“You can pick the movie,” I said, setting my cup down on the counter as Harry locked the back door behind him. I stepped out of my Nike slides, pushing them against the edge of the cabinets by the door. “I’ll get the popcorn started. I need to call my dad back anyways.”
Harry nodded and kicked off his shoes by the door frame leading into the living room.
I pulled my phone out as I reached for the box of popcorn. I asked Siri to call my dad. Even though it was already past midnight, I knew my parents would still be up. Friday nights were their movie nights.
I had just opened the plastic package when he answered. I left him on speaker phone so I could easily walk around the kitchen.
“Hey dad,” I said when he answered. “Sorry I missed your call. I was still out. I was getting something to drink.”
“You drinking tonight?” he asked. He sounded concerned. Not that I was twenty-six years old and living alone.
“I stopped and got coffee from Dunkin’.” I rolled my eyes as I clarified. I picked my drink up and swirled it around so he could hear it through the phone. “I’ve been seriously deprived of my iced coffee in the UK. They don’t have Dunkin’ over there.”
“How did you ever survive?” he asked dramatically. I took a sip of the drink and moved back to the microwave. I could hear something playing from the living room and decided to take my dad off speaker phone. I started the microwave and leaned back against the counter to wait for it.
After leaving the star, I decided that I was too awake to not get a coffee. There was a 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts but it was about a thirty minute drive away. Harry was down to just drive around. I took him through town to show him different places and tell stories of growing up in the area.
On the way back, we got into a conversation about how his manager handled the news that he didn’t get on the plane. He didn’t tell them where he was- just that he didn’t get on the plane. For all they knew, he was still in D.C..
“He wasn’t happy,” Harry said. “I told him I would be turning my phone off for the next couple days but I would be there Monday for the meetings.”
“Would they go as far as tracking you? Like through your phone?” I asked. I could hear Harry scoff at that idea. “I don’t know,” I said smiling. “I saw it in a movie once. Famous guy disappears and they send his manager out looking for him.”
“I don’t think they would,” he said. “But I’ll be back before they think to look here. I’d like to keep this place a secret if I could.”
I could hear it in his voice and my smile faded. He still wasn’t sure if I was going to spill all the details of him staying with me. I wouldn’t and I wanted him to know that. I didn’t have anyone to spill the secrets to even if I was that kind of person. Instead, I looked at him for a second, wanting to convey how serious I was.
“My door is always open,” I said. “If you ever feel like you just need a break and need to get away, you can come here.”
“I appreciate that,” he said. We were quiet the rest of the ride back to my house.
The beeping of the microwave brought me back to the kitchen and my dad talking on the phone. He was asking if I had any plans tomorrow morning because he needed some help to fix up the front little garden area while mom was out with her work friends for lunch.
“I want to surprise her with some new plants when she gets home,” he said.
I smiled. My dad was always doing little things for my mom, but more so here recently. I asked him about it once and he’d said Gretchen, my sister, had done a paper at school on different love languages. She did her paper by watching both our parents and myself for a month. Apparently Quality Time was mine.
“Hey, dad, can you give me just a second? I’ll be right back.” I set the phone down on the counter and walked into the living room with the bowl of popcorn.
Harry was sitting in the same spot he’d been in earlier. He was scrolling through the Netflix options. I leaned over the back of the couch, setting the popcorn beside him. I could see Dreiko sitting by his feet. He’d shown his face earlier before we left but already seemed annoyed at our presence.
“Hey,” I said quickly, grabbing Harry’s attention. “How would you feel about doing some yard work tomorrow? My dad wants to know if I can come over and help him plant some flowers while my mom is gone. I swear he won’t recognize you. I’ll just say you’re a work friend.”
“Sounds good,” Harry said without hesitation.
“Awesome,” I said. “I’ll be right back then. Pick something good.” I laid my hand on Harry’s shoulder for just a second before walking back to the kitchen.
