Harry Styles Love On Tour | Philadelphia

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Harry looked amazing in Philly. Great colors. That’s all I’ll say!

So pretty.
Harry Lambert has been killing it to be fair. 😍😋

It’s worth nothing that Philadelphia is located in Pennsylvania which is where Zayn lives now, but I doubt that means anything significant about this show.

Harry trying to get people to look at his ass is so funny. He keeps mentioning it at every show lmao
Ugh, his smile.

Full Show:

Harry harassing an audience member for texting lmao:

Neon Red – Chapter 17

(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.)

If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy?

If our love’s insanity, why are you my clarity?

Zedd – Clarity

Without him, I felt halved. Pitted. Devoid of something major. With him I felt stoned. Addled. Euphoric. Kamikaze. These extremes had disordered my life beyond functioning. I couldn’t tell whether I was safer with him or without him, and that scared the hell out of me.

As I exited the elevator on the 30th floor, he was stood at the end of the hall, leaning back against the wall and watching the ceiling. The sole of one Chelsea boot was planted irreverently against the white paint. He looked every bit the college dropout he was. Graphic tee featuring the Rolling Stones tongue logo. Black ripped jeans accentuating every slope and curve of his figure. 

When he heard the elevator deposit me, he started down the hall without speaking. I broke into a full-on sprint, crashing into him midway and shoving him backwards through the stairwell door. Our breathing was erratic, amplified by the acoustics as if it had passed through a megaphone first. Thankfully, the chances of anyone choosing to take the stairs this high up were slim. Still, I didn’t give a fuck who found us at the moment. This was war. This was our reckoning.

We stumbled backwards onto the small, ill-lit landing; his back thudding against the wall. Our kiss was manic, like two feral dogs mauling each other in an alleyway. “I missed you so fucking much, baby…” I rasped. “Youh hear me? Youh fuckin’ hear me?!” He nodded, slumping down the wall as if his knees had given out. I dragged him back up, clutching his shirt at the waist.  

Tears clouded my eyes. For the first time in a long time, I grabbed two fistfuls of his ass, massaging it, reacquainting myself with it, slipping my hands beneath his waistband to feel his bare flesh. Then I broke the kiss and planted my lips to his neck, detecting his pulse against my open mouth.

“Z…” he panted, gulping for air. “Don’t stop…don’t stop…” He was so ready for me. He had been dying without me. The deprivation was self-inflicted though, so I felt no sympathy. He had cut me off. I was glad he had suffered. I should’ve made him suffer more. Now he knew how much he needed me, and he was begging me to make love to him. Touching himself, losing all composure. I had done that to him. Only me.

“Who’ve youh been sleepin’ with?” was my crazed whisper. “They’re not takin’ care of youh…I can see it all over your face…” He looked miserable now; regretting how accurate I was.

“No one.”

“Bullshit.” I stopped and grabbed ahold of his face with one hand, “Youh can’t goh without it that long. Who was my cheap fuckin’ replacement? Huh?”

“N-no one. I swear—”

“Yeah, you’re stutterin’ now. Youh too embarrassed to say?”

“Fuck you…”

“Youh done punishin’ me, then? Youh feel like an idiot yet? That other person must’ve made youh feel like shit—”

“Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!”

“I know youh want to…”

“Leave me alone…” he croaked.

“Youh knew that shit could never work, right?” My lips curled into a heinous grin. “Youh know how we are. Youh know we can’t be apart that long—”

“I didn’t have a choice…” he wept. I away wiped his tears with my sleeve.

“Youh almost killed me…” I gritted out, losing all levity. Apparently I was crying too, although I was utterly incognizant of the fact. Anodyne chemicals commandeered my brain after reconciling with him. Endorphin overload. I could fall over right then and there and check out, OD-ing on sheer elation.

He touched my face weakly, swiping the tears away before dragging his fingers down my lips. He was tactile as hell, addicted to touch. There was no place on my body his fingers and tongue hadn’t explored, and which hadn’t hankered for him as badly as I did. I liked when he studied my face, ghosting his fingertips over each of my features individually; reading my expression like a blind man. I would always remember the tentative chill of his fingertips as they landed on my eyelids or coursed over my brows. I would always remember the plush shove of his lips against my temple. I would always remember the way his breath felt as he exhaled against my face mid-kiss.

If I wasn’t giving him attention, God knows he sought it somewhere else. He liked to be liked, and even worse, he liked to be loved. To command the attention of a room. To hold court. And rightfully so. He was the sort of person you ought to adore, you ought to love, you ought to put first, and he felt slighted if even a passing stranger denied him that.

“What’s her name?” I demanded.

“It’s not important. She wasn’t you.” 

I dug both hands into his hair and gently scratched his scalp, whispering that if I ever found out, I would kill them both. Now he was overtaken with shivers, biting his lip and bending his knees as they weakened. I tugged, wrenching my fingers around his hair, and his breath quickened. His mouth parted to let out airless little gasps that I followed with my eyes. Suddenly I grabbed two fistfuls of his shirt collar, jarring him from his ecstasy.

“Why the fuck wouldn’t youh answer the phone for me?”

“Because I hate you.” His eyes dropped to my lips.

“Fair enough.” I kissed him again. He wrapped his arms around my neck and I crushed his waist so hard his feet left the floor.

“Come back to my room…” I demanded, roughly.

“No.”

“Noh? Youh crazy?”

“You’re gonna take it too far, and I got things to do before the show.”

“Haz, just come back to the fuckin’ room for a minute, what the fuck?”

“No, Z,” he shook his head and straightened his shirt as I backed away. “I can’t ditch the people I made plans w—”

“Then what the fuck are we even doing then??” I turned to leave, slinging the door open.

“Wait!” He grabbed my arm, pleading with me not to go. “Just a few more minutes alright?”

“Fuck off, Haz. I’m fine for the mind games. Should’ve never even asked youh to meet me here—”

“Mate, go! Just fucking go!” he spat, watching me with a derisive raise of his lip. “All you give a fuck about is what you want. Why can’t we ever do what I want?!”

“Because youh don’t know what the fuck you want!” I shouted, charging him. He immediately shut down, body language becoming defeated, eyes averted. “One day you’re here, one day you’re there, you’re up, you’re down, youh want me, youh don’t want me, you’re all over the fuckin’ place!” He shut his eyes and I took my foot off the gas. All of this was worthless. He wanted to pick a fight but was in no condition to finish it. He just wanted to make me react so he could guilt me later. I wasn’t going to feel guilty for him.

“I won’t apologize for what happened in August, Haz…because I felt like it needed to do it, okay?  Whether youh understand it or not—”

“And that’s exactly the problem. Youh don’t ever think about me unless you want something. Otherwise you just never consider me—”

“I did consider youh!” I hollered, slamming my hand against the wall beside his head. “But that doesn’t mean I have to build my fuckin’ life around youh!” He despaired, shutting his eyes again.

“Look, Haz….m’sorry for shoutin’. It’s nothin’, anyweh…” I sobered. I could literally feel my heart ripping, watching the things he was going through. There was simply no fight left in him. “It means nothing to me, Haz. It’s just something for my family and her family and the media to talk about, that’s all, babe. Soh I won’t apologize for it, and I won’t allow youh to make me into the bad guy when I’m standin’ right here ready to be with youh!”

“I don’t won’t this…” he croaked, slumping to the floor against the wall. “I don’t want this fucked up version of you. It makes me feel cheap. It makes me feel like we’re destructive and wrong.” His voice cracked. “You think she’s better than me…”

“That’s not true. Don’t measure yourself up to her like that. We’re not a part of that world remember? That world doesn’t dictate who we are or what we are or how we can be. She can’t fuckin’ compare to youh…trust me…”

“But I want to be a part of that world. Did you ever even consider that?” he glanced up at me, face reddened. “I don’t want to be hidden. I want that world to see us and know us.”

“Right, fuckin’ great, broh. Nothin’ I do is every enough, right?”

“I want all of you. Not just the stupid fucking secrets. Not just your guilt, mate. I want to be a part of your pride; I want to be one of the parts you’re not ashamed of.”

“I’m not ashamed of youh—”

“You are! And I…” he sniffled, roughly wiping the tears away. “And I don’t care how much you try to pretend you’re not. The simple fact that you’re fucking engaged is an indictment on everything I am and everything we have together.”

“Haz, I can’t do this right now.” I uttered, eyelids falling halfway. Despondence seemed to creep up the stairwell and surround us. My heart was worn out. Twitching like it was short-circuiting. He genuinely believed I was embarrassed by him, and in his defense, I hadn’t really given him a reason to feel differently. I squatted to make myself level with him and took ahold of his hands.

“Baby, I will never fuckin’ marry her.” I kissed his hands like an idiot. He had no idea how much I despised the idea of marriage. Marriage was a chore. A long way around life with someone who was bound to annoy you. And marrying young was one of the most incapacitating things a person could do to themselves.

“I don’t want you to be with anyone else,” he whispered. “I don’t want you to touch anyone else. Please, please don’t…” His voice was hoarse, whimpery. He kept whispering please. Wrapping my arms around his body. Putting our lips together. It was too fucking much. I couldn’t believe the way I’d broken him.

“Haz, wait…wait…”

“What?”

“Maybe we should just cut our losses?”

“What? Stop…” He was out of breath. For the first time ever, I sincerely refused him. I pulled his hands away from my face and stood up. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. 

“Let’s just be done with this….alright?” I was out of my head, but I knew I was making sense. “Let’s just be friends again, broh…”

“You’re insane.” He marveled, standing with the help of the wall. “Seriously…this isn’t funny, Zayn. Stop fucking with my head!”

“Youh first, bastard!” At that, he ran his hands down his face, and clenched his jaw closed. “M’serious. All the pain, all the weirdness…it could just goh if we agree to stop here. Right now…noh hard feelin’s” I smiled a delirious smile. “Aren’t youh tired Haz? Imagine how gud things would be if we didn’t have to be soh mad at each other all the time? Fuck it, broh, let’s just be friends again? Okay?”

I had never seen him look so incensed. There was a different Harry standing before me now. Still, he didn’t curse, or scream, and he didn’t hit me like I knew he wanted to. His nostrils flared a bit and betrayed how livid he was. Then he simply said “Yeah, ok.” and took off down the stairs. I had no idea what those final words meant, but I wasn’t going to stick around and find out.

I took off back to my room with an air of relief. It felt so good to be rid of him. Finally rid of that sickening, addictive cage of a relationship. So constrictive and haunting. Handicapping us since we broke every boundary back in 2011 and dove into each other. Maybe I was kidding myself entirely and I’d be begging for his forgiveness by the end of the day, but even a false sense of relief was enough to make me feel a 100 stone lighter.

Resisting him wasn’t easy, of course, and I still couldn’t shake the notion that I must have him, but it would get better with time. Detoxing would be a long and strenuous process. It always was. But ultimately it would make me well again. I had already gotten over the withdrawals in the first days and weeks I was forced to go without him. And as with all addictions, when you couldn’t find one fix you resorted to others. So, I got high nearly every day, watched too much porn (gay porn at that, not my usual go to) and  just tried to forget him. So I’d just do all of that again.

And it didn’t help that I still had to see him every day, reminding me that no amount of porn could quell the urge to be buried deep within his heat; having him clench around me and groan like I was disemboweling him, but again that would all have to be managed with time. Maybe eventually I could quit weed too…and video games. Maybe getting rid of all addictions would ensure I never went back to him. It was certainly worth a try. 

(Thanks for reading! ❤️)

Neon Red – Chapter 16

(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 know places we can go, babe.”

Lykke Li – I know places

August 2013

He hates me. He hates me. He hates me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. He hates me. He wouldn’t let me touch him anymore. He was ignoring me everywhere we went. We hadn’t made eye contact in a month. He hates me. He wouldn’t answer my texts. I’d sent three the night before, and he still hadn’t responded by afternoon the next day. He hates me. I had really fucked up this time. He would never be the same again. We would never be the same again. Not until I called it off. Not until I told him she was gone. He was punishing me. He knew how badly I needed him, yet he wouldn’t answer. I can’t believe people thought he was a nice guy.

“Fuck youh.” I spat, tossing my phone way. “I’m tryin’!” I shouted, to no one but myself, seated cross-legged at the head of my hotel room bed. “I dunno what to do…” I grabbed my phone and went to his text thread again. Cold as stone. Still no response. But there was one from Pez, and a few from Tommo. He had some weird rash growing near his groin and had sent a pic. I tossed my phone away again.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. It felt like my intestines were crawling all over the place, getting entangled, pulling at my other organs. I was starting to sweat. I slammed my head back into the headboard until I was sure something had fractured; whether it was the wood or my skull, I couldn’t tell. I just needed him pick up.

“Now, Haz, now!” I quailed, absently biting the collar of my t-shirt. Would he never love me again? Would he never give a fuck again? He acted like he hated the sight of me; like I was the Elephant Man or something. Like my hands disgusted him. My eyes, my lips. My smell. All the things he used to be addicted to.

What are you afraid of? I asked myself. Quit being a bitch and just call! It rang and rang and kicked over to his voicemail. Shadows were beginning to shift in the room, like everything was edging closer to me. Trying to wall me in; shut me down. But the voicemail was enough for me. I just needed to hear his voice. Even through the phone; even in a generic, indirect way. I hadn’t heard it since the last press junket at the end of August, and it was already the end of September. This was by far the longest we hadn’t talked or texted since we’d met. I called a few more times just to hear the recorded message, heedless of the fact that I was leaving tons of missed calls on his log. He’d probably think I was daft when he eventually saw it.

A knock landed on the door. “Hey….Zayner…” I could hardly summon the energy to utter: “Yeah?”

“Time to head to soundcheck, mate. We’ll head downstairs in about 15.” It was Preston.

“Yeah, got it.” I replied, shutting my eyes and vibrating with an inexplicable rage. I felt like I was five again, back when I simply couldn’t understand when my parents told me I couldn’t have something. It was the worst feeling on the planet. I would sit and cry myself to sleep and convince myself they hated me. Now it felt that way times 1000, because I knew for a fact he did hate me and that I disgusted him. My absolute worst nightmare was to repel people. I felt like I had repelled people my whole life just by being quiet and brown, sat in the corner of the classroom looking suspicious to all the white kids. I never had their approval. Now I was reliving all those apprehensions I felt when he and I first met, back when I thought someone like him would never find interest in someone like me.

“Fuck youh….” I said, tearing up. “I don’t fuckin’ need youh, Haz. Who the fuck do youh think youh are, anyweh? Youh ain’t nothin’ special, maan. You’re average as fuck. Youh think you’re better than me, posh boy?? Youh think you’re too gud to answer the fuckin’ phone for me?!”

I took a few rocky breaths, realizing I looked like a straight up lunatic yelling in an empty room. Plus, I didn’t have a right to be upset. Not technically. I don’t know what I expected of him anyway. I knew he wouldn’t be happy with the news, but I thought he’d eventually understand that an engagement meant nothing at the end of the day if we never actually got married. I had promised him that at least. And he knew me well enough to know I would never marry her or anyone else. That I couldn’t do that to him. So why the fuck was he shutting me out? Exactly what had changed between he and I? Nothing, absolutely nothing. The only thing different is that she had a ring, and that the press would mention us every now and again as if we were making plans. What was so fucked up about that? Especially if it only helped protect he and I in the end?

I couldn’t begin to understand him when he got like this. He was so fucking childish and petty when he got jealous. So fucking weird. I hated that part of him. And he was punishing me like I’d never been punished before in my life. It hurt like hell because I knew I’d lost him for good. How long could he hold a grudge remained the only question to be answered. How long before he warmed up to me again, if ever? He was a warm guy, right? That much I knew. It was difficult to make him angry, and it was difficult to make him act out, but I seemed to be the exception to each one of these things.

He got angry at me often, and blocked me every now and again as a show of defiance. But this time, he just wasn’t answering at all, which was somehow a move crueler than blocking. Because at least with blocking I knew he couldn’t realistically keep me blocked forever, and that he had felt passionately enough to do it. But with him screening every single call for nearly a month, things weren’t looking good. I think he was finally over me.

***********

Later at soundcheck for the first show in Adelaide, Australia, he didn’t look at me once. I fucked around with Lou and Liam as we ran through the songs and watched him isolate himself, occasionally pulling Niall and only Niall into a private conversation at the flank of the room. His mic was set up two places away from mine, which wasn’t surprising. He was probably tired of me stalking around the room with my eyes. I might’ve been freaked out too if I could feel how unflinchingly I stared at him between songs.

The second we were free of performing, my mind went directly back to him. To be honest, it never really left. My eyes darted compulsively in his direction throughout soundcheck, tracking his every move like a P.I. Each time he checked his phone, I took note. Each time he sipped his water, each time he ran his fingers through his hair, each time he adjusted his in-ears, I registered it like a creep.

I knew the patterns of his behavior better than I knew my own. Most of the time I could tell what he was feeling based on how often he pressed his lips to his tattoo or how aggressively he adjusted his mic pack. I had read and studied him for years like a course book. So much so that I could practically sense his moods before he exhibited them. It was insane. I was insane, but this is what he had reduced me to after weeks of stonewalling.

We wrapped up the last song on the setlist and he was off to the side of the room untangling his headphones. That was another ploy he used to shut me out, keeping his headphones on whenever we had to travel together to deter anyone saying anything to him, particularly me.

A deeply annoyed part of me surged forward and before I had consented to the idea of approaching him, I was standing at his side, picking up someone else’s water to justify my being there.

“Hey…” I managed to get out as he popped the grey Beats into place. He then removed them with thinly veiled irritation, lifting his eyebrows in a way that said: “What?”

“Nothin’…I just said: ‘hey’” I grinned. The gesture was not returned. “How are youh, anyweh? Youh gud?”

“Hey, yeah. What’s up?” I took it to be genuine inquiry into what I’d been up to since we’d last spoke, but apparently it must’ve been rhetorical, because he dipped before I could even open my mouth to answer.

I watched him go, eyes slightly widened, in awe of how wrong I’d been. Of how stupidly I’d misinterpreted the exchange. Of how I’d mistaken a passing wussup for a genuine conversation starter. What the fuck was wrong with me? What was I, 14 something? It was such a cringey amateurish thing to do, and my face and neck flushed with embarrassment as I glanced around in hopes no one else had heard. My fingers were shaking when I self-consciously scratch my eyebrow. Read the room you, idiotNo one wants to talk to you. I scolded myself, following the crowd out of the door.

Before the show we gathered backstage and did our normal charge-up routine. When we put our hands together and sang Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue,” I broke my neck to shove past Liam’s hand to lay mine on top of Haz’s. He didn’t look up at me like I’d hoped, avoiding all manner of connection, but I squeezed his fingers and held them a bit longer than what was appropriate.

Just the feel of his warm flesh against mine after so long made me sick with butterflies that rocketed up my esophagus into my throat…choking me. I could practically taste the smooth, clean textures of his skin against my tongue; skin I used to study and longed to kiss the blood from. Feathery soft. Always flushed for me. Always scorching and inviting. Pulsating in anticipation of my touch. Clenching in anticipation of my entry. Our bodies crashing, grinding, locking together like super magnets.

I missed eating his ass like a pig at a trough. Sucking on his nipples until he was pulling the hair from my scalp and gasping insensible things. Missed him proposing to me over and over and over again before he came. Missed him wrapping his legs around me before we fell asleep. Missed him joining me in the shower where I would kiss him beneath the water until he couldn’t breathe, then bend him over against the wall for the next 20 minutes or more.

He walked past now on his way to the stage, and I grabbed ahold of the tail end of his t-shirt, following him up the few steps to the darkened area just behind the screen. The crowd was roaring. I could hear my heartbeat between my ears, feel the bass of the music in the soles of my feet. The floors were jumping.

That brief handhold must’ve gotten to him too, because as we stood waiting on the cue to head out, he inched closer and closer until our arms were brushing, making my stomach knot. Then in a flash, he was gone, rushing from behind the screen to captivate a sea of screaming faces for the next couple of hours; forgetting about me.

*********

“Hey, Zayn, mate.” Lou drawled, climbing onto the steps to sit beside me. I chucked my chin at him, before watching the audience in a mindless daze. Out there, there was movement but very little distinction. A howling mass rising out of the shadows with glow sticks and neon-colored signs. A tsunami of sound that rushed the stage, reverberating against the farthest walls before ebbing back out to sea.

“I missed this so much…d’you know what I mean?” Lou asked.

“F’sure. There’s nothin’ like it, yeah?”

“But to be honest, the break could’ve been a little longer, if I’m fair,” he smirked. I glanced down at him with a half-hearted grin.

“Yeah, but, that’s always the case, innit?” I shrugged. “Might as well get it over with. Has to be done.”

“Of course, of course.” Then suddenly he grabbed my knee. “Bro! No fooking way…check out that sign just there…read it, read it!”

“Gross…” I said, shuddering and sneering. It was something about where we should collectively blow our load.

“That’s so sick, mate! What’s wrong with that girl’s mum?? Has she even seen it?!”

“She probably made it after she got here when the mum wasn’t lookin’. That’s what I’d do.”

“How d’they even get them things past security though??”

“I guess they don’t have the manpower to read 10,000 signs before they let everyone in. It’s a risk they have to take….which would explain why we see soh many bloody rude ones.”

“Rude doesn’t even begin to cover it. Honestly, mate,” he laughed, glancing up at me with squinty eyes.

“Alright lads! I’d say it’s going pretty good!” Liam declared, coming to stand beside the stairs with his hands on his hips. His black t-shirt was already soaked with sweat. All that dancing really took it out of him. I bet he smelled pretty ripe too.

