Neon Red – Chapter 57

(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.)


I can’t be there with you, but I can dream

I can’t be there with you, but I can dream

I can’t be there with you, but I can dream

Frank Ocean | There Will Be Tears

January 2018

New York, New York

“Youh know you’re being childish right?” I was unable to calm down. Why couldn’t I stop calling? It was the day after my birthday, and I should’ve still been focused on celebrating me, not ringing him back-to-back for days on end because he’d blocked my number. I supposed I was just shocked. I had been certain that by my birthday he’d be over it and would reach out. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Who would’ve thought a stupid fucking tattoo would set him off again? Even after Paris? Even after surviving the extortion? Even after us going rogue and breaking into some guy’s place together? Our love was cinematic as fuck now. Was he really still getting caught up on the petty shit? The minutia of the day-to-day? Was he really still that sensitive?

 Was he really still getting caught up on the petty shit? The minutia of the day-to-day? Was he really still that sensitive?

Granted, this was a massive fucking tattoo. I didn’t think it would look as dramatic as it did until it was finished and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. That’s when I knew I’d fucking up. If it made me wince to look at it, I should’ve known it would devastate him. “What is wrong with you?” he’d asked me plainly over the phone when I finally found the balls to tell him about it. “How can you not understand how fucked up this was for you to do? You genuinely don’t care how much you are hurting me? Hurting us? Diminishing us? Are you just mocking me now?”

We had been doing well for the remainder of 2017, so I wanted to run out the clock. I didn’t want anything to change or worsen, but knowing he was off in LA dating someone new set me off a bit, despite me flying back home after Robin’s death to be with G. She and I weren’t getting on too well, though, and this tattoo had been my way of letting her know I was still in it if she was down. She’d been flattered at first, but ultimately still decided we should keep things strictly business, which left me between a rock and hard place. And by hard place I meant on my own and resorting to copious amounts of porn to keep me sated. Not that it hadn’t been my go-to before, it’s just that without her to break up the monotony, I was rapidly running out of good videos. 

Elsewhere, things were quiet for a while. We hadn’t gotten a lead on the data we stole from the motel manager’s apartment in Paris, except that it was likely a part of a global identity theft ring to which he regularly sold the information over the dark web. Still nothing to tie him to our extortions in the long run. Thank fuck for Tobias though. He and his high-level connects in France were able to trace a few forensic trails back to a crypto blockchain, following which their hackers eventually tracked several transactions to an unlucky bastard in Romania. He was interrogated and gave up a few names within the hour; that is, after his family put at stake. That led us all the way back to Western Europe to a man named Matthias in Belgium. He was a massive pedo with a stash of illegal porn on his hard drive deep enough and violent enough to send him to prison for the rest of his life. Following that discovery, it wasn’t difficult for the hackers to obtain a guarantee from him that the extortion would end. They’d spelled out in no uncertain terms that he would take the fall if any our photos or videos ever saw the light of day, regardless of whether he’d a hand in releasing them or not. It had been months now and we hadn’t heard a peep from any of them, neither had anymore photos surface online. I was given a copy of Matthias’ most incriminating information, as well as the bastard in Romania who’d helped launder the crypto, and I had Taryn put the intel away in a safety deposit box at the nearest bank. That way if a crisis ever ensued, it wouldn’t take much for us to get our hands on it. 

By September, when “Dusk Till Dawn” dropped, I was at last able to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate it’s unprecedented success, and even spent a few magical days with Haz at his place in New York before his tour started. He went out of his way to show me how grateful he was for the tune, when he recognized had been penned in response to his despair in “From The Dining Table.” Of course, by the end of the year, I’d gone and fucked it all up again. Leave it to me to destroy any and all tranquility for the both of us headed into the new year. 

