Harry leaned back and pressed his forehead on mine. In the dim porch light coming from the outside, only half of his beautiful face was illuminated. The other half was swallowed by the shadows. Did I look the same?
“I already made a mistake once, Callie. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to you again,” his gaze swept up my head. Gentle fingers caressed the healing gash hiding within the tresses of my hair.
Not really his fault, I thought. I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. He couldn’t have known it would come to that and that I’d be hurt. It had always been words and taunts before, nothing that was even the borderline to violence. And Harry had overstepped before, trying to defend me. I won’t have him cost himself his spotless student records just because I couldn’t stand up for myself.
All this overprotectiveness was only leading me to validate my feelings for him. The forbidden desires that had grown far too large to easily be extinguished by a mere promise to myself. I’d have to pull away from his hold on me even if it’s the most painful thing I’d ever experience. I’d rather pull the knife cut deep into my heart and let the blood leak out, than keep it lodge there forever hoping the ache would somehow transform into happiness. To convince myself I’d be satisfied with a life by his side even if I don’t get to call him mine, I have to stop punishing myself and let him go. Let myself go, free of the chains that my love for him kept me imprisoned.
“You left me.”
A pang of guilt pierced through my chest. I swallowed hard before admitting, “I did.”
Harry’s grip on the back of my neck tightened. “You went with him.” His eyes turned darker. “What the fuck were you doing with him, Callie?”
I couldn’t let him know. I just can’t. Not even Harry can know about what Abe might be hiding. For the life of me, I couldn’t bear to rat him out like that. I was trying to help him. It was what I’d told my parents and I thought they bought it. At least dad did. Mom, I gathered, needed more convincing. Of course, I was guilty, but it was the only way I could think of to protect that stupid secret of Abe. A mystery that had pushed him away from us, his family, and from the looks of it, puts his life in danger. When I said I was trying to help him, I wasn’t lying. I really do wanted to help out and not just try but also succeed. So I know that the conviction that left my voice was enough for Harry.
Deep in my bones, I knew Harry sensed something suspicious the moment I brought that up. Sometimes, two truths make up a lie and with Harry, he always sees through me. I had to stop with one honest fact before I dig my own grave and admit to him my growing involvement with our troubled cousin.
Feeling the guilt starting to eat me up, my shoulders tensed and my back straightened. I felt myself close up, widening my eyes to stop them from tearing up.
“You know. I told you.”
“No. You told aunt Mich, and uncle Ted believed it.” His tone was careful, treading on lightly as if gauging my reaction. I was sure I’d made even mom fell for my explanation. “Now, tell me. And I want the truth.”
He didn’t say it outright but he might as well have called me a liar. The worst part of it, he’s not wrong. This wasn’t so much of an accusation as it was a mere observation. It made me feel little. It made me feel attacked. One look at the glass doors that lead to the open backyard and I found myself listening to a hard voice that I wasn’t sure was even mine.
“I believe that’s no business of yours.”
Harry looked taken aback. My heart clenched at the sight of his hurt expression. I’ve never talked to him like this. Not even when I was the most upset about him. But the emotions brewing in me were not ones I’ve felt before either and they were making me say things I knew were hurtful but I hoped will make me feel less at fault. They didn’t.
“Not my business?” He scoffed. “Sweetheart, anything going on with you is my fucking business. Always have been. Always will be whether you like it or not.”
A tingling sensation crawled up my body and I cursed myself for feeling thrilled by his words. I shouldn’t depend on him, not the way that I used to. He’s leaving me for college and these feelings I have of him are not going anywhere. I don’t want to feel alone anymore, cast aside, hopeful then hopeless. I took another glance at the reflection the two of us made against the glass doors.
Strong fingers gripped my upper arms. “What’s going on, Callie?” I avoided his eyes as they searched mine. “It’s Abe, isn’t it?”
I drew a sharp breath. Harry noticed. I felt his body tensed, his gaze burning a whole where he stared intensely at my face.
“I swear to fucking god - ”
“Why were you hiding a girl here last night?”
Now it’s his turn to look like a deer caught in headlights. He dropped his arms and it stung more than him blatantly showing he mistrusted my words before. He opened his mouth to speak. He must have realized when he looked into my eyes that there was no way he can deny it, no way he can explain his way out of this. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed.
My gut rumbled like it had been punched. This was the confirmation that I needed. The testimony that would finally make me walk away.
Harry sighed. “I didn’t want you to see her like that.”
“Like you didn’t want me to see you having sex with a random girl in your room?”
The words just spilled out of my mouth like there hadn’t been any bars prisoning them ever at all. Maybe that single afternoon out with Abe had rubbed off some of his grit onto me. But maybe this was just my strings finally snapping.
“That was an honest mistake. You weren’t supposed to come home early. And it was not anything serious. I - ”
Harry looked back at me as he stopped himself. He watched me, his eyes pleading. Between my flared nostrils and stinging eyes, he must have seen something that made his appearance softer.
“What you saw last night,” he began. “You mustn’t tell anybody about it.”
So it wasn’t Hannah, then? I cannot believe Harry would do this. He might have dated quite a number of girls but I believe that he’s not a cheater. What Kim had said in the bathroom before rang in my ears and I began to question Harry’s innocence.
“If the school finds out - ”
I raised an eyebrow. “The school?”
