“Bunny Underside,” Harry
says, when we’re at the pub later that evening.
“A bunny called
Bunny? You lose points for lack of originality,” Emma says. “Mine would be Humphrey
“Huh,” I reply. “That’s
actually really good but I think ‘Humphrey’ would be a bit confusing.”
She shrugs. “Gender
ambiguity. I deserve a seven out of ten, at least.”
“So wait,” Finn
clarifies. “You put together the name of your first pet and the name of the
street you grew up on and that’s your porn star name?” I nod. “How do you know
“Everyone knows this,
Finnegan!” I stress. “It’s like, the first thing you learn in college.”
“I’m sorry, I think the first thing I learned
in college was physics,” Finn comments.
“Whatever. This is a
“No, it’s not,” Emma
says, seriously. “It’s an art.” We high five.
“I still think Bunny
Egerton is an excellent porn star name,” Harry insists.
“Would you watch a
porno with a bloke called Bunny in it?” Emma asks.
Harry shudders. “Would
I watch a porno with a bloke in it?”
“Can we not talk
about my brother’s sexual preferences, please?” Gemma asks.
Harry tries to look
offended as Emma continues, “Maybe you would, H. We don’t know what kind of
shit you’re into.”
“Well, just ask—” Harry
stops abruptly, and I realise what he was going to say: “Just ask Cori.”
Trying to keep the
attention from his near-mishap, I divert the conversation back. “Mine would
“Well, it sure sounds
porn-like,” Finn says. “But the ‘Brownie’ bit might have you under a specific
category on PornHub.”
“Maybe that could be
your thing, Cor,” Emma proposes. “Backdoor sex.”
Finn speaks up
randomly. “Genitals is such a terrible term,” he shakes his head.
Harry entertains him
by nodding in agreement. “Every time someone says it, I picture the little V’s
on Barbie and Ken dolls.”
I giggle. “This
conversation declined quickly.”
“It was a
conversation that started with us finding our porn star names, Cor. I don’t
know that it was very…uh, inclined to start with,” Gem says.
“Oh! Mine would be Dane
Churchill,” Finn announces proudly.
I wrinkle my nose. “That
sounds more like a prime minister than a porn star. Gem, what’s yours? Bunny…”
She shakes her head. “Bunny
was Harry’s pet. I had a cat that despised Harry,” she says,
laughing. Harry shoots her a dirty look. “So, naturally, I named the cat Hairy
Harry just to get a rise out of this one –” Gemma’s eyes widen, and she bursts
into a fit of giggles. “Hairy Harry Underside!”
“Ding ding ding!” Finn
announces. “We have a winner!”
“Wow, Gem, that’s some
imagination you had there,” Harry says dryly.
“You named your bunny
‘Bunny’!” she shoots back.
“It was a play on
“A stupid play on
words,” Gemma says bitingly.
“Alright, kids. Break
it up or no dessert,” Emma tells them.
“You know who’d
probably have the best name?” Gemma asks. Her words are deliberate, and her
eyes are darting around, but her voice is steady when she says, “Ben. Where is
My heart drops,
because I can see that Gem is trying to make the effort for all of us to be
friends again, and yet I know that the answer to her question would probably destroy
Somehow, we mumble
and hedge until someone changes the topic. I excuse myself to get another beer,
and as I’m waiting at the bar, I feel the warmth of a body slide very close to
me. I’m about to ask the person to kindly stop invading my personal space, when
I turn and see it’s Harry. All of a sudden, I’m not quite so upset about the
“Can I buy you your
beer?” he asks.
I frown. “You came up
here just to buy me a beer?”
He sighs. “No, I
actually came up here to protect you.”
“Oh yeah.” he says.
He nods towards a man stood in the corner of the pub who is eyeing us. “Been
watching you all night, that one. Have to make sure he doesn’t get the wrong
I’m a bit confused as
to why he’s worried seeing that our pub is generally filled with blokes above
forty so I turn to assess the guy he was referring to. “He’s probably old
enough to be my dad, Harry – not exactly my type. But I appreciate your…protection
– even if it is slightly chauvinistic.”
“It’s less about
protecting you and more about
protecting your…” he clears his throat, “Your honour.”
“My honour? As in my
“Here’s the thing,
love, I got to experience a little of you – or, a lot of you if we’re being honest – on Saturday,” he says lightly.
He smiles. “I really, really liked it. Think I’m hooked actually which makes me
a bit possessive.” I roll my eyes but that doesn’t stop me from breaking into goosepimples
when his fingers brush over mine a little longer than necessary as he gives me
my drink. “So, I’m going to suggest that if you’re going to give your honour to
anyone, you give it to me.” He takes my elbow and guides us back to the table.