“You’re a dumbass,” was the last thing he’d said to me before hanging up and blocking my number. He hated the tattoo. He abso-fucking-lutely hated it. He’d shut me out just before Christmas too, so I’d never gotten the chance to give him his gift. A 30yr old bottle of Scotch that had set me back upward of ten grand. I knew he’d like it for his collection, but now I had no way of getting it to him, and I was too nervous to ship it, so it sat on the desk in my office untouched. My voicemails were futile since my number was blocked. They were being lost to the ether, incapable of being recovered or heard by anyone. Still, it alleviated a great deal of frustration whenever I left one, so I called every day; sometimes more than once. Over fifty had accumulated since the last time we spoke, and I was glad he wouldn’t come to know of their existence.

“You’re bein’ a child,” I groaned into the speaker. “It’s just a fuckin’ tattoo, mate. Get a grip!” Deep down I was well aware of how devastating it was for him. It wasn’t just a tattoo at all. It was a brand. The equivalent of me taking a bullhorn and screaming to the world I belonged to her and no one else. That if I ever slept with another person, they’d have to see her face. I told myself that it was art, that she deserved it for all I’d put her through last year, but that was a god-forsaken lie. It was just another token of the degrading charade I lived at her side, day in and day out. False intimacy. A false gesture of loyalty. A false concord between us. Total, unsparing emasculation. This ink said she had my balls jar that I no longer had access to, and that everyday I marched to her tune completely.

How did I let this happen? Fuck, even I was tired of me. Tired of my neurosis. My short-sightedness. My childish impulsivity which only landed me deeper and deeper in trouble with the person I claimed to love most in this world. How could I do this do him? It was a hideous and selfish thing to do. And there was just no coming back from it. It was here to stay. God, the permanence was only just now hitting me. And how could I possibly ask him to look past it? It’s not a thing one could overlook. He would see it every time we laid together, and the only alternative was to keep my shirt on 24/7 which wasn’t fair to either of us. Holy fuck, of course he didn’t want me anymore. Even I didn’t want me like this! And if he had tattooed anyone else’s eyes to his chest I would lose my fucking mind too. For his sake, I hoped he never came back. That he never let me back in, no matter how much I begged to be forgiven.

The same numbness overtook me every time we parted ways.  I missed him so much. The unspoken things encoded in our stares. The shape of his lips. The sound they made when I parted them with my thumb, shortly before claiming them with my own. The feel of his soft, silky tongue brushing mine. Roaming deeper into my skull. The pressure of his hands grabbing me as the kiss deepened. The sound of his ragged breathing. Him sighing against my face in gratification. All gone.

“Give me your body,” was my latest voicemail. More a fevered muttering. “I need your body, Harry. Youh know I do. Why do youh have to treat me this way? I’m in pain. I need youh, okay? I need youh soh bad, babe. I need it…all the time.” I’d survived the New Year without a call or kiss from him. Now my birthday had passed and it was more of the same. It hit me the hardest at night when I thought of him on the brink of slipping under.  I lived in him more certainly than I lived inside myself. He sat inside of me, and I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t there. Conjoined at the hips. This thing was imposing. Behavior-altering. Habit-changing. He was gone again, and I was left hemorrhaging like a lovesick hemophiliac. Debasing myself in the bathroom with his old pictures. Sleeping only when I became too exhausted to sit up and think. 

I left more voicemails than I had in a while, mind spiraling since he hadn’t reached out for my birthday. I thought he’d cool off by then and unblock me, but still not a word. I’d been galvanized into action that morning when pap pics surfaced of him out with the new French bird at The Nice Guy. They’d been spotted last night on my fucking birthday. He was alive and well and enjoying himself, and apparently I was the last thing on his mind. While out with G and friends to celebrate my 25th, I had checked my phone every free minute, hoping he’d text. NothingAlways nothing. Only her toothy grin seated beside him, as smug as a Cheshire cat, with her old lady red lipstick. 

“You’re a problem for me,” I muttered into the speaker, twisting my hair around jittery fingers. “I can’t keep doin’ this.” 

An hour later, three beers down, I picked up the phone again: “Youh know what, maan? I hate youh. Never fuckin’ call me again, alright? I’m blockin’ your number, bitch.”

