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So It Goes

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2012

April

It was just a matter of weeks between Harry saying he liked her and the pictures coming out of him kissing another girl. He’d said it that way, too: he liked her. He liked her, as if they were still in high school and it meant something to be liked. He seemed like he meant it.

--

Summer

Taylor’s about to take a sip of her drink when Brittany grabs her wrist.

“Teen dream, ten o’clock,” Britany whispers.

Taylor looks up. It’s easy to see Harry, even in the crowded room. They’re at an industry party and all the food is shades of white, vegan and gluten-free. It looks like Harry is trying to tuck his napkin into the suit jacket of a grey haired man who Taylor is pretty sure works at her record label. It’s the first time she’s seen him since April.

“Crap.” Taylor lifts her hand so now she’s the one holding Brittany’s wrist instead. She wants to hold Brittany's entire body, lift her up like a shield, but that would probably just draw even more attention to them.

“Did you know he was going to be here?”

No.” She’d known Harry was in L.A., but she didn’t know he was going to be at this party.

“Is he going to come talk to you?” Brittany asks.

“No,” Taylor says. “Oh my god, is he coming over? What do I do? Look away.”

She and Brittany rotate carefully so they’re facing in the opposite direction. It’s a pretty seamless shuffle, all things considered. There’s no substitute for a lifetime of friendship.

“Is he coming?” Taylor whispers. Brittany pretends to flip her hair and glances over her shoulder.

“Yeah,” she says.

“Don’t leave me,” Taylor says. Then she pretends to pick up a conversation again: “Yeah, so I was thinking about it the other day--–” She thinks it seems believable. Harry here now, standing right in front of them. He waits until she pauses, always polite.

“Good to see you,” he says.

Taylor glances over at Brittany.

“How are you?” Harry asks. “You alright?” After they’d spent an entire weekend together in April, she’d almost forgotten about his accent, but that feels like a long time ago. Right now it’s jarring.

“Yeah,” Taylor says.

“I’m going to grab us drinks,” Brittany says, completely ignoring the meaningful way Taylor widens her eyes. “Back in a sec.”

Taylor forces a smile, clears her throat, finally looks Harry in the eye. He looks really good. She wishes he didn’t.

“How’s Cara?” she asks.

“Fine thanks, how’s Conor?”

“Just great.” Taylor crosses one arm across her chest and presses her thumb into the crease of her elbow. “So you’re actually dating her?”

Harry smiles and shrugs. It could mean yes or no or I want to be. That’s how it always is with Harry: yes and no and I want, I want, I want.

“It’s good to see you,” he says.

“Nothing’s changed,” Taylor says. “I’m not doing this with you again.”

She smiles so it won’t look awkward to anyone who’s watching them, and then walks away to find Brittany.

“Traitor,” Taylor says.

“Have I mentioned how much I love it when you bring me to these things? You literally can’t get red wine.”

“You don’t even like red wine.” Left to her own devices, Brittany would drink cider.

“No red wine,” Brittany continues, “and lover-lover over there is staring holes in your ass.’

“Is there something on my dress?” Taylor asks, trying to figure out how she’s going to turn around subtly.

Brittany cackles. “You like him. You still like him.”

“Well,” Taylor says. She glances over her shoulder. Harry’s rubbing his jaw as he listens to something someone says. He starts to laugh. “That would be dumb, right?”

Brittany shrugs. She takes something off the tray when it’s offered to her, and says, “What am I eating? Shrimp?”

“It’s a lentil puree with a fennel reduction,” the waiter says.

Taylor leaves the party early. She doesn’t mean to, but she keeps watching Harry move around the room. He’s either friends with everyone here or about to be, but Taylor knows how that goes. He’s there until he’s not. He’s there and then there are pictures of him kissing another girl.

She meets up with Conor later that night. He’s been at some other event and is wearing a full suit. He looks good in black. She pushes him onto the massive white armchair in her living room, pausing only long enough to hand him the condom she’d stashed in her clutch before climbing onto his lap. The arms of the chair keep her from spreading her legs as much as she wants and the angle is bad until finally Conor slumps down. She thinks about reaching in between them to rub herself off, but it seems like too much work. She looks past his face to where her hands are clutching the tufted back of the armchair. She wonders if Harry’s still at the party.

--

Harry texts her a week later. It was good to see you.

She’s with Conor. He raises his eyebrows.

“It’s just Ed,” Taylor says. She looks at her phone for a long time and then puts it in her purse.

She leans in when Conor wraps his arm around her shoulders.

She doesn’t look at her phone again until she’s at home alone. In the meantime, Harry’s texted: I want to see you again.

