Harry didn’t really like going places where he didn’t know anyone, though it had been happening almost constantly since he had moved to London two months earlier. It made him anxious and uncomfortable.
It hadn’t ever really been a problem at home. He had his family—his sister Gemma was his best friend—and his friends and schoolmates he’d known since primary school. Holmes Chapel was a sweet little village where everyone knew everyone. Harry supposed the town felt even smaller for his family than it did for others because his mother and step-father owned the village’s only pub, The Purple Hare, which they’d lived above since Harry was ten. And Harry had started working at the village bakery when he was sixteen. He often saw people to whom he’d sold a bun and coffee that morning as they’d bustled off to work or the grocery at the pub for dinner and a pint later that night.
It wasn’t very common that he ever went anywhere where he didn’t know at least one or two people.
But London was completely different. He’d only become acquainted with a handful of people since he’d moved to the city and nearly all but the girl who owned the cafe around the corner from his flat were work acquaintances. He’d never really realised how difficult it was to make friends with people you hadn’t known very nearly your whole life.
Harry took a deep breath and finally pushed open the door of the restaurant he’d been standing in front of for about ten minutes.
The large dining room was filled with people. Couples sat at secluded tables and large groups were seated around big tables, waiters and waiter’s assistants filling water glasses and placing plates of food in front of diners.
“Hello,” came a voice from Harry’s right. He turned to look and saw a young woman about his age walking toward him. “Looking for someone or waiting?” she asked with a pleasant smile.
“Oh, um”—Harry furrowed his brow—“um, no. Neither.”
“Would you like a seat at the bar?”
“Oh. I’m here,” said Harry, shaking his head and suddenly feeling quite silly and very out-of-place. “No. There’s probably a different entrance,” he mumbled.
“I’m sorry?” asked the hostess politely.
“I’m here for the, um, for the Topman launch party?” he said, more a question than a statement. He hoped he’d not come to the wrong place.
“Oh!” said the hostess, understanding dawning on her. “There is a different entrance for the private dining room but I can bring you there.”
“Please,” said Harry, feeling a bit relieved that he wasn’t in the wrong place.
She picked up an iPad and tapped the screen a few times before looking up at Harry. “Your name?” she asked.
“Harry- Harry Styles.”
“Brilliant.” She smiled at him again. “Right this way, Mr Styles.”
Harry followed her through the restaurant’s main dining room to a set of sliding doors. “Here you are, Mr Styles,” she said as she pushed one door open and gestured him through. “Enjoy!”
“Thank you,” he said, a fresh wave of anxiety washing over him and for one brief moment, he wanted to ask her to stay with him. She looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to enter the private room, and he gave her a small half-smile before stepping through the door.
Harry looked around the room. He saw several faces he recognised—Antony Price, designer and stylist to nearly all of the great rock stars of the 1970s and 1980s, stood by the bar talking to a man Harry didn’t know and Nick Grimshaw, the man of the hour, sat at a table laughing with Fiona Hanlon—but hoped to find the one person he actually knew.
A waitress carrying a tray half-filled with flutes of Champagne approached him. “Champagne?” she asked.
“Oh, yes,” said Harry. He took a glass from the tray and smiled a weak smile. “Thank you.”
She nodded and walked away, leaving Harry with a glass of the rose gold wine. He took a sip, glad to at least have something to do with his hands other than twist the rings on his fingers nervously.
“Harry, lad!” called a familiar voice. Harry looked around and saw Simon, his manager and the reason he was at this posh party, walking toward him. “So glad you came.”
“Thank you for inviting me,” said Harry, always mindful of his manners.
“Well, you are the face of the new collection. Of course you’d be invited,” said Simon with a grin. “Have you met Nick yet?”
“Um, no,” Harry told him, shaking his head. “Not- not yet.”
“Come on, then,” said Simon, placing a hand on Harry’s back. Harry nodded and allowed Simon to lead him toward the table where Nick was still sitting with Fiona.
Harry had developed a crush on Nick Grimshaw when the older lad was presenting Sound and it had only intensified when Nick started hosting The Radio 1 Breakfast Show . Nick had been the soundtrack of Harry’s mornings for the last two and a half years; he’d listened to the show every morning while he got the bakery ready to open—putting pastries in the displays, brewing coffee, and setting up the coffee and tea station with milk and cream and sugar—and all through the morning rush. To say he was nervous to meet Nick was an understatement.
“Nick, I’ve brought you someone to meet,” said Simon once they were standing beside Nick’s table. Nick looked up and Harry swallowed nervously. “Nick, this is Harry Styles, the model for your line. Harry, Nick Grimshaw.”
Nick eyed Harry appreciatively and bit his lip. “Top choice,” he said. Fiona swatted his shoulder lightly and Harry blushed. “Come sit with me, Harry. We should get to know each other.”
“Oh, yes. Um. All right.” He took a seat in the chair Nick pushed out. “Thank you.”
“I’d better get back to Louis,” Simon told Harry and he nodded, not wanting to let on that he had no idea who Louis was because, from the way Simon had said it, it seemed that he should know who Louis was. “Hope the lad hasn’t skived off on me.”
“You know, I think I’ll get a drink,” said Fiona with a smile. “Let you two get to know each other.” She stood from the table and walked toward the bar.
“Who’s Louis?” asked Harry.
“Haven’t you met him?”
Harry shook his head. “No. I don’t know anyone here except Simon.”
“And me,” said Nick, reaching out to tap his Champagne flute against Harry’s.
“Yeah,” agreed Harry, taking a sip of his wine. “And you.”
“Louis’s the photographer for the campaign,” Nick finally answered. “Reckon you’ll meet him on Monday. That’s when you start shooting, yeah?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah.”
“Looking forward to it?”
“Yes,” Harry told him, nodding. “Bit nervous too. This is- It’s my first job.”
“Is it?” asked Nick.
“Yes.” Harry grimaced and hoped Nick wouldn’t search out Simon and demand a model with some experience. “I just moved to London in April.”
“Well, congratulations, love!” said Nick cheerfully. “This calls for another glass of Champagne, I think.”
“Okay,” said Harry, fingers of his right hand twisting the rings on the fingers of his left hand. Another glass of wine might help to lessen his nerves, he reasoned. “Yeah, that would be nice.”
“Wait here,” said Nick. “I’ll be right back.”
A few minutes later, Nick returned to the table with two fresh glasses of Champagne. “Here you are, love,” he said, handing Harry one of the flutes.
“You’re welcome.” Nick took his seat again and looked at Harry. “Now, tell me about yourself, Harry Styles.”
“Oh,” said Harry, blinking at the older man. “Um, well, my name’s Harry Styles. Obviously. You just said it.” He blushed and took a sip of his wine, missing Nick’s smirk. “I’m twenty-one and I’m from Holmes Chapel in Cheshire. I, um, I moved to London in April so I could try to be a model but I used to be a baker.”
“A baker?” wondered Nick, eyebrows raising in slight amusement.
“Well, I mostly worked the till but, you know”—Harry blushed again because that sounded far less interesting than actually being a baker—“I helped in the bakery too. With the pastries and, like, biscuits.”
“You are just too lovely,” said Nick.
It didn’t take much more than another glass of Champagne before Harry’s head was swimmy, the alcohol freeing him from his lingering nerves.
“I listen to your show every morning,” said Harry with a small smile on his plump lips.
“Do you,” said Nick, statement more than question.
“Yes.” Harry nodded. “I was so excited when I got this job.” He leant forward and said quietly, “You were my first crush, you know. Except Tommy Whitten, but he’s straight.”
Nick’s eyebrows rose, lips parting slightly in surprise at Harry’s confession. “Was I?”
Harry nodded again, lips quirking up into a grin. “Yup.”
“All right, lads,” came a voice from behind them. Harry turned to see who was talking and found a lad who looked to be around his age, maybe a couple years older, with blue eyes and brown hair slicked up into a quiff—he looked like how Peter Pan should look, Harry thought, if Peter Pan were a real person who had aged to his mid-twenties—and a large camera around his neck. “I’ve been sent to take some pictures before I’m allowed to leave. Got places to be and that so let’s get a move on.”
“Oh, Tomlinson,” said Nick, voice a bit clipped in a way Harry had never heard it before. He stood up. “It’s a pleasure to see you.”
“Mm,” grunted the brunette, lips pressed together in a thin line. He fiddled with the camera that hung from the strap on his neck. “Right. Let’s go, lads.”
Harry stood, feeling a bit anxious and maybe a little tipsy.
“Shall we stand in front of the pictures?” asked Nick, gesturing toward a wall covered in framed photos of himself wearing pieces from his collection.
“Oh, yes. By all means,” said the photographer with a sugary voice that did the opposite of covering his obvious dislike for Nick—Harry suspected it was intentional and deliberate—and waved them toward the wall of photographs. “Grimmy knows best.”
Harry followed Nick to their assigned spot and stood next to the older man. The photographer gave a bit of direction, snapping pictures of the model and the designer in a few poses before taking individual shots of Nick and then Harry.
“You can relax, love. It’s all right,” said the photographer, giving Harry a gentle smile, his voice much kinder and softer now that Nick had drifted off to talk with Pixie Geldof. “I don’t bite.”
Harry let out a nervous laugh, his smile and posture becoming much less stiff. “There’s a good lad!” The photographer grinned at Harry. “Now I’ll just take two more shots. I wasn’t lying ‘bout having places to be. Just getting Simon off me back before I skive off.”
“Oh,” said Harry, unsure what else to say.
The camera clicked twice more and then the photographer—Tomlinson, Nick had said, though Harry was sure Tomlinson was his surname—turned off the camera and said to Harry, “You’ll be great on Monday!” With a wave, he spun on his Vans-clad feet and walked quickly toward the door.
“As much as it pains me to agree with him,” said Nick as he returned to Harry’s side, “he’s right. You’ll be great.”
Harry smiled, embarrassed and a little pleased by the compliment. “Thanks.”
“What do you say? One more drink before this party’s over?”
As Harry finished his last glass of Champagne, feeling a little drunk because it really didn’t take much to get him tipsy, Nick leant toward Harry. Voice low, he said, “Why don’t we exchange numbers? Next time you’re feeling lonely, you can ring me and we can hang out.”
Harry nodded because he really hadn’t made any friends in London and it would be nice to have someone to spend some time with rather than sitting in his flat with his cat Butterscotch watching The Great British Bake Off .
An hour later, Harry stepped onto the train headed back to Sutton. Harry hadn’t told Nick that his flat was in Sutton; he liked the town—The Rolling Stones had played some of their first gigs in the pub just down the street from Harry’s flat and that was enough for him—but the Borough of Sutton certainly wasn’t as posh as Kensington and Chelsea.
When the train arrived at Sutton Common Station, Harry alighted the train and began his short walk to his flat on High Street. He was looking forward to Monday, though he hadn’t been kidding when he told Nick he was also a bit nervous.
He wasn’t sure how he’d landed the job—he didn’t even really know how he’d been signed to Syco Models—since he’d only gone to Simon with a handful of headshots and no modelling experience.
He had though, and he was determined to do his best. His mum had been so proud and excited when he’d called to tell her he’d got a job. His step-father Robin had asked why “the guy from Radio 1” had his own clothing line, sounding rather confused, and his sister Gemma had teased him a bit because she knew he had a crush on Nick Grimshaw.
The next two days passed slowly, a lonely weekend spent watching New Girl and The Great British Bake Off —he offered the contestants advice and tips he’d picked up while working at W Mandeville—while he curled up on his sofa with Butterscotch.
By Sunday afternoon, Harry felt he was nearly suffocating under the strength of his nerves. He decided to head to the tearoom down the street. It was a cheeky little place called Black Treacle that he liked for its delicious fresh-baked pastries and sandwiches and quirky Afternoon Tea—mismatched china and a tea tray filled with things like “ f*ck!ng awesome sweet potato-lime cake ” and “ bloody delicious curried chicken cream puffs ”—and the petite tattooed girl who had welcomed him to the neighbourhood when she’d learnt he’d just moved there.
“Hiya, Harry!” she greeted him as he walked to the counter to order.
“Hi, Elora,” said Harry, giving the girl a little smile and wave. “How are you?”
“All right. How about you?”
“I’m okay, thanks. Could I please have- I’ll have a pot of chamomile tea, please?” he said, almost a question because he didn’t like to sound pushy.
“Not Earl Grey today?” she asked as she turned to fill a teapot with chamomile tea.
“No. I’ve got a nervy tummy,” he told her.
“Ya all right?” She turned back to him, eyebrows knit and a bit of concern on her face.
“Yeah, just nervous for tomorrow.”
Elora poured hot water over the tea and put the lid on. “What’s tomorrow?”
“It’s my first day of work,” Harry answered.
“Anything else?” she asked as she turned to Harry. “Just pulled some oat bread from the oven. Could make ya a sandwich?”
“Might not be good for my stomach.” Harry winced; he was hungry but his nerves really were getting the better of him.
“I’ve got a lavender goat cheese and ricotta spread. Do it up with a pour of bell heather honey.” She gave him a gentle smile, caring and kind, and Harry nodded. “Good lad. It’ll go nice with your tea.”
“Thanks,” said Harry sincerely because even though Elora was only maybe five or six years older than him, it felt nice to have someone like a mother looking out for him.
Elora sent Harry to sit at a table and appeared a few minutes later with his pot of tea and a plate stacked with toasted oat bread smeared with ricotta and goat cheese and drizzled with honey.
“So where are ya working?” she asked, pulling out the chair opposite Harry and sitting down.
“Topman,” said Harry.
“Just down the road?”
“Oh,” said Harry, shaking his head. “No. On Goswell Road. In Islington. I’m, um, I’m modelling.”
“That makes sense,” she said, unfazed, taking a bite of toast. “Is it your first model job?”
“Yes,” Harry told her. “It’s my first photoshoot, except my headshots.”
“You’ll be great,” she assured him with a smile. “Come by after so I can hear how it goes, yeah?” Harry nodded and she added, “There’s a good lad. Now drink your tea before it goes all cold.”
Toasts finished and teapot empty, Harry paid Elora and left the tearoom. He decided to go for a walk down High Street, passing The Winning Post—Harry wondered if the pub had looked the same when the Stones had played their first gigs there—and then Topman.
It was funny, he thought as he looked in the large windows of the shop, how the world worked; he’d saved money while he worked at the bakery so he could buy Topman clothes and he’d listened to Nick Grimshaw every morning and now he would be modelling Nick’s clothing line for Topman.
He made his way back up High Street and to his flat, making some more tea and settling himself in with Butterscotch to watch a few more episodes of New Girl before he went to bed. It seemed like an early night would be a good idea; he didn’t want to have dark puffy circles under his eyes the next day, though he supposed the makeup artist would be able to fix that.
Harry woke up bright and early the next morning, nerves rolling and bubbling in his stomach like a boiling pot. He showered and dressed, brushing his hair to make sure it wasn’t a tangled mess, and got ready to make the short walk to the bus stop. He liked Sutton but it could be a bit of a nuisance when he needed to travel into London’s more urban areas; the trip to Goswell Road would take a little over an hour from Sutton’s High Street.
After a short bus ride to Morden and a slightly longer ride on the Northern Line to Angel, Harry emerged from the Underground and made the walk to the neat, square brick building on the corner of Goswell and Percival. He made his way into the building and to the fourth floor, where he found a door with a sign that read “Guys & Dolls Studio” and a smaller sign underneath that said “Topman Photoshoot.” He knocked, unsure if he should just enter, and then, feeling a bit silly that he’d knocked because maybe he should have just walked right in, he pushed the door open and entered.
“Hi, Harry!” said a woman with long silvery-blond hair and bright red lips.
“Hi,” said Harry. He didn’t think he’d ever met this lady but he didn’t want to be rude.
“I’m Lou,” she said, reaching out to shake his hand. “Your makeup artist.” She seemed to notice the slight shake in Harry’s hand because she gave him a comforting smile and said, “It’s your first shoot, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” Harry nodded and added timidly, “Don’t even know how I got the job, to be honest.”
“Because you look like a proper gorgeous model!” She smiled again and waved him to follow her behind a dividing screen. “Now come on, I’ll make you some tea and we’ll get started on your makeup. Louis’s not here yet.”
“Louis’s… the photographer, right?” asked Harry, following Lou to a tall swivel chair next to a table filled with makeup and hair products.
“Yeah. You’ll probably work with him a lot and you’ll learn quickly that he’s always late but you’d better not be because you’ll feel every ounce of his sass.”
“Okay,” said Harry. He made a mental note—don’t be late, not that he ever was—and asked, “Does he photograph for Topman a lot?”
“He photographs for everyone a lot,” answered Lou. “Been doing this since he was eighteen. Pretty talented photog—”
“Just pretty talented, am I?” came a voice that Harry recognised. “Bloody brilliant, I’d say. Award-winning even.”
Harry turned to look at the man behind him and was surprised to see the young photographer from the launch party.
“Also cocky and arrogant as hell,” said Lou, a teasing note in her voice.
“That too,” agreed Louis with a grin. “G’mornin’, Harry. Good to see ya again.” He walked forward and held a hand out for Harry to shake.
“Yes,” said Harry, shaking Louis’ hand. “I didn’t know you were Louis.”
“Didn’t introduce m’self proper, did I?” he mused with a hint of amusement at his realisation. “I’m Louis Tomlinson.” He moved to a chair near where Harry sat and watched as Lou began her work. “Had a date I was running late to. I didn’t even really want to go to the party but Simon practically forced me. Said something like, ‘Louis, you’re the photographer for this campaign, you’ve got to be there.’” He rolled his eyes to show what he thought of Simon’s insistence he attend the launch. “Blah blah blah.”
Soon Harry’s makeup was finished and his hair was styled—“Doesn’t take much, does it?” said Lou as she smoothed hair mousse though Harry’s long brown waves—and the fashion stylist had dressed him in the first of the outfits he was to model.
“Right,” said Louis when Harry moved into the main section of the studio wearing black skinny jeans with holes ripped in the knees and an oversized black jumper with two cream-coloured stripes around the chest and arms. “We’re just starting with the pictures for the website. Be a bit boring, I’m afraid. Straightforward and that. Just you quite literally modelling the clothes.”
“Okay,” said Harry, moving to stand at the large X formed with black electrical tape on the floor. “So I’m just, like, standing?”
“Yeah,” said Louis. “Hands by your sides, head to the… let’s go right.” Harry did as instructed, hands hanging by his sides and his head turned to the right. “You don’t have to be so stiff, love. Relax, yeah?”
Harry nodded and shook his arms, trying to shake away his remaining nerves.
“God, your posture is terrible!” exclaimed Louis with a laugh an hour and a half later. They were photographing the fourth outfit, the same skinny jeans—Harry had learnt they weren’t even part of the collection because the collection was just jumpers, jackets, shirts, and accessories—and a black shirt covered with what looked like white paint splatters. “You’re, like, casting a shadow on yourself with your shoulders.”
“Sorry,” Harry apologised, standing up straighter and lifting his shoulders up and back.
“Don’t be sorry! Just”—Louis gestured for Harry to move to the left a bit and face him—“relax. And stand straight. I’ve got to photograph the front of this God awful shirt so people know exactly what they’re buying and don’t get a nasty surprise when it arrives in the post.”
“‘God awful,’ you think, Tomlinson?” Nick stepped around the off-white backdrop that Louis had positioned Harry in front of and eyed the shorter lad from head to toe and back up. “I shouldn’t take it to heart, I suppose.” He sighed. “Trackie bottoms tucked in socks.” He sighed. “Where’s Alex Turner when you need him. Though you’ve not got classic Reeboks or Converse.”