“Yeah,” Harry said slowly. “Miss Holly - ”
All the blood from my face drained. Miss Holly. Harry was with miss Holly. Not only was he cheating on Hannah but he was doing it with my favorite teacher. The person I looked up to. I felt sick to my stomach.
“No…” Eyes widening with panic, Harry adamantly shook his head. “Fuck, that wasn’t what I meant.”
A guttural sound escaped my lips and I swiveled away only to be caught by Harry. His breath was hot on my ear, as the tears in my eyes burst forth from deep within the control I’d failed to keep.
“It wasn’t like that. Fuck. Let me explain, please.”
He was talking unhurriedly. His voice was low, coming from deep in his chest. “She knocked on our doorstep. Looking like…”
I wasn’t sure what I saw last night but Harry’s pained hesitation told me enough to make assumptions.
“It wasn’t a pretty sight, Callie. I didn’t want you to see her like that so I didn’t tell you.”
He pulled away slowly, his eyes followed the tears that rolled down my cheeks.
“Shit. I’m sorry, sweetheart.” His warm thumbs swept under my glasses to wipe my face as he cups it in his huge hands. “I lent her some clothes and offered to drive her down the police station but she quickly ran out of the house.”
Those piercing dark blue eyes.
“You have to believe me.”
The sudden drew of air made me register that I was heaving. My toes felt sticky. My palms are sweating, my cheeks are burning from the revelation.
I took a shaky breath.
And smacked him in the arm.
“What the - ”
I landed another hit on his other arm. My punches were weak and I knew they didn’t really cause pain. Not that I intended them to. I just, I just -
“You should’ve told me,” I cried with each punch I landed.
He stood still, didn’t flinch, taking every blow. This made me even more upset. With him. With me.
My closed fists remained on his chest and ever so slowly, he encircled my wrists with his hands. We stayed like that for a while, our heavy breathing gradually evening out. Harry drew lazy circles on my skin with his thumb and my fingers slid open against his warm chest.
“I believe you,” I told him in a quiet voice as my arms went around his neck and I pulled him to me. I buried my face on his neck while he did the same on my hair. At least this, I could be honest with. That I believe him.
I knew exactly what I did when I went with Abe. The hurt from seeing Harry with another girl burned so much that I wanted to hide and get lost. Like a little kid who was playing hide and seek with her mom at the department store, only, her mom wasn’t playing with her. I did it so many times, when I was younger. The thrill of making myself lost but not truly, always made me giddy and high. I’d always find my way back because I’d only pretend that I was lost. But that game stopped altogether when one day, I learned my lesson the hard way. Seemed like I didn’t actually learn anything from the experience at all if my being in this situation was any indication.
I rubbed my face on his naked skin and stifled the rest of my cries. Things doesn’t change
“Thank fuck,” he grunted. “It’s alright,” he said, more like to himself than me, smoothing one hand down my back. It left goosebumps on its wake and I shivered in response. I felt the hairs on my arms rise, my nipples hardening, and my breath catching.
With a low growl, Harry pulled back but kept me close. He eyed my face, his heavy gaze lowering to my lips, then down to my chest. His nostrils flared which made a chill ran down my spine.This betrayal of my body, I expected. What I wanted to get rid of was the oncoming betrayal of my heart.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he gritted out. Harry shut his eyes, his huge hands gripping my upper arms tightly. When he opened those dark blue orbs again, it was accompanied by a small smirk. So familiar and so like the Harry that I was used to that I couldn’t help but smile a little, too. Then his grin melted an his gaze fell. My stomach somersaulted, my own smile fading away.
Harry shook his head. His gaze softened. However, beneath it, I saw hardness. A warning. “Please don’t walk out on me again like that, Callie.”
With that, his lips descended on mine.
I was taken back to that day when he first kissed me. My first kiss. But this one started soft and feathery. Then he coaxed my lips to open with tiny flicks of his tongue and I easily granted him access. It was an automatic response. A traitorous one at that, but inevitable. Our lips danced with each other and it was sweet and gentle. Then his mouth slanted, forcing mine to open wider. I couldn’t help the moan that escaped from deep within my throat when his tongue slid along mine. The immodest sounds we’re making made me weak, and when he groaned, my knees completely gave in.
Breaking our kiss, Harry grabbed me by the waist and sat me on the counter. Despite the dim of the night, I still noticed the grimace that appeared on his face before he smoothed it out.
“What is it?” I asked.
He shook his head, one arm braced on the counter, the other stayed on my hip. “Nothing to worry about, sweetheart.”
I eyed him for a moment before it hit me. “Harry. You shouldn’t even be standing like that for too long.”
Only then did I realize how he was leaning his weight on me all that time to balance himself. Not just to get impossibly closer. I tried to jump back down but he prevented me.
“It feels better now than before,” he said, running a hand down my thigh which made me shiver. “I promise.”
His hand cupped the back of my knee. He hitched it up his waist as he stepped between my legs.
“There’s no swelling,” he murmured, caressing my legs up and down. “And it doesn’t hurt… a lot. It’s just a little uncomfortable, he hurriedly said when he found me about to lecture him.
Pulling me close to the edge of the counter by the hips, Harry pressed my core against his hardness, outlined perfectly through the low-waisted grey sweatpants that he wore. A distraction, so I’d stop grilling him.