps closing down and re-calculating and I haven't even left the driveway. I really do need a new phone. If Harry were here he would remind me repeatedly that this is another reason to get an iPhone.
But Harry's not here.
The drive is long, it feels much longer than four hours. I have to stop frequently or coffee, food, and just to breathe. My nerves are getting the best of me as I drive down the dark roads. The sun finally comes up half-way through my drive and my mood brightens along with the sky. I'm really doing this, I'm really following my dream and moving to Seattle. I have an amazing internship and a car full of my belongings. I don't have an apartment, I don't have anything except myself, the few boxes in my backseat, and my job.
It will work out.
It will.
I will be happy in Seattle, it will be just like I had always imagined it to be.
It will.
Every single mile drags on and on, every second is filled with memories, goodbyes, and doubts.
Kimberly and Christian's house is even larger than she had explained. I'm nervous and intimated by the driveway alone. Trees line the property and the air smells of saltwater. I park behind Kimberly's car and take a deep breath before climbing out. The large wooden door is crested with a large "V" and I'm giggling at the arrogant notion when Kimberly opens the door.
She raises her eyebrow to me and follows my eyes to the door behind her, "We didn't put that there! I swear the last family that lived here was named Vermon," she promises.
"I didn't say anything," I shrug.
"I know what you're thinking, it's hideous. Christian is a proud man but he wouldn't even do such a thing," she taps the letter with her red fingernail and I laugh again.
"How was the drive? Come inside, it's cold out there," I follow her into the entry and welcome the warm air and sweet smell of a fireplace.
"It was okay, long." I tell her.
"I hope to never make that drive again," she scrunches her nose. "Christian is at the office all day, I took the day off to make sure you get settled in. Smith will be home from school in a few hours."
"Thank you again for letting me stay. I promise I won't be here longer than two weeks."
"Don't stress yourself, you're finally in Seattle." She beams and it finally hits me, I am in Seattle.

Harry's POV.
"How was the kick-boxing yesterday?" Liam asks, his voice strained as he lifts yet another bag of mulch. "You could help you know,"
"I know," I prop my feet up on one of the wooden shelves inside Karen's greenhouse.
With a dramatic eye roll Liam tosses the bag onto the floor and wipes his brow.
"Kick-boxing was okay, the trainer was a woman so that was fucking lame."
"Why? Because she kicked your butt?"
"You mean my ass? And no, she did not."
"What made you go anyway? I told Tess not to buy you that because you wouldn't use it." Annoyance flares in my chest at the way he called her "Tess", I don't like it one fucking bit.
It's only Liam, I remind myself. Out of all the shit I have to worry about right now, Liam is not one on the list.
"Because I was pissed off and I felt like I was going to break everything in that god damned apartment so when I saw the voucher while I was pulling out all of the drawers in the dresser, I put my shoes on and left."
"You pulled out all the drawers? Tessa is going to kill you," he shakes his head and finally takes a seat on the stack of mulch bags. I don't know why he agreed to help his mum move all this shit around anyway.
"She won't see it anyway, it's not her place anymore." I remind him, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.
"Yeah," I sigh, I don't even have a witty comeback.
"It's hard for me to feel bad for you when you could be there with her." Liam says after a few beats of silence.
"Fuck you." I lean my head back against the wall and I can feel him staring at me.
"It doesn't make sense." He adds.
"Not to you."
"Or her, or anyone."
"I don't have to explain myself to anyone." I snap.
"Then why are you even here?"
Instead of answering him, I look around the greenhouse, unsure of the answer myself. "I don't have anywhere else to go." Does he think that I don't miss her every fucking second? That if I would much rather be with her than here?
"What about your friends?" He questions.
"You mean the one who fucking drugged Tessa? Or the other one who set me up to tell her about the bet, or you could mean the one who is constantly trying to get in her pants," I count them on my fingers to add to the dramatic effect. "Shall I go on?"
"Guess not," he shrugs. "So what are you going to do?"
"Exactly what I'm doing now."
"So you're going to hang out with me and mope around?"
"I'm not moping, I'm doing what you told me to do and 'bettering myself'," I mock him with air quotes. "Have you talked to her since she left?" I ask.
"Yeah, she text me this morning to tell me she arrived."
"She's at Vance's isn't she?"
"Why don't you find out for yourself?" Fuck, Liam is annoying.
"I know she is, where else would she be?"
"With that Trevor guy," Liam smirks and I fight the urge to tackle him to the ground. It won't hurt much, he's only about four feet off the ground anyway. It probably wouldn't even leave a bruise..
"I forgot about fucking Trevor," I groan, rubbing harshly at my temples. Trevor is almost as infuriating as Zayn, only I believe that Trevor does actually have good intentions when it comes to Tessa, which pisses me off even more.
"So what's next in project self-improvement?" He smiles but it fades slightly and his expression turns serious, "I'm really proud of you for doing this you know? It's nice to see you actually trying for once instead of making an effort for an hour then going back to how you were the moment she forgives you. It will mean a lot to her to see you making these changes,"
"Don't try to lecture me, I haven't done shit yet it's only been a day."
A long, miserable, lonely, day.
"You didn't turn to alcohol and you haven't gotten in a fight, you haven't been arrested, and I know you came to talk to your dad."
"He told you?" I gape. That fucker.
"No, he didn't tell me. I live here and I saw your car."
"I think you talking to him really would mean so much to Tessa,"
"Would you just stop? Fuck, you're not my shrink. Stop acting like you're better than me and I'm some damaged fucking animal that you need to.."
"Why can't you just take a compliment? I never said I was better than you, all I'm trying to do is be there for you as a friend. You don't have anyone, you said it yourself, and now that you let Tessa move to Seattle, you don't have a single person." He looks at me but I look away.
"You have to stop pushing people away, I know you don't like me, you hate me because you think I am somewhat responsible for some of the issues you have with your dad but I care deeply for Tessa and you, whether you want to hear that or not."
"I don't." I fire back at him. Why does he always have to say shit like this? I came here to.. I don't know, talk to him. Not to have him to tell me how much he cares about me. Why would he care about me? I've been nothing but an asshole to him since the day I met him but I don't hate him. Does he really think that?
"Well that's one of those things you need to work on." He stands to his feet and walks out of the greenhouse, leaving me alone.
"Fuck," I kick my foot out in front of me and it collides with the wooden shelving unit . A crack sounds through the room and I jump to my feet. "No, no, no!" I try to catch the flower boxes, pots, and random shit before it crashes to the floor. Within seconds all of it is on the concrete floor. This isn't fucking happening, I didn't even mean to break this shit and here I am with a pile of dirt, flowers, and cracked pots at my feet.
Maybe I can clean some of this shit up before Karen...
"Oh my," she gasps.
"I didn't mean to, I swear. I kicked my foot out and accidently broke the shelf and all this shit started falling down and I tried to catch it!" I frantically explain as Karen rushes over to a pile of broken pottery. Her hands sift through the rubble, trying to piece together a blue flower pot that has no chance of ever becoming one again.
She doesn't say anything but I hear her sniffle and she lifts her arm to wipe her cheeks with her dirt covered hands.
