Neon Red – Chapter 39

(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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Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold

All that you need is in your soul

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man

The next morning Haz dropped me off before heading back to catch his flight. He honked his horn excessively to draw attention to us on the way out, and I had to make a run for it to get inside before anyone saw me. I was stoked to get home and find a fresh change of clothes, then touch bases with Tobias to deliver the laptop later that day. Once I got inside, I saw the fridge was stocked without my asking. Thank fuck. Right away I took out a soda and drank it so fast it nearly sprayed out of my nose. Eyes-watering, I wandered down the hall to the staircase, but ran into T in the family room.

“Wuddup—” I stopped short as I entered, only to find G and her mum Yolanda sitting on the couch outside of plain view. I nearly dropped the can from my hand. In a heartbeat, all the blood shot to my head, boiling behind my face. I could sense my pressure rising, causing my ears to ring. Enraged, I spun around and headed up the stairs, barking back over my shoulder: “Taryn, upstairs now!” She shot up and followed without question, fully aware of how livid I was. She made excuses to her guests, however, that didn’t stop them from following also.

“Really Z?!” Gigi called up after me, watching me cross the landing to the master suite. I completely ignored her. “I’m not going anywhere until you speak to me, Zayn! This is effecting my life too! Stop being so god damn selfish!”

Yolanda then yelled up that I couldn’t avoid them forever. Apparently she didn’t know who I was. The master at avoiding excruciatingly awkward situations and uncomfortable talks. I’d fly to Mars if I must, Venus, Pluto, anything to get me out of an unwanted confrontation. Spinning on my heels, I turned back and grabbed T up the remainder of the steps because she was taking too long. He bright colored hair flew everywhere. She smelled like coconut. Once inside, I locked my bedroom door behind us.

“What the actual FUCK, T?! Youh let them into my fuckin‘ house, broh?!” I pounded my chest. “Mine?! I thought youh had my fuckin’ back! What’s wrong with youh?! Are youh daft?!”

“I will NOT speak to you when you’re like this, Z!” she spat, moving into the bathroom and slamming it shut. There was a flash of her curly teal hair before the door closed.

Fuckkkkk….” I growled, trying to calm down. Trying not to punch something. My eyes were twitching with all the rage I struggled to contain. This was no way to resolve anything. I attempted Harry’s breathing technique, but it didn’t work since he wasn’t there to guide me this time. I’d have to just wing it and hope I say the right things. 

“T…listen…” I approached, gently petting the door. I didn’t know if it was to soothe her or me. Either way, it helped to abate some of the frenetic energy overtaking my limbs. “M’sorry, okay? I didn’t mean it. Listen…I just lost my temper, okay? Open up. It’s me, T. M’soh sorry. I love youh…”

At that, the door slowly cracked. She leaned back against the sink with a petulant scowl. I came in and shut the door for added discretion. With my phone being hacked, I didn’t trust anything or anyone anymore. My privacy had been leveled forever.

“Before you say anything, hear me out. They came unannounced,” she tossed her hands up. “I had no idea, Z, I swear. I just looked up one minute and G was texting me that she was outside. Can you believe that? Talk about blindsided!” she laughed nervously, eyes bulging. “Not just in the country, but out-fucking-side, dude. I totally panicked! I told her this wasn’t a good time, but they’d gotten out of the cab by then and it had already left. So I couldn’t just leave them out there—”

“The fuck youh couldn’t?? What do youh mean youh couldn’t?! Of course youh could have, T! They were tresspassin’!”

“True, true…and maybe you could’ve left them out there all morning, but I couldn’t. You know me, Z, I’m a big softie when it comes to stuff like this! I even offered to drive them to a hotel, but let me tell ya, they weren’t interested in the least! They fucking hate you right now, dude, and are out for blood!”

“Ya think?!” I retorted, running a hand through my hair. “All the more reason not to let them into my home, T, are youh even usin’ your brain! And it’s really fooked up that they even put youh in that situation. Forh that, I’m sorry. But still, T, youh should’ve reached out—”

“Well how about you shouldn’t have destroyed your freaking phone, and then left without giving me Harry’s number!” she hissed. As always, she was exactly right, and I didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Shit, shit, shit…” I despaired. “I was gonna get a new one today. I meant to call youh from his number, but must’ve forgot—”

‘oH, gEe, I mUsT’vE fOrGoT!’” she mocked me in a stupid voice. “This really sucks, dude. I mean…I wish I hadn’t answered, but I had no idea she was here when I did. I’d been talking to her all along, ever since you first told her what happened—”

“About what exactly?!”

