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Thunder by ShieldSnitch3
Chapter 6 : I like my flat.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 16


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I like my flat.

Well, let me amend that statement: I like the flat that I woke up in this morning. It’s not mine, but I sure wish it was. Then again, it’s hard to do worse than my regular flat.

Louis’s flat is really nice though, besides the super-uncomfortable couch. No, seriously, I’m pretty sure that thing messed up my back. Looking at it, you would think, gee, that looks like a nice, soft couch.

NO.

It’s awful, really. The cushions aren’t comfortable and it’s so skinny that you can’t even move without basically falling off the side. I don’t know how Louis and I were planning on - well, let’s just say it’s a good thing his sister barged in for multiple reasons.

He’s not awake yet, but I have been for the past hour. You know what time it is now? Seven o’clock in the morning. Which means I woke up at six. Six. And I don’t even have to work today.

Plus, to top things off, my phone is dying. Probably because I’ve been playing games on it for the past hour, but still. This is just horrible.

The sound of footsteps in the hallway jerks me upright, and I drop my phone onto the floor as I search around for any sign of human life. Louis eventually appears, looking completely disheveled with hair sticking up at odd angles and half-closed eyelids blinking away sleep.

“Sup?” he says hoarsely, then staggers to the kitchen and begins searching for food.

“Sup?” I ask incredulously.

Louis looks at me and pours some cereal out into a bowl nonchalantly, but doesn’t say another word. The cereal clanks against the side of the bowl, and when it’s filled to an appropriate height, he adds in a bit of milk with a perfectly calm demeanour. Apparently he’s not bothered in the least by the way we left things last night.

“Yeah. Sup?” he finally says.

I groan and slide back down on the couch, staring up at the ceiling and observing its clean painted surface. Unlike my flat, his ceiling doesn’t have water stains covering every inch of it. And I bet it doesn’t leak, either. Bastard.

“Listen, about yester-”

“No,” he says abruptly. “We’re not talking about last night. At all. Any part of it. We’re just going to forget it happened and start things over. So... Welcome, Ava. Fais comme chez toi.”

“Fais comme chez toi?” I repeat slowly.

Wow. I just spoke French. Dear God, he’s rubbing off on me.

“It means make yourself at home. I think there’s some way of saying that in Spanish too - but fucking hell, Ava.” Louis suddenly slams his spoon down on the counter angrily, and his voice rises in volume. Strange child. “What the fuck were you thinking? Sleeping in the diner, running outside in the rain - why can’t you just admit that you need help? Christ.”

My eyes follow Ian as he scopes up his bowl of cereal and - no. Fuck. Louis. This is Louis. He’s not Ian. I know he’s not. But... what if he was? What if - what if I could pretend - fuck. No. Stop it.

Ian wouldn’t want me to be doing this to myself. He would want me to be happy and forget about him. This isn’t the way to go about moving on. I can’t just keep substituting people in for him. It’s not right, and I know it’s not fair to Louis. He’s not Ian.

“Ava,” he says softly, sitting down beside me, "you’re going to wind up killing yourself if you keep acting this recklessly. It needs to stop. You need to get help. I think - I think you have -”

“I’m fine. Really. You don’t need to worry about me, Ian - no - shit - wait - I’m sorry -”

“Right. Ian. I forgot. That’s all I am to you.”

“No, I didn’t -”

“You know what? I really hate it when you call me that, Ava. Because - because - I - Christ - tu me - tu me plais beaucoup. God dammit, why can’t I just say that in English? Why is this so fucking difficult? Shit - no - I mean - I - shit. Dammit, Ava, I don’t want this. Tu vas me briser le cœur, and - and I just want this to stop. Please. Please - j'ai vraiment peur.”

His voice never changes volume, but his hand clutches at the edge of the couch tightly, almost nervously. Surprisingly, it doesn’t appear as if he’s mad. He looks... frustrated. And confused. But mostly he just looks scared.

And I don’t know why.

I mean, I know I’ve got a temper, but is it really that terrifying to talk to me? I don’t bite. Usually.

“I gotta get ready for work,” he mutters.

“Wait,” I exclaim, leaping upright in indignation. “You’re working today. You. Mister Expensive Car With Leather Seats and Gorgeous Flat and Fancy French Wine. I get called off, but you get to work.”

“Yeah.” Louis shrugs and walks off into towards his bedroom, leaving the half-eaten bowl of cereal on the coffee table.

I glare at the bowl. It glares back.

Stupid cereal. It’s probably one of those expensive, organic, healthy ones that cost a shit-ton of money.

“Are you glaring at my cereal?” Louis inquires, and I glance up to find him leaning against the arch that leads into the living room, already changed into his work stuff. He does that a lot. Leaning, that is. Leaning against door frames and archways and counters and whatnot.

“Yes," I reply simply

He shakes his head sadly, but there’s a bit of a smile flickering across his otherwise sober expression. I’m getting better at picking that up. His fake seriousness, I mean. It’s hard to find, but when you look for it, it’s there.

“Right. So, are you staying here today? Or what?”

“Um...”

Well. I hadn’t actually thought about what I’m going to do with myself today. I’ve got no flat to go back to (yet), no job to go to (I blame Louis), and a phone that’s dying (okay, that’s my fault).

“You can stay here, you know,” he comments. One hand raps against the wall. “If you want.”

I could. But wouldn’t that be kind of weird? I mean, he’s not going to be here, so I would be all alone in his flat...

“Never mind, that would be weird,” Louis says quickly, and I bite down on my lip to stifle a laugh.

“I think I’ll just come chill in the diner. Don’t have anywhere else to go. Maybe I’ll sleep in the supply room or something.”

“I thought we already decided that you’re not allowed to do that,” Louis says tiredly, but I spot the hints of a smile on the corners of his lips. “By the way, your clothes from last night are dry. They’re in my room if you want them.”

I nod and head off to the bedroom to change, reemerging momentarily to find him waiting by the door. My stomach growls with hunger, and I eye the bowl of cereal sitting on the coffee table enviously, but I suck it up and walk calmly towards him.

Maybe I should eat a cheeseburger.



I do, in fact, wind up eating a cheeseburger. And a milkshake. And two pieces of cake. Don’t judge me. I eat when I’m bored.

Yeah, in case you couldn’t guess, it’s boring as fuck at the diner. Usually the day goes by relatively quickly because I’m running around, waiting on the moronic customers, joking with Matt, et cetera, et cetera. But today it’s just Louis on staff, so I’m stuck lounging around in the vinyl booths and sleeping on the potato sack. I almost wish I was - shudder - working.