She doesn’t know what to say, so she bakes banana bread. She leaves her phone face up on the counter beside her the entire time in case he texts again, but he doesn’t.

--

September 6

She doesn’t realize until halfway through that Harry’s standing sidestage as she rehearses for the VMAs. She knew he’d be there for the show, but there’s something about him watching her rehearse that sets her on edge. Her hair is unwashed and free of product so it’ll hold the style better later. Her face is bare. She’s not ready to be looked at yet.

She makes it all the way through the song once, tells the band, “One more time,” and gestures to the AV people in the back to run the track again. The volume’s too high, but the mix is good – deceptively so, because she’s got the echos of the empty theatre working for her. Tonight it’ll be duller, her voice muted by the sea of bodies.

Once they’ve got the mix right, they bring the dancers on stage. Taylor’s not dancing, but she’s got every step choreographed. She’s most worried about the lift, but the dancers hold her like she weighs nothing.

After a third run through the song, Taylor's feeling good, so she thanks everyone and heads off stage.

Harry’s leaning against one of the support beams, phone in hand, head bowed. Countless other people are milling around, but he looks up immediately when she walks toward him.

“Nice,” he says.

She nods. “Are you up next?”

“Not next,” he says, “but soon.”

Taylor’s wearing shorts and a loose top. She’s giving her feet a break from heels, so Harry’s an inch taller than she is right now. There are so many people backstage that it feels a little like being hidden. Everyone’s hurrying. They’re the only two standing still.

“I like that song,” Harry says.

“We are never getting back together,” Taylor says, because it’s funny.

“Never,” Harry says, dryly. “Like, ever. Listen, do you have to go for–” he gestures at his hair and face.

“Not yet,” she says. She’s just doing a ponytail tonight, which will still take an inexplicably long time to pull together, but she’s got time.

“Do you want to find somewhere quiet?”

Taylor hesitates, but. She’s been wondering for weeks if they were going to run into each other here. She knows she’ll regret it if she doesn’t see how this plays out.

Somewhere quiet ends up being in one of the workrooms with Harry’s assistant, Taylor’s body guard, and – on average – one person poking their head in to ask a question every five minutes. Harry’s wearing two necklaces. He keeps shaking his hair into his eyes and then pushing it away. He asks her what she’s been up to and watches her with such focus while she answers that she has to look away so she doesn’t lose her train of thought. She tells him more than she means to.

“I still get nervous every single time we go on stage,” he says.

“That’s good, though,” she says. “It means you care about it. Don’t fear fear.”

“Head first, fearless,” Harry says, humming something that isn’t terribly far off from how the song actually goes.

“No, it’s like – a quote,” she says, ducking her head and pretending like it doesn’t surprise her that he’s actually listened to her music.

When she looks up, Harry’s watching her. He doesn’t try to hide it. Taylor runs her hand through her bangs and that’s how they’re sitting – quietly, staring at each other – when someone else comes in to say that they need Harry now.

He says, “Okay, thanks, coming,” and pats his pockets to make sure he has his phone. Before he leaves, he says, “You’re coming to the afterparty, right?”

“Maybe. Yeah.”

“Good.”

He kisses her cheek goodbye, which is just one of those weird British things – excessive cheek kissing – but it feels like more. That’s how they got into trouble in the first place. Harry claims it’s normal to kiss friends goodbye.

I am the biggest idiot, she texts Selena, who’s doing promo for Spring Breakers and probably won’t be able to respond right away. She covers her face with her hands and shrieks into her palms.

“Don’t even talk to me right now,” she says to Bruce, her bodyguard, who winks and then carries on pretending that he saw absolutely nothing.

She texts Brittany, Teen dream encounter of the third kind.

Brittany text back right away. Does that mean oral?

We are no longer friends.

At the afterparty Harry finds her right away, which makes her think that he was waiting for her. She’s changed into a floor-length dress. Her hair’s down and curled into long waves. She feels a little strung out from the performance and the cameras and the crowds, like she can’t imagine ever sleeping again.

“I liked your set,” Harry says, grinning brightly.

“Thanks. You guys sounded good.”

“Did you have to practice that for a long time? The thing–” he throws his hands up, miming lifting her in the air.

“I have to practice everything,” she says. She rehearses each step, every movement of her arms, the tilt of her head.

This isn’t a public event, but she’s conscious of the people around them, has half an eye out for cameras. They did the rounds earlier, and Taylor posed in her dress, but the closeness of Harry beside her is not something she wants to see posted online.

“How long are you in America?” Taylor asks.

“Dunno.”

“Yes, you do,” Taylor says. She’s realized that Harry’s intentionally vague when he doesn’t want to get into things.

“Just a couple of days,” Harry says.

