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I Just Need A Friend Right Now

Chapter Two

“I’m so sorry,” I said, trying to compose myself. I wanted to slap my hand to my forehead for letting that slip. “You just caught me off guard.”

Harry was still grinning, waiting for me to answer. His hands were folded together and he was leaning on his left arm. His hoodie from just minutes before was already off, leaving him in just a black t-shirt. I could see some of his tattoos on his left arm. The anchor on his wrist, the rose. I knew there was a ship on his upper arm and an eagle on the arm farthest from me.

“Yes, that was me,” I finally said.

“Do you know him?” Harry asked. His voice was low, just above a whisper. Mix that with the gravelly nature of his voice and I looked down at my own hands for a moment to hide the expression wanting to show on my face. There was no way that I was going to make a fool of myself in front of Harry Styles when I had to sit next to him for the next eight hours.

I composed myself quickly before he thought I wasn’t going to answer. I looked back up at him. He was still looking at me.

“No, I don’t.” I made myself relax and settle back into my seat. I could still see him from my new position in the seat. If he did the same, though, we wouldn’t be able to talk face-to-face. “I just felt bad, honestly. If he’d been my grandpa, I would hope someone would be nice enough to help.”

He nodded his head, closing his eyes for a brief moment, agreeing. “I would hope the same. I don’t think anyone else would have helped him.”

“Honestly,” I started. I switched my position again to where I was sitting sideways in the seat, facing him. The announcement had come and gone, but I knew from experience we would still be another ten minutes or so from taking off. I lowered my voice, not wanting any passing cabin crew workers to eavesdrop. “I thought at least one of the workers would help, but they didn’t. Then when you passed us-” I saw his eyes get ever-so wider and then return to normal just as fast. It was too late now to not say what I was about to. I did feel the need to clarify though. “Which I didn’t know it was you, of course. I just saw a hoodie. I thought that it wasn’t fair they would escort you, but not him. He was pleasant to talk to anyways.”

“The escort is just a formality. They walk us from the lounge through the jetway after everyone has boarded. Easiest way to get through an airport without being seen.”

“Must be a hard life,” I said, laying the sarcasm on thick. I saw him crack a half-smile. “I’m sorry. That was kind of rude.”

“It’s fine,” he said, dragging out the word just longer than needed.

Just as I was about to say something else, the pilot came on the intercom to announce we were about to take off. The seatbelt sign chimed on, putting a pause on our conversation. Or possibly a stop. He was just asking a single question; I’m sure he wasn’t planning on having a full conversation.

I could feel the plane lurch forward as we started toward the runway. I wished I had a window seat. I- and Harry- were both in the middle section. Most of the other first class seats, from what I could tell, were taken by men and women in business suits. They reminded me of the woman in the restaurant.

My eyes wandered over to the space where Harry had just been. I could see his hand moving but then drop to his lap. That was it. Neither of us bothered to put the little window up, but I still couldn’t see anything except the wall of the plane. The tan walls that enclosed each seat were split up with a dark cherry wood section just under the window where the table top sat.

The plane was in position now. There was a split second where the plane felt like it had stopped completely, but I knew in just a second that it would take off, picking up speed fast. I smiled as I felt the sensation of the plane bounding down the runway. The plane wobbled back and forth a moment as the wheels left the ground and we started ascending toward the sky.

Once the plane settled into a steady climb, I grabbed my phone back out of my bag and turned it back on. I had put it in airplane mode earlier, but turned it off during takeoff. Just a weird superstition my family had for as long as I could remember. I looked back at the television in front of me and scrolled through the movie options on the current screen. I’d probably watch something on the second half of the flight.

I turned back to my phone though. I double checked it was on airplane mode and then pulled up my photos. I scrolled through, realizing just how many photos I took over the last several days. I wanted to go through and ‘favorite’ some of them to easily print off later. Possibly a thousand photos later, I was back at Heathrow airport when I arrived.

The airport took up only a few photos. I kicked myself for realizing I hadn’t taken any this morning either. The next set of photos were of the drive back to Serena’s house and with her family. It was just the two of us- she was driving obviously- for the ride home. She lived just thirty minutes outside of the London limits. She drove through different parts of London while I sat and snapped photo after photo of the buildings. It took a couple minutes for me to get used to sitting in what was the passenger seat. And the right hand turns across the intersection. I would never attempt to drive in London, that was for sure.

