Harry sighed, throwing his make-up brush on his bathroom counter and patting the messy bun on top of his head one more time before deciding to just give up. He just wasn't going to get it down today. Sometimes, he could apply the bit of make-up he did wear just right and look good enough to actually feel confident about himself, but most of the time, such as that day, he fell just short of getting it and was left nervous and uncomfortable overall while facing the world.
Still, some make-up was better than none.
It wasn't that Harry even wore a lot; just some foundation, subtle lip color and contouring tools to make his face look a little thinner, but he needed it. He could barely look at himself in the mirror without it, so he wasn't going to force the world to endure a naked-faced Harry. It was a social service, really.
Turning away from the mirror, Harry picked at his too-tight shirt before grabbing his dance bag from its designated place on his bedroom chair (his bag's throne) and heading out. He'd decided upon waking up that he would walk to class that day. It was warm, as summer (and graduation) was only a couple of weeks away and, besides, he could use the exercise anyway, as he'd had to miss a couple of dance classes last week due to a chest cold that left him coughing up a lung while he was sitting and doing nothing, let alone dancing his heart out.
Harry was better from the cold now, but he still felt disgusting.
Since he'd walked a good 2.75 miles to class (he'd tracked it), Harry ate the protein bar he had in his bag for emergency purposes before heading into the dance studio, to ensure that he would have enough energy to make it to the end. Eating the bar made him feel as if he'd just lost all of the progress he'd made by walking, but he rationalized that he still had his walk home and that he could practice for the recital in the living room of his apartment after that.
“Welcome back, Harry!” Ms. Gloria, the dance instructor, greeted the student as he entered her class. Harry liked Ms. Gloria. She had been the instructor for all of his favorite dance classes the past four years, which he didn't find to be a coincidence. The middle-aged woman was so talented that Harry didn't know how she hadn't made it past 'dance instructor,' even if this was one of the best dance colleges in London. She was so kind, though; always helping students, no matter their talent ranking. She was encouraging, too, and sometimes she even made Harry feel like he wasn't a complete embarrassment to himself. Honestly, Harry didn't know what he was going to do once graduation was over and Ms. Gloria wasn't in his life anymore.
Of course, he really didn't know what he was going to do after graduation, period. He would try to find a job where he could use his education, but, though he would love to be a professional dancer, Harry knew they weren't easy to come by and he wasn't the best dancer anyway. He should be a lot better, he knew, as he'd started at age three. His mom had put him in ballet, as he'd been an overactive child and she thought maybe that would help him to calm down. Harry never really got the hang of ballet, so after two years, she withdrew him and put him in hip-hop instead. There, Harry thrived. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but he was a lot better at hip-hop than he was at ballet, and he enjoyed it a lot more too. Still, as much as he enjoyed it, and even though he knew he was better in that genre than ballet, Harry still felt inadequate.
He wondered if that was actually how he felt, or if that was the disorder talking. Could the disorder still be that strong after he'd been 'recovered' for five years, minus a couple of minor relapses?
From the age of eleven to the age of fifteen, Harry suffered from anorexia nervosa. The path to that discovery was a long and harrowing journey for both him and his family, but Harry finally accepted his diagnosis and didn't hold it against his parents when they sent him to a treatment facility at the age of fifteen. They didn't know how to handle him anymore, which Harry understood, because he couldn't handle his own thoughts or feelings either. Besides, it wasn't so bad in there, and Harry did get better. Sure, maybe he still wasn't completely 'normal,' but he was okay and happy. He really was. At least most of the time.
Harry's father blamed dancing for Harry's eating disorder and for the first year that he was out of treatment, he wasn't allowed to participate in the sport. He still did, with the support of his mother, unbeknownst to the other man, but when Harry told his parents that he had chosen dance to be his area of study after secondary school, his father refused to send him away to the dance college Harry had already been dreaming of since he was little. Eventually Harry got his way, after explaining (multiple times) that dance actually helped. He'd told his dad that, when he was suffering from anorexia, he could sometimes dance instead of purge, or he could let himself eat something because he knew that he needed it in order to be able to dance. He hadn't mentioned that the same had been true for the past year while he was recovered, of course, but his father finally agreed to let him go to dance school anyway.
And here Harry was.
Liam smiled and nodded to Harry as he walked over to take his designated warm-up spot next to the other man. Harry nodded and smiled back, but they didn't have time for the friendly chats that they sometimes had before class. Harry liked Liam. They hadn't met until that year, as Liam had transferred from another school for his final year after a rather scandalous affair with a teacher. Liam was the polar opposite of Harry in almost every way. Whenever they would go out on the weekends (which wasn't often, but it still happened sometimes), Liam would be flirting with the entire dance floor, accepting shot after shot and inevitably losing his shirt. Harry, on the other hand, watched from a distance, running at any sign of interest from other men or women. Not that Harry was a virgin. He'd had a steady boyfriend for two years who he had learned to be intimate with, but it had taken a while. He still had a good time with Liam, though, and was grateful for his company, as he was the only person that Harry could really even consider as something close to a friend.