"I've had this pot since I was a little girl, it was the first pot that I ever planted in."
"I," I don't know what to say to her. Out of all the shit I have broken, this time it truly was an accident.
"This and my china were the only things left from my grandmother." She cries.
The china. The china that I smashed into a million pieces.
"Karen, I'm sorry. I,"
"It's okay Harry." She sighs, tossing the pieces of the vase back into the pile of dirt. It's not okay, I can see it in her brown eyes. I can physically see how hurt she is and I'm surprised by the heaviness of guilt on my chest from the sadness in her eyes. She stares at the shattered pot for a few more seconds and I watch her silently.
"I'm going to finish dinner, it will be ready soon." She wipes her eyes again and leaves the same way her son did only minutes ago.
Tessa's POV.
"Where's your Harry?" Smith asks in a quiet voice.
"He's at home, back in Pullman."
"Where's that?"
"It's a long way away." I do my best to smile.
"Is he coming?" Smith looks up at me with bright green eyes.
"I don't think so, you like Harry don't you?" I laugh and push the sleeves of my old maroon dress over a hanger and place it inside the closet.
"Sort of, he's funny."
"I'm funny too." I tease and he smiles a shy smile.
"Not really." He bluntly answers and I laugh harder.
"Harry thinks that I'm funny." I lie.
"He does?" Smith follows my actions and begins to help me fold my clothes.
"Yes, he won't admit it though."
"I don't know." I shrug. Probably because I'm not very funny, and when I try to be funny it's even worse.
"Well tell your Harry to come here and live, like you."
My chest tightens at the sweet little boy's words. "I'll tell him. You don't have to fold those," I tell him, reaching for the blue shirt in his small hands.
"I like to fold." He hides the shirt back behind him and I nod.
"You'll make a good husband one day," I smile at him and his dimples show when he smiles back. At least he likes me a little more than he did before.
"I don't want to be husband." He says, scrunching his nose, and I roll my eyes at the five year old who speaks like a grown man.
"You'll change your mind one day."
"Nope." He ends the conversation and we finish folding my clothes in silence.
My first day in Seattle is coming to a close and tomorrow will be my first day at the new office. I'm extremely nervous and I can't help but feel on edge. I don't care for new things, they terrify me. I like to be in control of every situation and enter new environments with a solid plan. I haven't had time to plan anything about this move, except enrolling into my new classes and honestly, I'm not looking forward to them as much as I should be. Somewhere in the middle of mentally scolding myself, Smith has disappeared from my temporary bedroom, leaving a perfectly folded pile of clothing on the bed.
I need to get out and see Seattle tomorrow after work. I need to be reminded of what I loved so much about this city because right now, in this foreign bedroom, hours away from everything I have ever known, it just feels so... lonely.
Harry's POV.
"Steph's a psycho, no one knew she was going to do that." Louis assures me while downing a frosted mug full of beer.
"Dan knew. And if I find out that anyone else did.." I warn him and he nods.
"No one else knew, well not that I know of but you know no one tells me shit anyway." A tall brunette appears at Louis side and he slides his arm around her. "Niall and Chelsea will be here soon," he says to the girl.
"A couples night," I groan. "Time for me to go." I move to stand but Louis stops me
"It's not a couples night. Tristan is single now and Niall isn't dating Chelsea, they are just fucking."
I don't know why I came here anyway but Liam would barely speak to me and Karen looks so sad at dinner, I just couldn't sit there any longer.
"Let me guess, Zayn will be here too?"
"I don't think so, I think he was even more pissed than you about the shit that went down because he hasn't spoken to any of us since then."
"No one is more pissed than me," I say through my teeth. Hanging out with my old friends isn't helping me 'better myself', it's only pissing me off. How dare anyone say that Zayn cares more about Tessa than I do.
"I didn't mean it like that, my bad. Have a beer and chill out." Louis says and waves his hand in the air. Niall, the girl named Chelsea, and Tristan are walking across the small bar toward us.
"I don't want a fucking beer," I say quietly, trying to control my attitude. Louis is only trying to help but he's annoying me. Everyone is annoying me. Everything is annoying me.
"Long time no see," Tristan tries to joke but it's only awkward and neither of us even crack a smile. "I'm sorry about the shit that Steph did, I had no idea what she was going to do." He finally says, making it even more awkward.
"I don't want to talk about it." I forcefully remark, closing the conversation.
While the small group of my friends drink and talk about shit that I give absolutely no fucks about, I find myself thinking about Tessa. What is she doing right now? Does she like Seattle? I wonder if she feels as uncomfortable at Vance's house as I think she does. Are they being nice to her?
Of course they are, Kimberly and Christian are always nice. Does Tessa miss me the way I miss her?
"Are you going to have one?" Niall interrupts my thoughts and waves a full shot glass in front of my face.
"No, I'm good." I gesture to my soda on the table and he shrugs before tipping his head back to take the shot.
This is the last thing I want to be doing right now. This adolescent, drinking until they throw up or black out, shit may be good enough for them, but not for me. They haven't had the luxury of having someone's voice nagging in the back of their mind, telling them to be better, to do more with their lives. They haven't had anyone love them enough to make them want to be better.
"I want to be good for you, Tess." I once told her. What a great job I've done so far.
"I'm going." I announce but no one even notices as I stand from my seat and leave the bar.
I've made up my mind that I will no longer waste my time hanging out at bars with people who really don't give a shit about me. I have nothing against most of them, but in all actuality none of them really know me or care enough to. They only liked the drunk, fun, fucking random girls, me. I was only another prop at one of their massive parties. They don't know shit about me, they didn't even know that was father is the fucking chancellor at our campus.
No one knows me the way she does, no one has ever even cared to get to know me the way Tessa does. She always asks the most intrusive and random questions,
"What are you thinking?"
"Why do you like that show?"
"What do you think that man across the room is thinking right now?"
"What is your first memory?"
I always acted as if her need to know everything was obnoxious but it made me feel... special.. or like someone cared about me enough to want to know the answers to these ridiculous questions. I don't know why my mind won't connect with itself, one half is telling me to get over myself and take my pathetic ass to Seattle, knock down Vance's door and promise to never let her leave again. It's not that easy though, there is a bigger, stronger, other part of me, the half that always wins, telling me how fucked up I am. I'm so fucked up and all I do is ruin every fucking thing in my life and everyone else's, so I would be doing a favor to Tessa by leaving her alone. That's the only side I can believe, especially without her here to tell me that I'm wrong.
Liam's plan for me to become a better person sounds good on paper but then what? I'm supposed to believe that I can actually stay that way forever? I'm supposed to be believe that I'll be good enough for her just because I decide not to down a bottle of vodka every time I get pissed off?
This would be so much easier if I wasn't willing to admit how much of a fuck up I am. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm not going to decide tonight. I'm going to go inside my apartment and watch Tessa's favorite television shows, the worst shows that are full of ridiculous plot lines and horrible acting. I'll probably even pretend that she's there explaining every scene to me even though I'm watching it right next to her and I clearly understand what is going on. I love when she does that. It's annoying but I love how passionate she is about the smallest thing, like who is wearing a red coat and harassing those obnoxious girls.
