Neon Red – Chapter 27

(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.)


And I have never loved a darker blue

Than the darkness I have known in you, own from you

Hozier – No Better Love

Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” bopped through my headphones when I got the text a few days later. He’d landed in NYC and couldn’t get to me for a day or two because he had tons of filming to do for SNL. I texted him back an angry emoji, to which responded with a turd. I suppose it was best anyway, as G was super prevalent around the house for a few days. She had some downtime and was determined to spend it with me. 

I’d have to break away eventually to spend a few days at my loft where Haz could visit in peace. I’d sent a cleaning crew ahead with Taryn, who also would bring the candles and booze I asked for. She knew what the occasion entailed without me explaining. She and I chose never to text about it, and never to speak of it when we were inside G’s place. We could never be sure who was watching or listening anymore.

Yolanda visited unexpectedly and G and I were forced to play ecstatic host and hostess for the afternoon, taking her out for an expensive lunch at a bougee spot called Le Coucou in lower Manhattan. It was a gorgeous place no doubt attuned to the matriarch’s fondness of fine dining, with high ceilings, white table cloths, and chandeliers, but a bit fussy and uppity for my taste; and they even had a dress code. 

G and I were grilled the entire time about our careers and plans for the remainder of the year. Yolanda was unhappy I didn’t do more to promote my last single, although G defended me and said I had. Yolanda scolded me for letting my anxiety inhibit my progress as a musician and more importantly an entertainer. She said I couldn’t be one without the other, so my anxiety had to be bested. She was always on the lookout for holistic treatments for any ailments that surfaced among the family, as she believed modern medicine tended to be more harmful than beneficial. She had apparently helped to treat her own Lyme disease and was keen to force similar treatments on Anwar and Bella who also suffered from the condition. Once she heard about my crippling anxiety, she set her sights on curing it and hadn’t let up since. 

She mentioned I should’ve gotten back onstage by now following my departure from that promotional avenue back in June 2016. To her, I was losing momentum. The hype would wear off eventually if the fans couldn’t connect the music with my personality, which she believed could only be facilitated through live interaction. She said she thought I ought to be doing more to overcome my stage fright immediately. I told her I understood, but I was maybe mapping out a different path that would help me achieve my own definition of success and no one else’s. Besides, I wasn’t really up for discussing my stage issues with anybody at the moment. It was still a touchy subject for me. So once she saw how terse my answers became, she eventually dropped the subject and moved on to talk about Vogue. It seemed all the Hadids ever talked about these days was the potential Vogue cover, which a small part of me hoped would never come to fruition.


A few days later, I was sat alone on the terrace of my apartment chain-smoking and waiting on the call. Haz was finally done filming for SNL and had a couple of days free before he needed to tend to other matters on the eastern seaboard. He was vague about what they were. He’d invited me to his hotel, but for reasons he couldn’t understand, I declined. He said I was a bully for making him shlep his assall the way across town to see me, but I promised I’d make it worth his while.

I’d taken a long time in the shower this morning, scrubbing every crevice until I was squeaky clean and glistening like polished China, then trimmed my beard and maybe applied a bit too much cologne. Now I sat in a Led Zeppelin t-shirt and ripped jeans, waiting on my phone to buzz like an anxious dweeb ready for my first date.

I took a few selfies and posted the best one to Instagram and cross-posted to Twitter. The fans went nuts in the comments and I responded to a few to make their day. By the time I had finished, the call came.

“I’m here. Bring me to you,” was the first thing he said.

“Sick, babe. Hang on…” I got up and leaned over the balcony railing, spotting a cab waiting down the road. I couldn’t make him out in the backseat, but knew it must’ve been his way of remaining inconspicuous and not rolling up to my doorstep.

“Alright, maan, listen up. I’m the fifth buildin’ on the left-hand side of the street, yeah?”

“Which one?”

“The brick one. Sort of like red brick.”

“Alright, I think I see it…”

“Listen, babe. Before youh hop out, have the driver circle the block and drop youh off ’round the corner, yeah? Hit the rear courtyard soh youh can come in through the back door.”