So yeah. I sleep. And eat. Then sleep some more. Oh, and I keep an extra phone charger at work, so I play a few more games on my cellular device. It’s probably the most boring day of my life. Or it is, at least, until my phone starts to ring right around closing time.

I’m sitting on one of the soda barstools, spinning around and around and around, when I hear my phone vibrating on the counter. I don’t know who’s calling me, but they’re clearly an idiot. Everyone knows I hardly ever answer my phone.

Curiously, I pick it up and check the screen so I can ignore the call. But as soon as I see the name on the caller ID, the phone jams against my ear, slamming into my head as I attempt to answer as fast as possible.

“Hello?”

“Come outside.”

The click of Ian ending the call rings in my ear, so I shove the phone back into my bag quickly and glance out the window. Nothing looks out of place; the street is quiet as usual, with just the soft glow of streetlights illuminating a couple of cars parked by the curb.

And then I see it.

Ian’s car.

Louis calls after me, but I just wave at him and stumble out the front door. The passenger side door of the car immediately pops open as I near it, so I quietly slide in and put my seatbelt on, no questions asked.

Ian doesn’t say a word as I settle in. The entire car is dead silent; not even the radio plays in the background. He starts the engine and accelerates down the street, surely breaking the speed limit in just a few seconds. I stare at him questioningly, but he never once looks my way. Instead, he just focuses on the road before us, concentrating hard and griping the steering wheel like a vice.

So that’s how we go. For hours he drives in silence, foot heavy on the accelerator, seemingly following no directions or path. It’s nearly midnight by the time he finally pulls over, and I literally have no idea where we are. To be honest, I don’t think Ian really knows either. It’s some sort of random expanse of grass in the middle of nowhere with no signs of civilisation in sight.

Ian gets out of the car and I follow suit, leaning against the cold metal of its exterior as he wanders out into the grassy field. His silhouette is barely visible through the darkness, but there’s just enough moonlight for me to catch sight of both of his hands tearing at his hair and running through it furiously. I watch silently as he wanders across the field, over and back, kicking up rocks and breathing heavily. How long he does this, I couldn’t tell you - five minutes, maybe ten - but it feels like ages.

And then, without warning, Ian stops. He stands stock-still in the middle of the field, hands still clutching desperately at the roots of his hair, saying nothing.

Then he screams.

Pure frustration colours every vibration of his vocal cord. His right foot scuffs angrily against the ground as the sound intensifies and grows, dirt and grass spewing everywhere.

And just as suddenly as it starts, the scream ends, leaving its weird, piercing echo ringing against the stillness of the night.

Ian drops to the ground and tucks his knees up to his chest, staring blankly out across the field. I sigh and make my way towards his figure, settling down next to him silently. He takes my hand automatically, fingers twining our hands naturally together, but still doesn’t say a word. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” I ask softly.

For a while Ian doesn’t even acknowledge me. He just stares out ahead, eyes sweeping over the inky expanse of grass before us. I know not to rush him, though. We’ve been through this enough times that I know how it works. He just needs to blow off some steam, calm down, and then he’ll talk to me.

It honestly breaks my heart to see him look like this. So, so sad. Like nothing in the world will ever go right again. I hate it. I want to see his beautiful smile again. I just want him to be happy.

“I lost it,” he manages hoarsely. “I lost it, Ava. It was so bad. I completely blew up on my parents - I -” He breaks off with a sigh and looks around a bit, not yet daring to look at me.

“You’ve fought with them before.”

“Not like this. Never like this.”

“Talk to me,” I whisper. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Ian laughs bitterly and pulls me into his side, holding me just like he used to. “It was dinner. At their house. And we were talking about the company - I mean, what else is new? - and she said it. My mum. She said to me, ‘Ian, it’s about time you started getting serious with a girl and think about settling down. All our friends are anxious to see you out with a pretty, respectable young woman on your arm.’”

I feel his muscles tense up beneath his shirt and his fingers grab mine a bit tighter. The words burn through my head, and I picture the scene exactly as it must have played out. I can see the Chamberlains’ huge dining room and the long, lonely table running the length of it; I can practically feel the china dishes with the gold trim beneath my fingertips. And there’s Ian’s dad at the head of the table, staring out frostily before him, with Mrs Chamberlain occupying the seat just to his right.

“I couldn’t, Ava. I couldn’t just sit there and nod and pretend to be a good son anymore. So I freaked. And yelled. And said some things I probably shouldn’t have. But you know what? I don’t care. Maybe what I said was bad, but it was the truth. I just... the nerve they both had to sit there and lecture me on settling down when - when -” He cuts off and clears his throat, leaving the words hanging in the air. It doesn’t matter though; I know what he was about to say. He doesn’t have to finish the sentence for that to be clear.

“Ian, it’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay -”

“But it’s not okay, Ava, because it’s so much more than just that one dinner. I can’t do this. I’m not cut out for business. It’s not me. It’s not who I am. I can’t run a company - I don’t know the first thing about how to even - I - I don’t want this. All I want is you.”

For the first time, Ian turns to look at me. His deep blue eyes cut into mine, and I feel every muscle in my chest freeze up because for one moment, everything in the world is right. He presses his lips gently against mine, and every problem, every unpaid bill, every shitty shift at the diner just vanishes. This is how my life should be. I should be with Ian.

“I miss you,” he whispers as the kiss ends. “And I love you, Aves. I love you so much.”

I press my face against his chest and nod into his shirt, feeling the tears begin to leak from my eyes. “Ian, stop,” I choke out. It’s too painful to hear him say it. It’s too painful to be reminded of what could have been.

“Let’s get away,” he murmurs. “Keep on driving. Start the bakery like we used to dream about. Get out of the country. Go somewhere they’ll never find us. Run away.”

“Ian,” I say quietly, pulling my head away from his chest. The tears stream down faster as I gaze at him, and his hands find my face, lightly brushing the wetness from my cheeks.

“Why are you crying, Aves? Don’t cry. Don’t cry, Aves. Everything’s okay. I’m here. It’s okay.”

I nod and sniffle a bit as he rocks me back and forth, soothingly whispering words of comfort into my ear. And he’s right. It is okay. My fingers cling to his shirt, pulling him closer and closer and not letting go, because it’s only when he’s here that everything’s finally okay. I just don’t want to lose him again.