As I step off of the elevator, I continue to plan my night. I will end up watching that shit, then eating, take a shower, probably get myself off while picturing Tessa's mouth around me, and I will do my best not to do anything stupid. Maybe I will clean up the mess I made yesterday.
I stop in front of my apartment door and look back down the hall. Why the fuck is the door cracked open? Is Tessa back, or did someone break in again? I'm not sure which answer would piss me off more.
"Tessa?" I push the door open with my foot and my stomach drops to the floor at the sight of her father slumped over, covered in blood.
"What the fuck?" I shout and slam the door closed.
"Watch out," Richard groans and my eyes follow his to the movement in the hallway.
"What the hell happened to him and why the fuck are you here?" I ask the man, I think his name is Chad..
"I was hoping to see the girl, but you'll do." He sneers.
My blood boils at this vile man's mention of my Tessa. "Get the fuck out and take him with you." I gesture to the piece of shit that brought this man to my apartment. His blood is making a mess on my floor.
"The problem with that is he owes me a lot of money and he doesn't have a way to pay it." Chad's dirty fingernails scratch at the small red dots on his arms.
Fucking junkie.
"That's not my fucking problem, I'm not going to tell you again and I'm sure as hell not giving you any money."
"You don't know who you're talking to kid," he smirks at me and kicks Richard just below his rib cage. A pathetic whine falls from his lips as he slides down onto the floor and doesn't get up.
"I don't give a fuck about you, or him. You're sadly mistaken if you think I'm afraid of you." I hiss, I am not in the mood to deal with fucking drug addicts breaking into my apartment.
What the fuck else could possibly happen this week?
I don't want to know the answer to that.
I step toward Chad and he backs away, just like I knew he would. "I will say it once more, get out or I'll call the cops and while we wait for them to show I will beat you with the baseball bat I keep under my couch in case some dumb-fuck tries to pull shit like this," I reach under the couch and pull the weapon out to prove my point.
"If I leave without the money he owes me, whatever I do to him is on you. His blood will be on your hands."
"I don't give a fuck what you do to him." I say, unsure whether I actually mean that or not.
"I'm sure his daughter would love to know that you're responsible for her daddy getting his ass beat, burned, or whatever it is I feel like doing to him."
I'm tempted to smash the aluminum bat against the side of Richard's face myself.
"How much?" I ask.
"Not more than you can afford, I'm sure." He looks around the living room.
"How fucking much money?" I repeat.
"Five hundred."
'I'm not giving you five hundred dollars."
Tessa's face when she finds out that her father is in fact a drug addict and he led this asshole to our apartment, makes me want to throw my wallet at the asshole and give him everything I have.
"I don't have that kind of cash on me,"
"Two hundred?" He offers.
"Fine." I can't believe I'm actually giving money to this junkie who has broken into my apartment and beaten Tessa's dad to a pulp. I don't even have two hundred in cash, what am I supposed to do, take him with me to the ATM? This is such fucking bullshit. Who the fuck comes home to this shit? Me. That's fucking who.
I pull my wallet from my pocket and toss the eighty dollars I just pulled from the bank at him and walk into the bedroom, the bat still in hand. I grab the watch my father and Karen bought me for Christmas and throw it at him.
"That's worth more than five hundred. Now get the fuck out." I don't want him to leave really, I want him to try to come at me so I can bust his head open with this bat.
"Until next time Rick." Chad threatens Richard and walks toward the door.
"If I see you again, I will kill you." I assure him and slam the door behind him.

Harry's POV.
"Get off of my floor," I say to Richard and nudge his thigh with my boot. I'm beyond pissed off and this whole mess is his damn fault.
"I'm sorry," he groans, attempting to lift himself from the floor, within seconds he winces and slides back onto the concrete. The last thing I want to do is lift his pathetic ass up off of the floor but at this point I'm not sure what else to do with him.
"I'll put you in the chair but you aren't sitting on my couch, not until you take a shower."
"Okay," he mutters and closes his eyes as I bend down to lift him. He's not as heavy as I expected him to be, especially for his height.
I place him onto the chair and he wraps his arms around his torso, "What now? What am I supposed to do with you now?" I ask him quietly.
What would Tessa do if she was here? Knowing her, she would run him a hot bath and make him something to eat. I'm not doing either of those things.
"Take me back," he suggests. His shaky fingers lift the collar of his torn t-shirt, my old t-shirt that Tessa let him keep. Has he been wearing it since he left here? He wipes the blood from his mouth, lazily smearing it down his chin and into the mess of thick hair there.
"Back where?" Maybe I should have called the police when I first entered the apartment, maybe I shouldn't have given Chad that watch.. I wasn't thinking properly at the time, all I could think about was keeping Tessa out of this.
"Why did you bring him here? If Tessa would have been here.." my voice trails off.
"She moved out, I knew she wouldn't be." He strains. I know it's hard for him to speak but I need answers and my patience is running thin.
"Did you come here a few days ago too?"
"I did, I only came to eat and shower." Richard pants.
"You came all the way here to eat and shower?"
"Yeah, I took the bus the first time but Chad," he takes a breath and howls in pain before shifting his weight, "he offered to bring me here but he turned on me when we got here."
"How the fuck did you get inside?"
"I took her key,"
Her key? Why didn't she notice? She always notices shit like that.
"From the drawer," he points toward the kitchen. A spare key, that makes much more sense.
"So let me get this straight, you stole a key to my apartment and thought you could just come here whenever the hell you want to take a shower, then you bring some fucking junkie to my house and he beat your ass in my living room because you owe him money?" How did I end up in the middle of an episode of Intervention?
"No one was home. I didn't think it mattered."
"You didn't think, that's the problem." I am completely out of my element here. My first instinct is to drag him by his arms out our -my apartment, and leave him bleeding in the hallway. I can't do that though, because I happen to be desperately in love with his daughter and by doing that I would hurt her even more than I already have.
"Well, what should we do know? Should I take you to a hospital?" I scratch ay my chin.
"I don't need a hospital, just a bandage or two. Can you call Tessa for me and tell her I'm sorry?"
"No, I will not. She isn't to know about this. I don't want her worrying about this shit."
"Okay," he agrees and shifts on the chair again.
"How long have you been using?" I ask him. He swallows.
"I don't,"
"Don't lie to me, I'm not a fucking idiot. Just tell me."
"About a year, but I've been trying so hard to stop since the day I ran into Tessie." He looks deep in thought, distracted.
"She is going to be heartbroken, you know that don't you?" I hope he does, I have no problem reminding him multiple times if he ever happens to forget.
"I know, I'm getting better for her." He claims.
Aren't we all...
"Well you may want to hurry that along because if she saw you now.." I don't finish the sentence. I'm debating whether or not to call her and ask her what the hell I'm supposed to do with her dad but I know that's not the answer, she doesn't need to be bothered with this, not right now.
"I'm going to my room. Feel free to take a shower, eat, or whatever you were planning on doing before I came home and interrupted you." I saunter across the room and into the bedroom. I close the door behind me and lean against the backside. This has been the longest twenty-four hours of my life.
Tessa's POV.