“Hey, sorry,” I said, picking my phone up. “What time did you want me there? I have to drop the car off at eleven but that’s it.”
“You can just come over after that. Your mom is supposed to leave around eleven-thirty and she usually is out for a couple hours. I’ll make us some lunch.”
“Sounds good,” I said. “Would you be okay if I brought a friend with me? They’re from work. We were going to hang out a bit tomorrow but he’s down to come help.”
“He?” I rolled my eyes at that one word. It was the way he said it. Any time I mentioned a guy I got the same reaction. “That’s fine.”
“Just a friend,” I reiterated to him. “And okay. I’ll see you tomorrow then. Love you.”
I left my phone in the kitchen and went back to where Harry was. He was still scrolling through the options. “I have no idea what to pick,” he said, glancing over at me as I sat down on the other end of the couch. I kind of wanted to change out of my jeans before we watched a movie.
“We are going to meet him after I drop the car off,” I said. “And are you more rom-com or action?”
“I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. “I enjoy a variety of things.”
“It’s just us,” I said, switching positions to where my feet were tucked beside me while I leaned against the arm of the couch. “You don’t have to give interview answers. You can always put on a Christmas movie.”
I saw him from my peripheral vision shake his head, but he used the remote to search ‘Christmas’ and started looking through the options. “Ooh,” I said, stopping him from going further. “There’s the one I mentioned earlier. Where the famous guy up and disappears.”
“You’re a hopeless romantic, aren’t you?” he asked, but clicked the movie anyway. I couldn’t help but smile.
“Hopeless. Desperate. They’re the same thing right?”
The living room was filled with laughter from both of us as I reached for a handful of popcorn. I watched as Dreiko laid down in front of the fireplace, completely ignoring us.
I realized soon that Harry was a commentator when it came to watching movies. At least this one, where he had first hand experience in the industry they were portraying. He mumbled his agreement- or disagreement- with certain details. He also tried to predict the movie as well.
“You’re not going to fall in love with me, are you?” Harry asked, joking as the movie was coming to an end.
“You’re safe there,” I retorted without missing a beat. “I will, however, drop everything and run away with you if you ask me to like he did in the movie.”
“Would you really?” Harry asked. He turned his body to face me, pulling his knee up on the couch. He leaned back against the arm rest.
“For sure,” I said. “I love traveling far too much to stay in one place for too long. If I was given the chance, I would travel around the world. Or just wherever, really. I have so many places I want to go.”
“Like where?” Harry asked, grabbing a handful of popcorn. He ate them two at a time. The bowl was almost empty, me eating most of it throughout the movie.
“Starting in America,” I said. “I’d love to visit every state. I’ve been to or through I think twelve of them, mostly on the East Coast, but I’d love to just spend a night in New York City or Los Angeles. I’ve been to Nashville and fell in love with it.
“Outside of the U.S., I’d love to visit Africa, Mexico, Canada, Italy, the U.K. again, more of France. Basically everywhere.”
“That’s quite the list,” Harry said. “Italy is one of my favorite places.”
“Where’s your favorite place to visit? Like if you had to visit somewhere and ended up getting stuck there for a month, where would you want it to be?”
“Probably-” Harry dragged out the word, enunciating each syllable. “Tokyo. I have a few friends there. The city is amazing.”
“What do you like most about it?”
“The atmosphere of it,” he said. “I always have a good time there. It’s a lot of fun.”
“Do you travel alone often? I would assume you would just about always have someone with you.” I mirrored his posture.
“It just depends on where I’m headed, honestly.” He moved his hand with the pieces of popcorn still in it. Harry, I noticed, was one to talk with his hands and having something in it didn’t seem to deter him. “I can manage a trip from London to L.A. because I’ve done it countless times.”
“I think they might not trust you to do that anymore,” I noted with a smile. He just shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal. “What’s the longest trip you’ve taken? Like plane ride or car ride hours?”
