We got off the train, heading in the direction of the exit of Tilbury station.
“Okay, what do we do now?” I asked him. Looking in the distance, I could see the bright lights of the port, and then, looking more ahead, there was not a single light to be seen. We were close to the sea.
“I don’t know... Maybe we should go to the port and ask when the boat departs.”
“I have a better idea,” I reached for the inside of Harry’s jacket, taking out the tickets, “It says here that the boat leaves at two in the afternoon tomorrow. See, we don’t need to ask anybody. Besides, I feel so tired, I need to rest.”
“Okay then. Let’s find a place to stay the night them.”
We walked down the unfamiliar road, the light drizzle falling on our heads, barely damping our hair. We found an Inn at the end of the road, exactly what we were looking for since we couldn’t spend a lot of money on expensive hotels.
We walked towards the front desk and Harry asked for a room for two. The lady who was dressed in red and had glasses resting on the end of her nose turned around and gave him a key.
“Thank you,” I said, and the lady nodded.
We walked up the carpeted staircase to our room in silence. I was done with carrying my suitcase, and even though it wasn’t that heavy, I wanted to put it down for once.
We walked down the gloomy corridor of the second floor and glanced at every door in hopes of finding ours. We finally reached room 27, Harry unlocking it and entering the room. I followed right behind him, but soon enough I pushed him aside and threw myself onto the bed, by arms wide open, dropping my suitcase next to it on the floor.
“I’m so tired!” I sighed, exhaling all the air I had inside my lungs and taking my shoes off. Harry stood very quietly near the door, his suitcase by his feet. It seemed like he was examining our room, and I couldn’t help but do the same.
The room was small, but ideal for two peoples. I was sprawled across a double bed, the white duvet smooth to the touch. The walls were of a creamy yellow with a beige tint, the dim light giving a cosy feeling to the room. The furniture -- that was almost non-existent, only a small wardrobe and a desk adorning the room opposite to the bed -- and the floor boards were chestnut brown. Despite the warm colours, the room was uncomfortably cold, but it wasn’t unbearable. At least it was warmer than outside. There was another door next to the exit door, and I concluded it must be the bathroom. Harry was still standing in front of it.
“What is it?” I asked him, supporting my upper body with my elbows.
He turned his head to the floor and took his hand to the back of his neck “Nothing, nothing... It’s just, I can’t believe we have come this far.”
I got up from the bed “It does seem quite surreal.”
Harry took a step forward, coming closer to me “Yeah, that’s the word, surreal...” he reached for my hair and gently tucked it behind my ear, running his thumb down my neck. I instinctively got closer to him.
Harry’s eyes flitted back from my eyes to my lips, and with that he kissed me, bringing my face closer to his. Instantly my body heated up and I felt every single cell in my body wake up, our lips reacting instantly to each other. I placed my hands on his chest, pulling him even closer by the collar of his white bottom-down shirt.
Harry took his hands from my face momentarily and took off his jacket without disconnecting our lips. He pulled mine from my shoulders and I took off the rest, throwing the suffocating garment on the floor. I struggled to take a breath as the kiss escalated quickly. I noticed Harry’s breathing was irregular too, his heart beating erratically through the smooth fabric of his shirt.
Heart races, respiration becomes rapid and shallow... Words from the weird conversation I had with that woman on the train invaded my mind. I shook them off, concentrating solely on Harry.
He pulled my grey sweater over my head, throwing it on the floor. While he did so, I looked into his eyes, which were a shade I’d never seen before; they were glistening while at the same time dull, light while at the same time dark. Staring into those lustful eyes made a shiver run down my spine, and he noticed it.
Arteries constrict, pupils dilate, core temperature rises, blood pressure skyrockets...
He pushed me up against the wall, pinning me with his whole body. The mysterious woman’s words kept playing in my head as more garments were thrown on the floor. I tried to push them aside while Harry kissed my neck eagerly, forming goosebumps wherever his lips touched, my small fingers unbuttoning his shirt.
My mind took me to the time Harry had taken me to his room in Hall B, but this was nothing like that time. This was different; apart from the fact that I wasn’t scared that someone would burst into the room and catch us, Harry showed no signs of wanting to stop, and for all the good reasons. I could feel in every kiss and every touch that he wasn’t just enjoying me, his whole body was radiating love and I knew he wasn’t going anywhere this time. That thought alone made me ecstatic, knowing that not only did he want me, but also that there were no more ways to express how much he loved me.
The brain fires bursts of electrical impulses from nowhere to nowhere...
I squeezed my eyes shut, erasing the sentence off my mind.
“Harry,” I breathed, my neck rolling backwards as he left wet kissed down my collarbone. As his lips moved down my chest he unbuttoned my shirt delicately.
“Harry,” I called again, and this time he looked up, “I love you.”