"This is incredible, thank you so much." I can't keep the ridiculous grin off of my face as Kimberly and Vance show me my new office. The walls are a clean white, the trim and door are dark gray, and the desk and bookcases are black, sleek, and modern. The size of the room is the same as my first office but the view here is incredible, breathtaking really. The new Vance Publishing office is located in the center of downtown Seattle, the city below is thriving, constantly moving, constantly developing, and here I am right in the center of it all.
"Everything you need is within walking distance, coffee, any cuisine you could possibly crave, it's all here." Christian proudly stares down at the city and wraps his arm around his fiancé's waist.
"Stop bragging, would you?" Kimberly teases him and he plants a soft kiss to her forehead.
"Well we will leave you be, get to work." Mr. Vance playfully scolds me. Kimberly grabs him by his navy blue tie and practically drags him out of my office.
By lunchtime I have sent at least ten pictures of my office to Liam, and to Harry. I knew that Harry wouldn't respond but I couldn't help myself. I wanted him to see the view, maybe it would bring him here? I am only making excuses for my momentary lapse in judgment. I miss him, there I said it. I miss him terribly and I was hoping for a response from him, even a simple text message, something. But nothing came.
Liam sent an excited response back each time, even when I sent a cheesy picture of myself holding a coffee mug with "Vance Publishing" printed on the side.
The more I dwell on sending those pictures to Harry, the more I regret it. What if he takes them the wrong way? He does have a tendency to do that. He may see them as a reminder of me moving on, he may even think that I'm trying to rub this whole thing in his face. That truly wasn't my intention and I can only hope that he doesn't take it that way.
Maybe I should send another message to explain myself? Or tell him that I sent the pictures accidently, I don't know which would be more believable. Neither, I am sure. I'm overthinking this, they are only pictures.
When I walk into the break room on my floor, Trevor is sitting at one of the square tables with a tablet in front of him. "Welcome to Seattle," he beams, his blue eyes bright.
"Hey," I return his gesture and swipe my debit card through the slot on the massive vending machine. I press the small numbered buttons and I'm rewarded with a sleeve of peanut butter crackers. I will go out for lunch tomorrow after I have had a chance to survey the area.
"How do you like it so far?" Trevor questions. I look to him for permission before sliding into the chair across from him, he nods.
"I haven't seen much yet, I only arrived yesterday but I love this new building." Two women enter the room and smile at Trevor, one of the women turns to smile at me and I give her a small wave.
They begin to talk amongst themselves, the shorter woman with black hair pulls open the refrigerator and takes out a microwaveable meal while her friend picks at her fingernails.
"You should explore then, there are so many things to do here. It's a beautiful city." Trevor explains as I munch absentmindedly on a cracker. "The Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, art museums, you name it."
"I do want to go to the Space Needle, and the Pike Place Market." I respond. I'm beginning to feel uneasy because every time I glance over to two women, they are both staring at me while talking quietly.
I'm quite paranoid today.
"You should, have you decided where you're staying yet?" He asks, swiping his index finger across the screen to close the window on his tablet, letting me know that I have his full attention.
"I'm actually staying at Kimberly and Christian's house for right now, only for a week or two until I can find my own place." The urgency in my voice is embarrassing, I hate that I have to stay with them because Harry ruined the only apartment that I could find. I want to live on my own and not worry about being a burden to anyone.
"I could ask around and see if there are any openings in my building?" He kindly offers. He adjusts his tie and tucks the silver fabric down before running his hands over the lapels of his suit.
"Thank you, I'm not sure your building would be in my price range." I softly remind him. He's the head of finance and I'm an intern, a decently paid intern, but I'm sure that I can't even afford to rent the dumpster behind his building.
"Okay," he flushes, realizing the massive difference between our incomes, "I can still ask around and see if anyone knows of any places."
"Thank you, I'm sure Seattle will feel more like home once I actually have a home." I smile a convincing smile.
"I agree, it will take some time but I know you'll love it here." His crooked grin is warm and welcoming.
"Do you have plans after work?" I ask him before I can stop myself.
"I do but I can cancel them." His soft voice fumbles.
"No, no. It's fine, I was just thinking since you know the city you could show me around but since you have plans don't worry about it." I hope that I can make some friends here in Seattle.
"I would love to show you around, don't worry about my plans. I was going to go jogging, that's all."
"Jogging? What for?" My nose crinkles.
"For fun."
"That doesn't sound like much fun." I laugh and he shakes his head in amused displeasure.
"I usually go every day after work, I'm still getting to know the city too and it's a good way to learn the layout. You should come along one day."
"I don't know.." The idea doesn't sound appealing.
"We could walk instead. I live in Ballard, it's a pretty hip neighborhood." He chuckles.
"I've heard of Ballard actually," I tell him, remembering browsing through page after page of every neighborhood in Seattle. "Okay, let's walk around Ballard then." I close my hands in front of me and rest them on my lap.
I can't help but to think how Harry would feel about this. He despises Trevor and he's already having a hard enough time with our "space" arrangement. Not that he has said that, but I would like to think that he is. Regardless of how much space is put between Harry and I, literal or metaphorical, I only see Trevor as a friend. The last thing on my mind is being romantic with someone, especially anyone other than Harry.
"Okay then," he smiles, clearly surprised that I agreed to come along. "My lunch hour is over so I have to get back to my floor but I'll text you my address or we can go straight from work if you want."
"We can just go straight from here, I'm wearing reasonable shoes." I point down to my flat heeled shoes, mentally patting myself on the back for not wearing heels today.
"Sounds good, I'll meet you at your office at five?"
"Yes, that's fine." I stand from my chair and toss the wrapper from my small lunch into the trashcan.
"We all know why she got the job anyway," I hear one of the women say behind me. I look over to the table out of curiosity and they both quickly stare down at the table.
I can't help but feel that they were talking about me. So much for making friends in Seattle.
"All they do is gossip, ignore them." Trevor places his hand between my shoulder blades and guides me out of the break room.
When I get back to my office, I reach into my desk drawer and pull out my cell phone. Two missed calls, both from Harry.
Should I call him back right now? He called twice so maybe something is wrong, I should call him now, I bargain with myself.
He answers on the first ring, "Why didn't you answer?" His voice is rushed.
"Is something wrong?" I stand from my chair in a slight panic.
"No. Nothing is wrong," he breathes, I can picture the exact way his pink lips move as he says the simple words, "Why did you send those pictures?"
"I'm sorry for sending those, I was just excited about my office and I wanted you to see it. I hope you didn't think I was trying to be mean about it and brag,"
"No, I was just confused." He coolly responds after seconds of silence.
"I won't send more, I shouldn't have sent them." I lean my forehead against the glass window and stare down at the expansive view.
"It's fine... how is it there? Do you like it?" Harry's voice is somber and I want to smooth away the frown that I know is littering his face right now.
"It's lovely here."
"You didn't answer the question." He calls me out, I knew he would.
"I like it here."
"You sound absolutely ecstatic." Harry's tone is dry, humorless.
"I really do like it, I'm just...adjusting. That's all. What is happening there?" I ask him in order to keep the conversation going, I'm not ready to get off the phone with him just yet.
"Nothing," he quickly responds.