“Everything! What do you think??” her eyes flashed. “About how upset she was. About how scared she was. She said she wanted to kill herself. Said she couldn’t handle what was happening. That she hated you. That I should come and work for her—”

“And what the fuck did youh say to that?”

“Duh, I told her I couldn’t! Sweetie, I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got great benefits, and no one’s gonna take them from me. My insurance plan actually covers the first three visits to a chiropractor. She knows that—”

“T, focus?!”

“Ok, ok! Basically she was just testing my loyalty. Seeing if she could, like, turn me against you or something. It felt realllllly weird. Like I was an overgrown child in some sort of creepy divorce…” she whispered the last, as if they could hear us. “She knows I’m the key to cracking everything you keep from her. Finances, emails, business accounts, all of it—”

“Oh great, thanks for stickin’ around, I guess,” I uttered wryly, dragging my hands down my face. “I can’t do this. Any of it. You’re gonna have to deal with them—”

“No, this is entirely on you!”

“Just get rid of them for me!”

“No way, José! This is your thing. Not mine,” she set a shaky hand to her chest. She wasn’t holding it together as well as she seemed on the outside. Only then did I notice she was wearing my Bob Marley t-shirt. “You don’t pay me enough for all this…”

“I could…”

“No! There is no amount of money worthy of my mental health. Sorry, babe.”

“My life’s a fuckin’ wreck, innit?”

“For now…but it doesn’t have to be. Take charge, Z.”

Ughh what do I do?!” I frantically grabbed her by the shoulders.

First…calm down.” She took my hands off of her. “Second, communication is key. You can’t keep ignoring them. G doesn’t deserve it. You should’ve been upfront with her to begin with—”

“Youh mean as upfront as you’ve been with Ellie?”

Ohhhh dude! Don’t you fucking dare go there. I’ll deck you, I swear to God! Leave her out of this! The situations don’t even compare—”

“They’re similar enough, yeah?”

“Look, I’m honest with Ellie, thank you very much. Sorry, Z, but I am. I’m not you, ok? I’m not good at juggling multiple conflicting narratives at the same time. Sure, I may not tell my superrr religious parents every stomach-churning detail of my sex life, in order to evade their judgement. Ya got me there. Classic closeted person’s syndrome. But the similarities end there. I don’t lie to EllieNever have, never will. Can’t say the same for you and Haz or you and G, though. You mean well, my guy, but you lie to everyone, and that’s the biggest difference between you and I.”

“A lie is a lie, T. Youh just admitted to doin’ it. Youh lie to your parents. Doesn’t matter the reasonin’ behind it. We all do what we have to do. It’s human nature—”

“Oh give it a rest, alright?!” She was thoroughly pissed now, standing to her full height, hands on her hips. “Stop deflecting! Take care of your shit!” She shoved me towards the door as I paced in front of her.

“Oh, what youh mean youh don’t like your life being picked apart?! Youh don’t like being therapized and judged? Youh know full-well it’s difficult as fuck to be totally honest when you’re tryin’ to make soh many people happy!”

“Ummm…is that what’s happening here? Ya sure about that, buddy?” she cocked a smug eyebrow at me. 

“What the fook else would it be??”

“Uh…maybe this situation happens to be the result of you looking out for only yourself, Z and no one else. I’m pretty sure you were solely concerned with your own happiness when all this popped off—”

“Oh my fuckin’ god…really, T?! Youh too??”

“Hey, I calls ’em how I see’s em, big guy.”

“Great, now you’re turnin’ on me too,” I leaned back against the door, shutting my eyes.

“Never. I would never turn on you, Zayn. You have my loyalty. But I’m just trying to get you to maybe see things from a different perspective. It could be healthy for you to acknowledge that you put you here. No one else did. Therefore…you’re really the only one who can get yourself out this mess. And it’s gonna take time, and it’s gonna take patience, and it’s gonna honesty, and loads of communication. Commit.” 

