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Fifth Time‘s A Charm

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i.
Harry was five when he first met Allie Pressman. Or at least, he was five when he first remembered meeting her.
His mom took him over to the Pressman‘s for dinner. Allie‘s dad, Allie’s uncle and his mother worked for the town and kept talking about this huge thing — Harry didn’t know what it meant what they were talking about — which would increase the town‘s wealth, and sent him to sit at the kids table.
When he sat down, Cassandra was already talking, gesturing broad and wild in attempt to include Sam in the conversation as his hearing was starting to decrease since he got sick last winter.
She talked about how great school was and Harry could tell she liked to think she was the smartest one around when she cut Allie‘s questions off mid-sentence.
Allie started another attempt and Harry watched how she quietly resigned, starting to push the vegetables around her plate instead.
She was immersed in her own world until her mother called for her, asking her to get her sister‘s medicine, and Allie perked up, jumping to her feet instantly and running off to fetch the meds.
When she was back Harry was about to talk her when there suddenly was a loud noise coming from the adult‘s table and his mother came to pick him up and leave.
They hadn’t been back to the Pressman‘s for dinner since then.

 

ii.
On his eighth birthday, Harry invited all kids from his class to play a new game he learned at summer camp: fugitive.
Allie was still the quiet kid, the background character who didn’t speak much in class and only ever hung around with the other weird who didn’t live with his parents, Will.
He couldn’t come and while Allie was friendly with the other kids, Harry saw she was uncomfortable, so he picked her for his team.
They had almost caught all fugitives and circled in the last one but the only way to get to him was to cross the little creek with a weathered rope hanging from a tree.
Harry was not even sure how Clark did it himself but he was not going to do it besides he wanted to win so badly.
„I‘ll do it,“ Allie quietly announced and all heads turned to her.
„This doesn’t look really safe, Allie.“ Grizz countered, „you could get hurt.“
Allie shrugged and stepped forward.
„The worst that could happen is falling into the water, and I‘m a good swimmer.“
Harry watched Allie pull at the rope and nodding once before walking backwards to take a run-up.
Grizz put a hand on her shoulder. „Allie...lets get back and ask our parents for help.“
Allie shook his hand off, glaring at him.
„Back off. I said I would do it, so I will.“
Grizz shook his head but stepped back and Harry stared at her, watching in awe as she swayed over the creek and caught Clark, making them the winning team.
„Happy Birthday,“ she grinned at him with a toothy smile, so proud of herself, as she was back safely on the other side.
Harry never forgot that smile.

 

iii.
Harry glimpsed over the rim of the boxes and hastily ducked when he saw Allie walking over the stage.
„Shit. Allie‘s still here,“ he whispered to Kelly and her eyes widened.
„Fuck, go distract her while I sneak out.“
„Is this really necessary?“
„Yeah, just go!“ Kelly ushered him out in the open as she put on her shirt again.
Harry shook his head but he let it go, trying to rearrange the mess of hair on his head instead as he walked towards Allie.
She was standing on the stage, staring at the dark and empty auditorium.
Harry cleared his throat and watched her jump around, dropping the props she was holding.
„Think about auditioning?“
„Harry! Fuck what are you doing here?“ Allie dropped to her knee to pick up the props and Harry stepped closer to help her.
„Uh. I like... to rehearse my lines on stage.“ Harry shrugged and handed her the prop. Allie gave him a quick once-over, raising a critical eye brow. „Yeah, sure.“
„No, really,“ Harry insisted, „come on,“ he reached for the script pages in the backpocket of his jean — thank goodness— and held them out to her, „you can read Juliet’s part.“
Again, her eyes locked with his and then a small, somewhat devious smile flitted over her lips for the split of a second.
„Okay, fine.“ Allie put down the probs again and took the sheets, straightening out the wrinkles, „the balcony scene? Really?“
„What‘s wrong with that?“ Harry grinned and delivered his first line, walking around her so she followed his movements and turnd her back to the exit.
Harry had planned to make up an excuse to leave, an emergency text or something, as soon Kelly went outside but then he noticed Allie barely looked on the script, knowing the lines by heart.
It was mesmerizing how her face lit up with excitement and joy, and Harry watched her in awe — a different kind than when they were kids and he admired her courage and determination, and missed his cue.
„Harry — that’s your part.“
Harry blinked and hadn’t realize how his eyes had dropped to her lips and quickly composed himself.
„Yeah, sorry — just. You should audition.“
Allie shook her head in disbelief as if he just had suggested the most absurd thing ever.
„Cassandra is the actor. I‘m the stagehand. We all already have roles to play,“ Allie shrugged, handing him back the script, „ I wouldn‘t even know what do on here — and besides, we are mid-production and I need to get back to work.“
Allie clapped her hands together as a signal that he should let it go and picked up the props again.
„Next time then!“ he called after her as she disappeared off-stage.

