It’s late; Louis can hear a clock strike three times somewhere in the streets of London and his bed feels too warm and his palms have gone clammy. His head pounds to the beat of a non-existent drum-set and Louis groans as he peals off the sticky sheet, rolls out of bed, and flops to the floor like the seal he almost stepped on when he went to the beach with his parents as a kid.
He pulls on a white sweater, the threads have stretched in the elbows and the collar is all splotchy with stage makeup but he ignores it and throws on a gray beanie that reeks of too much hair product. He almost forgets to grab his keys on his way out the door, but the stupid sticky note above the door handle reminds him that he’s made that mistake far too many times before.
He locks up his flat and strolls to the elevators that make too much noise and always wake up the angry old man who lives two doors down. His hand floats above the dimly lit button but he makes a last minute decision to bypass the elevator and avoid an unwanted early wake up call from the old man by taking the stairs. Besides, he figures he could use the extra exercise.
The moment Louis steps out of his building he notices two things: it’s bone chillingly cold and it’s remarkably quiet for a night in London, but it’s 3 AM on a Tuesday so it’s probably unlikely that many people are out partying anyways. He pulls his beanie down to cover the tips of his ears and tries to pull the sleeves of his sweater down to shield his increasingly numbing fingers, but he’s still cold. He absentmindedly wishes he were a smoker.
Reluctantly, he begins to walk towards the middle of town. He thinks he’s walking south, but he’s never been very good at maps or directions so he just keeps walking. Also, he’s been living in London for less than a year so he’s allowed to get lost once in awhile. (Actually he gets lost almost every day when he’s too drunk to walk home. Thankfully London has a large supply of taxis and he’s smart enough to carry around a sticky note with his address on it.)
He walks for many blocks, passing unfamiliar stores and bars and the occasional man in a suit sleeping in his car. He crosses paths with a few people; all too drunk to return his ‘good evening’ or even acknowledge his presence but he’s been on the other side of the exchange enough to know the feeling, so he cuts them some slack. He idly wishes he were drunk, but then he remembers that he has work tomorrow and he showed up with a terrible hangover twice last week and his manager wasn’t too pleased.
He stops walking when he reaches a big black gate and, even in the darkness of the night, he can make out gold detailing. There’s a big sign that reads “Regents Park” and he’s a curious cat, so he pushes the gate open easily and takes a hesitant step onto the gravel pathway.
The moonlight is shining above him and he can make out two lines of benches on either side of the pathway with plenty of grass beyond. After looking around for awhile he realizes the park makes him feel nostalgic, reminding him of summers long ago, playing footie back home, babysitting his little sisters, and of his first kiss behind the playfields in grade school. They were good times. The best of times maybe.
It’s bloody cold and he’s getting sleepy but he can’t stop his feet from walking along the path. The only sounds are the distant city noises and the crunch of the rocks beneath his feet.
He walks until the path forms a circle and, standing tall in the center, is a statue of a man. Louis has never been too keen on appreciating sculptures or statues before, or any form of art besides theatre, but something about this one catches his eye.
The man, or maybe he’s a boy, Louis can’t really tell, is tall and lanky with slight abdominal muscles and collarbones that stand out prominently. He has big round eyes and a mop of wavy hair. Louis thinks the artist must be quite brilliant because, even in the dim light emanated from the moon, he notices that each curl is carved with an extensive amount of detail.
The statue is naked, which should make Louis uncomfortable, but he finds that he’s intrigued by the curve of the man’s ass and the delicate carving of his frontal region.
Louis stares at the statue for what feels like eternity. The young man captivates him, the way his brow is furrowed but his mouth is molded into a smile, dimples peeking out on both cheeks. He has very full lips and Louis can’t help but long to reach out and touch them, to feel the cool stone against his own lips. Louis should be a little weirded out, he did just imagine kissing a statue, but it’s late and his mum did used to say he had a strange imagination.
It’s not long after, but Louis has to physically rip his eyes from the statue, shove his hands into his armpits and trudge out of the park to make his way home. It takes less time for him to walk back to his building and in a moment of cold chills, he decides he’ll be visiting the man made of stone again soon.
When he gets back up to his flat he grabs the extra quilt his gran made him and curls up in front of the television and desperately tries to fall asleep, he even tries counting sheep, but his mind runs wild on thoughts of hands made of stone and lips as cold as ice. He eventually falls into a restless sleep, not unlike most nights.
It’s Thursday, nine days after Louis’ bout of insomnia, and he wakes up to the sounds of the city and the blinding sunlight shining through his grimy windows. He coughs, rubs the sleep from his eyes, hops out of bed and shuffles to the bathroom to get ready.
