Worrying About Friends and Strangers
The canteen is busy as per usual. Clusters of girls, boys, and both genders are scattered around the wide, gray room; some of them sitting at tables, some of them standing in groups. All of them are talking, creating noise that can be heard but not understood.
Christine and Louis are sitting at one of the tables, two trays of food between them as well as a pile of books on paintings. Niall is not sitting with them because he still has some work he needs to finish before he can join them for lunch.
“How long did you stay at the Cavern, last night?” Christine asks her friend who’s sitting across from her. She tries to watch the people walking by over the boy’s shoulder as inconspicuous as possible. It’s in her best interest he doesn’t ask what she’s looking for as she’s a very bad liar.
If Louis finds out she’s trying to discover if she can see Zayn anywhere, it isn’t going to go down well. He has made it quite clear he wants her to stay as far away from Zayn as possible.
And he is probably right to. Zayn is bad news, she knows this. She saw with her own eyes how he tricked a girl into falling for him. If she was prettier, he could do the same to her, if she isn’t careful. It’s clear he only sees women as something to play with.
This knowledge should have sent Christine running for the hills, should have banished any thought she has about Zayn and his brown eyes framed by dark, long lashes from her mind, but instead, it makes him even more fascinating to her. Instead of wanting nothing to do with him, it makes her want to know him better. Christine doesn’t know why.
“We stayed another hour,” Louis tells his friend while taking a bite out of his apple. “Niall and I went to another couple of pubs afterward. Liam didn’t come along because of something with his kidney.”
Louis throws the news around like it’s nothing, but the rigidness of his shoulders tells a whole other story. For some reason, something that he has said makes him feel a little bit uncomfortable.
“Who of you two drank the most?” Christine inquires, a small grin playing around her lips. Even though Louis is feeling uncomfortable at the moment, she’s happy he and Niall hung out together last night, because it might mean he is over having to share Christine with the Irish boy.
Jealousy had been the reason the nineteen-year-old had come up with for why Louis had suddenly started acting cold towards Niall. She had figured that Louis didn’t like how close their new friend and she had become and acted hostile because of that.
“Niall of course,” Louis chuckles. His eyes crinkle a little bit as he smiles and for a fleeting moment, there’s a look of fondness on his face before it quickly disappears – fast enough for Christine to doubt she even saw it. “He’s Irish after all.”
“That’s true, but you’re part Irish as well,” the blonde girl reminds him.
A large part of the people living in Liverpool are part Irish. When the potato famine struck Britten’s neighboring country, a large wave of its inhabitants went to either America or Liverpool. Louis’s great-grandparents were two of them, as was Christine great-grandfather.
“Niall grew up between the Irish, though, and I didn’t. His parents probably put beer in his baby bottle.”
“That’s not true, unfortunately,” Niall’s voice suddenly sounds from Christine’s left, prompting her to turn her head towards him.
The blonde, Irish boy gives her a toothy grin as he sits down, his tray clattering down on the table as he does so. There’s a sandwich on it, as well as a carton of milk made out of newspaper and a green apple.
“I may have started drinking earlier then you, but not that early.” Niall’s blue eyes sparkle as he smiles at Louis, his lips pressed together in a smile. “I had fun last night, by the way. We should do it again.”
Louis’s cheeks turn a light shade of pink, but his eyes remain on Niall, probably hoping no one will notice his blush if he acts normal. But Christine notices and it confuses her. She doesn’t understand why Louis would be blushing like that, the Irish boy hasn’t said anything to embarrass him.
“Maybe…” Louis slowly lowers his eyes back to the food on the tray before putting some of it in his mouth. “It’s going to be a bit difficult if Christine’s parents don’t want us taking her to pubs. It’s not like we can take Harry with us as well. No offence, Christine, but it’s clear from yesterday he doesn’t know how to party.” Louis rambles the last part.
“Christine, right…” Niall sounds disappointed and Christine can’t help but feel hurt by his apparent wish she wouldn’t join them on their pub night. Could it be her new friend has grown tired of her for some reason?
Because Christine has been taught not to be a bother if she doesn’t need to be she says, “You guys don’t have to worry about me not being able to come along, a girl going to a pub is probably a bad idea. You two can go without me.”
Apparently, Louis isn’t too happy with this proposal because his whole body tenses up and he pleads for something with his eyes. The emotion in his blue eyes looks a little like panic.
But Christine doesn’t understand why it would be there. She doesn’t understand why he would feel panic at the idea of going to pubs with only Niall. Didn’t both of them say they had a good time? She really can’t understand what’s wrong with Louis, why is he acting so strange?
