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My Heart Skips A Beat

Chapter 31

When Anna answered the door, she did not look like the girl I dropped off at the airport a little over a week ago. She looked exhausted; her eyes were slightly red and bloodshot, with faint dark circles under them. She was wearing a pair of grey pajama bottoms and the same green sweater of mine I had last seen her in, and immediately I just knew that I had made the right decision in coming here unannounced. If I had called her and asked, she would’ve said no, just because she would feel guilty, like she was being a burden or something. Now that I was here, though, and I saw the look on her face when she opened the door to her hotel room, I could just tell it was the right thing to do.
Due to some serious jetlag, I was unable to fall asleep, but I let Anna lie next to me, her heavy breathing relaxing to me as she slept. I’m not sure how much time passed until she woke up, a few hours I guessed.
“Morning.” I said quietly, grinning down at her as she rubbed her eyes like a little kid waking up from a nap.
“More like late afternoon.” She said, glancing at the alarm clock next to the bed. “Sorry I just like, passed out. I haven’t slept properly in what feels like forever.”
“It’s okay, it was nice. Just lying here for a bit.”
“You’re probably starving. Wanna go get something to eat, show you around a little?”
“Sounds perfect.”
A little while later we were walking hand-in-hand down the constantly-crowded streets of New York City. I’ve come to New York before with the boys, but being here with Anna, a native New Yorker, made it seem like a completely new experience. I was quick to catch on that the crossing signals are merely a guideline(we however, chose to ignore them). She also pretty much force fed me ‘real’ coffee, which tasted even more like dirt than the last time I tried it.
Now, we were walking lazily, as a few snowflakes drifted down.
“I love the snow.” Anna said, gazing up towards the sky.
“Mmm.” I nod. She smiles as a few white flecks fall into her hair.
“Anna?” I ask hesitantly, knowing that what I say next is going to ruin this nice little moment we have going on here.
“Yeah?” She looks at me innocently and even though I don’t want to, I need to bring it up.
“Can you please just tell me what happened?” She knows what I’m talking about immediately. I can tell by the way her face falls, her hand goes limp in mine. “I’m sorry to do this, now especially, I just feel like-“
“No, I know. I mean, you came all the way here.” She takes a deep breath before beginning. She tells me about when he got home, and everything was fine. Then they went out to this party and he was acting sort of weird, but still pretty decent. “- And then I just left, I just left him there like it wasn’t even a big deal. Then, the next morning these police officers show up telling us her overdosed and was beaten up and all these things and all I can think is ‘I left him. I did this’ And as much as you or anyone else tells me otherwise, I can’t help but blame myself.” She covers her mouth with her hand, tears falling onto her cheeks. Without missing a beat I pull her close to me. Thankfully we’re right in front of her building and there aren’t many people around us. “I’m sorry.” She says, her voice muffled.
“Shhh, there’s nothing to be sorry for. C’mon, let’s go upstairs, yeah?” She mutters a response and we make our way inside.

I had had an incredible day with Harry. It was so perfect and I was really glad that he was here, but even then, I couldn’t keep the nagging thoughts of my brother out of my head. The second I thought I was completely happy, there it was, mocking me, telling me how horrible I’ve been. Then when he asked me about it, it was like everything came boiling to the surface, and all of those things I had been trying to hide or keep out of my head, just took over.
We were going up in the elevator when I finally gained control of my emotions. I didn’t want to cry anymore. I’ve spent way too much time crying lately.
“I know you’re trying to help by having this conversation, and who knows, maybe tomorrow it’ll be just what I need; but right now it just, isn’t.” I took his large hand in mine, tracing the veins on his wrist, not looking him in the eye.
“Okay.” Harry said simply, his voice quiet and deep, literally giving me goose bumps. My gaze moves up to his face where his eyes lock with mine. “I just want you to be happy.” Harry whispers in my ear, his lips grazing over my skin, then down my neck, and across my jaw line. I take a sharp breath. The elevator door opens and I take his hand, leading him down the hallway. I’m fumbling with the room key when I feel Harry behind me, his lips touching the back of my neck. I giggle, unable to open the door.
“What’s with this thing?” I giggle. Harry takes it from me, opening it with ease. We stumble into the room, his hand finding the buttons on the front of my jacket. The layers of clothes we’re both wearing seem to fall off.
“I don’t-“ He begins, but the last thing I want to do right now is ruin this. “Shh.” I say, putting a finger to his lips. “Not now. Later. Just… later.”
I woke up the next morning to find Harry fully dressed, sitting at the desk across the room, staring down at his phone.
“Hey.” I muttered, sitting up, “You’re up early.” Usually I have to force Harry to get up and dressed. He spun around in the chair, a serious look on his face. Still not saying a word. “What’s going on?” I ask, suddenly worried.
“I want to take you to see your brother.”