“Sounds like alotta work, not gonna lie…”

“Shut up, Haz, listen. It’s super private. The code to the courtyard gate is 6084. Got it? 6-0-8-4. There’s noh doorman, okay? But I’ll buzz youh in soon as youh press me doorbell. I’m unit number—”


“Yes, exactlyh.”

“Ok, got it.”

“Safe journeys, bruv.” 

“Cheers, mate,” he hung up with a laugh. 

I put on some tunes (Jerry Butler’s – “Whatever’s Fair” was up first ) and lit a couple of scented candles. Now I stood near my front door waiting to hear that bell like my life depended on it. He should be at the courtyard by now. I hope he remembered the code. Maybe I should’ve texted it to him? I started to grab my phone, but then the doorbell chimed. I rushed to hit the buzzer. No words were exchanged over the intercom, as it was safer that way. I opened the door and stood back, waiting to see him pass through like a godsend.

The elevator dinged and I heard him walking down the hall, filling the place with his humongous presence. The second he came in and shut the door, wearing a wool coat, a baseball cape, and dark sunglasses, I ran to him and dropped to my knees; clinging to his waist.

“Z?” he rasped, shocked that I hadn’t even properly greeted him. “Hey??” I had no idea what was wrong with me. I hadn’t planned on this. I thought I would greet him normally, with a kiss or a hug or something. But for some reason my knees went limp the second he smiled at me. Something about that familiar grin breaking through his disguise made me realize how badly I had been in need of him this past month, but could never articulate it. I couldn’t tell him any of what had gone on, or that I was still waist-deep in a grave and fucked up situation. One that had almost killed me.

“I needed youh…” I groaned. “Fuck me, I needed youh…” It was all I could say.

“Hey, I’m right here…always…”

“Where the fuck were youh?!”

“I’m right here, mate,” he said quietly, running his fingers through my hair; lightly scratching my scalp. I tilted my head back and gazed up at him like a miserable child.

“There’s soh much I need to say to youh…youh have noh idea…”

“I’m all ears—” he abruptly snatched me up and carried me over to the couch, plopping down onto it with me across his lap. I sat up with a laugh and hugged him around the neck. He crushed me until my ribs ached. Now I pulled his hat and glasses off and looked him square in the eyes for the first time in forever.

“Hey…” he whispered.

“Hey youh.” I replied, pressing my face to his cheek. “Took youh long enough to get here, fuckboi.”

“Shuddup. I should’ve made you come to me.”

“I wish I could’ve, but noh more hotels for a while, okay?’

“You gonna tell me why?”


“Alright…if you say so.” He tilted my face up and looked at me suspiciously. “Have you gotten uglier since I last saw you??”

“I think soh,” I chuckled, pulling at his dry bottom lip. He quickly moistened them.

“Soh, New York, yeah?” I said.

The Big Apple—”

The ol’ Meltin’ Pot—”

The City That Never Sleeps, eh?’

Ol’ Empire City—”

“Shit, that’s all I got.” We laughed at our own idiocy. “It’s a long way from Bradford, mate. Never thought you’d end up here.”

“Me neither,” I shrugged. “Time changes a lot.”

“Is that my shirt?”

“Noh, not everythin’ is yours—”

“Since when are youh into Zeppelin, broh?” He mimicked my accent.

“I’m into things…” I grinned. I think it might’ve been his after all. I couldn’t really remember. 

“New York looks good on you, though.”

“Think soh?” 

He nodded cheeks dimpling. “Yeah, I think so. You seem at home here. It’s, uh, nice to see you doing your own thing. You’re the first one of us to actually make roots somewhere other than London and LA.”

“Safe zones.”

“Thinking about staying long term?” he played with my fingers. I looked down at our intertwined hands and answered contemplatively.

“Probably, maybe, hopefully. Noh sense in movin’ every yearh right? That seems a bit immature.”

