4. We Didn’t Start The Fire

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 It’s on the site: link

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Beth stood there in the same spot where Niall left her. The apartment was quiet as ever and she was in a slow shock. How could he do such a thing? He just made the worst first impression ever. Such an asshole. She felt so stupid thinking that maybe he could possibly be anything but an asshole. Now though? He didn’t mean a thing. Just some blonde, Irish guy with a terrible Irish accent.

She went into her room to change out of her pajamas. She put on a pair of black, loose shorts, a white T-shirt, and her mint colored vans. She grabbed her blue hoodie and purse off her bed and quietly made her way out of her room, the living room, and finally out of the apartment without a sound. Crossing her fingers—hoping—that none of the boys heard her.

She knocked on her neighbor, Eleanor’s, door. The golden B4 was screwed onto the door not so tightly. On the bright side, it was shiny. Beth knew that Eleanor was an almost neat freak. She liked things completely spotless. Even the apartment number on her door. It took a few seconds before Eleanor finally opened the door.

“Hey!” Eleanor greeted Beth, in an all-too-happy manner, “How are you? Come in, come in.”

“Thanks.” Beth said as she entered the Eleanor’s place. It looked the same as always.

The couch parallel to the TV, no coffee table, a small dining room table behind the couch, the kitchen to the left of the table, her bedroom behind the kitchen, and the porch’s doors a little to the left of the TV. They sat down at the dining table. It looked pale and the air felt like Styrofoam.

“I’ll go make some coffee.” Eleanor suggested.

Beth nodded. She started fidgeting with her jacket sleeve while Eleanor grabbed the coffee beans from her cabinet and began grinding them. She set her purse on the couch’s arm.

“So…is Harry at the airport right now? Or something?” Eleanor asked, wondering if Beth was feeling lonely (like she usually was), from the kitchen once she realized what time it was. She turned around to grab some reusable, golden colored filters from the other counter. The one with some dust and grime on it. Eleanor shook her head unpleasantly. Dirt felt like Satan’s work.

Beth looked down at the table and cleared her throat as looked at her digital wrist watch to see the red, blaring numbers 6:43 glowing back at her. When looked over at Eleanor and the girl seemed calm and alive. (Something Beth should could be.) She was sporting a black, pencil skirt and a navy blouse. However, Beth found it strange that Eleanor was also barefoot. Her brown hair pulled in a tight hair bun. It seemed like a smile was always etched on her face. Like she never had anything to worry about. From her clothing Beth could guess that Eleanor was due for work soon.

Eleanor’s life, however, wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns flying across the sky to save her. In fact, her life was far from perfect, but sometimes it seemed like it was. Sometimes it was nice to pretend that her life was like a 50’s movie. But as she lay in bed at night she could feel the mask ripping off of her.

She had a handsome boyfriend, Louis, who actually paid attention to her. And he was hot. Which was great. A neighbor who went to her for help and made her feel wanted. She had a loving father. Though, she had a mother who didn’t care for her at all. Her mother had left her when she was only four and Eleanor had watched the whole scene play out.

Her mother screaming at her for not being enough. Her father hitting and pushing her away from her. Her mom wouldn’t stop screaming and crying. She packed a bag full of clothes and some money. Hermoney. She didn’t want any of her husband’s. She stormed out of the house and drove away. Leaving a poor man alone with a hysterical four year old.

Now her mother lives in New Hampshire with her brand new husband and three kids. Eleanor has never met them. She was sure that she never would. She didn’t want to. Her mother made it very clear that she never wanted to see Eleanor’s face ever again. That was fine with her. She never wanted to see her mother’s face, either.

“Um…no. Harry—no he isn’t at the airport. He just go back like…ten maybe…fifteen minutes ago.” Beth answered. “I just needed some space. All the boys are asleep right now, though.”

Eleanor put the filter on the basket. The room filled with silence. The only noise that was heard was the sound of Eleanor making coffee. The crumbling of papers. The moving of metallic items. The soft hum of Eleanor’s sweet voice.

When she was finished making the coffee she poured it into two mugs and walked back over to the table. She handed one of the mugs to Beth.

“Thanks.” Beth mumbled.

She wrapped the hoodie around her body tighter, suddenly feeling a cold shiver. She took a sip of the coffee. The lukewarm coffee felt hot and nice as it flowed down her throat.

“So…who did Harry bring this time? I know he brought Liam. He always brings Liam. But…I heard there’s a new one, right? Nate?”

Beth slightly laughed and shook her head. “His name’s Niall.” Beth slowly shut her eyes and let out the longest sigh, “He’s a totally asshole.”

They both took a sip of coffee in unison. Beth made a slurping noise. Eleanor smiled once she set the coffee back on the table.

“You said that about Liam, but I have to admit. Liam is an asshole. He treats woman like objects. For God’s sake, he treated you like an object.” Eleanor said. Beth gritted her teeth, her jaw strong. She looked down in her lap as took a big gulp of her coffee. The coffee slid right down her throat burning it like a five year old’s hand on a stove.

“I’m sorry, Beth, but what he did to you was cruel.” Eleanor explained. Beth was frustrated and regretted telling Eleanor anything about Liam. Back then though, Beth was vulnerable and didn’t know what she was telling Eleanor. It was a mess of colors in her head.

“You don’t know the whole story.” Beth muttered.

Eleanor looked at her deeper and darker, trying to see through the black void. She leaned forward and put her hand on Beth’s forearm that was resting on the wooden table.

“Then tell me the whole story.” Eleanor whispered, greedy for gossip, but also generally concerned for her best friend.

Beth shook her head and placed her mug on the coaster in front of her. “No, let’s not get into that touchy subject. Um…what were we talking about? Um…oh right, Niall! He’s such a douche. God, he’s almost as bad as Louis.”

“Hey!” Eleanor interjected, “He’s nice.” She paused, “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about Liam anymore?” Beth didn’t say anything. Eleanor looked at Beth her eyes were concerned, but she didn’t press into the matter anymore. She leaned back in her chair and continued taking sips of her coffee. Her legs were crossed under the table. Her hair bun was a little too tight on her head, but she knew that if it was any looser it wouldn’t stay.

“I mean I just met him like…five minutes ago and already I know he’s a jerk. He’s nothing like Liam, though. He’s kind of smart and extremely sophisticated. God…I bet he’s a control freak, too. I’m surprised he doesn’t wear a pair of glasses by how book smart he was. When I first saw him he was reading one of my poetry books.” Beth babbled.

Eleanor knew how Beth was with her poetry books. To Beth they were like the unspoken words. The kind of words she wanted to say, but never truly knew how. They were the silence beneath her that just demanded to be spoken. And God were they spoken when she read those foreign, inked words dabbled on the books of poetry.

To Eleanor they were just words a dead person wrote. She didn’t even understand half of it the words. She lost her train of thought easily when she was reading the poetry.

“Hey! If he likes poetry he’s totally your type of guy!” Eleanor exclaimed. Beth rolled her eyes, “Oh come on. He likes poetry, he’s nerdy, and he’s extremely sophisticated. That’s what you’ve been looking for your whole life.”

Beth laughed at Eleanor’s eagerness to get her a ‘nice’ boyfriend. She was always trying to hook up her with guys she knew. Most of the time Beth pretended she was sick so she could leave the date early.