“First show back, boys! We’re killing it.”

“Sure thing, Payno.” Lou said. “And I was really killin’ your mum last night….”

Heyyyy…” Liam scowled. Lou laughed uncontrollably.

I just shook my head and glanced off down the stage. Haz was walking around, waving at fans, drinking water, tossing the water onto crew members below the stage. Someone threw an open water bottle back at him, but he ducked. It skidded across the stage leaving a massive trail of water that someone was sure to bust their ass on later. It’d probably be Payno.

As we moved on to another song, I took my place on the left quarter of the stage and grew acquainted with a few beaming faces in the audience. People I felt comfortable singing to. There was girl with purple hair holding a sign that said it was her birthday. I mouthed happy birthday to her and she broke down into tears like I’d kicked her puppy. The surrounding fans comforted her. I didn’t know whether to feel smug that I had that sort of effect on people, or feel terrible because I had made her sob and she probably wouldn’t stop until the show ended.

When I turned to head across stage, Haz was right there, skipping backwards until he ran into me. We collided and he spun around, smiling blindly, as if he was caught off guard. I waited for him to stop smiling once he saw who he had run into, but he didn’t. He just took a deep breath and lifted his brows, as if to say, “this job is crazy”.

Even though it wasn’t a particularly meaningful smile, and he would’ve offered it regardless of who he ran into, it still kicked my heart down my chest with a steal-toe boot. I struggled to find a quick and playful response, but he danced away and I knew I had blown my chance.

Thankfully he seemed to warm up to me after that, and we spent the rest of the show catching each other’s eyes across the stage and sharing more smiles than I could count. It left me swimming and feeling higher than I had in a while. I got really lucky when he decided to say something to me between songs, even drawing me into a semi-whisper. His slightest touch made my stomach do flips. He liked my facial hair. I had shaved my beard down to just a mustache and a neat little goatee and he couldn’t stop laughing. I told him I’d always wanted a mustache and goatee like this since I was a kid, and that my dad used to draw it on me with a Sharpie. That really cracked him up.

Still, there was something in our interactions that let me know things weren't as they should've been

Still, there was something in our interactions that let me know things weren’t as they should’ve been. The banter almost seemed forced. Unnatural. Like he was just looking to fill up the awkwardness and silences that tended to grow between us more than any of the other boys. I couldn’t help but notice he still didn’t interact with me the way he interacted with Niall, Liam, and even Lou. Everything he said to me seemed obligatory, or pitying. Like he felt sorry for me standing around waiting on him to say something. I could sense how eager he thought I was, and damn if he wasn’t right. I felt like I was crushing on him all over again, desperate for a single glance my way, and gearing myself up with cool responses in case he actually spoke to me again. Fuck, I was pathetic.

**********

The next morning, we were told to meet in the hotel conference room for a meeting on the upcoming Japan leg of the tour. I made my way down after barely getting any sleep the night before, since Lou and I had stayed up smoking and pigging out. When I got to the meeting room, I ran into Niall who was wearing a tank top, oversized pajama pants, and thong sandals.

“Zayn, man…it’s soh early. What’re they thinkin’ wakin’ us up like this? How’re we supposed to get any sleep” I laughed a little. “What’s up with you? How’ve you been?”

“Shit, Nialler, just chillin’. Can’t wait to get back in me bed.”

“I know, right. Goin’ straight back to bed, me. Watch. Try and wake me again. Ain’t happenin’!” He ran his hand back and forth across his flat hair which was still a little damp from his shower. His face was swollen too, like he’d gotten even less sleep than I did.

After the team assembled, we migrated into the 10th story room where they provided fresh coffee and bagels. There was also a fruit arrangement in the center of the massive table, which you had to lunge across the wood to reach. As we picked our seats, most of the boys spread out away from each other, but I brushed past everyone and took the seat directly next to Harry’s. If he had any sort of reaction to my being there, he certainly didn’t let it show.

Three slides in, my mind was reeling, losing focus from the agenda. I drummed my fingers until I realized how loud and distracting it was for the speakers and immediately stopped. I was sick of studying him and trying to figure out where I stood after everything. He was so dialed down and low-energy of late; barely interacting with anyone else. Had it affected him that much? Had his personality entirely changed? All the warmth he had exhibited towards me onstage yesterday seemed to vanish in a matter of hours. Now he sat and looked straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge my existence in the least, or the fact that I’d gone out of my way to sit near him.

“Yourf mood swings are out of this fuckin’ world, youh know that?” I muttered. “I can’t keep up with youh, Haz.” He frowned but remained silent and kept looking ahead. Pretending to listen intently as Paul broke down what we could expect in the upcoming shows. The press, the meet and greets, a few surprises for the setlist. The usual. He was assisted by a member of Modest who’d Skyped in to join us from the UK at like 10PM at night.

Haz picked his coffee up to drink it, and it was then that I noticed his fingers were trembling. My heart skipped a beat. He was just as fucked up as I was. He wasn’t as unfeeling as he was pretending to be; it was all an elaborate façade, one that he had sold without fault. In truth, everything was pinned up, making him quiver for an outlet. He probably wanted to scream at me, punch me, spit in my face. I couldn’t imagine how much he must’ve been holding back since the last time I saw him in August.

My spirit sank even lower then, as I watched him set the cup back down and draw his hand under the table, where he clutched them together in his lap. His knee was jumping too, far more wired than my own.

“Youh okay?” I whispered, despite the fact that we were isolated on the far end of the table, removed from earshot of everyone else in the room. He’d gone over here to escape me, not anticipating that I would follow.

“Haz?” I followed up my question. He just shrugged. “What? Youh mad at me or somethin’?”

“Mate, just pay attention to the fucking meeting, alright?” he snapped, raising his voice at me for the first time in forever. I swallowed it like a bitter pilled. He was not ok. I was not ok. But there had to be a way to make him see we could be good again. He needed to understand we were still us. We would always be us. He needed to know he could trust me. Why didn’t he trust me?

When he brought his hand back up onto the table for another sip, I sat mine beside his and brushed them together every chance I could. He eventually caught on to what I was doing and moved his cup away in annoyance, later clutching his hands together in his lap. I bumped his knee with mine a few times. When he scooted away, I followed. Eventually I just went for it, snaking my hand beneath the table and onto his lap to brush his fingers. They were still trembling, but they didn’t shy away like I thought they would.

I flipped his palm over and drug my fingers between his, as though I was going to interlock them, but never really did. I knew it was a tease he couldn’t resist. Holding hands had always been his favorite thing to do. I think he felt that it validated us. Now his were flexing, clawing for mine now, not wanting it to stop. Still tentative, but very much aware of what they had been missing. I heard him exhale a little, propping his free arm onto the table and hiding his mouth with his fist.

I spread his hand wide and ran my lead finger in feathery circles around his palm, watching his stomach clench visibly. He sank lower in his chair, ready to melt onto the floor. This was the sort of communication I lived for. Touch was all we needed. It conveyed far more than words ever could, and was straight to the point.

All the fine hairs on the back of my neck stood up as his response jumpstarted my nerves. I let my thumb caress his fingertips, back and forth, up and down, each one delivering a new jolt of electricity. Eventually he caved and interlocked our fingers, squeezing them enough to let me know he was enjoying it. I read so much in his touch, too much to unpack, but mostly longingCraving. He’d been dying for my attention. Dying for me to chase him. I felt like an idiot for not trying sooner. I hope he could read how glad I was to be near him. To have him be receptive of me again. I hoped he knew I would kiss him the first chance I got.

When he was unquestionably ready, I let his hand go and massaged the inside of his thigh. He sighed in a gratified agitation, sitting back in his chair and spreading his legs for me. My hand slipped slowly up and down his inner-thigh, squeezing my way up to his crotch where I let my knuckles brush his bulge repeatedly. He clasped the armrests of the chair and shifted in his seat a little, before shoving my hand back towards his crotch as I pulled away. It said more. It said hurry.

I was so glad we were the only two on this side of the table, otherwise we’d be screwed. I said fuck it and full-on grabbed his cock, stuffing my fingers down between his balls and the seat. It was so fucking soft and hot I could feel my mouth water and all the blood rush to my own dick in a single heartbeat. I slid my hand deeper and Haz winced. His knee hit the bottom of the table as his excitement mounted and became uncontrollable.

Across the table, Liam coughed and cleared his throat in a way that warned us to cut it out. It was becoming obvious what was going on. I hadn’t realized how conspicuous my arm looked, extending out towards his lap in plain view of everyone around us. Good thing most were still focused on the Skype call, and no one had directed their attention our way since the meeting began. We were right back to the same old gimmicks. The same old cheap hedonism. Utter recklessness. I withdrew my hand and Haz clung onto my wrist, not wanting to let go. I kept pulling away and he held onto my fingers until the last possible second. Later I texted him to meet me in the hallway of our floor after the conference ended.

(Thanks for reading!❤️)

Harry Styles Love On Tour | St. Louis


New Merch Available Now: https://www.wyldfleur.store/

Well, well, well…looks like the beard is back. And no, I don’t mean Harry has suddenly spouted an unsightly patch of facial hair.

Her desperation for attention is alarming.

At his latest Love On Tour show in St. Louis, Missouri, Harry was accompanied by his current “girlfriend” who moronically dances to songs he’s written about former “girlfriends” while he stands there in a penis necklace, draped in a pride flag, changing lyrics and wishing that he could be “open.” Yet we’re supposed to believe he’s “dating” her. What a crock of laughable bullshit.

I’m so bitter.

The Crowd:

The Outfit:

The Band:

The Whatever:

Why does he keep sound-checking songs he isn’t going to play?

Is it just me or did he seem a bit hyperactive at this show? Like acting over-the-top? Maybe he was overcompensating because he felt bad for canceling the previous show, but it seems like he amped up the craziness a bit. Whatever. Glad he’s thriving onstage and feeling himself.

He’s so ridiculous lol 🤣


Linking Angela’s comment from the Discussion Post:

Angela: “At 1.58.1.59 “you beautiful beautiful beautiful broad.” Ofc he’s listened Z’s rap…. and then …. bam… 2.13 cross tattoo… 2.17 heart tattoo.”


Linking Fine Line’s comment from the discussion post:

Fine Line: “Golden last night’s in St. Louis minute 2:40… “I’m sorry, he is hoping someday I could be open”…Jeff and O dancing…I don’t understand anything at this point…


Linking an Anon’s comment from the Discussion Post:

Anon: The newest addition to Harry’s preshow playlist “how long do I have to wait for you?” – Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Quite telling.

B4C9C48E-AC51-44AD-9AFE-EB28A30C7ED2.jpeg

Zayn’s New Song – Yellow Tape (Transcript & Analysis)


PAGE ONE: INTRODUCTION

PAGE TWO: TRANSCRIPT AND ANALYSIS OF “GRIMEZ”


Yesterday on 9/12/2021 (cough merch drop day cough) Zayn dropped a selfie on Instagram:

And then proceeded to release three new rap songs on Twitter via drop box:

He later deleted the drops for some reason. You can listen to them in one track here:

I will just say it’s interesting that after he released Yellow Metal, a spontaneous song where he revealed he was deeply unhappy in a lot of respects and also hinted at his relationship with Harry, following which he was attacked on the street by Bella Hadid’s disgusting friend who called him a “faggot” I noticed Zayn has now tossed in a dumb obligatory “loving my broad” line into this new “Yellow” song. Sigh. That was a hard stop for me. I’ll try to listen again later after work and cringe past that line to hear the rest of the song. Incredible lyricism from what I’ve heard so far though.



https://www.wyldfleur.store/

PAGE TWO: TRANSCRIPT AND ANALYSIS OF “GRIMEZ”

Neon Red – Chapter 15

(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 think I made you up inside my head…”

Sylvia Plath – Mad Girl’s Love Song

We were limitless. I collapsed on top of him, wheezing and unwilling to withdraw. He emitted a soul-stirring warmth around me, occasionally clenching and reminding me of how honored I was to experience this part of him. No one else could enter here. It was the most sacred place on earth. Reserved unquestionably for me alone.

My head reeled. I started to doze, but he shifted, prompting me to finally get up and grab the handcuff keys. All the candles had just about burned out. Still, the silver glinted in the darkness, leading me to them. I climbed back onto the mattress and released one hand, then straddled his waist to release the other. He sat up confusedly, forgetting to remove the blindfold. I took it off for him, tugging it down around his throat and brushing the wild strands from his forehead. Afterwards we stared at each other, panting in the silence.

Suddenly my head snapped to the side, and it took a while to realize he had slapped me. I recovered, acknowledging I deserved it and that I was devoid of a coherent reply. Now we were both stunned, gaping at each other in distrustful awe. Then in a flash, he grabbed the back of my neck and kissed me savagely. Madly. All I could do was hold my breath.

**********

Later as we lay in the unlit quiet, surrounded by nothing but the sound of a lone car passing on occasion, I held him from behind and nuzzled the back of his neck, remembering how I’d done so the first time we touched. I had never inhabited a place so undisturbed. It seemed the building had been vacated by everyone except us. No intrusions to our peace; nothing hindering our crummy little oasis. Though I was aware it was all makeshift and threadbare, and would be leveled with one swift breeze, I still felt untouchable.

As I twisted and lay on my back, blinking up at the ceiling, I sensed a movement at the foot of the bed. Right away my body locked up with fear, and I lacked the strength to even lift my head from the pillow. I gazed inert down the length of my nose, finding the silhouette of a tall, slim woman glaring down at us.

“G?!” I panicked, sitting up and yanking on the lamp switch, only to gasp awake seconds later, inhaling Haz’s clammy skin. I’d fallen asleep against his belly, lying on my stomach towards the lower half of the bed. I crawled around now to make sure no one was behind me, then hopped up to flick on the nightstand lamp. Afterwards I opened the drapes to search the parking lot beneath our room for newcomers. The same three cars were there; as well as the same two dozen crushed beer cans lined along a wheelstop on the opposite side of the lot where a party had congregated earlier.

I planted the side of my fist into the glass, fighting through a tremulous inhale. Behind me, Haz lay spread-eagle across the entire mattress as if he was rooming alone. I thanked Allah I wasn’t on my own tonight, amazed by how agonizing my nightmares were becoming. Yet the mere sight of him was enough to sedate me, shutting off the disturbing corridors in my mind.

He was sprawled out on his back, facing me, but sound asleep. I climbed back into bed, lifting his eyelids one at a time. He woke up but didn’t have the energy to open his eyes. He let out a wounded little whimper and turned his face to the other side of the room, forgetting me.

“Babe…” I muttered, kneeling over him in the center of the bed; desperate for a dose of his nonsense to ease my conflagrant nerves. I could smell the smoke in his hair. The perspiration in the sheets. It was a lonely hour, and the room seemed to be getting smaller by the second. “Haz…?” I pressed my lips to his cheek until he smiled an unconscious smile. “Wake up, baby. I had a nightmare. I need youh…”

“Hm?” he answered, stretching awake, but never opening his eyes. My mouth was dry. We bought all that booze and plenty of dirty toys, but no water whatsoever. No food either. I was beginning to feel a bit dehydrated, and could hear our stomachs growling in the total absence of sound.

“Wanna see the Eiffel Tower with me, babe?” I knew it was crazy-risky, but the cover of night was on our side, and it was realistically the only time we would ever have the opportunity to do so.

“Fuck the Eiffel Tow—” his mutterings trailed off as he dozed again, head lolling like a tranquilized grizzly.

“Deep down, youh know youh love it.” I said, forfeiting and laying half atop him on my stomach. “You’re gonna be mad youh didn’t goh. Just wait.”

Later he popped wide awake and pressed his lips to my ear, mumbling that he was sorry and that he’d been dreaming of me. Hearing his drawl pass directly into my ear was my absolute trigger, and I was blessed no one was around to hear the sexy, dizzy things he conveyed to me. Lips absently brushing my flesh, flicking my lobe. The heat of his breath radiating through my core, making my bones judder like an electric chair.

“Never stop talkin’” I sighed, shifting onto my back and letting him fall down over me. “Cover me…hide me…” His weight rocked me, knocking the wind from my chest, but I loved the idea of being smothered. I felt safer this way. Surrounded at all ends. Shrouded from head to foot in the secrecy of his embrace.

Before I knew it, we were up and showering and mapping out a nearby Velib station to rent bikes for the journey. The moon vanished behind cloud-cover as we walked the unpeopled streets, hair damp; clothes rank with the fumes of our sleazy lodgings. When a drizzle began to fall, I tugged my hood up and watched Haz walk ahead into the shadows, unfazed.

The rainfall intensified and overtook my senses. I thought about turning back. It was difficult to make out anything in our path. I imagined we were treading some post-apocalyptic hellscape in the remotest corner of the world, in search of other survivors. Places fraught with pits that gaped ten feet across. The earth looking to swallow us up; like those demonic car-eating sinkholes that broke open in the middle of cities.

“You good?” he turned back and asked, dragging a hand down his face to free it of water.

“M’alright.”

“Wanna turn back?”

“Youh?”

“No chance…” he grinned, sticking his tongue out to taste the rain.

“What if it’s radioactive?!”

“Then I’d reckon we’re already fucked, mate.” We laughed. “We’re soaked as it is!” He held my hand for a bit, playing with my fingers; then tried his tongue at a few French phrases he’d picked up since he got here. His accent was god-awful.

“Y’know, I’m no expert, babe, but I think your accent’s a bit terrible.”

“Hey, it could use some work,” he let my hand slip away, glancing back with a grin as he moved ahead.

When we made it to the nearest Velib station on an abandoned corner a few blocks away, the rain let up a bit. I entered my info and freed a couple of bikes. Next, we were coasting down a steep decline on a road so narrow I thought I could spread my arms and graze the buildings on either side. After bending a few corners, we were officially lost, and the GPS was struggling to keep a signal in the dreadful weather. Haz snatched my phone away and pretended to throw it.

Yoooo!” I cried. “Chill!”

“Mate, that’d be wild, wouldn’t it?!” he laughed. “What if I actually did it?! Remember last time?? You were soooo pissed, you literally tackled me! Remember that?”

“All too well…” I grabbed the phone back and rerouted us, and we took off, eating up the pavement side-by-side like two wide-eyed adolescents. Teenagers all over again. I remembered exactly how we were with a mouthwatering clarity. Out for blood. Dumb and dangerous in our lust for any sort of stimulation we could find. Hormone junkies. Addicted to everything. Fucking each other when we ran out of girls. Fighting when the machine of the band took its toll on our mental and we had no clue how to get away from one another.

On the next decline, Haz clenched his tongue between his teeth and spread his arms, trying to keep the bike balanced hands-free.

“Broh, you’re askin’ for trouble, yeah?” I panicked. “What if the fookin’ wheel flies off?! What then? Youh’d land face-first, Haz. Youh know that right?”

Shuddupppppp, already! I almost had it!” He sped away from me and tried it again, this time on level ground so I didn’t feel as worried. 

When the distance between us grew intolerable, he felt it without looking back, and stopped to wait for me. The pull between us was baffling. A wonderment of unearthly spectacle. I had no idea what was keeping us together, but I was deathly afraid of its power over me.

“M’tired…” I groaned as we linked up and took off again. 

“I’ll show you what tired is when we get back to the room…”

“Haven’t rode a bike in like forever.”

By the time we reached the tower, the threat of dawn was real. The sky was becoming lighter by the moment. Simple variations with the passing of time, the minutes trickling by unaccounted for. The world was discolored with the backdrop of poor weather, but still dark enough to obscure who we were; even from each other. There were times he got away from me and I didn’t know who I was following, yet I wouldn’t dream of slowing down.

We landed in sight of the tower by way of a narrow, unoccupied street flanked by historic buildings. The sort of buildings I imagined you’d find in the background of Les Misérables. The streets were in an awful condition here, deep cracks shooting down the length of the road out of sight. When I gazed ahead, my breath hitched. We were as close as we could get without riding out into the open in the middle of downtown. There were a few lost souls milling about here and there, so I decided not to risk it.

I’d visited the tower many times before and had already gone through the first-time formalities, like when you met distant relatives and were expected to show respect. When I was younger, I was rightfully overawed by its scale and its ghostly aura. All the old-world craftsmanship and the prestige it emitted at a glance. The stories it must’ve held, having kept vigil over such a remarkable city for so long. I had even gone inside for the full experience once, so there was really no need to tempt fate in doing so again.

“We’re here…” he marveled, slowing to a halt beside me. “Fucking finally.” His voice was clumsy, trapped between the unmoving stone of the neighborhood. It had the feel of a graveyard just now. I nearly told him to keep quiet.

The tower stared back at us from a distance, no less overwhelming or poignant than when I stood up close. Bats zoomed around between the buildings, veering too near for comfort. The windows watched unblinkingly, like empty eye sockets. The structure itself, blackened as we had arrived long after the final light show, loomed in the night like an eerie spacecraft ascended from another dimension. A frightening omen.

I set my bike down and approached the end of the street on foot. Haz’s handlebars clanked against the pavement before his lumbering footsteps followed. He hugged me from behind and I absently turned my face to rest against his cheek, unable to shake the pit in my stomach or take my eyes from what stood before us.

When he sighed, his body vibrated around me, animating my blood. “It’s so…beautiful,” he whispered. “Even like this…lights out…”

“I wish we’d gotten here earlier, soh youh could’ve seen the lights.”

“I prefer it this way…”

“Yeah…” I leaned back into him. “It’s quite like us…innit?” He turned me around and planted his lips to mine, kissing me slowly and meditatively, clutching my jaw with one hand and the small of my back with the other.