“That’s about right. Probably a good philosophy.” He watched my lips. “You smell like smoke.”

“What else is new?” I quipped. “M’thinkin’ of buyin’ a place here, y’know? Some time between this yearh and the next.”

“What’re you renting or something?”

“Forh now. What’d youh think of this place, anyweh? Worth buyin’?”

“I like the area…from what I’ve seen. I’d prefer a doorman.”

“Yeah soh creeps in baseball caps and sunglasses can’t get it.” I popped his glasses on. “G’s mum said it was a steal, for the price. Said I’m only payin’ three quarters of what most pay for lesser places.” I toyed with the strings on his hoodie. “What about your place?”

“We finalized the deal last month when I flew in for a few days. I’ll stop by, check in on it while I’m here.”

“Youh ever gonna move in?”

“Not as far as I can tell right now.” He tilted his chin in the air as if pondering the notion. “I have to come here a few more times this year, so I might try to make it a little more like home.”

“I’d like it if youh did. We’d be close. yeah? It’d be easier to get to each other.”

“Yeah…I might consider moving in later.”

“Might as well. Youh paid an arm and a leg for it.”

“But I’m also not interested in running into you two everyday.” For that I squeezed his nipple. He pretended to be in pain and covered it. Now he squinted at me and cocked his head.

“Green hair?”

“It’s a mood.”

“And what kind of mood is that? What’re you an angsty teenage girl?”

“Don’t hate, broh, just because youh can’t pull it off. I can pull off any color and youh know it too—”

“No, you only think you can. Looks like the incredible hulk took a shit on your head if you ask me—” For that I bit his earlobe. He hissed in pain then pinned me down and bit mine too.

“Yeah well…I missed youh. I dye it this color whenever I really miss youh.” Now he stopped and looked me in the eye. There was a softness in his gaze that let me know he was touched.

“Bullshit. You wouldn’t do that for me…”

“I do it for me, technically, but it’s inspired by youh, soh take it as a compliment and shuddup.”

He popped his cap onto my head and then grabbed my face and kissed me. It escaped me that we hadn’t kissed yet until our lips met and set off an aggressive fleet of butterflies in my stomach. They clawed their way up into my throat. Why had we been holding back? This was just too fucking good to miss out on. We ought to be kissing every second we were together. I couldn’t stop probing for more once he got me started. I shifted around on his lap to get at a better angle, then played with the texture of his pillowy lips and tongue until it was clear we wanted to take things further. But I eventually decided against it. Breaking the kiss I whispered: 



“Youh smell like a cab.”

“Oh mate, c’mon. Fuck’s sake, it was a long trip. Where’s your shower?”

“Upstairs in the bedroom. C’mon.” 

I climbed up and led him by the hand up the few steps to my bedroom. There I found him a clean towel and a pair of briefs and flip flops. He took his clothes off and laid them on the foot of the bed and I felt a warmth spread throughout my belly when I laid eyes on his nude body. The shifting shoulder blades. The curves of his hips and ass. The bulging calf muscles. When I started to step out of the room to keep myself under control, he told me he wanted me to watch. I told him no because I wouldn’t be able to resist joining him in the shower, and then we’d never leave the bed. I needed to spend some time doing normal shit with him before we took it there.

He showered while I folded his coat and took his clothes to the laundry. I put them on a quick spin and would come back later to toss them in the dryer. I noticed he hadn’t brought anything else with him, so he’d probably be looking to put these back on if we headed out anywhere. When I stepped back into the room with a clean t-shirt for him, I noticed he had lined his rings along the vanity. There were about six of them, and among them was the rose ring I’d sent him earlier last month. That he’d been wearing it everyday without fail since the package arrived gave me an unmatched sense of pride.

When he came out into the living room dressed in the t-shirt and briefs, I noticed I’d forgot to get him pants. I started back into the room and he stopped me saying he was more comfortable as is. I certainly would broach no complaints. Nina Simone’s “You Can Have Him” was playing and he sang along to it. 

“Can I feed youh?” I asked, making my way into the kitchen.