As hard as I’ve tried for the past eight months, I still haven’t gotten over him. I can’t. It’s not possible. You can’t just get over the love of your life. Not when he’s the person who saved you. Not when he made you whole again.

“You’re the only thing that keeps me sane, Aves,” he murmurs. “I need you.”

“That’s funny, because you’re the only thing that drives me insane.”

“Mmhm. Sounds about right.”

“Quite the pair, the two of us.”

“Hey Aves?” he says quietly, tilting my chin up so I can look at him. “Don’t leave me.”

“I won’t,” I whisper. “Not tonight.”



I slowly stretch out my arms and legs, letting out a yawn as the sleepiness seeps out of my body. The space beside me is empty, but the sizzling and clanking of food being fried in the kitchen wipes away any momentary fear of abandonment. 

“She awakens,” Ian says softly. My eyes flicker to the door, where he leans casually against the frame, hair sticking up at strange angles.

“He cooks,” I respond, and a smile lights up his face as he crosses the room.

“Morning, Aves,” he whispers before leaning down to kiss me. My hand reaches up and finds the back of his neck, pulling him closer, but Ian wants none of that. “Not now. After breakfast.”

I pout, and he chuckles before walking back towards the kitchen. “You haven’t changed at all, have you, Ian?” I call after his retreating figure. “Still no food in bed?”

The plush carpeting of the room rubs against the bottom of my bare feet as I spring off the mattress and wander over to his walnut armoire. My fingers skim lightly across the wood and pull open the first drawer on the top right-hand side, where a few layers of my old, worn out clothes still sit. I select my favourite t-shirt - a plain, pale blue one he’d bought me on a business trip to London - and some baggy sweatpants, then skip happily out into the kitchen where the smell of breakfast grows even stronger.

Ian stands facing the counter with his back turned to me, so I sidle up behind him and wrap my arms around his waist quietly. “Hi,” I breathe, leaning my cheek against his back.

“Hi, Aves,” Ian murmurs. “You still can’t have food in bed. Nice try, though.”

“Am I that obvious?”

“I know you well.”

“I guess you do. What’s for breakfast?”

Ian steps aside and gestures to the pans, where a variety of sausage, bacon, and eggs are sizzling from the stove’s heat. I suppress a giggle and tightly hug him around his middle, pressing my face against his bare skin and kissing it lightly.

“Still don’t know how to cook anything else?”

“Nope,” he says with a laugh. “Now bugger off and let me be so I can finish up. It’s almost done.”

I sigh and release him, pacing over to the kitchen counter and taking a seat at one of the barstools. He carefully scrapes out his creation onto some plates, pours two glasses of orange juice, and slides my meal over to me. But before I can even take one bite, a pair of hands slides around my waist and a pair of lips presses a line of kisses onto my neck, pausing when they reach my shoulder.

“What about breakfast?” I say softly.

“Screw breakfast,” he murmurs, and I squeal as he tosses me over his shoulder like a rag doll and carries me out of the kitchen.



“That was so much better than breakfast,” Ian breathes.

“Mmhm.” I roll onto my side, snuggling up against his chest while his fingers twist and comb through my hair.

“I’m never letting you go again, Aves. You hear me? Screw my parents, screw their friends -”

“Ian,” I say abruptly, cutting him off. I don’t want to deal with this now. Not when everything is so perfect. “Ian, I’m hungry.”

“Maybe we should have eaten breakfast after all.”

“Nah, this was much better.”

“All right, stay here,” he groans before sliding off the bed and disappearing from the room.

I hear him banging around in the kitchen, the slam of a microwave door, beeping, a machine whirring, more beeping, another slam, and the pound of Ian’s footsteps back down the hall. He reappears in the doorway quickly, holding a plate in one hand and a glass of orange juice in the other.

“Food in bed?” I exclaim in excitement, sitting upright and clapping happily. “What is this witchcraft?”

Ian rolls his eyes and hands me the food before flopping down on the bed. “Don’t get used to it,” he warns seriously, though the smile on his face says differently. “And if you spill, I might actually kill you.”

I wave him off and dig eagerly into the food, though I am careful not to make a mess. This is a big step forward for him - I’ve never once been allowed to eat in his room. The kitchen counter, the table, the couch, sure, but never in his room.

Once I’ve finished with the food, I gently set the dishes down on his nightstand and cuddle up against his side again. This really does feel perfect - me and him, him and me. I feel like were never even apart, because somehow we’ve picked up right where we left off.

“Do you wanna not have breakfast again?” I murmur, sliding one finger up his chest.

“Tempting, but I think I’ll pass.”

“Then what should we do today?”

“Movie?”

“Only if we can watch a gooey, romantic chick flick.”

His eyes snap back to mine immediately, wide in terror. I grin mischievously and he shoves my shoulder in retaliation. “You had me for a second there, Miss Moore, but I know you better than that. My Ava would never suggest such a travesty.”

“Damn. Thought I could trick you.”

“Yeah, no. But seriously... horror?”

“You don’t even have to ask, silly,” I giggle. “Now go and tell me when you find something good.”

Ian rolls off the bed and wanders into the living room to check for movies while I snuggle under the covers, pressing his duvet against my face and breathing in its familiar scent. Everything is exactly the way I remember it. Everything’s perfect.

“Ava!” he shouts. “I’ve got one!”

I slide off the mattress and glance around the room for my shirt, but I can’t seem to find it. Odd. Maybe it got kicked underneath something. Ian’s button-up shirt from last night is on the ground, though, so I pull that on instead.

“Is it all right if I wear your shirt?” I ask as I pad into the living room. He’s already got the movie up on the television and is sprawled out comfortably on the couch.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Ian says distractedly, eyes trained on the movie. “Now come and sit with me.”

“All right, just a minute. I want to move my bag first.”

I was a little, um, distracted last night, so I dropped my bag right by the front door. It has my phone and my keys and everything in it, so that’s probably not the smartest place in the world to keep it, especially because Ian never locks his door. Actually, come to think of it, I can’t name a single guy who does. Strange. Perhaps this is a sign that I need better friends.

A woman in the movie lets out a blood-curdling scream as I settle onto the couch with my bag in hand. Ian wraps his arms around me and places his chin on my shoulder from behind, never taking his eyes off the movie. He loves these films. I don’t know why, but he does. I mean, I don’t really care - they’re all right, I guess. I’m rather indifferent on the whole matter.