Later: “Haz…youh know I didn’t mean it. I love youh, baby. Baby…please pick up. Please call me back. Can youh hear me? I’ve been waitin’ on youh, yeah? Youh lost my number? I’ll give it to youh again. Ready to write it down? I’ve been waitin’ on youh soh long now. Youh missed my birthday, babe. I’ll come and find youh. Just let me know where youh are…”

A full six-pack of Coors later: “I was just sittin’ here thinkin…you’re soh full of shit, youh know that? Always pretendin’ to be hurt just to make me feel like shit. Youh ain’t hurt, maan. I know how youh are. Just milkin’ the situation. Youh gotta learn to grow-up, Haz. Man up! Not everythin’s about youh, alright? Youh wanna see me break, don’t youh? Is that what youh want, Harry? To see me lose my shit?? ‘Cause youh know I will! Look, broh, I’m done. Why can’t youh just fuckin’ be supportive? G and I are happy. Just be supportive, maan. Would that kill youh?! Youh have noh ideah how hard everythin is forh me. Youh don’t care what I’m goin’ through…youh only care about your damn self!”

Later:  “It’s been weeks, Harry. Weeks. Youh know noh one’s puttin’ it down like me. You’re just fuckin’ settlin’ right now. And she looks borin’ as fuck. And lazy too. Bet you’re doin’ all the work, mate. She ain’t me. She don’t know your body. She don’t know the way youh like to be touched. You’re settlin’ for that weak ass shit when I’m right here. That’s what you’re doin’, yeah? Settlin’ for second best. Youh already know you’re nothin’ without me. Her? Really, mate? Is that what you’ve chosen? When youh had all this? You’re the dumbass here, not me. I’m blockin’ your number!”

Yoooooo, T!” I barked, as soon as she answered the phone.

“Woah…hey, what’s up?”

“Book me a flight would youh?”

“Uh…ok. Where to? What’s going on?”

“Just some personal shit. Shut up about it.”

“Ok rudeness!”

“I just a need to pop over to the LA place for a bit. Grab some paperwork I left behind.” I belched and she snickered. “The label’s askin’ after it for the new single.”



“Alright…want me to go instead? That’s kinda what you keep me around for. Or they can just resend it to you…over email. Save you the trouble?”

“Noh…noh, it’s cool. I got it, broh. I’ll be there and back by tomorrow. Quick pit stop.”

“Alright, let me see what I can do. It’s after noon already. All the good seats are taken for today…you know that right?”

“I don’t care. I’ll take whatever. Economy, whatev’s.”

“Wow…this must be serious. So what happens if there are no available seats at all? Not even in economy?”

“Then get me a PJ.”

“Ok, baller, will do. I’ll hit you back in a sec.”

While I waited, I paced on the balcony of my bedroom and texted G to let her know I’d be taking off. She didn’t respond, so I hopped over to IG to see what she was up to. Nothing on her account, but I spotted her in a few story posts made by Bella. She was sitting at a table with some ripped bloke and getting lost in his eyes. I hopped to the next story to let the video continue. I hadn’t seen him before. He was tall, black, and I picked up on a bit of an accent that made me believe he wasn’t American. African maybe? It cut away. That was it for now. They were sitting uncomfortably close. I knew her way too well to ignore that she’d been flirting. And while I wasn’t too sure how to feel about it, I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on to condemn her. Her and I were done, apart from appearances. She said I was free to be with whoever, whenever, and she was free to do the same. I suppose I just hadn’t expected to her pursue anyone so soon. It left a weird pit in my stomach, like I’d been defeated.

I replayed Bella’s stories and took a closer look. Yup, they were definitely fucking. I knew her ‘come hither’ look all too well, and it was on full display here. Ever since she’d be granted the Woman of The Year award by Glamour Magazine in November of last year, she’d been feeling herself, talking mad shit about how she was on the rise and wouldn’t need our gimmicks to serve her career anymore. I read between the lines with that one. She was extra pissed because I didn’t congratulate her publicly on the win. But how could I?