“What are you doing here?” asked Louis, voice showing his irritation at the older lad’s presence.
“Thought I’d stop by my photoshoot and see how Harry’s doing.”
Louis swiveled around so fast Harry was surprised he didn’t fall over. “Your photoshoot? It’s not your photoshoot, you fucking wanker. It’s my photoshoot.”
“It’s my collection,” said Nick, sounding as though he felt that ended the discussion.
“Oh, yes,” said Louis, voice dripping with cold sarcasm. Harry watched, wide-eyed from where he still stood on the taped X. “I forgot. You worked with a team of real fashion designers to design a dozen ugly shirts and jumpers and now you’re King of the Fashion World.” He turned back around and looked at Harry. “Right, lad, a few more shots in this and then I’ll send you off for lunch, yeah?”
“Okay.” Harry got back into position in front of the backdrop.
“Don’t you think the off-white backdrop is a little bland?” asked Nick, though it didn’t sound much like a question. “It’s really not doing it for—”
“I don’t care if it’s doing it for you, Grimshaw,” spit Louis, spinning back around, fingers white around the sides of his camera. “These photos are for the product views on the Topman website and it’s how every item on their site is presented. I don’t care if it’s ‘a little bland.’ Your collection”—Louis made air quotation marks around the word collection as if to emphasise exactly how pretentious he thought Nick sounded—“isn’t going to get special treatment or whatever the fuck you think it deserves. At the end of the day, it’s just more clothes for Topman.” He turned around and looked at Harry. “Two more, love.”
Ten minutes later, Harry switched the Topman shirt he’d been modelling for his own Topman shirt and grabbed his wallet from where he’d left it on Lou’s makeup counter.
“You ready for lunch, love?” asked Nick when Harry reemerged from behind the dividing screen. “There’s a coffee shop just down the street.”
Harry followed Nick to the cafe where they ate a simple lunch of sandwiches and coffee. Nick insisted he treat Harry—“A congrats for your first day as a model, love!”—and, a shy smile on his lips and a blush staining his cheeks, Harry let him.
They returned to the studio half an hour later.
“Okay, lad,” said Louis when they walked through the door, ignoring Nick. He stood from where he was crouched on the floor, surrounded by cameras, a bag of crisps, and a cup of milky tea. “Let Lou touch up your makeup and Other Harry’s around somewhere. He’ll sort you out with the next outfit.”
Harry thanked Louis, always polite, and walked behind the dividing screen to the dressing room with Nick close behind.
Lou settled him in her chair, making quick work of the little touch-ups that needed to be done, and then he went off to the stylist—the other Harry—for his next outfit.
“We’re doing the fringe jacket next?” asked Nick as Harry slipped his arms into the sleeves of a black velvet jacket with fringe across the chest and down the arms. “Thought maybe we could do the leopard print.”
“‘We’re’ not doing anything, mate,” came Louis’ irritated voice from the other side of the screen. “You’re not part of this photoshoot, in case you’ve forgot.”
“It’s my collection.”
“Don’t fucking say that again,” said Louis, walking around the screen and glaring at the man. “Sod off, Grimshaw. If you knew a tenth of how much you think you know about all of this”—Louis waved his arms around to indicate the studio filled with lights and backdrops and crew members—“you’d know that Lambert and I spent hours with my lighting crew deciding what order we’d shoot so we could figure out lighting setup and triggers and how natural light throughout the day would affect our lighting.”
“That’s why we’ve got this,” said Harry Lambert, looking annoyed, though not as annoyed as Louis. He handed Nick a paper that had a list of the items Harry was modelling accompanied by a rough timeline.
“All right, Harry?” said Louis, looking at the model. “We’ve got an ugly crushed velvet jacket to photograph.”
“Okay.” Harry went with Louis into the studio, moving again to his assigned X on the floor. Nick followed them out, moving behind Louis to watch.
“If you’re staying,” said Louis, lifting his camera and fiddling with the zoom, “don’t make any noise. And don’t fucking say that it’s your collection.”
After several shots, Louis looked through the photos and decided he’d got enough good ones to move on. “Off for your next, yeah?” he said to Harry. “Only five left for the day, should be easy.” He gave the model an encouraging smile; days spent photographing for product views always felt longer and more tedious than days doing the more creative shoots.
“I’ll leave you to it then,” said Nick, stepping toward Harry as the model moved to go to the dressing room. “You’re doing brilliantly. Absolutely gorgeous.” He leant forward and kissed Harry’s cheek. Harry blushed and Nick smirked. “Call me later, babe. I’ll take you out for drinks to celebrate.”
“Oh, um, okay,” said Harry, a little surprised. “I’ve got, um, I’ve got to go change. Okay?”
“Go on, love.”
“Yes, please,” sighed Louis, sounding exasperated and rolling his eyes. “Goodbye, Nick.”
“Bye, love,” said Nick to Harry. “I’ll see you later.”
“Bye, Nick.” Harry smiled a shy smile and turned to the dressing room. He gave a little wave over his shoulder before disappearing behind the screen.
“Right,” said Louis to Nick. “You can leave now.”
Two hours later, Harry sat in the makeup chair. He took a sip from his bottle of water and looked at Lou.
“Why do Louis and Nick- Why don’t they like each other?” Harry asked the woman.
“Ah, there was some stupid thing at London Fashion Week a few years ago that started it,” she told him. “Just after Louis started in fashion photography. Nick didn’t have VIP access to the Burberry show and Louis did and Nick was annoyed. So he vague Tweeted some shite about the Burberry campaign Louis worked on and there was a stupid Twitter fued.”
“Why would Nick be annoyed that Louis had VIP access? I mean”—Harry’s brow wrinkled in confusion—“I like Nick. I think. But Louis’s a fashion photographer? And Nick’s a radio show host? Not—”
“Exactly,” said Lou. “Louis’s been in the fashion world since he was eighteen. Ever since Nick got this line with Topman and they brought Louis on as the campaign photographer, Nick’s been trying to tell Louis how to do his job.”
“You mean,” said Louis from where he stood behind the two, “Nick’s been pissing me off ever since he pushed himself at Gordon enough that he finally agreed to put that twat’s stupid doodles on oversized jumpers. Like he was the first person to wear a baggy jumper.”
They finished shooting for the day and Louis sent Harry home with the promise that the next day shouldn’t be as long—they only had eight things left and three were accessories—and a genuine congratulations on his first day.
A bit tired from his twelve hour day, Harry collapsed into a seat on the tube; he was ready for a bubble bath—maybe he’d thrown in his Think Pink bath bomb and soak in the lavender and vanilla-scented water—and a good cuddle with Butterscotch.
Back in Sutton, Harry remembered that he’d told Elora he would stop by the tearoom after the shoot to tell her how it had gone. It was nearly nine o’clock, though, and the tearoom had closed hours earlier. He decided he’d stop the next morning on his way to the bus for a cup of tea and a pastry and would talk to his friend then.
Just as he unlocked the door to his flat, he heard his phone ding. He pulled it from his pocket and found a text from Nick. You never called :(
No , Harry texted back. I forgot I’m sorry! It was a long day and i’m just thinking about a nice bath and my bed!
I understand , responded Nick. I would have liked a phone call or a text at least!
I’m sorry , apologised Harry again. He’d really not meant to upset Nick at all; when Louis had told him they were done for the day, his mind had immediately gone to a nice, hot bath and his comfortable bed.
I was looking forward to seeing your pretty face tonight but it’s ok, babe , read Nick’s next message. Get a good night’s sleep and good luck tomorrow!
Harry blushed; Nick had wanted to see him. And he’d called Harry pretty.
He walked into his flat and kicked off his boots just inside the door. Butterscotch greeted him, walking around his legs and rubbing up against his right shin.
“Hi, B,” he said to the cat. He moved to his kitchen and poured himself a small glass of Viognier—it was his new favourite white wine because it tasted like peaches and honeysuckle—and headed to the bathroom to run himself a bath.
They were starting a bit later the next morning, for which Harry was grateful because he didn’t really want to wake up at six o’clock. He would have time to stop by Black Treacle and tell Elora about his first day. He settled into the bathtub and sipped his wine.
He still couldn’t believe that Nick Grimshaw thought he was pretty.
Harry woke up at half past seven, excited for the day. He was looking forward to his second day working with Louis, Lou, and Harry and was eager to see Elora. He also hoped that Nick would stop by the shoot again, only maybe just to take him to lunch because he didn’t really like either Nick or Louis when they were around each other though he liked them both individually.
He left his flat an hour later and walked the short distance to Black Treacle. He was greeted by Elora, who looked busy behind the counter with the other barista; he imagined the baker was busy too, rushing around the bakeshop taking muffins out of the oven and glazing scones with milk and sugar to put in to bake.
He ordered a cup of tea and a strawberries-and-cream scone and sat at the coffee bar while he waited for Elora to finish with the line of customers.
“Hi, lad!” she said a few minutes later as the last of the morning’s rush left the cafe or settled at tables to eat and read the morning newspaper. She picked up her own cup of tea—a pale pink mug with the words “Treat People With Kindness” written on it in—and walked toward where Harry sat. “How’d it go yesterday?”
Harry smiled. “It was good. Long, but good. We didn’t finish until nearly eight o’clock.”
“Wow,” said Elora. “No wonder you didn’t stop by!”
“We did ten of the pieces for the- for the collection,” Harry told her. “And we’ve got eight left but Louis—Louis’s the photographer—Louis said it shouldn’t be as late today.”
“And Nick Grimshaw stopped by the studio,” said Harry. He noticed Elora’s surprise and rushed to explain. “It’s- Nick designed the collection. So he- he stopped to see. And then he took me out to lunch.”
“Oh, how cool!” exclaimed Elora, Harry’s little blush not missed by her. “What’s he like?”
“He’s nice. Well, to me,” said Harry. “He and the photographer don’t really get on at all.”
Harry and Elora talked until he had to leave to catch his bus to Morden, walking to the bus stop in the drizzly grey damp of the day.
He arrived at the studio about an hour later and was greeted again by Lou. She got to work on his makeup and decided to put his hair up in a bun. “It’s a proper mess from the rain,” she said as she wound a hair tie around a neatly twisted bun. “Don’t you have an umbrella?”
Louis arrived just as Harry Lambert was setting out the first outfit for the day.
“Started fucking pouring as soon as I left the tube!” he announced as he walked into the studio.
Lou rolled her eyes. “Doesn’t anyone have an umbrella? We live in London!”
Harry changed into the clothes that had been set out for him to wear and Louis began to discuss lighting adjustments “to make up for this absolute shite weather” with his crew.
“Text your boyfriend,” said Louis, poking his head behind the dressing room curtain, “and tell him that we’re going to take lunch at one o’clock so if he’s going to come see you, do it then. I don’t want to see his annoying face for longer than it takes him to pick you up and bring you back.”
“He’s not- He isn’t my boyfriend,” stuttered Harry, embarrassed.
“Yet. Nick Grimshaw has the most infuriating habit of getting what he wants,” Louis told him before disappearing into the main area of the studio.
Harry didn’t text Nick. He didn’t want to seem presumptuous or clingy, didn’t want to seem like he expected Nick to take him to lunch every day.
He wasn’t really sure whether he should be surprised or not when Nick showed up at about half noon. He couldn’t help the shy little smile that quirked his lips when he saw the older man walk into the studio though.
“Ah, Jesus Christ,” said Louis, turning to see Nick and letting his camera hang from the strap around his neck. “You didn’t text him, did you?” He looked back at Harry with an expression of disappointment, not unlike one a mother might give her son who’d not minded her. He raised his camera again and waved a hand at Harry to imply that they were going to resume their work. “We’re not taking lunch until one so you can go somewhere else to wait for Harry.”
“Thought I’d watch,” said Nick calmly.
“Thought you’d come to tell me how to do my job, more like,” muttered Louis, snapping a few shots of Harry. “Just keep quiet. Don’t want to hear your voice. I’d listen to your show if I wanted to.”
Nick rolled his eyes and mimed zipping his lips and throwing away the key. Harry smiled and giggled.
“You’re distracting Harry, you twat.”
After one more outfit—Other Harry had given Harry a sand-coloured suede jacket with fringe to put on over the short-sleeved black and white animal print shirt he’d just modelled—Louis sent Harry on a lunch break before going to the small makeshift commissary to make himself tea.
Tucked into a booth at a restaurant a few blocks from the studio, Nick looked across the table at Harry with a grin. “Go out with me tonight, Harry. I’ll take you to Mahiki.”
“Oh,” said Harry, wide-eyed, a feeling of guilt washing over him as he said his next words. “I think- I’d really like to but I think I should probably get home early tonight. We’re shooting again tomorrow and I think, um—”
“Thursday night, then,” said Nick. “Don’t turn me down again or I’ll get a complex!” He laughed.
Harry blushed and said shyly, “Okay. Thursday night. That sounds”—he nodded and gave a small smile—“It sounds good.”
“Good! Can’t have the most beautiful boy I’ve ever laid eyes on turn me down three times. It’d be too much for me to handle.”
Harry took a sip of his water, blush tinting his cheekbones a deep pink, flustered by the compliment Nick had paid him and the look of pure want Nick was still giving him.
They returned to the studio forty-five minutes later. Harry went to change into the fifth and final outfit—the accessories were to be paired with the last shirt Harry was modelling—and Louis ignored Nick’s presence.
“Look at you,” said Nick, sounding awed, eyes roaming Harry’s body from head to toe. “You are absolutely gorgeous, love. Prettiest thing.”
Harry bit his lip as he tried to hide the pleased little grin that was breaking across his face. Nick’s flattery was quickly becoming an addiction; Harry kind of always wanted Nick to look at him like he was the most wonderful person he’d met.
Louis rolled his eyes and exhaled roughly through his nostrils.
“C’mon, Harry,” he said kindly; he knew it wasn’t Harry’s fault that Nick was lavishing him with attention or that he was enjoying it because most people would appreciate the attention and flattery from a celebrity. “Let’s get these last few pieces photographed so you can have an early day.”
“I’ll see you later, love,” said Nick, walking toward Harry and giving him a kiss on the forehead. “Text me when you get home. I want to know how my boy is liking his job.”
Harry was unable to stop the smile that spread across his lips and pressed deep dimples into his cheeks. “Okay,” he whispered.
Nick left and Harry moved to his spot, hands by his sides and shoulders back, trying his best to stand up straight.
At around five o’clock, Louis decided they were done for the day. He thanked Harry for another good day, telling him he was a joy to work with, and told him to meet him at the studio at ten o’clock the next morning.
“It’ll be a bit more fun tomorrow,” he told the model encouragingly. “We’ll walk around the neighbourhood, stop in some cafes and go to Spa Fields Park. Take a bunch of pictures that look like candids but aren’t really candids. We’ll still have to come back here a few times to change you into different outfits but we won’t be cooped up in here all day. We’ll have some fun.”
“I had- I thought it was fun to be in here, too,” said Harry with a small shrug.
“You’re a sweetheart,” said Louis, “but that’s probably because it’s all new and exciting. These kinds of shoots will lose their charm after a bit.” He smiled. “I’ll see you tomorrow, love.”
Harry said his goodbyes to Louis and the crew. As he found a seat on the train, Harry opened his messages and found the previous night’s conversation with Nick.
He felt more confident, a bit more assured that Nick really wanted to see Harry and talk to him and spend time with him.
I’m just leaving the studio and I thought I’d talk to you while I’m on the tube being lonely , he typed in the message bar.
Aw :( don’t be lonely love , came Nick’s response. Could always come over to mine ;)
Harry ducked his head, hoping the lady sitting across from him hadn’t noticed his blush. Thanks! Maybe sometime but I want an early night again and I’m already on the train home.
Well any time you want we can just watch movies and drink wine if you like wine, said Nick. Doesn’t have to be anything too exciting. I just want to see your pretty face.
Harry could feel his cheeks aflame; it was amazing how much he was growing to like—crave—Nick’s praises and compliments. He felt special. I like Viognier :)
So posh! read Nick’s message. I’ll make sure to have a bottle at all times just for you.
Harry wasn’t sure but this seemed a lot like flirting. He hoped he wasn’t wrong because maybe Louis was right and Nick did want to be his boyfriend. He was getting ahead of himself, he knew, but it didn’t stop him from his wishful thinking.
Harry got off the train at the Sutton Station and made the short walk to his flat on the corner of High Street and the Bushey Road loop. As he walked past Topman, it suddenly hit him for the first time that at some point in the next few months, he’d be seeing pictures of himself in the large glass windows.
He made his way up the stairs to his flat and unlocked the door. He sent Nick a message— Home!— and entered.
Harry felt badly that he’d declined Nick’s invitation to go out with him for drinks, as well as the older lad’s attempt to get him to go hang out at his place, but Nick hadn’t seemed too upset—obviously not enough that he decided he was through with Harry—and Harry was tired.
He was glad he still had the bottle of white wine that he’d opened the night before. He’d found a recipe for garlic shrimp linguine in the current issue of Good Food and wanted to try it out. Harry liked to cook, found it relaxing, and it was a simple dish. He set about making dinner, Butterscotch winding around Harry’s legs and nearly tripping him several times, and listened to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours on his little record player as he cooked.
Finally, after making it through all four sides of Tusk , Harry took a shower and got into bed. He found the copy of Call for the Dead that he’d borrowed from the Sutton Central Library—he’d recently watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and decided he wanted to read the book that had introduced George Smiley to the world—and opened it up to his bookmark. He read his way through three chapters before deciding to go to sleep.
When he woke up the next morning, he was glad to see that, though it was a bit overcast, it wasn’t raining. He didn’t fancy walking around Clerkenwell in the rain and fog.
It still wasn’t raining by the time he got to the studio at ten o’clock. He found Lou already there, ready to do his hair and makeup and drinking a mocha latte.
“You ready for your first on-location shoot?” she asked Harry as she powdered his nose. “Should be fun!”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “I’m glad it’s not raining.”
“So am I,” agreed Lou.
“Are you coming with us, then?”
“Yup!” she said cheerily. “You’ll have to come back here to change outfits ‘cause Harry can’t carry the whole wardrobe round but I can take a little kit with me. Keep you from having to come back for every little touch up. Besides, it’ll be a bit of fun and I’m not missing fish and chips at Kennedy’s. Louis owes me lunch, the little shit.”
“Why does Louis owe you—”
“Hello, hello! Good morning!” called Louis as they heard the door to the studio open. “Good thing it’s not raining. I don’t want to postpone this last day’s shoot.” He walked around the divider and looked at Lou and Harry. “I’m so ready to be done with this collection and move onto the GQ spread I’m doing next. Not that you weren’t lovely. A proper delight, you were, Harry. Reckon you’re the sweetest person I’ve ever met.” He gave Harry a genuine smile. “Just your boyfriend’s a twat.”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Nah,” agreed Louis with a nod. “He’s a narcissist and you’re just the pretty, innocent young lad that’ll—”
“Louis,” cut in Lou sternly, a look of warning on her face.
“What?” asked Harry, confused, his gaze shifting between Louis and Lou.
“Just watch yourself with Nick, Harry,” said Louis, though that only confused Harry more.
“Louis. Stop,” said Lou harshly. Harry turned to look at the woman, surprised.
“Sorry,” mumbled Louis, not sounding especially apologetic.
Harry tried to enjoy the day’s shoot. It should have been fun, as both Louis and Lou had promised it would be, but Harry couldn’t ignore the mixed feelings of concern and curiosity that Louis’ statement had stirred.