“You have no idea what I’ve been looking for my whole life.” Beth chuckled.

An hour passed by and then Eleanor announced that had to go to work. For the next couple of hours Beth just walked around town—exploring the places that she’d never gone to.

When she came back, she unlocked her front door and was saw all three boys sitting on the couch watching TV. She dropped her key and purse on the dining room table. The boys all mumbled a “Hey” and then focused on the screen. Beth took off her sweatshirt and hung it up on the “Welcome” hanger.

The boys looked simple just sitting on the couch. Beth sat on the comforter, having some decent space between the boys. She looked over at them. They were all still in their previous outfits. Niall had on dark, denim jeans that looked tight near his calves, an olive colored vintage T-shirt, a plain oracle blue hoodie with white tie strings, and black socks that looked fit for business shoes.

Harry was wearing a faded color of blue skinny jeans that looked like they could use a round in the wash. He was wearing a black ‘Ramones’ T-shirt with white letters that should’ve been thrown out years ago. His feet were barefoot, exposing his perfectly trimmed toenails.

Liam was just chilling in his black shorts with blue and white lining, a grey Budweiser® t-shirt, and white cotton socks that he pulled over his ankles. He looked like an athlete about to go for a run to train for a 5K.

Niall’s feet were resting on the coffee table. Beth would’ve said something, but she didn’t want to have another angry, fussy fight with him. She couldn’t say anything about how his dirty feet could cause smelly and noticeable stains on the coffee table. Harry was doing it, too. His smelly feet resting on the brown, wooden coffee table. Liam knew better, though.

Beth reclined her chair, lifting her feet up and leaning her head back. Her entire body relaxed. She wasn’t tired, just exhausted from talking and playing piano so early in the morning.

She couldn’t help but wonder about Harry and Sam, and how lovely they were. She had only see them together for three days, when Beth was visiting London. She noticed that they were always touching each other. Always holding hands. Always pecking each other’s cheeks and lips. Harry always having his arm around her shoulder or waist. Sam always looked at Harry with loving eyes. The kind of eyes Beth wanted to be looked at with. Harry was known for always being very affectionate. It surprised Beth that there was someone in the world could tolerate his touchy-ness.

“How long have you guys been awake?” Beth asked after a few minutes.

All three of them shrugged their shoulders and Beth rolled her eyes. It was like seeing The Three Stooges in real life. They’re eyes were glued on the TV, brain cells rotting every second. She had another urge to tell Niall about his feet staining the coffee table. She literally had to bit her tongue. A small fight wouldn’t allow the rest of the day to be very happy.

“What time is it?” She asked as an attempt to start even the smallest conversation.

Liam grabbed the TV remote and pressed the ‘GUIDE' button causing the television program to shrink down in the upper right hand corner. The TV displayed the channels showing and the time. He pressed the 'EXIT' button on the remote and they could see the show in full screen again.

“11:47,” Liam mumbled, “in the morning.

Beth groaned at his laziness and stood up from her chair. She walked in front of the TV (making the boys groan in distaste) on her way to the kitchen. Her mind was set and determined on making some desert, her taste buds were craving chocolate. She grabbed a cookbook from inside a cabinet and flipped it open to a random page, displaying the recipes for cookies. Beth decided on making the midnight cookies.

She checked over the ingredient list and realized that she only three of the seven necessaries on the list. She walked into the living room and grabbed the remote from Liam’s hands. (She was successful, thanks to Liam’s slow reflexes.) As she turned off the TV the boys yelled at her for a quick few seconds before she told them to shut up. Quietly, they listened.

“I need you to go to the supermarket with me,” She said, and just when they were about to interrupt she explained, “We are out of sugar, vanilla extract, baking soda, and um…something else I forgot what, though.”



For a while they were annoyed. They didn’t want to leave the comfy couch in the comfort of Beth’s lovely flat. Especially because they had just arrived a few hours ago. Thinking it over again in their heads they figured…what the hell.

“Well why can’t youjust go?” Harry complained, still not realizing why she couldn’t just go alone, “Why drag us into your cooking troubles.”

Beth pouted her lips, “Because it’s a family vacation. We do everything as a family for the next two weeks…” ‘Except Niall,’ Beth thought, ‘You can just leave him at home. He isn’t family.’

Protests erupted in the room by all three boys, but Beth told them to shut up and put their jackets on. Liam and Niall stood up and started putting on their shoes. While Harry remained sprawled out on the sofa. Socks on feet perfectly propped up on one of the couch’s pillows. Niall, Liam, and Beth stood near the front door waiting for Harry. He had turned the TV back on, continuing to watch a re-run of an old sitcom from the 90’s.

“Come on, Harry. You’re going whether you like it or not.” Liam demanded.

Harry stood up, wrapped an arm around Beth and displayed a fake loving smile, “I think we should stay here while you two go to the store.

Liam shook his head, “No, because we all know how that is going to play out. You’ll say you’ll help when actually you’ll sit on your ass watching TV and Beth will be in the kitchen preheating the hot as hell oven.” Liam said fiercely. Harry stood there a little taken back. “So let’s do this, instead. Harry and Niall switch places,” Liam continued and he moved Harry until he stood next to Niall and he sat Niall on the couch. “Niall,” Liam pointed at him, “you stay here and help Beth with the cookies. Let’s go, Harry.”

“Fuck, Liam, why can’t we just all go to the store?” Beth demanded, angrily. “Because.” And then they left with the closing of the door. Beth was left there with the Irish asshole, once again. She looked him over and wanted to say he looked ugly like a plum, but couldn’t lie to herself. He looked damn sexy in his dark jeans and V-neck T-shirt.

Niall was the first to enter the kitchen. Beth opened up the fridge, pulled out an egg, and handed it to Niall. He placed it on the pile of paper plates, preventing it from falling off the counter. Beth handed him the two sticks of butter and a bag of sugar. Then gestured for him to set it on the counter.

“Okay,” Beth said, she opened up the cookbook to page 82 where the midnight cookies recipe was, “um…we start off by beating the butter and sugar together.”

Niall asked, “Where’s the bowl and mixer?”

Beth looked around her kitchen and then her face lit up. A sly smirk appeared on her face. She pulled out the bowl and whisk and set it on the counter. She looked at Niall waiting for his reaction. Her bowl was decorated in pink polka dots and the face of Hello Kitty was plastered all over it.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Niall laughed. It was one of those throaty cackles that you don’t expect to hear out of a person like him. But, at the same time it was like hearing a baby laugh for the very first time. The noise rings and echoes throughout the room and you breathe in the laugh, thinking you’ll never hear it again.

Beth laughed lightly. Niall hoisted himself up onto the counter. She unwrapped the thin sheet of paper on one of the sticks of butter and placed it in the bowl. With the other stick of butter she cut off one tablespoon of it and placed it in the bowl. She rewrapped the rest of the eight table spooned butter and handed it to Niall.

“Put that back in the fridge.” She told him.

Niall pushed himself off of the counter and placed the butter in the small drawer in the tiny fridge. He turned around and faced Beth who was already beating the butter and sugar with the whisk.