On the way back to the motel the rain vanished and we took our time dodging puddles in the pavement. Before long we spotted a river and headed towards the old-timey bridge to catch our breath and chill. The muscles in my legs were screaming. I had only grown hungrier. He started crooning Mancini’s “Moon River” as we approached, getting louder as we set our bike’s down and gazed over the railing at the moonlit water.

“What if life were a musical? And we just broke out into song at a moment’s notice?”

“I’d probably kill myself,” I groaned. He took a coin out of his pocket and dropped it into the water with a snicker.

“Why’d youh do dat for?”

“I dunno…just felt like the right thing to do.”

“Youh make a wish?”

“I’m not five, mate—”

“Could’ve fooled me—” that earned me a shot to the nuts. I doubled over with a laugh.

As I recovered, I jumped onto his back, following which he pretended to toss me over the bridge before planting me on the parapet like a frustrated parent.

“Stay!”

“Fine by me,” I muttered, pulling out my smokes and lighting one.

“If you do that, you’re gonna be wheezing twice as hard on the ride back…”

“Soh be it. That’s a chance m’willin’ to take, yeah?” He leaned idly over the railing again and I ruffled his hair. “Talk to me or sumthin, fam. You’re too quiet.”

“That’s rich comin’ from youh broh,” he mimicked my accent.

“Youh know what I mean, dickhead,” I laughed. “I wanna hear your voice.” Sometimes that was all I needed. Sometimes I made him talk until I fell asleep. His pillowtalk was on another level, especially when he was a bit buzzed, but still lucid.

“M’nervous…”

“Oh yeah? What for?” I exhaled and the smoke cloaked us.

Everything…the movie…the album…you and I…”

“I’m gud if you’re gud. I could do this shit forever, Haz. No need to worry about us this time.”

“Yeah,” he looked over at me with a hopeful furrow in his brow. “Then it’s all the other stuff that’s weighing me down. I can hardly catch my breath sometimes.”

“Thought it was my job to take your breath away?” He only smiled.

“I mean m’just fooking nervous, is all. It all seems to be happening at once, y’know? I can’t stop obsessing over everything. Playing everything out in my head again and again and again like I’m daft. The tracklist, the announcements, the fan reactions, the interviews…what I’ll say when the time comes…the critics, the reviews, the charts…too fucking much. But the movie, thought…it’s good. I know it is, and that’s no thanks to me—”

“Bullshit—”

“Sure, mate, I did my part, but to be honest, uh, this one’s all Nolan, I think. He’ll come out as the star of this one for sure. Trust me. His genius is gonna shine through everything. He had his hands in like every element of this. It was fascinating to watch…and I’m glad, because, uh, this sort of takes some of the pressure off me for now.”

“Sure…” 

“The storyline is captivating, and, uh, the execution is scarily real. No one will find anything bad to say about it, I think. And, uh, Jeff said it should stand me in good stead. Get a few people talking about me in Hollywood. Get my name on a few short lists for future roles. It’s all the other shit I’m terrified of. The music is all me, so there’s really no hiding anymore.”

“And that’s why it’ll be unbelievable,” I said. “Because you’re unbelievable, babe.” He craned and planted a kiss to my cheek before retreating to his spot, still overlooking the current.

“That genuinely means more to me than you’ll ever know…”

“I’ve been where youh are before…not too long agoh, actually.”

“I can’t imagine how you did it. And all on your own too, with none of our old contacts?? To be honest, you’re the one who’s un-fucking-believable, mate.”

“Tell me about it,” I snickered, watching the tip of my cigarette before taking another drag. “I’ve been thinkin’…why are youh soh afraid of failure, anyweh?” I asked. “Why do youh give it that kind of power over youh? You’ve always been obsessed with gettin’ every little thing right. I remember that shit, broh. Youh used to drive yourself mad. A few times youh even made yourself sick.” He shrugged and couldn’t look me in the eye. I studied the light outlining his profile.

“Music is supposed to be enjoyable, Haz, from top to bottom, right? From makin’ it to deliverin’ it, to listenin’ to it. This is your dream job, babe, but youh manage to turn it into such a joyless headfuck for yourself.”

“I don’t mean to.” He looked about half his age. I figured I didn’t need to be too hard on him in such a fragile state.

“I know you don’t mean to, babe, but youh have to chill. You’re goin’ to do amazin’, I promise. It’s inevitable. You’re Harry Fucking Styles…and beyond that, you’ve put in the work to guarantee success. Hard work will always pay off. It’s, like…a law of nature.”

“Fucks sake, mate. I feel better already…”

“Y’know, there’s not a lot I’m sure of in this world, but I do know one thing…” he looked over at me, vacillation in his eyes. “Youh were chosen to be great. Like…born for it. It’s your destiny, Haz. Just sit back and accept it. M’serious, maan, youh have noh limitations, other than the roadblocks youh setup for yourself inside your mind. I saw it in youh when we first met, and I’ve only become more sure as the years tick by.”

“Z, what the fuck? Where did all that even come from?! You’re one hell of a motivational speaker!” He kissed me so hard I could taste the gratitude; it was present in his urgency.

It was the least I could do to return all the encouragement he had given me without fail anytime I wanted to quit or give in. He had been my rock for as long as I could remember, always checking on me and making sure I ate. Always pushing me to be the best version of myself. So much so that even when we weren’t together, I still relied on that solid foundation he had invested in me, and during the start of my solo career would often stop to wonder what he would think about certain things I was working on or scheming up for my first album.

He knew me both as a dumb wannabe kid and a superstar. He knew me before our success was certain; way back before we ever took over the world. He was there when I finished puberty and there in the earliest stages of my musical education. He knew me as Zain, before all the other adjectives and labels had been added as I grew up in the public eye.

I had known his funny little cherub face, and he had seen the infantile stages of my fashion. All the hideous faux pas. Those the days when I was still figuring out how to style my hair well enough for a boyband. He had heard my voice crack. Had counted my acne. Had seen my terrible early attempts at writing and was the only person who knew I’d written a humiliating screenplay when I was 12.

God, the cringe he must’ve withheld to spare my feelings, I dread to think of it. But that was Harry. He loved me with a deep, almost parental sensitivity and a Christ-like absolution. Fully and forever. Without judgement, devoid of condition. With the patience of a saint and the blind steadfastness of a puppy. He was sweet to me even when I was mean. He ate everything I cooked even if he didn’t particularly have a taste for it at the minute, and always stayed on the phone with me when I called him at 2, 3, and 4AM—

Now he stood away from the railing and stretched, the leaves at his hipbones peaking from beneath his shirt.

“Hey…” he smiled.

“Hey.”

“Whatcha thinking about?”

“Nothing, really…” He tried to read my thoughts. His stare intensified; those eyes the only thing aglow in the darkness. Weirdly luminescent, like seafire scudding along the coast.

“I’ve been meaning to ask,” he began, scratching the back of his head and breaking eye contact. “So, uh, what was with all the whips and chains and stuff…?”

Hardly!” I laughed.

“Oh well excuse the fuck out of me. I only meant the fooking handcuffs and blindfold and bag full of toys!” I exhaled the last of the smoke into the sky, thumping the butt onto the ground, which he later stepped on.

“I dunno, maan. Just wanted to try sumthin different I guess?”

“Oh, you guess?” he scoffed.

“How was it?”

“Pretty fooking wild, not gonna lie. I wasn’t expectin’ it.”

“M’sorry—”

“Just because I wasn’t expecting it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, mate. Those are two totally separate things.”

“For real?”

Mm-hm,” he finally grinned, unable to control a laugh when rehashing the memories. “I’m definitely glad you did it. Surprises are good…and at the end of the day I trust you to look after me.

“Always…”

“It’s been what, six years now since we started fooling around? Seven since we’ve known each other. You’re keeping things fresh, Z, you always do. I get it, and I can appreciate that.”

“Yeah…” I chuckled, unable to hide how insecure I felt. Now he stepped before me, titling my face and bearing down into my eyes like it was the first time he had ever seen me.

“Sometimes it’s nice to feel like I don’t know you,” he murmured, staring at my lips.

“Really?”

“Seriously…” he kissed me breathlessly, brushing our lips together with feathery strokes. “…it makes…everything…more intense. More mind numbing…more reckless. Like I don’t know what’ll happen next.”

“Youh like me being unpredictable?” I breathed, brow knitted, starring at his kiss-swollen mouth.

“All the fucking time…” We made out again, following which he watched me curiously. “Now it’s time for me to repay the favor…” My stomach knotted, forcing me to avert my gaze.

“W-when?” He kissed me deeply. Our lips parted with a smack and I stared up into his torrential green eyes.

“I don’t wanna to lose youh….” I whispered woozily. “Not now…not ever. I think that’s why I did it. Youh make me insane.” I felt his thumbs stroking my cheeks, and his gaze was becoming more languid, more alluring. “…sort of like finding ways to keep youh to myself. Finding ways to use youh up soh no one else can have youh…in some fucked up way.” He leaned closer, just short of kissing me again. The hypnosis of his gaze arrested every muscle in my body. I sat nearly paralyzed before him. “I’m soh scared to confront the things youh unlock in my mind.”

“It’s ok…” he whispered, pressing our lips together. Later he assured me, “I’ve been there too. Thrown myself into that darkness…”

“Really?” He nodded, releasing my face. He leaned back against the railing and gazed up at the sky.

“Early on…when I was so, uh, intimidated by the Stephanies and Rebeccas and Perrieswhoever. I just wanted to use you as much as possible whenever we were together, hoping you’d have zero energy left for someone else.”

“I guess we’d be surprised how similarly we think about most things if we just fuckin’ talked about ’em.”

“That’s all you, Mr. ‘talkin’ ‘bout it’s not my style.’

“Yeah…” I watched the ground in a daydream. “M’changin though. I feel like I’m more willin’ to talk through shit as I get older. It really does help, Haz.” He wrapped his arms around my neck, leaning his weight down onto me. I liked to bear his weight because it let me know he was real. We were real. I wrapped my arms around his waist and slips my hands up the back of his shirt, making home in the warmth of his bare flesh. He sighed in response, and the sound was gratifyingly familiar. I felt possessive of it. How could one even be possessive of a sound? Like his moans or his laughter or his whispers…all mine.

**********

When I got home to New York, I laid around for a few days, hardly eating or speaking. G thought I was pissed at her and didn’t come by for a while. I smoked ‘til I felt ill, not answering the phone for anyone, not even Haz himself. The withdrawals were getting worse, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to see him again for a while. Why bother chatting to him in the meantime and making myself more miserable? 

We had made it back to the motel after visiting the tower and gathered our things before heading our separate ways like the last time. All I had to look forward to now was when he came to New York in a month or so for work, and had promised to carve out a few days for me on that occasion.

I sent him the link for Kailash Kher’s Teri Deewani after he called for the fourth time that day to no avail. That was all he would get for now. I was drained and needed to preserve all the energy I had left for work and making things right with G.

T had booked a photoshoot for the afternoon, so I sifted through my jewelry in the bedroom to find a few pieces that would be complementary to the looks. In doing so I stumbled across a silver rose ring I’d worn for a shoot last year, and which I had only chosen to wear at the time because it had reminded me of him. I twisted it around between my fingers before running downstairs to the office in nothing but my t-shirt and briefs to find a pen and paper.

This made me think of you. I want you to wear it so whenever you feel overwhelmed you’ll remember our talk on the bridge. Think of it as a good luck charm or something. Keep it cared for, babe, and I want to see you with it on when you come to NY.

I signed it with a large Z and folded the paper in fours. I then found the packaging supplies T kept around the house and did my best impersonation of a Fed-Ex employee, before dumping the package in the outgoing mail pile.

Before moving away, I noticed there was a large yellow envelop in the incoming mail pile, which typically indicated something important. I looked it over, finding no return address, but my name alone stamped on a label in the center of the envelop. Ripping it open, I found a stack of large photos inside, timestamped from a few days ago. My blood seemed to slow. My breath became labored. I flipped the first photo over and my knees gave almost instantly. I collapsed onto the floor, dropping the envelop and sending the pile fluttering around me.

All I had ever feared since I was 18; all I had ever worked and calculated to evade my entire adult life was suddenly rushing at me like a groundswell. My lungs seemed to shut down; gasping to intake the slightest whiff of air. I didn’t even have wind enough to cry, but that didn’t stop my body from sobbing uncontrollably. 

(Thanks for reading! Next chapters: 2013!❤️)

Harry Styles Wears Peace Ring For DTD’s Anniversary


I’m intrigued, to say the least. You’ll remember on Tuesday September 7th that Harry’s peace ring that he’s been wearing since 2013 (and which inexplicably disappeared some time late last year or early this year) made a big return during his Denver, Colorado show. Read about that here:

Read about Harry’s very first Love On Tour show in Las Vegas here:

Well, as of his latest Love On Tour show in San Antonio, Texas on September 9th, the ring seems to have disappeared again. Which perhaps leads us to one conclusion: Harry only intended to wear the ring for that specific day? And therefore was making some sort of statement? Idek anymore. My head hurts from all this Zarry whiplash.

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Harry Performing In Denver, Colorado On 9/7/2021 with the peace ring.
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Harry Performing In San Antonio, Texas On 9/9/2021 sans the peace ring.

As always, fans wasted no time in constructing theories that deliberated why Harry would’ve returned the iconic and dearly missed ring for only one show. (And why the flip hasn’t he done the same with the rose ring because it’s been 84 years!!! I hate you Harry sm 😭😭😭😭😭😭 pleathe bring her back pleathe!!!)

I would love to know your thoughts and theories as well, but my favorite so far is that he wore the peace ring for the anniversary of Zayn’s Dusk Till Dawn on September 7th, which we all know was a deeply passionate song written about their relationship in 2017.

Wow we’ve have come such a long way from 2017, even though I didn’t know any of you then haha! Still, the impact of this song continues to resonate today. It is Zayn’s magnum opus in my opinion, and was made so by the impeccably delivered vocals, the heart-wrenching and carefully crafted lyrics, the allegorical storyline, and the fact that it was an almost a line-for-line response to Harry’s From The Dining Table released earlier that year.

Read my take on both songs here:


Many people even speculate that Zayn might’ve been in attendance at the Denver show (like he was at the June 2018 MSG show) based on the sudden return of the ring as well as some of Harry’s onstage behavior.

At the end of the day, we still have no solid clue as to what the peace ring means to Harry or where it even came from to begin with in 2013, but we would certainly love to find out!

Ugh, I’m sad.


What’s that? Did somebody say merch? Hah! I’m glad you asked! New merch is live now! Visit: https://www.wyldfleur.store/

Harry Styles Love On Tour | Denver


Look, I get it. You’re sick of hearing me say it, but I have to!

New Merch in just a few days!! 😨😰😱 Exclusive Zarry and Non-Zarry merch for every mood of the week! I’ve been working soooooo hard on these designs and I pray that you like them! Be sure to FOLLOW and LIKE @admerchdesigns on Facebook for updates. I’m also at @admerchdesigns on Instagram and Twitter too! But I’ll mainly post the designs on Facebook! Thank you, thank you!!


Read about Harry’s first show for Love On Tour in Las Vegas here:

PAGE ONE: Photos & Updates

PAGE TWO: Videos & Performances

Well, well, well….what do we have here? Looks like Harold seems to be slowly returning to himself after all! Fine Line suspenders and all!

Booooo! He wore a shirt yesterday. 😡

On his second highly anticipated show for Love On Tour at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado, he was reportedly more at ease and at home on stage while bantering with the crowd. We love to see it.

Yet the best part is that a major OG from the 1D days returned to his side for this performance. An item that has been with Harry for so long and so consistently that he looks downright naked without it. (I was gonna say something perverted about naked Harry but realized I objectify him way too often, so I decided against it. But just think of the nastiest thing you can, and then pretend I said it here. Kay, thanks.)

The peace ring is back baby!!! (Thanks to all who posted about the concert on the Discussion Post. You rock!!)

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Also, wtf Harry! Now bring back the rose ring!!

Pleatheeee


The Setlist:

The setlist did not change from the lineup of previous show, despite rumors that it might.

The Crowd:

The Band:

The Costume:

The Man:

The Husband:

Oh my gosh I can’t believe he actually showed up!!

Ok, I’m joking. He wasn’t there…..

He was at my house.


Photos:

What a cute ass.

PAGE TWO: Videos & Performances

Harry Styles Love On Tour | Las Vegas


New merch coming September 12th! Follow @admerchdesigns on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for updates! UPDATE: the new merch is available now at: https://www.wyldfleur.store/



Last night Harry performed his first show for Love On Tour at an electric MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and he reportedly did not disappoint. Performer!Harry is back with a vengeance to make us all pass out, and he seems to be incorporating his lovely ink bedecked torso into his stage-wear from now on, and we certainly aren’t complaining. Please Harry, by all means…feel free to lose the pants too!

Please drop all your thoughts and links here and I appreciate all the info being brought to the Discussion Post as well!


The Setlist:

The Crowd:

The Costume:

The Man Of The Hour:

I hate that I find him cute.

The Performances:


Omg what is wrong with him? 🤣


Ugh, his heart tattoo!
So shiny!
She’s back!
Sigh, the little rainbow boy.

Harry also has new merch, the colors for which he apparently teased with his Grammys outfits.


We also have this update from Jasmine who we appreciate: “Yo guys Adam and emi unfollwed harry and Jeff, harry and Jeff unfollwed Adam and emi, emi unfollwed kid harpoon, kid harpoon unfollowed emi , Adam blocked and unfollowed Anne and Anne unfollwed adam”

Oh my gosh what’s happening. Harry has known Adam since he first moved to London in like 2011, according to the Howard Stern interview! The rumors about Adam leaving with Charlotte were apparently true! *gasps*


I was smiling while making this post, not realizing how much I missed him, then I would suddenly remember Olivia was in the audience and my eye would twitch.

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Neon Red – Chapter 14

(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 AM DEEPLY ASHAMED OF THIS CHAPTER AND I APOLOGIZE. UGH THIS IS AWFUL***

I could feel my briefs tightening around my boner. I didn’t know if he was ready to do anything just yet. I figured I might need to get him a little drunk before he’d let me use the cuffs. We finished the jay, listening to most of the playlist, including “Pillowtalk,” “Promise” by Ciara, and the Weeknd’s “Often.”

I snuffed the stub on the nightstand and climbed off the bed to open the tequila. I brought it over and poured two cups. He sat up and drank it ridiculously fast before asking for more. I figured I needed to catch up, so I tossed back the same amount and thought for sure I’d burned a hole in my esophagus. By my second round, I was getting lightheaded and my feet felt unsure beneath me. He kicked back a third, but I declined, not wanting to bring on a headache.

I sat the empty cups and bottle on the nightstand, straddling him as he laid back on the bed again. He grinded up into my boner, rubbing his hand down between my legs as I grunted.

“Fuck, babe…” I exhaled, chewing my lip. He squeezed my waist between his hands, shoving me down onto his bulge, bucking his hips so hard it make me hop up and down. Then he growled and sat up again, locking me onto his lap and ripping my shirt off.

“These are great nipples…” he said, staring at my chest, stoned out of his gourd. He bent and licked one and then dissolved into laughter. I laughed too, doubling over, following which we butted heads.

Fuckkk…” he groaned, rubbing his forehead. I kissed it and mumbled I was sorry, then traced his swollen lips with my thumb before. 

“You’re soh fuckin’ perfect…” I bent and kissed him. “Can I make love to youh now?” Suddenly he stood up, locking my legs around his waist.

“And who the fuck said you get to top?” he seethed. I couldn’t hold back a laugh. “Huh?” he headbutted my chin, repeatedly and on purpose. I couldn’t respond for laughing so hard. I just blew a raspberry against his forehead until he laughed too. “Sexual” by Neiked came on and he danced around a little with me in his arms.

“Lay down, okay?” I whispered. He stopped and looked up at me, probably barely registering who I was. Eventually he set me onto my feet and I headed for my bag, unpacking everything and lining it up at my disposal like a mad surgeon; an inquisitor prepared to torture. Then I approached him in the fluttering candlelight, revealing two sets of handcuffs and a black blindfold.

“What the actual fuck…” he fretted, laid out atop the sheets as I instructed.

“Youh trust me?” He just nodded. I bent and pressed my lips to his, relishing the contact, then slipped the blind fold over his head. His breath quickened almost immediately. I took one wrist and hooked it to the bed and he panicked a little, tugging at the binding.

“Z…?”

“Yeah, babe?”

“We don’t need two. One’s good, right?”

“Noh, babe, it isn’t. It really isn’t.” 

I walked around the bed and locked his other wrist with the second set of cuffs, then secured it to the bedframe. His hands were trembling. He was now well and truly at my disposal. It felt unsettling to have someone so utterly at my clemency, in such a dark room in the middle of nowhere. I felt wildly powerful. 

DVSN’s “Too Deep” came on and I felt my dick twitch and tauten with the lyrics. He squirmed atop the mattress, leg bent at the knee and anxiously fanning, unknowingly inviting me into his hidden warmth. Unknowingly driving me batshit crazy. I took another shot of tequila and told my nerves to ante up. Then I moved back to the bed and unfastened the towel from around his waist, revealing his semi which was slowly sprung up towards his belly. 

His skin seemed to scintillate in the candlelight. I traced his butterfly in a maddening, unhurried trek, during which he flinched and whimpered, fearful of what I might try next. It’s amazing how vulnerable a person could become once you disarmed them. Once they knew they couldn’t stop you, no matter how much they tried. And I was also amazed by how easily he had trusted me to do this. To reward him with pleasure so earthshattering he was willing to give up his freedom to receive it.

