Neon Red – Chapter 34

(DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. It’s important to remember this is all totally fabricated, embellished, and exaggerated for entertainment purposes.)

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We’re so late nights

Red eyes, amnesia, on ice

Late nights, red eyes, amnesia, I need ya

Zayn – dRuNk

Before I knew it, I’d reached the leafy tranquility of Hampstead and my world made sense again. How had I ended up here exactly? It wasn’t fair to him. I hadn’t called beforehand, and I had no idea if he was even home. Neither had I bothered to inform him I was in London. He’d been busy doing press and secret shows and tons of appearances with all of his friends on the radio and primetime TV, and here I was, busted up and lost, begging at his doorstep like a common creep.

This was officially stalking. I hadn’t been invited. What if he had company? What would I say to him in this state? That I’d flown here unannounced, injured my hand, and now was in need of him to take care of me? Inexcusable and pathetic. Pulling over a block away from his house, I dialed him up to see if he was home. The phone rang and rang to no avail. I then texted and waited a few minutes, but still nothing. As I took off, I drove past his place and noted that all of the lights were out. He was likely not in London anymore. He’d probably gone to visit his mom and stepdad whose health was worsening, before heading back to LA.

Embarrassed, I floored the gas and zoomed away, out of his neighborhood and away from any hopes of instantaneous comfort. When I grew tired and swerved a few times, I slowed down, not wanting to kill anyone. The pain seemed to only get worse as the night wore on, so I thought about heading to the nearest ER. As I pulled over to navigate it, my phone rang.

“Hey…you ok?” he asked, gruffly.

“Did I wake ya?”

“Mm-hm,” he exhaled, breath filling the speaker. “It’s ok. I wasn’t in bed though. I fell asleep on the couch with the guitar.”

“Youh home?”

“Mm-hm. You?”

“Noh…noh, babe, actually…I’m in London.”

“What?” He woke up then.

“Yeah…” I popped another Marlboro in my mouth, struggling to light it as I spoke. “I got here earlier today.”

“Why didn’t you call?”

“Sorry…I was exhausted.”

“I didn’t know you were making a trip over. Why didn’t you say anything? We could’ve planned something or met up—”

“Well, I’d like to, anyweh. I’m here now.”

“Hey, uh…why you calling so late anyway? Why aren’t you asleep?”

“Dunno, really,” I shrugged, peering through the shadows that surrounded me. The streetlights were out. Only the moon shone here, but the night was cloudy. “I just had an urge to get up…to get out. Ever feel that way?” I exhaled into the cab and the smoke became so overwhelming I cracked a couple of windows. “I’m stuck in the car.”

“Why?”

“Couldn’t sleep, babe. Was starvin’ too. It is late, innit?”

“Taryn here?”

“Mm-hm. She’s asleep though. I’m on me own forh now.”

“Where are you?” His voice was so low and slow it made me shiver. My happy place resided on the other side of that line, and for now it exceedingly unapproachable. I wanted to climb under the covers with him and sleep until everything felt better. Tucked away in his capable arms.

“I dunno,” I spaced out, glaring into the open field beside me. I thought I saw formless movement. Something headed straight towards me out of another dimensions. “I’m lost, to be honest. Someplace between mine and yours.”

“You want me to come find you?”

“Noh, babe…it’s okay. I’ll come to youh. Can I?”

“Of course. Hurry up. I’m waiting.”

“Fanks. See youh in a bit.”

“Alright…be careful.”

Another Marlboro down, I was back at his place in no time flat, and he opened the gate to let me drive inside the paved car park. As I stopped beside the house, he stepped out in a ripped t-shirt and sweats, running his fingers through his tousled hair. Looking as ready to crash as I was. I couldn’t wait for my face to hit his pillow and inhale his secret perfumes.

“Hey old man,” I grinned as he approached, holding the door open for me to climb out. I still held my injured arm like a chicken wing, and he was careful of it when he hugged me.

“Mate, you reek of cigarettes, what’s going on?”

“Mm…” I couldn’t answer, I just squeezed him tighter and he allowed me.

“I can’t fooking believe you’re here,” he pet my hair, voice heavy from the brief nap. “This is one hell of a surprise, Z. You came all this way for me? You were thinking about me?” He shut the door and led the way inside, locking up the house once we entered. I heard his alarm chime sometime afterwards.