“So you’re leaving–”

“Tomorrow,” he says.

“Right.” Of course.

Harry ducks his head and his curls fall across his face. He scoops them away.

“If I change my flight, can I see you?” he asks, just like that. She’s used to being around people who are too busy to be anything but direct, but Harry takes it to another level entirely.

“I’m flying out to do a show in three days,” Taylor says.

“But tomorrow...” Harry smiles at her. It looks sweet, but Taylor’s sure he knows exactly what he’s doing. She squares her shoulders.

“We can hang out,” Harry says. “It’ll be fun.”

“You’ve said that before,” Taylor says, but teasingly, not angry. Harry looks really good in his white shirt and blazer. It’s easy to forget that there’s anyone else in the room. She stands up. She gives Harry a look, just to see if he’ll understand what she means.

He does. He follows her.

It’s a swank place, so they’ve got large single person bathrooms. Taylor would feel embarrassed about going in with Harry while her bodyguard stands outside, but he’s their best chance of not being caught.

Harry reaches for her the second the door closes, circling her waist with his hands and kissing her hard. They haven’t kissed enough for it to feel familiar. She wonders if this is how he kisses other girls, all fast tongue and wandering hands. She can’t think clearly, so she just opens her mouth wider.

Harry crowds even closer. Her back hits the wall.

Her dress goes all the way down to the floor. Harry rucks it up, his hands groping at her thighs as he lifts fistfuls of material. He rubs her pussy through her underwear. She reaches down to help hold her dress out of the way. His fingers slide into her panties. The first time he did this she had to tell him to be gentle, but he seems to remember. He’s careful, skimming his fingers over her clit for a long minute before pushing his hand down further and sliding one finger inside her.

She tips her head back against the wall. When she opens her eyes to see if he’s watching, he is -- lips parted as his gaze darts back and forth between his hand buried in her panties and her face. They’re both waiting for her to say stop. Someone could catch them. She said this was never going to happen again. As far as the world knows, she’s still with Conor. But she doesn’t say anything. The heel of his thumb is pushed up against her clit in this slow grind that’s making her legs shake. She’s never got off like this – in public, standing up, with someone she’s not even dating. She wants to see if she can.

“I was thinking about this,” Harry says. He’s presses even closer and she can feel his hard dick push up against her thigh. She feels like she ought to offer to let him fuck her, like it’s only a matter of time before he gets bored of carefully rubbing her off with one finger inside and the flat of his palm sliding over her clit. There’s almost no friction and she knows she’s got his whole hand wet. She should say he can fuck her but she doesn’t, and it’s dizzying how much that turns her on.

She pushes against his hand and it’s so good her exhale sounds more like a grunt. She sways, and Harry runs his hand up her side to help her find her balance. His hand feels massive on her waist and he must notice it because he says, “Fuck, you’re so fit.”

He puts another finger inside of her. Her panties are pulled taut around his wrist. Two fingers feels massive at first, the stretch sharp and aching because she’s so tight from standing and the awkward angle. Harry would have an easier time if he took her underwear off, but she doesn’t want him to, doesn’t want him to stop, even for a moment. She likes how full she feels.

Her hips jerk, frantic little movements as she rides his hand. She’s not thinking, just letting her body do what feels good. Harry slides his other hand around to cup her ass and even that feels good, both of his hands on her, his cock hard against her thigh. The build up is weird because there’s a long stretch where she knows that she can come from this, knows she is going to get off, and then she just does. Taylor’s orgasm hits low and gets more intense in waves. If Harry wasn’t pressed so tight against her, she might slide right down to the floor. She stopped making noise so she has to reach down to still Harry with a hand to his wrist when the aftershocks get so intense it’s almost painful.

When he realizes she’s come, his whole face lights up. He’s flushed and he keeps licking his lips. When she turns her head, he kisses her immediately, moving very, very slowly as he slides his hand out of her panties.

She considers giving him a blowjob, but her body is still lit up. She feels simultaneously too sensitive to be touched and really close to coming again.

“Do you have a condom?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he says, reaching into his pocket eagerly. She watches as he rolls it on. She’d forgotten he’s got a nice dick.

Her dress is way too expensive to be having sex in, but she doesn’t want to take it off. She’s conscious that they’re practically in public. Letting her skirt fall back to the ground, she shimmies out of her panties, picking them off the ground and onto the counter so she won’t forget them later. She bends over the counter at the sink, and looks over her shoulder.

She wishes her dress had a flap so that she could be fully clothed while they fuck, just like Harry’s still completely dressed with his dick poking out of his fly. Instead she has to help him lift her dress again. She’s exceedingly conscious of the nakedness of her legs as Harry pushes her dress up to her hips. She’s worn shorts that practically show this much skin on stage, but there’s something different about that. She tries to keep her dress from wrinkling while still covering as much of her ass as possible as Harry slides his cock in between her thighs.