“I’d love that. Whatcha got in mind?”

Uhhh…let’s see, how about a fatass bologna sandwich?”

“You mean to tell me I came all this way for you to fix me processed meats?”

“Grilled cheese?” I teased.

“Better, mate, but still not good. It actually sucks, if I’m honest. M’thinking of ditching dairy too.”

“Then…how about….” I opened the fridge and dug around. “Spaghetti Bolognese!”

Ding ding ding, we have our winner. Get busy!”

“Alright, alright.” I snickered, knowing I had gone grocery shopping specifically to fix this meal for him. It was his favorite. “Aren’t youh like a vegan or some shit now?”


“Whateva, broh. I love meat too much to even know what that is.”

“I know youh do…especially mine.”

“Fuck off.”

“But don’t worry I’ll eat your meat, no questions asked.”

“Haz…what’re youh, like twelve?”

“I mean the meat in the pasta!” Something caught my eye across the room.

“Wait, I gotta surprise for youh! I almost forgot.” I ran over to the bar and grabbed the bottle of Dom Pérignon I’d been chilling for him. On my way back I keyed up “Sign Of The Times” on the stereo and blasted it. 

“Sick party tune!” I joked.

“Zayn mate, you shouldn’t have! You didn’t have to do this for me…”

“Of course I did!” I dried the bottle of with a dish towel and got two champagne glasses and met him in the middle of the loft floor. I passed the glasses to him while I struggled with the cork. 

“Mate, m’gonna cry. I can’t even believe you did this for me.” The cork came off with a loud pop. I poured us each a glass. “This is super thoughtful. I wish I’d known you back during your debut…”

“It’s wild how out of touch we were, innit?”

“Fuck sake, it is. I hate it. I still celebrated your successes though.”

“Ah, babe, it’s okay. We’re making up for lost time!” I grinned. “And I got youh an even bigger surprise comin’ for the album release. Cheers, Hazza. I’m soh fuckin’ proud of youh—” He grabbed my face and kissed me repeatedly.  Then we toasted to new beginnings and conquering the world as solo acts. We hooked arms stupidly and took a sip. Suddenly I realized I was still missing part of the surprise. 

“Oh shit, wait, babe.” I ran and set the bottle of Dom and my glass on the counter, then grabbed the big ass confetti cannon I’d got for him. I shot it above our heads and kissed him in the colorful shower. He told me that he loved me when we broke, and I could hardly say it back for him kissing me again.

Later after a few glasses of champagne when we were good and loose and couldn’t stop talking. I got started cooking as Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” vibed throughout the loft. As I worked, Haz came and sat atop the counter by the sink. I stopped and kissed him a few times, mesmerized by how pretty and shinny his lips looked. After his shower he had only put the rose ring back on and left the others off, so I grabbed his hand and kissed it like he was the Godfather. Now I laid out the cutting board and knife. He took the knife and pretended to fling it across the room a few times. 

“I wanna learn to throw daggers…”

“Give it a rest, babe, youh can barely throw darts. Youh nearly took me eye out that one time!”

“M’getting better, I swear. Jeff is fucking amaing. It’s like a really weird party trick of his. But m’ready to upgrade to something more deadly. I wanna upstage him next time.”

“We’ll see.”

“How’s Hadid?” he asked. I looked over at him to gauge his mood and better understand where his head was. My answer was entirely contingent upon it.

“She’s alright, y’know? Always busy workin’.”

“So you’re not in trouble this time? After everything we did?” I wanted to quip with ‘my friend you have no fucking clue’ but decided to keep quiet. “What, her spidey senses didn’t tingle after Paris?”

“Noh,” I chuckled, lining my supplies along the counter at his hip. Rinsing all the produce. Peeling the garlic. His feet were swinging beside me. “To be honest, I don’t think she likes youh very much, Haz. Neither do I.”