I took a deep breath, incapable of refuting any of the points she’d made. “M’not payin’ youh to be a smartass, maan. M’payin’ youh to have my back…noh matter what. That’s what I need right now…” I looked at her pleadingly.

“Has there ever been a question of that? You could stop paying me today, and you would never lose my support, Z. I care for you deeply. And I care about your integrity. I care about your growth. You can’t bring me into this and expect me not to be honest. You asked me to quit my day job and work for you, remember? I didn’t plan on any of this, but I did it in a heartbeat because I knew you’d pay well and let’s be honest, you’ve got a lot of clout.” I scoffed, but couldn’t suppress a small grin. “But also because I saw how sweet and how special you are. You’re a good person, Z. I saw that right away, and that’s why we got along so easily. Sure, you’ve paid me more than I could have ever made in social work in a short period of time, and I’ll always be grateful to Sarah for introducing us, but with the way things are going lately…I have to say, sweetie, my previous work was far less stressful and far more rewarding at the end of the day. Being with you was a dream job until things got dark recently.”

“Soh what now?” I despaired quietly, brow furrowed. “You’re gonna leave me too?”

“No. I’m right here…always.” She stepped in front of me and straightened the collar of my polo shirt. “But you can’t tell me I can’t be honest. That’s where I draw the line.”

“I understand….” I sat on the edge of the tub and stared at the floor, gutted and perplexed. The thought of her leaving me in the middle of all this had shook me to my core. Without her, I would crumble instantaneously. My business, my brand, my finances, my employees. Sarah and my accountant and the label kept me moving forward, but T kept me afloat and kept me grounded whenever necessary. Over the past year we’d all become a well-oiled machine that had propelled me on to success after success after success, but I couldn’t believe I’d put it all in jeopardy due to my massive flop of a love life.

“M’sorry, T. Youh forgive me?”

“Don’t apologize, buddy. We’re good. We’ll get through this. We just have to put our heads together.”

“Okay then…fank youh…”

Ohhhh, no puppy dog eyes! You know I can’t take it!” We laughed. “How’s Harry anyway?”

“Gud, maan,” I instinctively rubbed my fingers across my mouth at the thought of him. I badly needed a smoke. “Got one of them ones…?” I held up my empty pack.

“Not on me…sorry.”

“He’s alright, yeah? He’s Haz, y’know? It’s hard to really shake him up for long. He’s pullin’ it together for the both of us.”

“That’s good…at least the situation brought you two together, right?” she grinned. It was a genuine sentiment, but I was feeling a bit cynical.

“In the worst way…”

“Hey, look on the bright side, dude. Count your blessings with Harry, because you have a whoooole heap of shit waiting for you downstairs.” I shut my eyes and headed for the door with a knot in my stomach.

“Go get ’em tiger!” she slapped me on the ass. I told her to fuck off beneath my breath.

I plodded downstairs, toying with the hem of Haz’s bright purple golf shirt, hoping it’d give me strength. I clenched my jaw the entire way, coming short of grinding my teeth, a habit I’d picked up in high school. There was no escaping this. It would only become more awkward the longer I waited, and there was no sneaking out of here without them seeing me again. The stairs faced the family room and there was only one way down. Unless of course I shimmied out of the window and risked breaking my leg by jumping two stories.

I hovered in the doorway of the lounge, unwilling to venture in and make eye contact just yet. The best strategy was to divide and conquer. I needed to deal with them separately, because I knew from past experience that if I allowed them to tag-team me, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to defend myself. That consequently led to me giving up every time, and I was in no mood for capitulating today.

“Yo…G….” I began, swallowing thickly. “Can I speak with youh a minute? Alone?”

“I—” G, began, but was instantly cut off by her mother.

“Um, excuse me, Zayn. That is no way to address two ladies—”

“Mommy? Wa—”

“G, quiet now. I told you to let me handle it. Keep quiet, my love, I won’t have you stressed and making your migraine worse. We’ll have to go for vitamins later.” Her prissy Dutch accent grated on my nerves already. I chipped away at the paint of the threshold, hankering for a smoke. 

“Excuse me, Zayn. How about we don’t do this, so…flippantly. How about you be a man? And stand on your own two feet, and come into the room and confront us face-to-face—”

“With all due respect, Yolanda, I don’t believe anyone was speakin’ to youh, yeah?” My voice was carefully measured.