He detached his lips from my skin, one button away from reaching my bra, and just stared at me. His cheeks were rosy, his lips scarlet and lustrous. His hair was a mess which gave him a wild look “If only you knew how heavenly that sounds. Say it again, please.”
“I love you.” As I said those words effortlessly, Harry back up in the direction of the bed, gripping my hips and pulling me with him.
He sat down on the old mattress, the springs creaking, his hands moving upwards to my waist and dragging me with him so that I was on top of him.
“I love y-” he didn’t let me finish the sentence as he brought my face to his, connecting our lips once more.
In a blink of an eye, our trousers were off, Harry almost completely naked under me with the exception of his boxer briefs. I was straddling his lap, my legs on each side of him, Harry supporting himself with one arm as he ran his other hand through my already unruly hair. He then sat up completely, bringing our bodies so much closer together, unbuttoning the rest of my shirt and taking it off.
“God, you are so beautiful,” He breathed after admiring me for a couple of seconds, my cheeks turning deep red “I love you so much.”
You know, sex can kill you...
The words were haunting me. I couldn’t think straight, everything was happening at the speed of light and I didn’t know what I was doing.
“Harry,” I said in a small voice as his hands moved to my back “Harry, listen to me.”
“Don’t talk babe,” Harry’s hand moved to my inner thigh, moving upwards tantalisingly slow. A muffled moan escaped my lips as Harry moved his other hand to my bra clasp, continuing to kiss down my neck.
My hands clutched his arms and pushed them away from my body.
His face contorted into a confused expression as he panted, out of breath “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to die.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, leaving Harry even more confused. He placed his hands on my thighs, pulling me closer to him.
“What? Die? Summer, you’re not gonna die-”
“I can’t do this,” I said, avoiding looking him in the eye, because as soon as I did, I was met with not only disappointment but pain as well “I’m sorry Harry, I’m sorry but... I can’t.”
I lifted myself off him, climbing out of the bed and stepping on random items of clothing. I almost stumbled over this white shirt, but I managed to pick it up before I tripped. I glanced once more at him before heading into the bathroom, his eyebrows in a deep frown as he studied me, the downward slope of his shoulders showing how vulnerable he felt.
I had to get away from him, I couldn’t look at him any longer.
I shut the door of the bathroom, the bright white lights hurting my eyes. For a couple of seconds, there was absolute silence, everything seemed frozen in place. My back was against the cold door, my chest raising and falling rapidly due to the irregular breathing. Instinctively, I reached for the lock, but stopped myself.
It’s just Harry. I didn’t need to lock the door.
But something stronger than me was compelling me to. I wanted to desperately lock the door, to stay away from Harry and his hurt expression. I left his presence inches from me, and I had to lock myself away from him.
When my hand had reached the key, I remembered he would hear the click of the key turning. I couldn’t do that to him, it would hurt him even further than he already was.
It’s just Harry, I repeated, he would never hurt you.
I moved towards the shower and turned the water on. I waited for it to heat up by resting by the sink. My arms were supporting my body weight as I looked myself in the mirror: there I was, only in my white underwear, hair as wild as hay, my eyes a deep cool grey, my cheeks healthily flustered. Harry said that I was beautiful, but somehow looking in the mirror made me feel disgusted. I didn’t notice I had fisted my hands, and once the image of myself became unbearable to look at, I took the rest of my garments and hopped in the shower. I let the hot water fall down my back, soaking my hair, turning it into the colour of mahogany.
I was so stupid, so incredibly stupid. How did I let those words from that scary woman on the train get into my head? It was nonsense, complete rubbish, I knew that...But somehow, they sounded so real, and I was so scared. Scared of what anyway? Dying?! There was nothing to be afraid of. This was so irrational, all of it...
I huffed in frustration, scraping the roots of my shampooed hair. The look of defeat in Harry’s eyes killed me, and knowing that he was just in the next room made my stomach twist in pain, the guilt rising like fever up my body. I closed my eyes shut, trying to erase every single image I was seeing. I couldn’t change anything now, but I knew that sooner or later I would have to leave the bathroom and face him once and for all.
I turned to the water tap and closed the water, a few droplets falling by my feet before stopping completely. I wrapped a towel around me and just stood there, the coldness of the tiled room making me shiver. I tried to listen if Harry was moving behind those walls, but all I could hear was the electricity running through the electrical wires, making the white lamps shine way too brightly.
I put on the clothes I had taken with me to the bathroom, Harry’s shirt reaching halfway through my thighs and the sleeves too long for my arms. I didn’t have a brush, it was next room inside my suitcase, but I sure wasn’t going out to get it. I dried my hair by squeezing the water out with the towel and combed it to the best of my ability with my fingers.
No excuses to stay hidden any longer.
I moved towards the door, gripping my hand to the doorknob and turning it very slowly, as if fearing an attack. My nerves were pumping through my veins, my heart threatening to jump out of my skin.