After seeing Haz’s gut-wrenching performance at the BBC earlier that month, I couldn’t stomach the thought of hurting him by posting about her anymore. I genuinely feared that after everything he’d gone through last year with the extortionists and Robin’s death, that if I kept tormenting him with her and openly prostituting our relationship for the media and major brand deals, he’d hurt himself. He hadn’t reacted well to that Vogue cover at all once it dropped in July, even though I’d gone out of my way to warn him about it in advance. “Girl Crush” was his searing response recorded sometime in August while he and I were on an unexpected break. He said he needed a bit of distance. He’d chosen that song for a reason, and the jaw-dropping candor in his delivery was horrifying to look at. Like exposed bone. It was spinechilling.


I put a spell on you because you’re mine

Nina Simone | I Put A Spell On You

Later on the jet, well after 5pm, I dug up a chill recording I’d made of him playing the guitar in bed last summer. I could hear the late-night rain because we’d left the balcony door open. I could remember exactly what I was doing throughout it. I could hear his soft breathing wafting over the chords as he played until his fingers grew heavy and he drifted to sleep upright beside me. Now I drifted as well, alone on the jet except for the flight crew. 

They woke me when he landed, and I strode down the tarmac to an awaiting car, which took me directly to my Bel Air place. I was still a bit tipsy, but the nap had made me restive and a bit more sober. I hadn’t visited in months, so the lawn needed mowing. I’d look into that in the morning before I left. I’d be back again at the end of the month to attend the Grammys, and I imagined the grass would be a foot talker by then. Inside, an unnerving silence awaited, and everything was pitch black. I flicked on the switch in the kitchen and made my way into the living room. Empty beer bottles and weed were strewn across the coffee table. G had left a jacket across the back of the couch. My flip flops were in the middle of the floor, along with a PlayStation controller. Wow we were gross.

Heading back to the bedroom, I found a neatly made bed and was grateful I didn’t have to change the sheets. That was always a chore. I wasted no time pulling out my phone and calling him again. Yup, still blocked. Now I pulled out the wireless house phone my mum had encouraged me to buy as a backup, and dialed him up. Finally it rang through, and it was relieving to know I would actually hear his voice this time. When the call kicked over to voicemail, my joy fled. I immediately called back and this time it went straight to voicemail. I called back three more times before realizing he had just blocked me in real time. I threw the phone against the wall with a curse, raging at an empty room. Petty little twat, I swear to fucking god!

I paced manically, slapping myself in the head. Then I charged to the fridge and there was nothing. I went to the little bar area G had set up for me in the kitchen and grabbed the first thing I saw. Whiskey. Jameson. Good enough. I chugged it straight from the bottle and nearly vomited all over the counter when it triggered my gag reflex. I took another swig and stumbled back into the living room; vision blurred with tears of rage. I plopped onto the couch and drank alone in the dark, whimpering into the reeking bottle. It was like drinking battery acid. It ripped my esophagus apart, frying the neuro-transmitters in my brain. 

I pulled out my phone and went on IG and looked at his update accounts. My fingers were quaking. The phone kept dropping onto my lap so I cursed myself. He’d been spotted out again earlier tonight. Walking the streets in West Hollywood with her and a few friends. My blood pressure sky rocketed. Weak ass motherfucker. I don’t need youh. I scrolled further and saw him holding her at a concert the other night. The bottle of Jameson suddenly shattered inside the empty fireplace and pooled out onto the stone. Thank God I didn’t have any carpet. That’d be easy to clean up tomorrow.

Without thinking, I jumped up, grabbed my keys off the hook and headed out the back door. I hopped into the Benz truck and started her up. Eyeing myself in the mirror, I argued with by drained reflection and convinced myself I was sober, lightly slapping my cheeks so my eyes would come back to life. It was a poor attempt at clearing my head, and with that I was off. Headed to Hollywood Hills by memory, hoping the trip wouldn’t prove to be in vain. I imagined he was home by now, and although he wouldn’t be happy to see that I’d come unannounced, he’d have no choice but to finally address me man-to-man. I didn’t give a fuck if she was there.