“There’s been a couple long flights. Of course heading from L.A. to London is about eleven hours and I do that quite often. Sometimes you can’t get a direct flight so there are layovers. I feel I’m in airports more often than I’m in the air.”
“Do you prefer a car or a plane?” I asked. I didn’t want him to feel like I was interviewing him, but I was honestly curious. No one I knew had near as much experience in traveling.
I loved to drive. If I could drive across the country I would. An airplane is great and a fun experience, but driving allows you to see everything in real time. Not just a glimpse from thousands of feet up. Plus, a good road trip playlist made driving so much more fun.
I knew that I would never get tired of hearing Harry talk about his different traveling stories. After about an hour, we got on the subject of Africa and the time he went to Ghana with the band.
“It was eye-opening,” Harry said. His whole demeanor changed and I almost changed the subject to something lighter. “That was one of the things that stuck with me for a while.”
“I felt the same way when I went on a Relief Trip to another country. Makes you realize how lucky you are. I wanted to bring all the kids home.” I stood up suddenly and headed toward the stairs. “I have to show you this picture I have. I’ll be right back.”
I went into my room and went straight for the photo album I had sitting in a box underneath my bed. I had two whole albums filled with photos from the time I was born up until recently. Trips, family vacations, holidays, random days.
I came back downstairs to an empty living room. “Harry?” I called out.
“Just grabbing something to drink,” he said from the kitchen. “Want something?”
“Water is fine. Thank you.”
I flipped through the pages quickly, not wanting to get distracted from the picture I wanted to show Harry. It was from my trip to an orphanage. One of the little boys had climbed into my suitcase the last night of our trip and we jokingly zipped him into it with just his head sticking out. We all ended up crying after that photo because no one wanted to leave.
“That’s adorable,” Harry commented as he handed the bottle of water over my shoulder. I set it on the floor beside the couch. Harry sat back in his spot, one leg bent on the couch and the other foot on the floor, facing me. He slung his left arm across the back of the couch.
“I would have adopted him if it wasn’t so complicated and expensive,” I commented. I meant it too. Spending the week with all the kids, I wanted to adopt all of them. I set the photo album between our legs so we could both see the photos. I flipped the page and we were silent for a moment as we looked at the new set of pictures.
“Do you want to have kids?” Harry asked. I moved my eyes to look at him without lifting my head up. I held his eyes for a moment before swallowing the lump forming in my throat. Kids were a subject I usually avoided. But what harm would it be to tell him?
“One day. Maybe.” I busied myself with opening the water bottle and taking a sip. I could feel my heart rate picking up speed and my body starting to sweat. It wasn’t his fault though.
The last couple years, as holidays and birthdays passed, I’ve come to despise this question. Not because I didn’t want to have kids. I had to dodge the question every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Birthday parties too. Pretty much any time the whole family got together. The question itself wasn’t what bothered me. It just usually led to questions about when I was going to settle down or if I had a boyfriend.
I just knew there were things I needed to figure out before I thought about kids.
“I didn’t mean to overstep,” Harry said. I guess I didn’t hide my reaction as well as I thought I did.
“No, it’s fine.” I leaned back against the arm rest. I was sitting criss-cross facing him. “I love kids, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t think I’m ready for them. I definitely want to adopt though.”
“That’s noble,” Harry said. “Would you adopt on your own?”
“I’ve thought about it,” I said after a second. “I think I’d want to be with someone first though. I don’t know how well I would do on my own. There’s a difference in watching someone else’s kids and having your own.”
“You would be a great mother.”
I wasn’t expecting us to be talking about this. Not on the first night we knew each other. It just seemed natural though. Harry was easy to talk to.
“You barely know me,” I mumbled. “I don’t know if I would be or not. There’s a lot of things I worry about.”
“I think you would be,” he clarified. “I know you’re kind because you helped that old man. You’re smart, funny. You have passion. You would raise your kids to be open-minded and considerate. That’s just what I get from talking to you all day.”