“What did Louis mean, I should watch myself with Nick?” Harry asked Lou while the older woman brushed his wind-tangled hair and twisted it up into a bun. He watched Louis set up his tripod in front of the bandstand in Northampton Square Garden and bit his lip.
Lou’s fingers stilled at his bun. “He thinks that Nick is… taking advantage of your little crush on him.”
“Well, what’s wrong with that?” wondered Harry. He didn’t really like Lou’s phrasing but he didn’t see what was wrong with Nick knowing that Harry had a crush on him. “I mean, if Nick knows I like him, then—”
“He’s also worried that Nick’s interests are a bit more superficial than yours,” she added quickly, almost as though she didn’t really want to say it but felt she should.
Harry blinked, taking in the woman’s words. “What do you think?” he asked quietly, turning to look at her.
“I think- I think that Nick’s more of a casual relationship kind of person. More friends-with-benefits than anything else,” she said slowly, words measured and well-thought. “And I know that I’ve only known you a few days but I think”—she gave Harry a fond smile—“You wear your heart on your sleeve a bit, don’t you, and I think you’re more the type for a serious relationship.”
“Oh,” said Harry, reeling from that piece of information. He wanted to ask Lou why she thought that, if she had reason to believe that Nick preferred casual relationships, but said instead, “Okay.”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt.” She smiled kindly again and then looked toward Louis. “Neither does he. Now let’s get back to work, yeah?”
“Yeah,” he agreed and tried to focus on the photoshoot as they finished their day, allowing Louis to lead him around Clerkenwell for a few more hours as they took more photos at Spa Fields Park and Kennedy’s of Goswell Road before the photographer decided that he’d got all the shots that he needed.
Back at his flat, Harry set about making himself an easy dinner—a Caesar salad with chicken seared in the little cast iron skillet his mum had given him as a “housewarming” gift—and settled in for an evening watching Fresh Meat on Hulu.
He was distracted from the show by the ding of his phone. Grabbing his mobile from the coffee table, he found a text from Nick.
Hope your last day went well! Can’t wait to see you tomorrow night ;)
Harry smiled to himself and typed a response. It was good. Long. We walked around Clerkenwell and took pictures but we had to go back to the studio a bunch of times so I could change outfits because Harry couldn’t carry the whole wardrobe around with us. He sent it and then typed a second message, sure Nick would be offended if he didn’t and never wanting to offend anyone. Can’t wait to see you too!!
They texted a bit more while Harry watched Fresh Meat —he wasn’t sure why he’d never watched it before because it was quite funny—and made plans for their night out the following evening.
As he got ready for bed, he thought back to what Lou had said to him.
She hadn’t been wrong, he knew. He didn’t like the idea of being a friend who offered benefits of the sort the term suggested without receiving any kind of deeper emotional connection. He’d never been one to have the odd hook-up or one-night stand, though neither bothered him, but he didn’t like the idea of being in a pseudo-relationship with someone but not having all of them, not having their heart.
He knew it was most likely that he and Nick would be friends and nothing more. But he also knew that if it seemed their relationship began to move in a less-than-platonic direction, he didn’t want to be just a fling or a casual relationship.
He really hoped that Lou was wrong about Nick.
Harry tried to push his concerns out of his mind as he went about his morning routine the next day. The more he thought about it, the more he realised that Louis had got him all worked up for no reason; Nick was just harmlessly flirting with him and nothing was going to come of it. As for Nick’s offer to hang out whenever Harry wanted and their plans for that evening, Harry suspected that Nick knew he was just lonely and would like a friend.
He went to Black Treacle for lunch at around one o’clock.
“So?” said Elora when Harry walked in, smile wide on her face. “How were your second and third days as the handsomest model I know?”
“Do you know any other models?” asked Harry with a half-smirk quirking his lips.
“No,” she admitted with a laugh, “but you’d still be the handsomest I knew if I did.”
Harry blushed. “Thanks.” He pulled out one of the high stools at the coffee bar and sat. “They were good. We just did the product views the first two days.” He caught Elora’s question before she could ask it. “The pictures for the website, you know. Like, for each item when you click to see it. But we just walked around Clerkenwell yesterday and took pictures in a chip shop and at the parks and while we were walking around. For, more like, for print adverts and to- to put in the stores.”
“How cool,” said Elora. “I’ll go into Topshop for some new jeans and there you’ll be!”
Harry giggled. “Yeah. It’ll be- it’ll be odd, I reckon.”
“At first.” She smiled again. “It’ll be brilliant.”
Harry ordered his lunch and Elora set about making his sandwich and tea, continuing to talk all the while.
“Have you seen Nick Grimshaw again?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Harry told her. “He came by on Tuesday and we went out for lunch.” He took a bite of the sandwich Elora had set in front of him, blushing, before swallowing and adding, “And we’re going for drinks tonight.”
“How exciting,” she said with a grin. “I’m sure you’ll have fun.”
Harry talked with Elora a bit more between the customers who trickled in—the afternoon was slow but fairly steady with easy orders like lattes and pain au chocolate that didn’t take Elora away from their conversation for too long—and told the girl about the concerns that the two Lous had expressed, including Louis’ warning that he should watch himself with Nick.
“What do you think?” asked Elora.
“I mean, I don’t know,” confessed Harry with an unsure shrug. “I don’t just want to be friends-with-benefits. With anyone, not just Nick,” he explained. “I like- I like real relationships. I like to feel like- like I belong?” he said, sounding a bit uncertain. “And I don’t want to feel like I like him more than he likes me.”
“Do you feel like that?”
“Well, no,” said Harry. “But I only met him a week ago.”
“That’s true,” agreed Elora. She paused for a moment, taking a sip of her ever-present tea. “I don’t want to sound discouraging or anything but it might be possible that he only wants to be friends. Like, just friends.”
“Yeah, that’s- that’s kind of what I’ve been thinking,” Harry told her. “That just- He probably knows I’m a little lonely”—he blushed, embarrassed to admit that—“and that I haven’t really made any friends since I moved to London and—”
“Excuse me,” said Elora, sounding a little hurt but trying to cover it up with a smirk, “but what am I? Chopped liver?”
“Oh,” said Harry, surprised, brows raising and eyes widening. “Are we- Am I your friend?”
“Of course you are,” she told him. “I don’t sit and talk with all of my customers about their personal lives.”
“Oh. Okay,” he said, a shy smile appearing on his face. “Thanks. I mean, good. I’m glad we’re- I’m glad you’re my friend.”
“Me too.” She gave Harry a kind smile. “Happy we’ve got that cleared up!”
When Harry left the cafe an hour later, he felt much better about his situation with Nick. He thought, and Elora had agreed wholeheartedly, that he should go into his budding relationship with Nick expecting nothing other than the possibility of making a new friend. That way, they both said, if nothing more happened, Harry wouldn’t be let down but if their relationship did develop into anything more, it would be exciting.
With that in mind, Harry got ready for his night out with Nick that evening. He decided to wear a pair of black skinny jeans with a shirt and a scarf from Nick’s collection—he’d been given several pieces to keep after they’d finished shooting the day before—and his favourite pair of brown Chelsea boots.
He hung out at home, making himself a small dinner because he wasn’t sure if Nick planned to eat while they were out or if it was just going to be drinks. He received a text from Nick while he sat at his small dining table eating.
Meet me at Mahiki at 9?
Harry looked at the time at the top of his phone screen. He would have to leave soon but he could make it in time.
Of course! he responded and then sent a second message. i’m excited to see you!
Youre sweet ;) , read Nick’s reply. See you in a bit!
Twenty-five minutes later, after he’d brushed his teeth and double-checked his pockets for his wallet and keys, Harry stood at Stop H waiting for the bus. He made the trip to Morden and walked to the Morden Underground station. After a switch at Stockwell, Harry arrived at the Green Park stop and walked to the club, passing the Ritz Hotel.
As Harry turned onto Dover Street, a wave of anxiety flooded him. He didn’t know how he was going to find Nick. He wondered if he needed to be on a guest list or if he needed to tell a bouncer that he was meeting up with Nick Grimshaw. He wanted to text Nick and ask him where he was or what, exactly, he was supposed to do to get in but didn’t want to seem immature or inexperienced and naive.
Instead, he sent a simple message. Almost there!
He received Nick’s text just as he arrived at the door. In the Lanai Lounge come find me!
Harry took a deep breath and approached the club, showing his identification to the bouncer and paying the hostess the ten pound cover charge.
“Um, excuse me,” he said nervously. “Excuse me, how do I get to- Where’s the Lanai Lounge?”
The hostess stared at Harry blankly and Harry blushed. “This is the Lanai Lounge,” she said, pointing to the door behind her, haughty and almost condescending. Harry felt a little silly even though he knew there wasn’t a reason to; he’d never been to the club before and had no way of knowing that he had entered into the Lanai Lounge, he told himself.
“Oh. Okay.” He gave the hostess a small smile. “Thank you.”
He walked quickly past her into the orangey glow of the lounge and was happy to see that there weren’t too many people in the lounge. There were a few tables with groups of people seated around them, eating and sipping on cocktails.
“Harry! Love,” he heard Nick’s familiar voice say and he suddenly saw the older lad on the other side of a cluster of about eight or nine women in, Harry guessed, their early thirties.
“Hi,” said Harry a bit shyly, moving toward the small round table where Nick sat. He was happy to see that Nick was alone; he was already a bit anxious because he wasn’t much into the whole club scene and he knew that meeting a whole group of Nick’s beautiful, famous friends would have only served to increase his nerves.
“Sit down, love,” said Nick, gesturing to the princess chair opposite him.
“Thanks.” Harry pulled the chair out and sat down, surprised by how comfortable the wicker seat was. He looked around the room, taking in the long bar lined with high bamboo chairs and the thatched ceiling. He turned back to Nick and caught the man looking at him, a smirk on his face.
“I’m flattered,” said Nick.
“What?” asked Harry.
“You’re wearing my clothes,” he said, nodding at Harry’s outfit.
“Oh, um. Yes,” agreed Harry. “Harry, um, Harry Lambert let me pick a few things after we finished yesterday. If I wanted.”
“So you don’t find it all as terrible as Tomlinson does, then?” he asked, smirk still on his face.
“No,” said Harry. “I like the collection. It’s a little different from everything else Topman has.”
Nick smiled at Harry, pleased. “What are you drinking, love?”
“Oh. I don’t- I mean, do you have any recommendations?”
“Try a cocktail,” said Nick, handing Harry a copy of the drinks menu. “They do some top custom cocktails.”
“Okay.” Harry gave Nick a sweet smile and looked at the menu in his hand. “There are a lot of choices,” he said, reading the list of about thirty cocktails with names like Jolly Roger, Zombie, and Wicked Wench. “I’ll have the, um, the Mustique Fizz. Please.”
Nick raised a hand to signal a passing waitress. “Another Sea Pearl, please,” he said. “And a Mustique Fizz for my lovely boy.”
“Of course, Nick,” said the waitress with a sly grin, looking between Nick and Harry. “I’ll be right back with those.”
Nick’s gaze returned to Harry. “Did you want anything to eat?” he asked Harry.
“Have they got- Is there a menu?”
Nick slid a copy of the food menu across the small table and Harry picked it up.
The waitress returned with their cocktails and, noticing Harry studying the menu, asked, “Something to eat for you, love? Or is it just the drink?”
“Maybe just the sweet potato fries, please,” said Harry.
“That’s it?” asked Nick from across the table, brows raised.
“Yes,” answered Harry with a nod.
Nick looked at Harry. “Do you eat meat?”
“Yes,” said Harry again.
“Why don’t you throw in two chicken sliders and an order of sticky ribs too,” Nick said to the waitress.
“Of course,” she said with a smile. “I’ll bring that all right out.”
“Thanks.” He turned his gaze back to Harry as he took a sip of his drink. “So how do you like being a model so far, love?”
“It’s very different from the bakery,” he said with a little grin. Nick laughed and Harry’s smile grew wider, pressing dimples into his cheeks. “It’s been fun so far. I liked being in the studio and I liked our day out yesterday.”
“What did you do yesterday?”
Harry told Nick about the previous day’s shoot. “Louis called it a field trip,” he giggled.
“You’re just too lovely,” said Nick, fixing Harry with a look of wonderment.
Harry blushed and took a sip of his passion fruit-flavoured sparkling wine.
The evening went on pleasantly and Harry was pleased—and a touch relieved—that they stayed in the lounge rather than moving to the party room downstairs, chatting and enjoying each other’s company.
“When did you know you wanted to be a model?”
“I didn’t, really,” said Harry. “I’ve always liked fashion, you know. Saved my money from the bakery so I could buy clothes. My sister—her name’s Gemma—my sister said I should study fashion design. She went to Sheffield Hallam University in, you know, in Sheffield and studied Genetics. She said they have a Fashion Design course and she thought that I should- that I should go there. But I’m not very good at art or any of that. So she said maybe I could study, like, the business side. They have a course, um, it’s called Fashion Management and Communication. But I don’t really think I’d be fit for management of any kind and I’m rubbish at communication.”
“So you didn’t want to be a model?” asked Nick, looking a bit like he was trying to work out what Harry had said.
“I do now,” said Harry, finishing up the sweet potato fries on the plate in front of him and smiling at Nick. “I really like fashion. I just don’t have, like, the skills to do anything else, like, fashiony. So maybe modelling is how I get to have fashion as my job.” He shrugged a shoulder up.
“I imagine you’ll do quite well,” Nick assured him. “You’ve certainly got the right look for a fashion model. Beautiful bone structure, perfect teeth, gorgeous eyes. Lips. I mean, you’re stunning.” He smirked at the blush spreading across Harry’s face and, leaning forward a bit and lowering his voice in a way that made his next words a little more salacious than they would have been otherwise, added, “And your body is just amazing.” He bit his lip and allowed his eyes to roam every inch of Harry he could see from the other side of the table.
“Thank- thank you,” stuttered Harry, flattered by Nick’s praises.
“Now, tell me, love. What do you get up to for fun?”
Harry’s eyes lit up. “I collect records!”
“Yeah?” asked Nick, amused by the excitement the mention of record collecting seemed to inspire in Harry.
“Oh, yes,” said Harry happily. “I’ve got over three hundred records.” Harry proceeded to tell Nick about his collection and his many adventures that his hobby had led to, including the birthday adventure that took him to twenty-three record stores throughout Manchester, Liverpool, and Sheffield in search of the unofficial release of twenty one pilots’ Regional at Best on white vinyl.
Nick let Harry talk, asking questions about his numerous records and what bands he liked and what concerts he’d been to and which, if any, he was planning to attend in the upcoming months.
“Harry, I’m afraid I’m becoming an old man,” sighed Nick at around half past one. “I really should head home. I’ve got—”
“Oh my God!” exclaimed Harry, suddenly realising the time. “You’ve got your show in five hours! I should have let you leave ages ago. I’m so—”
“It’s all right, love,” Nick said reassuringly. “If I’m tired in the morning, it’ll be well worth it. I had a lovely time with you.”
Harry nodded. “Thanks, Nick. I- I had a nice time too.”
“Well, then we’ll have to do it again.”
They got up from their table and walked to the door, thanking the waitress who had served them all night.
As soon as they stepped out onto the pavement, they were greeted by the flashing and clicking of cameras.
Harry blinked several times and looked around. “What’s—”
“Paps,” came Nick’s voice from his right as he slipped an arm into the crook of Harry’s elbow. “Come on.” He tugged Harry in the direction of an Addison Lee that waited at the curb and opened the back door for the boy. “In you get, lad.”
Harry climbed into the car and was followed a moment later by the older man.
“Sorry, love,” said Nick, turning to look at Harry. “Mahiki’s a pretty popular celeb hangout and the paps love to hang round waiting for them to leave.” He chuckled and, with a hint of false modesty that went missed by Harry, said, “Pity they only got me tonight. Nothing too exciting for them.”
“You’re a- you’re a celebrity,” said Harry, blinking at Nick.
“Only kind of,” said Nick. “I’m not, like, Beyonce. Now I’ll have the driver take me home and then he’ll drop you off at your flat, all safe and sound.”
“O-okay.” Harry looked around the car, unsure how much a trip to Sutton in an Addison Lee would cost. He wondered if he should ask Nick; if it was going to be as expensive as a regular black taxi, he would just get out at the next Underground station. “Do they take”—Harry leant toward Nick, blushing and embarrassed about the question he was about to ask—“Can I pay with my bank card?”
“You don’t have to pay at all, love,” Nick told him. “It’s all taken care of.”
“Oh.” Harry gave an embarrassed smile. “Thanks.”
“Your pretty little blush is the sweetest thing,” said Nick fondly.
Harry finally arrived back at his flat at just past three o’clock. He kicked off his boots and shed his clothes as he made his way through the flat to his bedroom. He’d not said anything to Nick when he’d said he was getting old because he didn’t want Nick to think he was childish or immature but half one in the morning was definitely a bit late for him too.
The truth was that Harry wasn’t much into the partying or clubbing scene. He preferred a quiet evening in with a friend or two, playing board games or watching telly and drinking wine, or a lowkey night at the local pub with an old jukebox filled with Bob Seger and Van Morrison. He liked cuddling into bed with a nice book and his cozy duvet and going to bed at a reasonable time.
He’d enjoyed the evening out with Nick, however, so maybe he would get used to it if Nick kept inviting him out.
Harry woke up a bit later than usual the next morning—he slept until nearly ten o’clock—and decided to go to Black Treacle after a shower.
Elora greeted him when he entered the cafe. “Did you listen to the Breakfast Show this morning?”
“No,” said Harry. “I slept in. Why?”
“Yeah, reckon you needed a lie in after your night,” she said with a cheeky grin. “That’s what Nick Grimshaw said this morning too. Could have used a bit of a lie in after his late night at Mahiki last night, he said. Earl Grey?”
“Please,” begged Harry, desperate for his morning cup.
“Did you have fun?” asked Elora kindly as she placed the teapot, teacup, sugar, and milk on the counter in front of Harry.
“Yes. It was nice,” he told her. “We just talked, really. He asked me about my modelling a bit. Like, when I decided to give it a go and how I liked it so far.” Elora nodded and Harry continued. “He asked me all about my record collection too. Wanted to know what I had and where I got them and he just- he just let me talk about it!”
“I didn’t know that you collect records!” exclaimed Elora.
“I don’t talk about it too much because I think some people find it a bit boring,” Harry told her. “Even some of my friends back home would say, like, ‘Harry, we’ve heard about the red Tame Impala EP from Record Store Day one hundred times already!’”
“You can talk to me about records any time you want,” said Elora. “I collect them too!”
Harry smiled. “Okay.” He poured himself some tea from the teapot and asked timidly, “Would you- Maybe we can go bin diving sometime?”
Elora gave him a smile, endeared to his shy nature, and said, “I’d love it.” She poured herself some tea from the pot. “So Nick listened to you talk about your collection?”
“Yes. And then we talked about concerts we’ve been to and who we want to see, like, coming up,” said Harry, clearly happy that Nick had talked to him about subjects that he enjoyed.
“That’s nice, Harry,” said Elora kindly. “I’m glad you’re making another friend.”
“Thanks. So am I.”
Harry stayed and talked with Elora a bit longer, the topic switching from Nick and their evening out the night before to records and the best places to bin dive—Elora told Harry about several good shops she loved to go to where she always seemed to be able to find something for which she’d been searching for ages—and their adventures in record collecting.
“Any other plans for the day?” asked Elora as Harry got up from his stool and pulled his wallet from his back pocket. She waved away the tenner he tried to hand her. “I drank the tea and I think I ate half your muffin.” Harry raised his brows and she nodded.