He couldn’t help, but let his mind drag. He could see her bra through her white t-shirt with French words written on the front, but he didn’t tell her that. He liked seeing her long, tan legs in those shorts. They weren’t extremely short like most girls’ would be. Most girls didn’t mind showing off their legs for exposure of sexual encounters. In fact, it was like a goal in life for them. He was positive she wasn’t one of those girls. The kind that is always trying to get a guy’s attention. Then he stopped himself, realizing how he was acting like Liam a little too much.

Niall heard an annoying, cliché ringtone from the living room. He heard Beth groan and drop the whisk in the bowl. She walked out of the room and heard her pick up her cell phone.

“Niall!” She yelled, “Can you continue the beating please?”

Niall laughed at her choice of words, but nonetheless shrugged his shoulders and grabbed the whisk. He looked over at the cookbook and read the words twice: “Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.” He knew if he messed up Beth would be pissed. He only met her a few hours ago and here he was alone with her, baking cookies with her, and he knew she was a perfectionist. Knew that she hated the fact that all of them had their sweaty feet resting on the coffee table. It was obvious that she was biting her tongue and preventing the annoying words to slip out of her mouth. God, she was so annoying.

She walked back into the kitchen a few seconds later and looked over at the cookbook. The phone was still being held in her hand, close to her ear. Her finger trailed over the ingredients as she began reciting the needed ingredients into the phone.

“You got it? Did you write it down?” She asked into the phone irritably, “Are you sure, because I’m not saying it again….yeah, okay….sure….he’s fine….no, Harry, I didn’t beat him up….He’s not bloody or bruised, no….bye.”

“I forgot to give Liam and Harry the list of ingredients.” She explained and Niall nodded holding back his smirk. If they thought that she could beat him up they must’ve never seen him mad when he was sober. They had seen him get into plenty of bar fights. Or maybe they were just trying to reassure Beth. Prove to her that he wasn’t a bad guy. No darkness creeping in him at all…

Then she hung up the phone and looked back over at Niall and then the bowl. The whisk was taken out of his hands and laid down on the counter. Beth turned to Niall, her arm resting on the counter.

The silence in the room was a little too loud. It wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. Beth and Niall were just looking at each other. Just trying to figure the other one out without words. Niall had a tiny smirk on his face that he was trying to hide. Beth was trying to hide her face of disgust. She really was trying to give him a chance. If only he wiped that stupid smirk off his face.

“Alright that’s it,” Niall announced, “This silent contest we got going on is killin’ me. We’re turnin’ on some music.”

Her eyes widened. She never listened to the radio or any other music besides her own. Harry did buy her an iPod a few Christmases ago, but she only downloaded a few songs on it that she rarely listened to. There was no reason to have speakers blasting out words of cliché, love songs that she didn’t even like or know.

“Jesus, woman, I don’t understand how you go about life without much music.” Niall complained. Without music he’d probably be a worse person than he already was.

She followed Niall into the guest bedroom, he was digging through his suitcase searching for his iPod. He was sure it was at the bottom of his clothes or the small pocket in the front. He was stupid to not check the front pocket first. He messily placed some of his clothes back in his suitcase, flipped the top back over, and unzipped the small, front pocket. Sure enough, there it was, mirrored on one side and a black screen on the other side. He pressed the home button and slid to unlock the iPod. He didn’t put a passcode on it because he knew would forget it easily at one point or another. His thoughts were too clobbered with mess.

He saw Beth in the doorway and smiled, “You don’t mind if I play some music? Right?” She started to object, but Niall interrupted her, “Great. Thanks.”

As he walked into the living room to place his iPod on the coffee table, after pressing play on his favorite song, he saw Beth jump a little when the song started to play. Immediately an acoustic guitar began to play the beginning chords and the beat of drums followed as the lyrics came out.



Look at the stars



Look how they shine for you



And everything you do



Yeah, they were all yellow




Niall had started dancing to the song, snapping his fingers and swaying his hips, edging for Beth to join him. She was leaning her back against the wall with her arms crossed, shaking her head no. Silently laughing at Niall’s attempts.



I came along



I wrote a song, for you



And all the things you do



And it was called “Yellow”




Niall held out his hand for Beth to take. She looked around the room expecting him to be offering his hand to someone else, but she knew they were alone. Of course, she felt stupid as she felt a blush warming in her cheeks. There was no one else he could be waiting for. She shook her head no and he turned around to continue dancing. She walked over to the kitchen to see if the mixture of sugar and the one egg where still light and fluffy. Niall knew she wouldn’t suspected it. He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her close.

He spun her around once and dipped her. He smiled his big, goofy smile and Beth rolled her eyes. She tried to loosen his grip on her hands so she could free herself, but he wasn’t budging. He continued moving around the room, just dancing with her, and holding her hands. Spinning her around and her around into the world. For the first time in what seemed like forever, she felt the freedom. The air sweeping around her and, for a moment, she felt like she could breathe.



Your skin,



Oh yeah your skin and bones,



Turn into



Something beautiful,



And you know,



For you I’d bleed myself dry,



For you I’d bleed myself dry.




Niall starting putting one foot forward and back, creating a pattern. Eventually, Beth caught onto what he was doing and followed. It felt foreign. Something that he couldn’t’ve learned in secondary school. Or university. Something that was probably a family dance and Beth flushed once again. She didn’t even understand why. One foot forward and the other foot back. A small smile played on her lips as Niall spun her around and around again.

She was about to lose balance until Niall grabbed her waist and pulled her close to him. Their noses and foreheads were touching. They could both feel the heat. It was if they had both turned into magnets and could feel the friction starting. His cyan blue eyes were looking into her hazel ones. Beth could feel Niall’s heart beating fast in his chest. It sounded like the beat of drums in a rock and roll song. It reminded of Beth of the time Harry attempted (and failed) at the learning to play the drums.

“Hey, Liz.” Niall mumbled cheekily.

She smiled, “I thought I told you not to call me that.”

“You did, but I didn’t listen. I don’t ususally listen…” Niall leaned his face a little closer towards Beth.

His arm was still wrapped around her waist while his other hand was intertwined with her. His body was so close to her, only four layers of clothing apart. The only thought laying in his mind was kissing her. Their lips were only an inch apart and Beth couldn’t help, but think the same thing. She imagined soft lips fitting over hers like the number eleven finally combining into one. But all she could think was soft and tender even though the atmosphere was rigid and uneven.

The song ended and the apartment was silent until the next song started. A piano began playing and that’s when Beth felt at home. The soft sound of a piano playing, the gently touch of Niall, and the grey carpet under her feet. A sweep of the sun shining in through the windows as noon hit the air. She started to lean into him, to press her lips against his.

Then the front door opened and Harry walked in after Liam. Niall and Beth immediately pulled away from each other, and stood there awkwardly. The song’s lyrics finally were heard. Immdiantly, Beth wondered if they had noticed even in the slightest bit if they had any idea what they were doing. ‘Dancing,’ Beth’s conscious reminded her, ‘You were just dancing.’

“We’re back.” Harry stated holding the two plastic bags of items and looking between Beth and Niall.