When he gets out of the shower, he towels off and styles his hair into a sleek side-fringe using multiple products and pomades that he doesn’t really need but feels better about using and he throws on his desired outfit for today. He has work, so he chooses to look halfway decent with his blue fitted trousers and gray sweater.
He doesn’t bother to make any breakfast, he knows he’ll burn the toast anyways and it’s not worth the extra effort. Besides, he can always sneak an apple from the fruit basket at the shop.
He leaves his flat and heads to the creaky elevator and waits until he hears the telltale signs of the elevator making its painfully slow journey to the fifth floor, so he pulls out his phone and sends a quick text to Niall.
Niall was the first (and only) person to befriend Louis when he first moved to London a couple months ago. Louis had stumbled upon a quiet coffee shop, desperately in need of a warm pastry and a double-shot Americano. Niall had been working the till that evening and, in a moment of absolute boredom, had started up a conversation with Louis about football. They’d talked about their favourite players and the smell of grass on a crisp autumn morning at the pitch. (They both decide it’s a nice smell.)
They had gone out that night, Niall showing him all the best clubs in town, and they soon became best friends when Niall discovered their mutual love of pints. When Niall discovered Louis was a struggling actor currently without a job, he’d offered to talk to Katie, the owner of the shop, about offering him a part time position. He’d gotten the job, and his hours had slowly increased until, a couple months later, he was offered a full time position as head barista and later became the assistant manager.
The elevator reaches his floor and the rusty doors open with an ominous creak. He steps inside and rides the way down to the ground level idly playing with the buttons on his phone. He exits his building and heads towards his tube stop.
On his way, he thinks back to the statue he’d seen in the park. He would be lying if he said he didn’t think about that young man often in the past couple of days, but there was just something about his hair and face that captivated Louis.
He thinks he should visit the statue sometime soon, but he still doesn’t have time and maybe he’s a little bit scared because he can’t stop thinking about the dumb statue and he doesn’t really what to consider what that could mean about his current mental state. He could blame it on his recent lack of action in the bedroom but he doesn’t have anyone else to blame that on but himself.
He is broken from his thoughts when he realizes, quite startlingly, that he is no longer walking in the direction of his tube stop. His feet have carried him, without his permission, to the park. He is concerned that he is standing outside the big black gates with gold detailing, merely a five minutes walk from the statue his thoughts have been engrossed with all week, and he has no idea how he got here.
He knows he should leave now, before he gets a glimpse of the boy, but he can’t keep his feet from walking along the gravel pathway that feels unusually familiar. He walks until he sees the statue, only a few meters from him and practically dazzling in the morning sun. His breath catches in his throat at the sight of the young man with wavy locks and oh so perfect lips.
He looks different in the light of the day, the shadows from the sunlight dance across his face in different patterns than the moon had, but he’s still just as beautiful as Louis remembers.
Louis leisurely chooses one of the many benches surrounding the statue and takes a seat. He’s amidst many people who, from what Louis can decipher, look to be tourists. He doesn’t pay them any attention though; he’s too consumed with the statue ahead of him.
As he stares at the man, he notices many features he’d missed in the blanket of the night sky. As he studies his face, he thinks that, if he were a real man with blood and warm skin and solid bones, that he would have green eyes like the trees surrounding the park.
He sits there for hours and he feels his phone buzz multiple times in his pocket but he doesn’t bother checking it; he knows it’s Niall texting him about his whereabouts and making sure he remembers that he has to come into work today.
He gazes at the young man made of stone, taking in his perfectly sculpted leg and arm muscles. He strategically chose his seat to not face the mans bum because he would feel a bit like a pervert and he wouldn’t want to consider that he’d be practically gawking at a stone figure.
He gets up from his position on the brown wooden bench only when his stomach continually growls but, as he leaves, he feels a strange feeling in his chest that is much too close to his heart to be coincidental. Louis doesn’t want to ponder what it means, so like most feelings that scare him, he hides it away in a little box only to be brought out in a time when there is plenty of alcohol in his system.
He’s walking to the gate but he can’t stop his feet, it’s almost feels like he’s floating above the gravel walkway. They sky is dark and stormy, the occasional lighting bolt striking the ground beneath him. Louis wants to pinch himself but he can’t seem to move his limbs and his toes and fingers feel numb. He’s at the statue within moments but all he can do is stare. There is a faint buzzing coming from somewhere around him, but all he hears are the ominous sounds of the storm.