“Let me see…” At his command, I flattened my swollen hand against his palm, and he winced at how inflamed it looked. “What the fuck did you do it? Smash it?’

“Sort of. Haha…it’s kinda a long story, if m’honest.”

“Well, get to talking. We’ve got nothing but time here. Have a seat in the on the couch. I’ll be there in a minute.” He urged me on with a pat on the ass. I passed through into the dimly lit family room, plopping down opposite of where he’d been sitting. There was an open journal on the cushion between ours and a gleaming acoustic guitar nearby, which I itched to pick up. My hand was shot to hell though, and there was no way I could play properly. No need to humiliate myself.

Ice knocked against a plastic bowl in the kitchen as I shrugged my jacket off and straightened my hoodie. Then I kicked my shoes off and listened to the water run, before the house was drawn again into silence. The profound silence of the wee hours.

I loved what he’d done with the place. From top to bottom, the furniture was brand new. Hardly ever used as he spent most of his time in other houses holding court with eager people. The couch I sat on was dripping with violet. The walls were a warm woodland green with tinges of teal. Huge paintings covered every open space, including the JMB canvas I’d just purchased him.

“Looks gud in here,” I mentioned as he entered, balancing a large bowl filled with ice in one hand, and a glass of water in the other. It took me back to the band days when he’d go out of his way to make sure I stayed hydrated onstage. “Thank youh, baby.”

“Don’t mention it,” he muttered, kneeling in front of me and propping the bowl on the seat at my hip. He passed me a few Ibuprofens in a napkin, which I tossed down with the water and let out a tremulous breath. Later he took my wounded hand and massaged it before submerging it in the ice. I hissed as it delved in, but knew it was necessary to quell the inflammation.

Heyyyy!” he cried suddenly. My eyes darted to his, but he was staring at my new hoodie. “Is that mine??”

“Noh, broh, chill. Not everythin’s about youh, yeah? It’s mine.”

“It is mine, ya thieving bastard!” he pretended to rip it off me. “God, you could make a fortune on all the clothes you’ve stolen from me.”

“I’ve already got an eBay page set up. I can see it now: Harry Styles Used Apparel. Can’t wait to start listing stuff.”

“You better send me 20%.”

“I’ll think about it.” We laughed.

When the room grew hushed, I watched him, swamped by an inexplicable surge of joy. He was oblivious to my delight, occasionally lifting my hand from the ice to massage the knuckles and puffy fingers. Once even kissing it. The brush of his lips warmed me to the bone, chasing away the monstrous chills brought on by prolonged contact with the ice cubes.

“I love youh…” was all I could think to say. He looked up at me, eyes weary but cheerful, then jutted his lips in search of a kiss. I pressed my mouth to his, too drained to make the effort of puckering. He did all the work, pulling me back for more as soon as we parted.

“Does it still hurt?” he asked, rubbing each of my fingers individually.

“A little. Would youh do that thing again?” Right away he massaged me.

“You ever gonna tell me what happened?”

“I need a smoke.”

“No, I’m cutting you off. You’ve done enough damage for one night. Your lungs will thank me.”

I bit my lip in frustration, but couldn’t argue with that. Instead, I ventured, “How’d your day goh?”

“Eh, it was good.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Pretty uneventful. Had lunch with Adam and Mitch. Met with a few other friends and cousins earlier in the week before I head back to LA.”

“You’ve got that massive gig with Stevie soon, yeah?”

“Mm-hm. Super stoked about that…”

“I bet youh are.”

“It probably won’t actually hit me until I’m stood there, onstage, like, uh…staring at her and harmonizing. Mate, what even is my life? How’d we get so lucky?”

Born lucky…hah! ‘Member that?”

“I’m soooo glad you covered that.” When he sneered I laughed harder, thinking back to the corny Chinese symbol. I thought it was so cool when I was eighteen, but time had proven me very wrong. He had no room to talk. There were quite a few he could stand to cover up himself.

“Don’t hate, Haz, youh know youh wanted one too.”

