Pick Me Up
Guilt and shame plagued Percy for the rest of the week. Luckily she had tons of homework to catch up on so she didn’t have to make up any excuses to avoid everyone and her work schedule was opposite from Harry’s, so she didn’t have to face him either. But unfortunately, not all good things can last, and she was going to have to see him sooner or later… and it looked liked sooner.
She was coming in for her first night shift she would work by herself and as she walked into the shop, Harry was getting ready to leave from his morning shift. Shit. As soon as she saw him she knew it was time to apologize for making such an idiot of herself at the party. She wasn’t sure what was going to happen. She still didn’t know what she was going to say to him, and she had no idea how Harry was going to react after she was obviously avoiding him. She was snapped out of her thoughts by the door chiming above her; she looked up and saw Harry looking up at her from sweeping behind the counter.
“Heeyyy…” said Percy walking up to him, he stopped sweeping and tried leaning up against the broom.
“Hey yourself.” He said, raising an eyebrow. He had a feeling he knew what she was going to say next.
“About Halloween…” she began.
“It’s fine.” He assured her. “Don’t worry about it.”
“But Harry, I’m so—“
“It happens. We all get drunk and do stupid things, nothing to be worried about.”
“I almost fell.” She was hanging her head, scared to make eye contact.
“But you didn’t.” He reached out and put his hand on her shoulder. “No harm, no foul.” She looked up and he was smiling at her, with one dimple. “So, let’s get you caught up with your closing shift, shall we?”
“Sure.” She said as they got to work.
“Hello Poppit” said Jo, entering Coffee Goblin with Kyle in tow, the place was packed full of people, all desperately trying to be more Hipster than the next. Jo however, was the exception; she was such a simple dresser and that’s what made her fabulous. Leather pants and a t-shirt with the Deathly Hallows symbol on it, and a cardigan. The only thing out of place was her strappy Louboutins.
“Hiya Babe.” Responded Percy, as she gave her best friend a kiss on the cheek. Tonight happened to be open mic night. The whole university was out for it, making her first night working one of the hardest she’s ever had. “This place is ridiculous… Don’t know how I am going to manage.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be alright there love.” Out from behind Kyle, came Zayn with Niall, Louis, and Liam strangling behind him on his phone, of course. “I have confidence in you, even in Harry doesn’t.” Zayn gave Percy a rather large bear hug, it had been a few days since their last best friend hang out, which just included them getting high and watching Elf, since Halloween was now over and Christmas was coming way too fast, and maybe a little too much complaining about Harry on her part.
“What a sight for sore eyes.” She said, hugging him back just as tight. “And you three…” She was now point at Louis, Kyle, and Niall, “please no trouble tonight. Don’t want to have to clean up after you and your messes, which are pretty notable.”
“On our best behavior” said Louis, not quite as convincing as she was hoping it would have been. “Scouts honor.”
“That’s right, we’ll be proper princes tonight.” Said Niall, with a slight wink, making Percy even more nervous.
“What are you all doing here anyway? Shouldn’t there be a party you need to attend? It is a Friday night, after all.”
“You don’t know?” asked Liam, a little curious.
“Don’t know what?” asked Percy, looking around at all of them who were in on the secret.
“This is Harry’s thing… he set it up.” Said Zayn, taking a seat on the counter facing the stage.
“Yeah, he planned it months ago, took a bit of convincing on Chase’s part, but he came around. It’s way more busy than I thought it would be this time.” Said Louis getting quiet and gawking at the amount of people in attendance. Just then, Harry walked in with an acoustic guitar in hand. He went up the stage and began setting up the sound system. The whole room came to a hush, everyone said bye to Percy to take a place closer towards the stage, while she continued on with her work.
“Testing…” said Harry, a little feedback coming through the mic. “Uhhh, Hi all. Welcome to, was is it? Our 5th open mic night. We have about 7 people performing…” he sounded a bit scared, like he wasn’t sure if what he was saying sounded right or cool, it just made Percy smile that he was being kind of a dork when he usually seems calm and collected. “I’m going to open things up.”
Harry took a seat on the stool in front of the microphone, picking up his guitar and tuning it a little before he started. Another gentleman came onto the stage and sat in front of the keyboard, playing a few keys and checking the sound. Then Harry looked at him, gave a nod showing he was ready.