Just as we are about to sit, he says into my ear, “Especially because you
already know that I know exactly what to do with it.”
But I don’t have time
to process his words because the encounter we had all wanted to avoid crashes
into us anyway when Ben walks into the pub. For a minute, I can practically
feel Harry, Emma, Finn and I pray that his date had ended early and he was
But, no. A second
later, a tiny little brunette – primarily the exact opposite of Gemma – slides
in behind him, and Ben only realises Gem is sitting with us when he’s too close
to our table to turn back.
As Gem’s eyes flit
between Ben and his date, and she realises exactly where he’s been. There’s
this moment when it feels like all the air has been pulled from the room, like
time has frozen and punched each one of us in the gut.
Then she speaks.
“Hi! I’m Margaret!” Behind her, I can see Ben cringing.
She’s perky. Fuck,
she’s perky. It’s hard enough to suffuse our tight group, and we
already have all the perkiness we can handle in Emma. If Margaret had been snippy
or aloof, or even bitchy she may have stood a chance. But, no, she’s perky and…oh
my days, she’s still talking.
“Benjamin’s told me all about you lot! You must be Cori”—she
points at Emma—”and you must Emma.”
I’m about to open my
mouth to correct her when Harry slides his arm around my shoulder and says, “Emma
is so pleased to meet you!” Then he slides his other arm around Emma and adds, “And
Cori is, too!”
Emma and I glower at
“You –” holy fuck, she squeaked on the word ‘you’—” Harry. Styles” She
looks as though she’s about to hyperventilate and I consider drowning myself in
the glass of beer in front of me.
Gem stands up. “And I’m leaving.” Gem walks out.
I sigh as Emma jumps
up immediately and follows after her. Ben’s face falls a bit, and I realise
that this is literally my worst nightmare. I glance at Harry, and he looks even
more miserable than I feel—stuck between his sister and his best mate.
I put my hand on his
shoulder, and he turns to me. I jerk my head in Gem’s direction, telling him
silently that I’ll go after her, and he squeezes my hand in thanks. I consider
just walking out, but then I look at Ben again and say, “Sorry, Margaret. It
was nice to meet you but…uhm, I’ve got to go meet up with Gem and Emma.”
As I hurry out, I
hear her still mumbling, “You’re Harry Styles.”
“Ugh, Margaret,” Gem
says. The three of us are camped out at her and Emma’s homee, dismembering
every nanosecond of the two-minute interaction with Ben and public enemy number
one – or Margaret, as I’m sure she’s more commonly known. “That’s such a
“Gem…that’s my nan’s
name,” Emma reminds her. Gemma looks chastised for a second and apologises.
“Well…what was she
wearing anyway?” Before either of us can answer, she continues, “And she’s too
short for him. How would she even kiss him?” Suddenly her hand clamps around my
sleeve. “Oh, God. Do you think they’ve kissed? Do you think they’re getting
serious? He brought her to our pub…with Harry there. Do you think that’s why
he brought her over there to meet you?”
I look frantically at
Emma, because I have no clue how to answer these questions. I’d almost rather
have Gem bash the poor girl – at least that’s harmless, since it was pure envy
and ranting. This is her getting much closer to a breakdown.
Abruptly, Gem stands
up and says, “Fuck it. I need the Doctor.” She walks over to the DVD tower in
the corner of the room, pulls out three series, and Emma and I smile at each
other behind her back. She’ll be okay.
Gemma had been working
at the magazine I was interning at, and at the beginning, I had no idea what to
make of her. She was forward and fierce – before it was cool to be so and she terrified
me. She was kind to me, but I had no idea whether we’d actually ever be
friends. Then, three weeks into my first year as an assigned journalist, Gemma
got dumped by her boyfriend from home through a text. I’d walked into her office to see her sat in front of her
desk with a tumbler of whisky, watching Vincent and the Doctor. That’s when I knew we’d be friends.
Some girls get
through break ups by eating buckets of ice cream and watching Beaches.
Gemma Styles drinks Jack and watches sci-fi series.
Halfway through the episode,
I get a message from Harry.
I text him
back: She will be.
Then I think of his
face back at the bar, and how he had pursed his lips, and how that tendon in
his jaw flexed because he was so torn between staying back with Ben and going
you okay? I text again.
His reply comes back
a few seconds later. Am I okay? Are YOU okay – you’re asking me about
I text back. Haha,
so I am emotionless.
He responds, Not
emotionless. You just have a bit of an allergy to feelings. He sends
another text almost immediately. But, that’s the way I like you x.