“Youh nervous?” came my quiet inquiry. He nodded, brow wrinkled. “It’s okay, baby.” I bent and kissed his lips for the hundredth time, unable to stop myself. “I’m gonna take care of youh. Youh know I am. I always do. M’tryin’ to get youh right, babe…” In a move that surprised even myself, I suddenly bit his earlobe and he gasped a little, tossing his head back onto the pillows. It seemed like an invitation to do more, so I bit his jaw and then his throat, leaving a mark.

“Fucks sake…” he hissed through the pain.

I looked at his bound hands and felt a coldness wash over me. How could he allow me to disarm him in this way? He always said that the sexiest thing anyone can do in the bedroom was to be vulnerable. Once you let your walls down, the possibilities were endless. Nothing felt repressed when I was with him. I could desire anything and freely tell him, and he would make it his business to make it happen. Like what was occurring right now. And I tried to reciprocate as best as I could, because I wanted him to leave the bed feeling taken care of in a way he couldn’t find anywhere else. That was what kept him coming back.

I continued to marvel at his body, unable to believe my luck. It felt as though I was hallucinating, stuck in an elaborate mirage fueled by boredom, hunger, and homesickness from this endless Paris trip. I listened to him breathe as I readied my other supplies, drinking it all in. Occasionally I turned back and soaked up every inch of the vision he created, like a biologist peering through a microscope.

He was uniquely beautiful and alluring in a way I couldn’t fathom. In the sense that every part of him was to be desired, from his elbows to kneecaps. From his writs to his ankles to his toes. In the sense that his imperfections made him inarguably perfect. The extra nipples, the rabbit teeth, the birthmark marring his right wrist. All theoretically imperfect in terms of traditional human biology, yet I’d kill him if he ever got rid of a single one.

All the other parts were just as they needed to be, and in just the right proportions. He was built different. A flawless and graceful figure. His thighs, his ass, his arms, his pecs, all without fault. I leaned over him again and it startled him. I kissed his belly, lips ghosting down his treasure trail to the base of his dick. I nuzzled it and he moaned without reserve, sinking into the mattress.

“Youh are soh fuckin’ perfect, Harry. M’losin’ my mind over here. What the fuck are youh doin’ to me?” It was accusatory I know, but he had no right being this fucking irresistible. It made my blood boil and I could feel my skin blistering from the inside out. I just had to get on with it already.

I grabbed the warming lube and a cockring and sat on my legs in the center of the bed, stroking the inside of his spread thighs. It was my favorite thing to do, ever since I’d discovered it was one of the most sensitive parts of his body and drove him mad without fail. His parted mouth let out hitched breaths beneath the blindfold. I could read the confusion on his face as he tried to sense my every move. I drizzled lube all over, taking my time in massaging it around his hardening length, then sliding the ring into place. 

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….” he panted.

“You’re okay, babe. It’s okay.” Something scolded me that I needed to capture this moment for the rest of my life. I had untold digital hordes of Harry Styles photos. A disturbing museum buried deep in the locked chambers of my phone. Only capable of being opened by my lead fingerprint. Without doubt, it was some of the most sought after and extremely valued footage in the world. 

We were both art connoisseurs in our own rights, but I was also obsessed with his body and liked to collect these strange gems at every opportunity I could. Whether he was awake or asleep, it didn’t matter. It was all precious to me. Him climbing dripping wet out of the shower. Him sitting and playing guitar. And dozens of the headless videos he had sent me since we were 18. I was probably sitting on millions of dollars’ worth of footage in this phone alone (decamillions) and if the world ever found out about it, they’d rip me apart. But there was something sickeningly sweet in the prospect of knowing how much everyone desired him, but I was the only man on the planet he’d allowed to see him like this. And I wouldn’t change that fact for all the money in the world.

I got up and grabbed my phone, snapping over a dozen shots of his flushed body at all angles. Something about the bindings and the blindfold put a knot in my stomach that wouldn’t unwind for days to come. 

“Z…” he groaned, more than prepared to get on with it. “At least give me something to drink.” I gave him a sip of wine directly from the bottle and he expressed his thanks. On the second go ’round I poured way too much and he snapped his mouth shut, turning his head aside. I laughed my ass off as he cursed me, before licking the access off his cheek, and dabbing the rest up with the sheet.

“Can I have a kiss?” he pleaded. I sat beside him and straddled his chest with my hands, staring at his puffy mouth. “Kiss me,” he begged. I gifted him a little peck, but he wanted far more. He presented his tongue for the taking and I was too much of a mess to resist it. I humored it a while, kissing him deeply until I felt he was thoroughly turned on. Then I abruptly broke the kiss and used the vibrator remote to startle him. The cockring pulsated around the base of his dick and he bit his lip, twisting his legs about in gratification. I watched in a morbid fascination before hitting the button repeatedly, rocking his body with tons of successive shockwaves.

“Can’t….take…anymore…” he shuddered, as if he’d been tased. 

He was rock hard and bobbing about as he moved, but I didn’t stop there. I grabbed the silicon plug and set it beside him without saying a word. Then I slid a pillow under his hips, and lubed up my two longest fingers. They were trembling. I inserted them slowly, causing him to exhale and sit down onto my hand. I wiggled them in and out until he moaned with abandon, losing every ounce of composure he once maintained. 

I heard the cuffs clanking against the bedframe and it drove me insane. It all felt very dark ages, especially with the fragranced firelight filling the room. I could feel my dick leaking. Now I lubed up the plug and slowly inserted the tip in the place of my fingers.  He panicked. 

Woah, woah, woah…” he rasped. “What the fuck is that??”

“Guess youh’ll find out.” I said. “Relax babe…”

“Wait…”

“Is it cold or something?”

“No, no…just weird.”

“Don’t act like we haven’t done it before…”

“But never cuffed, and never blindfolded. You could be sticking anything into me and I’d never know…”

“But it’s gonna feel amazing, trust me.” I reinserted my fingers to massage him into submission, playing while his puckering hole on the way in. He melted around my familiar touch, unclenching and letting his legs go limp. His breathless moans were beginning to drive me up the wall. It was all I wanted to hear. I shoved my fingers deeper and deeper in hopes of making him cry out louder. My breath fell into rhythm with his, just as labored, just as strangled. I wanted to get inside and pound him until I exploded, but knew I needed to make this worth his while first.

After a few more aborted tries, I was finally able to successfully insert the plug, all the way down to the base. He relaxed and tried to explain in confused and muttering terms how good it felt. How tight and full he felt. For added shock value, I hit the button on the remote and he nearly jumped through the roof with the combined sensations of both toys.

My hands were a slippery mess by the time I had finished. I wiped them on the sheets before getting up to grab my cigarettes. He squirmed in place, gasping whenever I surprised him with unpredictable pulsations.

“Z?” he whimpered, as I’d gotten too quiet and he couldn’t sense me anymore. I sat in the chair beside the window and enjoyed a few puffs, watching him search for me through the cloth covering his eyes. Then he extended his legs and tried to feel for me with his outstretched toes.

“Z?!” He panicked. “Please…” He unsure of what he was even asking for, but I knew. Occasionally he twisted so much that he turned onto his side, and all I cold see was the black plug hanging out of his ass and his ropy spine. His outstretched arms made his ribs protrude, and all I could think of was his beating heart.

“Z? What’s happening?” More silence. He lifted his head off the mattress, trying to catch any sound he could. “Z?! Answer me!” he shouted. I walked over to the door, then opened and shut it to make him think I’d left.

“Zayn?!” he panicked. “Zaynnnn!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, probably imagining I was halfway down the road by now. “No, no, no, no no! Don’t fucking do this to me! Please…don’t fucking leave me like this…” he cried breathlessly, already giving up. 

I laughed uncontrollably and he cursed me when he realized I never left, spitting angrily in my direction. “Fuck you! I can’t fucking believe you did that!” Eventually he couldn’t hold back a laugh. “For fucks sakkkeee! Mate, I was soooo scared. You’re an asshole for that!” I thumped my ashes off onto his belly and watched them break apart. He felt it atop his skin and called me an asshole again.

“Would you just say something please?! You’re really freaking me out, Z…” I grinned to myself, butting the cigarette on the nightstand. “I’m scared. You’re not acting like yourself.”

“It’s okay baby,” I replied, laying half atop him and kissing his ear.

“You gotta talk to me…”

“It’s okay…I’m gonna take care of youh…” My voice was barely audible, but he could understand my faintest utterance. It was a method of communication we had developed after so many years spent together on the road, and with so many stoned nights. “Not gonna let anything happen to youh…”

I kneeled on the bed and popped the lube open,  drizzling it all over his cock; massaging his rigid heat in my hand. He spread his legs for more, careful of the plug. Then, without warning, I pressed the remote again, for so long he clenched his teeth shouted, riding the wave until it ended. Rocking his hips to settle into the alarming sensations overcoming him.

“I fucking hate you!” He cursed me, but I just squeezed his shaft, licking the tip of his head in a torturously slow swirl.

“Imma get youh right babe…” I said between licks. “Just wait…” Now I drizzled honey onto his nipples and sucked them until he was practically screaming. His back arched and he called out my name repeatedly, but I just kept sucking until they grew raw and achy.

When he grew overly boisterous, calling out my name with far too much clarity for these thin walls, I grabbed the duct tape and placed it over his mouth. Now I took my briefs off and pulled at my cock, absurdly turned on by the sight he presented. Gagged and bound. Calling out my name like he never had before; angry about the abrupt end to the nipple play.

I lay down at his waist and finally took him into my mouth. He hissed, startled by the fiery sheath, doing all he could to meet me halfway. His massive cock slipped up and down my drooling tongue, making me salivate like a starved canine. I carefully removed the plug and he came quaveringly, all over my hand.

I didn’t stop there. I was back inside with a few lubed fingers, dragging them in and out of his freshly stretched hole until he couldn’t stand it. Circling his prostate with my middle finger like trigger. Milky fluid started to pool down the tip of his penis, and I watched in awe because I was just getting started. I climbed up onto my knees, drizzling my aching cock with lube and slid inside as seamlessly as a breath. I removed the tape from his mouth because he looked about ready to pass out.

“You’re so deep…” he whispered drunkenly. “You’re so fucking deep…” That was all the encouragement I needed. I pounded him until I felt the reverberation rip through me as our bodies crashed. Shockwaves that rattled my nervous system and made him tear up. He came back to life at my urging, slinging his leg up over my shoulder; sighing my name; asking me to go faster and harder.

I tossed my head back and glimpsed our chaos in the overhead mirror. We were surrounded by a dark, transgressive haze. Like the climax of a narcotic nightmare. It made my heart grim with fear. We looked outlandish, like two grappling apes. Like nothing I had ever seen before. My eyes looked primitive and drugged. 

I thanked the powers that be that no one was around to see us like this. It was utterly our secret, one we would take to the grave or die trying. All the shameless imagery. All the dazed and embarrassing exclamations. All the weird sounds and smells. All the twisted power dynamics. All the unconventional fantasies lived out between any sheets we came in contact with. It was ours alone. His and mine. He and I. He and I.

I slowed my thrusts to a measured grind to savor every atom of him. Every textured inch of his gloriously crafted sphincter. I stared at myself in the overhead mirror a while longer, until the friction reduced me to shudders and my pupils rolled into the back of my head.

What To Expect Next:

– As you have probably guessed by now, this situation won’t end well, and the Paris trip will have repercussions on their relationship for years to come. 

– Headed back into 2013 in the next chapters!

Neon Red – Chapter 13

(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.)

**********

When we got back to the hotel at the end of the day, only returning briefly earlier for her to change into this long belted off-the-shoulder look, G had the bags lugged up to the room and hosted an unsolicited fashion haul in the master suite where she tried on a lot of the new pieces as I sat on the bed in a stupor.

“That one’s pretty cool.” I said, in one of the varied responses I’d been repeating since the start: That’s dope. That’s sick. Wicked babe. Good find. I thought of what to say next as she sauntered out in a pink cocktail dress that flopped around at her chest. It was unzipped because it fastened up the back and she couldn’t quite reach. I thought that was an impractical way to make a dress. Most women didn’t just have extra hands sitting around the house to help them get dressed whenever they needed, so why not put the zipper along the side?

Now she jumped onto the bed in the half-zipped dress and lay across my lap, taking my phone from my hands. She slid it across the mattress where I couldn’t reach without a fight, before pulling me into a kiss. Her breath smelled like French Onion Soup.

“Youh have fun today?” I asked, meeting her eyes as she opened them.

“Hell yes, babe! Too bad you couldn’t come inside the thrift shop. They had tons of things I thought you would’ve loved.” She hopped up and moved across the room to the heap of bags.

“Check this out.” She presented me with a vintage Louis Vuitton belt from the 70s.

“For me?” I asked, accepting it.

“Duh…”

“Thanks… I actually love it…”

“And Anna loved you! She adored you, Z! I’m so proud of how sweet you were to her. You made us look soooo good. I can’t wait to do Vogue together. You deserve the recognition more than anyone.”

Something warm and violent welled up within me and I almost wanted to vomit. She was so fucking good to me sometimes. Thinking of that, coupled with how awful I’d been to her since New Year’s, I just couldn’t fathom how bad things had become. I nearly blurted the truth and started “The Talk” just to feel unburdened for a second. Just to halt the betrayal and draw the curtains on this tormenting performance, but that would only serve to alleviate myself, sparing no care for how the news of Harry and I would affect her career and her outlook right now. I wouldn’t dare fuck that up, not during Fashion Week. And although she deserved to know, this was one the most important trips of her life and I needed to see it through, no matter how damaged it left me.

As she went to raid the fridge for snacks, I called up Daniaal and chatted for a bit about his plans to come to NY in a few weeks. I could use a familiar face around every now and then, since G was always surrounded with her friends and family and had loads of people to confide in outside of me.

Every now and then she would come lean on my shoulder to join the facetime and joke with him. They seemed to get on really well since they met in Bel Air back in 2015. Sometimes I thought she liked him more than me. If he weren’t my closest relative and best friend on the planet, I’d probably be kind of pissed at how much he was smiling at her just now.

When I hung up from him, G came and climbed back onto the bed, sitting on her legs. I could tell by the smirk on her face that she wanted something that would annoy me, and she was just trying to butter me up.

“‘Sup?” I asked.

“Oh nothingggg….”

“Yeah, right,” I scoffed.

“Don’t be mad, ok?”

“What now, G? I’m tired—”

I know, I know, which is exactly my point!”

Okayyyy…??”

“I got invited to a party tonight.”

“Another party?? Is like 11pm?”

“Mm-hm! But here’s the thing…it’s like a slumber party—for adults, of course. Lots of booze, lots of games. Nothing that would really rock your boat.”

“Whose party?”

“A friend from work. Remember the chick with the big hair we met tonight? Yes, yes you do. Nod your head yes. Well, it’s hers. I’ve known her for a while, and she usually throws one every year. I didn’t think she would this time, but apparently it’s sort of a last minute thing.”

“Um…ok. Soh, what exactly would youh like me to do with this information” Youh askin’ for my permission or somethin’?”

“Well, I just feel bad to abandon you…like overnight.”

“I mean shit, I did the same thing to youh last night—”

“Yeah, but you were working, babe.” I nearly choked. “I’d be partying without you…and something about it just doesn’t feel right.”

“It’s perfectly okay. Seriously. It’s just not my scene, soh you’d be doing me a favor by leavin’ me here. Don’t feel bad, G, for real.” I grinned. “I’m soh tried I’d hardly even notice youh were gone.”

“Oh, gee thanks, bubba…” She rolled her eyes.

“Youh know what I mean.” I grabbed her hand and kissed it. “Goh, babe. Have fun. I’ll be here catchin’ some Zs while you’re gone. Fartin’ and all…”

Ew!” she squinched her nose up at me. “Just don’t fart into the sheets, ok? The smell will nest in the fabric and it’ll become a whole thing. Let the room air out, babe—”

“I swear I will,” I laughed. “And we can hang out tomorrow as soon as youh get back—”

“Ugh, I love you so freaking much!! Thank you thank you thank you!” She kissed me a few times before running off to get ready. I took my clothes off and laid down under the covers, watching my phone until it tumbled out of my hands as I fell asleep.

**********

I woke up to a vibration on my chest, no more than an hour or so after falling asleep. G was long gone and the lights were all out. She had drawn the drapes closed and the room was pitch black. I picked my phone up from where it had fallen on my chest and looked through the piercing white light. There were a few missed calls, all from Haz. I checked the text he sent last, and it showed he had finally broke.

“Alright…whatever you want.” he relented. “I’m all yours.” Then: “You better make it worth my time.” I nearly shit myself, heart jumping straight into my throat. He had missed his flight and stayed a few more days, all for me. I felt clumsy and unworthy and unsure of what to do next. I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn’t misreading his words. He sent another text that said, “I’m waiting…”

My head reeled with a thousand different things I needed to do to show how grateful I was for what he’d done. First things first, we needed a motel. There’s no way he could come here without being spotted, and if it was reported that Harry Styles was staying at the Four Seasons while we were here, G would lose her shit. 

I Googled cheap motels far away from the general area and found one on the opposite side of town from where we had stayed before. The King Phillipe Inn was the only place with rooms available this late, and I was pretty sure they charged by the hour. Even so, I had Taryn snag a room for the night under her alias and sent the details over to Haz so he wouldn’t have to rebook the expensive airport hotel. Then I hopped up and showered thoroughly, washing away the day’s exertion. The reek of the streets. The clingy fragrances picked up in shop after shop. It was hard not to jerk off since I was so fucking turned on at the thought of meeting him again in France. Still under the cover intrigue. A new hideaway and a new adventure. And this time I’d make sure we fucked ourselves stupid.

I told him I would make it worth his time, and he was apparently holding me to that promise, but I needed a few tools to assist. I Googled sex shops in the area and found some interesting results. I went for the most obscure, something close to that side of town where we were headed, then called myself a cab. I put my hoodie, beanie, and long peacoat back on, and topped it off with her Ray-Bans again. I opted for a darker hoodie than the one I’d been wearing earlier so I wouldn’t be recognized in the one from the iHeart video.

When I got the call that the car was downstairs, I had been gazing out over the sparkling cityscape in a listless daze. Now I butted my cigarette on the balcony balustrade and headed back through the room to the lobby. No one recognized me, lending me the confidence I needed to walk right into the shop and make as many ignoble purchases as necessary.

The driver was a younger guy who kept eyeing me through the rearview, but each time he did, I drew my hood a little closer and kept my face towards the window. He tried to draw me into conversation a time or two, but I shut him down with monosyllables until he lost interest.

Before long, Haz texted and said he was on his way to the hotel. I checked in first and got the key cards, then left one sticking out of the bottom of the threshold for when he got there. I hopped back into the car and gave the driver the new address, and he looked at me skeptically before following orders. It was getting super late now, and I needed to make it to the shop because I was unsure of whether it operated 24hrs or was just open late. Everything else seemed to close super early here, which was unfortunate because I truly came to life at night.

When we pulled up into the parking lot of the deserted pervert supply store, I climbed out as my driver smirked knowingly at me over his shoulder. It made me feel filthy and exposed, but I swallowed my shame and got on with it. Soon I opened the doors to a silicone wonderland featuring every color of the rainbow, and every sordid form and utility known to man. It was a small and dark place, and I sidled through the narrow aisles, grabbing anything I thought we might actually use.

A couple of vibrating cock rings, butt plugs, handcuffs, blindfolds, candles, honey, chocolate, and tons of flavored lube. There was a doubled ended dildo that caught my eye making me marvel for a while, but I ultimately decided against it. On the way out of the aisle, I cringed away from the anal hooks and the anal plugs 10x the size of the one I’d chosen, then snatched up a roll of duct tape and couldn’t manage to suppress a smile.

Along the way to the checkout, I ran into a dwarf who was tattooed over every inch of his body, including his skull and the large goiter on his neck. He swore at me in French because I had nearly ran him over in my haste, then hobbled into the darkened rear of the shop where a TV was playing porn on a loop. As he passed through, the beaded curtain covering the threshold rattled throughout the store. 

I shook my head to bring myself back to the task at hand, and let the lanky cashier who listened to rap on a cassette radio and looked clinically depressed ring me up. He asked no questions and didn’t bother to look me in the eye, for which I was grateful. I suppose my hooded appearance and the massive sunglasses after sundown tipped him off that I wasn’t particularly in the mood for socializing. I looked straight up like a serial killer. Finally he handed me my things in a black paper bag, and I was out of the shop as quickly as I had entered it.

**********

I entered the room and heard the shower going. I could smell his cologne floating around the small quarters, so much like 2013. His things were strewn across the table; his phone charging on the nightstand.

“Baby…” I sighed, setting my bag down and ripping the beaning and glasses off; shaking out my hair and cracking my neck. It was go time.

Right away I noted the mirrors on the ceiling and quivered. It was a creepily themed motel with medieval overtones. Dark, woody décor. An embellished iron headboard, which was exactly what I needed. Darkly clad walls made the room feel windowless. I imagined I would struggle to breathe in here. It was a place suited for our kind. For secretive exploits. For illicit pairings and criminal enterprises. It made me nervous to think of the far grimmer things happening in the rooms around us.

Soon my boots were off and I had undressed down to my briefs and t-shirt. He’d brought red wine, which was chilling in a bucket of ice on the table by the window. He’d also brought his favorite tequila, Patron Silver, which sat at room temperature beside the bucket. There were also clear plastic cups stacked beside them both.