About halfway there, I pulled over on the side of an empty road and vomited, hanging out of my seat. I rinsed my mouth with an old bottle of water sitting in the console and then took off again. I needed a bathroom quick. I had to piss and wasn’t trying to get a ticket for doing it in public. Slinging the car onto his street unceremoniously, I slowed to a creep, pulling up to his front gate. It was after midnight and I could still see his bedroom light was on. He was definitely home. Pulling to his intercom, I rang repeatedly until he picked up.

“What?!” he snapped. “Who is it?!”

Me,” I spat, wanting to pat myself on the back for the timing of my delivery. That had to be a slap in the face for him.

“Mate, what the fuck are you doing here?? Do you have any idea what time it is??”

“I don’t care. Youh won’t answer any of my calls. Youh blocked all my numbers with your petty ass. This was my only choice. Now open the fuckin’ gate!”


Now, Harry!”

He groaned, but still buzzed the gate open. I could hardly wait for it to clear the width of my car before I sped inside. By the time I’d gotten to the front door, he was out of it and coming over to meet me. I hopped out of the car, rising too quickly for my brain to compute the movements. I fell, but caught myself on my hands and knees. He was at my side in no time.

“Zayn, what the actual fuck is going on?! Are you drunk?!” I gazed up into his eyes for the first time in weeks and all my anger dissipated. It was dark out, but his motion censor lights had kicked on and illuminated the two of us beside my car like a spotlight. Me on my hands and knees, mesmerized by the vision before me, and him squatting and scowling.

“Maybe I am…soh what…?”

“Well, for starters, you drove here, you idiot!”

“Wait…did I?” I glanced back at my car as if it weren’t my own.

“You could’ve killed yourself! Or someone else!” He snatched my face back up when a stupor came over me. “Z?! Are you listening?! This crossed the line! I didn’t invite you here, alright? I have company over. You’re embarrassing me.” That cut deep. He’d never said that to me before, and I could be pretty fucking embarrassing when I wanted to be. He’d always tried to protect me from feeling embarrassed over anything I did. But now that we were over, he no longer felt an obligation to protect me in that way. 

“I…I’m sorry…” I said quietly, hanging my head and wanting to fall asleep in his lap. I wrapped my arms around him and he recoiled, saying I reeked. I’d forgotten about my roadside vomit and the whiskey that had spilled down my shirt.

Fuck’s sake…” he sighed, barely hanging onto my limp body.

“I can just goh…”

“No, you can’t. I’m not letting you drive.”

“I’m sorry, Haz…”

He helped me up and I followed him into through the back door, pulling at the edge of his t-shirt for balance. He warned me multiple times to keep quiet once inside. As the door behind us, a female called out to him from upstairs. Her accent was vague. We were just beneath the second story balcony where she couldn’t see us, but he called up to her and said there had been a fan trying to get an autograph. She told him to come back to bed and my insides convulsed. Before I could react, he assured her he’d be back up in a minute, and then guided me deeper into the first floor to the guest room.

Inside, I went to the ensuite bathroom to relieve myself, then sat on the edge of the bed to stop my head from spinning. I was so hot, sweat had formed along my top lip and at the base of my throat. Haz was standing back against the closed door like a disappointed parent who’d found their teen drinking at a party busted by the cops.

“I’m sorry…” was all I could think to say.

“You said that already.”

“Yeah, well…I am.” I looked over at him pleadingly, but the look he returned me was cold. Full of unspoken annoyance. Disgust almost. I couldn’t blame him. I was quite disgusting just now. I needed a shave and a haircut, and I smelled like a whisky-vomit cocktail.

“I got your voicemails…” he sighed. 

My head snapped up. “What?!”

“All seventy of them. Even the ones you sent today.”

“Seventy?? What the fuck, broh?! How?! Youh blocked me!”

“I never blocked you.”

“What?? Youh didn’t?” I panicked.