The next day of photos were of Abbey Road and the studio. We spent almost an hour waiting in a line of other tourists to take our photo. The weather was a typical day in London. I settled for a pair of light jeans and a dark blue t-shirt. I also had a black hoodie with me just in case it got cooler. I never went anywhere without it really. It was just the two of us in the line, instead of the normal four. We made light conversation with the family behind us. They were from America as well, in London for a large international family reunion. They were meeting people from England, France, and Ireland.

I flipped through a couple more photos before it switched from the infamous crossing to the studio itself. I had photos of the wall out front where people were allowed to sign their names. I spent a solid ten minutes looking at the different signatures and even signing my own. I chose just below the top of the wall closest to the gate. Just in case I ever came back to find it. Maybe one day.

The next photo was the actual studio. The gates were closed but you could see the sign above the front door. The double doors were closed too. I swiped once more to the photo Serena took of me.

A sudden sneeze made me look up and to my left. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been looking at my pictures, but I noted the seatbelt sign was off and the stewardess was walking our way. On Harry’s side.

“Bless you,” I said, knowing it had been him that sneezed. I saw him appear in the space again.

“Thank you,” he said. I smiled at him as he stayed in the window. The stewardess grabbed his attention, asking which drink he would like. I realized then I never got the one she asked me earlier.

I watched as she interacted with Harry. I could tell by the way she smiled and the extra care she took to set everything on the table for him that she knew exactly who he was. I rolled my eyes and looked back at my photos. I was sure I wouldn’t get half that attention when she came around on my side.

“I live near there,” Harry’s voice was there again. I looked up at him, seeing that he was once again leaning against the divider. “I don’t mean to pry, but I know the building. Abbey Studio right?”

“Yes,” I said. I tilted my phone toward him so he could see better. It was still on the picture of me that Serena took. I was standing just outside the black gates. I swiped across the screen to show the one she took of me signing my name to the wall. “It was the first thing we did when I flew over. I got in late in the evening so this was the next day.” I looked up at Harry. He was staring intently, like what I was saying was actually interesting. “You recorded your album or something there, didn’t you?”

“Sort of.” He smiled, showing his teeth again. “It was for the behind-the-scenes documentary for the first album. Did you watch it?”

“I did,” I admitted. I’ve watched it twice actually, but that I kept to myself. “I really enjoyed it. I love music documentaries. Music in general, really.”

“What kind of music do you listen to?”

I smiled, letting a small laugh escape. This question was always hard to answer. I listened to everything and anything. “Just about everything. Pop, rock, country, Disney. I prefer the older over the newer most of the time. My current playlist is more women of rock: Benatar, Joan Jett, Nicks. I also have a British playlist. For some reason, I’ve been obsessed with discovering new artists from the UK.”

“Am I on your playlist?” He moved his hand to rest his chin in it, waiting for me to answer. I could see his smile reach his eyes, letting me know he was just joking around.

The lady with the cart came to my seat now, making me turn around before I could answer. “Coffee or tea?”

“Coffee, please. Can I get three sugars with it?”

The lady didn’t say a word as she set the cup and packets of sugar down on the table. She was promptly on to the next person before I could say thank you. Definitely a Harry fan.

“No tea? You really are American,” Harry commented.

“I got made fun of all week for my lack of knowledge on how to correctly make tea,” I said, glancing between the steaming coffee as I added the sugar and the one cream she left me and Harry. “So I’d rather just stick to what I know.”

“Fair enough,” he said. “But a good cup of tea can make your whole day better.”

“So I’ve been told,” I said. I took a sip of the coffee for dramatic effect. “But us Americans prefer our coffee. And to answer your question, yes you are on the playlist. Kiwi was the first song I added on.”

“Who else is on the list?” Harry asked.

I took a moment to sip my coffee, allowing the hot liquid to warm me from the inside. English weather wasn’t the warmest, even in the summer, and the air conditioning blowing from the vent above me wasn’t helping. Even in my hoodie, I was still feeling cold.

I grabbed my phone and closed out my photos, pulling up Spotify. I tilted my phone toward him to show the ‘British Prep Playlist’ that I made about a month before my trip overseas. Thankfully I had it downloaded onto my phone.

“Ed Sheeran, pretty much all of your old bandmates, Mae Muller, Conor Maynard, Olly Murs, and Capaldi. There’s a few more spread through with a song or two but those are the main ones.” I scrolled through the playlist, letting him see. I closed out of the playlist, revealing for a second my other playlists.