She could see him in the mirror if she lifted her head, but Taylor’s abruptly overwhelmed. She’s so wet from before that Harry slides all the way in with one long thrust, and just like that she’s completely filled. Her hipbones are digging into the edge of the counter. She curls her fingers around the rim of the sink so she has something to hold on to. Harry starts fucking her.

Both of their hands are occupied holding her dress out of the way, so Harry’s only touching her with his cock. It’s something she thinks is hot when she’s alone in her bed – being bent over, hips rocking together, the way they must look in profile – but in this moment, Harry feels very far away. He mumbles something into the back of her neck, but she can’t hear what he’s saying. He keeps making low noises. She can hear those.

She knows she’s not going to get off like this, and her mind starts drifting. Does she have the same shade of lipstick in her clutch? She’s certainly kissed off the colour that the makeup artist applied earlier. She’s going to need some face powder. How long have they been in here? Is there a private exit or are photographers going to catch her leaving tonight? What would people say if they knew she was doing this?

She realizes that Harry’s stopped moving, and lifts her head to look at him in the mirror.

“You alright?” he asks.

“I’m good. I just didn’t–” plan this, she thinks, but that would be a lie. She’s been thinking about this ever since she found out that they’d both be at the same event, even before he sought her out earlier in the day. She feels cold, suddenly. Her legs hurt from standing.

Harry starts to pull out.

“It’s okay,” Taylor says. “You can keep going.”

“We’ve been in here a long time,” Harry says, giving her the easy out. Maybe he’s worried about getting caught too. Taylor stands upright and lets her dress fall down to the floor. She turns around.

Harry smiles easily and makes like he’s going to zip his pants up again. It’s nothing he does, but a stupid part of her brain thinks that if she leaves him hard he’ll find someone else to get off with tonight.

“Here,” she says, stepping around him so that she’s standing behind him. “You can come in the sink.” She giggles, pretends like this is a funny thing to be doing, but the truth is she feels a million times more comfortable now that she’s standing behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist, hand sliding down to his cock.

Harry doesn’t seem to mind this turn of events, gasping loudly when she starts jerking him off. He slumps forward, so it’s even easier for her to see their reflection in the mirror. It’s a nice image. Harry looks even better mussed, and Taylor’s makeup held up better than she’d expected. She rubs her thumb over the leaking head of his cock and feels him shake in her arms.

“I want to do this properly,” Harry says. Taylor is about to freeze, but he continues, “Like, no one around. Not in the loo.”

“But look at how convenient it’s going to be for clean up,” Taylor says. She rests her chin on his shoulder and grins at him in the mirror. She feels a bit giddy, but she suspects that when she looks back on this whole thing she’s going to feel embarrassed.

She lets go of his cock long enough to lick her hand and then starts jerking him off right. She can only see him in the mirror. This is how Harry sees himself. His face looks a little different like this, and she doesn’t know if that’s because it’s a mirror image or because she’s never been able to see him this clearly when he’s getting off. She watches him and moves her hand over his cock. This is almost what it would feel like to have a dick. She imagines for a moment that she’s getting herself off. She wonders what Harry’s thinking about.

There’s no warning when he comes, and she almost loses her grip on his cock. The sink does make for easy clean up. She wipes the counter with a wad of toilet paper while Harry tucks himself back into his pants. Taylor picks up her panties off the counter, but they’re too wet to put back on, so she slips them into her clutch.

“Now you don’t have to change your flight,” Taylor says. She laughs, but she knows it sounds forced.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Harry says. He looks at her solemnly, eyes searching. She doesn’t know what he’s looking for and she feels herself start to flush. “I missed you.”

Then why didn’t you call? she thinks. Instead she says, “I don’t want to get photographed together.” She knows that people are going to write crap about her regardless, but she hasn’t publicly confirmed yet that she and Conor broke up – they’re going to make the announcement next week. They didn’t have a big blow up or anything, and he had seemed amenable to working something out, so she had given herself a couple of weeks to decide. And then immediately gotten off with Harry. So maybe it wasn’t that much of a decision.

“We’ll figure something out.”

--

The sun’s just starting to set when Harry picks her up. Taylor’s wearing a short skirt and it rides up when she climbs into the passenger seat. Harry looks her up and down, intentionally obvious about it. It shouldn’t feel like a compliment, but it does.

She doesn’t ask where they’re going. She never cared much for cars, but there’s something about watching Harry drive. They haven’t brought security, so it’s probably best if they don’t get out of the car anywhere. Taylor tells him how to get onto the freeway.