“See, right here!” I could almost hear her jutting her finger in my direction. “This is what I’m saying, you know? I told you he would do this, didn’t I? Trying to separate us. He’s been doing it since the day you met,  my love.” G sighed something to the effect of: oh my god. “He is a coward, Jelena, so we will treat him like one.” Then to me, she piped up: “Can’t even look me in the face can you, boy? After all you’ve done to my daughter? To my family? You have some nerve, don’t you?”

“G, let’s goh! Now!” I barked. She got up despite her mother’s protests and led the way upstairs. I followed, and when I met Taryn at the landing, I deployed her to go down and keep Yolanda occupied, as she was already headed to the staircase behind us.

“You will not speak with my daughter alone. I will not have this, Zayn. Look at me when I’m talking to you!” I ignored her and shut and locked the bedroom door. I heard her fury and Taryn’s quiet comforting tone move away as they retreated down the steps.

“What the fuck is even happening??” G said, tearing up. I almost flipped my lid. I pulled her into the bathroom for further discretion before exploding.

“Noh! Fuck that, G! Youh don’t get to do this, alright?!” I jabbed a finger into my chest. “I’m the one who should be cryin’. Not youh! Youh hacked my fuckin’ phone G?? Really? What is wrong with youh?!”

I don’t know…I don’t know….I don’t know…” she whispered frantically, face growing red. It was puffy like she’d been crying for days. “I just…I just wanted to keep track of you, bubba. I never thought I’d actually use it, Z. Never! Not until you told me what happened in Paris. I tried sooo hard to trust you, babe—”

“Trust me?! Youh call that trust?! Breachin’ my privacy?! Infectin’ my phone with spyware in case youh ever needed it? G, that’s mental! Are youh insane?!”

“I just never trusted you again after…after the first time. How could you even blame me?! And look what you ended up doing, all over again! I was right, Z!”

“Soh youh were plannin’ on spyin’ on me for the rest of our lives? Why did youh even stick around if youh thought youh couldn’t trust me?! Why did youh want me there?!”

“Because I wanted what we had!” she wept. “Everything was so fucking good, Z. Can’t you see that?? We were perfect for each other….and you pretended to love me…you pretended so well. And you…you literally told me it was a one-time thing with him. That you were drunk! That I never had to worry about him again! How could you?! Arghhhhh!” she shrieked irrationally on the tail end of her rant, holding her head when her migraine became unbearable.

“G, look…I don’t like seein’ youh like this. This isn’t youh…”

“You did this to me…” she whispered.

“I know…”

“I couldn’t let it go, Z. No matter how bad it got. And everything seemed so perfect on the outside…but inside I was always screaming. You have no idea how scared I was. Super paranoid. ‘What’s he thinking now? What’s he thinking when he looks at another man? Is he turned on by him? Does he think he’s better than me? Am I not enough?’ Just over and over and over again in my mind.” She shook her head, voice quavering. My heart shattered watching her come undone. She wasn’t holding anything back anymore. “I not only had to worry about all the whores running around LA and New York, but now the guys too?! Great! And that piece of fucking shit homewrecker Harry—”

“Hey….”

“You never stopped…did you? Did you, Z? He was always around, wasn’t he?”

“For a while we did…” Honesty was the order of the day, like T had prescribed. It was time out for all the running and the lies. They were eating away at us all and before long there’d be nothing left. “I tried for youh, G, I really did. I stuck around because I was worried about youh, yeah? Remember how youh told me you’d hurt yourself if I left? That did shit to my head. What was I supposed to do? What choice did I have but to stay and, like, look after youh and hope I could keep away from him?? I know it means absolutely nothin’ now, but I did really give it a goh for the rest of the yearh after things blew up last February. I did it for youh, G. I genuinely left him. It just felt like I owed it to ya. But I was wrong. Lies only breed more lies, and then fuckin’… tragedy. Which is what we’re seein’ now…”

“Why?” she croaked, sitting shakily on the edge of the tub, her slim feet pale in the blue flats. Her ripped jeans and cropped tee reminding me so much of last summer in LA. It was her favorite top and I’d come to know it well. I’d taken it off her a thousand times. I was already missing what we once had. Missing her trust. Longing for what we’d built together from the ground up.