Beth flashed a (fake) smile at Harry and grabbed the grocery bags out of his hand while mumbling a thank you. Then walked into the kitchen to finish cooking. Liam and Harry narrowed their eyes at Niall with their arms crossed. Niall felt like a little kid getting in trouble for the very first time. His smile had faded and he could hear Beth mixing the ingredients together. The metallic sound of the whisk hitting the sides of the bowl. The song’s piano and vocals were the only thing Niall could focus on.

It was a completely different feeling to have as Niall never cared if the finger was pointed at him. Didn’t care if he was in trouble or a mess. Simply shrugging it off and thinking that it wasn’t the end of the world. However this—the stares of his two best friends—felt like the end of the world. As if he’d lose them forever. And although he knew that he hated them most of the time…he didn’t want to lose them.

Niall receded and pressed paused on his iPod. Fumbling while putting it back in his pocket and then he began walking towards the kitchen to help Beth until Liam grabbed his shoulder. Starling him and stopping in his tracks.

“Niall,” He warned, “don’t even try.”

He stopped walking and headed towards him. A little frustrated about the situation. They didn’t see anything happen. Nothing was going to happen anyway. Just a small kiss that would soon be forgotten in everybody’s mind. Beth just seemed like the type of girl that didn’t care about love. Like it scared her so much she pretended it didn’t exist. He would say he was just caught up in the moment and Beth would say the same. Though, he would never forget that small smile that was sketched onto her lips. It was playful and beautiful and his favorite thing in the world. Liz’s smile.

God, he loved calling her Liz. It felt classy and normal. Like shining lights at the top of the ceiling during a high school dance. Nothing like Beth. That sounded cold and distant. A name that belonged to an eighty-year-old woman. It didn’t suit her as well as Liz did.

“What?” He asked with a bitter tone, “Don’t trust me with Liz anymore.”

Harry rolled his eyes at Niall’s nickname for his sister. She hated being called Liz and he knew that. He did grow up with her, so he knew more about Beth than anyone else. How dare Niall want to kiss Beth after a few short hours together? He didn’t know that much about her and was only going at it with her because she was pretty. Although, that seemed like a thing Liam would do. Harry knew Niall wouldn’t sink to such a low level. Would he? He wasn’t like Liam. Although…Liam never went for his sister. It was just…wrong. On so many levels.

“Her name is Beth. And no, we don’t trust you with Beth anymore. Dude you almost,” Harry lowered his voice in case Beth was eavesdropping, “you almost kissed her. That’s my sister! That’s like breaking the fucking ultimate best friend code! Besides, she’s been through so much shit! Don’t put an asshole like you on her plate!” Harry loudly whispered making sure Niall understood the depths he was in. If he wanted to go around kissing girls that was fine with him, but if as so much looks at his sister in a lustful way…things will change between them. And not for the better.

Liam moved Harry away from Niall once he observed Harry’s clenched fists and darkening eyes. Liam stepped in front of Niall and explained it in a more understanding way, “Look, Niall, Beth has a lot of shit on her plate already. She really doesn’t need a love interest to worry about. Just step back a little, yeah?” Liam tried to end it on a cheery note, even though that’s not the type of person he is. He just wanted everybody to calm down. But all Niall could think was “another love interest.”

Then they were all stuck in the awkward, uncomfortable silence. Then Harry realized that he really needed a beer. “I think Beth needs help with the cookies.” Harry replied and walked into the kitchen with Niall and Liam.



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About an hour and a half later all four of them were sitting in the living room, watching Law and Order: Criminal Intent on the sofa, eating the fully baked midnight cookies. And Niall and Beth couldn’t stop catching little glances at the other.

3. Change

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it’s on the site: link

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"Harry!" Liam shouted to the mop of curls.

Harry turned around and saw Niall and Liam. Harry hugged Liam with one arm and patted his back. He did the same to Niall.

Harry looked over at Liam and Niall. Liam had a grey hoodie on, black basketball shorts, and an old pair of trainers. While Niall was wearing a white T-shirt that said, “CRAZY INSIDE AND OUT”, a pair of denim pants, and a brand new pair of trainers he had bought a week ago.

“How you been?” Liam asked and started making his way out of the airport, “I got to tell you. My life has been amazing. If you know what I mean?”

Harry slightly chuckled and nodded. “I don’t get how you can just use those women like…like…like…” Harry trailed off, not knowing how to say what he meant.

“Like a dirty ragdoll that’s completely useless besides it’s one and only purpose.” Niall finished.

Harry nodded, “Exactly like a…ragdoll that only has one purpose. They have more than one purpose in life, Liam.”

Liam shrugged not caring about what Harry or Niall had to say. He wasn’t stopping anytime soon. He wasn’t out dry and he hoped he never would be. That was the best part of the job. Meeting all the girls and using them dry like a dirty ragdoll that’s completely useless besides it’s one and only purpose.

“Never mind,” Liam said, changing the subject, “How’s Beth?”

Harry looked around the parking lot, trying to remember where he parked. He knew he parked in the visitor parking lot, but where the hell did he park?

“She’s extremely pissed at me,” Harry laughed. “I was eavesdropping on her playing piano this morning.”

Liam laughed and Niall just look confused like a jigsaw puzzle. He didn’t get it. What was so bad about Harry listening to Beth playing piano? Was she not a professional at piano? Was she just practicing the piano and didn’t want anybody hear her mess up?

Harry grabbed his car keys (technically Beth’s) from his pocket and set off the alarm in attempts to find the car. He heard a loud beep coming from the northwestern part of the parking lot and led Liam and Niall in that direction. They both laughed at Harry for forgetting where he parked.

“Wait, you heard her playing? Today?” Liam asked, and Harry nodded, “Well, bloody hell! She was up at 5am, playing piano?!”

Harry shrugged his shoulders. But, both Liam and Niall’s eyes were caught in confusion.

From what Niall had heard, Beth was a strange girl. Waking up early to play piano and (though it wasn’t much) there was two beds in the guest bedroom. He just found it strange. Why did Liam and Harry have to visit so often?

From what Liam knew, Beth was back on her old habits again. He thought she stopped and that he helped her. He thought wrong. Liam knew Beth was back to revolving her life around her piano, reading poetry, and work. That wasn’t good.

Harry didn’t know what she used to be like because he was so blind and she hid it so well. But, not well enough. Liam could see through her. Liam helped her once. He knew he could do it again.

When they found the car, Liam and Niall put their suitcases and backpacks in the trunk. Liam called shotgun and Niall sat in the back. In the front, Liam and Harry were discussing past memories from when they were in Uni. Niall would’ve joined in on the conversation, but he was afraid if he spoke, his nerves would show.

He was nervous. God damn, was he nervous. The funny thing was, he didn’t know why he was nervous. He never met her, but that wasn’t a big deal. She was just Harry’s sister. She was just his best friend’s sister. He had met Liam’s sisters before and a bunch of his students’ parents. Why was Beth such a big deal? Maybe, because she had never met this girl before and he was about to spend a whole week at her flat. That’s why. That’s the only reason. That’s a reasonable explanation. Very reasonable and very true. At least, that’s what Niall told himself.

The whole car ride Niall couldn’t help but think about what she was like and what she looked like. He should’ve asked for a picture, but he thought that would be weird. And he didn’t want to sound needy and he knew there was no way to say it in a casual manner.