I rummage through my bag as someone gets stabbed or something in the movie and find my phone. As soon as the home screen lights up, I groan, looking at all the notifications I’ve gotten since last night. Seven new text messages, three missed calls, and one new voicemail. Who knew I was so popular?

“What?” Ian murmurs before planting a kiss on my shoulder.

“Nothing, just some missed messages.”

I navigate the menu of the phone and open up my inbox, where I see all of the new messages are from Matt. Not a huge shocker, seeing as he’s basically the only person I talk to on a regular basis. But still - seven new messages. Seven.

From: Matt Johnson
Time: 9:14 PM
Yo where did you take off to? I thought we were hanging out tonight

From: Matt Johnson
Time: 9:54 PM
IDK where you are but I’m at MacLaren’s with your favourite person if you get this

From: Matt Johnson
Time: 10:22 PM
Should I be worried?

From: Matt Johnson
Time: 10:47 PM
I’m officially worried

From: Matt Johnson
Time: 10:59 PM
Answer yo phone woman

From: Matt Johnson
Time: 11:07 PM
God dammit Ava

From: Matt Johnson
Time: 11:22 PM
If you’re still alive then I’m going to bloody kill you

Sighing, I type out a quick response to him, hoping he’s not too mad at me. I totally forgot that we had made plans for last night - Ian showing up kind of distracted me.

New message
To: Matt Johnson
Sorry I didn’t answer my phone. Ian called me and our plans sort of slipped my mind. I’ve been out with him since last night, so don’t worry, I’m fine. Call me if you want. I promise I’ll answer.

Next I navigate over to my missed calls screen, where I see Matt tried calling me twice last night (9:32 PM and 11:03 PM) and Louis tried calling at... three in the morning? Frowning, I tap the phone’s screen and pull up my missed voicemail, which was left at 3:01 AM.

“Can you give me two seconds? I should probably listen to this,” I say. Ian nods, so I crawl off of his lap and begin pacing around his flat as the message plays.

“Ava! Hey, so uh, I dunno where you’re at but me and Matt -” There’s a pause and some gargled talking and laughing in the background, then Louis’s voice comes back on. “Yeah wha was I sayin? Oh, me and Matt are here and you were s’pposed to come so where the fuck did you go? Matt says - Matt says -”

Louis’s voice cuts off and there’s some scrambled background noise, and then Matt’s voice plays over the speaker. “Ava get the fuck down to MacLaren’s now because we miss you babe and you can’t jus leave us like this -”

The phone clinks against what I can only assume to be the bar as Matt sets down the phone, and there’s about thirty seconds of nothing. I hear laughter and some drunken shouting, then someone grabs the phone again.

“Yeah, so I know you got in a car with some bloke earlier,” Louis slurs, “but it’s really not responsible to jus go and bail on us and hell Ava jus answer your phone next time, kay? Because I’m fucking worried and stuff and jus come home safe an - an - tha’s it. Kay bye.”

There’s the click of a button being pressed, but for some reason the call doesn’t end. The idiot must have pressed the wrong key or something, because I can still hear what’s going on in the bar. Apparently Matt orders another round of shots, and then there’s the sound of glasses being slammed down on the counter, so I assume that means they’ve finished them.

“She’s not worth it,” Matt says drunkenly. “Trus me. Tha girl’s nothin but trouble. More trouble than she’s worth. Jus drop it.”

“Maybe. I dunno. Oh, shit -”

The blank silence of the call ending echoes through my ear, so I slowly wander back to the couch, thoroughly confused. Ian pauses the movie and pulls me back to his chest again, hugging me tightly and kissing the top of my head.

“Who was that?” he murmurs.

“Just this guy I work with. And Matt. They called me from the bar last night.”

“That must have been entertaining to listen to.”

“More confusing than anything, really.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t matter. They were just being stupid drunks.”

“How’s Matt doing?” he asks. I smile and drop my head forward as his hands move to my shoulders and gently begin to massage my lower neck.

“He’s fine. Just as annoying as ever.”

“Ah, well, I wouldn’t expect anything else.”

“You didn’t have to stop hanging out with him, you know,” I comment, glancing back over my shoulder to look at him. “When we broke up.”

“I -” Ian’s words are lost in a groan as someone knocks on his door, but he makes no effort to move. “I’m not here,” he whispers in my ear, then presses a light kiss on my temple.

The knocker won’t go away, though. The raps on the door become more and more insistent, and just when they sound like they’re about to break down the door - well, the door opens. In the doorway stands an older woman, dressed elegantly in a slimming blue dress and a dark wool pea coat that probably cost more than double my rent for the month.

“Ian Chamberlain, what in the world do you think you’re doing?”

Ian flinches at the shrill tone of her voice and tightens his arms a bit around me, almost like a subconscious attempt to shield me from her. At least I think that’s what he’s doing. I never took psychology, so how the fuck should I know?

Mrs Chamberlain places her leather purse down on the floor and swings the door shut. Her eyes shoot daggers towards the pair of us, and I press myself into Ian’s chest a little bit harder to escape her icy glare.

“Well?” she demands.

“Hi, Mrs Chamberlain,” I offer weakly in an attempt to break the awkwardness.

“Hello, Ava.”

I cower a bit as she spits out my name like it’s poison. Wait, no. That’s not right. I’m sure she’d take poison over me any day.

“Ian,” she hisses, “may I have a word?”

He nods, and I slide out of his arms without speaking, squeezing his hand and giving him a small smile in encouragement. This is going to be a blood fest. I’ve heard Ian’s mum chew him out the day after they’ve fought before - it’s not pretty. And the sight of me with her son? Yeah, that’s only going to add more fuel to the fire.

“Let’s talk in the guest room,” Ian says quietly.

“Fine. And for the love of God, put on a shirt first, Ian. Honestly. I did not raise my son to behave in such a lewd manner.”

I can practically see Ian’s teeth grinding together in anger as he disappears to his bedroom to grab a shirt, but when he reemerges he somehow manages to put on a pleasant face. “Ready, Mother?”

Mrs Chamberlain huffs and follows her son off to the guest room, slamming the door behind her. I bite my lip and tuck my knees up to my chest, guilty tugging at the hem of Ian’s shirt. God, I should have just put one of my old t-shirts back on. Why did I have to go and take his? Now she’s even angrier with him than she was before -

“Ian Thomas Chamberlain! You will not speak to me with that tone of voice!”