When the door was open enough to look out, something took me by surprise. Harry, who I assumed would be lying in bed, upset, was leaning against the opposite wall in front of me, wearing pyjama pants, his arms folded in front of his bare chest. He didn’t show any signs of anger, rather the opposite: he was relaxed, looking at me with tender eyes.
What was going on?
“Harry, I don’t know what to say.” I was ashamed, bowing my head being the only way I could muster talking to him.
“Don’t say anything, you don’t need to,” Harry said, his voice calm.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what-”
Harry lifted himself off the wall and came closer to me, and now with a hurried voice, yet still soft and soothing, he said “Hey, don’t justify yourself, there is nothing to be sorry for... If anyone should be sorry here, it’s me.”
“What Harry, that’s nonsense, you did nothing wrong...” I looked down at my feet, and felt Harry’s warm hand touch my upper arm.
“I assumed that, because you said that you loved me, you wanted to-”
“And I do love you!” I interrupted him, afraid that he was doubting how much I loved him. I could take anything, but not that he didn’t believe how much I cared for him. I wouldn’t allow that he doubted that for a single second.
“I know that… I know that very well, but that doesn’t mean that you are ready for this.”
There was silence between us, his bare chest much closer to me now. It seemed like we were inside a bubble of our own, that time inside that capsule was frozen.
“I thought I could do it, ” I whispered so lowly that I thought only I had heard it, but I was proven wrong when Harry’s arms wrapped around me and he caressed my damp hair, my head buried in his neck.
There was silence again, but Harry broke it soon enough.
“Do you remember when you came into my room in Hudson? Of course you remember... That time I thought I could do it too, but guess what? I chickened out, and to make it worse I wasn’t brave enough to admit it, so I just broke your heart instead. See Summer, you are so much more courageous than me, because at least you were brave enough to leave by our own foot, not kicking me out of the room.”
“Did you just use my name and ‘courage’ in the same sentence? That’s ironic.” I sniffed back a tear, but not of sadness, neither of happiness. The stress and all the emotions of that entire day were finally hitting me, and I was so exhausted and vulnerable this was the only way my body could react.
Harry wiped the tear that fell from my eye “You are braver than you think... Oh, and I guess we now have boundaries,” he scanned my body up and down “So if you want to sleep without my shirt on, by all means, I swear I won’t try anything.”
I nudged him with my elbow, and although my cheeks were scarlet red from embarrassed, I couldn’t help but smile at his goofiness.
“I think I’ll keep it on, thank you very much.”
“It does look good on you, so wear it whenever you want,” he winked at me, and without warning, he lifted me up by my waist so that my feet were lifted a couple of inches off the ground. I felt like I was going to fall, so I instinctively wrapped my legs around him, laughter escaping from my lips.
“But today, despite everything, is still gonna be a night of firsts,” he said, walking us towards the bed “Because may I remind you that we never actually slept together, just that time when we were locked in the library, but it doesn’t really count because we slept on the floor, not in an actual bed.”
“That is very true,” I said, and felt his arm unhook behind me, making me fall on my back on the duvet which was already open, Harry’s smile so wide I swear I had never seen him so beautiful. I tucked myself inside, noting how cold the sheets were. Harry followed suit, pulling the sheets up to his chest and turning off the single light that was on, the one on his bed stand.
The room fell dark, with the exception of some lights from outside that entered through the curtains. My eyes took some time to adjust, but soon enough I could make out Harry’s outline perfectly, the heat radiating from his body making me feel instantly warmer. I pushed my pillow closer to his, wanting more of that heat.
“May I?” Harry spoke softly, lifting his arm and extending it out to me. I found that so endearing, the fact that he was actually asking me if he could pull me closer. He sure didn’t want to mess this up, but no matter what happened, it was already perfect.
“Harry, that is way below the boundary, so yes, of course you can.”
With that Harry pulled me closer to him, his elbow resting on my side while the rest of his arm enveloped my back. His face was buried between my chest and my neck, my hands playing with his hair.
“God, you smell so good...” his warm breathing tickled my neck, making my muscles tense up and laugh.
“You are so amazing, Harry. You just fixed a whole situation that could have ended up in awkward silence and embarrassment... How did you do that?”
“Just keep playing with my hair, it feels good.” he said, taking my hand to his hair, encouraging me to continue.
I laughed once more “See what I mean, you are like a magician, you make every moment perfect.”
“I just love you, that’s all I know, no magic tricks I swear. Besides, I know you, the key to your heart is through your smile.”
I pecked his lips, seeing barely the outline of his face in the dark “I love you, and I would love to keep talking to you but we have to sleep because we have a boat to embark tomorrow.”
“How I agree with you, but yes, we need to sleep,”
“Good night then,” I said, closing my eyes, enjoying the feeling of Harry’s arm around me.
“Good night,” And with that we fell asleep peacefully, knowing that whatever tomorrow brought, it would feel like home in Harry’s arms.