Harry leaves the radio on, and they sing along instead of talking to each other. It feels deceptively comfortable but, for all Taylor knows, she’s not going to see Harry again after this. The sun disappears, the sky gradually blackens. A few streaks of cloud are still visible, but soon those will fade into the the darkness.

Harry keeps looking at her. Eventually, he turns the radio down. He leaves his hand on the gearshift, even though the car is an automatic. Normally when it’s quiet Taylor feels compelled to make conversation, but right now she likes the silence between them.

The highway stretches before them, fading into the night.

“I’m just going to drive, okay?” Harry says.

“Yeah.”

It’s been five months since they were last alone together. That’s almost half a year.

“What do you think’s off this exit?” Harry asks.

“I have no idea. Do you want me to check?”

“Nope,” Harry says, both dimples showing as he flashes her a quick grin and then takes the exit.

They end up pulled over on a deserted road.

“There’s nothing around here,” Taylor says.

“Exactly.”

Harry gets out of the car. He leaves the headlights on and they cast tunnels of lights down the black street. Taylor walks in front of them and twists her body to make the shadows writhe across the pavement. Harry comes up beside her, throws his hands up in the air, wiggling his body in a wave. His shadow grows and contracts, every movement amplified.

It feels like they’re actually as young as they are. It feels real and it doesn’t. The car is the only light on the street. On either side of them are sparse trees and wide open spaces. She wonders if Harry has any idea where they are, if they would be able to find their way back here again.

They fall into each other and Harry wraps his arms around her waist. She knows she’s stepping on his toe. She laughs and says, “Sorry,” and she finds her footing. They’re still smiling when they kiss. Harry’s tooth catches her lip, but before they have time to sort themselves out they have to spring apart because there’s the loud rumble of another car in the distance.

“Maybe we should head back,” Harry says as the car, still small in the distance, drives toward them.

They get into the car. Harry turns off the headlights and they wait in the dark for the car to pass.

“Maybe I should turn on the hazards,” Harry says as the car gets closer. It’s one thing to pretend like there’s no one else in the world when there’s genuinely no one around. There’s nothing fun about getting caught without security. Already there have been stories in the papers about her and Harry. She doesn’t know how people have found out.

“Then they might think there’s something wrong with the car. We don’t want them to pull over.”

“Right,” Harry says.

Taylor’s chest feels tight in the moment between the other car’s headlights flooding the car with light and the return of darkness as it passes.

She looks over at Harry, who’s still watching the other car drive away. He turns his head and they both start laughing. He reaches for her and she slides across the seat. They kiss over the armrests and the cup holders. Harry slides his hands down to her hips and tries to pull her closer. She bangs her knee on the dash. He tries to find a better angle and hits his head on the rearview mirror.

Taylor cups both his head with her hands and holds him in place to kiss him one last time before sitting back in her seat. She feels giddy, like they got away with something, but she’s also listening carefully for any hint that another car might be coming. Even now, when it’s just the two of them in the car, she doesn’t know how to articulate what they are. There’s no way she could explain it to the screaming paparazzi.

“Should I take you home?” Harry asks.

Taylor nods. He turns the car back on. This time, once they’re back on the highway and cruising along, Taylor takes his hand off the gearshift and holds it in her lap.

When he pulls into her driveway, Taylor asks, “Do you have somewhere you have to be?”

Harry shakes his head. “I’m just staying at the Westwood.”

“You want to come inside?”

She offers Harry a drink, but he says, “Just water, please.” Taylor puts another scoop of dry food into Olivia’s bowl. She’s hiding somewhere right now because Harry’s a stranger in her house. As far as Taylor can remember, Harry’s never been here before. Usually when they’re together, it’s in hotels.

“You want the tour?” Taylor says. She walks him around, saving the bedroom for last.

“Nice,” Harry says. She didn’t turn on the lights before she led him into the room so he can’t see much, but maybe that’s not what he means. She closes her eyes and waits for him to kiss her, which he does, almost immediately.

He pulls off her shirt, so she’s in just her bra and skirt. He flattens his palm to her stomach and slowly runs his hand up to cup her breast through her bra. He exhales and she can hear it, which makes her nipple pucker. She can’t feel much through the padding of her bra. She wants to take it off, but she thinks that guys like it better when she leaves it on. At least this way it looks like she has cleavage.

Harry leans closer, kisses her again, his tongue stroking into her mouth, hands roaming the bare expanse of her back.

He pulls back and rests his forehead against hers. This close, neither of them can look each other in the eye.

“Are you still with Conor?” he asks.

“You’re asking now.”