I wince as Mrs Chamberlain’s high-pitched shrieking carries out into the living room, though I’m not quite sure why I’m acting so shocked. I knew screaming was inevitable - it always is when that wretched woman is around.

My tone of voice?” Ian shouts back. “I need to watch my tone of voice? You’re the one who practically had an aneurism saying Ava’s name! God, I cannot stand you -”

“Oh, you want to bring her into this conversation now? We can talk about her, too, if that’s what you want.”

“She has a name, Mum!”

“No, Ian, she doesn’t. Not to me, anyway.”

“My God, you are the most conceited, stuck-up, arrogant -”

“I will not be spoken to like this -”

“You will be spoken to however the fuck I want to speak to you!” he yells, and I cringe again. This is really not going to end well.

“You will watch your tongue, young man -”

“What? Am I not proper enough for you? Am I behaving too lewd?”

“Honestly, Ian, stop this nonsense -”

“What nonsense, Mum? I don’t even know what you’re talking about! All right, I said some rude things to you and Dad last night. I’m sorry. Now would you just leave me the hell alone?”

“This is not just about last night, Ian -”

“Then what? What else have I done wrong? How else have I disappointed you today?”

“Well, for starters, let’s talk about that low-class, unrefined, trashy whore sitting on your sofa!”

The entire flat goes silent. It feels like the air has been sucked out of my body. My throat goes dry, and I curl up tighter into a ball, grasping at my knees like my life depends on it. Which, to be honest, it probably does, because if I don’t get a hold of myself I’m going to fucking kill her. And I’m pretty sure the British government doesn’t take too kindly to murder.

“Yes, I did just say that, Ian,” Mrs Chamberlain says coolly. Ah. So he is still talking, just at a lower volume. That won’t last long.

“I will say this once and only once, Mother. If I ever hear you say something of that nature again, you have my word that we will no longer be speaking,” Ian practically growls.

“Oh, don’t be dramatic, Ian. It’s unbecoming. Now, I am your mother, and it is my duty to raise you correctly. As such, I will voice my opinions when they are necessary, and I will make sure that you partake in nothing that embarrasses our family. So you will listen to me, Ian, when I say I do not want you going anywhere near that girl.”

“You can’t keep doing this to me, Mum! This is my life, not yours! And, to be honest, I don’t give a damn what your opinion is, so I will continue to be near her if I so choose -”

“Ian, I am your mother! You cannot possibly be contemplating putting that - that tramp before your own family!”

“Oh, that’s real rich. Do you even hear yourself? Do you?”

“I assure you I do not know what you’re talking about -”

“Putting her before my own family? Don’t make me laugh, Mother. Ava is more of a family to me than you are.”

“Ian, you hush your mouth this instant -”

“No! Ava cares about me, Mum! Me. Not the company, not money, just me. Just Ian. She loves me, and that’s more than you or Dad will ever be able to say.”

The flat falls silent again, and I can practically see the angry pressing of Mrs Chamberlain’s trademark bright red lips together. But you know what? I don’t feel sorry for her. Not after all the terrible things she’s said about me, and not after the way she always treated me like dirt.

The silence ends as the door to the guest room squeaks open and Mrs Chamberlain steps out coolly, balancing carefully as her three-inch heels sink into the carpet. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Ian. However, I suggest you listen to my advice if you wish to continue using our money for your own personal expenditure.”

Ian leans against the doorway stonily, ice in his eyes and expression blank. Mrs Chamberlain bustles through the living room and grabs her purse, but I don’t watch her. My eyes are on Ian and his hand that’s gripping the doorframe uncontrollably.

Springing off the couch, I run over to him and hug him gently, trying to get his body to relax. He’s so tight that it feels like he’s about to snap, but as I press my face into his shirt I feel his muscles begin to loosen.

“Relax, Ian,” I whisper. “Just breathe. It’s okay. Everything’s okay.”

His fingernails cut into my skin a bit as he holds me tighter, resting his chin on the top of my head. “No, it’s not,” he says quietly.

I sigh and step away from him, spinning on the spot and watching Mrs Chamberlain rummage through her purse. She pulls out her car keys and glances at the two of us, lips pursed in frustration.

“It was nice seeing you again, Mrs -” I begin, but before I can finish, she walks out of the flat and slams the door.

Bitch.

“Bitch,” he mutters, and I start to giggle uncontrollably. We always did understand each other perfectly. “How much did you hear?”

“Ian, I think they heard you all the way in France.”

“I’m sorry, Aves -”

“It’s okay. Really. I’m used to it.”

I shrug and reach for his hand, threading our fingers gently together. Ian watches me sadly and kisses the back of my hand when I’ve finished, but it barely makes me smile. No matter what I tell him, it’s not okay. It never will be.

This is why we’re never going to work, no matter how badly we want to. I don’t fit into his life. That’s just the way it is.

“I’m going to go get dressed,” I murmur, stepping away from him and heading off towards the bedroom.

The door clicks shut quietly behind me, and I head straight for his mattress, settling down on the edge of it and staring blankly around the room. I can feel it coming. The numbness. It has to, or else I won’t be able to do what I need to.

As I sweep my foot back and forth across the floor, it catches on the strap of my camisole from yesterday. I kneel down and grope beneath the bed, fingers latching onto the clothing that I couldn’t find this morning. Ian’s shirt drops off of my skin and my own clothes go on, but they couldn’t feel more alien. Wearing his shirt and breathing in the smell of his cologne are the most natural things in the world for me.

I twist the fabric of Ian’s shirt beneath my fingers and carefully fold it up, then place it in my bag gently. I’m not ready to give up everything about him just yet.

I walk around the room one last time, letting my fingers trail across the wood of his furniture. It’s funny - it feels like a thousand years have passed since the last time I was here, but not one thing has changed. He has the same paintings up on the walls, the same stack of newspapers sitting on the bottom shelf of his bookcase. He even has the same alarm clock on his bedside table, even though he always complains about how the stupid machine doesn’t wake him up half the time.

The alarm clock. I always hated that bloody thing. It must have been manufactured wrong or something because it was always at the loudest setting, and for the life of me, I could never figure out how to change the volume. I can’t even count the number of pillows I’ve thrown at it in frustration.

As I stare at the bedside table the clock sits on, something else catches my eye, and my breath catches in my throat. There's a little black velvet box on the table, hidden slightly behind the elongated shape of the alarm clock. A bit of dust covers its top, but other than that, nothing’s changed. It’s even in the same spot I saw it last - it hasn’t moved an inch.