"Is this awkward for you? I know you said you didn't want to talk on the phone but you called me so I was just.."
"No, it's not awkward," he interrupts. "It's never awkward with us, and I only meant I don't think we should talk for hours every day if we aren't going to be together because that doesn't make any sense and it's only going to torture me."
"So you do want to talk to me then?" I ask because I'm pathetic and I need to hear him say the words.
"Yes, of course I do." A car horn honks in the background, he must be driving. "So what then, we are going to chat on the phone, like friends?" He asks, no anger in his voice at all, only curiosity.
"I don't know, maybe we could try that?" This separation feels so different than the last, this time we separated on good terms and it wasn't a clean break. I'm not ready to decide if a clean break from Harry is what I actually need so I push the thought back, file it away and promise to visit it later.
"It won't work,"
"I don't want us to ignore one another and not speak again but I haven't changed my mind on the space thing." I tell him.
"Fine, tell me about Seattle then." He finally says into the receiver.

Tessa's POV.
After spending half of my afternoon on the phone with Harry and getting close to no actual work done, my first day at the new office is over and I wait patiently for Trevor to meet me near my office, as he promised.
Harry was so calm earlier, he sounded so clear, as if he was focused on something. Standing here, I cannot contain my happiness that we are still communicating, it is so much better than when we avoided each other before. Deep down, I know that it won't continue to be this easy, talking this way, teasing myself with small doses of Harry when in reality I want him, all of him, all the time. I want him here with me, holding me, kissing me, making me laugh.
This must be what denial feels like.
I'm fine with that for now. It feels pretty good compared to my other option, sadness.
I sigh and lay my head back against the wall as I continue to wait. I am beginning to wish that I hadn't asked Trevor to spend time with me, I would rather be at Kimberly's house talking on the phone to Harry. I wish he would have just come here, he could be the one meeting me here instead. He could have an office close to mine, he could come by my office multiple times a day, and in between those times, I could make excuses to go to his. I'm sure Mr. Vance would give Harry a job if he wanted one. He made it clear that he wanted Harry to work for him again at the old office.
We could spend our lunch hour together, maybe even recreate some of the memories from the times when Harry visited my other office. Just as I begin picturing Harry behind me, me bent down over the top of my desk, my hair wrapped tightly around his fist...
"Sorry I'm a little late, my meeting ran over." Trevor interrupts and I jump in both surprise and embarrassment.
"Oh, uhm, it's okay. I was just.." I tuck my hair behind my ear and swallow, "waiting." If only he knew what I was thinking, thank goodness he doesn't have a clue. I'm not sure where those thoughts even came from.
He inclines his head the other way, peering down the empty hallway. "Are you ready to go?"
We make small talk as we walk through the building. Nearly everyone has left for the day, leaving the hallways quiet. He tells me about his brother's new job in Ohio and how he went shopping for a new suit to wear to our co-worker Krystal's wedding next month. Idly, I wonder just how many suits Trevor owns. He wears one every day to work.
I follow behind Trevor's BMW as he drives through the crowded city and finally we arrive in the small neighborhood named Ballard, according to Google, it's one of the hippest neighborhood's in Seattle. Coffee shops, vegan restaurants, and hipster bars line the narrow streets. I pull my car into the parking garage and laugh to myself while remembering Trevor's offer to help me find an apartment in this pricey building.
"I just need to change, obviously." Trevor smiles, gesturing to his suit.
I nosily glance around the expansive living room inside Trevor's apartment. Pictures of family and clipped articles fill picture frames on his mantle, empty wine bottles melted and molded into an intricate display piece takes up the entire coffee table. Not a trace of dust is collected in any of the corners. I'm impressed.
"Ready," Trevor announces, zipping up his red sweatshirt. It always catches me off guard to see Trevor dressed so casually, it's such a vast difference from how he looks in a suit.
After walking two blocks from his building, both of us are shivering and shaking.
"Are you hungry? We can grab something to eat," white puffs of cold air follow his words and I nod eagerly. My stomach growls in hunger reminding me of my insufficient lunch of peanut butter crackers.
I tell Trevor to choose the restaurant and we end up at a small Italian grill only feet away from where we just stood. The sweet smell of garlic fills my senses and my mouth waters while we are escorted to a small booth in the back.
Harry's POV.
"You look much more.. hygienic now." I tell Richard as he steps out of the bathroom wiping his freshly shaven face with a white towel.
"I haven't shaved my face in months." He responds, rubbing the smooth skin on his chin.
"You don't say." I roll my eyes and he grants me half a smile.
"Thanks again for letting me stay here.. " his deep voice trails off.
"It's not permanent so don't thank me. I'm still beyond pissed about this whole situation." I take another bite of the pizza I ordered for myself.. and ended up sharing with Richard.
"I know it. I'm surprised you haven't thrown me out." He attempts to make a joke.
I stare at him, his eyes are too large for his face with dark rings showing through his white skin. I sigh, "So am I." I admit with annoyance.
He quivers under my stare, not from intimidation, but from lack of whatever the hell drug it is that he is used to taking.
I want to know if brought drugs into our apartment while he was staying here just last week. However, if he says yes, I will lose my temper and he will be out of my apartment within seconds. For Tessa's sake, and mine, I stand to my feet and leave the room with my empty plate in hand. The stack of soiled dishes in the sink has managed to grow double in size and loading the dishwasher is the last thing I want to do.
"Do the dishes as payment!" I call to Richard. I hear his deep laughter from the hallway and he walks into the kitchen just as I reach the bedroom door and close it.
I want to call Tessa again, just to hear her voice. I want to know about the rest of her day, what does she plan to do after work? Did she stare at her phone with a stupid ass grin on her face after we hung up earlier, like I did?
Probably not.
I now know that all my past sins are finally catching up to me, that's why Tessa was given to me. A merciless punishment disguised as a beautiful reward. Having her for months just to have her taken from me, dangling in front of my face by ways of casual phone calls and distance. I don't know how much longer it will be until I succumb to my fate, and finally allow myself out of this denial.
Denial, that's exactly what this is.
It doesn't have to be though, I can change the outcome of this all. I can be who she needs me to be without dragging her down to my hell again. Her smile shines behind my eyes, through my self-pity, a prison that I've created all on my own. That smile lifts me up from the floor and has me searching for an exit from my cell.
Fuck this, I'm calling her.
Her phone rings and rings, yet she doesn't pick up. It's almost six, she should be off and back to Vance's by now. Where the hell would she go? While debating whether or not to call Christian, I push my feet into my gym shoes, lazily tie then and shove my arms through my jacket.
I know she will be upset, beyond pissed off surely, if I call him but I have already called her six times and she hasn't answered once. I groan and run my fingers over my unwashed hair, this space shit is really fucking irritating me.
"I'm going out," I tell my unwanted houseguest.  He nods, unable to speak due to the handful of potato chips that he is shoveling into his mouth. At least the sink is free of dishes now.
Where the fuck am I even supposed to go?
Within minutes, my car is parked in the lot behind the small gym. I don't know what being here will do or if this shit will help me but right now I'm growing more and more irritated toward Tessa and all I can think about doing is cussing her out or driving to Seattle to find her. I don't need to do either of those things, that would make things worse. The fact that she isn't answering my calls is really getting to me,  so here I am, ready to take my anger out on that ratty old punching bag.