He can tell something is off, the man doesn’t look happy, instead enraged by something behind him. It only takes a moment for him to realize that the man is staring at him, stone eyes strikingly beautiful. The stone man’s mouth twitches and a deep voice escapes, as if it has been trapped inside for decades. “Louis. Louis save me.”
Louis wakes up with sweat coating his forehead and staining his pillow, and he thinks he’s in way over his head. No sane person has dreams about stone men, do they?
It’s Monday, four days after Louis last saw the statue in the park and he’s on the tube, headed home from work. He can’t deny his feelings any longer and he thinks if he goes another day without seeing the young man he might explode. Niall has noticed, of course he has, but he doesn’t know how to explain that he thinks he might be in love (or at least obsessed) with a man that happens to be made of stone, so he’d tells him to drop it and thankfully Niall just goes back to wiping up spilled lattes.
He doesn’t even try to convince himself that he is heading straight home to lay in his bed and drown his feeling in an empty can of beer like he has every other night for these past couple of days. Instead, he finally admits to himself that he is going to the park, and he wants to see the statue. It should probably feel like more of a revelation, but Louis is too giddy to notice.
When Louis finally arrives at the site of the statue, he is surprised to find the area around him nearly empty. He figures most of the tourists are out getting dinner and he’s pleased to be nearly alone with the young man again. He chooses the bench he’d sat on last Thursday; it has a wonderful view of the man’s face and Louis thinks he could spend eternity studying his delicate but strong features.
In his time staring up at what Louis considers the most beautiful man he’s ever seen, he decides the man needs a name. He thinks about all his favourite people and some of the nicest names he’s heard, but none of them really fit. He’s definitely not a Niall, and he doesn’t look like a very convincing Robert or Trevor.
(It’s two days later when he’s at work and someone comes in with the name Harry that he finally chooses a name for the statue. It suits him perfectly, with his curly hair being Louis’ absolute favourite feature.)
The sun is hidden behind the treetops when Louis thinks he should probably head home. He doesn’t want to leave, he never does, but he’s hungry and it’s approaching freezing temperature so he regretfully stands up and stretches his numbing limbs in preparation to finally go home.
As Louis lays awake in bed that night he thinks about the man again. Its not uncommon for him to lay awake and think about him, but instead of fantasizing about the man he thinks about the skill that went into creating him. Someone must have spent many hours actually sculpting the man and Louis wants to thank them, thank and tell them how much he appreciates their work.
He knows he wont get to sleep with his mind running a mile a minute so he pulls on some sneakers and runs back to the man and reads the plaque mounted on the pedestal. It’s hard to read in the dim light but he can make out with three words engraved into the metal, “Artist: Zayn Malik 2008” and Louis quickly pulls out his phone and creates a new note with the name of the man who fabricated this beautiful man of stone.
He opens his laptop moments after he enters his flat and is thankful to any god listening that he remembered to pay his Internet bill last month. He types the artist’ name in to the search bar and presses enter, not knowing what he’s hoping to find but hoping all the same.
He clicks the first link that directs him to a Wikipedia page on Zayn Malik. He scrolls though it, discovering that he is an English artist currently living on a farm just outside of Glastonbury. He is most famous for his paintings but he is also known for a few sculptors mostly found in odd parks and famous residences.
The bottom of the page links him to a website, one that appears to be for business inquires because it has a ‘contact me’ section with an email and phone number. Louis has always hated talking on the phone so he opens a new tab and drafts an email.
Dear Mr. Malik
I have an interest in your work. I’d love to meet with you to discuss some business regarding one of your statues. Let me know if and when I could connect with you.
He crosses his fingers and presses send.
Louis can’t seem to figure out how he’s managed to get two days off of work both at the shop and at the theatre, but he has and he’s on the train headed to Glastonbury. He doesn’t want to think about what this means, that he’s finally meeting the artist who created the man he is now fairly certain he’s in love with.
It’s been two months since Louis sent the email, two months of many sleepless nights spent by Harry’s side. He thinks the blanket of stars has become more familiar than his warm duvet and he knows that should scare him, and in a tiny way it does, but no amounts of quilts could ever compare to the fuzzy feeling he gets when he sees Harry.
He likes watching the passing scenery; it calms his growing nerves and lulls him into a serene state of near sleep.
He almost misses the monotone voice informing him that there are “5 minutes to Glastonbury Station.” He collects his few belongings, which consists of his old iPod and a cup of cold coffee.