Meee?” He pretended to be shocked, slamming a hand to his heart. “What could led her to feel that way about me?? Moi?? I’m a fucking a peach, mate. I mean look at me, what’s not to like?” He was practically slurring his words, pouring his fourth glass of Dom with a playful leer. “I’m a joy to be around!” He spread his hands at the last part and it gave me a good laugh. Sometimes he still acted like the boy I knew at 18. Hadn’t aged a day. I moved to dig around the fridge a bit while he checked his phone, then pulled out a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream.

Sickkkk, for me?” he asked.

“Of course.” I got him a spoon and he tore into it right away. He’d occasionally feed me a bite, until I got a cold headache and had to let it wear off. He laughed at me the whole time.

“Soh what has Harry Styles been up to, huh?”

“Lot’s of admin-ing for the album. It’s driving me insane.”


“Yeah, don’t get me wrong, the hard part’s over. Everything’s recorded and settled. But I noticed leading up to the promo there were, uh, so many meetings about every tiny aspect of the whole thing. Cover art. Vinyl art. The tracklist. The bonus tracks. The streaming. The videos. I thought it’d be kind of easy, uh, y’know after I finished writing and recording. But I think now all that little stuff is actually left up to me too.” He took a big bite of ice cream and finished talking with his mouth full. “I’m the one running the show. I’m sure you know what I mean.”

“Absolutely. It can be tedious and exhaustin’, to be fair. But once everythin’ comes out and youh see it goin’ exactly the way youh planned, you’ll be glad as fuck youh took the time to attend every meetin’ and make every choice yerself.”

“Yeah, probably,” he nodded absently. “What’ve you been up to?”

“Uh, nothin’ much babe. Kind of goin’ mad with a few things here. Some of that shit really makes me wanna jump off me roof.” That was the biggest Freudian slip I’d ever experienced. I had no idea how to recover without exposing myself. I balked a while at my own words before turning to face him. At that he looked at me gravely.

“You ok? Wanna talk about it?”

“Uh…not really.”

“Right, you never do. Why’d I even ask?” he chuckled drily. I decided to make my earlier illustration seem a bit more metaphorical than literal so he wouldn’t get suspicious. 

“Seriously though, babe. Latelyh it feels as though I’m walkin’ a super narrow ledge, staring down thousands of feet at the world whizzin’ by without me. Youh know the feelin’. Like I’m stuck in this airless bubble by myself…and no one can hear me screaming…”

“Like a bell jar?”

“Yeah…I guess.” I tried to ignore the implications of his literary illusion. It was way too spot on and beginning to scare me. I began chopping up the garlic and carrots, blinking back tears.

“That’s not good, Z. Like really not good. That’s nothing to brush off either and just not talk about, alright? I’m here. I wanna be someone you can depend on with this kind of stuff…if you’ll just give me a chance.” He grabbed my face and turned it towards his, looking me deep in the eye.  Frank Ocean’s “Seigfried” looped around again, which was something I’d heard too much of this past month or so. Something otherworldly must’ve been fucking with me. Haunting me. Haz looked worried. 

“I knew something was off with you,” he said. “You’ve been sounding, uh, weird over the phone for weeks now. I never said anything because I didn’t want to offend you, but something’s up. What is it? What’s making you feel all stressed and alienated?”

I smiled tremulously and hung my head over the task at hand. I seriously considered telling him, then realized it would only serve to make me feel relieved while burdening him in the process. It just wasn’t worth it. I enjoyed seeing him smile today and wouldn’t change that for all the relief in the world. 

“Maybe let’s just drop it, babe. I’ll be alright. Always am.”

“Alright…” he sighed, used to me shutting him out by now.

Apparently I was giving him the impression I couldn’t trust him with my feelings and anxieties, but that wasn’t my intention by a long shot. Even so, for the moment it couldn’t be helped. I was always too defensive and closed off when it came to the things that were bothering me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to lay this on him while he was so busy and trying to get his career started. This should be a time of joy and celebration and innovation and good vibes, and I didn’t want to ruin that by preoccupying him with my darkness.

(Thanks for reading! ❤️)

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