“Thanks,” he said, returning the bank note to his wallet. “I’m going to the library to return a book but, no, nothing else.”
“Well, have a good day, Harry.”
“Yeah, you too!” said Harry with a wave.
“I’ll see you later.”
Harry left Black Treacle and walked to the library, thinking about what book he should borrow next. He’d got a library card as soon as he’d moved to London; as far as Harry was concerned, having a library card at your local library meant you were home.
As he walked into the library, Harry passed a board with all sorts of notices—signs advertising rooms for rent, Pilates classes and swimming lessons at the leisure center, an event called Sutton Soup at St Nicholas Church—pinned to it. In the bottom right corner, there was a paper that caught Harry’s eye. It read—
“ New Sutton Central Library Book Club Forming
First Meeting Wednesday 24th June @ 6:30 p.m.
See Zayn (tattoos & silver hair) for more info”
Harry entered the library and dropped his book in the book return. He looked around, hoping to find Zayn—Harry thought he was the assistant librarian who had helped him set up his library card—because he wanted to ask him about the book club.
He found the lad in the Mystery and Crime Fiction section.
“Hi,” said Harry. “Zayn, right?”
“Yeah, hi,” said Zayn, looking away from the row of P.D. James novels he was rearranging. “Need help finding something?”
“Oh, no,” said Harry, voice quiet. “I saw the sign about the- about the book club.”
“You interested?” asked Zayn, turning to face Harry completely now.
“Yeah. I mean, yeah, I think so,” said Harry a little nervously. “I’ve never belonged to a book club before.” He gave a shy, nervous smile.
“Simple enough, really,” said Zayn with a reassuring smile. “We’ll meet every other Wednesday in the Community Room. First meeting is the twenty-fourth at half six.”
“What’s the, um, what is the book?”
“We’re reading And Then There Were None and Ten Little Indians and discussing the two,” Zayn told him. “Have you ever read any Agatha Christie before?”
“Yes!” said Harry, excited and eyes wide. “I’ve read nearly all of her books! I own about half of them. They’re all still at home because I didn’t- I didn’t pack them when I moved to London.”
“Well, if you’ve already read them, maybe you could wait until the next book,” suggested Zayn. “I’ll post again when—”
“Oh, no! And Then There Were None is one of my favourite books!” said Harry, speech a little bit faster than usual in his excitement. “I’d love to- I’d love to talk about it! And, you know, and compare it to the play because the play is not so much my favourite.”
“Great!” said Zayn, pleased to see Harry’s enthusiasm for his first book choices. “Do you need to borrow them? If you left them at home?”
“Please,” said Harry and Zayn turned to a different shelf—Harry’s eyes shined with excitement at the long row of Agatha Christies—and took a copy of each down. “Or I could have my mum send my copies down. Like, if there won’t be enough for everybody.”
“I’ve got two more sets and I can borrow from some of the other Sutton libraries if I need to,” Zayn assured him. “And there are always eBooks too.”
“Okay,” said Harry with a nod. “Yeah, I’ll check them out then.”
“Brilliant,” said Zayn, leading Harry to the circulation desk.
Harry thanked Zayn and tucked the books under his arm. “See you soon!” he said with a wave.
He made his way back to his flat, dropping the books down on the sofa and heading to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. Just as he was pulling out his ingredients for a turkey sandwich—cheddar, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and lettuce were the only proper accompaniments to a good roast turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread—his phone rang. He stood up quickly, startled by the sound in his nearly silent flat, and hit his head on the freezer door. “Ouch!” he exclaimed, rubbing his head with one hand and pulling his ringing mobile from his back pocket with the other. He considered letting it go to voicemail until he saw the name on the screen.
He swiped to accept the call and said, “Hi, Simon.”
“Harry, lad, how are you?”
“I’m all right, thanks,” said Harry. “How are you?”
“Good, good. I talked with Louis earlier,” said Simon.
“O-kay,” said Harry slowly, unsure why Simon was calling him and feeling a little nervous. What if Louis said the photos from their shoot were rubbish and they needed to redo them or, worse, that he wanted a different model?
“He called to let me know that Gucci needs a model for their product views,” Simon told him. “He’s the photographer for the shoot and he mentioned you to the casting director.”
“Oh,” said Harry, a bit taken aback. “He- He did?” asked Harry. “Why?”
“He said you were a joy to work with and your shots were excellent,” Simon answered. “He showed them a few of the pictures from the Topman shoot and they want to meet with you.”
“They do?” asked Harry, shocked and wide-eyed. Gucci, he felt, was a big deal.
“Yes. I just got off the phone with Leila. She’s the casting director for the shoot. She wants to see you in her office on Monday afternoon.”
“Oh, wow,” said Harry quietly, voice hushed with amazement. “What time- I mean, where? And—”
“I’ll text you the address and all of the info you’ll need,” Simon answered his half-asked questions. “There are two other models meeting with Leila but Louis thinks you’ve got an excellent shot. He’s sure you’re a shoo-in.”
“Thank you, Simon. This is so… exciting!” said Harry, unable to hide his excitement any longer. “I- I love Gucci!”
“It’s all down to you, lad,” said Simon truthfully. “You impressed Louis. He’s a good one to impress too.”
“Thank you,” said Harry again.
“You’ll be great, Harry,” Simon assured him. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“All right. Bye, Simon.”
Harry ended the call and stood in the middle of his kitchen for several minutes, the phone call with Simon replaying in his head. He was going to meet with a casting director at Gucci and it was possible he could end up wearing Gucci clothes and getting paid for it.
He returned to his sandwich, going through the motions of making his lunch while his mind fantasised about the designs he might be modelling.
Too excited to keep the news to himself, he texted Nick to tell him about the phone call before ringing his mother.
“Harry!” came Anne’s voice from the other end of the line. “Hi, love!”
“Hi, Mummy,” said Harry, wishing he could see her in person to tell her this news because he wanted to hug her and see how happy she looked because he knew she would be. “I have something exciting to tell you.”
“What’s that, love?”
“I might do a photoshoot for Gucci! I mean, I’m meeting with the casting director on Monday,” he said happily. “They’re meeting with two other lads but Simon thinks I have a good chance because the photographer I worked with before—Louis, you know—Louis is the photographer for this shoot too. And he recommended me to the casting lady.”
“Oh, Harry, baby, that’s so wonderful!” said Anne. She sounded so proud that Harry thought he could burst.
“I hope I get it,” he rushed out. “I love Gucci, Mum. Do you know how amazing it would be to model for them?”
Anne listened to Harry gush about Alessandro Michele and his bold new direction for Gucci’s designs, patient through his meandering rambles.
After nearly forty-five minutes, Harry and Anne said goodbye. Harry smiled when he saw a text from Nick. Congratulations love! We should celebrate!!
Thanks Nick! :)
Meet me at Mahiki tonight! read Nick’s response.
Harry bit his lip and looked at his phone. He didn’t really want to go to Mahiki again—he’d just been the night before and had quite a late night—but he didn’t want to tell Nick that he really just wanted a quiet night curled up with a glass of wine while he caught up on the last few episodes of Wayward Pines . He didn’t want Nick to think he was boring or lame.
Okay! what time? he asked.
10 sound good?
Harry frowned. Ten o’clock was exactly the time he hoped to be curling up with some Viognier and Matt Dillon. Again, though, he didn’t want to disappoint Nick.
Sure! I’ll see you there! typed Harry. He sighed and tapped the little blue arrow to send the message.
Brilliant! Aloha party room tonight!
Harry sighed again. “It’s the party room tonight, Butterscotch,” he told his cat. “I just wanted to watch Matt Dillon.”
A few hours later, Harry got off the Underground at Green Park. He was feeling a little anxious. Surely the Aloha Party Room meant a larger crowd and a lot more socialising and conversation—Harry knew he wasn’t an especially adept conversationalist, aware that he had a tendency to ramble about subjects only he found interesting but not realising he’d done so until he thought back to the conversation after it was over—and he was never really comfortable in large crowds.
The girl at the door seemed to remember Harry from the previous evening—or perhaps Nick had told her he’d be joining him—because she led him downstairs to the Aloha Party Room and to the table where Nick sat with two women Harry recognised at once.
“Harry, love!” called Nick as Harry neared the table. “Sit down with us!”
Harry joined Nick at the table, dropping to the leather-covered settee and allowing Nick to grab his hand and tug him closer.
“Harry, love, this is Alexa”—he pointed to Alexa Chung, who Harry recognised because she seemed to always be in the front row of every fashion show—“and this is Daisy”—he gestured toward the other girl who Harry knew to be Daisy Lowe—“and we are ready to celebrate!”
Harry gave Nick a weak smile that he hoped didn’t betray his nerves.
“Hi,” he said. “Um, I’m Harry. It’s nice- it’s nice to meet you.”
“What are we celebrating?” asked Alexa.
“Harry’s got a job modelling for Gucci!” said Nick.
Harry rushed to correct him. “Not- not yet.” He ran his fingers through his hair—a nervous tick that he didn’t think anyone realised was a nervous habit—and added, “I might get it. I’ve got- I’m going to meet with the casting director on Monday. But there are- there are two other lads up for the- up for the job too.”
“He’s going to get it,” Nick told Alexa and Daisy confidently. “I may dislike Louis Tomlinson with a passion but he recommended Harry and sent along some shots from the Topman shoot.”
“I’ve worked with Louis before,” Daisy told Harry. “He’s a top photographer. Really respected in the industry. It will definitely help he’s recommended you.”
Alexa nodded in agreement. “He’s really talented. You’re lucky to work with him, even if Grimmy can’t stand him. It’s a good job he mentioned you.”
“I’d like to- I’d really like to get it,” Harry told them. “I love Gucci.”
“I’ve never done any work for them but they’ve got some amazing collections,” said Daisy.
“And Alessandro Michele is just a genius,” said Harry, eager to talk to someone besides his mother about the genius of Alessandro Michele. “I think he’s going to bring an entirely new creative direction to Gucci. If you just look at- if you look at what he’s done with Gucci since he moved from Fendi—”
“So Harry,” interrupted Nick, “I was telling the ladies about your first job.”
“Oh,” said Harry, blinking at Nick. “Yeah?” He wasn’t sure what to say; he didn’t know what to add if Nick had already told them about it.
“Yeah. I told them how wonderfully you did.” He smiled at Harry. “Just brilliant. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect model for my collection.”
“Thanks, Nick,” said Harry shyly, blushing from Nick’s compliment.
“How do you like modelling so far?” asked Daisy.
“It’s been fun,” said Harry. “I mean, it’s only been the one job so far.” He shrugged. “But I liked Louis and- and Lou. Teasdale, you know. And Harry Lambert. They were nice and they made it- I was nervous, at first, and they helped me to relax and to, like, to be more comfortable. So it was fun.”
Harry talked with Daisy and Alexa a bit longer about his photoshoot, telling them about the first two days spent shooting photos for product views and the third day’s “field trip.” Alexa repeated Louis’ words, telling him he would tire of the more tedious studio days, and Daisy agreed.
“How do you like London, Harry?” Alexa asked him when he was about halfway through his Mustique Fizz. “Grimmy said you moved from Manchester a few months ago.”
“Oh, no. Um, Cheshire, actually,” he said, though he wasn’t sure why he’d bothered to correct her; it obviously wasn’t an important fact if Nick hadn’t remembered it. “I like it. I moved here in, um, in April and it’s nice.”
“You’ve got a flat, then?”
“Yes. In, um, in Sutton,” said Harry.
“Oh, Harry,” said Nick, voice tinged with a hint of pity that Harry didn’t really appreciate. “You’ve got to move closer, love. You’ve got to move to Marylebone or Chelsea or something.”
“I- I like Sutton,” Harry told him, partly because it was true and partly because he didn’t want to tell Nick that he couldn’t exactly afford to move to Marylebone or Chelsea. “I like my flat and there’s a nice tearoom down the street and I like- I like the library. I’ve got a library card and everything.”
“A library card?” Nick looked at Harry and Harry was a little surprised to see that Nick didn’t seem to see the importance—or definitiveness—of having a library card.
“Yeah,” agreed Harry, feeling a little silly because maybe a library card wasn’t quite as important as he felt it to be; maybe it was childish or simple. “I think I’m going to join the book club.”
“You know everyone else will be footie mums looking for a reason to escape their little monsters for a couple hours, right?” said Nick, more a statement than a question.
“Maybe,” shrugged Harry. “But it’s the assistant librarian starting it and he’s about my age. So there’ll be him, at least.”
“What else do you do for fun?” Alexa asked the boy.
“Oh!” said Harry, excited again. “I collect records!”
“Harry is an adorable little hipster,” teased Nick. “I heard all about his record collection last night.”
“Yeah, I’ve got about three hundred.” Harry suddenly remembered what he’d said to Elora earlier that day—most people found it boring when he talked about his records—and added, “I won’t bore you with it though.”
The conversation soon turned to Nick’s best friend Pixie and her recent engagement to her boyfriend George.
“It’s about time!” said Alexa. “They’ve been together for what? Three years?”
“Oh, please,” said Nick with an eyeroll. “You and Alex were together for four years and nothing ever came of that.”
“Excuse me,” said Harry, increasingly aware of how awkward he felt in a conversation in which the names of people he didn’t know—all rather famous celebrities—were being thrown about so casually. “I’ve got to use the toilet.”
“Just round the corner and down the hallway a bit,” Nick told him. “I’ll order you another drink, yeah?”
“Okay,” Harry told him as he stood to leave the table.
Nick watched him round the corner before turning back to his friends. “God, he’s so boring,” sighed Nick. “At least he’s pretty.”
“Aww,” said Daisy. “He’s sweet.”
“Yes. And incredibly dull,” said Nick. “He wants to join a book club. I mean”—he rolled his eyes because words, he felt, couldn’t truly explain what he thought of the idea—“he’s a forty-five-year-old mum trapped in the body of a gorgeous twenty-one-year-old model.”
“He is very pretty,” agreed Alexa. “He’s just young and innocent.”
“And what do you suppose there is to do in a little village in Cheshire?” asked Daisy. “It’s probably a day trip just to go shopping for his records.”
“Oh, God,” sighed Nick, rolling his eyes again. “I had to listen to him tell me about his Record Store Day adventures,” he said, making air quotes when he said Record Store Day adventures. “Just a waste of an entire Saturday trying to find some David Bowie album.” He slid out of the settee and stood up. “I’m going to the bar. Want anything?”
Both girls shook their heads and Nick walked to the bar, ordering another Mustique Fizz for Harry and a Sea Pearl for himself.
As he waited for the drinks, he was struck with an idea, a way to convince Harry not to join the library’s book club without telling him outright not to join.
Nick returned to the table with their drinks and found Harry had returned from the toilets. He placed the glasses on the table and sidled into the empty spot on the settee next to the model.
“I’ve had an idea, love,” said Nick quietly, hoping only Harry could hear. “Let’s start our own book club.”
“Our own book club?” asked Harry, brows wrinkled as though trying to understand Nick’s meaning.
“Just you and me,” said Nick. “It’ll be the most exclusive book club ever. We can meet at my flat and drink wine. I’ll buy you Viognier for every meeting.”
“What’ll- what’ll we read?”
Nick gave him a lazy grin. “You can choose.”
Harry’s eyes widened and Nick knew he’d won. “Really?”
Nick nodded. He didn’t really intend to read more than the first few chapters of whatever book Harry chose. This whole idea was just an attempt to get Harry to forget about the library book club and to keep him from spending time with the assistant librarian—a lad who was Harry’s own age—and it was an excuse to get Harry to his flat.
“What kind of books do you like?” asked Harry.
“Whatever kind you like,” said Nick smoothly.
Harry smiled his big dimpled smile. “I’ll pick something really good,” he promised.
“Right, ladies,” said Nick, gaze moving from Harry to the two girls sitting on the other side of the table. “Harry and I are starting our own book club. And before you ask, no, you can’t join. There’s just no room for other members.”
After Harry’s third drink, Nick insisted they dance, taking Harry’s hand and leading him to the dance floor.
“I’m not- I’m not really a dancer,” objected a tipsy Harry. “I mean, I can’t dance. Like, I don’t know how.”
“Of course you can!” said Nick encouragingly. “Just move to the music. That’s all you’ve got to do, love.” He put his hands on Harry’s hips and began to guide him, swaying to the rhythm.
“Okay,” said Harry, swallowing and trying to do as Nick had told him.
“You’ve got it, love,” Nick told him a few minutes later, lips very close to Harry’s ear and breath warm and tickling the sensitive area. “Just like that.”
Harry blushed and tried his best to focus on the beat of the music, Nick’s closeness distracting him. “Yeah?” he asked nervously, hoping he was doing all right.
“Yup! My little dancing queen,” said Nick fondly. Harry giggled, forgetting that there were dozens of people who could be watching him, forgetting his nerves. Nick made him feel like he was the only person in the room, the only person who mattered. He felt special.
Daisy and Alexa came to say goodbye to them a bit later—Harry wasn’t sure what time it was but he was sure it was pretty late—and the two lads took that as a call to take a break from their dancing and drink some water and, at Nick’s suggestion, maybe another cocktail.
Finally, Harry’s fourth cocktail of the night finished, Nick decided they should leave.
“You look sleepy,” said Nick, brushing a strand of Harry’s hair behind his ear. “Probably shouldn’t’ve let you have that last drink. Why don’t you come back to mine?”
“Oh,” said Harry, head feeling a bit heavy with sleepiness and too much alcohol. “Um.” He tried to remember if he’d filled Butterscotch’s food and water dishes before he’d left but he couldn’t get his thoughts together. “Um, okay.”
Nick led Harry up the stairs and out to the street, again passing paps with their clicking and flashing cameras as they had the previous night, before helping him into the backseat of another Addison Lee.
The car stopped in front of a rather posh-looking apartment building. Nick thanked the driver and took Harry’s hand. “All right, love,” he said to the model. “Time to get you inside, yeah. Past your bedtime, I think.”
Harry nodded. He didn’t need to know what time it was to know that it was hours past his usual bedtime.
They made their way into the lobby where they were greeted by the doorman and escorted to the lift that brought them to the eighth floor.
Inside Nick’s flat, the older man looked at Harry. “You look like a sleepy kitten,” he said fondly. “I can make up the sofa if you’d like. Or you could sleep in my bed.”
Harry blinked and licked his dry lips. “What do- what do you think?” he asked because he was very tired and everything felt heavy and he didn’t want to make any decisions right now. He just wanted to lie down. “I just want to lie down.”
“Come on, then, love,” said Nick, wrapping an arm around Harry’s waist and walking him farther into the flat. “Let’s get you in bed.”
Harry nodded, head against Nick’s shoulder. “Yes, please.”
Nick helped Harry take off his boots and get out of his button-up shirt. The younger lad blushed when Nick reached for the button on his skinny jeans, though, and mumbled bashfully, “I can do it.”
Wearing only his black boxer briefs and his socks, Harry curled up into Nick’s king-sized bed and was asleep within minutes.
When Harry woke up in the morning, he knew he wasn’t in his own bed—Butterscotch wasn’t standing on the pillow, pawing at his face and meowing for breakfast—and it took him a few moments to remember where he was.
He rolled over and found Nick asleep beside him, lying on his back with an arm draped across his stomach.
After a few moments spent watching Nick’s chest rise and fall with every breath, Harry decided he should leave. Butterscotch was probably meowing for her breakfast and Harry wasn’t there to give it to her. He really wanted a shower and some clean clothes and maybe a pastry from Black Treacle.
He slipped out of bed carefully and got himself dressed, quiet so not to wake Nick, and spotted his phone and wallet on top of the nightstand on his side of the bed. He found the bathroom and used the toilet before washing his hands and splashing his face with water a few times.