“Mate…mate…dude…NIALL!” Liam shouted and Harry laughed. “We’re here.”

Niall shook his head and exited the car. Harry exited the car, too. Niall told them to open the trunk. Niall grabbed his luggage, so did Liam, and Harry led them up to Beth’s flat. Harry pulled out his silver key and opened up the door.

Right away, Niall and Liam set their heavy bags down. Niall’s eyes observed the flat. There was a small couch and an even smaller coffee table in front of it. There was a medium sized entertainment system with a 22’ flat screen in front of it. On the left side of him was their two doors. One of them was probably Beth’s and the other was most likely the guest bedroom with two beds instead of one.

Liam sunk himself into the couch and turned on the TV and Harry sat down next to him. Niall walked to the other side of the room and checked out her bookshelf. He was amazed by how many books of poetry she had. Edgar Allan Poe. Walt Whitman. Thomas Hardy. Sylvia Plath. William Wordsworth. E. E. Cummings.

The bookcase wasn’t that small, but it also wasn’t all that big. He pulled out a small book full of astonishing words. Niall sat down on one of the dining room chairs and opened up the book to a random page. He, ironically, came upon a poem titled, “Elizabeth” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Elizabeth, it surely is most fit/In thy own book that first thy name be writ/Zeno and other sages notwithstanding/And I have other reasons for so doing

“Why the hell,” Beth screeched, pointing a finger at Harry and Liam, “would you turn the damn TV on at fucking hundred? What the hell! You idiots!"

Niall closed the book softly and looked up at the scene. He couldn’t focus about what was happening because Beth was beautiful. He couldn’t avert his eyes from her.

Her wavy brunette hair that cut off at her ribcage was flawless, her slim figure was wonderfully perfect, and the way she walked into the room (even if it was just rage) was so graceful. He didn’t care that Beth began ranting about how they couldn’t at least put it on mute and read the captions. Even the way she spoke, Niall found beautiful. Her voice had a perfect ring to it. Her long, tan legs, exposed from her shorts, were very intriguing.

“That’s a fine impression you’re making on your guest.” Liam laughed.

Beth rolled her eyes, “What? I already know both of you.”

Liam tilted his head his head in Niall’s direction. Beth looked at Niall and her eyes widened. Her mouth immediately became filled with apologies. She extended her hand. Niall stood up from the dining room chair and greeted her.

“I’m Niall.” He said.

“Beth.”

Liam made a sexy whistle sound and Beth turned around to glare at him. Harry and Liam were smiling there. It’s like they were waiting for Beth to screw up even further.

Harry had an excuse at least. He was her brother; brothers are supposed to act this way. A brother’s best friend, who also happens to be your best friend, were not supposed to act this way. He was supposed to be help her. Not embarrass her.

“Hey, Beth, aren’t you going to tell him your full name? That is a formal introduction your trying to make, isn’t it?” Liam asked.

Beth turned around to glare at him, she balled up her fists. “No,” Beth said between clenched teeth. “and I have a good reason not to. You know the reason and I’d appreciate it if we didn’t spoil it for Niall.”

“Hey, Niall, see what happens when you call her Liz. Not Elizabeth, but Liz.” Harry joked.

Niall looked at her with cautious eyes while her’s blazed at him with anger. She had her arms crossed over her chest and Niall was just standing there like a foolish idiot. Neither one of them moved. Neither one of them blinked. They were just standing there. Beth was standing there looking at the man in front of her in disgust. Niall was looking at her full figure of beauty, unable to look away.

“Well, say something for god’s sake!” Harry shouted, interrupting the silence.

Niall looked Beth over. Her oversized, faded red sweatshirt was covering her active shorts that she wore as pajamas. Her legs were covered in goose bumps from the AC flowing through the vents. Her hair was tucked behind both ears and the glare looked like it would never disappear from her eyes.

“So…” Niall was the first to speak. “What do you do for a living, Liz ?”

Beth glared at him. She looked at him, took a step closer, lightly put a hand on his shoulder, and with her other hand she stuck her middle finger in the air.

“Don’t call me that.” She whispered to him and he laughed.

He laughed because he thought it was hilarious that she thought a simple finger would shut him up. He laughed because of how innocent she looked, but she was so much more ferocious. He laughed because he didn’t realize what her name meant to her.

“So…who wants to go back to sleep?” Harry asked.

Liam nodded and so did Niall. They grabbed their bags and Harry led them into the guest bedroom. Beth just stood there completely flustered as to what just happened.

Niall was about to enter the room, but his hand was lingering on the door handle. He turned to Beth and shot her a quick smile.

“Sweet dreams, Liz.”

next

2. Treacherous

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Harry groaned as he heard his alarm go off at four-thirty in the morning. He pulled the comfy, navy blue covers over his half naked body and grabbed his iPhone from the side table to turn off the alarm. It seemed quiet for a while. Harry walked out of the guest bedroom and into the kitchen. His bare feet making a pitter-patter sound as he walked across the tile flooring.

Last night, after Harry realized Beth had fallen asleep, he picked up her fragile body and carried her into her room. He gently tucked her in good night just like he used to when she was nine and he was twelve. After putting Beth in her room Harry decided to crawl into bed because he knew it was late and he had to get up early to pick up Liam and Niall at the airport. Even though they were fully capable to drive themselves to Beth’s flat. Liam knew where her flat was and could easily rent a car.

Niall would’ve tagged along with Harry on the earlier flight, but his job required him to stay a few more days after the school year had ended. As a chorus teacher he had to prepare the small things for next year.

Liam couldn’t tag along with Harry because Liam’s boss has been getting suspicious about his relationships with his female co-workers in the office. He had been on—what his boss has called “probation”—until the rumors and complaints died down. However, they didn’t and yesterday was Liam’s final day at the office.

Harry grabbed an apple from the fridge—it had a small bruise on it—and took a bite out of it as he was getting his coffee ready. He really didn’t like coffee, but he knew Beth wouldn’t have any tea. Harry couldn’t go his whole day without a little buzz to wake him up. Besides, if he put some beer or something in it, maybe it wouldn’t taste as bad.

Harry started humming a random tune and drummed his fingers on the counter. Suddenly, he heard a different noise. It sounded like she was playing piano in her bedroom. Why was she playing piano at such an early hour?

He tiptoed his way to Beth’s bedroom. He pressed his ear to her door and heard the soft notes of her piano playing. The noise was captivating. Harry slid his body down the door and sat down on the floor. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes. The noise was intoxicating. It felt like he was in some sort of trance that had no ending.

Beth finished the last few notes of the piano piece she’d been working two whole months on writing. Then she heard her stomach growl and decided to get a quick snack. Or maybe just a simple glass of water.

She opened the door and Harry fell backwards losing the feeling of the intoxication. Beth looked down at him in confusion and then realization quickly struck into her pretty little mind. Her eyes glared at Harry in a fuss of anger. She knew that he knew that he wasn’t allowed to hear her play. Ever. Harry showed off a guilty smile. Beth walked passed Harry and into the kitchen.

Even though Beth hadn’t said anything Harry still felt the need to defend himself, “Oh, come on, Beth.” Harry said, “Why does it matter if I hear you play or not? You’re really good. I don’t see why I can’t hear you more often.”