I didn’t know how to take his compliments. I never knew how to take compliments in general. I didn’t get them very often. Not genuine ones like this.
I watched him pick at his fingernails.
“Do you want kids?” I asked, wanting to take the spotlight off me. Not that there was a spotlight with just the two of us. Still.
“One day,” Harry said, dropping his hand. “I never imagined life would go this way, but I’m grateful for it. I still imagine myself being a dad one day.”
I couldn’t help but smile as I pictured Harry as a dad. I’ve seen a few videos of him interacting with kids. “You’ll be great,” I said, looking right at him. “Would you want a daughter or son first?”
Harry was quiet. I could see him thinking though. He took the last sip of his water and set the empty bottle on the coffee table.
“I think a boy,” Harry said. “I want to have a daughter too. Maybe one of each. I would want to keep them private until they were older though. They don’t deserve to be in the spotlight at such a young age.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.
“The world is mean,” Harry said shortly. “If I settle down and have kids, I don’t want them to be put in the spotlight at all. I can handle it and whoever I have kids with would be able to handle it, but the kids won’t understand it growing up. I want them to be who they are and whatever they want to be, but I don’t want them to decide that based on what the world says they should be.”
I realized then that my problems dulled in comparison to him. The way he spoke about it, I could tell he was serious and that he’d thought about it a lot. I moved my hand to wipe a tear away before it could fall.
“You’ll be an amazing dad,” I said. “Those kids would be lucky to have you. You radiate confidence and love and kindness. It’s one of my favorite things about you. Seeing you when the band first started to now has been amazing. You are what I aspire to be.”
I didn’t mean to say all of that out loud, even if it was true. Harry was comfortable with himself and that was something that I loved the most about him. The silence between us wasn’t odd though. I never imagined having a deep conversation like this with someone I just met. I don’t even have this conversation with my own family. It was nice.
Harry didn’t say anything still. I could see his eyes glistening a little more than usual. He held out his hand and I took it. I was taken aback when he stood up and pulled me to his chest. His arms wrapped around my shoulders and I could barely hold back the tears as I laid my head against his chest. I took a deep breath to keep the tears from falling when I heard his voice against my ear. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” I stifled a yawn as Harry hugged me tighter a moment before dropping his hands. I could see his eyes were red rimmed. I’m sure mine were too. I offered a weak, but genuine, smile. “You’re the first person I’ve told that to. It feels good to really talk to someone. Thank you.”
“I was about to say the same thing,” Harry said with a gentle smile. It was a full smile, showing his teeth. He reached over and picked up his empty water bottle and we both headed toward the kitchen. I took advantage of him walking in front of me to wipe away the tears that remained. “I get asked about it all the time, but I can’t go into detail about it. I don’t want to go into detail. It’s nice to talk about it and not have to worry about that. I trust you.”
Harry turned around and faced me after saying that. I could see it in his eyes. His tone was soft, but I could hear the smallest hint of worry. Worry that I would leak the things he told me.
“You have my word,” I said. I know he wasn’t expecting it, but I wanted to reassure him. I let out a loud yawn suddenly. I could hear Harry laughing. I looked at the clock, shocked that it was already four in the morning. “We should probably get some sleep if we’re going to be functional tomorrow. Today.”
“I agree,” Harry said. “Can I use your shower first?”
“You don’t have to ask,” I laughed. “Use whichever. I’m just going to brush my teeth upstairs first.”
I walked back into the living room and grabbed my suitcase. All of our bags were still sitting beside the front door. I noted that Dreiko had disappeared at some point while we were talking. Probably in my bed.
“I’ll use the one down here then,” he said. “Are you okay if I sleep in the bed again?”
I kept myself from rolling my eyes and just smiled. “I don’t mind,” I said. “You don’t have to ask. I’ll probably be asleep by the time you get up there.”
“In that case,” he said, wrapping me in another short hug. “Goodnight. Thank you for all of this.”