He was surprised to find Nick sitting up, leant back against the headboard, when he stepped back into the bedroom.
“Oh,” said Harry, a blush tinting his cheeks, a little abashed. “Yeah. Thought I’d get home and shower and get some- get some clean clothes.”
“Could shower here,” stated Nick. Harry was a little confused by the tone in Nick’s voice; he didn’t sound upset but he didn’t really sound happy and friendly either. “Think you could probably fit into something of mine.”
“Yeah,” agreed Harry. He didn’t think any of Nick jeans or trousers would fit him but they probably wore the same size shirts and pants. He thought of Butterscotch, pawing at the cupboard door trying to get to her food. “I’ve got to feed my cat. Butterscotch. She’s probably hungry. I don’t- I can’t remember if I gave her dinner before I left last night.”
“I wanted to take you for breakfast,” said Nick with a pout. “Treat my boy right.”
Harry felt a lurch of affection mixed with a sense of guilt, a combination of emotions that puzzled him. “I’m- I’m really sorry,” he said, feeling rather badly because he didn’t want Nick to look at him like that—like he’d taken a Christmas present right out of his hands—but he really did need to get back to his flat. “Another morning?” he asked with a hopeful smile. “I’ve just”—he shrugged and gave an apologetic half-smile—“Butterscotch.”
“All right, love,” said Nick, lips quirking into a gentle smile and his voice softening, “rain check. But come back tonight, yeah? I’m having a little party and you’ve got to meet my friends.”
“Okay,” said Harry, nodding. He didn’t want to upset Nick or make him feel that he didn’t want to spend time with him.
“Good lad. Now get back to your cat.”
Harry arrived at his flat about an hour later and nearly tripped over Butterscotch, who ran to the door as soon as she heard it open and weaved around Harry’s legs as he tried to walk to the kitchen.
Food and water in her bowls, Harry took a paracetamol and headed to his bedroom. He stripped himself of all his clothes except his boxer briefs and flopped down onto his bed, pulling the duvet over his body. He’d not told Nick but he had a bit of a headache; he never had more than a glass of wine or a beer, when he was in the mood for a beer, and hardly ever had hard liquor so his four cocktails the night before had been among his poorer decisions.
He woke up an hour and a half later, feeling considerably better and far less groggy. After a nice shower and a quick ten-minute meditation, Harry got dressed and made his way to Black Treacle.
He remembered as he walked to the tearoom that he’d not told Elora about the possible job with Gucci. He thought she might be proud to hear the news.
“How are you feeling this morning?” Elora asked him with a chuckle when he walked through the door and took a stool at the coffee bar.
“Fine now,” Harry told her. “I had a headache when I woke up but I took paracetamol and slept for a little longer and now I’m feeling better.”
“I imagine you had a headache,” she said knowingly.
“Why’d you imagine—”
“ The Sun Tweeted some pictures of Nick Grimshaw leading his tipsy boyfriend out of Mahiki last night,” Elora told him. “You looked adorable.”
“There were pictures of me with Nick?” asked Harry with a little groan. “I don’t- I’m not Nick’s boyfriend.”
“I know that but The Sun doesn’t. They think you’re his ‘beautiful, young mystery boyfriend.’”
“Oh no,” said Harry. “I don’t want to be in- to be in, like, the tabloids.”
“I think that might happen occasionally if you spend a lot of time with Nick,” said Elora. “You know he’s always spotted out with his famous model friends.”
“I don’t want to be one of Nick’s famous model friends,” said Harry with a little pout. “I mean, not that I’m famous. But I don’t want to be famous because I’m Nick’s friend. If I’m ever- If I get famous, I want it to be because I’m a really good model or something.”
“Well, maybe if it happens too many more times, you should tell Nick it makes you uncomfortable,” suggested Elora, putting a large spoonful of Earl Grey tea into a teapot. “Maybe you could hang out in more private places.”
“He likes going to clubs though,” sighed Harry. “He goes to Mahiki so often that they all know his favourite drink.”
“He can go to clubs with his other friends,” said Elora with a shrug. “If he wants to be friends with you and he likes you enough, he should respect your feelings and be willing to spend one or two nights a week staying in with you.”
“Yeah,” said Harry, hoping Elora was right. He broke a piece off the strawberry banana muffin Elora had set in front of him and chewed it.
Elora hurried off to help Abby, the pretty blonde who worked with Elora in the bakery, leaving Harry with his muffin and tea while she made coffee drinks and teas. Harry watched the two girls move around behind the counter and remembered again that he’d not told Elora his news.
When she returned after the early lunch crowd had been taken care of, Harry swallowed the bite of muffin he’d been eating.
“I didn’t tell you my news,” he said.
“What’s your news?”
“I went to the library yesterday after I left here. To return my book, you know. And I saw a sign for a book club when I was there so I talked to the assistant librarian because, um, because he’s starting it. His name is Zayn and he has really cool tattoos and, uh, silver hair. So he sorted me out with the books for the first meeting,” said Harry, speech slow and rambling.
“So you’re joining the book club?” asked Elora, thinking that was Harry’s news.
“Maybe. Nick said it will be just footie mums trying to get away from their kids for the night,” Harry told her. “So I haven’t decided. We might start our own book club though.”
“So you’re not joining the book club?”
“I’m not sure,” said Harry. “But after I left the library, I went home and, um, and I was making myself lunch. Just a- just a sandwich. And I got a phone call from my manager. Simon.”
“Oh,” said Elora, the realisation hitting her that the library and book club and Harry’s sandwich really didn’t have anything to do with his news. “What did he say?”
“He said that Louis—he was the photographer, you know, for Topman—Louis is doing a photoshoot for Gucci,” Harry told her. “For product views for their website. And they need a model so Louis mentioned me to the, uh, to the casting director. And he, um, he sent them some pictures from the Topman shoot and they want to meet with me.”
“Harry!” said Elora, eyes wide and jaw dropped. “That’s so awesome!”
“Yeah,” said Harry, a pleased smile breaking across his face. “It’s really exciting! I’m going- I’m going to meet with her on, um, on Monday.”
“There are two other lads but everyone- but everyone thinks I have a good shot because, like, because Louis recommended me.”
“That’s wonderful!” exclaimed Elora. “A Gucci model!”
“Only if I get it,” said Harry.
“Even if you don’t get this job, it’s still awesome that they want to meet with you,” Elora told him and Harry was happy to know that Elora wouldn’t think him a failure if he didn’t get the job. “Did you tell Nick?” she asked.
“Yeah. That’s why- that’s why we went out last night,” said Harry. “To celebrate.”
“Of course,” said Elora.
“He wants- he wants me to go back to his flat. Tonight,” said Harry, “to meet some of his friends. He said I’ve got to meet some of his friends.”
“Do you want to?” wondered Elora; Harry knew he sounded a little hesitant and not entirely enthusiastic.
He exhaled. “I mean, I want to meet his friends. If he wants me to. It’s just,” said Harry, carefully considering his words, “I’ve been out two nights in a row. And that’s, like, that’s a lot? For me?”
“That’d be a lot for me too,” agreed Elora. “Why don’t you tell him you’d just like to stay home tonight? Tell him you’re tired.”
“I told him- I already said I’d go back. When I left his flat this morning,” Harry told her. “And I don’t want him to think I’m lame or, like, boring.”
“Do you really think he’ll think that?” asked Elora.
Harry shrugged. “Maybe.”
“I won’t tell you what to do,” she said. “Just… do what you feel comfortable with, okay, Harry?”
Harry nodded. He appreciated that Elora wanted him to feel comfortable but he wanted Nick to like him and he wasn’t sure that the two wants would always go hand-in-hand; Nick was forcing Harry to push his comfort zone a bit and, he thought, that was probably what he needed if he wanted to make friends and live a fulfilling life in London.
He left Black Treacle a while later, heading back to his flat. He would go back to Nick’s, he decided, and would try to get to know at least one or two of Nick’s friends.
It was just half past seven when Harry showed up at Nick’s flat. The older lad had told Harry that everyone would be arriving at around eight o’clock and he didn’t want to be late.
“You’re early, love,” said Nick with a smirk when he opened the door for Harry.
“Oh. Yeah,” said Harry, a blush staining his cheeks. He supposed it was a bit silly, that being fashionably late was more expected—and maybe more accepted—at these types of parties. “Is that- Is it okay?”
“Of course it is,” Nick assured him. “I’ll never turn down a little extra alone time with you.” Harry’s blush changed, abashed embarrassment replaced by bashful gladness at Nick’s desire to spend time with him.
Harry moved into the flat and followed Nick into the living room, all white carpeting and sleek, modern furniture.
“A glass of wine?” Nick asked him from a marble-topped table that served as a bar. “Or some Prosecco?”
“I don’t think- I’d better skip alcohol tonight,” said Harry. “I don’t really drink that much and last night was, um, kind of a lot for me.” He felt small and immature, too young and childish to be invited to a party with Nick Grimshaw and his famous, chic friends.
“That’s all right, then,” said Nick. “It’s good you know your limits.”
“Yeah.” Harry shrugged almost apologetically and said, feeling rather ashamed of himself, “I had some stupid things before. Like, when I drank too much. And I just- I don’t want anything stupid to happen again.”
“Oh,” said Nick simply, looking at Harry blankly.
Harry wasn’t sure what Nick was thinking; maybe he’d overshared and Nick felt uncomfortable now or maybe he thought Harry was an immature child. None of his “stupid things” had ever been major but they had been the irresponsible, carefree mistakes of youth.
Nick made himself a drink—a gin and tonic with a splash of cranberry juice—and moved to a long white linen-upholstered sofa.
“Sit with me, love,” he said, gesturing to the empty space beside him. “We can talk until everyone else starts to arrive.”
Harry moved to the seat next to Nick, a bit surprised when he felt Nick’s arm drape across the back of the sofa and his fingers brushing his neck.
“Have you thought about moving closer? To a different borough that’s not such a long commute?” asked Nick. “Get out of Sutton.”
“Um, not- not really,” said Harry. “I like Sutton.” He’d told Nick that the night before and he wasn’t really sure why Nick was asking him again if he had thoughts or plans to leave the borough; it almost seemed that Nick was trying to convince Harry that he should move or maybe he’d not believed Harry when he’d said he liked Sutton the first time.
“It’s just so far,” said Nick, a bit whiny, “and so pedestrian.”
“I don’t think it’s that bad,” said Harry, embarrassed and a little defensive. Again, he felt, he was showing his ignorance to everything fashionable and chic. “I know it’s not, um, posh or anything but it’s got some nice shops and things to do. My friend- my friend Elora owns a really good bakery on the High Street.”
“I’m sure it’s lovely,” said Nick, “but I think once you’ve made a name for yourself in the modelling world, you’ll want to be a bit more central and you’ll come to appreciate a certain lifestyle.”
“Oh.” Harry wasn’t really sure how to respond.
“You’ll come to expect certain luxuries that you can’t get in Sutton,” explained Nick.
“Maybe,” said Harry with a little shrug. He supposed that Nick probably knew more about how life changed for a person once they gained a little bit of fame than he did. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”
“You’ll see,” said Nick sagely.
The doorbell rang and Nick went to open it, gin and tonic in hand.
Harry thought that nearly every British fashion model and famous child of someone even more famous walked through the door of Nick’s flat over the course of the evening. He was introduced to Pixie Geldof, Kate Moss, Millie Mackintosh, Caroline Flack, and both Raff and Rudy Law.
He was surprised to find himself in a conversation with Daisy, Pixie, Alexa and her boyfriend, and Nick.
“I’ve personally not got over True Blood ending,” said Pixie. “I know it’s been nearly a year but I was obsessed with that show.”
“I never- I didn’t really like True Blood very much,” admitted Harry. “I never really got into—”
“You hear that, Alex?” said Nick to Alexa’s boyfriend. “Harry didn’t care for True Blood . Guess he’s not a fan.”
“I- What?” asked Harry, turning from Pixie to Nick and then finally to Alex. “I just meant I didn’t watch it every”—he blushed, the realisation that Alexa’s boyfriend was Alexander Skarsgård hitting him—“I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry,” said Alex with a smile. “I know True Blood isn’t for everyone.”
“What do you like to watch on telly?” Alexa asked Harry, brows raised and head tipped to the side as she waited politely for Harry’s answer.
“Oh.” Harry took a breath, aware of everyone’s eyes on him. “I’ve started watching- I’m watching this show called Wayward Pines now. It’s, um- Matt Dillon plays the main character.”
“Matt Dillon?” asked Nick.
“Yeah. He’s a Secret Service agent named Ethan Burke and he ends up in this town called Wayward Pines,” continued Harry. “It’s based on a series of novels and, um, and M. Night Shyamalan is one of the executive producers. It’s got a really cool- There’s a really brilliant twist. There are only, um, six episodes so far. I haven’t watched- I didn’t watch Thursday night’s episode yet.”
“It sounds fascinating,” drawled Nick, though Harry didn’t think he sounded terribly interested; he supposed he’d not really given Nick enough to pique his interest though.
“I didn’t- I mean, I don’t want to give away too much,” said Harry, hoping to explain why he’d not given more details about the show or its plot. “In case, you know, in case anyone wants to watch it.”
“Good idea,” said Nick with a nod and wink. Harry smiled.
Everyone had left Nick’s flat by around three o’clock, leaving Harry and Nick alone again.
“Could stay over again,” offered Nick, the suggestion innocent.
“I’d actually- Thank you,” said Harry, hoping to not offend Nick and wanting to sound grateful and polite. “But I think I’d like to sleep in my bed tonight.” He gave a boyish smile. “I think Butterscotch missed me.”
Nick gave Harry an appraising look—Harry wasn’t quite sure what Nick was looking for—and said, “All right, love. Let me call you a car.”
“Okay,” agreed Harry.
Nick called to arrange a car. “They’ll be here in ten minutes,” he told Harry as he hung up the phone.
Nick sat back down on the sofa next to Harry. “Have you got any plans for tomorrow?”
Harry shook his head. “Not really. I’ll probably go to the tearoom near my flat,” he said. “And probably catch up on that episode of Wayward Pines .”
“It’s a good thing you’ve found me, then!” said Nick.
It was nice to have met Nick, thought Harry, and he was glad he had but he didn’t really know why it was a good thing he’d met him.
“Why’s that?” he asked with a grin, hoping he sounded playful rather than rude.
“You obviously needed someone to give you a social life,” stated Nick. “How else would you have made any new friends in London?”
Harry blinked three times, lips parted slightly. “Um, I guess I’d just have to go to that book club and, like, Scrabble night at the library. And talk to some of the people in Pilates classes at the leisure centre. Or meditation group.”
Nick’s brows raised as Harry spoke, disbelief etched on his face. “I meant interesting friends.”
Harry supposed that there may be a few people he didn’t find interesting but it seemed more likely that he would find people with whom he shared similar interests—they were attending the same activities, after all—interesting. Again, though, he felt he was showing exactly how ignorant he was to what was obviously considered interesting by the fashionable and chic.
“I don’t know,” said Harry finally, blinking again.
“See,” said Nick—Harry seemed to have proved his point for him—“it’s a good thing you met me.”
Harry gave the older lad a weak smile.
It was nearly half past four when Harry arrived back in Sutton. He’d told Nick before he left that he wanted a quiet day the next day, reasoning that it would probably be good to get some extra sleep and eat a few proper meals before his meeting with the casting director. To Harry’s relief and slight surprise, Nick agreed.
Harry spent most of Sunday hanging around his flat. He practiced a bit of yoga and did a short meditation—he’d discovered a YouTube channel with a bunch of guided meditations that he really enjoyed—before eating a bowl of cereal and drinking a pot of tea. He read for a while and listened to several records, finally taking a shower and getting dressed to go down the street to Black Treacle.
At the bakery, Harry talked to Elora about his meeting with the casting director for Gucci the next day, telling her he was nervous and rambling about what he was going to wear—something simple like a pair of black jeans, a plain white tee, and his new Chelsea boots—and that he thought he would pull his hair into a bun rather than wear it down.
He tried to avoid Elora’s questions about his previous evening, only telling the girl that he’d gone to Nick’s and had met quite a few of the older lad’s friends.
After laying out his clothes for the next day and making himself a simple dinner, Harry chatted to his mum for a bit and then sat down to watch the episode of Wayward Pines that he’d missed a few nights earlier. He went to bed soon after; his meeting was at half past nine on Grafton Street—he was surprised to see that the casting director’s office was just a short walk from Mahiki—and he knew an early night and plenty of sleep were the best ideas.
It was an hour-long commute to Mayfair, which gave Harry plenty of time to get himself properly nervous despite the chamomile-lavender tea Elora had insisted he take—she’d claimed it would help him stay calm but Harry was doubting that assertion now—rather than his usual Earl Grey.
He found a text from Nick as he walked to the Morden Station at half past eight, though that, too, did little to calm him. I’ve just told everyone that my boy’s going to an audition for Gucci and said they should wish you luck!
Harry wasn’t sure if Nick meant he’d told the others at work or if he’d mentioned it in the middle of the Breakfast Show to millions of listeners but both possibilities made him nervous. He appreciated that Nick was being so supportive and encouraging though.
He sat in a posh waiting room with expensive leather furniture and beautiful lamps that Harry suspected were made of gold and Tiffany stained glass with two other lads who didn’t seem very interested in talking to Harry and instead chatted to each other quietly.
When Harry was called into the room, he was greeted by a tall woman with dark hair and a pleasant smile.
“Hello, Harry,” she said. “I’m Leila Ananna.”
“Hello, Ms An—”
“Leila, please,” said the woman, taking Harry’s proffered hand and shaking. “It’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard quite a lot about you.”
“Have you?” asked Harry timidly.
“Yes, of course,” she told him. “Louis has talked about you endlessly. Please.” She gestured toward an armchair covered with a burgundy velvet. “Sit.”
Harry sat and listened as Leila told him about the job, explaining that it really was just shots for product views on Gucci’s website. “Some models find that too tedious and are uninterested,” she said.
“I liked doing those shots with Louis. For Topman, you know,” Harry told her. “It was just fun to model different clothes and to work with- to work with Louis and Lou Teasdale and Other Harry—Harry Lambert—and all of the crew. I really liked that I got to- I got to see how professional photoshoots run.”
“I’m so glad to hear that you feel that way,” said Leila. “A lot of models just want to skip all of the work they consider boring when they’re first starting because they just want the flashy print advert jobs and a chance to walk runways.”
“Well, um, I’d like to do that too,” said Harry, nodding to show his interest. “But I’ve only just- I’ve only had one job so far. I’ve got to work up to all of that, don’t I?”
“It seems a lot of new models miss that memo,” she said with a grin. “Glad you didn’t.”
Leila pulled out a file filled with Harry’s portfolio—Simon had told him not to worry about bringing it along because he and Louis had already sent over all of his headshots and a majority of photos from the Topman shoot—and pulled out a few she’d marked with little sticky tabs.
“Quite often, models try to show their attitude, whatever that may mean for them,” she told Harry, giving a amused half-eye roll. “Of course, we’re looking for that when it comes to the print adverts and to a certain extent on the runway. But for the product views, we like a bit more of a blank slate, really just a step away from a mannequin. Gucci knows that their designs are usually inaccessible to a lot of people so they like to show the clothes on real models on their website to give it a touch of character, realness.”
Harry nodded. That made a great deal of sense, he thought. Gucci’s clothes were most certainly not realistic for everyday wear for most people and were perhaps a bit intimidating for the less bold fashion-conscious.