He steps off the platform and follows the signs to the restroom. He’s had to pee for the entire ride, but his irrational fear of peeing on moving vehicles (which is pretty much limited to planes and trains) prohibited him from using the lavatory on the train.
He doesn’t know what Zayn looks like but there are only a few people in the waiting lounge so by process of elimination he knows he’s not the pregnant woman with two children at her feet, or the old man with a cane.
He is left with two options: a middle eastern looking man about his age with black rimmed glasses, a 5’oclock shadow and black hair that falls into his face, or a middle aged man with graying hair and a business suit. The middle-aged man is working on a laptop and doesn’t look like the artsy type, so he takes a deep breath and approaches the man with the glasses.
Louis is surprised how down to earth and genuinely interesting Zayn is. He had expected the drive to the farm to be awkward, filled with small talk and extended pauses, but he finds himself so honestly absorbed in conversation that he doesn’t recognize when the car has stopped and is actually startled to see a large red barn in front of the car.
“Well, this is it.” Zayn opens the car door and steps out, signaling Louis to do the same. He is surprised at how clean and crisp the air feels; having lived in London for about a year he’s a little startled that he’s already forgotten the smell of fresh air.
The gravel crunches beneath his feet as they walk to what Louis assumes is the farmhouse. It reminds him of the park back home and his real reason for meeting with Zayn and he can feel his nerves prickle the hair on his arms and churn his stomach and he suddenly has an overwhelming need to run away.
He doesn’t though, not yet at least. He’s spent too much time and money to get to where he is now to run away from something that scares him, a mistake he’s made many times prior.
As they come closer to the house, Louis sees a man working in a little garden beside the house. His back is facing them but by the looks of it, he is around their age as well. He’s got brown curly hair but it’s different from Harry’s.
Zayn must sense Louis’ interest because he leans over and whispers, almost possessively, in his ear, “That’s Liam, my boyfriend.” Louis smiles at him. “You two make a cute couple.”
Zayn nods at him and they continue walking in silence. Liam must hear them approaching because he’s getting up and dusting the dirt off the knees of his trousers. He smiles at them as they advance.
They indulge in small talk over a cup of tea in their small living room and Louis is told the story of how they met and that Liam was the one who convinced Zayn that he was a good artist and he should share his talents with the world, or England at least. He enjoys talking with them, thinks maybe they could be pretty good mates.
But then the dreaded question comes up. “So, lets get down to business. What did you come to discuss regarding his art?” It’s Liam who asks it, not Zayn like Louis was expecting. Louis can feel his cheeks redden and he internally curses himself for blushing.
“Well… I… Um…” he stumbles over his words, trying to remember the sentences he’d recited to himself over and over again. He takes a deep breath and continues, still fumbling to form coherent sentences. “It’s about your statue. In Regents park. I, well, I… I guess I think I’m in love with him?”
It comes out as a question and Liam and Zayn share a sidelong glance and Louis thinks he might die of embarrassment. It is hard enough admitting to himself that he is in love with an inanimate object, but it is ten times worse admitting such a thing out loud, especially in front of the man who created said inanimate object.
Liam clears his throat and nods once at Zayn who smiles back, then turning to face Louis again. “In that case, you might be interested in meeting my friend, Harry. The statue is modeled after him.”
Louis is flabbergasted. He sputters a little, trying to come up with the appropriate thing to say. Because how is he supposed to react when he discovers the stone man he’s been hopelessly pinning after for months may actually exist in real human flesh and blood. “I… I… Yes. Yes, please. How, how can I meet him?”
Liam grins, “Well, you’re in luck. He’s actually coming over for dinner tonight. Would you like to stay?”
Louis nods frantically while Zayn and Liam erupt into folds of laughter.
When Harry walks into the living room three hours later, Louis gasps. Because the man standing in front of him dressed in black skinny jeans and a heather gray jumper looks exactly like the statue from the park except more, real. He’s got the exact same curly hair and big eyes, which are exactly the shade of green Louis always imagined them to be and he’s smiling, big dimples showing on his cheeks. He’s tall and lanky too, but Louis can imagine the muscles he’s skillfully hiding beneath the fabric.
He greets his friends with big embraces, then turning to address Louis by sticking his hand out and smiling. “Hi, I’m Harry. I don’t believe we’ve met.”
Louis is suddenly hyperaware of his too short jeans and old knit sweater that probably looks like it belonged to his grandma, not to mention his desperate need for a haircut. But Harry is still smiling at him, hand outstretched, so Louis musters up the courage to takes his hand, shaking lightly. “Hi, I’m Louis. Nice to meet you.”