“Yeah,” Harry says. He makes no move to let go of her.

“Are you still with – I don’t know, insert name here,” Taylor says. “I’ve genuinely lost track.”

“I can’t stop thinking about you,” he says. He kisses her again, hard. His nose digs into her cheek, and the crush of his mouth makes her feel breathless.

“We broke up,” Taylor says when Harry finally pulls back. “Conor and I.” She wants to play it cool, but she doesn’t know how to be anything but herself: awkward and honest and always hoping for more.

“I didn’t hear anything about that,” Harry says.

“You keeping tabs on me?”

“Might have asked a few people,” Harry says. She doesn’t know who he would have asked. Not Ed, because he knew things were over with Conor. She imagines Harry asking his people instead of their mutual friends because maybe he wanted to keep it from getting back to her. And here he is telling her anyway. She doesn’t know what that means. Harry said he’d change his flight, but he didn’t say anything about what would come after that.

They fuck in the dark. Her window’s open and she can feel the breeze. She doesn’t come the first time, but Harry’s almost immediately ready for round two. She slips her hand between them and rubs herself off, tiny movements because there’s hardly any room between their bodies. She comes from the way he’s fucking her so deeply every time and the steady pressure of her hand on her clit.

In the morning, it almost feels like it didn’t happen. Harry’s tired and hurried. He has to call someone to get his stuff from the hotel and meet him, and the complication of arranging it all puts him in a bad mood. He says he’ll text her from the airport and leaves in a rush.

Taylor takes a shower and spends a long time letting the water rush over her face. She’s a little bit sore. She keeps thinking about what they did last night. She’s wet still, or again, or whatever, the slickness of her pussy different from the water. She gets herself off once in the shower and again in her bedroom, her wet towel tangled beneath her, hair dripping onto her pillow cases.

The bed smells a little like Harry. She grabs a set of clean sheets from the linen closet and leaves them out so that her housekeeper will know to change the bedding.

--

He doesn’t text until four days later. She’s mad, so she doesn’t reply right away, and then she gets busy and ends up actually forgetting to respond for another week. When she does reply, he’s faster to get back to her, and they start something of a conversation. Or as much of a conversation as possible when they’re in different time zones, with an ocean between them, and more things to do than there are hours in a day.

Harry sends her pictures of random things. Most of them are stupid, but she likes the one of his weird alien toes and saves it to her phone. They still haven’t talked about actually dating. She doesn’t know if he’s seeing other people. She releases a statement that she and Conor have broken up, goes out with friends and talks to other guys. It’s fun, but she doesn’t give anyone her number. She plays a lot of shows. People like the new album.

Days go by without Harry texting, and then he calls at four in the afternoon or two in the morning. He must have gotten one of his assistants to put a google alert on her, because he seems to know her schedule. Sometimes he asks her about things that haven’t actually happened. There are more stories about her and Harry in the papers.

Taylor tries not to, but she’s counting the days until she flies to London.

--

October 7

They’ve got reservations at Luton Hoo Hotel after the Radio One Teen Awards, but Harry’s assistant says that the paps are already there, so they go back to his place instead.

“It’s under renovation,” he warns as he unlocks the door. “I’m never here.”

The hardwood has been ripped out, so there’s just the concrete subfloor. Taylor leaves her shoes on and follows Harry into the house.

There are boxes everywhere, crates of tiles, stacks of lumber, a massive rectangle of quartz still covered in protective plastic wrapping. Harry weaves his way through the boxes, peering around until, “Ah,” he says, bending over. When he straightens again, he’s got a bottle of wine in each hand. “Found you.”

He starts to pass one of the bottles over to Taylor but freezes. “Do you need a glass?” he asks.

She shakes her head, takes the bottle from him and runs her thumb over the wax seal. “Just a corkscrew.”

“Right,” Harry says slowly, looking up at the ceiling. “I think that box is in my bedroom.” He wraps both hands around the bottom of the wine bottle, fingers overlapping. “Should I go get it?”

They’re both still wearing their coats and shoes, standing in the wreckage of Harry’s living room. They haven’t turned the lights on, so it’s just the glow from the foyer illuminating the darkness.

“I’ll come with you,” Taylor says, and follows him upstairs.

It was her second time singing at the Teen Awards, and she’d forgotten how loud it was. Her ears are still ringing and there’s a buzz under her skin that she can’t shake off. She was ready to go out with Harry and it’s disorienting to be in his house instead. They’ve spent so much time talking in the lead up to this that suddenly Taylor doesn’t know what to say. If they had gone to dinner, would it have been a date? If they stay at his house and no one ever finds out, does it still count?