Still, as much as Harry liked Liam, he hated standing next to him. Liam's body was literal perfection. He was sure the people who hit on him in bars and clubs only did so as a last resort when Liam was tied up with someone else. More than that, though, Harry really despised standing next to Liam in dance class. He tried not to look in the mirror often, but when he did unthinkingly glance at his reflection, all he saw was awkward movements, a strange face and a body that just wasn't fit enough while Liam's fit body could move and contort any way he wished. Easily, Liam was one of the top in the class, if not the top.
Not that Liam didn't deserve it because he did. He was always practicing and perhaps even more passionate about dance than Harry. Harry danced to lose himself. Liam danced to find and express himself.
It was funny how that worked, Harry thought.
“Alright, class, before we get started on our recital routine, I have an announcement,” Ms. Gloria began once warm-ups were through and the students took a slight break to get a drink of water. The chatter died down instantly, all eyes traveling to the instructor, even as they walked back to their positions. Ms. Gloria smiled and continued.
“As you know, professionals typically come watch seniors their final couple weeks in school in order to recruit talent. These could be professional dance crews, movie directors, music artists...whoever needs wonderful dancers such as yourselves.'
'Today, and also on Wednesday, we have a singer coming into our class. I have no doubts that most if not all of you will know him. He has a worldwide tour starting up this summer and is putting together a new dance crew for his set, and he was very interested in seeing what our school had to offer! Now, he could pick a lot of you or he could pick none of you. Either way, please don't let it get to your head. All of you are amazing and you all deserve the spot. Please believe that I am not just saying that. However, there are limited spots, of course, and multiple schools are scouted for a crew that just fits together. With that being said, try your best, be professional and good luck!”
Ms. Gloria let the excited and nervous chatter of her students take over the room for a few moments before she smiled again, to herself that time, and went to the door to beckon someone in. Immediately, silence took over the class. Liam glanced to Harry, who shrugged, and they simultaneously turned back to the door, waiting for their guest to enter.
When he finally did, gasps could be heard all around, and even a couple of quiet squeals.
“Hey, everyone,” the singer said with a polite smile and wave before accepting the chair that Ms. Gloria offered him. Harry suddenly wondered if his teacher lived under at least a small rock because the whole class definitely knew this man.
Louis Tomlinson, who just went by Louis or Louis T., became famous at age seventeen with his very first album, when Harry was just fourteen. Admittedly, he'd been Harry's celebrity crush for...Well, to be honest, he was still Harry's celebrity crush, though he wasn't quite as obsessed as he used to be. Needless to say, when Louis came out as gay only one year after his album was released, Harry was elated. That had been the event that helped Harry come to terms with and accept his sexuality, and therefore, he came out to his parents right after. (They hadn't been too surprised, though, perhaps because of the multiple posters of Louis on Harry's wall.)
His parents were supportive. In fact, they even bought Harry concert tickets and backstage passes to meet Louis for Harry's sixteenth birthday. Harry was grateful, and he had a great time at the show, though didn't even use the backstage passes. He was sure his celebrity crush was a nice person, because he wouldn't have a crush on him if he thought otherwise, but he hadn't wanted to see how flirty his fantasy husband was with all of the pretty guys who went to his shows and then be forced to compare it to the completely blank, maybe even disappointed, expression he gave Harry.
He'd told his mom he had a great time but that he didn't like how he looked in the picture that came with the backstage pass. She didn't push to see it after that, knowing if Harry showed her, he would be too busy pointing out all of his flaws.
“Just carry on as if I'm not here,” Louis spoke again, and how long exactly had it been? Harry felt like they had all been gaping at the man forever. Oh well. He had to be used to it by now, but Harry's cheeks burned a little anyway. Luckily, he didn't think Louis had noticed him yet because why would he?
The class giggled nervously and Ms. Gloria hummed while finding their recital song. It was only then that Harry's heart began to race while simultaneously dropping to his stomach. Louis, the guy he'd idolized since he was a young teen, was going to have to notice him eventually. It was hard not to notice an uncoordinated cow in a room of lithe bodies. He would wonder how someone had let such an uncoordinated cow get through four years of dance school without telling him that he was, in fact, a clumsy bovine.
Suddenly, the protein bar that Harry had scarfed down was sitting heavy in his stomach right along with his heart and he felt nauseous.
Still, he carried on like he couldn't care less what anyone thought of him, even a gorgeous singer that he had dreamed of marrying once upon a time.