My heart thumps a bit as I get another one: So you can call it
emotionless, I’ll call it great. And then a final one, which makes me
laugh. What’s the regulation on the number of texts you can send in a
row before you become a stalker?
I reply, You
haven’t passed it. Yet.
My phone buzzes but
before I can answer it, it buzzes again and again and before I know it, I’ve
received six texts in a row, each with one word:
I laugh and
text, You’re not a stalker, but you’re a right pest.
A few minutes later,
I get one more message from him: Then my work here is done. Then
one more. Last one, promise. Thanks for asking how I felt.
His last reply buzzes
while the movie is paused – Gemma had to go to the toilet – and Emma looks at
me through narrowed eyes.
“Who are you texting?”
“No one,” I say. Her
eyes narrow further. “Harry.”
Her eyes are
practically slits now.
“No, you’re not.
It’s him. Your secret guy.”
I know I should put
an end to it and show Emma that the texts are from Harry but,
I’m more curious as to how she’s figured out that I’m texting the guy I’d slept
with so I ask her.
“You should see your
face right now; your eyes are all gleamy, you’re blushing like mad, and you’ve
got one of those smiles that makes you look both really, really happy and also
like you’re about to be sick,” she tells me. I hadn’t realised until then that
I was smiling at all. “You look like a Disney character.”
Or maybe a beautiful
Then I realise that I
was wrong before: I do have emotions. And my emotions are so caught
up with Harry’s emotions right now, that it scares me a little.
“So, how is everyone?”
Aida asks as we stuff ourselves during lunch the next day. We both have excuses
– she’s eating for two, and well, I’m eating for me. Gemma and I met Aida during
our freelance work at British Vogue. She was the art director assigned to both
of our columns and we’d kept in contact since. She was even introduced to Callum,
her husband, by Harry, so I think she’ll always have a soft spot for him.
I swallow the last
bite of my pasta. “Everyone’s well…sort of. Things between Ben and Gemma are
I go on to tell her
about the occurrences of the previous night in all their awkward, and angry
“Yikes,” Aida says.
I exhale. “Sorry,
didn’t mean to just unload on you.”
“No, I get it. It’s
tough. Kinda makes you wish they would have had been able to see how their
relationship would have affected their friendship – affect all of your friendships – before they started dating,” she says.
“Yeah,” I mumble absently.
My thoughts are on Harry, like they seem to be as of late.
“Well, how’s Harry?”
she asks, as if reading my mind.
I can’t help but
think that maybe my face is giving away something so I take a glance at her.
She doesn’t seem to have sensed anything but I decide to play it cool, just to
“He’s good. Busy. Same
as usual. He said he got tickets for him and Callum to an Arsenal match next
“Yeah, Cal told me.
Tell Harry I’m upset with him, by the way – I never see him! He only ever hangs
out with Callum. Though I’ll probably see him at the Sony dinner tomorrow – Oh,
God.” She grimaces and rubs her belly. “I have to get through that sober.
Tell me you’ll be there?”
I laugh and nod. “Yeah,
Harry’d asked me to accompany him a few weeks ago. And hey, you might actually
see Harry today. He has this thing he wanted me to look over, and he was going
to pick it up when I was on lunch. He knows we’re eating here. He said he’d
call when he was on his way.”
By the time Harry arrives,
Aida and I have finished our meal and have decided that we want to stop by the
frozen yoghurt shop a few streets down. He meets us outside, giving Aida as big
of a hug as he can with her belly in the way.
Our walk is extremely
slow because the sidewalks are still lined with patches of sleet and slush. It’s
even worse for Aida who can barely see her feet. I’m a little captivated when Harry
puts his arm around her and holds on to her tightly, making sure she doesn’t
slip as we walk over to the shop. At one point, he even gives her a little lift
over a small bank of snow. His face twists with the effort and attention on his
task, and for some reason, I find myself turned on. His brow is furrowed, tongue
poking through his lips, his eyes look almost closed as he focuses on watching
where they’re going, and it’s familiar, although I don’t get why until I realise
that this face is similar to his—
Or I guess it would
be more appropriate to say ‘O’.
And as if they were
just waiting to filter through the cracks, my brain is submerged with flashes
of what he looked like above me and below me and what he sounded like from
behind me and….God, we had a lot of sex that night.
I will myself to
shake off these thoughts as we reach the shop. Aida gets a seat while I stand
in line to place our orders. I can’t quite meet his eyes right now, and nowhere
else on him is safe to look either, so I busy myself with the menu although I
already know what to order.