“Any time,” I said. And I meant it. We still had two whole days before he had to leave and already I felt like Harry was one of the closest friends I had. It would be weird when he left.
I headed up the stairs before something occurred to me. “I hope you’re okay with the scented things in the shower,” I called to him. “I can stop by the store tomorrow to get something different if you don’t have your own.”
“I’ll be fine,” he called out. He sounded like he was already at the bathroom door. “I have the products I need.”
“Okay,” I said and resumed my trip to the bedroom. I unzipped my bag and found my toothbrush and paste.
I watched myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, thinking about our conversation tonight. We were both only twenty-six. We had plenty of time to have kids, but it felt like my family always had kids at a young age. My parents had me when my mom was just twenty-two. They had my sister at thirty-six. She wasn’t planned, but also hadn’t been fully expected. I was starting high school when she was born.
I wanted to adopt though. I saw how many kids were in foster care and waiting for a family and I didn’t see the reason to bring another kid in the world when there were already so many in the world that needed a family.
I ran a brush through my hair as I pushed the thoughts out of my mind for now. I dropped my suitcase on the floor by the foot of the bed before walking to my dresser and grabbing a pair of shorts to sleep in. I decided on a blue t-shirt and black pajama shorts.
I set the alarm for ten- just under six hours from now- and crawled into the bed. I was just about to drift off to the unconscious world when I felt the bed move as Harry slipped under the covers.
“Your alarm is loud,” Harry stated matter-of-factly as soon as I woke up. I stared at the ceiling for a moment, feeling the bed dip down as he moved to sit up.
“That’s what I like about it,” I said. “It gets me up. I usually hit the snooze button three or four times before I actually get up.”
“Can’t do that today,” he said. “One, I’m in your way. Two, you have an hour until you have to return the car.”
I didn’t even bother lifting my head as I watched him stand up and stretch his arms above his head. “We’ll go to bed earlier tonight. Right now,” he said, reaching his hands out to pull me from the comfort of my blanket and pillow. “You have to get up.”
We both laughed as Harry pulled me into a sitting position. He dropped my arms, satisfied that I was at least sitting up, and I let my arms flop to the bed. I moved my legs to dangle over the edge.
I looked at Harry as he started walking out of the room. He was in a pair of flannel pajamas. Or tartan. I tried to remember if that’s what it was called in the UK. He had a white t-shirt that was thin enough to show several of his tattoos, especially the butterfly on his stomach. “Do you mind driving my car to the rental shop?” I asked, stopping him before he left. I stood up and stretched my arms before heading to the closet to find something to wear for the day. “It’s just a couple blocks down the road. Only one street.”
“Sure,” he said.
“Thanks. I just thought about it. I was planning on just walking back home but since my dad wants us to join him and you-” I turned around and waved my arm toward him with a smirk. “Being who you are, I figured that wouldn’t be the smartest.”
“You don’t always have to think of me,” Harry said. “We still have dinner plans tonight anyways so I’m sure my location will get out sooner or later.”
“It isn’t a problem,” I said. “It’s kind of fun having to do things a little different.”
“Give it a couple days,” Harry said, but I could see him smiling. “Back entrances, tinted windows, having to rent out entire places just for privacy. It gets to you after a while.”
“The life of a rockstar,” I said with an exaggerated wink.
I could hear him laughing as he went downstairs. If I was helping my dad outside, I settled on a pair of jean shorts and just kept the blue t-shirt on. I pulled out my Sketchers tennis shoes. They were mostly black, but also had strips of pink and blue around the sides.
“Incoming.” I announced my presence as I rounded the corner into the living room. Harry was walking out of the bathroom with a black shirt resting on his shoulders. He’d pulled it over his head, but hadn’t put his arms through it yet.
“Enjoying the view?” he asked, joking. He had his toothbrush balanced between his teeth as he spun around in a circle. I laughed and rolled my eyes.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” I said, not missing a beat. “I was admiring the tattoos.”