“Hold on,” Harry said. He reached across and grabbed my phone. Really, he grabbed my hand. His fingers enclosed around mine, completely engulfing my hand with his. I looked up at him, wondering what he wanted to see. “You have a ‘Bad Bitches’ playlist? Whose in it?”

I let my phone go, letting Harry take it to look. I didn’t have anything interesting enough to hide on my phone anyways. The playlist he was referring to was the one that included artists like Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, Loretta Lynn, and more of the artists that I grew up listening to with my mom. “This is a great playlist,” he said after a couple seconds, handing me my phone back.

“That’s the one I mentioned earlier. That’s inspired by Saturday mornings growing up listening to music with my mom. She would down several cups of coffee and blast music through the entire house. She’d usually be cleaning and singing at the top of her lungs, singing along. Sometimes dancing. I’ve never fallen out of love with the music.”

“Your mom sounds amazing,” Harry said. I clicked my phone off and set it back down on the table. “Great taste in music.”

“You performed with Stevie Nicks, didn’t you? I bet that was amazing.”

“It was,” he said. I took another sip of my coffee, feeling the first bit of caffeine kicking in. “I grew up listening to her with my mum as well. She’s wonderful.”

“I saw a video I think on Instagram of you performing Landslide with her. You sound great together.”

“Thank you,” Harry gave a shy smile. “It was all her though. I think there’s a clip where I just stop singing too.”

“I mean,” I said, offering a sly grin. “I wasn’t going to mention that one. I don’t blame you though. I think I would be too starstruck to talk to a lot of artists like her. My parents and I went to see Joan Jett and Heart a couple years ago and it was fantastic. Just off the beach at my favorite venue.”

“Where are you from?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Virginia,” I said, nodding my head. “There’s a venue at Virginia Beach that I love to go to. It’s an amphitheater, so I usually sit out on the lawn.”

“Are you from the beach?”

“I wish,” I said. “I live about five hours away; in a place called Roanoke. I try to get at least one beach weekend and concert in each summer.”

I watched Harry’s face. He scrunched his nose up, like he was in deep thought. I wasn’t sure what he was going to say. I looked from him to the coffee sitting on the table. I smiled, letting it hit me that I was having such a casual conversation with someone like Harry Styles.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been there before, on tour I mean.” His voice again broke my concentration on the coffee. I laughed, more to myself than to what he said.

“Oh no,” I said. “One Direction was much too big to even consider stopping by Roanoke and even you as a solo artist wouldn’t see it worth it either. Too busy playing to all those hundreds of thousands of seats.” I said the last bit as sarcastic as I could, rolling my eyes in a dramatic way for more emphasis.

“I’ve played smaller venues before,” he said, sounding defensive but the look in his eyes told me he was only joking as well. “Ultimately, it isn’t up to me anyways. Especially when we were in the band. I just go where they tell me to. I’m supposed to be in Los Angeles for some appearance event this week. Honestly, I don’t even know what it’s for.”

“Do you ever just take off? If I had the money, I don’t think you would see me for a month or two at a time. I would just go everywhere for no reason.”

“I wish,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to do so when you’re photographed everywhere you go. Which is why I use the escorts to my advantage from time to time in airports. I get dropped off and picked up in designated spots, but sometimes fans or even workers will see me and go online and post about where I am.”

“I’ve noticed that,” I said. “I’ve come across photos on my explore page here and there of updates about where you are. I honestly haven’t even thought about asking for a photo. I think it’s much more memorable to just talk.”

“I appreciate it,” he said. I could see the smile reach his eyes with ease. I felt that he really meant it. I don’t think many people met him without asking for a photo to post. “It’s been nice.”

“I can’t say the same for the stewardess,” I said, lowering my voice. “She was definitely taking her time helping you.”

“I noticed that,” Harry admitted. “I have to say, I enjoyed your reaction when you first looked over. It’s about the typical reaction, but you recovered quite… well.”

“I don’t know how you do it,” I said honestly. I could tell he was looking at me seriously, expecting something sentimental about how I didn’t understand how he dealt with the fame or always being recognized. My mind was going somewhere else though. “I would be messing with people left and right. I’d be tweeting I’m heading one place but go somewhere else, tell people I get comments of my look alikes all the time, just mess with people. Have fun with it. Nothing harmful, of course. But just don’t acknowledge the recognition sometimes.”