“Do you want anything?”
I ask Harry. I can’t help but notice that he’s standing right there, so close
to me that if I were to bend my elbow, it would graze his stomach.
So I do just that. I accidentally bend
my elbow while flipping over the menu I’m holding.
He shakes his head vigorously.
“No, I haven’t got time to eat. I’ve got to get to the studio and I’m already
like, fifteen minutes late.”
I realise that he had
only come to pick up his contract – he just walked Aida and I over because he
was being really nice. My heart may or may not skip a beat, and I feel like my
insides are mushy because he’s such a good man.
“Sorry. You should
have told me! I would have brought it over to you,” I tell him.
He shrugs. “I didn’t
actually need it by today.”
“You didn’t?” I ask,
His eyes shimmer a
little as he says, “No. Just wanted to see you, I guess.”
I’m pretty sure I’m experiencing
brain freeze, even though I haven’t had a bite of frozen yoghurt yet.
“Oh…okay,” I say,
like an idiot.
He grins wider, so
much that his nose scrunches up a bit and his dimples look like craters on the
moon; it makes him look like boyish and beautiful. He quickly says goodbye,
squeezing my hand before he darts out the store.
When he passes by the
part of the window next to where I’m standing, he knocks on it to get my
attention and places his palm flat on it. Even though I’m taken aback by this
sentimental gesture, I place my palm on my side of the glass.
Then he shakes his
head and points at my body, mouthing “boobs”, and ungracefully mimics rubbing
his chest against the glass to demonstrate what he wants me to do.
I roll my eyes, shake
my head and laugh at him as he walks away because yeah, he’s a gentleman, but
he’s also still such a man.
When I return to the
table, Aida springs on me.
“What’s up with you
I reply – more dreamily
than I’d like to admit – that I have no idea, and I’m telling the truth. For
the most part, anyway.
is fucking great. We’re kissing frantically in the hallway outside your flat,
like we’re making up for the lost time we didn’t spend kissing in the car. The
lost time we didn’t spend kissing for the last three years.
grab your keys from you and you push me up against the door, pulling our mouths
back together. Fuck, I love that you pushed me. Fuck fuck fuck, my mind goes
blank picturing you pushing on me in different ways. You pull away to give me
room to unlock the door but it’s my plan not to stop touching you all night –
maybe ever again because you feel so good – so I attach my lips to your neck, whilst
reaching behind me to insert the key into the door in my best efforts of
multitasking. You tussle against me, feigning a fight but really just wriggling
up on me, and damn, that feels amazing, even with
the metal rim of the doorknocker digging into my back.
– and I really don’t know how, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it – you
had taken the keys from get the door open and turn the doorknob without
warning. You manage to brace yourself on the frame, but I flail my arms and
fall flat on my back into your entryway with a loud groan.
amusing and absurd all at once – everything that is the opposite of the mood
that was just on the other side of that door. We both burst out laughing,
because I just fell on my ass, and that’s hilarious, no matter what the situation
is, or how much I want to be touching you. You’re doubled over laughing so hard
that you can barely manage to step into the flat but you do. You reach down
and, grasping both my legs in one hand, you lift them, shut the door, and then
drop my legs back to the ground.
pounce on me, right there on your floor, and I can’t stop giggling. You laugh
with me, little flutters leaving your lips as you kiss my jaw, my neck, my
nose, and I am so fucking happy. I think I am ecstatic – or maybe this is just
that’s still to come.
fingers are wild, sliding up and down my torso, touching and feeling and trying
to tickle. I’m not ticklish, and I tell you so, but you’re you, which means
that you’re stubborn, so you become determined to prove me wrong. Your hands
move all over me, and I laugh as you poke me behind the knee, trying to see if
that’ll prompt a reaction. It doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop you. Finally,
after you’ve touched me almost everywhere, looking for soft places, avoiding
the hard ones, you twist your middle and ring fingers into my side below my
ribs, and I recoil. You’ve found a place I never even knew was there.
“Ooh, found a
spot!” you say, the look in your eyes mischievous and it makes me ever harder
than I already am.
decide then and there that I will find all your spots tonight.
. Since this is just the first half of a chapter I
split up, I’m aiming for the next one on Friday, latest.
You guys are amazing.
Thank you for your reviews, recs, tweets, comments or even just reading. It’s
I’ve got a friend
from Manc whose town in called Chorlton-cum-Hardy. Imagine that for half of
Now let’s talk about
something: Mine used to be Ginger Babcock (which isn’t bad). americnxidiot’s
would be Doggy-Doo Pine (which is hilarious). What would your porn
star name be?