“No. I put your numbers in Do Not Disturb. That way all your calls shot straight to voicemail without me knowing. Also…you know I can still retrieve voicemails for blocked numbers too right? They don’t just vanish…”

“Oh my fucking God, broh.” I slumped to the floor behind the bed, burying my face in my hands. I was done for. He’d gotten them. Every single last one of them. Which meant he’d heard every desperate, cringy, humiliating thing I’d said. “I gotta goh, broh,” I despaired, climbing up and moving past him. He grabbed ahold of my arm before I could open the door.

“At least let me call you an Uber? You can’t drive like this.”

“Sure…whatevs. Could youh just stop lookin’ at me please,” I begged, headed into the guest bathroom to toss some water on my face. He raised his hands as if in surrender and backed away. He knew how mortified I was and didn’t bother to mock me about it.

Later when I remerged, he was seated on the floor beside the bed like had only minutes ago. Dread washed over me. I’d ruined our relationship with the tattoo, and now I was here homewrecking his new relationship. His only refuge from me. She’d probably been a lifesaver for him after the hell of last year and after everything I’d put him through with Vogue and now the tattoo. Yet here I was in sabotage mode, showing up unannounced and driving drunk. I needed to let him go. He was so much better off without me.


“Hm?” he replied softly, almost like he’d been daydreaming. “Am I allowed to look at you now?”

“Yeah…” With that, he turned slightly to face me over the bed. “I hope youh don’t mind…I used a spare toothbrush.”

“That’s what they’re there for. The fresh towels and toiletries too. You know…for guests.”

“How long?”

“Till what?”

“The Uber…”

“Oh, fuck’s sake. I didn’t call yet. I, uh…” he bit his lip then ruffled his short hair. “I wanted to speak with you for a second. If that’s alright…?”

“Alright.” I moved to sit beside him on the floor. We both faced ahead, entranced by the weirdness of our ever-evolving catastrophe.

“Won’t she be upset you’re takin’ soh long?”

“Nah…she’s pretty chill. She’ll wait for me.”


“Things are so different now…”

“Are they?”

“It’s 2018, mate. We’re only getting older…”

“…baby…and I been thinking about you lately…” We laughed at the accidental “Night Changes” pun—

Out of nowhere our lips crashed and he dragged me atop his lap and we kissed madly. Mauling each other. Pulling at our clothes. Clawing our faces. I choked him. Dug my fingers into his hair and yanked unmercifully. Spit into his mouth with a sadistic lust. Oh God this was so fucking perfect. To be aligned with someone in this way. No words necessary. The way we read each other was spiritual. Always thinking and needing the same thing. Each other, each other, each other. Oh God he was mine. Anywhere, everywhere. No matter who was around. She was such an idiot. She had no clue whose man she was fucking with. She was utterly clueless. I felt bad for her, sitting upstairs in our bed, waiting on what belonged to me. My sloppy seconds. 

Then and there, he ripped my pants off and I struggled to shove them off my legs. He wrenched them away with my boots and spit into his palm repeatedly. Within seconds he was scrapping into me, rock hard, nearly dry, and I welcomed the crushing discomfort. I wept the entire time, wasted out of my mine, but mostly on him. All of it drove me mad. My erection jabbed into his belly, tickled by the textures of his t-shirt. Mad, mad, mad. That he still wanted me. That he couldn’t go without it either. That he wanted back inside. That he’d take it without thought, any timeany place, even while she was upstairs waiting like an imbecilic. This was the most painful, punishing sex I’d ever had in my life, and part of me imagined he wanted it that way to teach me a lesson, but I couldn’t be fussed about that now. Not while he was inside.


I woke the next morning in the guest bed, and Frank Ocean’s “White Ferrari” was going on my phone. Softly filling the space around me with borrowed nostalgia. I was alone of course. He’d gone back to her after busting inside me and putting me to bed. I felt so at peace as I drifted that I didn’t even protest his leaving. He’d left his mark, and I watched him pull his gym shorts up with half-lidded eyes. Relishing the fact that he was still mine.