“Ouch,” he said, holding his hand over his heart. “We share a bed twice and I don’t even get a compliment.”
I rolled my eyes at him and he laughed. It was a hearty laugh too, one that I couldn’t help but join in on.
“What am I supposed to compliment you on? How well you sleep or how loud you snore?”
“‘Ey,” Harry said, stretching out the word as he disappeared back into the bathroom. I headed to the kitchen and grabbed a water from the fridge. I also grabbed the eggs and a pan. I wanted to make something quick before we left.
“Do you want some eggs?” I asked loud enough so he could hear me. “You can eat eggs, right?” I wasn’t sure exactly what the Pesceterian diet consisted of.
“I can,” he said. He walked into the kitchen, pulling his shirt down. He was wearing a pair of blue jeans as well. “Just no butter or anything added please.”
“Scrambled or Fried? It’s the only two ways I know how to make them.”
I could see Harry’s smirk before it disappeared as quickly as it came. “Either is fine.”
“Scrambled it is,” I said. “Would you mind grabbing the bread and putting a couple pieces in the toaster? I’ll take a piece. Add more if you want any.”
I focused on not overcooking the eggs while Harry busied himself with the toaster. I watched him as he opened a cabinet door and then closed it. “If you’re looking for plates, they’re on the shelf under the dining room table. It has a couple shelves attached where I keep most of the plates and bowls. Also board games.”
It was a quarter till eleven when I handed Harry my keys and we walked outside. The sun was already shining bright in the sky. It had to be an easy seventy-five to eighty degrees already. I looked at Harry in his jeans and black shirt.
“Are you sure you aren’t going to get hot in that?” I asked, unlocking the door to the rental. My car was parked to the left of it so I looked over my shoulder to see him. He had his hat and sunglasses on too.
“It’s a thin shirt,” he said. “And I can always take it off if I get hot.”
“Perks of being a guy,” I grumbled loud enough for him to hear. “Follow me.”
It didn’t take long for me to return the car. Harry remained in the driver seat as I walked back out. I didn’t mind. My parents house was a little bit of a drive, but it wasn’t a hard road to drive. I slid in the passenger seat and put on my seat belt.
“Harry Styles is my chauffeur,” I said dramatically. “I think this is a bucket list item I didn’t know I had.”
Harry just rolled his eyes and backed out of the space he was parked in. “Just tell me where to go.”
“It’s about a twenty minute drive over the mountain. Go down this street and turn right at the light. Then you’ll turn right again in a couple miles. I’ll tell you when.”
Harry nodded after I gave him the directions. I turned the music up just a bit as background noise. “Is it weird to switch between driving here and the UK?”
“I’ve become used to it,” he said. “It was weird having to learn everything for the test you have here, but after a bit of practice it was fine.”
“You had to take the driving test here?” I was shocked. It made sense though. “Did you have to do the behind-the-wheel and everything too?”
“No,” he said. “I just had to take the test and because I was over a certain age, that part was not required. I did it in California and just had to show proof I owned a house.”
“Didn’t know they did that,” I said. “Makes sense since you are here quite often. Do you have a license for any other country?”
“Italy,” he said.
“Usually people collect mugs or something. Here you are collecting driver’s licenses. That’s a unique one.”
“It’s more of a requirement for the job,” he said. “But it is nice to be able to drive myself from time to time in most places.”
“Turn right at the next light,” I said, realizing we were close to it. “The road is windy up the mountain. We’ll actually be passing the trail start for two different hiking trails so I’ll point that out to you as well.”
Once Harry turned and started picking up speed, I focused on the radio. There were three stations I had programmed. “I hate commercials,” I muttered to myself and grabbed the aux cord and my phone. I noticed I had a message from Serena.
“What are you in the mood for?” I asked, glancing from my messages with Serena to Harry. She was just asking if I slept okay yesterday since I hadn’t messaged her much since I got home.