Tessa's POV.
By the time my plate is cleared, I am practically twitching in my seat. The moment we ordered our meals I realized that I left my phone in my car and it's driving me much more insane than it should. No one usually calls me, however, I can't help but think that maybe Harry has called me or at least sent me a text message. I'm trying my best to listen to Trevor while he talks about an article in The Times, to not think of Harry and the possibility that he may have called, but I can't help it. I'm distracted the entire dinner and I am positive that Trevor notices, he's just too kind to call me out on it.
"Don't you agree?" Trevor's voice pulls me from my thoughts.
I scramble through the last few seconds of conversation, trying to remember what he could be talking about. The article was about healthcare, I think?
"Yeah, I do." I lie, I have no clue if I agree or not but I do wish the server would hurry and bring our check.
On cue, the young man places a small booklet on our table and Trevor hastily pulls out his wallet.
"I can.." I begin.
"It's on me." He slides his credit card inside and the server disappears back into the restaurant kitchen.
I quietly thank him and glance at the large stone clock hanging just above the door. It is past seven, we've been here for over an hour. I let out a breath of relief when Trevor stands from the booth.
On the way back we pass a small coffee shop and Trevor raises his brow, a silent invitation. "Maybe another night this week?" I offer with a smile.
"Sounds like a plan." The corner of his mouth rises into his famous half smile and we continue the trek to his building.
With a quick goodbye and a friendly hug, I climb into my car and immediately reach for my phone. My subconscious mocks me, rolling her eyes at my desperation, but I shove her back into the darkness. Nine missed calls, every single one from Harry. I call him back immediately only to be directed to his voicemail. The drive from Trevor's apartment to Kimberly's house is long and tedious. The traffic in Seattle is terrible, cluttered, and loud. Honking horns, small cars whipping from lane to lane, it's slightly overwhelming and by the time I pull into the driveway I have a massive headache.
When I enter the house Kimberly is seated on the white leather couch, a glass of wine in her hand. "How was your day?" She asks. She leans over to place her glass onto the glass table in front of her.
"Good. The traffic here is unreal." I groan and plop down on the crimson chair next to the window.
"Yeah, it is. Have some wine for your headache." She stands to her feet and walks across the living room.
Before I can protest, she pours the bubbling white wine into a long stemmed wine glass and brings it to me. It's cool and crisp, sweet on my tongue. "Thank you." I smile and take another sip.
"So.. you were with Trevor, right?" Kimberly is so nosey, in the sweetest way.
"Yes, we had a friendly dinner, only as friends."
"Maybe you could try that again and use the word friend a few more times." She teases and I can't help but to laugh.
"I'm just trying to make it clear that we are only friends."
"Does Harry know you were with him?" Her brown eyes shine with curiosity.
"No, but I plan on telling him as soon as I speak to him. He doesn't care for Trevor for some reason."
She nods, "I can't blame him. Trevor could be a model if he wasn't so shy. Have you seen those blue eyes?" She exaggerates her words by fanning her face with her free hand and we both giggle like school girls.
"Don't you mean green eyes, love?" Christian appears in the foyer and I nearly drop my glass of wine onto the hardwood floor.
"Of course I did," Kim smiles at her fiancé and he shakes his head.
"I suppose I could be a model," Mr. Vance gives us both a sly smile and I'm relieved that he isn't upset. Harry would have flipped the table over if he caught me speaking of Trevor in that way.
"How is Harry doing? You've spoken to him I assume?" Christian sits on the couch next to Kimberly and she climbs into his lap. I look away.
"Yes, a little. He's good."
"Stubborn, he is. I'm still offended that he hasn't taken me up on my offer." Mr. Vance smiles into Kim's neck and kisses her softly just beneath her ear. These two clearly have no issue with public displays of affection. I try to look away again but I can't.
"What offer?" I ask, my surprise shining through.
"Of a job of course, a well paying job. He only has what.. one semester left and he'll be graduating early, correct?"
"Erm, yeah. I believe so." I respond.
Why didn't I know about this?
"He's practically a genius, that boy. If he would have applied himself more he would have a perfect four -point -oh."
"He really is very smart." I agree. It's true, Harry's mind never ceases to surprise and intrigue me. It's one of the things that I love most about him.
"Quite the writer too." He takes a drink of Kimberly's wine and continues, "I don't know why he ever stopped. I was looking forward to reading more from him." Mr. Vance sighs while Kimberly undoes the silver tie around his neck.
I'm overwhelmed with this information. Harry, writing? He has briefly mentioned that he used to do a little writing his freshman year of college, but he never went into detail. Every time that I would bring it up he would change the subject or talk it down, giving me the impression that it wasn't very important to him.
"Yeah," I finish off my glass and stand, "May I?" I point to the bottle and Kimberly nods.
"Of course, have as much as you please. We have an entire cellar." She says with a sweet smile.
Three glasses of white wine later, my headache has evaporated and my curiosity has grown extensively. I wait for Christian to bring up Harry's writing or the job offer again but he doesn't. He dives into a full-blown business discussion about how he has been in talks with a media group about expanding Vance Publishing's in-house film and television effort. As interesting as that is, I want to get to my room and try to call Harry again.
I wait for an appropriate opening to excuse myself to my temporary bedroom and wish them both a goodnight. "Take the bottle with you." Kimberly calls to me just as I pass the counter where the half -full wine bottle rests. I nod, thanking her, and do just that.
My phone vibrates in my hand the moment I close the bedroom door. It's Harry.
"Where were you all evening?" His voice is clipped and full of annoyance.
Harry's POV.
"I went out exploring the city." She answers calmly, "I tried to call you back but it went to your voicemail." The sound of her voice soothes my temper.
"I went back to that gym." I lay back on the bed, wishing she was here and not in fucking Seattle.
"You did? That's good, I'm taking my shoes off."
"I don't know why I told you that." She giggles.
"Are you drunk?" I sit up using one elbow to hold my weight.
"I've had some wine." She admits.
"With who?"
"Kimberly, and Mr. Vance... Christian, I mean."
"He says you're an amazing writer." She says, accusation clear in her voice.
"Why would he even say that? I haven't written shit in a long time." I tell her.
"Why not?"
"I don't know, I don't want to talk about me. I want to talk about you and why you ignored me."
"Well, he also said you are graduating next semester."
Christian obviously has no idea how to mind his own damned business.
"Yeah, so?"
"I didn't know that." Tessa says. I hear her shuffling around and she groans, clearly irritated.
"I wasn't hiding it from you, it just didn't come up. You have a long time before you graduate so it doesn't matter anyway, it's not like I was going to go anywhere."
"Hang on," she says into the phone. What the hell is she doing? How much wine has she had?
"What are you doing?" I finally ask her.
"My hair was caught in my shirt buttons. Sorry, I was listening I promise."
"Why were you grilling your boss about me anyway?"
"He brought you up, he also said he offered you a job here."
"I already told you that, didn't I?" I don't exactly remember mentioning it but I wasn't purposely keeping it from her. "I thought my intentions concerning Seattle were pretty clear."