Beth didn’t answer, knowing that Harry wouldn’t understand. Hell, she didn’t even understand why playing piano was so much of a drug for her. She didn’t understand how it could make her forget—just for a moment—about him. About her mom. About the home that she left behind three years ago. Harry stood up and walked toward the kitchen only to see Beth pouring a cup of coffee into two mugs. She handed one of them to Harry as he muttered a thank you.

“A crowded room of strangers can hear you play and not me?” Harry complained.

He took a sip of the coffee. Instantly, despising the taste, but he didn’t complain because the coffee was hot and he was freezing. God, why did Beth’s flat always have to be so cold.

Beth hugged the beige cardigan around her tighter and stared at the ground, awkwardly as she took another sip of coffee. Harry stood there, staring out Beth, waiting for something—anything to come out of her mouth. But, her lips were pressed together in a thin line and Harry could see the disgust hidden in her eyes. It was like a gleam of darkened light falling over the hazel.

“I thought it was beautiful,” Harry whispered, afraid that if he spoke any louder the sky would fall, “It really was. You could make a career out of it. Earn the money you need.”

Beth glared at Harry. It wasn’t even 5:00 am and he was already pissing her off. “Just like old times,” she thought to herself. She knew what he was referring to and she knew she needed help. She couldn’t, though, it was just too difficult. She needed to stay and make sure her life remained sane. God only knows how hectic it truly was.

“Never mind,” Harry chuckled, “Anyway, I’m picking up Liam and Niall at the airport in about,” Harry looked at his watch, “um…20 minutes. I still need to shower and get dressed. It’s going to take about 5 or 10 minutes to get to the airport. You want to come with?”

Beth took a big gulp of her coffee and blinked multiple times. Come with? She’s extremely close friends with Liam, but she’d never met Niall. She didn’t even know what he looked like. Was he 32 with slightly grey hair and crinkled eyes? Or a red head with a mysterious personality?

She pulled her sweatshirt down a little bit not wanting to show her stomach. She looked up at Harry’s calm, olive green eyes. She smiled sadly and shook her head. She didn’t want to go. She couldn’t go. Liam’s eyes would be focused on her. Liam would be mad that she hadn’t called in 3 months. He would be furious. She hated when he was mad at her. It always turned into something catastrophic.

“I-I think…um…I think I’ll stay here.” Beth mumbled, “I can put your clothes away and um…clean up a bit.”

Harry nodded and walked out of the kitchen and into the shower. After a few minutes Beth heard the shower running and Harry singing at the top of his lungs.

She rolled her eyes at his stupid habit.



—— —



“You gonna fall in love with some random stranger when we land?” Liam joked.

Niall stared back at him confused. Why would he fall for anybody? He didn’t want to be in love right now. He just needed an excuse to get away from all the stress in his life. That’s why he came. He couldn’t care less about Harry’s little sister. Didn’t even remember her name.

“I don’t think so. You remember Teresa, right?” Niall asked.

Liam nodded.

“We broke up ‘bout a month ago.” Niall finished.

Liam nodded, pretending he cared about Niall’s broken heart. Then he whistled to a stewardess and nodded her towards him.

“Hullo, sir.” She greeted him with clenched teeth, obviously not liking the way he was treating her, “What can I ‘elp you with?”

“Ah yes, I would like another whiskey. Please, don’t put that much ice in it this time.” Liam explained his needs.

“I’m so sorry.” She said, “We’re about to land and we can’t serve you any beverages.”

She walked to the back of the plane and sat down. Liam continued talking with Niall, currently disappointed by his declined offer of a drink. He could really use one right now to help calm his nerves. Damn, he hated flying so much it was like a passion, really.

“So, what were we talking about?” Liam asked Niall.

Niall shrugged his shoulders. He pulled his backpack, which was under the seat in front of him, up on his lap. He opened the small pocket in the front and pulled out his book, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” He opened it up to where he left off: Page 34.

“Right. We were talking about your latest book.” Liam muttered sarcastically.

He grabbed his iPod from his sweatshirt’s pocket and put the black ear buds in. Immediately, a guitar solo part of one of Liam’s favorite songs began to blast through at high volume. Niall scowled at him, annoyed by the interruption of shitty music.

Liam began slightly bobbing his head up and down and tapping foot. His eyes were closed and his head was leaned back. He was in his own little world. Niall continued reading, his interest in the book intensifying with each and every word. His eyes widening at the beautiful literature. It didn’t seem as if a human could write something with such ferocity and beauty.

“Folks, we are almost 15 minutes from landing,” Niall heard the pilot announce, “Please fasten your seatbelts and raise your chairs in the upright position. Also turn off any electronics. We will be landing shortly.”

Liam didn’t hear anything, but the loud noise of his music. Niall nudged him on the shoulder. Nothing. Niall nudged him harder. Liam turned his head to the side and unplugged one of the earbuds.

“What?” He snapped.

Niall rolled his eyes at Liam’s rudeness. “Pull your chair back up and turn off your damn iPod. We’re landing.”

Liam took out his ear buds and adjusted his chair. The flight attendants checked all the seats, making sure that no one was disobeying the rules. The same stewardess passed by Liam. She made a disgusted face in his direction and he winked back at her. He realized she wasn’t bad looking. Her red wavy hair was curled at the end and her brown eyes had something intriguing about them. He couldn’t help but think of the different ways to rip off that uniform.

He began to memorize all the features of her from the edge of her chin, her slim cheeks, her all-too-curvy body, and her perfectly tan and slim legs (that he wouldn’t mind spreading apart), were turning him on. She looked up and saw him staring at her. Her eyes darkened and she looked away. She crossed her arms over her chest and started biting her nails. “That’s a naughty habit.” Liam thought, “That’s a very, very naughty habit.”

“Dude, come on, that’s sick. She’s working.” Niall scolded, “Besides, we’re going to see Beth in like…15 minutes.”

Liam nodded and for the rest of the flight, averted eyes from the red head stewardess. Instead he focused on how Beth was doing. Hopefully she was ten times better than she was when Liam visited her last summer. She was more shattered than window glass. It was devastating and heartbreaking to see her in such a zombie-like state.

Niall had advanced in his book by 28 pages. He loved to read. Over the summer he had read 19 books. He always liked to write suggestions on the board, though he knew the students ignored them.

“Attention passengers, we have begun our descent to Hampton, Nevada. Where the current weather is 76°F, and we will be in the gate in about ten minutes. We’d like the flight attendants to prepare the cabbing for arrival. We want to thank you for flying with us today.”

Liam saw the red head disappear with the rest of the flight attendants and his mindset changed from Beth to the guest bedroom. He turned to Niall.

“Niall,” Liam started, Niall pressed down a corner on his book and closed it, “I want you to know something.”

“What?” Asked Niall.

“I call the bed by the window in Beth’s flat.” Liam muttered, although that’s not what he really wanted to say.

Niall rolled his eyes and opened his book back up to continue reading. However, he was a bit disappointed. He was probably going to want the bed by the window. He had never even met Beth and therefore had never seen her flat. He had no idea there was even two beds in the guest room. If there was a guest room. Maybe the beds were just lying in the living room.