Yesterday had been great. It had been seemingly perfect, but as amazing as it might have been, I knew that I needed to take some kind of action.
“Wh-what? Harry, I’m not-“
“I know it’s going to be difficult but I just really, really think it’s something you need to do.” I was being honest, and maybe even a little forceful, but I felt like this was something Anna needed to do. And without a little push, I’m not sure she ever would.
“And I’ll come with you; I’ll help you through it. I mean – if you want me to.”
“Of course I do.” She said, getting up and coming over to me and sitting on my lap. “I just, don’t even know what I could say to him. But, I will. I’ll go.”

Surprisingly, no matter what country you’re in, hospitals are pretty much the same. The same fluorescent lighting, the same busy doctors and nurses, that same hospital smell. As Anna and I walked through the hall, going in the direction that the woman at the front counter had told us her brother was, I felt the grip she had on my hand tighten. I moved my thumb over her knuckles, trying to calm her down, but I’m not sure it did much help.
“So, this is it.” She said, taking a deep breath.
“Do you want me to wait out here or-?”
“No. No, you can come in. Just to, you know, introduce yourself.” I nodded as Anna knocked lightly and then turned the doorknob.
Max was awake, lying in a hospital bed, watching something on the TV. His gaze darted towards the door as Anna walked in hesitantly.
“Anna. You’re here.” He seemed genuinely relieved.
“I’m guessing you’re Harry.” He said.
“Um, yeah. I’ll just, give you two a sec.” I said, slipping back out the door.

Jeez, way to have my back, Styles. I wasn’t mad at Harry; I knew he was just trying to help, but I was mad at my brother. And now here I was, just standing here.
“Anna, I really am sorry.”
“I’m sorry Max, but I really don’t care. I don’t care if you’re sorry. I can’t. I’m here to understand what happened, not to make things better.” He seemed surprised, but nodded anyway.
“Yeah okay.” I sat down in the plastic bucket seat next to the hospital bed that he was still in. I tried my best not to notice the stitches, bruises, and scars that were scattered across his body.
“I got into some trouble at school. Serious trouble. I needed some fast cash so I started dealing again.”
“Again?!” I couldn’t suppress my shock.
“Yeah, again. I was sort of, the go-to guy for that in high school. I guess I just hid it really well. So um, yeah, there was this whole thing with this guy back here; I owed him money and stuff. When he heard that I was in town, he found me. That’s what happened, that’s how I got beat up. And I swear, if I had known that he was going to be there-“
“Please, don’t. You knew what you were doing.” I remembered the way he had blown me off that night, going into separate rooms and corners with random people, disappearing and leaving me alone with a bunch of strangers.
“I guess I did.” He nodded, looking ashamed. “But I’m still sorry. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m going to rehab. So maybe the next time I see you, I’ll be your brother again. At least I hope so.” I felt my emotions change slightly when he said that. I was finally able to see the Max that I used to know. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ve never seen Dad so pissed in my life.”
“He’s here?” I asked, shocked that he actually came home for once.
“Yeah… He came by yesterday. Not for anything but to let me know where I’ll be going. I have a problem, Anna, I know that.” Hearing him say it killed me. I had never thought of my big brother as anything but that, my big brother. He was always the person I could go to for anything. But no, not anymore. He wasn’t that invincible person to me anymore, he was flawed.
“Where are you going?”
“Wow. Well, I really do hope you get better Max.”
“Me too.” I felt my eyes moisten again, but I didn’t want to cry in front of him. “Hey Anna? Do you think I could talk to Harry for a second?” I was surprised by this, why would he want to talk to harry?
“I’m not sure –“
“It’ll take 2 minutes, I swear. Please?”
“I mean- I guess.”

When Anna told me her brother wanted to talk to me, I had no clue what to expect, but I agreed to do it anyway.
“Hey man.” Max said as I closed the door behind me.
“Hi.” It was awkward, standing here with this complete stranger who was lying in a hospital bed. But it was for Anna, I needed to keep reminding myself of that. “What is it that you wanted to tell me?”
“Anna’s my sister, I’m her big brother. I’m supposed to be able to help her, protect her, all of that. But clearly I can’t do that. Neither can her dad. Every guy she’s ever had in her life has left, fucked up, or turned out to be a complete asshole. Just, don’t hurt her, okay? Help her out. DO whatever you need to do.” I was surprised by what he was saying, but I let him continue. “- She’s the nicest, most forgiving, smartest person that I know, but she hides her emotions pretty damn well. Even if she may not show it all the time, what out dad did, and I’m sure what I did too, hurt her. SO just-“
“I love her, mate. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Good, good. Yeah, that’s good. Well, thank you.” I nod, and walk back out the door.
“What was that about?” Anna asked, her brows knitted together and her arms crossed against her chest.
“Nothing, just, you know, guy talk.” I wrapped my arm around Anna’s small waist, pulling her against me as we walked away.