Thoughts that Christine thought she had buried deep, suddenly start to resurface again. Could it be Zayn was right after all? What of Louis was indeed of that persuasion? What if he is in love with Niall and is afraid to be alone with him because of that reason.
No, it couldn’t be that reason, it just couldn’t. Louis is a good guy, he isn’t perverted. He isn’t like that. There must be another reason.
However, what that other reason is, she doesn’t know. She tries to come up with anything that explains her friend’s weird behavior all through lunch and the classes that follow, but she can’t come up with anything.
Maybe because of how frustrated she feels she snaps at her step brother when he confronts her with the milk she forgot to buy the last time she did the groceries. Or maybe it’s because she is still mad at him for dragging her out of the Cavern to stop her from meeting the band. Whatever the reason, Harry is now yelling at her because of it.
“You have responsibilities, Christine,” Harry yells at her, his eyes glaring at her. “You have to buy everything on the list, not only the things you need.”
“I don’t do that,” his step sister defends herself. Her hands are balled into fists at her side and her cheeks are red with anger. Her heart is beating feverously in her chest, making it ever harder to breath. “I drink milk too. I just forgot to buy it, it happens.”
“That’s not the kind of attitude a girl should have.” Harry crosses his arms and narrows his eyes as he continues. “The man you’re going to marry won’t stand for it.”
“Well, tough for him,” Christine exclaims, throwing her arms in the air. “He’ll just have to live with me making mistakes. I’m only human.”
Christine really doesn’t know what Harry wants from her. She’s doing her best helping around the house while their mother is still recovering from her illness when Harry is either at work or in a pub. She’s doing everything her family asks of her, but suddenly she isn’t doing a good enough job?
She would love to smack her brother across his face, but she knows that would be unbecoming of her. It’s only proper for a girl to attack a man if he makes improper sexual advance and as Harry isn’t doing such a thing, so she can’t do that.
All she can do is convey with her eyes how offended she is about he’s treating her. There’s nothing she has done to deserve his attitude. She may have snapped at him, but that doesn’t warrant this reaction.
“If you were my wife…” Harry starts, a glow Christine has never seen before, suddenly appearing in his eyes. It makes her heart skip a few beats.
“Well, I’m not. I’m your sister,” the blonde girl quickly hisses. She doesn’t want to think about Harry as her husband, it isn’t right to do so. “So lucky for you, you don’t have to live with me and my forgetfulness for too long.”
Christine storms off, having given her brother a piece of her mind. She’s had enough of yelling at him, she wants to be alone. Her back is towards Harry as she runs to her room, she doesn’t see the pained expression on his face.
Dinner that night is silent. Both Harry and Christine don’t feel like talking, each for another reason than the other. They don’t even look each other in the eyes.
The sun has already sunk behind the horizon as Christine walks back into her room. Her parents and Harry have already gone off to bed, but she herself isn’t tired yet. She has too much milling around in her head for Morpheus to have any effect on her. Sleep isn’t going to come for hours.
The thoughts in her head are about Louis and the trouble her friend will be in if her suspicions are proven to be true. If he’s indeed like that, he’s going to get hurt and Christine couldn’t bear to see her best friend hurt. He may be a bit obnoxious but on the inside, he’s a big sweetheart and nice people shouldn’t get hurt.
Before Christine knows it, the stars are out, the full moon is shining and two hours have passed. She’s nowhere near tired and she hates it. Tomorrow is another early day, she really should be sleeping right now.
Her heart almost jumps out of her chest, when she suddenly hears a scream. It comes from outside the house, below her window. Other shouts follow, their pitches lower than the first one.
Without really thinking about it, Christine rushes to the window. Her hands shake as she pulls open the curtain and looks through the glass at the stretch of road just outside her window.
Despite the bad lighting provided by the street lanterns, she can see three figures towering over a fourth one and they are kicking her – the first scream could have only come from a woman.
Fear grips the blonde girl by the throat. This is the alley all over again. Someone is being beaten up, what can see do about it? She’s only a girl and they are three men. She can’t make them stop, they’ll probably start beating her up if she tries. She doesn’t know if she would risk her life for a stranger.
But it is another woman that’s the victim. A fellow woman is being beaten up by guys and she can’t defend herself any better than Christine. She can’t just watch and do nothing as they attack her. Women should look out for each other.
Christine can feel her heart harden as she makes up her mind, a strong wall forming around the tender organ. She can’t be scared when she’s going to try to make the boys stop. They are like wolves, they will smell her fear.