Righhhtsurrre. The heart is much better…”

“Yeah, I like that one better too now that youh mention it.” Then I remembered to ask, “Hey, baby, I was wonderin’…how’d the first show goh the other day?”

“The London one? Ah, mate, it was unreal,” he snickered, playing with my fingers among the ice. He sat on his butt now as opposed to his knees, propping an arm across my lap. He was being super attentive with my injured hand and had made it his personal mission to make sure the pain abated. The ice and his intermittent massages were working wonders. I could finally complete a thought without a sudden, piercing pain defibrillating my heart and shutting down my brain.

“It was at a place called The Garage. Oh god, remember when we played The Garage over in Glasgow? Wayyy back in the day?”

“Oh, mate, how could I forget? Lou nearly got us kicked out. Breaking shit backstage.”

“And stealing. They gave us so much free merch though. I think I still have a shirt—”

“Not forh long, if I have any say in that.”

“Try and walk out of here with it and I’ll chop this fat hand off, I swear to God.”

I laughed and then sobered, realizing I was deflecting. Shamelessly too. He was taking care of me so tenderly, regardless of whether I told him how I injured my hand. For all he knew I could’ve beaten someone to death on the way over, yet if he found out, I was certain his care for me wouldn’t have been altered or withdrawn in the slightest.

Evidently, I was undeserving of him, as I’d come all this way on short notice with ill intentions. To drop a bomb on him that he never saw coming. It was time to make a move. He’d probably never forgive me anyway, but the sooner I told him, and the sooner I stopped milking his concern and attention, the better off we’d be.

“Haz, babe…”

“Wussup?” he looked up at me so intently my heart fluttered. Alarmingly green irises. Alive and electric. Radiant with the mysterious of the night. So eager to love on me in intimate spaces. I gulped and was hardly able to maintain eye contact.

“I think I got sumthin to say…”

“You think or you know?”

“Both…”

“Be my guest. Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

“I don’t know if I can.”

“For fuck’s sake. It’s that bad? What’d you knock off a liquor store on your way over here? Is that how you messed up your hand?”

“I’d tell youh, but I think you’re gonna hate me…”

“I could never hate you.”

“Youh haven’t heard what I have to say yet.”

“Then try me.” With that, I took a consoling breath and shut my eyes. His hand stopped massaging me, and he waited in the stillness as I grew a pair.

“I think I’m being extorted. Wait…I don’t actually ‘think’. I know.”

“What??” he grabbed my knee, heedless of his damp fingers. I opened my eyes and watched the blood leave his fingertips as he gripped me with an increasing agitation. “Z what the fuck? By who?!”

“I…babe…I’m soh sorry. They have photos of us…youh and I in Paris back in March. The second time around, when youh were blindflolded—” He fell backwards onto the floor, completely dazed. I reached for him. “Babe, I really fucked up—” Before I could finish, he was on his feet and storming out of the room.

“Haz! Babe! Please wait! I can explain!” I called after him, extracting my hand from the ice and shoving it into the hoodie pocket to warm it. I got up with my good hand and tried to follow, but he moved into the office down the hall and slammed the door.

That was it. It was a done deal. Nothing between us would ever be the same again. Now he would discover I’d lied to him for months, and that G and Taryn found out long before him. It was sure to drive him daft, and he’d no longer be able to focus on press for the album, or the movie, or his upcoming tour. Talk about getting royally fucked. To him, this probably felt like career sabotage, although I’d worked my balls off to spare him for as long as I could.

I heard him moving around the office, too livid to speak to me. Probably ready to call his management and let them know what I’d done. The fate of his career now hung in the balance, much the same as mine. Regardless of his newfound success, I’d robbed of him of his happiness, and above all, his peace of mind.

“Babe….” I moaned, tears leaping to my eyes as stared at the unflinching door. His frigidity was my only response. It was rare that he got so pissed he couldn’t speak, and I’d seen it a few times before, but this time felt different. This reaction was worse than G’s because at least with her I knew what I was getting. A few slaps to the head, a bit of screaming, loads of crying. But with him, his silence unnerved me. I half expected him to fling open the door brandishing a pistol.