With a shaking hand, I gently open the box and touch the smooth surface of the ring nestled inside its velvet folds. I fall back onto the edge of the bed and carefully slide the band onto my fourth finger, watching as the diamond sparkles in the sunlight streaking in through the windows.

What scares me is how this doesn’t scare me. The thought of spending the rest of my life with Ian, of getting married and having kids and buying a house together - none of it frightens me. Whenever I think about my future, he’s always a part of it.

Sighing, I slide the ring off my finger and nestle it back in its box. It’s a shame. It really is. We could’ve had something special, Ian and I. Maybe somewhere, somehow, in some alternate version of reality, we do work out. I doubt it, but it’s a nice thought.

I wish the walk from his bedroom to the living room was longer. I wish it could last forever and ever, because once I set foot in there, things are going to start to fall apart. It’s time. We both know it. No matter how much we want to lie in bed all day and cuddle and laugh, it’s time. It’s time to let go.

Ian stares at me as I walk through the arch into the living room, still in the same spot he was before. There’s that dead look in his eye again. He knows what’s coming, and I hate it.

“Don’t leave,” he whispers through the silence. “Stay. I can’t let you walk away again. I won’t.”

“Ian, you -”

“No.”

“Ian -”

“No, Ava -”

The tears start to slip out, but I don’t care. He’s the one person who I’m not ashamed to cry in front of. He knows all my secrets, all my dreams, and all of my past. It’s okay to be myself in front of him.

“Ian, please. Don’t make this harder than it already is,” I say quietly. He needs to stop fighting me, or else I won’t have enough strength to leave.

“You don’t have to go, Aves. You can’t.”

“Ian -”

“No,” he whispers.

God dammit, I can’t do this. Not with that look on his face. Not when I can see his heart breaking all over again.

“Stop it, Ian!” I yell. Tears blur my vision, stinging my eyes and burning down my cheeks. “Stop fighting me, dammit!”

“I’m not just going to stand here and let you walk out of my life again. I won’t do it.”

“Ian,” I say, lowering my volume, “you have to let me do this. I heard your mum -”

“I don’t care -”

“Let me finish. If we stay together - your parents - I just - I can’t. I can’t be responsible for that. You’ll cut them out of your life or they’ll cut you out of theirs, but either way, you lose them. I can’t do that to you. You know I can’t.”

“Ava -”

“I know you don’t like them. God, I know that. But - but they’re your parents, Ian. You know I’ll never let you lose them, no matter how much they frustrate you. You know why I can’t.”

Ian sinks onto the couch and stares sadly at me, then drops his head into his hands, resting his elbows on his knees. “Don’t do this to me,” he says quietly.

I can practically hear his heart breaking in the sound of his voice. It’s killing me. Like a dagger straight through my chest, twisting and turning and tearing through it.

“I love you,” I murmur, sitting down next to him. “You know I do. You know you mean the world to me. I just - I can’t. I love you too much to let you do this.”

He lifts his head out of his hands and looks at me, slowly searching over every inch of my face. I don’t know what he’s looking for - maybe he’s just trying to memorise my features. Whatever the reason, he takes his time, eyes wandering slowly and deliberately.

It looks like he wants to say something, but he just... doesn’t. He simply drops his head back into his hands and stays deathly quiet. I glance around and spot a pad of paper and a pen lying on his coffee table, so I scribble a quick message on the page and take one last look at him. One last look before I grab my bag and walk out of his flat for the final time, never once glancing back.

I didn’t know it was possible for a broken heart to keep on breaking. It’s supposed to be once and done; it happens and then it’s over. But as I shut the door to Ian’s flat, I know I’ll never be that lucky. My heart is going to keep breaking day after day after day because that’s what happens when you truly love somebody.

But now it’s time to move on.

No matter how much it hurts, no matter how much I can’t bear the thought of being without him, it’s time. I can’t stay stuck in the past. We made our choices, so now we have to live with them.

Maybe moving on isn’t about fixing a broken heart. Maybe moving on is about learning to be happy despite the pain. Maybe it’s about learning to live with the mistakes you’ve made. I guess that’s what I have to do, then. Regardless of whether I want to or not, I’ve got to live with what I’ve done.

The rain pours down, mingling in with the tears streaming down my face,  as I signal for a taxi. I stumble into the first cab that pulls up and gasp out Matt’s address, then sink into the seat and watch the water drip down the windows.

The cab smells terrible, almost like a mixture of mould and old cheese, and I can’t help but think this is the perfect reflection of the suck that is my life. Rain. Disgusting smell. Creepy cab driver who keeps glancing in the rearview mirror at me. Broken heart. Yeah, sounds like a pretty accurate representation of the level of my misery.

To top things off, Matt’s not even at his flat when I get there. So I just wasted a shit-ton of money on cab fare - oi, those things are expensive - and he’s not even here, the bastard. Honestly. Come to think of it, he’s probably in a hung over stupor at the flat of whatever poor girl he shagged last night. Unreliable good for nothing git.

The next thing I know, I’m climbing into another cab - this one does not smell horrid, thank God - and blurting out the address of Louis’s building. I mean, I’ve got nowhere else to go. He did say in his message to “come home safe,” so...

Granted, he was drunk. But still. He said it.

The door to his flat is unlocked, so I walk inside, peering around carefully. The lights are turned off, and it doesn’t appear as if anyone’s home. Well, I suppose I’m home now. Right? Right.

My feet shuffle blindly through the flat, and I’m not even aware of where I’m going until I’m snuggling under the covers on his bed and curling up into a ball. All I want is to be in my own bed with my own duvet, but that can’t exactly happen right now. I suppose I’ll just have to make do with what I’ve got.

I bury my face into one of the pillows, squishing as far as I can into its downy softness. It smells like Louis, which I suppose makes sense, seeing as it’s his pillow and all. Normally I don’t like the smell of men’s cologne, but I do like the smell of his. It’s kind of... outdoorsy. Beachy. It reminds me of the sea, though I’m not really sure why.

“Hello. Who are you?” a feminine voice says. I immediately sit upright, hair flying everywhere, as the sound jolts through my body.

In the doorway to the bedroom stands a gorgeous brunette with a towel wrapped carefully around her body. Her hair is soaked, as she’s obviously just gotten out of the shower, and her sparkling green eyes trace questioningly over my pathetic-looking figure.

“What’s that?” another voice asks, but this one I recognise. I see his shadow advancing down the hallway, and slowly his actual body comes into sight. “Ava?”