“This is a new one, so, forgive me if it’s not up to my usual standards.” He smiled sweetly, still looking like he might vomit all over the crowd, but then the piano kicked in and Harry started strumming his guitar lightly in sync, and then he began to sing.
“Now you were standing there right in front of me. I hold on, it’s getting harder to breathe…”
She wasn’t sure what to expect when Harry’s mouth opened and lovely lyrics and melodies came flowing out. She was mesmerized; it was quite beautiful, if she was being completely honest. His eyes were slightly closed, as if he was concentrating so hard that if he lost it, it wouldn’t come out the same way twice. It was a perfect few moments that could never be repeated. She felt something inside of her stir, an uneasy feeling that was drawing her into him. Almost like when he was holding her after she almost fell. This time she knew it wasn’t the alcohol making it happen.
“I saw in the corner there is a photograph. No doubt in my mind it's a picture of you…”
As he continued to play, Percy couldn’t move even if she wanted to. She was frozen by how many feelings were going through her at once. She was so used to Harry being annoyed by her, which in turn made him get very short when it came to their conversations. It made her think he was just some robot incapable of being nice to anyone. But the moods of the song and the feeling that he was giving off were the exact opposite of what she knew about him. She was seeing him in an entire different light, one that she never wanted to see him out of again. It was the guy who literally talked her off a ledge and saved her, not the manager she saw almost everyday.
“Don't let me. Don't let me go. 'Cause I'm tired of sleeping alone…”
The song was over and everyone in the room cheered. Harry graciously smiled, bowing his head, saying thank you. Percy waited to see if she was going to snap out of the entrancement that she had been caught up in, but it didn’t happen. She felt a glow come off him and reach her, and she was pretty sure that it was never going to fade. After Harry looked enough at the crowd, he briefly looked over to the counter where Percy was still standing, just staring at him. Their eyes met and he gave her a sort of half grin, but all she could do was stare. Harry finished up the rest of his set, two more songs, his and Percy’s eyes met more times than she could count, and that gave her an indescribable feeling in her chest.
After he was done, he introduced the next artist, a friend of his, Ed, who had red hair was almost a dead ringer for Ron Weasley. He said a few ‘Hello’s’ and walked directly towards her. As he got closer, her heart started beating faster. She was in the midst of an almost panic attacked.
“G-great performance, Hharry.” She barely managed to get out of her mouth. She could feel her entire face blush, and probably the rest of her body as well.
“Uh, Thanks.” He said, bashfully, rubbing the back of his neck, trying not to make much eye contact. He didn’t think he could look into those blue eyes again with out wanting to write another song about her, which he wouldn’t mind. This was the first new material he had been able to write in months. “You’re doing a good job you know, being on your own for the first time. The place hasn’t caught on fire or anything.”
“Thanks, wouldn’t want to let my boss down. You know? He’s kind of a hard ass.” She said playfully, was she really flirting with him? She began to fidget with her hand towel because if she didn’t hand something to do with her hands, she was pretty sure she would run them up the back of his neck and into his hair.
“Really? I think he is pretty fair and reasonable.” He half-smiled at her. Wait. Was he flirting back with her? Was this really happening? They were both just awkwardly standing there, waiting for the next person to speak. “So, you know, after this is all over, I could stay and help you clean up… if you want?”
“I think I’ve got it covered. I was trained pretty well.”
“Oh. Okay.” He said in disappointment, he just wanted to make an excuse to spend more time with her.
“But, if you really insist, I wouldn’t mind the company.” Harry’s heart gave a giant leap in his chest. She wanted him around, and he knew she was very well capable to close the store by herself. Harry heard his name over the microphone and speakers. It was the red headed friend, Ed, who called him up.
“Right, I have to get back.” He said, turning his head quickly to see Ed waving his hand for Harry to come up on stage. “See you afterwards?”
“Sure thing.” She said as he ran back up to the mic. Ed and Harry sang a song together, harmonizing in all the right places. Who knew that he had such talent, to be honest, she really didn’t know much about him. Maybe she would get to know him more tonight.
It wasn’t until about 11:30 when the last performer finished and people started filing out of the doors. Percy was really glad Harry had offered to stay and help, because everyone left behind quite a mess, and if he hadn’t she wouldn’t be out of there until at least 1am. They mostly worked in silence, every once in a while glancing at each other, giving each other tiny smiles.
“That first song you performed, it was brilliant.” She said softy, to not throw off their rhythm of cleaning up. She was stacking cups on a larger waiter tray, trying not to spill anything.