“I’m soh sorry, Haz,” I wept, losing my bearings. I stumbled backwards into the opposite wall, shutting my eyes and allowing the tears to fall. I had no where to go. I physically couldn’t leave. He was the center of my world and forsaking him meant I’d self-destruct. I needed him to keep me together in a way that Taryn and my own mom were incapable of. No one was as deep in this shit with me as he was, and now he had shut me out.

“I didn’t mean forh this to happen. Any of it. Youh have to believe me…” I was fully aware there was no way he could hear me. Still, the words just needed to be said. I slumped to the floor across from the door, watching it until my vision clouded over. “I’m soh sorry…I’m soh sorry,” I whispered feverishly, promising I’d make it right despite knowing all hope was lost.

Suddenly, the door clicked open and he moved away without a single word spoken. I presumed he wanted me to enter. I took a stabilizing breath before rising as best I could with one hand, then entering the office. I took a few steps toward him where he stood at the far side of the room, facing away from me, but stopped short when I nearly slipped on a sheet of paper. I glanced down and my soul convulsed. Arrayed neatly on the floor were the same exact surveillance photos I’d received in the unmarked envelope back in March. What the actual fuck? How did they get here??

“Haz, what the fuck?!” I approached, spinning him around and shoving him into the bookcase. “What the fuck is this?! Youh settin’ me up?!”

“You first, dickhead!”

“You’ve been hidin’ this from me?! The entire fuckin’ time? Youh in on this?! Are youh out of your fuckin’ mind?!”

“Apparently so are you!”

“Fuck off!” I shouted. Collaring him up with one hand. “I wanted to tell youh! Have youh been fuckin me over?! Is this some sort of fuckin’ sick prank?!”

“No! It’s real! I wanted to tell you too! You think I didn’t?!” We raged at each other, then realized how completely stupid we sounded. We were both guilty of doing the exact same thing.

“When did you get these?” I sobered, releasing his shirt.

“Not too long ago,” he said gruffly, hugging himself. “A week or so, maybe? Like right before the album dropped.”

They’d gotten to him late. My stomach wrenched with how surreal this all was. I didn’t know whether to feel relieved that he already knew and had been lying to me too, or to feel petrified that this whole thing ran far deeper than I realized before.

“Have youh told anyone? Haz? Pay attention! Have youh?!”

“No one,” he croaked. “Who the fuck could I tell anyway? Mate, I’ve been freaking out alone all this time. I can’t fucking believe you already knew.”

“Yeah…m’sorry…” I rubbed a hand across my mouth, sitting half atop the desk. “I need a fuckin’ smoke.”

“When did you get yours?” he squatted in front of me, gazing up with a furrowed brow. I can’t believe I’d gotten angry and shouted at him. He was nothing but a lost puppy. The green in his eyes became more penetrating when he was afraid.

“Don’t get pissed at me, alright?” I began.

“Something tells me that’s gonna be unavoidable.”

“March….”

“Zayn, are you fucking retarded?!”

“Haz?! How could youh use that word?! It’s not politically correct—” he got up and hemmed me up by the collar, shaking me violently.

“Why the fuckkkk didn’t you tell me?! You knew all this time?! For fuck’s sake, mate!” I hadn’t seen him this mad ever. My heart was rising higher and higher in my throat, threatening to asphyxiate me. Still, something masochistic in me wasn’t finished yet. Next, I blurted,

“G, knows…Taryn too. She saw the photos—” he slapped me. There was a pause and then he crushed me to him, telling me how sorry he was. Begging me to slap him back. I settled for pulling his hair instead. Now he sat down beside me on the desk, muzzled by shock.

“What the actual fuck is happening?” I whispered. “Have you paid anything yet?”

“100K. You?”

“Yeah…same. Oh, actually, 110K to be precise. I figured that if I added a little extra they might be nice enough to leave me alone.” There was a pause in which I didn’t have to look at him to know he was puzzled over how stupid that sounded.

“You mean you tipped your extortionists?”

“Yeah…”

“For fuck’s sake….”

“Seemed like a good idea at the time.” He got up and rubbed his hands down his face; growling into them briefly before letting them fall at his sides in defeat.

“We’re fucked.”

“I know.”

“Like proper fucked…”

“I know.”

(Thanks for reading!❤️)

Published by AD

AD (formerly Zarry Documentaries) from YouTube and Wattpad

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