Niall felt the plane go down and down. He looked at the window and saw the green grass. It looked fake like the kind you would see at a golf course. He could see it was getting less blurry every minute and looked more like the ground. He could see some buildings and the mountains. The ground looked like a million squares next to each other. He was incredibly fascinated by it.

When the plane landed, all the passengers stood up and tried to grab their luggage at once. A huge messy line formed in the in the aisle. Liam and Niall were trapped in their seats.

“Oh, bloody hell.” Liam muttered.

He tried to push people out of the way, but they were all too rude to care if he couldn’t get his luggage. Liam groaned and waited (not that patiently) for the mass of people to disappear. He grabbed his backpack from under the seat and almost hit Niall while doing so, hiding a smirk because he could tell Niall was offended.

When the plane was almost half empty Liam moved a few people out of the way to open up the bin and grab his suitcase. He left the bin open for Niall to get his. They exited the plane a little irritated by the ‘filing out’ situation.

The airport itself was filled with people and their noisy voices. Liam and Niall sat down in the nearest chairs. Liam reached in his pocket and turned his cheap, flip phone on. The airport seats were uncomfortable and Liam vaguely wondered what it’d be like if they were leather couches instead.

“I’m going to call Harry.” Liam told Niall while heading toward a quieter place to talk.

Niall nodded and looked around. The first thing he spotted was a family of five. The mother was trying to calm down—what Niall assumed to be—her child. The dad was playing ‘airplane’ with another child, lifting the small kid over his shoulders and moving him around like a sack of potatoes. The family had an older girl, too. She was just standing there in torn jeans with her arms crossed looking bored out of her mind.

They looked like an average family. Something Niall wished he had while growing up.

There was a couple sleeping in a set of chairs in front of Niall. Their hands were intertwined and the girl was leaning her head on the guy’s shoulder. “I used to have that.” Niall thought, “I used to love that.”

Niall sat their fidgeting in the uncomfortable chair thinking about Beth. What did she look like? Did she enjoy reading, too? What kind of things fascinated her? Why were their two beds in the guest bedroom? What were her hobbies?

Niall began thinking what she was like. If she had slick black hair that went down to her waist with striking green eyes. Just like Harry’s eyes. She probably enjoyed reading, too. She enjoyed reading romantic books, though. Just like all the other females he had met. Was she was extremely fascinated by architecture? Did she really enjoy Oze’s artwork with his majestic photography of beaches and sunsets? There was probably two beds in the guest bedroom because Harry and Liam stay over at the same time a lot and Liam didn’t want the couch anymore. Harry probably hated the couch, too. Niall had no idea what her hobbies probably were.

Liam returned a little while later with a sly smirk on his face. His happy face. He grabbed his suitcase and placed his phone back in his pocket.

“Harry’s in the gate entrance. He’s waiting for us.” Liam announced.

“Let’s go then.” Niall replied and started walking towards the front doors.

next

1. Fragile

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————————————————————

Beth was pacing back in forth in her living room. She was waiting for the soft, entrancing knock on the front door, the opening of the front door, and the appearance of her brother, Harry. With his soft curls on the top of his head, probably being pushed back by a ripped up shirt that became too small or something. Maybe he’d be wearing his point, brown boots. The ones she got him for his twentieth birthday—five years ago. They’re way too old now and she doesn’t know why he hasn’t thrown them out yet.

She had been waiting for him to come and visit her for weeks. Having a brother that lives in London was a problem. It costs a lot of money for her to fly out to London from Hampton, Nevada and with the money, right now, being so tight for her she had no choice, but to ask if he could come to the states. Harry being a therapist was a problem, too. He didn’t have many vacation days, what with his hands full of all his patients. However, he finally found a week and a half to spare for their yearly, Brother and Sister Bonding Time. Even at Christmas, they didn’t usually get to see each other. Beth would usually have to Skype call.

He had a pocket load of cash, though. Which made it no problem to get first class tickets for him. Something he always enjoyed. If he didn’t get a window seat the whole flight would be ruined. He was too polite to ask the person seating next to him for the window seat. Most of the time he did get it, though. Watching the clouds and bright or midnight sky—depending on the time of day—was the best experience he ever had.

Beth stopped pacing. She walked toward her piano bench and sat down. Her fingers moved on the black and white keys automatically, just like they always did. You could feel the emotion behind the notes. It didn’t matter if Beth’s face was solemn. The music was deep, dark, and passionate. Beth didn’t really enjoy happy, upbeat songs that made people smile. Sure, happiness was a good thing to feel every now and again, but Beth hadn’t felt it in a long time. She didn’t know if she ever would.

She almost made it half way through the piece before she heard a knocking on the door. That same soft, entrancing sound she’d heard a thousand times before and would love to hear a thousand times again. She sighed and ignored the thought in the back of her head that he was almost late. Almost 30 minutes late. It’s not as though it’s a first for him. The sort of thing happens all the time.

“Harry,” Beth breathed out as she wrapped her arms around him causing him to drop his bags as he hugged her back. “How was your flight?”

Harry let go of Beth and walked into the medium sized apartment. He made his way into the open area kitchen. While Harry was getting a beer from the fridge Beth was grabbing Harry’s bags from the hallways and placing them in the guest bedroom.

While take a swig of the beer Harry wondered why she had it in her fridge. Could it be because she knew he’d be coming and wanted to make sure she had everything? That had to be it. Beth wasn’t the type of girl to drink…at all. Not at parties or special occasions. Most of the time, she would just drink water.

She made her way into the kitchen and saw Harry sitting on a bar stool, drinking the beer. His curly, brown hair a little shorter than the last time she saw him. It was just like she imagined it. Pulled back with an old t-shirt. The trend started from when he turned twenty. Admitting that he needed a drastic fashion change, he decided to do something with his hair. Five years later, he still does it. Harry was wearing black, skinny jeans, a slight oversized t-shirt with sleeves that almost reached his elbows, and brown boots Beth gave him for his birthday.

“It was fine. Annoying. Ear popping. Too much chatter, but fine.” Harry answered her early question with a cheerful attitude.

“You got jet lag?” She asked.

He nodded. She turned around facing the cupboards. She pulled out a bowl and a box of Lucky Charms. A new favorite of hers ever since the commercials have been shown twice as much as they used to. Beth believed that if she bought the product, the advertisements of it would go away. This, of course, doesn’t help. She poured the cereal in the bowl, added some milk, and grabbed a spoon from a nearby drawer.

“Still eat cereal only after 4 o’clock?” Harry asked and took a huge gulp of beer. Then threw it away, finishing the whole thing under three minutes. An average record.

She nodded and took a bite of her cereal. There was something always unsatisfying about having cereal for breakfast. Most of the time she wouldn’t have anything for breakfast. Just coffee. She pulled out another spoon and offered it to Harry. He took it immediately and took a bite of cereal.

“Still dating…uh—what was her name again?” Beth questioned and continuously snapped her fingers thinking she would remember the name faster if she did.

“Samantha, but she likes being called Sam. And yeah. We’re still dating.” Harry answered. Harry began tracing the detailed lines on the end of the spoon. A goofy smile appeared on his lips and he looked too excited. “I bought her a ring. I’m proposing once I get back.”