My smile grew when I saw him roll his eyes. When he was done being slightly dramatic, he looked at me again. The light streaming in from the window in the seat across the aisle hit his face as the plane slanted ever-so-slightly to adjust its course. His green eyes reflected the light, making them the clearest green I’d ever seen.

“What would you do in this instance?” His pointer finger motioned toward the back of the first class section, away from the pilot. We weren’t on one of the fancier flights, where the first class was on the upper deck. I definitely couldn’t have afforded that.

I looked back at Harry, hunching over in the seat to be able to hear him as he whispered the question. From anyone else’s perspective, you would think we were in a deep conversation.

“I would like to disclose first that I am the person my friends come to when they need a scheme. I have no fear of messing with strangers.” I could see the corners of his lips raise the tiniest bit as he accepted this disclosure and nodded, letting me know he wanted me to continue. I thought for a moment before saying the first thing that popped into my head. “She’s clearly a fan. I could tell that from the way she interacted with you earlier. She’s more than likely going to make the same round, which means you’ll be first. Be overly polite, but also not just to her. Maybe turn and ask me what I want. Make it seem like we’ve become best friends in the time we’ve been in the air.” I could see Harry’s confused look and just shook my head. I didn’t know the way to describe to him how jealousy worked in a fan’s mind. It was different from normal jealousy I believed. They would be thrilled to have the opportunity to interact with their favorite artist, but also bummed that he was being nice to other people, while also still happy that he was nice to everyone. “If I asked you to join me, would you trust me? I can show you better than tell you.”

Harry was silent for a moment. I could see he was contemplating what I was asking, clearly wondering what I had planned. I leaned back in my seats and sighed, wanting to roll my eyes. “It’s not like I’m going to try and kiss you or anything. No offense, but you’re just not my type.”

“And what is your type?” he asked. I noted that the woman was glancing our way now. I moved to sit on the edge of my seat, sitting close enough to Harry that I could smell the cologne on his skin.

“I’ll tell you later if you trust me right now,” I said. “I’m not one to back down. It’s harmless and the most that will come out of it is that you shared an airplane breakfast with the person you were sat beside. Call the press now.”

Harry still seemed skeptical of my small plan. I reminded him that he was the one that asked in the first place. I was just obliging by showing. He gave in, standing up just as the lady started down the aisle to hand out food.

I looked at my phone. It was ten minutes until nine. We’d been in the air for almost an hour now. I wasn’t too hungry yet from my breakfast earlier and the coffee that was already cooling on the table. I would still probably get something small. I watched him as he picked up his phone and drink and stood up.

My eyes drifted from him to the lady now pushing the cart. She was stopped, helping the first seat of the section. Mine and Harry’s seats were positioned in the middle, facing the back of the plane. I knew there was a kitchen at the back of the plane where the bathrooms were for the economy class, but there must be a separate cabin space for First Class food and drinks in between us and the Premiere and Club World members.

Harry walked around the opposite way of the lady. I didn’t bother to turn and see him walk through the curtain on the right side of the plane and come back out on my side. There were two sets of seats in the middle and two single seats on either side at the windows, making it eight seats total in first class. Each seat was spacious enough that even when Harry sat on the seat opposite of my chair and I pulled the table top out fully from the wall, we had plenty of space to stretch our legs. Of course, I remained cross-legged in the seat.

Sitting directly across from him now, I realized just how tall he was. And broad shouldered. I definitely felt much smaller with my five-foot-two height. Even sitting, his head came over half way up the TV mounted on the wall behind him.

“Are you okay?” Harry asked, breaking my thoughts. I realized I had just been staring at him.

“I’m sorry,” I said, almost laughing. I glanced behind him to see that the lady was helping the person in the seat just in front of us. The walls of each seat were high so I couldn’t see what they ordered or even who they were. I looked back at him a moment later. He was setting his things down on the table. Just his drink and phone. “Has anyone told you that you’re kind of intimidating? I mean, your height and stature. I knew I was short, but I feel like a child sitting across from you.”

We both laughed at that. Neither of us were loud, but I caught the lady out of the corner of my eye. I smiled, aiming it toward Harry but it was because of her reaction. She had been staring right at me. I guess she hadn’t seen Harry sit down across from me. Her eyes darted from his empty seat to look around quickly. She couldn’t see him sitting with me. That would surprise her.