“Ava? Who’s Ava?” Leggy Brunette, as she shall henceforth be known, inquires, but Louis ignores her and steps into the room.

I feel my cheeks flush as I notice he’s got nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist - whoops, bad timing on my part - and I curl my knees up to my chest, hiding my face against them. I don’t even know what I was thinking, coming here - it’s not okay for me to just show up without an invitation. He’s not Matt. We’re not friends. God, I’m an idiot -

“Ava, what’s going on?” Louis asks softly, sitting down on the edge of the bed. I gulp and try not to stare - I mean, I don’t stare - at his muscles in the abdominal region - shit. What am I doing? Focus. Okay.

“I’m sorry,” I mumble. “I didn’t realise you had company -”

“No, it’s fine,” he says abruptly. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Louis, what is going on here -”

“Not now,” he says, waving off Leggy Brunette. “Listen, why don’t you go make yourself breakfast or something?”

She huffs and spins around on her heel, marching sassily out of the room and down the hallway, long hair swinging with attitude after each step. I watch her go in somewhat of a trance; it seems like I can only focus on one thing at a time right now. Like his abs.

Shit.

“I’m really sorry -”

“Ava, it’s fine. Just tell me what happened, okay?”

I sniffle a bit and somehow manage to find his eyes through the blur of my watering ones. Louis looks at me intently, totally focused and waiting for my answer, but all I can do is stare.

Why? Why is here with me when there’s someone far more attractive and probably far more interesting right in the other room? Why should he bother when I can’t possibly compare to someone like that?

“Are you okay?” he asks softly. I blink, but it’s still hard to focus. “Ava, are you okay? Are you hurt? What happened?”

“No, I - I -”

What is he doing? He should just tell me to leave; he should tell me to get out of his flat so he can have some privacy with Leggy Brunette. That’s what I would do.

“Forget it,” I whisper. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here -”

“Ava!” Louis says sharply. “Ava, stop it. Just talk to me.”

“I -”

The world is one giant blur. Nothing really feels solid anymore. I’ve gone numb. I can feel everything slipping out of my grasp. My chest tightens, my eyes burn, I can’t think. Thousands of memories are zooming in and out of my head, lingering briefly before exiting the stage for another to take its place.

A door closing, a car driving away - all of them are the same. Every person that comes into my life ends up walking out. There are no exceptions. Every person that I open up to, every person that I care about, all of them. And I just don’t know if I can take it anymore.

What’s the point in trying? Every time this happens I convince myself to just give it one more go. Things will be different. Things will change. Someone will stay. But it’s never any different. Never.

It’s only as I hug my knees tighter to my chest and look back at Louis that I realise I’ve just said that out loud, or the gist of it, at least. The expression on his face is one so full of pity that I can’t even bear to look at him. I hate pity. No one gave me pity when I needed it most, so I don’t want it now. I don’t want it ever.

“What do you mean, everyone leaves?” he murmurs.

I shake my head and turn to watch the rain streak down outside. “Stop,” I whisper. “Stop trying.”

The room falls into silence, save for the drumming of the rain and the sound of Leggy Brunette shuffling about in the kitchen. I can feel the knife twisting in my gut, turning and carving and stabbing every which-way. There’s just no point in telling him. He’ll wind up leaving, just like the rest.

Like my mum. My dad. My sisters. My Ian.

I grab desperately at the sheets on his bed, wrapping my fingers in them, trying to hold onto something tangible. Nothing is solid, though. Everything’s fluid; everything’s moving. Leaving. The world isn’t real.

“Ava, look at me. Look at me, Ava, God dammit -”

Two hands grab my face and turn it away from the window. I blink and drops of water roll down my cheeks, but I don’t cry. There’s no use in crying. It does no good.

“Who can I call?” Louis asks, searching my eyes intently. “Ava, who can I call? You need help.”

Two more drops roll down my cheeks. “No one,” I whisper. “There’s no one.”

“Your parents? Family? Anyone, Ava. Just give me a name, a number, something -”

“What don’t you get?” I ask softly. “There’s no one you can call. I have no one. Why can’t you understand that?”

“There has to be someone -”

“Stop!” I scream, ripping away from him and scrambling off the bed. “God dammit, just fucking stop! You don’t get it, do you? There is no one you can call. Get that through your fucking head!”

“Ava, calm down. I need you to calm down and talk to me.”

“I’ve tried talking to you, and you just don’t understand,” I choke out. My back slides down against the wall with the windows, the one to the left of the bed. “No one understands. You’ll never get it. You have a family. You have people who care about you. Your whole fucking hallway out there with all the pictures is one giant fucking monument to that.”

“I -”

“And you know what? It’s not fair. You have everything. You have a nice place to live and plenty of money and a family, Louis. You have a family. You have people who love and care about you. You have people who are going to wonder if you’re getting enough to eat. You have people who worry about you when you don’t call. You have people who look forward to seeing you at a family dinner every week, and yet all you do is complain about it. I would give anything to have what you have, do you know that? Anything.”

There’s a beat of silence, and I think I’ve finally gotten my point through to him. But then he opens his mouth, and out comes the question that I’ve grown to dread more than anything.

“What happened to your family, Ava?”

The words are so quiet that I can barely hear them above the rain. My mouth goes dry and the knife starts twisting in my stomach again. More tears roll down my cheeks while the memories play before my eyes, but I refuse to cry. It’s not worth it.

My head drops into my hands and I rock back and forth a bit on the floor, fingers tugging and grasping at my hair. I just need something solid. I need to know that there are some things that always stay the same.

“It’s not fair,” I whisper.

“Ava, what happened?” Louis asks softly again.

No. He doesn’t get to know about my life. Especially not that. It’s not his to know.

Tears blur my vision, but I blink them away and let out a breath. Everything hurts. My chest, my head, my heart. It’s not fair. None of this is fair. Where’s my happy ending?

I peek through my fingers at Louis, and despite everything, I smile. Despite the pain and the aching and the heartbreak, he looks so absolutely ridiculous that I can’t help it. I mean, he’s sitting on his fancy bed in nothing but a towel, dripping water everywhere, with hair that’s going crazy and sticking up in every direction imaginable. You try not to laugh.

“You look silly,” I comment, and he snorts. Groaning, I stretch to my feet and wipe away the last drops of water from my eyes. “I’ll give you some privacy now. Put on some clothes, please.”