I shut the lights and tv off and put on some old music. Then I lit four of our favorite scented candles, warm vanilla, and closed the drapes. I set them around the room and the ambience intensified. The darkness was intoxicating. Trey Songz’s “Love Faces” drifted about the room and I sang a few bits occasionally.

When he came out of the toilet, he smiled a ginger smile; one of deep satisfaction that he was hesitant to let me see. We watched each other across the room in awe as Beyonce’s “Dance For You” scored the moment. He broke the silence first.

“There was a dead bug in the toilet. I think it was a cockroach.”

“I know right…I feel like I’m getting an STD just standing here.” He laughed.

“I was losing my mind before you got here. It’s been ages…”

“More like an hour,” I snickered. We watched each other again, afraid to make the first move. 

I yielded and went to him as he took the towel off his head, tossing it onto the floor. I clasped my arms around his neck in a crushing hug and he squeezed me so tight my feet left the floor. When he sat me back down, he took my face between his two giant hands and smothered it with kissed. They landed in crazy places; my eyes, my nose, my chin. All the pinned-up emotions and anger and frustration I’d been totting around throughout the day welled in my chest and I teared up again. He stopped and stared into my eyes when he heard me snivel, and it was the most serious I’d seen him look in a long time. I felt like a bitch. He swiped a tear away with his thumb, brow knitted with unspoken compassion.

“Wus wrong?” he asked. My lids fluttered closed and I buried my face in his chest.

“Nothing…” I laughed weakly, trying to return a bit levity to the situation. “M’ just soh fuckin’ happy to see youh.”

“Well, quit being a little bitch, then…” At that, I burst out laughing and slapped his ass as he moved to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Whatcha got?” he smiled, inclining his head towards the black gift bag.

“Oh…nothing. I guess you’ll find out, right?”

“I guess so.” He ran his fingers through his drying hair. Erik Bellinger’s “Imagination” played as I checked my phone, answering a few texts from G. Afterwards it was followed up by Jodeci’s “Feenin’.”

Later I poured us a bit of wine in two of the short cups, lit a jay, and then delivered him the drink. He was laying back on the bed in nothing but the loosening towel, but sat up to accept the drink.

“This is great, thanks.”

“Well thank you for thinking of it,” I said, sitting beside him and massaging the back of his neck. I took a hit and spouted smoke rings that he pretended to eat. I watched and laughed myself stupid, finishing the wine in record time. He downed his when he saw I was already done. He asked for a hit of the jay and I passed it, following which he inhaled and coughed until his eyes watered.

“Youh gud, broh?” I asked, snickering and patting him on the back. He nodded and wiped his tears away, as Janet Jackson’s “Anytime, Anyplace” started up. I slung a leg across his lap and stared up at our reflection in the mirror.

“M’thinkin about having something like this added in the London place,” he mentioned.

“What? The mirrors?”

“Yep.”

“That’d be pretty sick actually,” I thought aloud. He pretended to faint, falling backwards onto the bed and holding onto my leg, massaging my calf. I laughed and laid down beside him, setting the joint to his lips so he could hit it again. This time he was more successful, and it resulted in him smiling up at the ceiling in a beady-eyed gratification. Then he looked over at me, falling deeply into my eyes. The affect it had on me was inconceivable. I felt wrapped in a mantle of love. Shrouded from the world, because this version of me was preserved for his eyes alone.

“I’m soh in love with youh…” I whispered, brushing our noses together. He giggled, clearly becoming stoned out of his mind, then whispered,

“Who are you?” 

The opening melodies of Jack Garratt’s “The Love You’re Given” took command of the room, and I felt like I was looking at him through the splintering windows of a dilapidated house. Years bleeding between the cracks like deafening silence. Veering roads that led into an infinite emptiness. We loss all familiarity. I could hardly recognize him anymore. His features seemed to belong to another. Then he smiled, and I blinked out of my delirium. All it took was one glimpse of those dimpled cheeks to bring me home again. 

Neon Red – Chapter 12

(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.)

**********

She had a Patrick Bateman morning routine that involved acidic scrubs, detoxing masks, and long, meticulous showers. I sat at the empty breakfast table after separating from Haz while she hopped around the suite in her PJs, searching for clothes—dried toothpaste on her pimples. A tentative knock landed at the door. It was housekeeping, and they were determined to have a go at the room. I hadn’t let them in since we checked in. I cracked the door and told them to come back later, and the lady suppressed her disdain by mustering a twisted smile (the kind I imagined Bundy employed before he struck) and bobbing away. Now I shut the door, leaning back against it with a huff. When G started singing, a month’s worth of annoyance erupted within me.

Yooooo…G??? Any day now!” I tossed my head back against the wood.

Coming, coming, coming! I swear, babe!” she laughed. “Just five more minutes! Ok??”

“Youh said that 20min agoh, yeah?!”

“Yeah, but this time I realllly mean it!”

Fuckkk, G! M’dyin’ here…” The bathroom door shut. She had honestly slept in as we planned, regardless of absence. I had to wake her up when I got here, then she spent an hour on the phone with her mom, and was only now hopping in the shower.

I pulled out my phone and checked my messages. Nothing but the usual. My cousins hitting me up. One of them had written a song and he wanted me to check it out. My mum was checking in on me. My manager offered revisions for next week’s schedule. The label followed up about the upcoming single. Taryn kept me posted on the latest, lining up appointments for the second I landed back in New York. Yet…nothing from him. Our thread was pushed further and further out of sight as everyone else in the world seemed to reach out just now.

I’d gotten back to the hotel around half ten, rehashing last night and this morning on the entire ride over. It just didn’t seem real that he was here. Worse, it felt awful knowing he was only a few miles away, prepared to fly to another continent, following which we wouldn’t see each other for weeks. Maybe even a month if our schedules continued to clash the way they did. When he was in LA, I was in France. When I was in New York, he was in the UK. When I was in the UK, he’d probably be back to LA by then.

Fuck it. I called him. He answered after a few rings, but I panicked and hung up. My heart was rattled at the thought of G walking in and catching me. Something about the risk made me giddy. Emboldened, I called back again.

“Z?”

“Hey…”

“Hey…what’s up?” he wondered. “You ok?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Well…you hung up before.”

“Sorry. Finger must’ve slipped.”

“Ok…”

“Where are you?”

“A hotel near the airport…waiting on my flight.”

“What time is it?”

“Few hours….” I shuddered at the thought of him boarding. “Hang on a minute.” He clicked to the other line. I felt like I was imposing, trying to keep him on the phone. 

Eventually I moved back over to the table and lit a cigarette before making my way onto the balcony. It was chilly out. Nothing but a few joggers could be spotted occasionally, and loads of pigeons along the serried rooftops and gathered in dark throngs along the streets. I shivered, dressed in nothing but jeans and a t-shirt, but it’s what I needed. A good baptismal breeze to clear my head. I turned my face downwind and squinted.

“Hey,” he clicked back over.

“Youh need to goh?”

“No, it’s cool.”

“Is it lame if I say I miss youh already?” I squinched my eyes shut, scratching my eyebrow.

“No…not at all,” he allowed. “The thing is…I miss you too, y’know?” It was said with some reluctance. He sounded tired, like he hadn’t slept for a week. I was glad he got the little shut-eye he did last night, but knew he was jetlagged off his ass. Flying back to the US so suddenly would only make his sleep schedule worse. If he kept this up, he might suffer a deprivation-induced psychosis, and I felt bad he had risked all this for me.

“I miss you all the time.”

Hey…Haz…” I began, sitting on the balcony floor with my back against the railing. “Don’t goh…okay?”

“Can’t stay mate…m’sorry.”

“Then I hate youh….”

“Of course you do,” he scoffed. “Gotta goh, babe,” he mimicked my accent and I laughed. “You know how crazy this month and next month is for me. I’m keen to get home, rest up…figure a few things out—”

“Well, I’m keen to get in those guts…” we laughed. “Babe…it’s crazy…almost like we never even met up yesterday. It all happened soh fast. Feels like a weird dream or sumthin’…d’youh know what I mean?”

“Yeah?”

“…I feel like there’s never room to just sit and spend time together. Like…just chill and not have to worry about splittin’ in the mornin’, or being worried about someone catchin’ us all the time. I just want to breathe with youh. I just want to fuckin’ exist for a minute…”

“It’s tough,” he admitted. “And I know how you feel. Uh, sometimes I just wanna hit pause on everything…and everyone. But, uh, I guess that’s sort of a dangerous game, y’know? Because I might be tempted never to hit play again…”

“M’serious, maan…I wouldn’t blame youh. Not one bit.”

“I’ll come to New York in a little, alright? I have a few gigs over there after the drop. I’ll set aside a few days just for us. For you to show me around your old haunts—”

“As if we can actually do dat, Haz…”

“Maybe at like 3 or 4am we can?”

Late nights…”

“It’s all we’ve known.”

“Guess I’m just tired of the same old song and dance, maan.”

“But it’s what’s kept uz safe. It’s foolproof…or, uh, failproof, however you say it.”

“Then I guess I’m just in a complainin’ sort of mood.”

“Happens to the best of uz.”

“We didn’t even make love…” I whispered, the thought emerging out of nowhere.

“Mm…”

“We always make love…” I pondered aloud to myself. “It’s our thing.” A pigeon landed on the balcony a few feet away and pecked at crumbs we’d dropped a few days before.

“I know it is…” I could hear him ginning through the phone.

“Feels like we’re gettin’ old, innit? Not as frisky as we used to be.”

“Then I’ll prove you very wrong next time…”

“Promise?” I grinned.

I saw G walking around the suite through the balcony doors and just felt empty. No longer nervous, no longer paranoid, just overcome with a deep-seated numbness. Spreading as far down as my toes and all throughout my tastebuds. My whole heart, my entire consciousness was on the other line of the phone just now, and beyond that nothing else could faze me. If troops stormed the building, if bombs were dropped over my head, if an earthquake ripped through the city, nothing could convince me to hang up.

“I wanna make love to youh…” I murmured, close to the speaker as if she might hear.

“Please…?”

“Then don’t goh…”

“You’re killing me, Z…” he chuckled. Then: “I’m soh tired, maan—”

“I’ll make it worth your time. That’s a promise…”

“You’re just fucking with my head now,” he deduced. “I’ve got so much work to do. And so do you—”

“Don’t goh…” I repeated, uncompromisingly. Knowing he was close to breaking. There was nothing he could hide from me in this world. Especially not in his tone or manner of speaking. I could virtually read his mind through the phone. “I really really need to see you again, Harry…” There was a prolonged silence, during which I imagined he was weighing up the practicality of rescheduling his flight and canceling his meetings for the week.

“I really can’t stay…”

“Soh youh just don’t give a fuck about me then…” I muttered.

“That’s not fair. You know that’s not true. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“But you’re still goin’, yeah? What difference does it make that youh came at all?”

“Can’t stay forever, Z. Plus, aren’t you here with someone else? You forget about her or something?”

“Hilarious, Haz. Very funny.” I spat, taking a hit from the Marlboro and thumping the ashes onto the splintering concrete.

“What’s she doing anyway?”

“Gettin’ ready to drag me around the whole city, shoppin’.” I spouted a few smoke rings, before exhaling the rest through my nostrils. It roiled out before me in spectral shapes before getting carried away by the gusts.

“Sounds like you have a delightful day ahead of you. I wouldn’t want to interrupt you two lovebirds.”

“You’re all jokes, maan.” I shook my head, staring at my own reflection across from me. I was beginning to look gaunt. I hadn’t eaten properly since the day before I met up with him. I took another drag of the cigarette and blew the smoke out the corner of my mouth. He was starting to piss me off. 

“See, if youh wanna get technical, broh…the problem for me is that youh came here in the first fuckin’ place. Fuckin’ with my mind and shit. I was fine before youh got here, and that’s the fuckin’ truth, broh.”

“Whatever, Z…you pissed at me or something?”

“You’re just a fuckin’ fix at this point. Any exposure to youh sets me back a mile. Ten miles. A fuckin’ thousand. I can’t ever catch up to myself with youh around. You’re just a fuckin’ relapse, maan. I need to stay the fuck away from youh altogether if youh can’t ever give me what I need when I need it…” I wasn’t being fair, but I didn’t care. I just needed to guilt him into staying.

“You’re a serious asshole, you know that?”

“Yeah…” I said contemplatively. “Soh what if I am?”

“How’re you getting mad at your fucked up situation with her and then blaming it on me??” His voice shook. “You got what you asked for, when you were the one who left in the first fucking place, mate, and you’re the one who signed up for this bullshit with her. Don’t ever tell me I can’t give you what you need, when you never fucking allowed me to. The offer was always on the table. You were just to much of a coward to accept it.  Always complicating things. You just never fucking let me take care of you—”

“Try harder.”

“Fuck you.” He hung up.

I finished the cigarette, worried that I’d gotten a mild gratification out of pissing him off. If I had to be miserable for the rest of this trip, then I wanted him to be too. That was the most depraved thing I could’ve done at the moment, but it’s what my brain told me was necessary. I was so sick of seeing him everywhere. In everyone, in everything. A smile, a laugh, a color, a sound. In my own fucking reflection. If I had to be tormented, so did he.

I called him back and it went straight to voicemail. I think he blocked me. I called again and it rang and rang. I could feel him staring at the phone, watching it until the cycle was exhausted. I could see him sitting on the edge of the bed, fully dressed, shoes off, socked feet curled against the carpet. Idly watching the telly and waiting for boarding time. A sinking feeling washed over me when I pictured him at the airport. I wanted to crumble.

“Don’t goh…” I said quietly, to no one but my own fantasy.  If he couldn’t hear me, then I knew he could feel me willing him not to leave.

“Z…?” G said from the doorway, dressed in a homemade crop top version of my earliest merch campaign, black leggings, and an oversized wool coat. I hadn’t even registered her approaching or opening the balcony door.

“Y’ready?” she asked. I nodded and got up.

**********

“Guess what…” she began in the backseat of the car, staring dumbstruck at her phone screen; her thin fingers scrolling rapidly.

“What?” I muttered, seated beside her as we whizzed through neighborhood after neighborhood, the streets flooded with thousands of milling figures. 

Anna…as in Anna freaking Wintour, just asked me to host the Vogue Fashion Fund cocktail event tonight. Isn’t that insane?!”

“Oh yeah?”

“Mm-hm!” she nodded, mouthing the words in the email, still trying to process it. 

“That’s wild, babe…congrats…” I said, tentatively. Then, hoping to separate myself from the invitation, I asked, “Youh goin’?”

“Yep! And so are you—”

“G, babe…I’m really beat.”

“I knowwww, babe, but we don’t have to stay long. We’ll just go and do the opening ceremonial stuff, show her how much we appreciate the offer, and then dip. Some of those things can drag on forever, but if I have to, I’ll stay and you can go back to the hotel. She’s knows it’s super last minute. But still, there’s no way in hell we can turn it down. Not if we want the cover this summer!”

Righhht…the cover.” I’d nearly forgotten.

“We’re soooo close to the approval I can taste it! She loved the proposal and the mockups, but now she’s just testing us. Seeing what we’re made of…seeing if we’re worthy of a major cover story. Especially you because she hasn’t met you yet and she only gives this opportunity to very, very few men.”

“How d’youh know she’s testing us? What’s one thing got to do with the other?”

Everyone in the industry knows how she is. Besides, fool, haven’t you ever watched The Devil Wears Prada??”

“Oh, shit…that was about her??”

“Stop talking. Please, just stop!” She planted a hand over my mouth. 

            At the chocolatier she made me try everything, feeding me out of her hand from unappetizing pieces she'd already bitten in half

At the chocolatier she made me try everything, feeding me out of her hand from unappetizing pieces she’d already bitten in half. It was disgusting ingesting her cold spit, but if I refused even one, she’d be offended. After a while I told her I was getting a stomachache and it was the only thing that made her back off.

The shop owners (an old man and his arthritic wife) were amused by her chatter, and once they realized she was an easy sell, they toted out their most expensive products on mirrored trays and told her it was the best in the entire country. I thought to myself no one could possibly know that to be a fact, but G never thought of the logistics of these things. She liked ideas and she liked people, and she always made a fuss over superlative-laced marketing whenever it was presented with the right packaging.

**********

An entire entourage equipped with two vehicles had escorted us around the shops since she required security during fashion week, and with us going around together it made us super recognizable. We would’ve been stopped every two feet if it weren’t for the hulking men in suits that shadowed our every move.

Thousands of dollars in charges later, we headed to the smaller boutiques for exclusive finds. We stopped briefly for lunch at a posh place with live music and obnoxiously plated foods. The meat was lost among weird colored foams and purees and unrecognizable vegetables. Total mush. I was still hungry after picking around the place for half an hour. Then she helped me record a little thank you speech for the iHeart awards, in which I unknowingly smiled like a hostage. Too late to change it though. She’d already hit send and shot it over to Taryn. 

Once we headed back to the shops, my feet grew tired; my boots becoming hard and forming blisters. We’d been walking a lot today from store to store, moving blocks away from the car with each new excursion into a different label. It was like running a relay down a never-ending Rodeo Drive, and I was more than prepared to pass the baton to the next dude to take my place.

“Ugh, I’m so ready for this! This is the whole reason I wanted to come out today.” G exclaimed, planting a kiss on my cheek. I couldn’t help but think: If it was the whole reason, then why the fuck did we go to like 50 other places first??

She squealed, hopping out of the backseat of the hired car as the store owner approached to greet her. We had arrived at an exclusive resale shop that carried such high-end rarities that appointments were required and many of the pieces were only available to be rented, not purchased. It was more a museum for vintage clothes and accessories than it was a shop. Lots of celebs had famously worn these things to various events and performances, and G was hoping to join the ranks. There was a similar place back in NY, but she insisted this one had a far more expansive inventory.

“Hey, uh, G?” I called from the car. She kept talking to the owner, gesticulating wildly, the heels of her boots occasionally cocking sideways. The man lapped up her every word with his limp and fraying combover, totally over the moon about one of fashion’s fastest growing prospects gracing his doorstep. “G?!” I nearly shouted. She turned immediately.

“What’s up babe? Y’comin’?”

“Noh, uh…listen, babe. I think m’gonna wait in the car, alright? M’feelin’ a bit pooped, if I’m honest. I’ll save my energy for the party tonight.”

‘Aw, y’sure…?” she pouted. “I wanted to show you some stuff…there’s loads…”

“Positive, babe. I can’t do it.” I’ve seen e-fucking-noughwoman. “Take pictures for me. yeah?” I winked and she blew a petulant raspberry before shutting the door.

I laid down across the length of the seat facing the ceiling and took a deep breath. Just a few more hours and it’d all be over. I’d manage to get through the party in one piece, get back to the hotel, sprawl out across our bed, and get some long overdue shut-eye. I wished I could fall asleep on the spot, right there in the backseat like a toddler. Day naps were the best. They left me more rested than any sleep I managed to score overnight. I practically drooled at the idea of drifting, lids growing heavier already. Fuck it, it’d be an early one for me tonight.

My phone buzzed and I wrestled it out of my jeans pocket. It was Jawaad again, trying to tell me he nearly got into a car wreck yesterday. I humored him for a while, knowing he was being overdramatic, and let him know I was glad he was safe. Eventually I let my phone drop onto my chest in boredom. This man thought everything was a sign. He was like my granddad in that way, terribly superstitious, always philosophizing the ordinary happenings of life.

My grandad had been proven right too many times, though, for me to doubt his omens. I still had vivid memories of my times with him as a kid, because they were always marked by some eye-opening pearl of wisdom he dropped on my head at the time. Things that would later play out just as he had foretold. Like the fickleness of friendship and the insincerity of love. The shallowness of understanding from a finite perspective. The ineptitude of humanity. The necessity of self-reliance and an unbreakable spirit.

Some people personified their conscience as a devil and angel perched on either shoulder, but for me, it was my granddad’s voice and his stern guiding principles that steered me through life, always supplementing what my parents had instilled in me, as well as the things I’d figured out on my own after being ripped away from them so early on.

Sometimes I thought back to my teen years and felt robbed, despite how much that robbery had ultimately rewarded me. Was it worth it? I’ve often wondered. Was money and fame really worth the agony of those hard-hitting, overburdened years? In some ways, I felt mentally underdeveloped. Unfinished. Like I was moving through life with training wheels on and still had twice as much as the average person to learn. Like I’d never really grown up. Maybe I needed to read a thousand books to replace all the practical knowledge I’d overstepped on my path to success. But then again, the many things we were forced to overcome on the road at so young an age reminded me I’d already lived at least 10 lifetimes, and all that I’d learned in that cramped period was invaluable.

I missed my grandad so much when I first left home. I still remember his face, laid up in the sick bed on the last leg of his life. Features ashen and hollowed out. Feeble-minded, but still funny. I had dreams about entering that sickly smelling room and saying goodbye before moving to London, not knowing I would never see him alive again. Had I known, I wondered if I would have said something more impactful or done something to demonstrate my gratitude for all he had given me. Wondered if I would’ve even backed out of the amazing opportunity with the band to look after him. 