After a quick shower, I sat on the edge of the bed in my briefs, afraid to call him or leave the room. I couldn’t survive being spotted by her, and couldn’t risk ruining what he had going on here. So I sat and waited and checked my phone. Nothing new was going on. I responded to T super late and let her know I was safe and that I’d hit her up when I was ready to fly home. Just then, Haz bust into the room, approaching me with a gratified and exhausted expression. He too was in nothing but his briefs, and pressed his lips to mine before joining me on the edge of the bed.

“I want you inside of me all the time…” I murmured, laying briefly against his shoulder.

“Sleep ok?” he asked, pulling at some of my leg hairs. His legs were bigger than mine, and less hairy. Paler too.

“Yeah…really well, actually.”


“A little…” I grinned. “Are we alone?”

“Mm-hm. She left a few minutes ago.”

Finally. Hey, I’m sorry for all this—”

“Don’t be. In a weird way, I’m, uh actually glad you came.”

“I’m glad youh came too—”

“Ah, I walked right into that one!” We laughed.

“What’d you even tell her?”

“That I, like, dropped a bottle of wine in the cellar and had to mop it up.”

“Good thinking, hah!”

“Quick on my feet.”

“Soh what youh got goin’ on today?”

“I dunno. What about you?”

“I was supposed to be flying home…”


“I don’t have to…”

“Well…I dunno. Maybe you should?” he rubbed his eyed.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right. This was all a bit too crazy, if I’m honest. I just missed youh too fuckin’ much babe.”

“Yeah, me too…”

“Youh missed my birthday.”

“I know.”

“Youh sorry?”


“Why not?”

“Because it was punishment for what you did.”

“That’s fair.”

“Happy belated birthday.”

“Gee, thanks.”

He looked over at me, gaze traveling down to my lips. When it reached my chest, he groaned, then got up and walked away. He’d finally noticed the tattoo and I was positive it looked far more offensive and dramatic in person.

“Mate, it’s so fucking massive,” he said over his shoulder, headed into the living room. “It’s hideous, I hate it.”

“I know,” I said, getting up to follow.

We ended up in the kitchen and he sent me back to the bedroom to put my shirt on. When I returned, shirt in place, he looked across the island at me and shook his head. His eyes were puffy because he hadn’t slept well.

“You put her between us…in a major way. This is not nothing, Z. It hurts. It really hurts. I don’t want to see her every time I see you, mate. You’re out of your mind for doing that.”

“I’m really really really sorry, Haz. I know youh get sick of hearin’ that, but I am. What else do youh want me to say, babe? It means nothin’. Just like the tattoo of Pez—”

“You would think you might’ve learned your lesson with that, but, uh…I guess that’s my fault for assuming you had any common sense.”


“I’m just tired,” he forfeited, turning his back on me and rooting through the fridge. I had no response. There was nothing I could say that would make this any better, and he had no clue how much G and her mom had threatened me since the Paris ordeal. He had no clue about the double extortion, or the fact that I had to do something major to please her and keep her from exposing us. And there was also no way I could tell him, because he’d go ballistic on them. To him, I must’ve seemed like the biggest imbecile in the world for doing this to myself, and it hurt so badly that I couldn’t explain to him why I’d done it.

“If it’s any consolation…I’d much rather have your eyes there.”

“No…it’s not any consolation. For one, regardless of what you might prefer, her eyes are there, and it’s a really shitty thing that you did. And two, uh…believe it or not, I love you too much to allow you to do that yourself for me. Unlike her, I wouldn’t take pride in that. Its an overcompensation, and, uh, we’ve never needed anything as stupid as that to validate what we have. That’s what I take pride in. Like…we don’t need any papers from city hall… and I, uh, don’t need you to put my face on your chest to tell me how real this thing between us is.”

I was stunned speechless. There was no rebuttal. It was the most faultless rationale he’d every articulated. It was also totally selfless, and left me feeling outdone, but also feeling incredibly secure and taken care of. I was safe with him, knowing he would never exploit or take advantage or my weaknesses in the way G had of late. He never asked anything of me. He only gave and gave and gave, and was almost too altruistic and forgiving to be real when compared to how much she demanded of me. All I could do was go over and hug him from behind, crushing him in the morning quiet.