“So,” Harry said. His voice wasn’t near as deep when he was making normal conversation. Must just be something he did during interviews to portray a certain persona from time to time. “Now that I’m over here, you owe me an answer.”

“Answer to what?” I grabbed my drink and finished my coffee in three final sips. It wasn’t even warm anymore, but I didn’t want to waste it. I knew what he was asking.

“What’s your type?”

I pressed my lips into a thin line, squinting at him. I was trying to gauge how to answer. “Don’t get me wrong,” I started. “I find you attractive like millions of people around the world do but when I think of you, I think more really good friends instead of a hookup or dating. My type is more…” I trailed off.

How was I supposed to describe that my type was more one of his ex- bandmates without saying their name or describing him too specifically?

“I really don’t know how to describe my type. Looks have a small part in it, but I really just go off of vibes and personality. I do have a soft spot for guys that have a little bad boy in them. Like they wouldn’t think twice to sock someone but only if they were defending me or someone else.”

Harry nodded, but didn’t say anything. I held eye contact with him. I could feel he was searching for more, waiting for me to say something else. I crossed my arms over my chest and sat back in the seat. “That’s all you get.”

“Obviously you know who I am. Is that just because you’re a fan of mine or were you a fan of the band?”

“When did I agree to play Twenty Questions?” I pulled the sleeves of my hoodie over my knuckles, thinking of how I was going to answer him. “I see where you’re going with this,” I said. He was trying to eliminate some of the guys. Of course, if he based it off the band he would know exactly who I was thinking of. Not that I would ever admit that to him. “As much as I’m sure you would enjoy that, my taste in men was not influenced by One Direction.”

Harry was about to say something, but I cut him off with a finger, darting my eyes to the stewardess. I could see her eyes still scanning Harry’s empty seat. She smiled as we made eye contact, but that was it. Her eyes fell on Harry. I could see several emotions cloud her face in a quick procession.

Shock to see him sitting there.

Happy to see him.

Curiosity as to why he was sitting with me.

Jealousy as her eyes darted to me in a matter of half a second and back to him.

Calm again as she regained her composure and asked us which breakfast we would prefer this morning.

“I’ll have the French toast with another tea, please.” Harry looked at the lady, making eye contact with her for several seconds. She had a fair complexion, which showed the color rising in her cheeks clearly. He was the one to break the stare. “What would you like?” he asked, turning to me.

It took another second for the lady to look away from the side of Harry’s head. She must have been a bigger fan than I thought. She was definitely going to tell someone about this.

“I’ll take a strawberry muffin and whatever fruit juice you have. Thank you.”

She nodded, busying herself with grabbing the food and drinks. She held out my muffin and I took it from her. The juice came in a clear glass cup. I watched as she poured it from a carton. It was just orange juice.

Harry’s plate was set on the table with care, as was his cup of tea. Without asking, she sat exactly two sugar cubes and a small milk jug with enough milk to turn the black tea ten shades lighter.

“Let me know if you need anything else,” she said, making an effort to tear her eyes away from Harry’s smile to look at me before moving on to the man across from us. He had the window cover pulled down now and looked like he was about to fall asleep.

“And that,” I said, grabbing the muffin to open the wrapping. “Is how you make a fan jealous. No harm, no foul. And, I’m assuming she just happened to remember how you took your first tea?”

I could tell by the twitch of Harry’s upper lip that I was correct in my assumption. I watched him as he silently poured the milk and stirred. The tea was already brewed, so I voiced my question. It was a great british debate.

“Normally,” I started, grabbing his attention for a moment before he dropped the first sugar cube in and continued stirring. “Are you a milk first kind of guy or no? I got lectured time and time again every time my friend had tea this week about it.”

“Tea first,” he said without hesitation. I smiled, hearing the seriousness in his tone. The British really don’t mess with their tea. “Did you pour the milk in first when you made it?”

“I never had the chance to do it wrong,” I said, smiling. I leaned forward over the table and ripped a small piece off my muffin, popping it in my mouth. I chewed as I watched him drop the second cube in and finish stirring. The french toast was still hidden under a serving lid but I could smell it filling the cabin from the other passengers. “I still prefer my sweet tea. Iced cold, loads of sugar.”

“Tea in America is good,” he agreed. “I like the one from McDonald’s. We don’t have that here.” I loved the way the British accent made it sound more like ‘Mac Donald’ than ‘Mic’.