I felt comforted knowing he might’ve saw me on TV in the last days of his life and knew that all the wisdom he had inculcated me with would help propel me someplace far. I hoped he knew how much I missed him. Missed celebrating Eid at his place, in white cotton kurtas and loads of savory foods. Missed praying with him, even if I had no idea what I was praying about at the time. Missed watching old Bollywood movies and humming the songs together in the stillness of his sitting room; always poorly lit. Missed the incense that would choke-out the whole house with enough potency to fill a stadium. A smell you simply couldn’t get away from, lingering in your nostrils long after you’d left their house. Missed the fresh walnuts he’d crack for me which never seemed to be in short supply; they were his only addiction. Missed reading him letters. Missed being his personal translator and errand boy.

Then occasionally I wondered if he would be disappointed in how I’d turned out. What I had become in the end: a tattooed stoner and an apostate. An abandoner of the faith. A miserable fuckboy…trapped in a sick and convoluted addiction with a fucking dude. He’d passed shortly after the X-Factor began, long before he ever met Harry. Thankfully he would never come to know that side of me or the things we had done together.

He had been left with the starry-eyed hopeful I’d been so long ago. Back when I had color in my cheeks and could still pass for being pure in the eyes of those who weren’t privy to my thoughts. And I was funny too, just like him. Just like my dad. A dreamer setting out to make his family, his heritage, and his fellow Muslims proud on the world stage. To bring international attention to the sleepy Bradford neighborhoods. A brown-skinned phenom. Not a queer, sex-addicted loner who hadn’t prayed properly since I was seventeen, and who made music that’d make him roll over in his grave.

On a whim, I sat up and called Harry to resume our conversation from earlier. I wondered if he was on the plane by now, since he still refused to answer. To be honest, he was probably halfway across the Atlantic, mind consumed with a million different things that no longer included me. I was not of concern to him. I called about nine more times in a row like a lunatic, following which he finally called back.

“M’sorry,” were the first words spoken; by me of course.

“It’s alright.”

“Youh outta here?”

“Almost,” he muttered. “At the airport now.”

“I really wished youh could’ve stayed, maan.”

“Yeah,” he let out a sardonic chuckle, quite uncharacteristic of the person I knew. I guess I had that effect on people. “You’ve made that clear already. But mate…I really can’t—”

I know, I know, babe. M’only thinkin out loud, is all.”

“Yeah…” his voice dropped short of a whisper. I could picture him finding a quiet spot in the bustle of the Charles de Gaulle, plugging his ear with a finger to talk to me.

“I’ll pay for the flight back.” I offered. “I’m soh grateful youh came at all. Nevermind what I said earlier, okay? I didn’t mean it. I was wiggin’ out, babe, youh have noh idea—”

“It’s alright. You know I don’t want your money—”

“You’d be the only one,” we laughed. “Soh, what’s next for youh?”

“Crazy schedule this week. People are expecting me back. The label especially.”

“Fuck it. Runaway with me…”

“This is my career we’re talking about here—”

“Aren’t I worth it?” There was a pause in which we both recognized the familiarity in those words.

“No…” was all he answered, and I doubled over with laughter. Then, I asked the driver to give me some privacy. He took a stroll outside the car. My stomach knotted badly, and I had no idea why.

“Lately I…I just I don’t feel too gud, Haz.”

“You alright?”

“Just feel shitty, if I’m being straight with youh.”

“Why?”

“I dunno.” That was something I hadn’t taken the time to analyze for myself.

“You gotta poop?”

“What?”

“Well…you said you feel shitty so…”

“Babe…”

“Sorry.”

“I think m’goin mad.”

“Why?”

“I’m seein’ shit, yeah? And hearin’ shit…feelin’ too much—”

“What’re you seeing?” I shut my eyes and swallowed the lump in my throat, resting my head against the window.

“Youh.” There was a pause. I knew he was struggling to form a response, so I took the liberty of elaborating. “It’s sort of like a dream…only I’m awake when it happens.”

“And what is dream-me like?”

“A proper dick.” I muttered. “He’s like…really evasive. He likes to see me suffer.”

“It figures. Sounds about right, I guess…” There was a faint element in his tone that let me know he was just now beginning to take me seriously. “Does he speak?”

“Of course not…” I sniffed, rubbing a hand down my face and pulling at my goatee. “He’s not real, innit? He’s just a figment of my imagination. Sleepless days…”

“You haven’t been sleeping lately?”

“Not too well, y’know.”

“Sleep deprivation can make you hallucinate.”

“That’s what G said.” I noted. “I guess we’re both sort of fried. Youh and me both.”

“Why haven’t you been sleeping?”

“Why do youh think, Haz?”

“I dunno…”

“Because you’re not there…laying beside me.”

“I never really have been…”

“Yeah…but this time is different. I’m getting older and theoretically wiser, and I feel, like… really fuckin’ guilty all the time . It’s easier to see how fucked up this all is, unlike when we were younger and just didn’t give a fuck about all the ancillary shit. All we cared about was fuckin’. Now, with me feelin’ the way I do about youh, but being unable to act on it whenever I want; like…denying myself the comfort of your presence. Deprivin’ myself of layin’ down and wakin’ up beside youh. It’s kinda startin’ to destroy me. All I see is red.”

“Z…” he said softly. “What do you mean…? I’m lost.”

“M’serious…” I blinked back a few tears. “It’s like…ever since we started this whole thing again…laying down without youh feels so twisted. Like bizarro world on steroids. Like my own personal hell. And then she’s there all the time…in my ear. It’s been harder to look at her after New Year’s. I hate it, Haz. I hate wakin’ up and seein’ her face and hearin’ her voice and havin’ to pretend like everythin’s okay. That I’m not always crumblin’. It’s drivin’ me crazy. And it’s not because I hate her or anythin’, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s because I love her in my own way and in my own style…that this is all becomin’ soh hard to configure in my mind.”

“Z…it’s okay—”

“Just listen to me for a sec, alright?”

“Okay..”

“It’s youh. It really is. And I don’t mean to put all that on youh, because it’s noh more your fault, the way m’feelin’, than it is hers. But you’re all I know. You’re the first thing I see when I lay down at night…and the first thing I see when I wake up in the mornin’. It’s fucked, babe…”

“No, it’s not. I know exactly how you feel. I swear I do…”

“Do youh? Or are youh just sayin’ that?”

“Look, it took you a while to come to these realizations, Z. But try having them since like 20-fucking-13, alright? Try having them while you went off and got engaged. Try having them when you left in 2015. Try having them when shortly after that, when news broke that you were now with her. The shit you’re feeling right now, it’s all I’ve ever felt. Why d’you even think I called you on New Year’s in the first place, despite how humiliated and desperate you me feel?”

“I don’t even know what to say…” I pressed my forehead into the back of the front seat. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for not understandin’ sooner…” He didn’t respond. “Soh what do we do now?”

“Yeah…I don’t know.”

“Can’t keep livin’ like this, Haz. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s ruinin’ my life.”


Sorry, I know this was a long one, but I felt the conversations were needed since they don’t often talk things through. Two more chapters coming today, very soon!

Neon Red – Chapter 11

(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.)

**********

My eyes shot open as I flinched awake, dreaming I was falling. A strident whistle had surrounded me. I could feel the stabbing chill of the wind as I sliced through thin air. The pressure ate away at my face, disfigured by the gusts. Dumbfounded and gulping, I registered the stillness of the motel room and checked the clock on the  wall. It had been the same time for several hours, letting me know the batteries were dead. 

A dim haze bled from the window, enough for me to see I was in a hideously unfamiliar space. Unsettled by the silence, I grabbed my phone to see it was 1AM. As my breathing leveled, I shifted and lay facing the window, hoping to doze off again. That is, until a shadow passed the room outside, lingering near the door. They were listening. I could make out the outline of a hunched figure through the thinnest layer of curtains.

A hair-raising silence followed, during which the shadow didn’t budge, and I lay paralyzed with fear. Completely craven and useless. A million conclusions quaked through my mind, threatening to provoke a stroke. I landed on a hundred ideas at one, all lacking sense. 

They must’ve been casing the joint to rob us. They were listening to hear if we were awake.  They knew who we were and wanted to catch us in a compromising position. Someone had called the police. G had found out where I was and sent someone from her team. Her dad had hired someone to follow us. She must’ve heard the conversation in the shower after all…

I sprang from the bed and over to the window, fighting with the drapes to get a clear opening. Searching our doorstep and the surrounding area, I found nothing. There wasn’t a single soul outdoors at the minute; not even a bat. Neither had a nearby door opened to admit anyone into a neighboring room. I was completely daft. My breath shuddered through me like I’d been holding it underwater until my lungs collapsed. I couldn’t get a full inhale. I braced a hand against the window until I ebbed back to reality, unsure of what was wrong with me. There was simply no one there. Not even a stray dog which might’ve cast the shadow.

I puzzled my brain, rehashing what I had saw and how I could’ve been mistaken. There was no reasonable explanation for what happened, apart from it being a hallucination. I dreaded the fucking word. I couldn’t succumb to that. Not me. Not here. I wasn’t fucking crazy. Fuck that. 

Heyyy?” Haz said sleepily, rolling over in the bed to face the window. “Wus wrong? Y’okay?”

“Yeah…yeah. Just checkin’ on things…”

“It’s ok. We’re good…come back to bed…” He lifted both arms in a feeble display, inviting me back into his warmth so effectively I nearly swooned. How could anyone resist such a sight? This was the best Harry; half-awake, bone-tired, and cuddly. When I got to the bed, I lifted the sheets off his nude body and climbed atop, settling down onto him. His body was on fire; emitting it’s own personal heating system from head to toe. He was the best to keep around in the winter, always down for a mid-day nap and sleeping in really late. He wrapped those limp arms around me, kissing the top of my head as it lay against his chest. Then suddenly he swapped our positions and I lay on my back with his head against my chest. There were zero complaints from me.

“Better?” I asked. He nodded. I began to doze, so groggy I couldn’t keep my lids open to watch for the shadow again. “Why do you love me?” I breathed, thoroughly at odds with the notion that I anyone should bother.

“Are you crazy?” he drawled, abandoning his admonishment mid-thought.

“Maybe…” Seconds later, he was out. So was I.

**********

A warmth crept between my legs under the covers. I couldn’t open my eyes, except to get short bleary glimpses of the darkness surrounding me. It still wasn’t morning, which made me glad since morning meant separation. This pressure kissed it’s way up the insides of my thighs before burying my rigid meat deep inside its moisture. Apparently it had been playing with me for a while, arousing me in my sleep and making me feel attracted to passing strangers in my dreams. 

His lips clamped around my length and slid up to the tip where he tongued the ridge until it throbbed. I could piss all over the place if he wasn’t careful. Piss down his throat, piss on the ceiling. It felt like there were billions of nerve-endings set ablaze over every solitary millimeter of my cock. I gurgled in a half-hearted attempt to engage him in conversation. To thank him. To coach him. To make him laugh. Some lame joke about how he must’ve been hungry since he bit down on my shaft a time or two. 

My hips rocked deeper and deeper into the mattress before bucking uncontrollably at his mouth. His drooling, moaning, bottomless mouth. A fucking menace. I flopped back down when I grew weak, knees collapsing. I wrenched the sheets. His tongue worked me so hard I couldn’t see straight. My eyes kept slipping into the back of my lolling head. I wanted to laugh but couldn’t summon the strength. My core muscles were liquified, bleeding down my guts like I’d been disemboweled. 

I was so undone I would have signed every one of my assets over to him. All I needed was a pen. I would have sold my family. I would have given up everything to follow him across the world on foot. I cringed weakly, sitting up and arching my back before collapsing onto the pillows in a gratified confusion. He withdrew as I convulsed, pumping my slobbery cock with his merciless hand. Massive hand. Deft hand.

I flung a leg over his shoulder and twisted sideways atop the mattress in an agonized pleasure; lost in the sheets. I didn’t realize I almost choked him out. He situated me back into place, dragging me down towards him by the hips, unwilling to spare a single second. He enjoyed when I lost my composure. He enjoyed making me like this.

“Harry…” I exhaled, hands up over my head, braced against the headboard. I was levitating, rocking in rhythm with his bobbing head, riding the wave of his thirst. He wanted me and that turned me on more than anything his mouth was capable of. But it was so strong, so deep, so unruly he nearly sucked the tip clean off.  And he was the only person who could swallow me down to the base with ease; a human vacuum. G couldn’t if she tried. His tongue swirled around me, commanding all my attention, making me quiver so thoroughly I was sure he’d left nerve damage.

He withdrew a final time and jerked me slow and meticulously, his grip unforgiving. He was looking to drain me down to the marrow. When I finally came there was an audible eruption, at which he laughed, pulling on me until I grew flaccid and felt touched-out.

Fuckkkk…” I rasped, watching the ceiling. He got up and got a towel and tossed it onto my face. I failed to collect myself. I heard him brushing his teeth shortly after, occasionally coming to the doorway and laughing because I hadn’t moved from that spot, nor had I removed the towel. I breathed through it and mediated on the memory, still in awe of what I’d woken up to. The best fucking surprise of my life.

“Fine, I’ll do it,” he remarked, grabbing the towel from my face and cleaning me off. He pulled a layer of sheets away then we lay side by side uncovered.

“M’sorry I fell asleep on you,” he muttered. “You forgive me?”

“Of fuckin’ course, maan…” I exclaimed, still recovering from the aftershocks of my orgasm. “Trust me, you’ve more than made up for it.”

**********

He woke me up later with breakfast so we’d have extra time before he left. The fare was mostly fruit and bread, all the owner was willing to pull together for a few coked out hookers or guys who’d taken up long-term residency because they were unable to afford an apartment. He had also offered a single serving box of a generic cereal and a mini carton of milk. It reminded me not-so-fondly of school.

“Well, it ain’t exactly the George V,” Haz drawled. “But it’s all we got.

“F’sure. Thanks babe,” he bent in for a kiss. It was hard to stop at just one. He let me go as long as I wanted. “It’s perfect,” I grinned, gazing dreamily up into his eyes. He pressed his forehead to mine for a bit before reluctantly moving away.

A croissant and fresh fruit sounded like a feast to me. I was starving since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday, and barely even touched that. I snacked a little throughout the day and had put it in my mind to wait until G got home to order room service, but ended up leaving the room again for the night. And with all my running around on foot, my stomach had started to eat itself.

I moved to the edge of the bed where he sat and slung a leg over his thigh. He toyed absently with my calf while checking his phone, before setting it aside to eat. He fixed the small helping of cereal and fed me bites between my fruit. 

Mario’s “Let Me Love You” started playing out of nowhere, at which he doubled over and laughed uncontrollably though a mouth full of cereal, spitting milk everywhere. It took me a minute to realize he had changed my ringtone to my X-Factor audition song while I was sleep. I sat there in awe of how ridiculous he was, watching him choke down the cereal. I had never seen anyone laugh so hard at their own joke before.

“Mate, you’re an idiot! Youh know that?” I laughed. “Youh gotta chill.” At first I couldn’t fathom how he had even unlocked my phone. Then I realized he had watched me unlock it last night when I called G. He’d had a front row seat sitting directly behind me the entire time. Sneaky fucking bastard. I shoved his head aside when he snickered in my face, then grabbed my phone to check Twitter and IG. I fucking knew it! He had hacked my Twitter again, but this time had only tweeted a series of random emojis. Some dumb coded message that only made sense in his twisted mind.

“I can’t believe youh, broh. What’s wrong with youh, huh?” He fell back on the bed laughing and burping at the same time. I couldn’t help but share in the laughter at how stupid it all was.

I played an early Alicia Keyes song “Fallin'” while I finished my breakfast. He sat up, leaning back on his outstretched arms and said,

“Wow, you’re going old school Alicia Keyes. Early, early stuff 2000s, right? Back when she had the weird cornrow sideburns—”

“They weren’t sideburns,” I chuckled.

They definitely were.” He pulled up the music video on his phone. “Now I want you to explain to me…how the fuck those aren’t sideburns, mate? That’s exactly what they are.”

“Pretty sick, though, not gonna lie,” I smirked. “Alright, how about this?” I put on Nina Simone’s “I Don’t Want Him You Can Have Him” and he smiled, eyes gleaming with nostalgia. It took us straight back to the road. Long days traveling from city to city, too often stuck in close quarters and growing sick of one another. I always sent that to him whenever he was annoying me.

“Ah, Simone…” he muttered.

When that ran its course, up next came “Dancing in The Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, something we had lost our minds to too many times to remember. Putting it on in the dead of night and rocking out on top of tables, beds, nightstands; basically anything that could hold our weight. Even now he climbed up and started jumping up and down on the bed, laughing himself stupid. I couldn’t stop watching him in awe, cracking up anytime he almost toppled off the edge. Suddenly the side I was sitting on collapsed and we both fell to the floor, crying with laughter.

Fucks sake,” he grunted in pain. “M’gonna have to pay for that…”

“Fuck, broh…” I grimaced, rubbing my elbow where it had banged against the floor. “You’re a nutjob.”

“Takes one to know one…”

Later we fixed the slat on the frame and tested it out. Thankfully it wasn’t broken, just popped out of place. Now I sat in the center of the mattress, checking my messages and getting tons of congrats. Turns out I’d won an iHeart award back home, which would be announced on the show tomorrow night. They wanted me to make a short video and send it over by the evening.

“That’s so cool, congrats, baby.” He said, kissing my shoulder. “M’so proud of you.”

“Fanks, babe. Yeah, I guess it’s kinda cool. The fans are wicked.”

“Honestly. Any they just never give up. They’re always there, morning noon and night. Always rooting for you.”

“They make it all possible…it’s mind-blowin—'”

“Mm-hm.” He kissed my shoulder a few more times, licking it a little. “What are you gonna do when I’m gone. Mope around, I hope?”

“Of course…”

“Thanks,” he chuckled.

“G wants to hang out. She has the mornin’ off and I promised her I would—”

“Of course. I’m sort of sick of you anyway. Where you two headed?”

“Shoppin’, eatin’. She been wantin’ to visit this super famous chocolatier or some shit, and sumthin’ about the Medieval Marais. Sumthin’ about a canon ball lodged into the side of a buildin’.”

“Riveting,” he rolled his eyes.

“I know.”

*********

Later as I stepped out of the shower and he was rolling on deodorant, he said, “You ever stop and think how semen is basically just dick snot?” I couldn’t begin to respond, even if I had a sensible reply. I was truly mind-fucked. I opened my mouth and shut it again without even trying. “Mate, just think about it before you judge—” 

“Oh, I’m judgin’…”

“It’s fucked, right?” he continued, undeterred. “And get this, baby, burps are basically just mouth farts.”

“Is this what youh think about in your free time?!” I puzzled, unable to suppress a laugh.

“Sumtimes…” he grinned, dimples emerging. “It should be, like, a book, right? All these funny little facts or realizations we don’t normally think of…” He wore a self-satisfied smirk after that. “Like how lead pencils don’t actually have lead in them. It’s actually graphite. Mate, that’s wild, right? They’ve been lying to us all along…”

“Your mind amazes me…”

“Thanks—.”

“Wasn’t a compliment, fam…” he slapped my ass as I walked by to get dressed.

When we got packed and ready to go, we sat side-by-side on the foot of the bed, absorbed by our phones.

“So, uh…things are heating up again,” he began. “Looks like I may need to find myself a new situation when I get back,” he set the phone aside.

“How soh?”

“Y’know…hookup time.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Mm-hm…” He rubbed his nose and watched the carpet in resignation.

“Is that what youh want?”

“Maybe…” he shrugged. “It’s mainly the label…the team. But I’m bored sometimes. Can’t deny that. You’re never around…”

“Sorry, babe…”

“I didn’t say it to make you feel bad…it’s more just a fact of life. It’s alright yknow? I’ve learned to deal with it.”

“Cope..”

“The label thought it’d be a good idea. So did Drew.”

“And who’s that?”

Andrew Parsons. Head of PR for the solo stuff. Parson Enterprises, I think. Something like that. You know the deal. Relationships give people something to talk about. Something to believe in. Something to envy. That sort of thing.”

“Effortless press, too. All youh have to do is be seen together a time or two, and everyone fills in all the rest.”

“Precisely. So I figured, why not give it a shot?”

“Who d’youh have in mind?”

“A food critic. Friend of a friend.”

“She pretty?” he glanced over at me with a cheerless smirk.

“She’s not you…for what it’s worth…”

“Sorry babe….I really mean it…”

“Wonder what they’d say if we were seen together. Like grabbing coffee a time or two? Like, after the initial shock wore off. What would they fill in about us?

“That’s easy.” I said. “Probably the usual stuff they already say. I’m a cheater and you’re a shallow manwhore.”

“Gee, thanks,” he laughed. “Do you think we’d be envied?”

“Of course, the internet envies what they can’t have.”

“Do you think we’d have any support?”

“Depends…”

“On what?”

“I dunno, Haz…it just feels like it won’t be so straightforward in either direction, like…I dunno, Haz.”

This was it for us and I knew it. I couldn’t stomach what we’d been reduced to after the band. Fouled up motel rooms in the most rundown corners of town. Places where everyone would second guess thinking they actually spotted a celebrity. No celeb in their right mind would be caught dead in a place like this. It defied all common sense, hence why it was perfect for us. We were the outliers.

“You know…sometimes I feel like I can picture us together, like, uh, way down the line. But then sometimes I just can’t. You ever feel that way?”

“Sumtimes…”

“It makes me panic, yknow? When I can’t see us?”

“Yeah…” I said softly.

“What’s gonna happen, Z?” Sometimes he stuck me as never having aged a day beyond 16. There was still so much fragility to be guarded. Such sheer naivety I felt awful for the things we’d done in the dark. Sometimes I thought about how I’d corrupted him. We’d corrupted each other.

“I just don’t know, babe…” He hung his head and I rubbed his cheek with the back of my fingers. “You scared?