“Whatever is fine,” he said. “It’s your car.”
“Free reign,” I said with a smile. “Got it.”
I typed a quick reply to Serena, letting her know I didn’t go to sleep until way too late and was just getting my day started. I pulled up the Spotify app and searched for a playlist I listened to occasionally. I hit the shuffle button and let out a short laugh when the first notes of ‘It Wasn’t Me’ by Shaggy came on. I turned it up a bit.
“Early two thousands R-and-B playlist,” I announced when Harry glanced over at me with a half smile, half confused look on his face. We were just starting to go up the mountain so he quickly turned his attention back to the road.
If I had been in the car alone, I would have been singing much louder but there was no way I was going to sing at that volume around Harry. At least not yet. I would save his ears for another day. We listened to another song before we came across where the first hiking trail started.
“There’s a pull off to the left here and the trail starts just across the street. It’s a couple miles, but don’t ask me where it ends because I actually couldn’t tell you. Just ahead you’ll see that the mountain doesn’t go straight back. It’s a little town down in a bowl-like valley.”
I could see Harry lean forward just a bit to see what I was talking about as we started going downhill after cresting the mountain. “It’s beautiful up here,” he commented, settling back into the seat. He was driving with one hand, his other propped up against the door by his elbow. His knuckles were knocking against the glass of the window to the beat of the song playing. I smiled at that because I did the same thing while driving.
“You haven’t seen the best part,” I said. “There’s a stretch of road coming up just past the convenience store that is just trees. It’s actually part of the national forest we’re heading into. So it’s pretty much all protected land. But during the Fall season, especially when all the leaves change colors and the sun hits it, it’s amazing. By far one of my favorite views.”
“Better than the star?” Harry asked. He sounded genuine in his question.
“About even,” I said easily. “I love looking at city lights but I also really love watching the leaves change colors. I’m a complicated person.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Harry said. I could see the hint of a smile when I looked at him. He had his sunglasses on his head, pushing back his hair a bit. His green eyes stayed focused on the road ahead of him.
“My parents house is about two minutes up the road. It’s a long driveway that loops around a fountain. You can’t miss it. It’ll be on my side.”
I reached over and turned down the volume of the radio as Harry pulled into the driveway. My dad was sitting on the front porch and offered a wave to us as Harry put the car in park. A sudden thought occurred to me.
“You know,” I said, stopping Harry from opening his door. “I told my dad you were a friend from work. I think the accent might catch me in that lie.”
“New story?” Harry asked. I sat there for a second trying to think of something believable other than the truth. I rolled my eyes at that thought; even the truth was a crazy story too.
“Partial truth? Just say you were someone I met on the plane and we became friends. You had a free day and decided to take a detour. We’ll just leave out the celebrity bit.”
Harry shrugged but nodded his head. “Sounds good.”
We got out and Harry tossed the keys to me. “We’ll go with a friend from work unless he asks.”
I didn’t give Harry a chance to ask any follow up questions.
“Hey, Dad.” I wrapped my arms around my dad and hugged him tightly. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too, sweetie.” My dad kissed my cheek before letting me go. His eyes flickered to Harry and back to me.
“This is Harry,” I said, stepping back to introduce him. Harry held out his hand for my dad to shake. It lasted only two shakes before they both dropped their hands back to their sides. “Harry, this is my dad, Ben.”
“Nice to meet you, sir.”
I could tell my dad heard the accent. He looked back at me. “You work with someone that has a British accent and you haven’t mentioned this before? You’re obsessed with it. You used to play the music and interviews all the time for that one band you liked.”
I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks and I knew by the look on Harry’s face that he could see the red as well. I had the gut feeling he wouldn’t be letting this go.
“First off, I was in high school. Everyone listened to them. Second, he’s new,” I said, trying to regain my confidence. Or dignity. Whichever it was.
“I haven’t known Savannah for long,” Harry offered. “She’s been showing me around the area.”