Sometime later I hopped atop the counter where he sat on a stool at the island, eating a bowl of cereal. Honey and vanilla granola. I helped myself to a few bites between his and we caught up on all the shit we’d missed since we last saw each other in November.

Alexa…? Play: “Dusk Till Dawn” by Zayn.” He grinned up at me. “It’s apart of my morning ritual. Breakfast and listening to this track. It came in handy when I was pissed at you.”

“That’s sick, babe…” I ruffled his hair a bit, lazily crooning my favorite lyrics to him.

“Mate… last night! I can’t believe how shit-faced you were!” he laughed, pushing the empty bowl aside after drinking the oat milk.

“Youh and me both. I honestly didn’t mean to get that pissed, but I just kept drinkin’ and drinkin’. It was the only think makin’ me feel better.”

“What, you were upset?’

“Don’t play dumb. Like youh didn’t ignore my calls for weeks.”

“Hey, listen…I thought you were a telemarketer,” he grinned.

“Yeah, okay.” I stretched then winced a little. “I’m soh sore, mate.”


“It’s alright. It’s the gud kind of sore. Soh…when you coming back my way again?”

“In a little bit. I’ll, uh, be in New York at the end of January, I think. Got a gig at the music hall with Fleetwood.”

“Forh real? Soh you’re performin’ with them?”


“That’s quite cool, innit?! That’s unreal. I’m happy for youh, Haz.”

“Thanks, mate.”

“Hey, uh…can we meetup after?”

“I honestly don’t think I’ll have time.” That left me gutted. “She already asked to come with. I might have to let her tag along.”

“Great…never mind.”

“Well…you’ll get no sympathy from me. I’m sure you’ll be spending plenty of time with the person you tattooed on your chest, right?”

Ha-ha, very funny,” I said, deadpan. “Fuck youh, alright?”



“I love you, ok?”

“Okay,” I smiled, melting. It’s exactly what I needed to hear after so long.

He stood up and slinked between my legs, and I wrapped them around his waist, pulling him closer. To my surprise he lifted me off the counter and held me in his arms, kissing me tenderly. We made our way over to the couch in the living room, and he laid me down, kissing my neck and collarbones.

“Harry…” I exhaled, acknowledging that Haz had left the building. Acknowledging that my medicine had arrived. Here to make me feel better from head to toe. I splayed my fingers lazily though his hair as he lifted the hem of my shirt to the top of my ribs, keeping my new chest-piece covered. Now he breathed into my slightly pudgy stomach, greedily inhaling, licking my navel and treasure trail. Making his way down to my hip bone to kiss the heart tattoo. Sitting up momentarily to kiss his own. Before I knew it, he was slipping my briefs off again and taking my chubby semi into his mouth, bringing me to life within his heat.

He lay atop me later, body planted half between my legs, fast asleep against my belly. Leon Bridges’ “Coming Home” drifted throughout the mansion, as Alexa had been instructed to play his favorite afternoon playlist after he’d finished with me. I lay awake in nothing but my hiked up t-shirt after dreaming about the flight home and how much I dreaded the notion of leaving him. I played with his hair carefully, in a way that wouldn’t wake him. All I could think of was her. Her being in his sheets. In his shower. Her infringing on his time. She didn’t know about this love. She didn’t know of the mysteries of us. The infinite. The uncommon. She didn’t know how to take care of his mind, his body. I was born for it. She was nothing but a clout-seeking interloper like the rest of them. Clinging to her rapidly fading fifteen minutes, with her ugly red lipstick.

So now here we were. Back at it again, Camille or no Camille. Gigi or no Gigi. Blackmailed, extorted, driven to suicide, driven to commit crime. On the run from millions. Nothing could stop us. Not society, not our families, not our religions and inhibitions, not our women, not our awful tattoo ideas. Nothing could come between these bodies. He was infinitely mine, and I his. Even if the sky fell. Even if the planets all faded away. Forever shit. Forever. Forever. Forever. Forever.

(Thanks for reading!❤️)

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