 

iv.
Grizz was carrying her as they emerged from the woods, and Harry rushed over, Will hot on his heels.
It was a fragile peace — after the coup and the newly founded coalition. They all knew it and Allie was the glue holding it together after Campbell and he had shattered it to the ground.
Without her, it all would fall apart again and this was the reason his heart was suddenly beating in his throat, not the overwhelming shock of losing her. For sure.
Fuck. He had told her it was too dangerous to go and check out the farm as long as they hadn’t cleared the route yet.
„What the hell happened?“ Harry demanded and stared at her body, loosely hanging in Grizz‘ arms, and when he spotted the blood on her forehead his voice broke, „what the hell happened, Grizz?“
„It’s alright. She slipped and knocked her head against a stump. She is gonna be fine.She just needs some rest.“
„I‘ll get Kelly so she can patch up the
cut on her head,“ Will said and side-glanced at him, distrust written all over his face, „you take her home?“
„Yeah, of course,“ Harry snapped and guided Grizz over to his car.
It took another couple of hours until Allie gained her consciousness back and reached for Harry‘s hand.
„Will?“ Allie murmed
„Hey, it’s Harry,“ he smiled and carefully brushed a strand of hair out of her face, tugging it behind her ear. The relief washing through him and knocking the weights off his heart.
Allie hummed contently and rolled on her back, slowly opening her eyes and hissing at the pain.
„You okay?“ Harry asked alarmed, „should I get Kelly?“
He was already halfway up when she reached for his wrist and pulled him back down on the bed.
„No— my head just hurts. What happened?“
„You stumbled over your own damn feet. See that’s what happens when you don’t listen to me,“ Harry grinned when she squeezed his wrist shortly.
„You never listen to me either,“ Allie pouted, „and do I have to remember you about the coup?“
Harry tensed up and scanned her face. There was a small smile and her lips, and he relaxed. She was just teasing him.
„Feels like a completely different world.“ Harry shrugged.
„It was,“ Allie sighed and closed her eyes again, „I like this one better.“

 

v.
They were back for three weeks, and it still didn’t feel like home. Harry wondered if it ever would again.
His mother was sleeping down the hall, still not speaking to him about what happened to them or about her screwing Kelly‘s dad for that matter, and it upset him. Everything was so fucking upsetting.
And he hadn’t slept in three weeks. His house was his, and only his again,but it somehow was not his house anymore. Everything was different. He was different. They all were.
Harry stared at the ceiling and the checked his phone. 3 am. And there went another sleepless night.
Grudgingly, Harry rolled out of bed and rummaged through the bathroom cabinet for pills, sleeping pills or something helping him to get some rest. When he didn’t find any, he just went outside and started walking, down the driveway, down the street until he reached the church.
Harry stepped closer and tried for the door but it was locked.
He was about to leave again when he spotted a figure crouching on the ground next to the church and cautiously he walked over.
In the dim light of the street lamps it took him another moment to recognize her, but when he did it, he was sure. It was unmistakably her.
Allie was sitting on the ground, her hands digging into the dirt and her body shaking.
„Allie?“ Harry carefully asked and kneeled down beside her, seeing how her wet cheeks glistened in the soft light.
She glanced over shoulder and sat up, letting the dirt run through her fingers.
„She is gone,“ Allie stated, sober, „I tried to dig her up.“
Harry blinked at her, eyes glancing back and forth between Allie and the ground, when he suddenly realized they were approximately there where Cassandra‘s grave in New Ham had been.
Harry reached out and pulled into her chest, their bodys rocking with the waves of grief hitting her and he stroke her back soothingly, trying to be strong for both of them as the guilt crushed down on him.
„They all ask me where Cassandra is,“ Allie cried, „and she is gone,“ and let out a heartwrenching yelp, „everything is just gone.“
She buried her face in the crook of his neck and Harry pressed closer, kissing the crown of her hair.
„I know, but it will be better. It has to become better. That’s how we survive right?“ he whispered and at that, Allie pulled back and looked at him, scrutinized him really.
Her gaze dropped to her lips and back up to his eyes, and then she did something Harry didn’t see coming — she kissed him.
Harry froze but then quickly kissed her back, slowly and deliberate but just for a moment until he remembered where and why they were here.
„You are upset.“
„I‘m upset about a lot of stuff,“ Allie agreed and slowly put some distance between them, „I wanna go back.“
Harry barked out an incredulous laugh. „You can’t be serious.“
„Yeah, I am,“ Allie snapped but reached for his wrist, „remember the other world? What if that one was it?“
„Was what?“ Harry frowned.
„The one you and me —,“ her voice shook and she looked away, worrying her lip, „the one you and me are together. You said it yourself. It sounded like a nice place, so I wanna go back. Nothing is how it is supposed to be. If I lose you, lose us...“
Harry took her chin and turned her head, forcing her to look at him.
„If we believe the multi universe theory,“ Harry wet his lips and stroke her cheek, „there will be an endless number of worlds in which we are together, including this one,“ and he leaned and kissed her.
This time she ended the kiss back, but then gripped the front of his shirt and pulled him close, resting their foreheads together.
„Okay.“