“However,” continued Leila, “they don’t want to take away from the clothes that are being modelled.”
Harry nodded again. “That makes sense. I always think it’s kind of- it’s a bit impersonal when it’s just a picture of the clothes when you’re looking to do a bit of online shopping. I always prefer it when it’s being modelled. It gives you an idea- It gives a better idea of what it actually looks like when you’re, um, when you’re wearing it.”
“Exactly,” agreed Leila. “These photos Louis sent me”—she pointed to the three she’d pulled from Harry’s portfolio—“demonstrate exactly what I’m talking about. You give the items a touch of personality, breathe a little bit of life into them, but don’t distract from the clothing itself. The focus of the shot is still the item you’re modelling.”
“Oh,” said Harry. He’d really just put on the clothes Other Harry had given him and had done his best to follow Louis’ directions. He most definitely wasn’t going to tell Leila that though. “Thank you.”
“I think you seem like a lovely young man,” Leila told him, “and I imagine you’ll do quite well in this industry.”
“Thank you,” said Harry again.
“I like your attitude as well,” she added. “Very different from your competitors.”
Harry wasn’t sure if he should thank her again so he chose instead to look politely engaged and nothing more.
“I’m inclined to offer you the job, especially given Louis’ high recommendations,” said Leila, “but just to be fair, I’ll review all three portfolios again before I make my final decision.”
“Of course,” said Harry, nodding his understanding.
“It’s been a pleasure to meet you,” Leila told Harry as she led him to the door.
“Um, yes. You too. I mean, it was nice to meet you.”
In the waiting area again, Leila said, “All right, gentlemen. I will review all of your portfolios and will contact you sometime in the next day or two to let you know what direction we’ve decided to go. Thank you for your time today.”
All three models thanked Leila, shaking her hand before leaving the office.
Harry pulled his phone out of his pocket as he walked out of the building onto Grafton Street. He pressed the home button and read the text from Nick that appeared on his screen. How did it go?!
Just got out! responded Harry. It went well I think! She said she liked the pictures Louis sent her and she thought my attitude was good and she said Louis recommended me highly. He hit send and then, knowing what Nick’s next question was going to be, sent a third message. She’s reviewing all three portfolios and she’ll be contacting us in the next day or two.
You’ll get it Iove I’m sure , came Nick’s reply.
Harry hoped Nick was right.
His mother seemed to agree when he spoke with her, ringing her as he was walking through the door to his flat. She’d listened to what Harry told her—Leila had been pleased with the photos Louis had sent her, had liked his attitude and had appreciated his eagerness and willingness to do the jobs other models found tedious and boring, and had said Louis had highly recommended him—and thought that it seemed Harry was very likely to get the job.
Nervous excitement and anxious anticipation bubbled inside Harry’s tummy for the rest of the day, nearly keeping him awake with their growing strength.
By the morning, however, they had become so bad that Harry felt almost as nervous as he had the previous morning. He really hoped that he would hear from Leila soon because he didn’t want to feel shaky and sort of nauseous for too long.
It was as Harry was folding his laundry early that afternoon that his phone rang, a number he didn’t know lighting up the screen.
“Hello,” he said and then added, because just saying hello didn’t seem professional enough, “This is Harry.”
“Hello, Harry,” came a woman’s voice. “This is Leila Ananna. I’ve reviewed all three of the portfolios I saw yesterday and I’m calling you with a bit of good news.”
Harry’s heart leapt into his throat. He really hoped it was the best news and not just that she’d liked his portfolio and might consider him again for a job in the future.
“I feel that you’re the best candidate for the job and I’d like to offer it to you if you’re still interested.”
“Oh, gosh,” said Harry, a million different thoughts and emotions filling him. “Yes! Yes, I’m still- I’m very interested!”
“Good,” chuckled Leila. “I was hoping you’d say that. I’ll need you to come back to my office at your earliest convenience to deal with the formal agreements and paperwork.”
They arranged a time for the following day and Harry said thank you for the hundredth time before hanging up the phone and calling his mother immediately.
“I got it, Mummy!” exclaimed Harry as soon as Anne answered the phone. “I got it and I’m going to sign paperwork tomorrow!”
“Oh! Harry, baby!” said Anne, overwhelmed with pride. “Oh, Harry! That’s so wonderful! I’ve been sick with nerves since yesterday!”
“Me too,” laughed Harry.
Harry and Anne spoke a bit longer, Anne’s pride and joy making both her and her son tear up.
Finally, Harry decided to walk to Black Treacle to tell Elora the exciting news.
He was glad that two o’clock on Tuesday was a slow time at the cafe because he didn’t want to sit and wait for Elora to finish a busy rush of orders before he could tell her that he’d got the job.
“Well?” she asked as soon as Harry walked through the door. “How did it go?”
“I got the job!” he exclaimed, a huge smile pressing his dimples deep into his cheeks.
“Harry!” shouted Elora, moving from behind the pastry counter to wrap Harry in a big hug. “Oh my God! That’s awesome!” She pulled back, hands still gripping Harry’s elbows, and said, looking around the cafe to the few customers who sat nursing their coffees and teas and picking at pastries, “My friend’s going to be a Gucci model!” She looked back at Harry and said, “I’m so proud!”
“Thanks, Elora,” said Harry, blushing and pleased that she was so excited for him.
“Now come eat something and tell me everything.” She tugged Harry’s arm and led him to the coffee bar.
Harry told Elora all about the interview with the casting director the day before, mentioning that she’d liked the photographs Louis had sent and that the photographer had talked only praises of Harry to her.
“She liked my attitude too,” he added.
“Of course she did,” said Elora.
Harry blushed. “She said it’s different from other models because they all- most models don’t want to do the less glamorous stuff like shoots for product views but I said I liked doing that.”
“‘Less glamorous’?” chuckled Elora. “You’ll be modelling Gucci! That’s about as glamorous as it gets!”
Harry laughed and agreed.
“What did Nick say when you told him?” asked Elora.
“Um, I didn’t- I haven’t told him yet,” said Harry. “I called my mum as soon as I got off the phone with Leila. And then I came here.”
“You’d better text Nick then!” Elora gave him a little grin. “He told everyone to wish you luck yesterday morning. On his show. He said ‘his boy’ was going to audition for Gucci.”
Harry groaned. “He did tell everyone then? I thought he just- I thought he meant just the people in the studio with him.”
“Nope! Now send him a text!”
Harry pulled his phone out and opened his messages. I got the job! Going to sign papers tomorrow!
Nick’s response was immediate. I knew you would love! Congrats! we should celebrate tonight ;)
“He wants- he wants to celebrate tonight,” said Harry with a grimace. “I don’t- I don’t really want to go out tonight. Or anything.”
“You can tell him that, Harry,” said Elora kindly. “You don’t always have to go out just because Nick wants to.”
“It’s just- He’s happy for me and he wants to celebrate with me,” Harry told her. “And that’s nice. That he, you know, that he cares.”
Elora turned to Harry and looked at him, eyes studying his face. “It is nice,” she agreed. “But you don’t, like, owe him anything in exchange for him being happy for you and caring. You don’t owe him a night out partying.”
“I- I know,” said Harry with a little shrug. “I just want him to know that, um, that I am happy that he cares about me.”
Harry left Black Treacle a while later, heading back to his flat.
While he was walking down the High Street, he got another text from Nick. so are we celebrating?!
Harry bit his lip. Maybe he would take Elora’s advice. Or at least compromise.
Maybe just a quiet night in? he responded. a movie and wine and some takeaway would be nice :)
Oh that’s no fun! Let me take you out for dinner or drinks or somethig.
Harry looked at the text message. He thought a quiet evening in sounded like a nice time. He didn’t know how to tell Nick that he really wanted to stay in without sounding ungrateful for Nick’s support or like a boring, friendless introvert.
He wished he could ask Elora what she thought he should say and realised that he didn’t have her phone number. He would have to ask her for it the next time he saw her.
that would be nice too , typed Harry and then, before he could change his mind, he sent a second message. But i’d really like to just spend the night in with you! Maybe we could go for dinner another night.
Harry sighed, relieved, when Nick replied. If that’s what my boy wants it’s what we’ll do!
Harry smiled, feeling his cheeks heat up, and sent Nick the blushing emoji face.
He arrived at Nick’s flat a few hours later—he’d wanted to bring a bottle of wine but Nick had insisted he didn’t need to bring anything—and was greeted with an enthusiastic congratulations and a big hug.
They ate takeaway from an Indian restaurant that Nick told Harry was the best in London and then watched Notting Hill.
As the movie played and the two lads watched, Harry found it more and more difficult to focus on what was happening on the television screen. Nick, it seemed, was inching closer and closer to him with every passing moment, leaving almost no space between them. His right arm, which had started rested across the back of the sofa behind Harry, was now draped around Harry’s shoulders and his fingers were tracing over the exposed skin of Harry’s collarbone ever so lightly.
Still, though, Harry was surprised when Nick placed his other hand on Harry’s cheek and turned the model’s head to face him. Harry didn’t have time to get over his initial surprise before Nick leant forward and kissed Harry, firm and demanding, taking the younger lad like he wanted to claim him and own him.
Harry kissed back, tentative and nervous because Nick Grimshaw was kissing him—how many times had he fantasized about this very thing?—and he didn’t know how to put his flittering emotions and thoughts into his kiss.
And then Nick pulled back, a satisfied smirk on his face that was missed by Harry because the lad still had his eyes shut tight.
Harry thought about that kiss for the rest of the night, as they finished the movie and said goodbye—Nick didn’t mention the kiss and Harry didn’t either, unsure what to say—and as he made his way back to Sutton in the car Nick had called for him yet again.
As he lay in his bed that night, he felt Nick’s lips against his own, possessive and greedy. He’d liked that, he realised, because he’d felt wanted, desired. He’d never felt that way before.
He woke up early the next morning, flushed with excitement for his meeting with Leila and from his evening with Nick.
After a shower and making sure Butterscotch’s food and water bowls were filled—the cat seemed to be having a lazy day, lying in the pool of sunlight at the foot of Harry’s bed—Harry left his flat. He walked down High Street to Black Treacle, eager to tell Elora about Nick’s kiss.
When he arrived at the tearoom, Harry sat on his usual stool at the coffee bar and waited for his friend to finish with a big order of drinks and pastries for a rushed-looking woman who, Harry guessed, was charged with bringing breakfast for all of her coworkers.
Elora finally made her way to Harry, greeting him with a good morning as she made a pot of Earl Grey tea and pulled a marzipan and apricot-filled brioche bun from the pastry case.
“Did you go out with Nick last night?” she asked, not hesitant with her straightforwardness at all.
“Kind of,” admitted Harry. “We didn’t go out. I just went to his flat and we watched a movie and had takeaway.”
“Was that your suggestion or was it what he wanted?” asked Elora.
Harry missed the true question—had Nick done what Harry wanted to do or had he decided that’s what he’d like to do and had yet again got his own way—and answered her question. “I told him I thought maybe- that a quiet night in would be nice. He said that was no fun and we should go for dinner but I thought of what you said and kind of- I kind of compromised.” He shot his friend a guilty little smile. “So I told him that I really wanted a night in just, like, just spending time with him. And he said”—Harry blushed as he said his next words—“he said if that’s what his boy wanted, it’s what we would do.”
“Well that’s good, then,” said Elora. “That you stuck to what you wanted.”
“Yeah,” agreed Harry. He paused for a second and added, “When we were watching the movie, he- Nick kissed me.”
Elora stopped pulling at the bit of bun she was tearing off and looked at Harry. “He did?”
“Yeah. Like, kind of… hard?” said Harry, unsure how to describe Nick’s kiss.
“Like he- like he wanted me,” said Harry, feeling a little embarrassed at his confession to his friend. “Kind of… possessive.”
“Oh,” said Elora, suddenly understanding.
“But he didn’t say anything. Like, that he likes me or that he’s wanted to kiss me since we met or, you know, anything.”
“So nothing that you felt,” surmised Elora.
Harry nodded. “Like it didn’t happen. Or that it didn’t matter.”
“It did to you though.”
Harry didn’t want to admit it. Lou’s words—“I think that Nick’s more of a casual relationship kind of person.”—repeated in his head.
“I mean, yeah,” he finally said, quiet and ashamed. “He calls me his boy and he- it seems like he cares about me and he likes spending time with me. I think he likes spending time with me.”
Elora bit the inside of her cheek, lips pursed. “I don’t want to sound like a dickhead, Harry,” she said, attempting delicacy. “But maybe your friends were right. Maybe Nick is really just a friends-with-benefits kind of guy.”
Harry sighed, shoulders dropping, and nodded. “I know. I just don’t want it to be true.”
Elora took his hand in her much smaller one. “You don’t have to try to forget that it happened,” she said kindly. “You liked it and that’s important. But you should try not to build it up into something more than it was.”
Harry nodded again, lips dipped into a pout.
“Now cheer up, love,” she said with a little smile. “You’ve got a Gucci contract to sign.”
Harry entered the waiting lounge at Leila’s office at 3:15, telling the receptionist that he was there for his meeting with the casting director at half past three.
He was greeted by the woman fifteen minutes later and ushered into her office.
“Well, Harry. Congratulations!” she said, shaking his hand. “I’m pleased to welcome you to Gucci.”
“Thank you,” said Harry bashfully. “I’m- I’m honoured. Really.”
Leila smiled at him. “We’ve got a bit of boring legal talk to discuss,” she said, opening a red envelope on her desk. She read through the contract—she’d sent a copy to Simon, she told him, who had approved of everything from his end—and explained everything to him, making sure he understood and asking if he had any questions.
Contract read and signed, Leila informed him of the details of the shoot.
“You’ll start next Wednesday,” she said. “Louis’ finishing up a shoot for GQ with Niall Horan.”
“Niall Horan?” asked Harry, hoping he didn’t sound ignorant but unfamiliar with the name.
“Another fairly new newcomer,” she told him. “He’s done a few more shoots than you but he’s got the same attitude you’ve got. Two of the only models I’ve met in the last ten years who don’t feel any jobs I offer are beneath them.”
“Oh,” said Harry. “Does he model for Gucci too?”
“No.” Leila shook her head. “I’m the casting director for Paul Smith, Armani, McQueen, and Burberry too. I just signed him as the face of Paul Smith’s new PS Tailored collection. He’s a very classic kind of handsome. The lad was born to model suits.”
“Oh. That’s- that’s good, then,” said Harry.
“I imagine you’d do quite well on the runway,” she mused. “You’ve got the right look. And long legs.”
“I’m actually- I trip over my own feet. Standing still,” said Harry with a self-deprecating laugh.
Leila laughed too. “You should consider talking to Simon about runway coaching,” she said. She raised a brow and added, “London Fashion Week is just around the corner and I’m always looking to bring new talent to the catwalk.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “I’ll- Maybe I’ll talk to Simon. Do you think- Does he know good places for that kind of… training?”
“I’m sure he does,” said Leila with a smile. “I like to recommend the London Model Academy myself.”
Harry thanked her for her suggestion and after learning the rest of the details of his upcoming photoshoot, the meeting ended.
“Remember,” she said as she led him to the door, “runway coaching.”
Harry considered Leila’s words over the next few days, thinking about what an interesting experience walking the runway for Gucci or Alexander McQueen would be and wondering if he would be able to do it; he’d not been exaggerating much when he’d told Leila he could manage to trip over his own feet while standing still.
Finally, on Saturday morning, Harry decided to mention the topic to Elora while he was eating a stack of whole wheat pancakes with fresh summer berries and whipped honey butter.
“El, I want- I need advice,” he said.
“What’s up, love?” she asked from where she sat at the end of the coffee bar, tying little red and gold ribbons around bags of freshly made caramel popcorn.
“So when I met with Leila on Wednesday to, you know, to sign my contract, she said she thought I would do well on the runway,” he told her, “and that I should talk to, um, talk to Simon about runway coaching. Because she said London Fashion Week is coming up and she’s always looking for new talent.”
“What kind of advice do you want?” asked Elora. “Are you asking if I think you should do it?”
“Well,” said Harry with a shrug, “yeah.” He knew he was really terrible at making his own decisions.
“I think you should,” Elora told him. “It almost sounds like she was offering you a spot walking a runway during London Fashion Week. Or at least offering you an audition.”
“Really?” asked Harry, surprised that Elora had interpreted Leila’s suggestion as she had.
“Yeah,” said Elora. “I mean, I think she’s probably interested in hiring you to work as a runway model and she might be curious to see if you’re willing to put in the effort to train for an opportunity like that.”
Harry thought about what Elora said for a minute. “But I’m, like, the most uncoordinated person ever. I don’t- I don’t think I can do it.”
“I do,” said Elora confidently. “And I think you should find somewhere that trains models for runway shows.”
Elora gave him a sweet smile.
Harry spent the second Saturday night in a row with Nick, this time at a restaurant called sketch in Mayfair very near Leila’s office on Grafton Street. It was a quite posh restaurant, the walls of the dining room in which they were seated—The Gallery, Harry learnt—painted a pale, powder pink and the chairs and banquettes upholstered in a velvet the same shade of pink. Harry felt a little out of place and silly; this, he could tell, was where the premier of the fashion world, where the Alessandro Micheles and Clare Waight Kellers and Lady Gagas, came to enjoy an evening out.
It was quiet, though, and Harry was glad it was just Nick again tonight; he liked Alexa and Daisy and the others he’d met at Nick’s flat well enough but he just wanted to chat with Nick tonight.
They were just friends, he reminded himself, and he supposed some people in his situation might try to avoid being alone with the person on whom they had an unreciprocated crush but he liked spending time with Nick.
Harry told Nick about Leila’s assertion that he should consider runway coaching because she thought he would do well as a runway model.
“My friend Elora thinks I should do it,” Harry told the older man. “She thinks that it sounds like, um, maybe like Leila’s offering an audition or something. And maybe she wants to see if I’m willing to make the effort to earn a spot on the runway.”
“Of course you’d be an excellent runway model,” said Nick, ignoring everything Harry mentioned Elora had said. “The perfect face for the runway. And those legs are just sinful.” He smirked and raised a brow. “Sex on legs.”
Harry choked on the bit of food he was chewing, shocked by Nick’s bluntness, and took a sip of his water, his cheeks a deep red.
It was late when Nick finally decided to call a car to bring him home before driving Harry to Sutton.
Harry was confused, he realised as he made the trip back to Sutton, because he was sure that Nick had been flirting with him since they’d met at the launch party two weeks earlier—he called Harry his boy, told him he was beautiful, and had kissed him a few nights earlier—but he’d not asked Harry to be his boyfriend.
He knew it was naive to think that any of that meant they should be boyfriends. He supposed that if it was just one or two of those things, he wouldn’t feel this way but it was so many boyfriend-like behaviours all together that it felt odd to not tell people Nick was his boyfriend.
So Harry began to hope that Nick would realise the nature of their relationship leant itself more to a romantic one than just a platonic.
Harry spent the next few days waiting for his photoshoot with Louis. He passed a lot of time at Black Treacle, sitting and chatting to Elora—he’d made sure to get her mobile number one day before he left the tearoom—and sharing pastries and sandwiches that his friend didn’t charge him for because, Elora said, “It was my lunch anyway. You just stole some bites.”
On Monday, he went to the Cheam Leisure Centre to sign up for a swim, gym, and exercise class membership—something he’d wanted to do since he’d moved to London but hadn’t done yet—and saw that there was a Pilates class offered Monday nights and yoga on Sunday evenings. He registered for that evening’s Pilates class and told the lady at reception that he might be back for yoga on Sunday too.
Nick texted him at about five o’clock. I’d love to see my boy tonight!
