From our special FANFIC theme
Are you worried? my mum asks me when Alexa tells her that ex-boyband member and international pop sensation, Harry Styles, is missing. Is that why you’ve been acting weird? Did you somehow know before everyone else? You always know about him before everyone else.
No, I snap, I don’t even like him anymore.
Mum laughs at this then leaves for work. When she is gone, I text the girls, COME OVER NOW, and then pace the kitchen. I’m not worried about Harry Styles. Because he is in my basement.
We cut school, obviously. The girls bowl into my house. The other two are babbling but Niamh stands quietly behind them, her tie done up properly, arms folded. Carmen has sworn that Niamh is chill, showing me her Tumblr and saying, “Look she’s a Larry too.” A round the clock poster, editor, commenter. Still, I don’t trust her.
It has to be today, girls, I say.
We’ve had him for two days, shuffling him back in the house at 2am on Friday while my Mum was on nights, skinny hands over his mouth, skirts riding up as we scrabbled with him. Carmen is a girl guide and can tie knots. Rosie has a nice smile and talked to him in a soft voice, stroked his curls, It’s going to be okay, Harry. Niamh stood behind us and watched, blank, like there was absolutely nothing going on in her head. Harry locked eyes with her, mumbled behind his gag, as if he knew she is the weakest link. He’s a smart boy.
I get the torch and march downstairs. The girls trip up to follow. Niamh unwraps a piece of gum from her blazer pocket and pops it in her mouth.
Harry is sitting in the corner, beautiful, even in torchlight in a cobwebby basement. Beads of sweat sparkle on his forehead, one middle curl tightening in the moisture. He is wearing a leather jacket, open, and a white t-shirt, black jeans.
I point the torch at him. Rosie peels the tape off his mouth, and gives him water, the first time she has managed it without sobbing. I reach a finger out to his wrist, where his jacket sleeve has pulled up, and stroke his tattoos. I want to lick the sweat from his skin. I want to put my head on his chest and hear his heartbeat. I want him to sing, softly, a whisper in my ear.
He stares at the wall behind me. He’s been like this the whole time. I’ve spent years on message boards, decoding song lyrics, watching videos. I’m so full of half-truths and speculation I can’t sleep at night. I want to tighten my hand around his wrist and twist.
We exchange no pleasantries this time, no expression of love, no description of how his music changed our lives, no you’re my whole world, I would die for you. Carmen sets up the camera. I ask him the question: Were you, or are you, in a relationship with your bandmate Louis?
Nothing. He isn’t like Harry Styles. He isn’t jumping around and dancing, or smirking, or smiling, or singing his heart out. He is like a rag doll, or a deflated balloon. He knows what he is doing. He is spinning me out of control, making me worry that we have the wrong boy, that the real Harry is on a yacht somewhere drinking champagne. It’s him. It’s him.
Niamh snaps a bubble. Rosie sniffles. Harry’s face wobbles in Carmen’s camera. I clear my throat.
We know you love Louis. We can see the way you look at him. The girls; they’re beards aren’t they? How many Eleanor doppelgangers are there? Ed Sheeran knows, doesn’t he? It’s okay, Harry, we understand. You’ve had a lot of pressure on you. We get it. We won’t tell anyone. All we want is the truth.
We get nothing. We go upstairs to get him more water. And food. And regroup. What if he never confesses? Rosie says, gulping down juice and almost choking. We can’t keep him forever.
We can, Carmen says.
We have to know, I say, It’s only fair.
I hear a crash downstairs. Niamh is no longer in the room and I don’t know how long she has been gone. We jump up. We hear footsteps, loud, and Harry is hurtling out of the basement door and towards us. We all launch at him. I’m yelling. Rosie is crying. Someone’s blazer sleeve gets in my eyes and I can’t see and the skin on my fingers tears on the lock as I claw at it, but when I can see again, the door is wide open, the street is quiet. Harry Styles is gone.
Rosie vomits in the kitchen sink. Carmen starts saying oh no under her breath. I take a second. I hear a bubble-gum snap behind me. There she is, tie done up, arms folded.
What did you do? I stomp towards her.
She shrugs. I got the truth.
I stop. You what?
No, you didn’t.
I’ve backed Niamh against the wall. She doesn’t flinch. She laughs. I can smell the watermelon Hubba Bubba.
Go on then?
I’m not sure whether I want to tell you¸ she says.
Are you relieved? Mum asks me, Now he’s been found? He’s in a right state though apparently. Poor soul.
This is what she always says, when I tell her about pap shots, or girls waiting outside in the rain to see him, or if I show her another video that proves Larry is real. Let him be. Poor soul.
The phone rings. Mum asks me, hand to the receiver, have you seen your little friend Niamh since school yesterday? I tell her I have not.
Oh darling, Are you worried? About your friend? she asks when she hangs up.
So worried, I say.
I wait until she leaves for work and then text the girls. I’m not worried.
Heather Cripps is a writer, library assistant and editor for the Forge Literary Magazine. She has previously been published at Ellipsis, the Drum, Wax Paper Prose and more. Currently she is working on her first novel, Beau is Fine, which was shortlisted for the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize in 2019.
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