“I prepared myself for that,” I said. “I actually brought a pack of the tea they use and made some for Serena- my friend- the same way they make it in the States. It was quite sweet for her taste. Had to water it down a little bit.”

“I still remember the first time we went over to America with the band,” Harry said. He continued talking while opening the dish with the french toast. I kept tearing off little pieces of my muffin while listening to him talk. “We ate at just about every fast food place there was. There were so many more options than we were used to. More options than anywhere else in the world.”

“That’s America for ya,” I joked. “We like to choose how unhealthy we want to eat.” Harry stopped the fork just in front of his mouth. I saw a small drip of syrup fall back to the plate. He tilted his head to the side, smiling with his mouth wide open. “I’m only partly kidding. It’s convenient. I eat there more often than I should when I don’t feel like cooking at home. We do have a lot of options though.

“I actually work in the glorious world of fast food.”

I knew Harry could hear the sarcasm in my voice. He held a finger up, chewing faster. I waved my hand to dismiss him, telling him to take his time with no words. It wasn’t like we were in a rush or anything.

“Do you like it?” he asked, already gearing up to take his next bite.

I dropped most of the sarcasm from my voice when I answered. “If you like being overworked for not enough pay and having customers verbally abuse you and throw food at you when they get mad.”

I could see Harry’s eyes grow wide at that. I just nodded. “It’s happened more than once. Had a guy throw his food back into the drive-thru window because I couldn’t give him a discount on his food for the wait. But it pays the bills for now.”

“Did he really?” Harry asked. I nodded. “He’s a dick.”

I laughed at that, covering my mouth with the sleeve on my hoodie to keep the sound from traveling too far away from us. I just wasn’t expecting that from Harry. I shook my head, trying to compose myself. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks from embarrassment. I didn’t look around to see if anyone was looking at me.

“He was, but he wasn’t the only one. I’ve had people yell at me because their food wasn’t up fast enough. Someone got mad because I forgot to give them the fries with their meal. I messed up an order when ringing someone up. The list goes on and on. I’m counting my days until I’m gone.”

“Are you leaving soon? What do you want to do?” I watched him as he took his final bite. The french toast was only three small strips drizzled with syrup and what I assumed had been a dollop of whipped cream. He popped the strawberry in his mouth, clearing the plate.

“I have no idea when I’m leaving, but I hope in the next year. Ultimate goal would be to become a full-time writer.”

“A writer? Like songs? Going to try and pitch me a song or something?”

I rolled my eyes. He was finishing up his tea and I took the moment to wash down the muffin with the orange juice. “Not unless you have some friends in the publishing business. I want to be a New York Times Bestseller. Ultimate goal, of course. I’d settle for most anything as long as I get to write.”

“Have you written anything yet?” he asked. His voice sounded genuine and he kept eye contact. I really wasn’t meaning to tell him about it.

“I don’t want to pitch you a story or something,” I said, mimicking his same sarcastic tone he’d just used. Harry flashed a smile and rested his chin on his folded hands. “I do have one book self published online. It isn’t much, but it’s been bought a handful of times. Not near enough to quit my job just yet. One day.”

“What’s it called?” Harry picked up his phone and slid his finger across the screen, unlocking it. I looked at him questioningly. “Where can you buy it?”

“You want to buy my book?” I asked, the complete disbelief clear in my voice and written all over my face. “You don’t have to do that.”

“No, I want to write a negative review. Say the author is terrible, rude, and mean to the cabin crew.” He looked from his phone to me without lifting his head. He had removed his sunglasses when he came over to sit. His hair wasn’t long but it did look like he was starting to grow it out a little bit. A single curl fell from its place, blocking part of his view. He shot me a wink when I feigned shock from his words. “I like to read occasionally.”

I still didn’t want to tell him. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Having family and friends read it was one thing. Having someone like Harry Styles?

“It’s called To Write Love. S. J. Covington.”

I refrained from biting my nails as I watched him type in the title. He turned his phone to me to confirm he had the right book. I nodded. “You really don’t have to,” I repeated. “It isn’t that good.”

“I’m sure it’s good,” he said. “And it’s bought. I’ll let you know what I think.” His voice trailed off as he stared at the screen. He was reading the description. “It sounds good. Did you create the cover yourself as well?”

“I did,” I said, relaxing a bit. “I did everything from the writing, to editing, to the cover. Spent about a year and a half on it.”