:( Sorry Nick , responded Harry. I’m signed up for a Pilates class at the leisure centre tonight.
Nick’s message came quickly. You could skip one night ;)
Harry frowned. It’s my first class and i only signed up today.
Come by after then. Please? read Nick’s next text.
It doesn’t end until 9:30 and it would be late by the time I got to your flat.
that’s why you should move out of Sutton
Harry sighed. As special as he felt when Nick made it seem that he was just dying to see Harry, like he was desperate to spend time with him, Harry really wished Nick would understand that there were some nights when he just wanted to stay home.
I like Sutton , replied Harry. Im sorry Nick. Another night!
I see how it is , said Nick a few minutes later. Your sick of this old man.
Noooo!!!! Harry sent the first message and then immediately followed it with a second. I’m not sick of you and you’re not old!
I’m just kidding love! Harry read Nick’s message, the feeling of guilt that had flooded him when he’d read Nick’s previous texts slowly flowing away. Have fun at Pilates!
Tuesday was a rainy, grey day and Harry decided it was the perfect time to sit with a pot of tea, curled up on the sofa with Butterscotch, and reread And Then There Were None and Ten Little Indians for the following evening’s first book club meeting. He hoped they would be out of the studio in time for him to make it back to the Sutton Central Library in time and thought maybe he could ask Louis at the beginning of the day if it would be possible to try to finish early enough.
With nervous excitement considerably less intense than he’d felt on either the morning of his first shoot or his first meeting with Leila, Harry left his flat for the studio the next morning.
Harry had expected to be returning to Guys & Dolls Studio but had learnt that Gucci had their own small studio in the same building that housed Leila’s office. He arrived early and was happy to see that both Lou and Other Harry were there again.
“Do you travel in a pack, then?” he asked the makeup artist with a grin when he saw her.
Lou laughed. “The three of us do seem to work together quite often. It’s nice. Like a little family.”
Harry agreed, feeling even more comfortable to be with people he already knew, and let the woman do his makeup and style his hair—a relatively neat bun today—before Other Harry set out the first outfit he was scheduled to model.
Louis arrived just as Harry Lambert was adjusting the collar of a pink button-up shirt under the neck of the knit wool tiger jumper he was wearing.
“Look at you!” said Louis by way of greeting. “Modelling proper fashion and not Grimshaw’s shite attempts!”
“Hi, Louis,” said Harry with a small smile. As much as he liked Nick—and he liked Nick quite a lot—and Nick’s line for Topman, it felt completely different to be modelling a one thousand-pound Gucci jumper.
The shoot started, Louis giving Harry direction as he photographed the outfit the model was wearing, and the first hour passed pleasantly with playful banter and chatting among the photographer, model, and the rest of the crew.
“Any plans after your first night as a Gucci model?” asked Louis while Harry changed into the next look.
“Actually, um,” said Harry slowly, “when do you think- what time do you think we’ll be finishing today?”
“It won’t be long days like the Topman shoot,” Louis told him. “We’ve got ten days to photograph the whole collection so we can spread it out. Why?” He grimaced. “You have plans with your boyfriend?”
Harry ignored Louis’ boyfriend remark and said instead, “No. There’s a book club starting at the library. Sutton Central Library. Tonight’s the first meeting and I- I’d like to go. It’s at half six.”
“Yeah, lad,” said Louis. “We’ll finish up in time for that.”
“Thanks, Louis,” said Harry with an appreciative smile.
Much to both Harry’s surprise and Louis’ dismay, Nick arrived at the studio at around one o’clock.
“Hi, love,” he said, walking to Harry and kissing his forehead. “Thought I’d see my boy on his first day working in the Big Leagues.”
“Hi, Nick,” said Harry with a bashful smile, eyes cast down to Nick’s chest. “You didn’t have to come.”
“No, I didn’t have to but I wanted to,” said Nick smoothly. “Proud of you.”
“Grimshaw. A pleasure,” said Louis, tone clipped in a way that did nothing to hide his true feelings, though Harry knew he wasn’t even trying. “Why are you here?”
“Like I just said,” said Nick, sounding irritated, “I’m here to see my boy. I’ve brought him lunch.” He held up a paper bag that neither Harry nor Louis had noticed.
Louis rolled his eyes but said rather begrudgingly, “I s’pose it is time for lunch. Go on, then. Forty minutes.”
“Okay, Louis,” said Harry, nodding and turning to follow Nick out of the studio.
“Oi, lad!” called Louis. “Got to change first. You’re not leaving this room in a seventeen hundred-pound jacket. This is the real stuff.”
Harry and Nick ended up sitting at a small lunch table in the corner of the dressing area, choosing not to leave the studio after Harry had changed back into his own clothes, and ate the kale salad and quinoa chili Nick had brought along.
“We’re celebrating tonight, of course,” Nick told Harry matter-of-factly.
“Celebrating?” wondered Harry.
“Your first day, love!”
“Oh,” said Harry, feeling a little guilty. “Thank you but, um, but I can’t. I’ve got my first book club meeting tonight.”
“Book club?” asked Nick blankly.
“Yeah. I- I told you about it,” said Harry hesitantly, “last week. The first meeting’s tonight.”
“But then we said we’d do our own book club,” Nick reminded him. “You get to choose the books and everything.”
“We can- I can do both,” said Harry quickly, hoping to convince Nick of what he was saying. “Different nights. And we’ll have wine!”
“I just thought it could be our special thing,” said Nick coyly, a distinctly flirtatious grin on his lips. “Just for us.”
“It can be. But I can have another one too,” said Harry.
“With the young assistant librarian.”
Harry blinked at him. “He’s just running- he’s just running the club. It’s not like- I mean, it's not like—”
“I’m just teasing,” said Nick.
“O-oh,” said Harry, voice faltering slightly. “Um, okay.” He smiled awkwardly because he should have known Nick was just teasing him.
“You should get to know my friends a bit better, though,” mused Nick. “Talk with them about some topics that are actually interesting, not just books. I understand that you’re just settling in and trying to make some friends but you’ve got me now, love. You don’t need book club or Scrabble or—”
“I like books,” said Harry, brows furrowed and expression tinged with hurt. “I think they’re interesting.”
“Of course,” said Nick, the attempt to sooth Harry ruined by the patronising tone in his voice. “I do think that it’s important that you start spending time with people who”—Nick squinted his eyes as though trying to choose the correct words—“fit into your new lifestyle.”
“My new lifestyle?” asked Harry, feeling very confused.
“You’re a Gucci model now, Harry,” said Nick incredulously. “You belong with other beautiful people. Models and actors. Not assistant librarians.”
“Right,” came Louis’ voice from behind them. “You need to leave,” he said to Nick curtly. “It’s been forty minutes. Forty-five, actually.”
Nick stood from the table. “Meet me at Mahiki after?”
Before Harry could open his mouth, Louis cut in. “Didn’t you hear him tell you he’s got his book club tonight? Or were you too busy thinking about how you’ll get him to suck your cock?”
“Excuse me?” said Nick, eyes wide. “Stay out of this, Tomlinson. It’s not your place—”
“Oh, fuck off, Grimshaw. ‘It’s not your place,’” he said, mimicking Nick, voice dripping with anger. “It’s not your bloody place to tell Harry who he should hang out with and what he should and shouldn’t find interesting. But here you are, doing that. And I have to listen to it.”
Nick looked from Louis to Harry and blinked, obviously trying his best to act as though Louis hadn’t spoken. “Mahiki?” he asked again.
“Harry, love,” said Louis kindly, deciding that if Nick could act as if he hadn’t said anything then he could ignore Nick. Harry turned to look at Louis and Louis thought he’d never seen anyone who looked as much like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights as Harry did in that moment. “Why don’t you find Other Harry and get sorted with your next outfit? We’ve got to finish up in time for you to get to your book club.”
Harry exhaled what sounded almost like a sigh of relief and said quickly, “Okay, Louis. Um”—he stood and looked at Nick, avoiding eye contact with the older man—“bye, Nick.”
Louis glanced at Nick. Part of him wanted Nick to leave without saying another word but a bigger part of him didn’t want Nick to upset Harry any more than he already had, than he already would.
“Bye, love,” said Nick, stepping forward and dropping a kiss to Harry’s forehead. “Text me later and tell me all about your day.”
Harry nodded and gave a tentative half-smile. “I, um, I will.”
“Good lad,” praised Nick.
A half an hour later, Louis watched as Harry walked into the main studio area from the dressing room, wearing a dark blue puffer jacket with an embroidered wolf over a red and green plaid button-up shirt and a pair of loose-fitting light denim jeans.
“Excellent,” said Louis, clapping his hands. “Just straight on first and then I’ll have you turn round so we can see the embroidery on the back.”
“Okay, Louis,” said Harry, walking toward the taped X on the floor.
“Harry,” said Louis and Harry looked toward the photographer. “Please don’t forget who you are because Nick wants you to fit into his little mold.”
Harry blinked at Louis. He shrugged and said, almost defeatedly, “I just want him to like me.”
“I know, love,” Louis told him, “but there are people who like you the way you already are. Who don’t care if you fit a certain image.”
Harry didn’t say anything and Louis gave him a nod. “All right, lad. Let’s get a move on so you can be off for your first book club meeting.”
It seemed to Louis that Harry was not especially good at standing up for himself, that it made him uncomfortable to fight for what he really wanted when someone else wanted something different from him, so he decided he would do it for him.
And knowing that Nick didn’t want Harry to go to this book club made Louis even more determined to make sure Harry was able to go.
It was just around half past four when Louis announced them done for the day and sent Harry off to change out of the two thousand-pound outfit he was wearing.
“What book are you reading?” asked Louis, joining Harry in the dressing room with a cup of tea. “For your book club?”
“Oh. It’s two, actually,” Harry told him, explaining that they’d read the novel and play versions of the same story.
“Sounds all right, then,” said Louis with a smile. “You like reading?”
“Yes,” said Harry, blushing lightly. “I know it’s kind of boring and—”
“There’s nothing boring about reading,” Louis assured him. “People who don’t read are boring. What have they got to talk about?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Louis didn’t continue with his train of thought—Nick thought reading was boring and Louis thought Nick was uninteresting but he didn’t want to hurt Harry’s feelings in case he genuinely enjoyed spending time with Nick, didn’t want to do the same thing as Nick and convince Harry he wasn’t interesting or exciting because of what he liked to do—and said instead, “Reading’s a brilliant hobby. I’m glad you enjoy it. And I’m sure you’ll have fun at your meeting tonight.”
Harry left the studio and headed back to Sutton, saying goodbye to everyone on his way out, and Louis stayed a bit later to talk with Lou and Other Harry about the next day’s shoot.
“You’ve got to bite your tongue sometimes, Louis,” Lou said to him as they locked up the studio. “That dick-sucking comment wasn’t appropriate, you know?”
“It’s true though, and you know it too,” replied Louis.
“Doesn’t make it okay to say it,” said Lou.
Louis thought about the woman’s words as he made his way to his boyfriend’s flat. He just didn’t want Harry to get hurt and he knew that Nick would hurt him. He’d told Harry to watch himself but he didn’t think Harry had listened.
Although he’d only met Harry a few weeks earlier, he could tell the younger lad was too sweet for his own good—trusting and impressionable with a heart of gold—and was maybe a touch naive. It also seemed like he wanted to please everyone, craved approval, and was lonely and eager for a new friend or two.
Combined with his good looks and obvious talent for modelling, he was the perfect victim for a narcissistic social climber who, Louis suspected, would love nothing more than to be spotted with a beautiful young model on his arm.
Louis arrived at Liam’s flat a short while later, mind still filled with thoughts of Harry and, to his great irritation, Nick.
“Hey, babe,” said Liam as he opened the door for the photographer. “What’s wrong?” he asked, noticing the mildly irritated expression on the smaller lad’s face.
“Nick fucking Grimshaw, of course,” said Louis with a sigh, walking past Liam into the flat.
“Oh,” said Liam and then, after a beat, he asked, “Why?”
“Harry,” said Louis simply.
“Yes. The model who did the Topman campaign,” Louis told him.
“Right,” said Liam with a nod, “but what’s he got to do with Nick?”
“Because,” exhaled Louis, frustration bleeding from his voice as he started to unload his thoughts to the younger boy, “Nick’s got himself a pretty little vulnerable puppy to follow him around.”
“Oh,” said Liam, a hint of understanding dawning on him.
“Yeah,” said Louis. “And that poor, sweet boy’s going to get his heart crushed.” He continued, explaining the whole situation and telling Liam everything he’d seen and heard. He mentioned the multiple pap pictures, certain that was evidence that Nick was only pretending to care about Harry because it gave him a beautiful young up-and-coming model with whom he could be spotted at all sorts of fashionable places and events.
“So is Harry a puppy or a mouse?” asked Liam after Louis told him that Nick was going to destroy Harry like a cat with a mouse.
“He’s both, Liam,” said Louis. “Nick’s only going to break him. He’s going to tear him apart.”
Liam considered Louis for a moment. “Maybe you could help him find new friends. Like, different ones who aren’t just going to use him.”
“What?” asked Louis. “Like, set him up on dates or something?”
“I suppose,” said Liam. “I was thinking just friends. People who he actually has stuff in common with or at least, like, respect his interests and hobbies and don’t make him feel bad about them.”
“Do you think that’ll make him forget Nick?” wondered Louis, not sure that simply introducing Harry to a few new people would be enough to convince him that Nick was no good for him.
“I don’t know but you’ll never find out if you don’t try,” said Liam with a shrug. “Maybe you could ask him round to watch a movie with us some time. Show him that not everyone in the fashion industry goes out clubbing and partying all the time.”
“Don’t know that we’ve got the same status in the fashion industry as models and designers though,” said Louis. “A photographer and the editor of a fashion and lifestyle magazine.”
“Well, who do you think?” asked Liam.
“What about Niall Horan?”
“Niall Horan?” asked Liam.
“Yeah.” Louis nodded. “He’s a model and he’s got celebrity friends but he’s really lowkey about it all. I mean, he’s almost never spotted by the paps. Never in the tabloids. And he’s a really nice lad,” mused Louis. “Reckon he’d get on with Harry. Talk to him for hours about music and laugh at all of Harry’s weird puns just because he likes to make people happy.”
“Sounds good then,” said Liam.
Louis agreed and considered the idea for the rest of the night.
He decided it would be best to mention Harry to Niall first. He was sure that Niall would be eager to meet Harry—Niall loved to make new friends because, he’d told Louis once, friendships enrich everyone’s life—but Louis didn’t want to offer Harry a potential new friend only to come back and tell him they weren’t interested after all. He already had Nick making him feel that he was uninteresting and incapable of finding friends without Nick’s assistance.
Louis arrived at the studio the next morning, happy to find Harry already dressed in a pair of white denim pants covered in a floral print and a bright pink jumper with a large teddy bear embroidered on the chest.
“Excellent!” he said, clapping his hands to get the model’s attention. “Let’s get started, yeah?”
“Okay, Louis,” said Harry, as anxious to please as ever.
They started the day’s shoot, talking about Harry’s first book club meeting—there had been six people at the meeting and the discussion had been stimulating—and Louis’ quiet evening in with his boyfriend.
“I didn’t- I didn’t know you have a boyfriend,” said Harry. “You’ve never mentioned him before.”
“It’s a bit on-and-off,” said Louis easily. “You should meet him. He’s a proper sweetheart.”
“I’d- Yeah, I’d like that,” said Harry with a shy smile.
“We’re going to the pub near his flat tonight,” said Louis, adjusting the lens of his camera and focusing on Harry. “For dinner. Could join us if you’d like.”
“Oh, um, thanks,” said Harry, “but, um, I told Nick I’d go out with him tonight. Since I didn’t, you know, since I didn’t go last night.”
Louis bit his lip, remembering Lou’s words from the previous day—“You’ve got to bite your tongue sometimes.”—and nodded curtly. “Okay. Just… If you ever want a sort of chill night, like, just burgers and beer at the local or, like, some telly marathon, Li and I would love to have you round.”
“Yeah. Thanks, Louis. Maybe,” said Harry, nodding vigorously in a way that Louis knew meant he was just being polite, “maybe sometime.”
“Mmm,” hummed Louis, unconvinced.
Louis sent Harry off to find Lou and Other Harry for an outfit change and touch up.
“I didn’t know that Louis has a boyfriend,” said Harry to Lou as the woman powdered Harry’s face.
“Louis claims they’re ‘on-and-off’—”
“That’s what he said—”
“But I’ve never seen them have a proper off phase in two years,” Lou told him. “I think they’re both scared to tell the other that they’re in love so they just pretend it’s a bit more casual than it is. Prats.”
“They’ll realise someday,” said Harry. “I mean, if it’s been two years.”
“I hope,” sighed Lou. “Now what about you and Nick? Think he’ll realise—”
Lou searched Harry’s face for a minute and Harry wondered what she was thinking. “That you want something more serious,” she finally said.
“I don’t- No,” said Harry, shaking his head. “It’s okay. Whatever he wants.”
Lou sighed. “Yeah. That’s the problem.”
Harry wasn’t sure what she meant but didn’t have much time to think about it.
“Harry, lad,” called Louis. “Next look, yeah?”
It was half past six when they finished for the day. Harry still had two and a half hours before he was supposed to meet Nick at Mahiki so, not wanting to go back to Sutton only to return to Mayfair almost immediately, he found a Pret A Manger nearby that was open until half past ten and ordered a cup of veggie chilli and a chicken avocado sandwich.
He’d not told Louis that he was planning to sit alone at a cafe for two and a half hours while he waited to meet Nick for drinks that he didn’t really want at a club he didn’t really want to go to because he was certain Louis would have a few choice words to say about it.
So he ate his meal quietly, tucked away at a table in a corner of the restaurant.
He wasn’t sure why he wanted to please Nick so much, wasn’t sure why he cared what Nick thought about him as much as he did, but he really liked Nick. Nick was smart and funny and clever and attractive and famous and popular—none were qualities Harry had ever felt could be used to describe him, except perhaps attractive—and he thought Harry was beautiful and, for some reason, wanted to spend time with him.
Harry made his way over to Mahiki at nine o’clock and was led down to the Aloha Party Room. He spotted Nick at a booth surrounded by a group of people that included Pixie, Daisy, Alexa, Caroline Flack, and one of Jude Law’s sons.
He wished he’d gone for burgers with Louis and his boyfriend.
“Harry! Love!” called Nick and Harry knew it was too late to make any kind of escape now.
“Hi, Nick,” said Harry with a small smile.
Nick rearranged everyone on the settee, telling everyone on his side of the table to move so Harry could sit next to him.
Finally, Harry was settled in next to Nick with a Mustique Fizz that he’d not ordered.
Nick made a toast to Harry, voice projected loudly enough that Harry thought probably half of the people in the club could hear him. It was a bit over the top, Harry thought, as Nick went on about how proud he was of Harry and told everyone how hard-working and talented Harry was and how much he deserved this job with Gucci and all other jobs he would get in the future. “All because of me and my humble little Topman collection,” said Nick with a hint of false modesty.
Harry didn’t get a chance to think too much about Nick’s words—had he really only got the job with Gucci because of Nick?—because Nick sat back down beside him and, slipping a hand around the back of Harry’s neck, pulled Harry’s face toward his own and kissed him. It was hard and demanding and possessive, as it had been the first time Nick had kissed him a week earlier.
It was cheering that jolted Harry alert and he was suddenly uncomfortably aware of all of the people who had just watched Nick kiss him. Harry blushed a deep red and Nick pulled back.