“Where have you gone so far?”
And just like that, my dad and Harry settled into a conversation about the area. Harry listed off the different places they drove around and saw. He just didn’t mention that it was last night, which I was grateful for.
“You’re going to Rowland’s tonight?” My dad looked at me, shock clear on his face. I shot Harry a look and rolled my eyes. I knew what my dad was thinking.
“We’re just friends,” I said to my dad. “To change the subject, what’s for lunch?”
“Inside,” dad said. “Come on in. I’ll get it started and then we can get to planting.”
I followed my dad in, holding the screen door open for Harry. In the five years my parents had lived here, the house hadn’t changed. It was a one-floor house with a finished basement. The front door opened to the living room. The walls were covered with photos of me and my little sister throughout the years. The furniture was all a dark suede color, which contrasted nicely with the white of the walls and the light wooden floors.
Straight ahead was a hallway and the kitchen. The kitchen was up-to-date on all the appliances and was large enough to fit a four-person table off to the side. They had some renovations done when they bought the house and knocked down the left wall to join the extra bedroom to the kitchen. They tore up the carpet and turned it into a dining room. My mom’s china set was on full display in the floor-to-ceiling cabinets.
“The rest of the house consists of bedrooms, an office, and then the entertainment area downstairs. There’s a big screen for movies and a pool table.” I sat down at the kitchen table where it was already set up for three people.
“She can play a decent game of pool too,” my dad commented as he started pulling items out of the fridge.
“Hey dad,” I said, taking note of the items that he was pulling out for sandwiches. Turkey and ham specifically. My dad leaned back so I could see his face behind the fridge door. “Harry is actually vegetarian. Do you have, like, peanut butter or something?”
“Oh, uh, yeah. I was also going to make some soup as well if you don’t want a sandwich.” I watched as my dad abandoned the fridge and looked in the pantry closet between the fridge and oven. “I have mushroom, potato, tomato…”
“I’m fine,” Harry said in a low voice only I could hear. “You don’t have to get him to change what he was going to make. I’m still good from the eggs.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “It’s not a big deal. My parents are rather accommodating.”
As if on cue, my dad emerged from the pantry with a bottle of Teriyaki sauce in his hand and a smile on his face like he’d just had the most brilliant idea. “Let’s abandon the simple lunch and make a stir fry.”
“It’s fine, really.” Harry raised his voice so my dad could hear him. “I’ll just take a bag of crisps if you have them.”
“Chips, dad. He means chips.” I turned from my dad’s confused look to Harry. “And I’d rather eat stir fry than a sandwich so shush and let the man cook.”
“That’s my girl,” my dad said as he pulled out a skillet from one of the bottom drawers. “If you want to show him around the rest of the house, I’ll call for you when it’s done. Shouldn’t take but twenty minutes.”
“Follow me,” I said and headed toward the hallway. “To the right is my sisters bedroom and a bathroom. To the left here,” I started walking that way, aiming for the basement door. “Is the Master Bedroom, the office, and then the laundry room. The basement door is in here.”
The basement was a lot to take in. It was my mom’s domain, which meant a lot more family photos and random signs hanging around. Little knick-knacks and old trophies sat on shelves. I was sitting on a bar stool set against the wall by the pool table when Harry finally looked at me.
“Your dad seems nice,” he said. He sat down in the other stool, resting his forearms on the table between us. “He seems pretty considerate, which I appreciate by the way. He didn’t have to do that.”
“You’re a guest,” I said simply. “He wanted to make a good first impression.”
“Still,” Harry said. I looked at him. There seemed to me to be something hidden behind his words and the look he was giving me. I just couldn’t place it. At least not until he spoke again. “He seems rather open-minded. Switching up lunch didn’t seem that big a deal to him.”
I took a second to respond. I knew what Harry was implying and I wasn’t ready to have that conversation. Not with him. Not with myself. Especially not with my dad.
“Accommodating and accepting are two different things.”