Beth dropped her spoon, the shock making it drop to the dirty wood floor. There was no time to think about it right now with almost happiness bubbling up inside her stomach. Her mouth was in an ‘O’ shape and her eyes wide like a deer in head lights. Her breath was gone, but she didn’t really notice. Her attention was focused on the smile plastered on Harry’s face going from ear to ear. The feeling that she was feeling hadn’t been felt in a long time.

She regained her breath and shouted “What?! Oh…my God! What? How…I? Congratulations!” She scrambled the words out in one breath.

Harry continued smiling, his excitement not able to be contained. Beth was the first person he had told. Besides Sam’s father, of course. He had been dating Sam for a good three years now and was ready to spend forever with her. He knew he was and he knew she was, too. She had brought it up every now and then for the past few weeks. He knew it was time. It all felt right. They’d been through too much to ever break it off.

Beth took two big scoops of cereal and Harry took a small scoop. Elizabeth’s mind was flooding with good and bad. She was so incredibly happy for Harry for even thinking about taking another step in life. But, part of her brain was thinking that Harry was too young to do something incredibly foolish. Marriage wasn’t just something that could be thrown away after you get sick of the other person. They’re papers you have to go through. He was only 25 for God’s sake. That was way too young to be thinking about marriage, wasn’t it? He had a whole life to live. “So…how’re you going to do it?” Beth asked, her head beginning to hurt from overthinking so much.

“I think I’m just going to wake her up one day with a diamond ring in my hand because that just seems so easy.” Harry answered, “She was never one to like making a big deal about things. I’m sure she wants me to keep it simple.”

Beth laughed at Harry’s lazy action to a priceless event and his reason behind it. It occurred to her why they call it a ’Couch Potato’. It almost made her want a boyfriend of her own. Unfortunately, that was unlikely to happen. She still hadn’t fully recovered from her last boyfriend. No matter how hard she tried to move on from him…nothing seemed to help. The memories were just too strong.

Beth pushed to bowl over to Harry indicating that he could have the rest. Harry took a few more bites of cereal before finishing it off. Beth put it in the side of the sink where dirty dishes belong. There wasn’t a dishwasher. Harry passed Beth his spoon and she also put it in the sink along with the bowl full of milk. Harry was still smiling.

“So, enough about my love life,” Harry said, changing the subject. “What about yours? Has it gone into pieces yet?”

Beth shrugged. Harry meant it as a joke, and she knew that, but it still made her heart ache. She walked out of the kitchen and heard Harry’s chair scrape across the floor. Harry shuffled his feet until he caught up with Beth. He eyed her curiously, wondering if he said the wrong thing.

“What happened?” Harry asked. She stopped walking and sat down on the couch. Harry sat down next to her. “Come on, Beth. Please? You know you can tell me. I’m your big brother. You’re obligated to tell me about the shitty stuff that happens in your life.”

Beth glared at Harry and he laughed. Beth rolled her eyes and adjusted her body, trying to get comfortable. Her legs were resting on Harry’s lap and her head was resting against a throw pillow. Harry pulled the lever back so that his legs rested on the couch’s footrest.

“I had a boyfriend.” Beth admitted softly, silently hoping that he wouldn’t hear her.

Harry’s eyes brightened and he hit Beth’s shoulder in a playful way. “That a girl! Beth has a boyfriend.”

Beth glared at Harry. “Had.” She corrected. “I had a boyfriend. We broke up about a week after you left. It happened last year.”

Harry’s smile faded and his eyes were no longer shining bright. They returned back to their normal green state. His overprotectiveness sunk in as all the horrible things this man could’ve done to her flashed in her mind. There was the possibility that he could’ve left her on the side of the road to die. The idea of attending her funeral made his whole body ache to the very bone.

“I’ll kill him.” Harry said through clenched teeth. “Even if the break up was minor, I’ll kill him. I…I don’t care what you say. I will hurt him and he’ll be sorry he ever messed with you.”

Beth grabbed the remote that was laying on the coffee table. She turned on the TV and flipped to the cooking channel. It was her the only channel that felt like home. Their mother had always made dinner depending on what was on the cooking channel that day. Needless to say, their mother wasn’t the best cook. Some guy with frizzy hair and a white chef hat on was teaching how to make some fish wrapped in Italian bread with vegetables. Beth had no interest in making the dish, but she loved the cooking channel.

Beth closed her eyes to rest them. She was silent. Harry was silent. The apartment almost seemed…peaceful. Although, it was always peaceful and silent.



——-



Beth’s fingers moved rapidly on the black and white keys. Her eyes weren’t even glancing at them. Her eyes were focused on the sheet of black notes and rests in front of her. She knew she would hit the notes right. It was the first piece she learned when she turned fourteen. But she started her pianist career when she was eight. Being 22 now she’d, of course, mastered it completely. And never forgot it. It was her favorite one.

She went line after line. Bar after bar. Measure after measure. Note after note. Her mind became wrapped up in the music. It was all she could think about. It was all she knew in that very moment. Everything else was a blank page. It was a surprise because her mind was generally splattered with ink, soaking the blank canvas like paper towels soaking up a spill.

Her fingers were on beat. Her leg was tapping against the carpet in a fast rhythm. It was strange because her music never sounded robotic which was hard to master every time. She wanted to get this piece done with because if she did, she would think she’d be able to forget it. Forget the phone call. Forget the words her dad told her. Forget the choking noise her dad made right before he hung up. Forget the truth. Forget what she knew and try to ignore it and forget what she did afterwards.

Black bras. White snow. Blue sky. Green grass. Hot summers. Wooden chairs. Red farm houses. Pink pigs. Everything in Beth’s world flashed before her. It was as if a major motion picture flowed through her mind. Her hands dropped to her sides. She wish they didn’t, though. She needed to keep playing. She needed the dark noise to cover up and block out her thoughts. And then, all of a sudden and all at once, her body turned numb. She tried to ignore the painful thought. She tried to push it out of her mind. But it was all she could think about. The blinding thought that struck tears in her eyes. I actually believed,” Beth thought, “that this was all over.”

Mom. Cancer. Killing. Her. Mom. Killing. Cancer. Her. Cancer. Killing. Her. Mom. Her mom was dying and there was nothing she could do. There had to be, though. A song—any song—that could cure her lungs. Her lungs that were made of cancer. She didn’t have any money to spare. She couldn’t fly out to London to see her. It was hopeless. If she died by morning, she would’ve wished even more that she could’ve done something. Anything.

The apartment was silent, it really was. She was silent. The TV was silent. The piano was silent. The only thing that wasn’t silent was her head. Nothing in her mind was ever silent. Nor had it ever been. Of course, there was something Beth always worried about. She worried that her mom would be alive by daylight. That Harry would get hit by a car on the way to work. Or maybe, Trevor would come back and haunt her even more than she had.

It took her awhile to realize that she stopped playing piano. Her head turned to face the other side of the room. The clock was blaring the red numbers: 3:45. It was a blank moment in her life when she remember falling asleep before midnight. Lately, it’d been getting harder and harder for her to sleep at all. But, she slowly, like a zombie, stood up from her piano bench and went to bed.

Beth kept her eyes closed as she drifted off to sleep.

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