“Why wasn’t I enough?” she whispered, unable to look up at me. She just shook her head and stared at the titles. “Why do you need him? Huh? I need to know why, Z. It’s the least you can give me.”

“I don’t know, babe.” I sat down beside her, stopping myself from taking her hand. “I really wish I could explain it…even to meself.”

“He’s a dude, Z…” she marveled, quietly repulsed. “I just can’t picture you with, like a…dude. I can’t even envision it. That means something, right? It’s so not you—”

“It is me!” I shouted, becoming furious. I got up to put some distance between us, tired of feeling like a freak of nature. “It’s a part of me, G, whether youh like it or not. It’s who I am!”

“No… it’s not! He’s brainwashed you, can’t you see that?! This isn’t you Z. You don’t like men…you like me!” She jumped up, grabbed my hand, and shoved it between her legs. Then she tried to kiss me.

“G?! What the fuck?!” I cried, slinging her hands away. “What do I have to do to convince you this is who I am?! That he’s a part of me?!” 

“I don’t know… I don’t know what to do….”

“Well, I can’t really help youh figure that out right now, G. I have my own shit goin’ on.”

“I’m a part of this too.”

“Youh don’t have to be. Just lay low.” At that, she pulled out her phone.

“Whatever. I will. But first…I want you to find the worst most gut-wrenching photo and show it to me.”

“Why? I don’t want to look at that shit anymore. It’s super fuckin’ mortifyin’.”

“That’s the purpose of all this, Z, and it’s the only way to get my point across. Trust me.”

“I went through and found a photo of Haz blindfolded and cuffed and staring unknowingly into my camera. I held it away as though it were a hissing adder. She took it and looked it over.

“C’mon, G. Quit starin’. It’s not fair to him.”

“So…this is it? This is the worst one in your opinion?”

I raised my eyebrows sarcastically, in a way that said: Duh.

“Good to know…” she exhaled, putting her phone away.

Finally I understood what she was doing. She was forcing us to confront it. Forcing me to watch her watch it so I could just get over it. Once the worst was realized, it could no longer hold power over either of us. I was astounded for how solid was being. I had no clue where it left us, but I couldn’t have imagined her becoming a source of strength through all of this.

“Thanks, G. I dunno how I’m gonna fix all this—”

“I do.” There was a subtle change in her body language. A haughty cock of the head and a slight pursing of the lips that spoke of veiled mischief.

“Okay….?”

“How about this…the second you even dream of dumping me…after all the bullshit you’ve just put me through…this photo right here will be the last image you see in every major publication across the globe, before you off yourself…because I promise I will make your life a living hell.”

“I….” I was too fatigued to feel shocked. I simply leaned back against the sink and shut my eyes. After a brief meditation to help me control my reeling thoughts, I stared blankly at her.

“Okay…”

“Ok?”

“Okay.” I shrugged, surrendering entirely.

“You know, Z…I didn’t send those guys after you, to film you in that motel. Clearly, I’m not that smart. But if there’s one thing my mom always taught me, it’s how to optimize and capitalize. Call it a gift,” she squinched her face so smugly I almost laughed.

“Fucks sake, G. Who even are youh right now?”

“Your worst fucking nightmare. A woman scorned. A woman humiliated. A woman repulsed, whenever I think of where your mouth had been before it kissed me.”

“Shit…”

“You will never touch me again. But you will make yourself available for photos, videos, events, and anything else I may need to sell this piece of shit relationship for a few more years. Just until I feel I’ve reached my potential in the industry. You know how it is. Couples sell, and we made a name for ourselves by adopting that exact strategy in the beginning. It worked well for us both until you almost fucked it up. But don’t worry…. I’m not gonna let some sleazy, lying, cheating, sex-addicted loser take this from me. I’ve worked too hard to make something of us, Zayn, and the dividends have been unimaginable. Do what the fuck you want with Harry, I’m done. But as far as the public is concerned, for all intents and purposes…you are mine.”

“Wow, G,” I lifted my hands weakly, at a loss for how to respond. “Tell me how youh really fuckin’ feel then…”

“You haven’t even heard the half of it. But you’re undeserving of my time. I’m done here.” She started towards the door. “I’ll be in touch. Listen out for my calls. You have my number, and I have yours. Change it, and heads will roll.” Before shutting the door, she mentioned one last thing. “Oh, and by the way…we got Vogue. The shoot is scheduled a week from now. Be there.”