“Oh. Ummm. Thanks.” Said Harry, not sure how to take the compliment since the song was still a work in progress. “It’s new.”
“Really?” She asked, surprised. “It seemed like you’ve been singing it for years.” She had now taken all the dishes to the sink, and began to clean the counters and machines. “How long have you been playing music?”
“Since I was about 9.”
“Wow, so young.” She laughed a bit, “I have no musical talent what-so-ever. Couldn’t carry a tune to save my life.”
“I’m sure it’s not that bad.” Said Harry while he was drawing the blinds over the windows.
“Oh, believe me. It is.” She smirked at him. “That’s why I read so much, let other people do the work and I get to enjoy it lazily.” Dishes were done, all surfaces wiped, and money in the drawer counted and dropped, the store was closed. Now all the remained was her and Harry.
“Reading is a talent,” replied Harry, “I can’t sit still like that and just read.”
“Hmmm, I guess so.” She took off her apron and hung it on the coat rack where everyone else put there’s. “Thanks again, you know, for helping me close.”
“No problem.” He shrugged, “Didn’t have anything else to do tonight.”
“Still, you got me out of here sooner than I thought I would be, and time is a precious thing to have more of.”
This was the most casual conversation they had ever had. Especially because they were alone and were usually accompanied by their usual group of friends who are always too loud. Harry and Percy turned off all the lights, grabbed their belongings, locked the front door, and walked out the back.
“I’ve got to walk back to campus.” She said while pulling on her long winter coat. “Thanks again Harry.”
“No problem. Anytime.” He said as the stood in silence.
“See you later then.”
“Yeah, later.” Percy turned to walk away, her shoes making soft footsteps on the pavement in the dark. He didn’t want to let her go, not just yet. “Percy?” he shouted into the night. She stopped walking and turned back around.
“Do you want a ride? It’s dark, don’t want you out here by yourself.” Which was true, as he would do for any girl at this time of night.
“Uhhh… Sure, that would be great.” She said as she walked back towards him. They walked to the car park where Harry’s mini was. A proper mini, old school and cool. He opened the door for her and she slid inside as he ran around to the driver’s seat.
“This is great.” She said, smiling, “I love old cars.”
“It’s not much, but it gets me around” He said, turning the engine on and trying to fire up the heater.
They drove in somewhat silence, the light music of some band she’s never heard of crooned over the radio.
“Thanks for the ride.” She said, timidly as they pulled up to her dorm. There was this weird air between them, but she couldn’t really figure out what it was.
“No worries. See you at work?” he asked as she climbed out of the car, slamming the door.
“Yeah. See ya.” She said, waving as she walked back to her dorm. This was the second time Harry had watched her walk away, he didn’t know if he liked it or if it hurt.
They were playing 20 questions, something to do to pass the time between the early morning breakfast rush and the after work crowds. They had finished tidying up, Harry was leaning against the register counter, arms folded, while Percy was sat up by the espresso machine, her legs dangling down and swinging.
“The last person you had sex with…” said Percy, clearly very interested in Harry’s sex life. I think she was finally beginning to admit that this boy had some type of hold on her, but couldn’t figure out how or why.
“Really? You have some prying questions, don’t you?” asked Harry, being kind of cocky.
“Go on. Spill.” She felt nervous, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear about girls in Harry’s past.
“Fine.” He unfolded his arms and now had them holding onto the counter by his sides. “Her name was Cheryl…”
“Cheryl? That’s an old woman’s name. Are you a cougar hunter Harry?” She forced herself not to smile.
“No, she wasn’t an old woman, thank you very much.”
“So, how was it then? You obviously stopped seeing her…”
“It was, okaaayy… Nothing very special to be quite honest, just another warm body.” Harry cleared his throat. Why was he telling this to a girl he had known a few weeks, he didn’t even talk about the girls he slept with to his friends, let alone an almost complete stranger. “She got a bit weird though. Kept showing up and mine with out calling or texting. She’d stay all day on my days off, go through my stuff.”
“Heeeeey, Sometimes I show up unannounced, more often than not.” Percy whined.
“Yeah, but that’s different, you’re welcome at Zayn and Niall’s anytime, which automatically gets you and in at mine, Louis, and Liam’s.”
“I feel so privileged Styles.”