"You can say that again." She says and I can practically see her rolling her eyes, again.
"You didn't answer when I called you, I called so many times." I change the subject.
"I know, I left my phone in the car at Trevor's.." she stops mid-sentence. I stand to my feet. I fucking knew it.
"He was only showing me around as friends, that's it." She is quick to defend herself.
"You didn't answer my calls because you were with fucking Trevor?" I gape, my pulse quickening with each beat of silence.
"Don't fight with me over Trevor, he's only a friend and you are the one who isn't here." She snaps.
"Tessa.." I warn.
"Harold." She quips and bursts into laughter.
"Why are you laughing?" I ask her. I can't help the smile that has taken over my face. Fuck, I'm pathetic.
"I don't know," she is still laughing and the sound resonates through my ears and travels straight to my chest.
"You should put the wine down." I tease her, wanting to see her roll her eyes at me for scolding her.
"Make me," she challenges, her voice thick and playful.
"If I was there I would, you can be damned sure of that."
"What else would you do if you were here?" She asks me. Is she taking this where I think she is? I never know with her, especially when she has been drinking.
"Theresa Young, are you trying to have phone sex with me?" I taunt her and she coughs violently, choking on a drink of wine I assume.
"What! No! I .. I was just asking!" She squeals.
"Sure, you can deny it now." I joke, laughing at her horrified tone.
"Unless.. is that something you want to do?" She whispers.
"You're serious?" The thought alone makes my cock twitch.
"Maybe.. I don't know. Are you mad about Trevor?" The tone of her voice is much more intoxicating to me than any amount of wine she could possibly consume.
"I don't give a shit about fucking Trevor right now," I lie.
Hell yes I'm pissed that she was with him but that's not what I want to discuss right now. I hear her gulp loudly followed by the soft clink of a glass.
"Don't chug the wine." I command. I know her too well. "You'll get sick."
"You can't boss me around from there." She is chugging the wine again, for confidence I'm sure.
"I can boss you around from anywhere baby." I grin, running my fingers over my lips.
"Can I tell you something?" She quietly asks.
"Please do."
"I was thinking about you today and when you came to my office that first time.." her voice trails off.
"You were thinking about me fucking you when you were with him?" I ask her, praying she says yes.
"I was waiting for him."
"Tell me more about it, tell me what you were thinking." I press.
This is so fucking confusing. Every time I'm talking to her I feel as if we aren't "taking a break", everything is the same as it always is. The only difference so far is that I can't physically see her, or touch her. Fuck, I want to touch her, run my tongue across her smooth skin..
"I was thinking about how.." I can hear her flush.
"Don't be embarrassed," I coax her to continue.
"That I liked it and it made me want to do it again."
"With who?" I ask, just to hear her say it.
"You, only you."
"Good," I smile. "You're still mine, even though you're making me give you space, you are still only for me. You know that don't you?" I ask her in the most gentle way I possibly can.
"I know." She says. My chest swells and I welcome the flood of relief that comes along with her words. "Are you mine?" Her voice is much more confident than it was moments ago.
"Yes, always." I don't have a choice. I haven't since the day I met you, I want to add but I stay quiet, nervously awaiting her response.
"Good." Tessa remarks. "Now, tell me what you would do if you were here, don't leave out any details."
She never ceases to catch me off guard.

Tessa's POV.
"Oh no you don't," he coolly remarks, "you tell me what you would want me to do first."
"I already did." I state, sipping on the bottle of wine.
"Chug some more wine, you only seem to tell me what you want when you've been drinking."
My thoughts are slightly hazy, my head feels full and heavy, but in the best way. I'm grinning from ear to ear, intoxicated from the wine and Harry's thick voice. I love this playful side of Harry, and if he wants to play, I'll play.
"Fine, I want you to bend me over this bed here," I run my index finger along the cool wooden frame. "and take me the way you did on that desk." Instead of embarrassment, I only feel the warm flush of heat trailing up my neck to my cheeks.
Harry curses under his breath, I know that he didn't actually expect me to answer. "Then?" he asks quietly.
"Well.." I start, pausing to take another long swig of the white wine to gain confidence. Harry and I have never done this before, he has sent me a few racey text messages in the past, but this.. this is different.
"Just say it, don't be shy now."
"You would hold me by the hips, the way you always do and I would cling to the bedsheets to keep myself stable, your fingers would dig into me, leaving marks in their wake.." I clench my thighs together when I hear his breathing hitch through the line.
"Touch yourself." He says and I quickly look around the room, momentarily forgetting that no one can hear our private conversation.
"What? No." I harshly whisper, cupping the phone.
"I'm not doing that.. here. They will hear me." If I were talking to anyone other than Harry about this I would be completely horrified, wine or not.
"No they won't. Do it. You want to, I can tell."
How can he? Do I want to?
"Just lay back on the bed, close your eyes, spread your legs, and I'll tell you what to do." He commands.
"But I.."
"Do it." The authority in his voice makes me squirm while my mind and my hormones battle it out. I can't deny that the idea of Harry coaxing me through this over the phone, naming the dirty things he would do to me, raises the temperature of the room at least ten degrees.
"Okay, now that you've agreed, " he begins without me speaking my consent, "tell me when you are only wearing your panties."
Oh my.
I quietly pad over to the door and turn the lock between my fingers. Kimberly and Christian's room, along with Smith's, is on the upper level of the house, but as far as I know they could still be on the first floor with me. I listen closely for movement and I hear a door shut above me, that's a good sign.
I hurry and grab the wine bottle, finishing it off. The heat inside of me has turned from a small flicker to a blazing inferno and I try not to overthink the fact that I'm stepping out of my pants and climbing onto the bed, wearing only a thin cotton shirt and panties.
"Still with me?" He asks, a smirk is sure to be on his face.
"Yes, I'm.. I'm preparing." I can't believe I'm really doing this.
"Stop overthinking it, you'll thank me after."
"Stop knowing everything that I'm thinking." I tease, hoping that he's right.
"You remember what I showed you right?" I nod, forgetting that he can't see me. "Press your fingers where you did last time,"
Harry's POV.
I hear her gasp and I know she has followed my instructions. I can picture it perfectly, her lying on the bed, legs spread open. Holy fuck.
"Fuck, I wish I was there right now, to watch you." I groan, trying to ignore the blood flowing straight to my dick.
"You like that, don't you? To watch me?" She gasps through the line.
"Yeah, fuck yeah I do. You liked to be watched too, I could tell."
"I did, just like the way you like when I pull your hair." She states and my hand reflexively moves between my legs. Imagines of her writhing underneath my tongue, her fingers tugging my hair as she moans my name fill my mind and I press my palm against myself. Only Tessa can make me this hard within seconds.
Her moans are quiet, too quiet. She needs more encouragement.
"Faster Tess, move your fingers in a circle, faster, imagine if was me and my fingers circling you, making you feel so fucking good, making you come." I urge, making sure to keep my voice down in case my annoying house guest happens to be in the hall.
"Oh my," she pants and moans again.