“You’re beautiful, Harry,” he whispered, thumbing over Harry’s plump bottom lip.
“T-Thanks,” stuttered Harry, cheeks aflame.
“So tell me what it’s like to be a Gucci model,” said Nick, arm around the back of Harry’s neck and fingers tickling his collarbone.
“Oh. It’s really fun,” said Harry. He wasn’t sure what Nick wanted him to say; he’d already told the older lad several times that the job was fun. He’d told him he liked working with Louis, Lou, and Other Harry and that he was glad a lot of the crew who had worked on the Topman campaign were working on the Gucci shoot. He’d told Nick how exciting it was to wear Gucci clothes, that he’d always wanted to wear Gucci but had never been able to afford it and now he was modeling it. He’d told Nick he thought this job might help him get more jobs—maybe bigger, even more exciting things someday—and that he was trying to get a spot at a model training academy because Leila had suggested he do it.
He didn’t know what else to tell Nick. Nick must like to hear it, Harry reasoned, must find it interesting if he asked about the same thing over and over.
So Harry repeated himself, telling Nick everything he liked about working as a Gucci model.
“You didn’t, um- You… forgot to ask about my book club,” said Harry finally because Nick hadn’t mentioned it once in any of their texts the night before or at any point during the day.
“Right,” said Nick crisply, the flirtiness gone from his tone. “How was it, then?”
“It was so nice!” said Harry. He told Nick all about the discussion they’d had—he’d found it interesting that one woman had liked the play better than the novel because Harry thought that was just absurd—and about the other people who’d gone for the meeting.
“That’s great, Harry,” said Nick. “I’m so happy you had a good time.”
Harry smiled. “Thanks, Nick. It was fun.”
“Come dance with me, love.”
It was at around midnight that Harry told Nick he should leave and, after a few attempts on Nick’s part to get Harry to stay a bit longer, the older man gave in but insisted he call a car for Harry.
“I’ll walk you out,” he said after he received an alert that the car was waiting. “Got to make sure my boy gets home safe and sound.”
Harry blushed and allowed Nick to lead him up the stairs to the club’s main level, hand at the dip of Harry’s low back as he guided him along.
They were greeted, as seemed to be the norm whenever they were leaving Mahiki, by a small cluster of paparazzi with flashing cameras. Nick ushered Harry into the waiting car, leaning in to kiss him for the second time that night.
“Good night, love,” he said as he pulled back, closing the door and waving as the car pulled away from the curb.
Harry blushed as he thought about everyone who had seen Nick kiss him and hoped that the car door had blocked them from the cameras’ view. He knew Nick was used to a hundred eyes on him all the time but Harry wasn’t, at least not yet, and he certainly wasn’t used to paparazzi clicking their cameras every single time he left a restaurant or his flat.
He was glad, he thought as the Addison Lee came to a stop in front of his building, that nobody knew where he lived so he didn’t have to worry about the latter yet.
He thought it again the next morning, that he was lucky nobody knew where he lived, when he left his flat and headed to Black Treacle for tea and a bun on his way to the studio.
“He kissed you again,” said Elora as soon as he stepped to the counter.
“What?” asked Harry, a blush creeping up his neck and colouring his cheeks.
“He kissed you again,” repeated Elora, glaring at Harry.
“Oh no,” whispered Harry. “Was it—”
“All over Twitter?” Elora finished for him. “Yeah. The Sun and The Mirror had pictures of—”
“I didn’t want- I don’t want to be, like, in the tabloids,” said Harry quietly.
“Harry,” said Elora, tone softening as she looked at her friend. “I think it’s going to happen if you keep going out with Nick. Especially to Mahiki and places like that. Where celebrities go all the time. It’s the third time—”
“I know,” moaned Harry.
“Maybe talk to Nick,” said Elora with a shrug.
“Yeah,” said Harry, though he wasn’t sure how that conversation would go. Nick would most likely tell him that he would just have to get used to it all because it was part of his new lifestyle, whatever that meant. He’d probably not end up saying anything.
Harry arrived at the studio an hour later. Lou did his makeup and pulled his hair into a bun before Other Harry showed him his first look of the day, already laid out for him in the dressing room.
“Have a good time last night, did you?” came Louis’ voice from the other side of the dressing curtains. Harry wasn’t sure who Louis was talking to until he said again, his head poking between the curtains, “Did you?”
“Did I what?” asked Harry, blinking at the photographer.
“Have a good time? At Mahiki?” said Louis, sounding almost accusatory. He walked into the dressing room. “You make a nice bit of arm candy. I bet Nick can’t wait until the media finds out you’re a model.”
“What?” asked Harry.
“Don’t play dumb, Harry,” said Louis, frustrated. “You’re not dumb.”
“I saw the pictures, Harry,” explained Louis. “Leaving Mahiki with Nick again.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “He just walked me out to the car.”
“Hmmm,” Louis grunted, lips pressed together in a tight line. “He made sure the paps saw you together. Made sure it looked like you were leaving together, didn’t he.”
“What?” asked Harry, unsure what Louis was getting at. “Why?”
“Christ, lad,” said Louis. “He’s building it up, yeah.”
The look on Harry’s face made it obvious that Louis had done nothing to clear up Harry’s confusion. “What?” he asked quietly. “Building what up?”
Louis let out a long-suffering sigh. “The paps keep spotting Nick with a beautiful young man and it’s got all the tabloids wondering who Nick’s mystery boyfriend is. And they’ll start to figure it out soon, yeah, because if you think they won’t see that you’re doing product views for Gucci, you’re wrong.” He looked at Harry and continued, voice softening a bit, “Then you’ll be Nick’s up-and-coming model boyfriend—”
“I’m not his boyfriend,” said Harry quietly.
“You know that and I know that and Nick knows that,” said Louis, “but the tabloids don’t. And Nick is using that to make it look like you’re his boyfriend. Without actually committing.”
“What?” asked Harry, brow furrowed. “Why?”
Louis considered Harry for a moment, lips pressed together as he thought about what he should say—if he should say it—and then nodded, mind made up.
“Right. I’ve never been good at biting me tongue. Get it off me mum, I guess,” he said. “I don’t know if you’re too naive or trusting or sweet or what it is, because I know you’re not stupid, so I’m just going to be blunt. Nick’s using you. Just like he uses all of his famous friends.”
“I’m not famous,” interjected Harry.
“Yet,” said Louis, “but you will be. And Nick knows it. And you’ll be the young Gucci model boyfriend to add to his collection of other beautiful famous people he keeps around to make it look like he’s actually as famous as he plays at being.”
“Nick’s famous,” said Harry, sounding like he was trying to defend the older man.
“He’s a social climber who’s worked his way up quite impressively,” corrected Louis. “He’s a bloody radio show host, Harry.”
Harry looked like he’d been slapped in the face and Louis felt a little bad.
“Finish getting dressed, yeah,” said Louis, voice gentler. “We’ll start shooting in ten.”
“Okay,” whispered Harry, looking down as he slipped his feet into brown leather ankle boots with embroidered dragons running up the sides.
Louis was glad that Nick didn’t show up at the studio; he wondered if Harry had texted him and told him not to come but, after a moment’s consideration, decided Harry would never do something that bold.
They ended early, only doing three looks and wrapping up at around half past one, because Louis had a meeting with Leila and Niall Horan about their upcoming photoshoot for Paul Smith.
“Right, lad,” said Louis when Harry finished changing back into his street clothes. “I’ll walk you out. I’m just going down the hall to Leila’s office.”
Harry gave Louis a shy smile and followed the older lad to the door, waving his goodbyes to Lou and Other Harry.
“Have you got any plans for the weekend?” asked Louis as they walked toward the waiting room that served as the main hub for the casting director’s office and the studios.
“Not- not really,” said Harry. Louis guessed that Harry didn’t really want to tell him that he’d probably just end up doing whatever Nick wanted him to do. “Maybe, um, yoga at the leisure centre on Sunday. And I’ll probably go to the tearoom near my flat that my friend owns.”
“Elora, right?” asked Louis and Harry beamed at him, obviously pleased and maybe a bit surprised that Louis remembered that little fact.
“Yeah,” agreed Harry.
“Louis, mate!” came a voice from the posh reception area.
Louis smirked to himself and turned around. “Niall! Lad! Good to see you.” He reached out and grabbed the sleeve of Harry’s jumper, tugging the taller boy forward, and said, “Harry, this is Niall Horan. Niall, Harry Styles.”
“Nice to meet ya, Harry,” said Niall, extending a hand to Harry.
“It’s, um, it’s,” stuttered Harry, shaking Niall’s hand and blushing, “it’s nice to meet you too. Niall.”
“We’ve just been shooting product views for Gucci’s Cruise 2016 collection,” Louis told Niall.
“Ah, yeh’ve got that right look for Gucci,” said Niall honestly, appraisal professional and courteous rather than Nick’s usual lascivious, lust-fueled appreciation. “Could pull off whatever wild, artistic haute couture they give ya, I reckon.” He smiled kindly. “I’m better suited to the more classic fashion. Paul Smith and Oliver Spencer.”
“Thank- thank you,” said Harry, blush deepening at Niall’s words.
“Harry’s got a short day today,” said Louis, clearly amused by the models’ interaction—and Harry’s reaction—smirk still on his face. “Should get to our meeting, yeah?” he added, looking at Niall.
“Louis Tomlinson, on time?” gasped Niall, teasing the photographer and sending a sly wink toward Harry.
“Ah, piss off,” said Louis as he watched Harry bite back a laugh. “Have a good weekend, lad,” he told Harry, “and I’ll see you on Monday morning, yeah?”
“See you around, Harry,” said Niall, giving a quick wave to the taller model as he turned to follow Louis to Leila’s office.
The meeting with Leila was short, just a brief chat about the collection Niall would be modeling and an overview of the shoot’s outline that Harry Lambert, the shoot’s artistic director Josie, and Louis had put together.
“Niall, lad,” said Louis as the two men were leaving Leila’s office a bit later. “Niall, I’ve got a favour to ask you.”
Niall rolled his eyes good-naturedly and asked, “What do you need, mate?”
“No,” said Louis, genuine. “Really just a favour.”
“What is it?” asked Niall, brows furrowed slightly.
“It’s Harry. Styles,” Louis told him. “He’s been in London for a few months now and he hasn’t really made any friends. He’s a bit of an introvert and—”
“Isn’t he always out with Nick Grimshaw though?” wondered Niall. “And that whole lot?”
“Yeah,” agreed Louis, “but Nick’s not- I don’t think Nick’s in it for the friendship.” He caught the confusion on Niall’s face. “I think Nick’s more interested in what he can get out of a relationship with Harry. Like, it would only improve his... social life or something if he’s dating the new, young Gucci model.”
“So what? You want me to ask him out? On a date?”
“It doesn’t have to be- Not a date,” said Louis. “Just invite him to hang out. Something lowkey. So he can see that he doesn’t have to change his whole lifestyle just because he’s a model.”
“Why would he think he’s got to change his lifestyle now he’s a model?” asked Niall curiously.
“Because Nick keeps telling him he needs to,” answered Louis dryly. “‘You should start spending time with people who fit into your new lifestyle. Beautiful people. Not assistant librarians and your Scrabble club,’” said Louis in a near-perfect yet unflattering imitation of Nick’s accent.
“He belongs to a Scrabble club?”
“Yes,” said Louis. “And he likes it a lot.” He gave Niall a look as if daring him to ridicule Harry’s hobby as Nick did so frequently.
“I love Scrabble,” Niall told Louis. “I’m absolute shite at it though.”
“Invite him over for a Scrabble night or something,” suggested Louis.
“If he’s dating Nick Grimshaw, I don’t want to, like, step on any toes or make Harry feel uncomfortable or anything,” Niall told the photographer.
“They’re not really dating,” Louis corrected Niall. “Nick would never make that commitment.”
“Just think about it?”
“Yeah, okay,” the model told him.
Louis hoped that Niall would consider inviting Harry to hang out; just the Scrabble comment had convinced him that Niall and Harry would make excellent friends.
By Sunday evening, Louis had decided to mention Niall—to mention the possibility of a friendship with Niall—to Harry. If he hadn’t already been sure that Harry would enjoy Niall’s kind, easy-going personality and companionship very much, the numerous pictures of Harry spotted out with Nick that appeared all over Twitter and half of Britain’s celebrity gossip websites on Saturday morning and again on Sunday morning would have made up his mind. And he felt Niall’s promise to at least consider inviting Harry to hang out was good enough to go on for now.
“G’moring,” he called as he walked into the studio on Monday morning, a paper cup of milky tea in his hand and a pair of Rayban aviators pushed up into his messy hair. “Morning, Harry,” he said, sticking his head into the dressing room where Lou was doing Harry’s makeup. “I’d ask how your weekend was but I know what you did and I don’t care to hear about it.”
Lou gave the photographer an admonishing look and Harry blinked back his surprise. “Good morning,” he finally said and then, because he was polite, asked, “How was your weekend?”
“It was nice and quiet,” said Louis pointedly. “You’d have liked it. No paparazzi following me around taking my picture even though I’d rather they didn’t.”
“Yeah,” said Harry quietly.
“We’ll start in twenty,” Louis told Harry, taking a sip of his tea. “We’ve got four looks to shoot today. You still going to Pilates tonight?”
Harry’s mouth dropped in surprise, eyes wide. “You still- You remember about Pilates?”
Louis’ heart hurt at the realization that Harry was shocked that someone remembered a little detail about him, something he’d only mentioned once or twice.
“Of course I do,” he answered. “Friends remember things about people they really care about,” he added, emphasis on the word friends. “If it matters to you, it matters to me. Now, yes or no? Pilates?”
“Yes,” said Harry. “Yeah. If- if we’re done in time.”
“We’ll be done in time,” Louis assured him with a smile.
The morning passed quickly, the first two looks photographed by lunchtime. There were no interruptions, though Louis wasn’t sure if that was because Nick hadn’t stopped by the studio at all or if he had and was told by Leila’s secretary in the main reception area that the shoot was closed to anyone without cast or crew identification cards like Louis had asked her to do.
As they ate their lunch—a large stack of sandwiches and a big tossed salad that had been brought in by catering—Louis watched Harry for a few moments.
“Hey, Harry,” he said, swallowing his bite of ham sandwich. Harry looked over to him, eyes wide, and Louis continued. “I think you’d really like Niall.”
“Yeah,” said Harry. “He seemed nice.”
“He is,” agreed Louis. “You should hang out sometime. I could give you his number.”
“Oh.” Harry put his sandwich down and looked at Louis, eyes wide. “Um, I don’t know- I don’t know about that.”
“I just think you two would be good friends,” said Louis with a shrug, hoping he was pulling off innocence. “He likes Scrabble and he’s, like, really into music too.”
“Thanks for thinking of me,” said Harry, fingers of one hand playing with the rings on the other. “But I’ve got, you know, I’ve got friends.”
“Yeah. Right.” Louis tried his hardest to prevent the sarcasm that threatened to leak into his words. “It doesn’t hurt to have a few more who share your interests though.”
“I know,” Harry told him. “Just… Nick might not like it. He might think that I don’t, like, that I don’t think he’s enough. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”
“Harry, how many times a day does Nick hurt your feelings?” asked Louis, gentle but curious.
Harry looked uncomfortable, Louis’ question hitting a little too close to home. “He doesn’t mean it,” said Harry a bit uncertainly.
“Oh. No.” Louis shook his head, unable to avoid the sarcasm this time. “Of course not.” Louis studied Harry, noting what seemed to be a look of acceptance and resignation that painted his features—Louis wondered if Harry was maybe realising there was some truth to his words—and added, “Niall wouldn’t hurt your feelings. If you wanted a friend who respects your hobbies and the things you like and, like, how you choose to live your life. Instead of telling you how you should live your life.”
“I- I have friends,” said Harry again. He sighed quietly. “I just want Nick to like me. I want- I want to be his boyfriend.”
Louis looked at Harry, his face softening at the almost forlorn expression on the boy’s face and tone in his voice. He bit back the question that threatened to tumble from his tongue—“Why?”—and exhaled, long and quiet. “Okay, Harry.” He chewed on his lip for a moment and then told Harry, “Ten more minutes, yeah, and then we’ll start back up. Finish so you can get to Pilates.”
Harry nodded. “Okay, Louis.” He finished his sandwich, placing his plate on the tray with the rest of the crew’s dirty china and flatware, and went to find Lou and Other Harry.
He had a hard time focusing for the rest of the day, thoughts returning to everything Louis had said to him at lunch—and the things he hadn’t said but made Harry think—and realised he wasn’t sure what he would have said if Louis had asked him why he wanted to be Nick’s boyfriend.
He supposed he just really liked feeling like Nick couldn’t get enough of him, like he wanted Harry for himself. And though the idea of having a friend who shared some of his interests sounded nice, he didn’t think Nick would like sharing him. He knew that probably wasn’t a good thing—he could only imagine how Louis would respond to that—but he kind of liked feeling so wanted.
Finally, the last look of the day modelled and photographed to Louis’ satisfaction, the photographer let Harry go.
“Go enjoy Pilates, Harry,” Louis told him with a smile. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Yeah, thanks, Louis,” said Harry. He waved his goodbyes to everyone and headed out of the studio and to the street.
His phone rang as he boarded the train back to Sutton. He looked at the screen, hesitant to answer because he really just wanted to go to Pilates.
He forced a smile onto his face, knowing Nick couldn’t see it but hoping it would make him sound a bit happier than he felt to be talking to the older man. “Hi, Nick,” he said after finally accepting the call.
“Hi, love!” said Nick. “How was your day?”
Harry told Nick about the looks they’d shot, leaving out any mention of Louis and nearly everything he had said to Harry that was unrelated to work.
“We’re going out for dinner,” said Nick a bit later, a statement rather than an invitation. “There’s a new wine bar that’s just opened in Bethnal Green and I’m dying to take you there.”
“Oh,” said Harry. He was surprised; Harry had told Nick that he liked wine so he assumed—hoped, maybe—that was why he was dying to take him there. The mere thought that Nick remembered a little thing like his love for wine threw him off for a second. “That’s- that’s really thoughtful, Nick. But, um, but I’m going to Pilates tonight.”
There was silence for a moment and Harry held his breath. “But you went to yoga last night,” Nick said, the pout obvious in his voice.
“Yes,” agreed Harry. “And, um,” he said, closing his eyes and thinking of both Louis and Elora, “and tonight’s Pilates.”
“Harry.” Nick sounded disappointed and Harry couldn’t help but feel he’d hurt Nick’s feelings. “Come out with me.”
Something Louis had said earlier crossed Harry’s mind—“If it matters to you, it matters to me.”—and thought that it might be nice to have a friend who respected the things he liked to do and didn’t try to stop him from doing them.
“I’m sorry, Nick,” he said, feeling reckless and nervous and bold and terribly mean, “but I’d really like to go to Pilates tonight. I’ve already signed up and- and paid for the class and I’m just… I’ve been looking forward to it all day.” He sighed.
There was silence again and then Nick said, voice a bit less friendly and flirty than it had been, “All right, Harry. I hope you enjoy Pilates.”
“Thanks, Nick,” said Harry quietly, feeling badly for upsetting the man. “I- I will.”
“Text me later and let me know how class went,” said Nick. “I want my boy to be happy.”
Harry was confused, considering Nick’s words as he got off the train in Sutton and began the walk back to his flat. Nick said he wanted Harry to be happy but he didn’t like it when Harry did things that made him happy unless he was involved.
Maybe it was just because Nick wanted to be the one to make Harry happy. Maybe he liked feeling that he was wanted, needed, appreciated.
Harry understood that feeling.