“You should be.” He cocked his head to the side and looked at her, really looked at her. She was bright eyed, hanging on every word he had said; she was actually listening, not waiting for her turn to talk or butt in. “Right. Now you know, what about you? Last person you slept with.”
“Nope. No way.” Said Percy, hopping down from the ledge onto her feet, shaking her head and waving them in up in protest. “Doesn’t work like that, can’t ask the same questions.”
“Come on! You’ve broken that rule like 15 times! Tell me!” he said, grinning from ear to ear, poking his index fingers at random parts of her body. Percy tried to avoid him by walking away, but Harry just went after her. He grabbed her around the waste and picked her up. She flailed about, trying to get loose from his bear hug. He finally let her go, but he didn’t stop bugging her. Now he took to poking and tickling her, she tried her hardest not to laugh. “Come on Perce, tell me! You know you want to.”
“NO Harry! No! I’m not saying”
“YES Persephone!” Percy immediately whipped her head around and gave him a death glare at the mere mention of her given name. Harry didn’t even flinch; he still had that damn grin on his face as if he knew he was going to win this fight.
“I don’t want to tell you.”
“Because it’s embarrassing and you know him and it was kind of a one night stand.”
“Oh really? I can guess then…” Harry put his finger to his temple and pretending to think long and hard about who it could be. “Now… I know it’s not Louis or Niall, since if that happened everyone would know about it. It can’t be Kyle since he is your best friends boyfriend, can’t be Jack because he fired your ass. I know who it is! CHASE!” Percy snorted and Harry just laughed.
“I’m sure he does.” Harry began to pace around the coffee shop, tapping his finger on his chin, trying to look inquisitive. “Now who is left, we have Liam… but he doesn’t seem like the type hit it and quit it, plus, he is all up in that cyber girls business.”
“You did not just say that…” laughing in disbelief.
“Oh yes, I think I did… that leaves Zayn, which is completely impossible since you guys are sooo cl---.” Percy’s whole body got ridged when Zayn’s name was mention and Harry picked up on it almost immediately. “No.” Percy didn’t say anything. Out of all the names he had thought about, he never thought it would be Zayn’s. “How? When? Why…?” He asked, through a bit of pain. He had a jealous tweak in his stomach, something that very rarely happened to him.
“It was when I first met him, it happened once and it hasn’t been mentioned since, until now.”
She couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed of herself. Here she was, obviously flirting with Harry and she had just told him that she had sex with one of his best friends, her best friend.
“But, you guys… there is like no sexual chemistry between the two of you.” Asked Harry, still a bit dazed from her answer.
“Well, not now. It was different in the beginning…” she was hesitant on her next few words, she wanted to make sure they came out right. “I love Zayn, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like that. We are just friends, best friends.”
“Alright.” Harry didn’t know what else he wanted to say, and he sure as hell didn’t want to talk about, or think about, Percy and Zayn being together in anyway.
They made it through the rest of their shift, but they were being extremely polite, making sure not to step on any toes, but it was awkward. Harry was clearly uncomfortable about the past history between one of his best mates and this girl who was weaseling into his life whether he liked it or not. At the end of the day they parted ways. Harry went back to his house while Percy walked back to the dorms.
Harry’s head was heavy with thoughts, thoughts he was trying to shake. But the scenes of Percy and Zayn swam red within his mind, searing it into his brain permanently. His head was hung low when he entered the tiny flat he shared with Louis and Liam. He threw his bag on the kitchen island and went straight to his room, but there was the stench of smoke coming from the back bedroom.
“Louis?” Harry called out, walking up to his bedroom door. It was slightly opened, so he ventured in. But instead of just Louis, it was Zayn as well, both smoking out of the bong that Zayn had blown, smoking suffocating the room.
“Hey man…” said Zayn, blowing smoke out of his lungs into the air around him. Louis was stoned with red eyes, sat back on his bed with his nose in a comic book.
“Oh. Hey.” He really didn’t want to see Zayn right now, because all he saw when he looked at him was Percy clawing at the chance to hop back into bed with him. He tried not to let it get to him, but he was obviously out of sorts.
“What’s wrong you?” asked Louis, peeking up from his reading.
“Nothing.” He said, ignoring what was really bothering him. “What are you doing here?” he asked Zayn, who usually never came round since his and Niall’s house was more than enough room, Zayn didn’t like being in close quarters.