Her parents and brother sleeping in the house is the last thing Christine is concerned about as she hurries to the front door – she may even be making more noise than necessary in the hope she wakes up her brother and he will help her save the girl she’s hurrying towards.
When she runs through the door the cold night air knocks into her, making her realize she’s lucky she isn’t wearing her pajamas. She would have had a hard time convincing the boys to let the girl go if her teeth were chattering. It would make her even less intimidating then she already feels.
A loud scream goes straight through her bones as Christine runs towards the figures who haven’t let up with their kicks and punches. She’s now able to hear what the boys are saying to the girl they’re beating up.
“You thought you could get away from us, you whore?” one of them screams as he hauls the laying figure up. The dark girl looks terrified and even from this far away Christine can see her face is littered with cuts and bruises. “Did you think we wouldn’t find you? Did your little boyfriend think you would be safe? I thought that wet nelly knew better.”
The boy punches the girl’s jaw and Christine can’t stop a scream from erupting at the horrible sight. One of the boys turns his head towards her and lets out a laugh. “Look at tha, a bird has come to rescue you. How sweet!”
“Let her go,” Christine yells, not letting herself be deterred by the sarcasm in the boy’s voice. She has come to a standstill right next to the group and she’s glaring at them. Her lower lip twitches as fear courses through her body, threating to evolve into a full on tremble if she isn’t careful. “She’s only a girl.”
“Yeah, and so are you,” the boy who’s still holding up the girl replies, his dark skin making it difficult to see his face in the dark. “You’re no match for me. Now, leave or I’m gonna beat you up, just like Michelle over here.”
So, it appears the boys know the girl – how else would they know her name? Maybe the boy with the dark-skin is her boyfriend and she left him for the boy who he was yelling at her about. It would explain why a boy beats up a girl, even though him bringing in friends along isn’t.
“I’m not going anywhere until you let Michelle go.” Christine stands her ground, probably looking surer of herself then she actually feels – but that’s the idea. “Or else I’m going to defend her.”
Michelle chooses that moment to try and get free of the boy’s grip, probably hoping the waning in his attention will enable her to escape. She has no such luck, as his grip is still strong on her arm and her attempt only serves to anger him even more.
He punches her in her stomach, signaling Christine that the time of negotiation is over and if she wants to save Michelle, she needs to get physical.
So, that’s what she does. She launches for the dark-skinned boy but before she can reach him, an arm is wrapped around her waist and she is dragged back, kicking and screaming.
She, however, stops moving when she hears a familiar voice whispering in her ear, sending shivers down her spine. “Don’t. I’ll take care of this.”
Christine turns around and she’s greeted by the view of Zayn’s face. It is a really close view. She can count his individual eyelashes as well as the spares hairs on his chin. He has an angry look on his face for some reason. Could it be he’s just as disgusted by what the boys are doing even though he and his friends do the same – he saves them, but still.
Her heart is beating feverously – it’s from the adrenaline coursing through her body, not from the close proximity between her and Zayn – and she’s sure the dark boy can feel it, as they’re chest are pressed together.
Zayn ignores Christine, letting her go before running towards the group of boys.
This is all so confusing to the blonde girl. What is Zayn doing here?
Christine tries to follow the fight, tries to keep up with Zayn’s movement so she can see who’s winning, but it’s all a blur of movement. She can’t see which fist belongs to which boy or who is laying on the ground.
The fight is over in what must be five minutes, ending with all of the boys lying unconscious on the ground except for Zayn, who’s kneeling next to Michelle. Christine can see him check her for wounds on a way that makes her wonder if they know each other.
Suddenly, she realizes who the girl must be, causing her heart to plummet to her stomach. Michelle is the girl she saw with Zayn before, when she and Louis were following him. She’s his girlfriend. Does that mean the boys lying on the ground are his friends, the ones he uses to seduce girls? Christine can feel fear pole in her stomach again.
Zayn suddenly stands up and stalks towards her with angry steps. His handsome face is twisted into a scowl that makes the blonde’s heart tremble.
“What was that,” he barks at her as he stands in front of her. There are stretches and bruises on her face that look rather painful. “Are you out of your mind?! You’re no match for Jud and his friends, they would have broken every bone in your body if I hadn’t stopped you.”
“I couldn’t just let your friends beat Michelle up and do nothing.” Christine can’t bring herself to call Michelle Zayn’s girlfriend.
“Well, you should have.” Zayn narrows his eyes as he continues to glare at her. “They don’t take too kindly to birds standing up to them. Now they’re going to come after you as well.”