“Can I take your plate?” a voice asked, causing both of us to look from each other to the lady standing beside us. It wasn’t the girl from earlier. This lady was an older woman, about forty. Neither of us had been paying attention. I tossed my muffin wrapper onto Harry’s plate before he handed it over to the lady. I still had half a cup of juice so I kept that.

“Could I get a water when you get a chance? Thank you.”

Harry flashed her a smile and went right back to his phone. She looked at me, asking if I wanted something. “Could I get a Coke? Thank you so much.”

“Of course, sweetie.” I couldn’t help but smile at her heavy accent. “I’ll be right back with it.”

Harry now had his phone in one hand and was resting his head in the other. I watched as his thumb flipped a virtual page twice before saying something.

“I’m sorry, I can’t watch you read that. I’m going to the bathroom.”

I stood up and stretched my legs for a second before walking toward the front of the plane. The bathrooms for first class were set between our seats and the cockpit. They weren’t much bigger than the economy class, but I didn’t care. I was more just wanting to get away from watching someone read my book in front of me. I was proud of it, but it was still weird.

I spent just a minute in the bathroom. A couple of deep breaths and putting my hair in a fresh ponytail calmed my nerves just a bit. I wasn’t sure if Harry would still be sitting in my seat or not, but I was going to find out. I washed my hands real quick and opened the door.

The younger lady was standing there. She smiled when I noticed her. “How are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m good,” I said politely. I could see that she was loading chips and drinks on the cart. Or crisps as they’d probably call them. “I’m glad I decided to upgrade to first class. It’s been nice.”

“I bet,” she said. From the tone of her voice, I knew what she was trying to say. Her eyes flickered toward the seats and back to me. She had a smile on her face now. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you two knew each other.”

“I don’t-” I said, playing right into her hands. “We were just talking. Who is he? He seems nice.”

“You don’t know who that is?” Her expression was absolutely priceless. I looked down to pull my sleeves down over my hands, hiding the smile that was fighting to show. Of course I knew who he was. “That’s Harry Styles. Singer, actor. Was in One Direction?”

“Oh,” I said, drawing out the word, like this was news to me. “I’ve heard of him. That’s cool.”

“Cool?” I could tell she was trying to keep her composure as much as I was. I would have to end this conversation soon if I wanted to keep a straight face. Her eyes were lit up as bright and wide as they could be as she started talking. “I have been working with the airline for a couple years now. I’ve dreamed of a chance like this to meet someone famous. I don’t know how you aren’t freaking out. Don’t repeat any of this, please. If he knew I was a fan, I don’t know if he would be weirded out by that or not. Plus, we are supposed to remain professional and I’m already having a hard time doing that.”

“My lips are sealed,” I said. I dared to crack a smile at her. There was no judgement. Everything she just said was what went through my head when I first saw him leaning against the space between our seats. “I’m going to go back and sit down though. I’ll see you in a bit I guess.” I motioned to the cart of snacks and she nodded.

I hurried to my seat. Harry was still sitting there. He looked like he hadn’t moved a muscle since I stood up. I snapped my fingers in front of his face to grab his attention.

“This is really good,” he said. “I’m already on the second chapter.”

“Ah, you’re about to be introduced to Sean. He’s my favorite character I wrote in that whole book.” I sat down, crossing my arms over my chest. I reached up quickly to turn down the AC knob. Harry was looking at me when I settled back down. “By the way, the stewardess? A much bigger fan than I thought. She doesn’t want you to know though. I told her I knew about you, but I didn’t know who you were until she said something.”

I could see Harry struggle to keep a straight face. I was right there with him. I could see the hint of his smile behind his hand. His phone buzzed on the table, grabbing his attention from what I said.

His entire face changed in an instant. It wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t smiling anymore. His face was more focused than anything. I could see him purse his lips before replying to a message. “Work never ends,” he commented, turning his phone face down on the table.

“Where are you headed again? Los Angeles?”

He nodded. “There’s an event I’ve been invited to. Some well-known execs are going to be there and my manager thought it would be a good idea for me to go and be photographed with them in some pap shots.”

“How does that help you?”

“Networking,” he said simply. I wasn’t going to pretend to know about the ins and outs of the music business or anything like that. I’m sure my face said as much as well. “Pretty much I go meet these people, get some photos, other people see me with them, my name gets around for projects and work. There’s a lot more to it, but that about sums it up.”