I didn’t really have an interest in seeing either of my parents anytime soon, so I was hoping Harry and I would be able to just leave New York and get back to London without any sort of confrontation; unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly what happened.
We had just gotten out of a cab in front of my hotel when I saw my dad standing right outside. He looked pretty much the same as he had the last time I saw him; dark hair, graying a little at the temples. He wore his usual business suit and a black cashmere coat over it. He was tapping away at his Blackberry when I spotted him.
“Oh my god.” I heard myself say, gripping onto Harry for dear life.
“I’m going to assume that’s your dad?” He asked, stepping onto the sidewalk.
“The one and only. I can’t believe this.” I sighed, letting go of Harry and taking a few steps towards my father.
“What are you doing here dad?” I asked. He looked up from his phone, a serious look on his face.
“We need to talk.”
“I’m not really into the mood.”
“Well, that’s too bad. Come on, I have a table for us inside.”
“No, dad. I’m sorry. We can talk here; I’m not having lunch with you.” Thankfully, he didn’t argue it any further.
“Fine, at least come inside. It’s damn cold out here.”
“What is it you wanted to talk about?” I asked. Harry stayed off to the side, giving us some space.
“You need to tell me what the hell is going on with you?! You’re gone four months and suddenly you’re out of control!”
“I’ve told you dad, I’m growing up, okay? So I’m sorry if it’s not all going according to your perfect plan for me, but that’s something you’re going to need to handle yourself. I’m happy in London, I am. Maybe there’s been some drama that I wish hadn’t happened, but it did, and I just have to get past it. All in all, I’m a hundred times happier and more myself there than I ever was here.”
“You call getting plastered all over those stupid magazines and running around doing who KNOWS what with god knows who being yourself?”
“Excuse me, sir?” I suddenly hear Harry interrupt behind me. My dad’s gaze moved from me to him, I could tell he was sizing him up.
My dad gave him a look as if to say ‘um, what?’
“No offense, but you’ve got no idea what your daughter has been through. And even with all of that, she’s still been able to keep her grades near perfect. If you ask me, she’s doing a hell of an amazing job.”
“And you’ve known Anna for how long exactly?” He said with a scoff. “This is a family matter, son.” “It doesn’t matter, dad. It really doesn’t. Harry knows me better than you ever have. SO I’m sorry, but I’m done.” And with that, I grab Harry’s hand, turn away from my dad, and leave.
“I’m sorry about all this. I’m just- ugh. I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what to say to Harry, I was embarrassed by my family, by everything that he had seen today. That he flew all the way here just to have to deal with all of my family drama.
“Hey, it’s okay.” He put his hands on my shoulders.
“But it’s not, it’s messed up.”
“Maybe a little. But it’s them who have messed up, not you.”
“I wouldn’t could on that.” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “So now what?” I asked, flopping down on the bed.
“I dunno. What do you wanna do?”
“I want to go back to London. I just need to get away from all of this.”
“Okay, then. Let’s do it.”
“Harry, my flights not until after New Years. I’m sort of stuck here.”
“I’ll handle it.” He said it with so much reassurance that I just believed him.

“How’s everything going there, mate?” Louis asked.
“It’s been…eventful, to say the least. But Anna’ll be back any minute so I’ll just fill you in later.”
“Sounds good, but uh, when exactly do you think you’ll be back? Not to stress you out or anything, but we’re supposed to be doing a show right after New Years.”
“No worries, I’m trying for a flight out tomorrow. Anna said she just wants to get back, and I don’t blame her after what I’ve seen today.”
“Sounds good. Well, good luck.”
“Thanks Lou.” I hung up just in time to answer the door to Anna, who ran out to get us some takeout because the most edible thing on the room service menu was some sort of lamb. “Okay so I might have gone a little overboard, but I was like, starving.” I watched as she dropped the bags onto the table, throwing off her coat. She seemed herself, she seemed happy.


@notarealhipster Who do you imagine anna as?


I'm from the US, outside of Philly :)
Where are you from? My side of the pond (United States) or the other one?
I love this story it's my favorite one I've read so far! :)