“Niall’s family is coming in town this weekend, need to air the house out a bit. He doesn’t want his parents smelling the stale smoke and spilt beer.” Zayn explained, putting the bong down and grabbing his weed tin, picking out stems for another bowl. “You want a hit?”
“Nah. I’m fine.” But Harry wasn’t fine, not in the slightest. “See ya.”
“Hold up grump.” Said Louis, now tossing the comic to the side and sitting up. “What is going on with you? This morning you were all happy-go-lucky and now you’re acting like someone kicked your dog.”
“It’s nothing. Really.”
“It’s something.” Said Zayn, joining in on Louis’ concern. “Was it work?”
“Come on, it’s not Percy is it?” asked Zayn, packing another bowl.
“Please, just, don’t mention Percy to me.” Said Harry, throwing up his hand to make his point.
“I know you guys didn’t get on at first, but I thought things had gotten better. You guys seem to be pretty chatty lately.”
“She is probably the coolest girl I’ve ever met to be honest, she is one of the lads. Still glad I didn’t sleep with her when I had the chance, that would have ended things for all of us horrifically.” Said Louis. Wait. What? She had hit on Louis too? Now he had another jealous twinge in his stomach. “What problem could you possibly have with her?”
“It’s not her…”
“Then what the hell is it bro?” asked Zayn, becoming agitated.
“Don’t want to talk about it.”
“Just spit it the fuck out Styles.” Said Louis.
“We just were talking about or ex’s or past partners and she just like…”
“Did it bother you?” asked Zayn
“Did what bother me?”
“The fact that she has slept with other people?” asked Louis.
“No, just one in particular.”
“If it’s Jessica, it was a one time experimental thing, so she dated a girl for a while, what’s the big deal?” explained Zayn
“She didn’t even tell me that! Holy hell… she had a girlfriend?” Zayn and Louis said anything, they just kind of giggled, and they couldn’t help it.
“Obviously it wasn’t the girlfriend thing then, what was it?” Louis asked, one more time. Harry just stood there in silence and stared at Zayn, getting more and more jealous that he had touched Percy, kissed her, heard her in her most vulnerable moments, all those images rushed to the front of his thoughts.
“Oh.” Said Zayn, realizing what was wrong. Percy had told Harry about them, the first day the met and what had happened. “She told you…” Zayn’s voice was very solemn. He and Percy had promised not to say anything to anyone about that first encounter, but she had told Harry, which meant that Harry was becoming someone special to her, and in turn, she to Harry.
“Yeah. She did.” His voice sounded very cross with Zayn, but there was nothing he could do to diffuse the situation.
“Louis, we’ll be right back.” Said Zayn, getting up and grabbing Harry by the arm and leading him out into the hallway, shutting the bedroom door. “You need to listen to me, every word.”
“I don’t really care what you have to say about it Zayn.” Said Harry, shaking his head.
“I don’t care if you don’t care, this isn’t about you or me, it’s about her. So, shut up.” He let go of Harry’s arm, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “It meant nothing Harry, nothing at all. It was the first day we met, we were both drunk, and afterwards we felt so awkward. It was so weird; it was like having sex with my sister or something. But, I don’t regret it happening because it lead me to her, which lead to my best friend that I never thought I could have with a girl. There is nothing between us other than being friends.”
“Whatever you say.” Said Harry, not believing a word that came out of his mouth, not because he thought it was a lie, he just didn’t want to know about their one night of debauchery. Now all the innocent things that Zayn and Percy did now seemed dirty. Like when she would get too drunk or it was too late and couldn’t make it home she would sleep in his bed or how they were constantly texting all day, even when he would give her a hug and kiss her on the top of the head.
“Why does it bother you so much anyway?”
“Yes it does, I can see it in your face… It’s not because…”
“You like her…”
“What are you talking about, of course I like her, she is a good mate and now a model employee.”
“Not like that, you like her like her…”
“YOU DO! Harry Styles…” He said in shock and wonder.
“Done talking about this.”
“Like hell you are! When did this happen?”
“Nothing had happened.”
“That new song you performed, that was for her! You haven’t written new material in months, almost a year, but she comes around and suddenly you are writing again, you’re all moody when you haven’t seen her, excited to go to work on days that you used to hate being at the coffee shop.” Zayn was now smiling, knowing fair well what his friend was feeling. “Come on man, just admit it.”
“I’m not admitting anything.” Harry began to walk away and go towards his room.