“Fuck sake…” He exhaled.

I was gutted. I didn’t want to leave him yet. I needed more time. None of this was fair. We deserved more time. I hated the mornings. I’d spit in the face of the morning if I ever saw it on the street. It always, always meant separation. By the coldest means. Ripped apart at the joints, leaving me to hobble around like a dejected amputee. Had been this way for years; in and out of hotel rooms. In and out of strange beds where the walls had eyes. In and out of love.

During the band days, we’d sometimes have to split long before morning. Robbed by uncertainty. Stalked by it. Not knowing who was going to come knocking on our doors, looking to peak with us. It upset him a lot. I could read it all over his face and body language, no matter how hard he tried to pretend otherwise out of embarrassment.

He tattooed himself with the song lyrics to a Ray Lamontagne tune. A crude little tattoo to reflect a song that epitomized our neediness and unnegotiable codependence. It encompassed what we were to a scary degree. All the strange things. Three little words: Can I Stay?

Staying together till morning was rarely granted and always hard-won. But spending multiple nights together had been the ultimate rarity in this whole thing. Utterly out of the question. We weren’t a week-long  type of thing. We were stolen kisses and shoddy motels and over-the-pants-hand-jobs in a crunch. We weren’t the romancing kind. The loyal or the expectant kind. Couldn’t afford to be. It only set us up for more grief and unendurable failure.

Still, the thought of going back to G gave me chest pains. Literal angina that palpitated up my throat and settled at the base of my tongue. A sensation like caving-in. Toppling. Collapsing dozens of stories. That’s how badly it hurt to leave him; every single fucking time.

“I miss your chicken and sweet corn pie,” he muttered, scratching his nose. “I’m so fucking hungry…” 

“I should’ve fed youh…” I chuckled. 

“Remember how you and I used to order that on pizza? I didn’t know what I was missing until you baked it in a pie.”

“Yeah, maan…and I miss your fajitas.”

“I don’t cook like I used to. At least you still got somebody to practice for. I see her IG stories sometimes…”

“Haz…”

“M’not getting annoyed or anything. It’s just…she’s always flaunting your cooking…like she’s the first person you ever cooked for. She’s so fucking clueless…”

“It’s just food Haz,” he looked over at me, more drained than I’d ever seen him. Not sad, not annoyed, just tired.

“No, mate. It’s far more. It means much, much more.” He stood up, prepared to go. “My car’s outside.” I swallowed the lump in my throat and stood too.

“Yeah, mine’ll be here any minute now.”

“M’gonna check out on the way down. Cleaning lady’ll be up here soon. Lookout, alright?”

“Okay, I’ll head out in a bit and walk around the building till he gets here.”

He pressed his fist gently into my stomach. Time felt still. I felt the ride back to the hotel would be like a trip through a demonic wormhole, hurdling me back to a place I simply could not stomach to be. I wish I’d never come to Paris, rather than seeing him here and having to part like this. It fucked me up badly.

“Hey, all the love, alright…” he said, weary-eyed. “I’ll see you next time…”

“Don’t say that, would youh?” I pled, literally tearing up. I was so fucking pathetic. “It makes me really fuckin’ sad, ok Haz? It feels like we won’t see each other again or sumthin.”

“I’ll never let that happen…” he kissed me once, very firmly, and then was gone. I sat back down on the bed as my legs gave; too fatigued to watch him walk across the parking lot towards the car. I was so infuriated at everything and everyone I just couldn’t hold back anymore. Tears slipped liberally down my cheeks and I was glad he was gone so he couldn’t see them. 

Neon Red – Chapter 10

(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 debated whether or not I should answer, since a call might kill the battery before I made it back to the hotel. It kicked over to voicemail, but he called back again. Increasing my pace, I pounded the pavement until I was damn near jogging, bumping shoulders with strangers as I kept my eyes planted on the phone. Something suddenly washed over me, and I wanted to answer to tell him: go fuck yourself. He left me hanging all day with no explanation after ditching me post-nut. That wasn’t how we normally did things, but he was acting weird lately. I paused at another intersection to see the text he sent. It said he was here.

“What the fuck do youh mean?” I asked as soon as he picked up.

“I mean exactly what I said. I’m here. In Paris. Like actually.”

“Bullshit, Haz.”

“I got here literally an hour ago. No bullshit.” I put him on speaker and kept following the map, getting turned around a time or two as I panicked. It was getting late and the sun was fading rapidly. The hand that held the cigarette shook as I touched the screen to keep it from timing out.

“Youh really put me on fuckin’ edge, youh know that?

“M’sorry…” he muttered. “But I’m here, mate. I seriously am.”

“Soh what do youh want me to do with that information?”

“The fuck d’you mean, Z? Come see me…now.”

“How is that even possible? I’m not an idiot, Haz. Youh would’ve needed to be travelin’ from the moment youh hung up last night—”

“Something like that.”

“Why did youh hang up, anyweh?”

“Because I was finished.”

“Like seriously, d’youh even hear yourself?”

“Of course I can.”

“I can’t fuckin’ believe it. There’s noh way youh did this. I won’t believe it until I see it.”

“Then come see it.” I debated taking him up on the challenge. It’d be dark within an hour and I couldn’t afford getting lost on a wild goose chase, running all over Paris to find him. Strangers kept watching me, cursing me under their breath because I had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to talk to him.

“Haz,” I began, quietly. “This isn’t a gud time, babe. Don’t do this to me, please. I almost got caught last night. M’havin’ nightmares and shit…” There was a pregnant pause in which I could hear him breathing. The sound was a tonic for my fatigued and quivering nerves. Finally he murmured,

“Aren’t I worth it?”

I answered without thought: “Send the address.”

He hung up and texted it in the next few seconds. I plugged it into my phone and saw it was about eight miles from where I was staying, but of course he didn’t know that. There was no way in hell I could walk from here, and my phone would die long before I made it to him. But I didn’t want to waste time running back to the hotel to charge it if he really was there. I needed to get to him right away. My entire body commanded it.

I stared at the address and my stomach flipped with the most intense butterflies I’d ever had in my life. Violently knotting with the thrill of seeing him again, and also with a promise of adventure as I travelled to him at sunset in a foreign town. How was it possible he could make me feel this way at a moment’s notice? Even when I was so pissed at him? I was so eager to drop everything and run to him, stopping traffic if I must. There was literally no mountain high enough, no river wide enough to deter me. Not with how invigorated I felt just now.

My fingers shook as I tossed the cigarette out and searched Google for a private car service. I called and let them know it was an emergency, but they had nothing available and the office was about to close. They gave me the number to a cab company that ran 24 hours and I memorized it. My phone kept beeping as it dropped lower and lower in battery life, but it didn’t matter. With each percentage lost, I gained adrenaline from knowing he was just across town, waiting. So utterly within reach, whereas only last night he had felt worlds away. My flesh itched to be with his. My blood warmed with the thought.

The cab got to me in about 20 minutes, and I spent that time pacing the block, smoking another cigarette and watching daylight drop out of sight. Dusk settled around me like an uncomfortable hug. For the City of Lights, things were looking a bit dark where I was standing. I looked up as the cabbie skirted to the curb and honked his horn. Climbing into the backseat, I rattled off the address and he took off before I had even finished speaking. I texted Haz that I was on the way, and my screen went black as the phone forcibly shut down. I wasn’t sure if he had even gotten it.

Fuckkkk….” I growled, knocking the heel of my hand against my forehead. Knowing I was completely fucked if he got one thing wrong in the address he sent me. I didn’t know G’s number by heart, but I suppose if worse came to worst, I could at least pay the guy to take me back to George V.

About halfway there, he asked: “American?”

“Noh, British, actually.”

“Ah, I see. New here?” His accent contained a dialect that was difficult to understand, but I managed.

“Uh, yeah, I guess. I’ve been here a few times, but I don’t really know my way around.”

“I see…” His regard unnerved me. Made me feel I was being scammed or that he knew something that I didn’t.

“You wear jewelry? Watch, necklace?”

“Noh, how come?”

“Not so good where you’re going, monsieur. Good that you don’t wear here…where we are headed. No good. No good.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Put the phone away…” he suggested. “To be safer…eh, they snatch here.” My stomach dropped. I almost told him to turn around, but realized Haz must’ve chosen the area for discretion, not knowing how dangerous it was. Especially at night. I’d heard horror stories about some Paris streets after dark. I wouldn’t dream of leaving him there alone now that I knew where he was. We’d take a cab out of there together if we had to. I’d make sure of it.

By the time we reached that side of town, it was dark, with many street lights broken or just plain reluctant to come on. Some flickered and others were non-existent; there being long stretches where they had been knocked over and dragged away. All I saw were deserted roads, stray dogs, and a few night walkers. Buildings covered in graffiti. Abandoned cars with the windows shattered to bits.

We passed women strutting in wobbly heels and short skirts, and dodgy men who sat in cars overseeing their every move. When we got to the designated motel, a small two-story building with red doors and private entries, there were a couple of guys arguing in the ill-lit parking lot, and another one holding a massive Rottweiler on a leash. I had zero interest in getting out, but when I looked at the shabby building and thought of Haz being inside, I knew I must.

I handed over my Visa, but the driver firmly stated he couldn’t accept. Meaning he had driven me all this way and I had no way of paying him.

“Cash only, monsieur.”

“I have noh cash, maan. I wish youh told me when I first got in.”

“Cash only…”

“Youh can keep saying that, but it won’t fix the situation!” I nearly shouted. “What about an autograph? Youh know me? Famous…uh, One Direction?” He laughed bitterly. Letting me know he gave zero fucks who by I was. There was also no way of proving my identity since he didn’t recognize me, and my phone was completely dead.

“Fuckkkk, broh…”

“Cash only,” barked the heavily mustachioed man, watching me in the rearview mirror like an exasperated father. “Or I must call the police! You would not like to be jailed here…”

Fuck!” I shouted, dropping my head into my hands. Haz had really fucked me this time, no pun intended. I couldn’t get out without paying, and there was no way he was taking me back to the hotel since he knew I already didn’t have cash for the first trip. And now there was no way to reach G or Haz since I couldn’t remember anyone’s fucking number.

“Youh got a charger? A phone charger?”

“Charger?” he puzzled. Then he said, “Oui, of course!”

“Thank fuck!” I breathed, tossing my head back on the seat in relief. It smelled musty and damp, like mildew. He handed the charger over and I uncurled it only to realize it was prehistoric.

“Dude? What the hell?”

“No good?”

“No!” I couldn’t begin to imagine what type of phone it might’ve charged. Probably one of those giant flip phones from the ’90s with the fat battery. I was ready to scream at the top of my lungs, that is, until he said three magical letters.

“ATM?”

“Yes! Fuck yes, where, maan?!”

“There, there. Across the street!” I craned my neck and found it sitting beneath a weak yellow light on a darkened corner. I searched the perimeter, knowing I needed to hurry because the meter had actually started ticking the moment he headed for me, long before I ever got in the car. I looked at the motel again and it was all the reassurance I needed. I hopped out of the car and dashed across the street into the unflinching shadow, hearing rats squeak and skitter away as I approached. I prayed that it wasn’t out of order and felt a wave of relief wash through me when the screen said Welcome.

I worked as fast as possible, checking my surroundings the entire time. It was an ancient machine, taking an eternity to do the simplest functions. When I saw a figure emerge at the opposite end of the street, my heart sped and I could hear it thumping between my ears. I slapped the top of the machine a few times as if it would do anything to make it hurry. Finally, the money spat out. I grabbed it and ran, but the machine let off a little alarm to let me know I’d left my card. I ran back and grabbed it, tossed the money at the cab driver, and ran up the stairs on the side of the motel to the second floor. I needed to find room 253. I dashed past rooms with the tellys blaring or people laughing and talking excitedly, jogging along the second story balcony to the rear of the building.

When I found the door, I pounded as hard as I could. Dead silence answered. Fretting that the cabbie might have brought me to the wrong place, I pounded harder, longing to see any other human at this point. It felt like I had travelled a thousand miles across an abject wasteland to get here. I just needed to charge my phone and find my way back to safety.

A third knock earned me no answer. Just as I started to turn away, the door flung open and a groggy Haz stood there in nothing but his briefs, rubbing his eyes. I rushed into the room and crashed into his arms. He barely had time to recover and close the door before we toppled onto the floor.

“Youh stupid bastard!” I cursed him, kissing all over his face. “What the fuck are youh tryin’ to do to me? I almost got fuckin’ killed getting’ here!”

“I’m so sorry, baby. M’so sorry,” he breathed, squeezing me.

“I almost had to blow the guy to get out of the car without paying. I had no cash!”

“I wanted to see you so badly. Don’t be mad at me. I needed you. I just need you so bad.” I was unbelievably annoyed and could’ve choked him out right then and there. But he looked sleepy and gorgeous, forcing me to forgive him in seconds.

“I waited and waited for you, but then I fell asleep. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I thought you changed your mind.”

“Noh, babe. I had to wait for a cab,” I said, out of breath. I lay there on his chest until my heart calmed down.

“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” he laughed, and I could hear the hollow sound deep within his breast. Flesh warm beneath my cheek. His strong arms crushing me, letting me know I was safe. Safe at last. And it was all worth it. Every frustration, every scare, every fuck-up was worth this moment right here as I disappeared into him.

Later I stood up and helped him to his feet. I kissed him without speaking, gently exploring his sleepy mouth, heavy against mine. He breathed hard through his nose, lazily eating up whateverI served him. Jetlag made him more languid than normal. I liked him this way. Bone-tired and dependent. Waiting for me to lead. Weak-willed, clingy, and handsy. He unbuttoned my coat without breaking the kiss and snaked his hands inside, grabbing my ass and slipping his fingers beneath my waistband to massage my flesh; sighing against my mouth like he’d found the honey jar and had no intentions of relinquishing it. Not for anyone.

“I can’t believe you’re here…” his words were muffled against my lips because I wouldn’t let him get a breath in. Only short shallow ones between pecks. Between explorations. Only when my tongue grew physically tired of enticing his. My knees were weak as he toyed with my hole. He shoved the coat off my shoulders, breaking the kiss to remove my hat. The sunglasses were long gone; having been tossed onto the bed a while ago.

“Hey gorgeous…” he whispered, running his fingers through my bangs, brushing them back out of my face. “I feel indescribably happy…”

“Me too,” I murmured, brow furrowed and gazing unguardedly into his eyes. He was everything. Simply everything. My infinite. I could not believe he was here. Flesh animated beneath my fingertips, something I couldn’t imagine while sitting in that frigid cab, fearing for my life.

“I would goh anywhere for youh. Youh hear me? Anywhere, any time. Just say the word, babe,” I said drowsily, already drunk on his musk. I kicked my boots off and he unzipped the hoodie, tossing it and the coat onto the back of the chair beside the tv stand. I surveyed the room as he took my phone and put it on his charger on the nightstand. It was dingy single room accommodation, apart from the bathroom. The walls were colored by cigarette smoke. A consumptive yellow that seemed to drip before my very eyes. A double bed divided the space,which was crumpled from his nap. The carpet was puke green, probably used to be beige.

Haz laid my Marlboros and lighter on the nightstand, tapping the packs.

“This isn’t—”

“…my brand? Yeah, I know. It’s all they had.”

“Three packs?” He grinned. “You planning on a binger later?”

“I know, crazy right? I had to buy them to avoid the fee.”

“You could’ve just paid the fee, mate. It would’ve been cheaper than two additional packs of cigarettes you didn’t really want.”

“I guess you’re right…” I conceded, scratching my brow with the back of my knuckle. “Y’know, now that youh mention it, I think maybe he was tryin’ to gyp me or something.” I headed into the crumbling bathroom to wash my face and hands. He had showered already, and I could smell his bodywash lingering aloft.

When I came back in, he approached immediately and pecked my lips. Then he slid my shirt up my body and over my head. I watched myself being undressed, bangs falling into my eyes. Next were the pants. He unbuckled them and I kicked them away, along with the socks. When I was just down to my briefs, he grabbed two handfuls of my ass and lifted me off my feet. I held onto him, knowing what was coming next. In a flash he tossed me onto the bed and I curled in a ball to avoid flying off the sides.

Our laughter filled the room as he crawled atop me, growling as he bit my belly and pecs. He blew a ridiculously loud raspberry on my stomach, yanking down my underwear to reveal my pubes. The second I saw my dick, something occurred to me. We honestly had no time at all. It had taken me so long to get here, G was bound to have come home by now, and she’d be worried sick. All she had was my missed call from earlier and an empty hotel room. No note, no voicemail, and I hadn’t told her I’d be going out.

“Wus wrong?” he asked, kissing down my treasure trail, then the base of my dick. I felt the blood rush to my groin 10x harder than it had when I first laid eyes on him tonight. I snatched my underwear back into place, crawling to get away from him. He yanked it down again, exposing my bare ass as I reached to the nightstand for my phone.

“Gotta call G,”

“Why?”

“I didn’t tell her. She’s probably worried sick by now. I need to think of something.”

“You’re staying right?” He was starting to get annoyed.

“I dunno babe…what can I even say?”

“Tell her you’re working.”

“On what? She knows I ain’t meeting anyone over here.”

“Tell her you met up with an old friend or something. Get creative…” I pulled my underwear back up my ass while crawling to sit on the edge of the bed. Finally, a thought occurred to me. I had the perfect alibi. As I got all the angles of my story straight, Haz scooted to sit behind me, straddling my back. His long, powerful legs fell over the edge of the bed on either side of mine, and I could feel his boner pressing into the top of my ass and back. His hands snaked around under my arms as I fidgeted with my phone, massaging my belly and pecs. His mouth was like fire to my ear, saying reckless shit and kissing the back of my neck.

“Youh gotta be quiet, babe…seriously…” I said, powering up the phone. He moaned, squeezing my nipples and nuzzling the back of my ear. I was about ready to explode, straining against my briefs the more he persisted. As I dialed her up, he waited until he heard her answer before reaching around and taking ahold of my erection. I muted the phone and let out a shuddering sigh, elbowing him to cut it out.

“G, babe, youh won’t believe this shit. Guess who I ran into today at the smokeshop? My producer! The one for the new song? Isn’t that fucking crazy? And it was perfect too because we needed to re-record a few bits. I’m gonna hang out here for a while, at the studio. That ok? Cool, babe, thanks. Youh ok? How’d your day goh? I missed youh.” He viciously scratched my stomach, making me wince and grunt through the pain. I doubled over until the sting ebbed, elbowing him in the ribs.

“Noh, it’s ok babe.” I laughed when she asked what was wrong. “Just smashed my finger on the fuckin’ thing…” When I hung up, I stood and stared down at him. He lay back across the center of the bed with an almost maleficent glint in his eye. One of triumph. One that said: ‘I own you and I’m better than her. I took you away from her so easily, even when she had you halfway across the world. I’m unstoppable.’

“You’re getting a rise out of this, aren’t youh?”

“No…” he shut his eyes and grinned, looking more devious than ever before. I crawled atop the mattress beside him and flattened a hand against his chest.

“Your heart’s not racin’…” I noticed.

“It was when you first got here…”

“I know, I felt it when I lay on your chest. But I’m talking about now. With her on the phone, youh aren’t stressed in the least.”

“Why should I be?”

“Fucking sicko,” I despaired, laying back across the mattress beside him. “Youh know, earlier today there when I was just chilling, this sudden calm sort of washed over me, and I felt really at peace. Just mellow as hell. M’thinkin’ maybe that’s when youh landed and I could probably somehow feel it. Youh know?” He looked over at me quizzically.

“Mate, that’s nonsense.”

“Yeah,” I chuckled weakly, secretly wounded. “You’re probably right.”

“Hah! Z, M’just fucking with you…” I punched his thigh and listened to him snicker. “I totally get how you feel. Sometimes I can, uh, feel you like really strongly on my mind and then suddenly you’ll just text me out of nowhere—”

“Yes, exactlyh!”

“They say that when your ears burn or when your nose itches, it means someone’s talking about you. So maybe it’s a similar thing y’know?”

“Right, right.” I lay back and flung an arm over his chest, staring at the ceiling.

“I can’t stay…” I sighed.

“I’ll kill you if you leave.”

“Shit…then I guess m’stayin’…”

“Is it weird that I’m here?”

Very. I still can’t believe it.”

“No, I mean, is it weird. Like…does it make me like a weirdo? Like a creep?” I turned my face to look over at him. He was staring at the ceiling.

“Uh…I dunno, babe. Kind of. But I dig it. I really fuckin’ dig it.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Fuck yeah. If you’re a sicko, I’m a sicko. Youh can’t imagine how many times I think of you in a day.”

“And same, by the way.” We both nodded off like old men, too tired to do anything about our boners. I was so stoned on him I couldn’t stop telling him how I felt. I must’ve told him I wanted to fuck him a hundred different times and in a hundred different ways, but never made a move to make it happen.

“Youh drive me so fuckin crazy, youh know that?” I murmured, half-asleep. “Huh? How the fuck am I supposed to live with that? I can’t stop fuckin’ youh. It’s keeping me alive. Youh hear me?” I squeezed his hip and he whimpered wearily.

“I wanna make love to youh. Is that okay? Youh tired?” He just nodded. I didn’t understand which question he was responding to. I tried to hold off but couldn’t. “I can’t wait till the morning. I need to get inside. Need to feel youh around me…” His snores were the only thing that deterred me.