Well, he tried, at least, but Harry found himself messing up over and over again because all he could think about was that damn food and how he shouldn't have eaten it. He felt sicker with every minute.
After what seemed like what should have been the entirety of the dance class but was really only about fifteen minutes, Harry couldn't take it anymore and he hurried off to the bathroom, head down, praying to not be seen while knowing fully well that that wasn't a possibility.
He didn't throw up on his own and, as sick as he did feel, Harry knew he wasn't going to. If he wanted to throw up, he was going to have to force himself, and he did want to. He wanted to so, so much.
And so he did.
He was better now, and he knew that, so he didn't feel too guilty as he stuck his pointer and his middle finger down his throat and began to gag silently. He was only doing it strategically now, to ease the feeling of nausea. That was it; the only reason.
After he'd brought up all he could, Harry did feel better. His throat was killing him, but other than that, he was back to normal. His stomach had settled, and his nerves too. He could do this. He could make it through the rest of class.
Harry was almost smiling as he walked back to the room.
When he entered the room, the class was in the middle of the routine so he stood back, waiting for them to finish before taking his spot again.
He stared at the back of Louis's head.
That turned out to be a mistake, though, because Louis felt his gaze and turned his head, eyes locking with Harry's. Both of them stared for just a brief moment before Louis smiled, and that was it. Harry couldn't take the day anymore because he knew Louis had only been smiling to hide his laugh at the uncoordinated cow that couldn't even make it fifteen minutes without having to stop for a break.
Harry grabbed his bag from where it sat in front of the mirror and ran, ignoring Ms. Gloria calling out his name behind him. He ran all the way back to his apartment and, though he'd wanted to cry the whole journey back, suddenly, his tears were gone and Harry felt numb. He was okay with that.
The only emotion Harry seemed able to feel right then was tired, and could that even be considered an emotion? Harry didn't know, but whatever it was, Harry felt it, and he dropped his bag before lying down on the floor next to it.
He laid there until he heard a knock on his door sometime later.
Slowly, Harry sat up. Checking his watch, he was shocked to find that he had been laying on the floor for nearly two hours, and hadn't he meant to practice dancing when he got home? Well, leave it to the fat boar to not move for one hundred and twenty minutes.
Standing up, Harry opened the door to find Liam on the other side.
“Oh my god!” the man exclaimed, hands flying up in the air as he brushed by Harry to allow himself into the apartment. “Can you believe today?!”
Before Harry could even answer, Liam changed the subject.
“What happened, by the way? Why did you leave?”
“Oh, nothing big,” Harry said, trying to put some feeling into his voice as he finally remembered to close the door. “I'm just a bit sick.”
“Still?” Liam asked, his eyebrows pulled together in concern.
“I think it's something else now,” Harry told him, diverting his eyes from Liam's worried face, feeling suddenly ashamed. Well, at least his emotions were starting to come back. Harry didn't know whether to be happy about that or not.
“Do you need anything, mate?” Liam continued.
“No, I'm fine, thank you.”
Liam nodded, allowing himself to take a seat on Harry's couch.
“How did the rest of class go?” Harry asked, curling up on the opposite side of him, as if he could really spread his disease to the other man. Except he didn't have a disease. He was fine. Even his psychologist had told him so before claiming that they didn't need to have anymore sessions unless Harry felt they were necessary. Secretly, Harry did, but there were other people who needed his time slot and if the doctor thought he was fine, that meant that he was okay.
“It went pretty well,” Liam answered. “Joey fell on his face. I feel bad for the guy, of course, but that leaves a spot open for someone else, I guess.”
“I'm sure you'll get chosen,” Harry told him, and meant it.
“Please,” Liam said with a roll of his eyes, but there was a big smile on his face that showed that he knew Harry was right. Liam wasn't naïve to how good he was, which he shouldn't be.
“Anyway, you need to rest up,” Liam said, getting to his feet again. “You have to be back at class on Wednesday!”
“It's not like I'll be getting into the tour anyway,” Harry said.
“I think you have a good shot.”
“You're too kind.”
Harry stood to his feet as well to see Liam out the door, but instead of heading that way, Liam took a couple of steps towards Harry, and then squished his friend's cheeks with both hands, causing Harry to make a somewhat humiliating fish face, though that was the least of Harry's concern. He was more worried about Liam feeling just how squishy his chubby cheeks were.
He wondered if he could also feel them burning, because Harry certainly could.
“You need to get some confidence in yourself,” Liam commented. With that, he dropped his hands from Harry's face and gave him a smile. “See you on Wednesday!”
With a chipper wave, Liam turned and all but skipped out of Harry's place. Harry wasn't so sure, at first, if Liam would see him on Wednesday, but then decided, to hell with it. Louis had already seen him and laughed at him. What did he really have to lose?