“That sounds…” I tried to find a nice word to say instead of boring. “Not fun?” I tilted my head, not sure if my point would come across with those words. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just assumed you got to pick and choose what you could do.”

“Not always,” he said. He leaned back against the wall, his head resting against the TV. I had turned it off before he sat down. “There are times when I will say no, but most of the time it’s for a charity or something so I would look a bit rude if I didn’t.”

“I know I said it earlier, but don’t you ever just disappear? Even for a long weekend or something. I’m sure there has to be places that you can go where you aren’t recognized.”

“Rarely,” Harry said. “I like to travel a lot. I’ve been to several countries on my own, but it always seems that someone spots me. In an airport, on the street.”

I nodded my head. “That’s because you go to all the big places. Small towns are where it’s at. Either no one will believe it’s actually you or they just won’t notice.”

“Is Roanoke a small town?” I loved the way he pronounced my hometown. Locals tended to leave the ‘a’ sound out altogether while anyone who wasn’t from around the area over-pronounced it. Mix that with his accent and my gut instinct was to correct him. I held back though as his phone buzzed on the table again.

He looked at his phone again, but put it back down immediately. His eyes turned on me. I could hear one of the other passengers talking a bit loud. I wondered if we were too. I hadn’t been paying attention to it.

“It’s small-ish,” I said. “I was born and raised in and around the area. Big enough to have a downtown but small enough to still feel like a solid community. It has its ups and downs like every city, but I love living there for now.”

“For now? Are you planning on moving? Where do you want to go?”

“Ironically, a bigger city. I’m a firm believer that everyone should experience life in a small town if they really want to experience American culture as they make up over half the country. But there aren’t any writing opportunities for what I want to do there unless I did remote work.”

“Is it around the D.C. area? I know Virginia is just below.”

“It’s about a four hour drive. I’m renting a car when I land and driving home.”

His phone buzzed once again and his face and posture changed completely this time. I saw the broodiness forming in his expression. His eyebrows pulled together in frustration. I could see he looked annoyed. He mumbled something under his breath that I didn’t catch even sitting two feet away from him.

“Everything okay?” I asked. He seemed quite upset over something.

“It’s fine,” he said. He started to reply to whoever it was though. His fingers moved around the screen quickly, typing something lengthy. I sat in silence, waiting for him to finish. After a second, I checked my own phone. Of course I wouldn’t have anything since I didn’t want to pay for the WiFi onboard. I did notice that we’d been in the air for three hours already. “I’m sorry. My team just informed me that they wanted to add a few things to do while in Los Angeles. I was told I’d have a few days off at least after the meeting.”

“If you want to disappear for a couple days, you can always come with me. I have four more days off, plenty of room in the house. I’m the only one living there. I can just about guarantee no one will know or care who you are. At least my family won’t.”

That got Harry’s attention. “Would no one realize you have someone living in the house with you?”

I had completely meant it as a joke. I loved that he didn’t even question the proposition, but was asking details. “No one comes by often enough to notice,” I said. “My family will stop by from time to time, but that’s about it. If it isn’t work or family related, I’m usually just at home chilling.”

“What about your friends? Wouldn’t they know who I am?”

“What friends?” I asked, laughing. “I just travelled over three thousand miles to visit my best friend in another country. I don’t have any real friends back home. Unless you count my cat, Dreiko.”

“It was more of a joke,” I said. His eyes flicked between me and his phone. Like he was really considering it. “But if you want to, let’s do it. Door is always open. I know how much I enjoy disappearing for a few days. I promise nothing more than a couple lazy days. I won’t tell anyone who you are or that you’re staying.” I shrugged, trying to play it off and let him know it’s totally up to him. “If it helps,” I added as an afterthought. “There’s an airport about five minutes from my house. Worse comes to worse, you can just transfer your ticket and fly off.”

“Let’s do it,” he said as soon as I finished the last word.

I couldn’t help but smile as he relaxed against the seat. He had a smirk on his face, like he was happy at just the thought of disappearing. I’m sure a couple days of no one asking for anything of him was a welcoming thought.

“Let’s do it,” I agreed, mirroring his smile.

fact or fiction
Mary Booth
Mary Booth
Read next: Jay Z: From Worst to Best
Mary Booth

Welcome to my Vocal page! I'm glad you're here and hope you enjoy the content I have to share. Currently, I only have one continuous story on this account, split up by chapters. Thank you for all the support.

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