I curled on my side and watched his chest rise and fall in rhythm with his breathing. Synced with his heartbeat. All I saw was he and I, he and I, he and I forever and ever. Situated on eternity. Chained to one another for all time. And as I had debated for years, I still couldn’t determine whether it would amount to heaven or hell in the long run. Blessing or curse.

Neon Red – Chapter 9

(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 waited for a callback, a text, a DM; anything to let me know he was okay. An unnatural silence followed, during which I rehashed the last twenty minutes at warp speed, inhaling the steam filling the stall. Remembering the desperation in his voice. The urgency in his moans. The stridency of his rasps against the speaker; half-choked. I pictured him sobbing, shoulders shaking, cold and unguarded. Lost in a wilderness of post-nut regret. I decided to break first and call. As I went to dial, my fingers slipped, mucking up the wet screen. A jigsaw of reflective spatters. Logic prevailed, urging me to towel it off before doing anything further.

“Z?!” G called from the other side of the door, her tone betraying an uncertainty of whether or not I was alone. I nearly dropped the phone when she shook the handle like a maniac. “Open up!”

“Yeah, babe, one sec!” I called, heart in my throat. Why the fuck was she awake? What was so pressing she couldn’t wait for me to leave the shower? Why was I trembling like a henpecked bitch? I locked the phone, swishing the water from the screen to pretend I hadn’t brought it in the shower.

“Open up!” She demanded, pounding on the door with the side of her fist.

“Are youh daft?!” I snapped. This wasn’t our place. If she damaged the paint we’d be charged for the entire door. Probably a paint job for the whole room. I slipped stepping out onto the matless floor, looking for a towel but finding none. She was so fucking selfish when we traveled, always using two towels after the shower; one for her hair and one for her body. Damn anyone else.

Zayn…” she ground out. “I swear to God, you have five fucking seconds to open this door or I’m tearing it down! Hurry up!”

“G, babe, chill! What the fuck?!” Using a washcloth to dab my face and hands dry, I ran it once or twice across the phone before flinging it onto her dirty clothes in the corner. Fuck it. It was now or never. No sense prolonging the inevitable, as my dad would say. I had stepped in it, and it was time to face the music. She definitely knew.

I took a steadying breath and set my hand to the handle. Why was I so unnerved? This wasn’t me. I didn’t react like this. But for some reason I was scared shitless. Her silence on the other side of the door was bloodchilling. The sort of fear you could taste. Gathering like phlegm at the back of your throat. Not fear of her, but the situation. Of the guilt or disgust she would project towards me. I’m almost certain I couldn’t face it. I slung the door open anyway, prepared to charge into a hostile encampment.

“Babe, I—”

“What the fuck were you doing?!”

“G, what the fuck are youh talkin’ about? I’m just showerin’, maan. Ever heard of that before?”

“Not in the middle of the night, idiot.” She was livid. She had put my t-shirt back on and her hair was a mess, slinging in straw-colored frays around her face and neck. Like she’d crawled out of a drying machine fraught with static cling. Her eyes were puffy with sleep, and she looked like she’d been crying. I could almost feel the gritty inflammation that singed the lids. She registered the phone in my hand and drew her own conclusions.

“You fucking disgust me…you truly fucking disgust me—”

“What is even happenin’ right now?!” I played possum, buying time and grasping at straws for a suitable lie. “What the fuck are youh on about?! Youh have a fucked up dream or sumethin’?!”

“You must really think I’m stupid…” she whispered angrily, looking like a cast-off from The Walking Dead. Her face had broken out badly overnight. Apparently the deep cleansing mask her mom swore by hadn’t worked at all. It was something she fretted over after shows, since the makeup artists used the same brushes and pallets on dozens of girls; never cleaning them between applications. Now she started to cry again and I winced at how badly her eyes must’ve burned. It was the fault of that nasty black makeup from earlier.

“Babe,” I whispered, covering my cock. “I think we sho—”

“Stop, Z! Just stop!” she sobbed. “I don’t want to hear it! I’m so sick of hearing the same old shit from you over and over again!” Her expression rapidly changed and she looked devastated. “One fucking trip….one trip and you couldn’t be supportive for even one day? Couldn’t survive a week without calling one of your disgusting little whores who you think I don’t know about? Am I that useless to you now?” I was entirely dumbfounded; no longer pretending.

Lil whores?” I repeated. “What whores, G?! You’re literally just making shit up now. There’s nobody but youh, youh hear me?! I flew all this fuckin’ way for youh to tell me this?! Youh think I’d fly seven hours just to be worried about some thot when I got here? I could’ve stayed home for that shit. I’m not tryin’ to hear this bullshit—”

“I’m not an idiot!” she shrieked, echo crashing around the bathroom; making it feel miniscule. If we weren’t careful our neighbors might dial up the concierge. “Tell me, right now. I won’t say it again. You have five fucking seconds. Who is she?!”

“No one!”

“Fuck you!” Her eyes flashed and she lunged for the phone. I snatched it away and flung her arm aside, hearing it knock up against the doorframe.

Youh need to calm the fuck down, alright?!” I shouted, enraged by her temerity; even though I’d been caught red-handed. “Let’s just fuckin’ talk through this —”

“I’m so sick of you!” She slammed her hand against the door in a violent outlash, making it fly backwards on its hinges. “I’m done talking! You’re such a piece of shit!” She slapped me so hard my ear rang. She would have kept going but I shoved her away and tried to close the door.

Fuck you! I hate you! I hate you!” she wept. “Who was it?! Was it him?!” My stomach dropped. “Was it that disgusting piece of shit again?! Was it?!” She shoved the door back open and I slipped, catching myself before I hit the floor. My feet were still wet; puddles forming from the water that dripped down my legs. I tried to think of a quick defense as she lunged for the phone again.

“I can’t believe you did this to me again,” she sobbed. “You called him again?! After I told you not to?! Right in front of me?!”

“G, babe—”

Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! I’m gonna tell dad! He’s so sick of you! We all are! I’m so tired of defending you!” She slammed her hand against the door and left a deep crater. She seemed to have the strength of ten men. Now she swung on me with a closed fist and I dodged, but the momentum made me fall backwards to the floor, head banging against tiles. My senses were stunned, as though a captive bolt had been shot point blank through the front of my skull. I began to black out, looking up to see her hair flailing as she scrambled for my phone—

I jolted upright, wheezing for air, finding I’d fallen asleep on the shower floor. I was slumped against the stone wall, hugging my legs like some starved POW. I searched the shadows for any sign of her before breathing in relief. The shower was a large glass encasement situated in the middle of the room, with space enough to house half a dozen people. I sat there wide-eyed and distrustful like a chimp. Teeth chattering. And I had dozed off with my head propped awkwardly against the wall, which left an awful crook in my neck. All around me was unmovable blackness; as cold as a crypt. My legs were chilled to the bone; shuddering and stiff in the joints.

I got up and dried myself off, thanking every force in the universe it had only been a bad dream. Now I crept back into the bedroom to find she was asleep; still out like a light. I nearly pissed myself with relief, sliding into bed, heart beating a mile a minute. “Inshallah…” I whispered aloud. Contemplating that if I saw tomorrow, I’d make it up to her. Even if she had no idea why I was laying it on so thick.

**********

White roses filled our room with perfume. Chilled dessert wine and macaroons had awaited us in the sitting area as a welcome gift from the hotel, but we hadn’t touched it since we arrived and probably never would. It was just nice to look at. By now I was accustomed to all manner of finery and my tastes had only grown more sophisticated in the process, but this level of accommodation and opulence was absurd. It was divine. It made me uncomfortable; like I was going to shatter something or leave filmy fingerprints on every imaginable surface like some uncultured baboon. Everything was intimidatingly white and orderly; no place for a guy like me.

Morningbabeeeee…” G sang absently, reading her phone as I joined her at the breakfast nook in nothing but my briefs. She sat in a pale blue dressing robe, her hair bone straight and framing her face like curtains.

“You’re up early,” I said, kissing her pursed lips, which she presented to me without looking. She was reading over her itinerary for the day.

“I had the hotel set me up a few wakeup calls for the week…for my earliest days, y’know? I always, like, just completely sleep through my alarms like a lunk, and you’re just as hopeless as me in the mornings.”

“Yeah, well…” I laughed, sitting across from her and wiping her gloss from my mustache. “Mornings make me miserable. Born a night owl, die a night owl, I suppose—”

“Wow, how on earth do you function, sir…” she kissed her teeth before eating a fork-full of eggs. My heart had been sputtering since I woke up and found the bed empty. I thought she might’ve been off contemplating how to approach me over what she’d heard, but now I was beginning to think her suspicions were all in my head.

She was in a pretty good mood, from what I could tell, and likely had no clue what happened last or who I’d been speaking to. My night terrors were becoming more frequent and disturbingly life-like. It was difficult to distinguish between them and authentic memories come morning. I mentioned it to my mum a while ago and she recommended I consult with a therapist who would help me work through what they might mean. I had yet to do so, fearful of what a professional my unearth in my subconscious. And incidentally, fearful of what they might prescribe to cure them. All I could imagine were archaic psychiatric treatments; like shock therapy and trepanation. I shuddered to picture myself in a straitjacket, gagged and screaming at the top of my lungs in a cold cell. My mum told me I was being overdramatic and that I watched too many horror movies. Maybe she was right.

“How youh feelin’, babe?” I asked, biting into a chocolate drizzled croissant. “Youh look gud…”

“Thanks, bubba,” she beamed at me over her glass of grapefruit juice. “So, hair and makeup just left. I told them not to wake you. It’s way too early for all that,” she laughed. “But, uh, I just have a shoot with the Isabel Marant crew in about an hour, then a show later tonight—”

“Want me to come?” I asked, lifting the cover from my breakfast. French scrambled eggs over gluten-free toast.

“No need. I know you want to rest up. To be honest, I’m just grateful you came last night and that you went to the capsule meet and greet with me yesterday, and even dinner with Tommy. You’ve been amazing, babe. He’s been raving about you ever since.”

“I mean, what can I say? I guess I have that kind of effect on people–”

“Ew, shut it.”

“What?! It’s true!” I grinned.

Anywayssss…I was just saying I’m so happy you’re here and that you’re opening up to this stuff again. Honestly, Z you’ve been the best! But I don’t want to wear you out, you know? I know you get tired of social stuff fast—” I started to protest but she hurried and said, “Deep down! Deep down I know you’re not super fond of it. You’re really just doing it for me, which is adorable. So I actually scheduled you a massage so you can chill, and I made plans for after the show with a few friends I met in Milan. They’re here for the week too, of course. Bell and I met up with them over at Disney World—I mean Disneyland the other day, before you got here. That way you’ll have some time to yourself. To, you know, rest up since jet lag is getting to you. I saw it in your eyes yesterday.”

“Well damn…I guess you’re right, if I’m honest.”

“I know I am. You good then?”

“Gud babe. All gud. Cool, cool…” I said, shrugging and digging into the food. I would’ve preferred soft boiled eggs to scrambled. These looked like they’d been chewed up and spit out before I got here.

“D’you need that heated?” she asked, watching me poke around the soupy concoction with a fork.

“Uh…” I honestly did need it heated, but didn’t want to trouble her. “Noh, I’m gud. Thanks anyweh.”

“Of course.”

“Soh these friends of yours…the ones from Disneyland…they got names?”

Yessss, silly. Kasim…” she smiled. “And, uh…Michelle…”

“Kasim?” I asked, brows lifting to the top of my head.

“Yeah, I think it’s African.”

“Oh, she’s African?”

He’s a guy actually…”

Wicked…” I took a sip of coffee, cafe au lait, which was grossly lukewarm, and the foam on top was beginning to look like snot. I set it aside with a huff. “Damn, babe, I honestly wanted to spend some time with youh today…” She met my eyes and cocked her head; squinching her nose. “We barely had a minute to talk yesterday.” I rubbed an eye. “They’re dragging youh around everywhere, it seems. Like a chicken with your head cut off—”

“I know right—”

“—what gives? Sounds like Kasim’s seen youh more than me already. Or he will today anyweh. M’startin’ to feel a bit jealous, yeah?”

“Aweee, babyyy,” she pouted, putting her phone down for the first time since I arrived. “That’s so sweet!” She blew a kiss from across the table. “Don’t worry about him, alright? I think he’s gay. And we’ll have plenty of time together tomorrow around noon. My morning’s clear too.” She almost squealed, eyes becoming sparkly slits. “You know what that means right? We can actually sleep in! Then do a little sight-seeing…maybe a little shopping? How’s that?”

“I’d love it, actually….”

“Z, I’m telling you, they have all the best stores over here. Exclusive inventories and rare releases….so many sick brands that are still up and coming and won’t hit the States for years. We’d be lucky if we even see them in New York. And they’ll be huge, I’m telling you. We’re gonna get so much shit we’ll need more luggage—”

“Then it’s all on me, okay? Your money’s no gud here, fam.”

“Aw, look at you!” she smirked, flicking her hair behind her shoulder; picking up her phone again and flashing a shiny gel manicure. She chose nude varnish so that it wouldn’t clash with any of the looks on set. “You’re so good to me. And you don’t have to tell me twice. I won’t be fighting you on that,” she laughed, winking.

I ate as much of the cold food as I could stomach before calling it quits. As I stood up from the table, she wondered, “So, what’re you gonna get up to while I’m gone?”

“Shit, I dunno. Maybe play a few games. Maybe goh for a walk. Order a shit ton of beignets—”

“Ugh, you’re so basic.” We laughed.

“We’ll see, we’ll see…” I absently played with her hair, letting the strands slide through my fingers as I suddenly thought of Haz. “I’ll get up to sumthin’—”

“You always do. Be good ok?”

“Promise,” I muttered, pecking her on the lips before heading for the shower.

**********

After a deep tissue massage by a gorgeous blonde who spoke zero English, then an afternoon of short naps and too many online games, I got sick of looking at the same few walls and antique paintings. I got dressed and went downstairs to the lobby of the hotel to get recommendations from the concierge about what was in the area. I didn’t plan on going far since getting lost in this super touristy area didn’t appeal to me, particularly not on my own and knowing little to nothing of the language.

I passed through the swanked-out lobby and picked up notes of live music someplace, getting turned around near the courtyard but eventually finding my way. Now I headed across marble floors crowded with huge flower arrangements and Grecian statues, to the front desk adorned with a massive George V in gold leaf. They spoke with comically thick accents and referred to me as Monsieur Hadid throughout the exchange, according to the name on the suite. Then they tried really hard to convince me to dine in at one of the multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, but I declined, wanting to save the occasion for me and G.

Suddenly a guest approached with a squeal, struggling to speak even a lick of English, apart from the word camera. She fanned her face to dry the unshed tears, hopping up and down with an unruly energy. She jabbed her phone in my direction, presumably asking for a photo, before informing the others of who I was.

“Zen Malique! One Direction!” The gentleman behind the counter playfully gasped and said his daughters were obsessed with us. He didn’t take it further, as the George V had a reputation far too venerable to jeopardize over an autograph for his kids. I snapped the selfie for the fan who had begun to cry and didn’t want to let go of my waist.

“All gud? There youh goh, babe.” I passed the phone back and accidentally brushed her fingers. She hopped away in a flurry of brunette hair and giggly exclamations. Now the concierge centered their attention on me once more. They recommended I try one of the local cafes and named a few within walking distance.

As I thanked them and left the desk, I looked around and felt surrounded by an artificial summer. Huge mélanges of white gladiolus and pearly lilies filled the center of the entrance, complemented with heaps of peonies and hydrangeas lining the flanks, which overwhelmed the air with their intoxicating fragrances. I seemed to enter the real world after passing through the revolving doors, exiting a world of ornate hideaways and insurmountable leisure. Diversions fit for kings. I nodded to the doorman and started down the rainy street, glad it wasn’t heavily occupied. I pulled the hood of my Givenchy jumper over my head, hoping to not have another run-in with a hysterical fan. Not after the choppy sleep I’d had since I arrived here. My temper was becoming shorter by the moment, liable to spark at one wrong word.

I picked up the pace and cleared four blocks west of the hotel. The rain let up, but the wind still carried a damp drizzle. My heart jumped into my throat as I passed a doorway and a yappy Shih Tzu decided to go on the defense, bearing down and showing its teeth between barks. I nodded at the old man who kept it leashed beneath the mini awning in an attempt to stay dry. I rounded a street corner, grateful it was even more deserted than the last, filled with office spaces that didn’t seem to be open for business. They’d probably packed up and gone home long ago, as it was getting late. I rounded another corner that was downwind, so I drew my hood tighter around my face and shoved my hands into my pockets.

When I got to a café on the edge of the district, I requested an outside table despite the persistent drizzle, and ordered a plain American coffee. The server ran out and opened the patio umbrella, revealing a remarkable overbite each time he smiled, making little quips in French that I couldn’t begin to understand. He wiped down the tabletop with a cloth from his apron pocket before shimmying back inside to fill the order.

I sat and sighed, bored with myself already. I took out my phone and read through a few emails, stumbling across one in particular that caught my attention. It was an MP4 file, sent in a subject-less message. It was from a producer named Henrique Andrade who I’d met a few years ago and worked with on Mind of Mine. He had introduced me to Jahron Brathwaite aka PARTYNEXTDOOR last month, insisting we’d sound good on a track together. A while later, “Still Got Time” was born, inspired by dancehall and the tropical house tunes he listened to growing up. Looks like Henrique had sent over an update last night. The final draft was finished, and apparently I needed to confirm all changes before moving forward.

I popped my headphones on and zoned out, letting it cycle through once before becoming super critical. It was such a fucking vibe though. A few tweaks and it would be perfect. My server back skittered to the table with the coffee and a free pastry, shivering.

Burrr! You are cold, no?” He ran back inside before I could even answer.

I immediately replayed the track, falling in love with it the longer I listened. It was a step-up for me in terms of branding and a step in the correct direction for where I wanted to end up in music: high versatility. I didn’t want to just be known as the ex-boyband guy, nor be boxed in as an R&B singer from my early solo stuff. I was capable of much, much more. This would help make a statement that I wasn’t afraid to experiment with style or genre, and that I was welcome to collaborating with artists from all walks of life and creative energy.

I took down my hood and shook my bangs out, flipping them away from my forehead. The door to the café burst open and my server came rushing out, feet drumming to a halt before my table. “Zen Malique?! Zen Malique! It couldn’t be?!” Fuck, he had finally recognized me. I nodded and gave a weak smile. “No wayyyy?” he gasped, laughing behind his scrawny hand. “With the voice, no?” He mimed singing a high note and spun in a circle. “Incroyable! Magnifique, you are! Have you eaten your coffee? How was it?!”

“Fantastic, thank you,” I chuckled. Then he gifted me with an incredibly choppy French remix of the “Pillowtalk” chorus.

Place to know our fearssss, place to deal with tearsssss, yeahhh…” I got up abruptly, ready to take off. I took out my credit card and asked for the check, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

No no no no no! How do you say: it’s on the houseS’il te plait, do me the honor of buying your cafe!”

“Of course, broh. Thank you. Uh, yeah…merci.” I gave an awkward double thumbs up, inclining my head. “Hey, youh want a picture or sumthin’?”

“Could I?!”

“Of course, of course…” He whipped out his phone, cased in dark purple, and yanked me over, pressing our cheeks together. Once I saw his cringy face in the selfie, I couldn’t help but laugh. I thanked him again and started down the street, happy to see the sun emerge.

When I got back to the hotel, I explored the famous Marble Courtyard since the rain had driven the guests away, and gazed up eight stories at hundreds of balconies and a wealth of history. Most of them occupied with people I’d never see again in my life. More live music drifted from the hotel lounge and I thought about wandering over to check it out firsthand, but thought against it because I was beyond ready to crash.

G hadn’t made it back yet, so I gave her a call, but it went straight to voicemail. I responded to a few texts from my cousins and mum, before hopping online for some sort of distraction. I called Henrique and we talked for a bit about the song, and I went over a few ideas for the video. I was thinking of a massive, psychedelic-crazed house party with barely any room to walk. Something dope as fuck to get everybody hype for summer. Told him I was thinking about filming it at my UK place as soon as I left France. He told me he’d be in touch.

I reached for my smokes and noticed they were empty. Right away I Googled the nearest smoke shop and noticed it wasn’t too far from the hotel. I shoved my boots back on and headed through the lobby again, this time with a beanie and a longish wool coat over the hoodie. For a final bit of disguise, I tossed on G’s Ray-Bans when I hit the street and tried to follow the Google map on foot.

The temperature was dropping so I was grateful I decided to wear layers this time. I got to the shop just before they closed, out of breath and with no cash on hand. The guy seemed annoyed. A skinny old woman in a black dress and low-heeled pumps squeezed by behind me, talking to the clerk over my head. She sauntered to the back of the shop like she owned the place, and only then did the guy address me again. He raised his voice. He was definitely annoyed. They would charge him a fee for using the card under a certain amount, so in turn he would need to charge me. I bought a couple packs of Marlboro Reds to eliminate that. It wasn’t exactly my brand, but it was the closest thing they had.

I lit one as I left the store, using a graphic lighter I’d purchased since I couldn’t travel with mine and I was sick of using the matches from the hotel. This one had disembodied boobs on it, which was hilarious. Walking twice as fast on the way back because my phone was at 8%, I surveyed the blocks and felt disenchanted already. It wasn’t much like the movies unless you were walking runways or hitting all the touristy spots or being escorted around like a dignitary. That wasn’t really my scene, so I was left with the more ordinary amenities. The everyday shit like crummy convenience stores and back-alley cafes. As I stopped at an intersection waiting to cross, a call came through. It was him.