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When Robin passed away the following month, a couple of days after Father’s Day, I was kicking around on a skateboard in my yard when I got the news. Haz had called me in a fluster since he was trapped in Spain and felt awful that he hadn’t been there. He hadn’t expected him to go so early. He’d been invited to a wedding of a close friend and didn’t want to miss out since it was his only down time before the tour started, but he’d come to regret that decision dearly.

I had yet to return to New York full-time, only heading over briefly for the Vogue shoot and the release of the Versus collab. Since I was still based in the UK, I took the first flight to Manchester to give my condolences to Anne without even taking the time to check in with Haz. By the time he showed up, I was already with her in the sitting room, reminiscing over a cup of tea.

“Harry! Look who’s come to keep me company!” she beamed as he entered. “My Zayn, come all the way from London, luv. Can you believe it?”

He came forward, eyes watering, and embraced her as she broke down spontaneously. I knew she had been keeping it together for me, but lost her composure the moment she saw him standing in the threshold. I was intimately acquainted with that feeling, as the mere sight of him had done the same to me time and time again. I kept quiet while they hugged it out, and soon it was my turn. He crushed me unreservedly, withholding words, uncaring of who might’ve saw our embrace. I knew it was his way of expressing his gratitude for me being there so unexpectedly. When he pulled away, he took ahold of my face and gazed at me in disbelief, before heading down the hall to Robin’s empty sick room. I resisted the urge to follow, allowing him a moment to process things on his own.

I wasn’t allowed to attend the services, of course, but Haz set me up in an Airbnb near his mom’s house and split his time between the two. I purchased tons of flowers for the funeral and bought him a special arrangement for the nightstand made of his favorite roses. We hadn’t talked much despite spending loads of time together. It’s like he’d lost his voice. He didn’t have much to say about the situation at all. Watching him deal with grief was new to me, and although I had personally experienced mourning several times in the past, I had never experienced the loss of a parent and so felt powerless to help him cope. He just needed too be held it seemed, and we spent a ton of time in bed whenever he wasn’t out running errands for his family or visiting relatives who’d flown in from out of town.

Finally, when it was all said and done, he gave me the go ahead to go home, and although I put up a fight, he wouldn’t hear of me staying any longer. He also encouraged me to post on social media again, noticing I’d taken a break from promoting my Versus collab once the news dropped. He was far more observant than I gave him credit for, and thanked him for even thinking of me in a time like this.

On the mini road trip back to London, for which he and I had rented a car, we stopped on the side of a road between two hills and sat atop the hood of the little blue hatchback. There we watched the sunset after a light rain, and listened to the birds murmur around us. I lit a cigarette and right away he took it from me, hitting it hard and exhaling enormously.

“Maybe these things are sort of useful after all?”

“M’tellin youh they are. But I suppose the general ideah is they do far more harm than gud,” I chuckled, taking it back from him and hitting it as well.

“Can’t believe it’s really over.”

“That’s the thing about grief, innit? It’s super fookin’ mind-bendin’. Your world is never really the same afterwards. It’s always a matter of, like, disbelief that the person is actually gone. Youh never really get over that bit, and it never seems normal again. It’s soh surreal, babe.”

“Yeah…can’t say I’ll ever get used to it.”

“Shouldn’t have to. Shit’s cruel, maan. Life can be a bitch, sure. But death…? It is thee cruelest, coldest, weirdest, most inexplicable part of everythin’ that happens down here. Everythin’ else we can make sense of, soh to speak. And control it, to some extent. Everythin’ except this one thing.”

“Would you wanna know? Like, in advance?” he squinted over at me through the sunrays, looking like a golden Adonis I’d picked up hitchhiking along a lonely English road. His dark, gorgeous hair lifted in the wind.

“Z…I can’t stop thinking about how he knew before it happened, right? The thought scares me. To know something like that and to just be waiting on it to happen? Is that fair, or isn’t it? Is that something you’d wanna know? I don’t think I would.” He shuddered at the last, hands in his pocket, legs swinging.

“Yeah well…” I pulled him over and slung an arm over his shoulders. He leaned in and kissed my neck then rested his head against me.

“You’ve been great by the way…thanks for everything. You really made my mum happy.”