"My tongue too, baby, swirling against your skin, my sinful lips pressed against you, sucking, biting, teasing," I slide my gym shorts down and begin to stroke myself gently. I close my eyes and focus on her soft pants, pleas, and moans.
"Do what I'm doing, touch yourself." She groans and I'm gifted with the image of her back arching off the mattress as she pleasures herself.
"Already am," I mutter and she whimpers. Fuck, I want to see her.
"Talk to me, again." Tessa begs. I fucking love the way her innocence disappears in these moments, she always loves to hear such filthy things.
"I want to fuck you, no- I want to lay you back on the bed, and make love to you, hard and fast, so much so that you're screaming my name as I thrust deeper and deeper,"
"I'm," she moans low in her throat.
"Come on baby, let go. I want to hear you," I stop my words when I hear her come, soft whimpers and whines, as she bites into the pillow, or the mattress, I have no fucking clue but the image sends me over the edge and I fill my boxers with a strangled groan of her name.
Our matched breathing is the only sound on the line for seconds or minute, I can't keep track.
"That was..." She begins, panting and out of breath.
"Yeah," I open my eyes and rest my elbows on the desk in front of me. My chest moves up and down as I try to catch my own breath.
"I need a moment." She giggles. A slow smile tugs at the corners of my mouth. "And here I thought we had done close to everything," she adds.
"Oh, there are plenty of other things I want to do to you. However, we have to be in the same city to do them."
"Come here then." She quickly responds.
"You said you didn't want me there, we need space remember?"
"I know, we do need space.. this seems to be working for us. Don't you think?"
"No." I lie. I know she's right, I have been trying to be better for her and I'm afraid that if she is quick to forgive me again, I will slip and lose the motivation. If we.. when we find our way back to one another I want it to be different, for her. I want it to be permanent so I can show her the pattern, "endless cycle" as she calls it, will end.
"I do miss you, so much." She says. I know she loves me but each time I'm given a sliver of reassurance, a weight if lifted from my chest.
"I miss you too." More than anything.
"Don't say too, it sounds like you're just agreeing with me." She says and my small smile grows, overtaking my entire being.
"You can't use my ideas, way to be original." I playfully scold her and she laughs.
"Can to." She childishly fires back. If she were here, her tongue would be sticking out of her mouth.
"God, you're feisty tonight." I stand from the chair, I need a shower.
"That I am."
"And incredibly daring, who knew I could get you to get yourself off over the phone." I chuckle as I walk into the hallway.
"Harry!" She squeals in horror. I knew she would. "And by the way, you should know by now you can get me to do just about anything."
"If only that were true." I murmur.If it was, she would be here now.
The concrete is cold on my bare feet, does Richard not know how to turn the damn heat up?
"Sorry man, it was getting a little warm in here earlier." Richard says and I hurry to cover the speaker on my phone.
It's too late, "Who was that?" Tessa asks, the running water I heard in the background only moments ago halts and she repeats herself, "Harry, who was that?"
I mouth a quick "way to fucking go," to her father and hurry to the bathroom.
"It's.." I begin.
"Was that my father?"
I want to lie to her but that would be fucking stupid and I'm trying not to be so damn stupid anymore.
"Yeah, it was." I wait for her to scream into the receiver.
"Why is he there?" She questions.
"I.. well.."
"Are you letting him stay with you?" She releases me from the panic of finding the right words to say to explain this fucked up situation.
"Something like that."
"I'm confused."
"So am I." I admit.
"For how long? And why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm sorry, it's only been two days."
"Why did he come there in the first place?" She questions and the sound of running water returns.
I can't bring myself to tell her the whole truth, not right now. "He doesn't have anywhere else to go, I guess." I start the shower and she sighs.
"Are you pissed?" I ask her.
"No, I'm not mad. I'm confused.. I can't believe you're actually allowing him to stay there." Her voice is full of wonder.
"Neither can I." The small bathroom fills with a thick cloud of steam and I wipe the mirror with my palm. I look like a fucking ghost, a shell really. Under my eyes, dark rings have already appeared from my lack of sleep. The only thing that gives me life is her voice coming through the line.
"It means a lot to me, Harry." She finally says.
"It does?" This is going much, much better than I expected it to.
"Yes, of course it does."
I feel giddy all of the sudden, like a puppy that's been rewarded with a treat from it's owner and surprisingly, I'm perfectly fucking okay with that.
"Good." I don't know what else to say to her, I feel slightly guilty for not telling her about her father's...habits, but this isn't the time and over the phone isn't the way to tell her something like that.
"Wait.. so my father was there when you were... you know?" She whispers and a small roar sounds on the other line. She must have turned on the fan in the bathroom to drown out her voice.
"He wasn't in the room, I'm not into that type of thing," I tease to lighten the mood and she responds with a giggle.
"You probably are," she teases.
"Nope, that's one of the very few things I'm not into actually." I tell her with a smile, "I will never share you, not even with your father." I can't help but laugh as she makes a disgusted sound.
"You're sick."
"Sure am." I fire back and she giggles. The wine has made her adventurous and heightened her sense of humor, me.. well I have no damn excuse for this ridiculous grin on my face.
"I need to take a shower, I'm standing here with come all over me." I tell her and step put of my boxers.
"Me too." She says, "not the part about being covered, but I need a shower too."
"Okay.. so I guess we should get off.."
"We did already," she laughs, proud of her terrible attempt at a joke.
"Ha-ha." I tease her, "have a good night Tessa." I rush the words.
"You too," she lingers on the line and I end the call before she can.
The hot water cascades down my body, I still haven't fully recovered from her touching herself while I was on the phone, it's not only a huge fucking turn on, it's more than that. It shows that she still trusts me, she still trusts me enough to expose herself in that way for me. Lost in my thoughts, I push the hard bar of soap across my tattooed skin. It's hard to imagine only two weeks ago, we stood in this shower together..
"I think this one is my favorite," she peered up at me through wet lashes.
"Why is that? I hate that one." I glanced down at her small fingers trailing over the large rose tattoo etched near my elbow.
"I don't know, it's sort of beautiful the way you have a flower surrounded by all of this darkness," her finger moved over the haunting design of a withered skull just below.
"I never thought of it that way." I pressed my thumb under her chin to bring her eyes to mine. "You always see the light in me, how is that possible when there isn't any?"
"There is plenty, you'll see it too., someday." she smiled and stood on her toes to press her lips against the corner of my mouth. Water rushed between our lips and she smiled again before pulling away.
"I hope you're right." I whispered into the stream of water, so quietly that she didn't hear me.
The memory haunts me, replaying as I try to wash it away. It's not that I don't want to remember her, because I do. Tessa is my every thought, she always is. It's only the memories and times when she gave me too much praise, when she tried to convince me that I'm better than I really am, that drive me mad.
I wish I could see myself the way that she see's me, I wish I could believe her that I'm good for her, but how can that be true when I'm so fucked up?
"It means a lot to me, Harry." She said only minutes ago. Maybe if I keep doing what I'm doing now and stay away from shit that could get me in trouble, I can continue to do things that mean a lot to her. I can make her happy instead of miserable, and maybe, just maybe, I could see some of the light in myself that she claims to see.
Maybe there is hope for us after all.

To be continued..


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