She watches as Harry roots around for the corkscrew. His bedroom is in such disarray from the renovation that she can’t tell what it’s supposed to look like. She perches on the edge of the bed, but it’s not that comfortable, so she flops fully onto it instead.

“Where do you keep your clothes?”

“Second bedroom,” Harry says. He ducks his head to rub his shoulder against his cheek. “That’s proper diva, right?”

“Proper,” Taylor agrees, mimicking his accent.

“Like, totally,” Harry says in a flat American accent. “Listen, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.”

He climbs up on the bed beside her.

“The bad news is that I can’t find the opener.” He climbs forward until he’s half on top of her, one of his thighs sliding in between her legs. He props himself up with an elbow and says, “But the good news is that I got you in my bed.”

Taylor laughs even though she knows it’s making her mouth weird and that he wants to kiss her.

“Nicely done,” she says.

“Yeah?” Harry asks. It sounds like the word comes from the back of his throat. He nuzzles her cheek and waits until she tilts towards him before he kisses her. His mouth is wet. She’d thought about kissing him so many times but she still feels unprepared. Harry’s hand is large on her waist. It takes Taylor longer than it should to realize that he’s trying to take off her shirt.

The weight of the day suddenly seems heavy. She’s been awake for almost 24 hours straight. Her eyes are dry, skin tight from scrubbing but still a little tacky with stage make up. Harry’s place is unfamiliar, and it doesn’t feel like a joke when he says it might be haunted.

“You first,” Taylor says, plucking at Harry’s shirt. He strips quickly. She doesn’t understand how boys can get naked so fast. It’s like she blinked and all of his clothes had fallen off. He kisses her again, pushes her shirt up her stomach and traces his fingers across her ribcage.

“Just a sec,” she says, squirming away from Harry’s roaming mouth. The skin exposed from her rucked up shirt feels cold already.

“Can we get under the blankets?” Taylor asks.

Harry says, “Yeah,” and immediately scoops up the duvet, pulling it over his shoulders and bringing it down over her as he covers her body with his own. It’s warm immediately, and Taylor squirms with the sudden relief of it. Harry’s naked and she can feel the bare skin of his sides between her thighs, her calves hitched up to rest on his lower back. His skin is hot and unbelievably smooth compared to the texture of his flannel sheets. Taylor keeps moving, rubbing against him, soaking in all his warmth. She wraps her arms around his shoulders and hugs him until they’re chest to chest.

“Better?” Harry asks, curving into her. He’s pliant as she shifts them around, lets her warm her fingers on the naked plane of his back. She can feel him starting to get hard again, the press of his cock into the bare skin of her thigh. She’s wearing her skirt and her underwear but she’s still aware that there’s no condom between them, and she shies away a little.

Harry notices immediately, lifts himself up enough that he can look at her face.

“It’s okay,” she says, before he can move away entirely. “Just, like. Get a condom, okay?”

“How about after?” he asks.

She opens her mouth to protest but pauses when she can feel his fingers sliding up her thigh to the edge of her panties. Harry pulls away, but only so he can kiss his way down her neck, sliding his tongue along the line of her collarbone, pressing a kiss between her breasts, down her navel, his chin butting up against the hem of her skirt. He’s taken the duvet down with him, but she’s no longer cold.

“Can I?” he asks, both hands under her skirt now.

She nods a little, and he pulls her underwear off. She has to lift her legs so that he can get them past her feet, and in the meantime she presses her thighs together. Once she’s free, he rubs his thumb over her kneecap and looks up at her. She knows she’s meant to open her legs so that he can fit in between them again, but she hesitates. Even though she’s still wearing her skirt and bra, she feels naked, naked, naked. She’s wet enough that her thighs feel sticky, and Harry’s going to be able to smell it.

Harry’s hands slide up her thighs, rubbing at her skin. He looks up at her, says, “I want to put my mouth on you,” and lets his fingers dig into the skin just below her hips, massaging. He kisses her one knee, the other one. She lets her legs fall open slowly, his hands bracketing her outer thighs, and he carefully crawls his way up, letting his cheek graze her skin before he finally settles between her thighs. Even Taylor can smell how wet she is, and she expects Harry to hesitate, but he pushes his whole face against her, licking with a broad tongue.

It’s obviously not the first time a guy has gone down on her, but it’s not like it’s happened very often. She knows exactly how many people she’s had sex with, and she could probably even count how many times she’s had sex, if she had a calendar and her journal for reference. She’s not a teenager and she’s ready to have sex like an adult, but there’s still this stupid shy part of her that genuinely thought she was going to wait until she was married to lose her virginity.