“Don’t mention it,” I buried my nose in his hair, holding the cigarette downwind before continuing. “I think it’d be gud to know, in a way. Soh to like, get me affairs in order. But, if I’m honest, I dunno how I’d handle that particular piece of information. Knowin’ of my own demise before it happened? That’d be a mind-fuck, surely. I’d probably get high everyday and fuck meself stupid if that were the case.” We laughed.

“Sounds like a rational course of action.”

“Yeah…” I grinned.

“Hey I wanted to tell you something,” he said quietly, sitting up and scooting closer to me. He took another hit of the cigarette before passing it back over.

“What’s dat…?”

“I think I’m gonna be seeing someone soon.”

“New girl?”

“Mm-hm.”

“What happened to the last one? What was it? Tess?”

“Couldn’t cut it. The fans were being mean to her I guess, and although we warned her how brutal it could get, she bailed. She was down in the beginning, though.”

“I mean…who wouldn’t be? You’re offerin’ these birds a pretty sweet deal, Haz, being who youh are, bringin’ everythin’ you’re bringin’ to the table. It’s an offer they can’t really refuse. And all they have to do is stand around and look pretty?  Wear a piece of your clothin’ here and there—”

“Oh is that all it takes to date me?” he scoffed.

“Forh anyone else? Yeah. I’m the one who has to do all the fuckin’ work here…” We laughed, and he tilted my face in his direction and kissed me. As he absently scratched my beard I asked, “Is she cute?”

Sexy is probably a better word.”

“What’s ‘er name? I know ‘er?”

“Probably not,” he dug into his pocket for his phone. “Camille Rowe…”

“Ah…heard of her. Already hit dat. Beat youh to it, Haz!”

“For fuck’s sake, shuddup!”

“I’m kiddin’ goh ahead.”

“Mate, she’s French. Older. Low-key…super fucking hot,” he turned the phone in my direction and I laid eyes on a pale blonde stomping down a runway.

“Yeah, she’s alright.”

“Fuck you, she’s perfect.”

“Okay, broh, whateva youh say,” I chuckled. “They all are right? At least for a few months.”

“No, I think she’s the one.”

“Then what am I? Chopped liver?”

“No, you’re just my side piece.” I couldn’t help but to laugh at that.

“Well gud luck with that, broh. I wish youh two the best.”

“Don’t tell me you’re jealous of her?”

“It’s not like youh don’t want me to be…”

“Maybe I do. Maybe that’s why I took the time to find a good pic,” he snickered.

“Then what happened to us? Is this what our lives are goin’ to be? Repeatin’ the same old tried, ineffective patterns until we’re old and gray? Rotatin’ girls every few years and sneakin’ about with each other in the dark?”

“What else can we do, really? At least until the firm finds a serious lead or an arrest is made? We have no choice but to play it cool and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

“Wish it were different, though. Wish this Camille didn’t exist, to tell youh the truth.” Now he hopped off the car and came to stand between my legs, bracing his arms on my parted thighs. He took the cigarette from me and crushed it onto the road.

Heyyy… I weren’t done with dat, y’know…”

Shsssh…kiss me.” At his command we must’ve made out for like fifteen minutes. Stopping every so often to say little inconsequential things. The worst sort of small talk where the sentences were incoherent and half-uttered because the brain had become mush. The flick of his tongue shot a flame through my gut and I slumped down the car as my core grew unsteady. Arms wobbly. We hadn’t made love in ages. 

I could tell he was trying to keep from dragging my pants down, spitting in his palm and going to town on me right then and there. Right atop the hood. I wanted it too. I didn’t mind that the sun had been beating on it all day. I relished the thought of the hot metal scorching my ass as he parted my legs and lifted me into him.

As it stood, we had a couple of hours before we made it back to his place in Hampstead, and we needed to maintain our cool until then. We had a day or two together before he had to get back to work, and before I had to return to New York and get on with my life at G’s behest. Which was something I dreaded with every fiber of my being. From where I was sitting, the rest of 2017 was looking super bleak. I’d be essentially trapped at Gigi’s mercy, and he’d be away living his best life in Hollywood with some coked out French bird who looked like an uninteresting lay. 

(Thanks for reading!❤️)

2017 is done. Next weekend, on to 2014!

Published by AD

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