The first touch of his tongue is a shock all the way to her core, and the intensity never lets up. He pushes his tongue into her pussy, burying his face until she can feel his chin and the tip of his nose. His face is going to be so wet. She can’t stop thinking about it, but he doesn’t seem to care, just pushes his tongue as deep as he can, fucking her slowly until the tease is so much that she almost reaches down to rub at her clit. She rocks her hips up, twists until finally he gets the hint and licks his way up to her clit.

He licks so hard that it’s almost too much. Her hand flies down to twist in his hair, but it never crosses over, and she finds herself scratching gently at his scalp instead, trying to encourage him. She wants him to go a little faster, but he keeps going with broad strokes of his tongue, this gradual build that feels like it’s coming from a deep-down place.

“Can you,” Taylor says, cutting herself off before the words twist into a moan. “With your. Finger. Inside.”

Harry makes a muffled sound, rebalances on one elbow, and slides his other hand between her legs. It’s a tight fit because she’s squeezing her thighs around his head, but she can’t make herself ease them open, her fingers twisted in his hair, hand firm on the back of his head, holding him close even though he’s obviously not trying to get away.

He pushes his finger inside her, and it slides in really fast because of how wet she is. One finger burns a little, even as she clenches down on it, trying to rock it deeper like already it’s not quite enough. Harry nudges at her with another finger, and she whimpers, “Yes,” her foot kicking out reflexively when he pushes it inside.

It feels really good to be able to bear down on his fingers. She rocks against him, into his tongue, onto his fingers. Her orgasm comes on so, so slowly. She doesn’t know when it actually starts and it just goes on and on. She holds her breath and shakes, her foot jerking. Harry stays there while she rides out every terrible, perfect wave of it and only pulls away when she finally squeaks.

He wipes his face on the sheets before crawling back up and then he lies half on top of her, wrapping his arm around her waist. It takes a tremendous effort to lift her hand to rest it on his shoulders.

“I think I died,” Taylor says.

Harry kisses at her collarbone, loud and sloppy like mwah.

“Now you want to get a condom?” Taylor asks. She feels her whole body shiver again, and giggles.

The light is still on. When Harry stands, Taylor thinks to ask him to turn it off, but she doesn’t. She watches him roll the condom on, looks at the curls sticking to the side of his neck when he first pushes inside. She was quiet before but she’s loud now, groaning each time Harry fucks her. It’s a different kind of pleasure from when he was going down on her. He lifts himself up so that he can look down at her. Taylor moans again. She wants to hide her face but she looks up at him instead, feels the way their bodies move together. The only time he closes his eyes is when he ducks down to kiss her while he comes, his mouth going slack as he groans through it.

Taylor finds the corkscrew in his bathroom, in a mug holding three toothbrushes and a disposable razor.

They share a bottle of wine, lying in bed. Harry’s sprawled naked and Taylor’s made a nest for herself out of the blankets.

“Do you think anyone knows we’re here?” Taylor asks.

“Like–”

“Like are they waiting outside with cameras?”

“I don’t think so,” Harry says. “Not right outside.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?” Taylor asks.

Harry lifts his head, grins at her and says, “You.”

“No, really.”

“Really, really,” Harry says. “How long can you stay for?”

“I’ve got a couple of things tomorrow.”

“But then you could come back.” Harry crawls forward, flattening the blankets that were partially hiding her face with his forearm. He curls up beside her and butts at her shoulder with his forehead until she takes the hint and wraps her arm around him, spooning up behind him.

“Come back?”

He twists around to look up at her. “Let’s do this for real,” he says. “I want to.”

He almost looks like he believes what he’s saying. He almost looked like he meant it the first time ‘round, too.

“Yeah,” she says and then shrieks when Harry flops over suddenly, crushing her blanket nest. “Oh my god,” she says, laughing, “the wine, you’re going to spill the wine.”

“Humph,” Harry grumbles, grabbing the bottle with one hand so he can cup her head with the other, his fingers sliding through her hair.

--

March

The first time Harry asked her out, she’d still been in full stage makeup after the Kid’s Choice Awards. One of her eyelashes was coming unglued, and she had to be careful when she blinked because she still needed to do another round in front of the cameras.

“We should, like, grab dinner sometime,” Harry had said. “I think it would be fun.”

“And why’s that?” she asked. She’d seen him watching her legs all night.

“You’re really smart,” he said, and it was so unexpected that she felt her breath catch. “You’re, like. You’re really good at this.” He nodded in the direction of the stage she’d just walked off of.

They were in a hallway between the changing rooms and the press gallery, but that wasn’t the same as being hidden. Taylor knew she had to touch base with her publicist before giving final interviews, and it was just a matter of time before someone shepherded Harry away as well. People kept walking by.

Even through the walls, Taylor could hear the roar of the crowds.