“You like it, Ava. Don’t pretend you don’t,” he says jokingly, and I roll my eyes before heading towards the door. His hand grabs my wrist as I pass, however, and I stop in my tracks, looking questioningly at him.

“What?” I ask quietly.

“Don’t leave. Please. I don’t think you should be alone today.”

“Okay,” I whisper, and his hand gently releases me.

I wander out of the room and down the hallway, the whole time wondering what the hell is going on. This is just - I don’t know what. It’s weird. And I don’t know what to make of it.

“Ahem.”

I jerk out of my thoughts at the sound, and my eyes immediately narrow in on the perpetrator. Leggy Brunette sits primly at the kitchen counter, a bowl of that stupid fancy cereal in front of her and the towel still wrapped around her body.

“Can I help you?” I ask sarcastically.

“Yes, actually. Who are you?”

I watch as she shovels a spoon of cereal into her mouth and contemplate how to answer her question. There’s so much potential for fun to be had here.

“Oh, Louis did tell you?” I exclaim in fake surprise. “I’m his -”

“Friend. She’s my friend,” he says firmly from behind me. “Jen, your stuff’s in my room. Perhaps you should go and change?”

Leggy Brunette, or ‘Jen,’ shrugs and saunters off to his room, closing the door carefully behind her. I whistle innocently and shove my hands into my pockets, while Louis laughs and busies himself with banging through the cupboards. He’s dressed now - jeans and a dark t-shirt - and while he searches for food, I notice something on the back of his left arm, just below where the sleeve of the shirt cuts off.

“What is that?” I ask quietly, padding over and staring at the mark in question.

“What?”

“That,” I murmur as I run one finger over the back of his arm, tracing the shape of his tattoo slowly. It almost looks like a cross, except the upper vertical arm is in the form of a loop.

“It’s an ankh,” he says simply, standing still as I continuously trace the figure.

“An ankh?”

“The ancient Egyptian symbol for life.”

“Oh.”

First he speaks French, now he’s got ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics tattooed on his arm? This kid - he’s, well, he’s Louis. I guess that’s about all I can say.

“I’ve got another one, you know,” he comments conversationally. “Another tattoo, I mean.”

“Oh?” I raise an eyebrow and lean around him, grabbing a bag of those little munchy pretzels from the cabinet he’s rummaging through.

“Yeah. Just here.” Louis turns around to face me and touches the upper right bit of his side, probably about where his third or fourth rib is. “Why? You like tattoos? Am I infinitely more attractive now?”

“Yeah, most definitely. Let me tell you about it,” I say sarcastically as I pop open the bag of pretzels.

“Oi, I saw you ogling me earlier. Got a thing for tattoos and abs, do you?”

“Shut up,” I mutter, smacking him on the arm. “And I wasn’t ogling.”

“Mmhm. Sure. But seriously - do you want to see it?”

“Sure, I guess,” I say with a shrug. Not like I’ve got anything better to do. Perhaps this one is another obscure ancient symbol, like maybe a Hawaiian god or something.

He lifts the right half of his shirt up and turns slightly so I can get a good angle on his side. The tattoo is so far over on the side of his body that it’s nearly on his back, if that makes sense. In fact, if his arm were down at his side instead of up lifting his shirt, you probably wouldn’t even be able to see it.

I brush my thumb slowly over the ink and take in the tattoo carefully, noting every swirl and twist in the script scrawling across his side. The text is small, but clear enough to be read easily - well, read easily if you know French. Which I don’t.

Really, is anyone surprised that his tattoo is written in French? I have to say, I’m actually a little disappointed. Here I thought it was going to be some exotic tribal symbol, and it winds up being a phrase in fucking French.

“What does it say?” I ask, tracing over the words relentlessly with my fingers.

“L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.”

“In English, please.”

“I’m sure you’ve heard it before, just probably not in its native language. It’s my favourite quote - a lot of people know it,” he says.

“Well, then tell me.”

“It says, ‘man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains,’” he replies quietly.

“A bit depressing to be your favourite quote, innit?” I inquire. Louis shrugs and drops his shirt back down, then grabs a handful of the pretzels I’ve been munching on.

“Not really. I mean, yeah, I guess it’s depressing, but I don’t think of it that way. It’s a reminder that you should judge a person by who they really are, and not from anything else. You know, because Rousseau was writing about things like social class and material property and stuff like that. That’s what it’s really about. So it just sort of reminds me to keep my head on straight.”

Louis looks right at me and kind of raises his eyebrows, then smiles lightly in a really cheesy way. I can’t help it - I laugh. He makes me laugh. A lot. Even when I don’t really want to.

“Hey,” I say softly, then stand up on my tiptoes and press my lips lightly against his. “Thanks.”

“For wha-”

“Friends, huh?” a third voice says, and Louis and I both turn around to find Leggy Brunette standing behind us in the kitchen, one hand on her hip. “Doesn’t look like just friends to me.”

“No, we’re not -” I splutter, but Louis cuts me off by throwing one arm around my shoulder and pulling me into his side.

“Right, yeah, Jen, about that... Ava and I, well, we’re in an open relat-”

“Save it. Listen, Anna, I’m really sorry. I had no idea - I didn’t mean - I’m just going to go,” Leggy Brunette says hurriedly. “Goodbye.”

The door slams shut as she practically sprints out of the flat, and Louis immediately breathes a huge sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God. She was so bloody annoying. Thought I’d never get rid of her.”

“Well, you really brought that on yourself, you know,” I comment nonchalantly, taking a seat on a barstool and looking pointedly at him.

It’s not as bad as it was before - him looking like Ian, that is. They’re two different people, and I’m starting to see that now. Personality, sense of humour, thoughts on tattoos... everything about them is so different. Ian would never get a tattoo. Ever. His mum would probably kill him if he did.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. You broke the rules.”

“Did I?” Louis asks. He rests his elbows on the counter and leans toward me, corner of his mouth twitching slightly in amusement.

“Mmhm. I can practically hear it now: ‘Let’s take a shower together,’” I say in my best impression of him.

I expect Louis to laugh or even, you know, smile at my terrible attempt to imitate his voice, but there’s nothing except awkward silence. Clearing my throat uncomfortably, I rap my fingers on the counter and flicker my eyes around the kitchen. Louis stares at me with a kind of strange expression on his face, like a mixture of confusion and surprise.

“And then you go and invite her to eat breakfast?” I blurt out. The silence is making me way too uncomfortable. “I mean, come on. And by the way, since when did breakfast become clothing optional?”

“Oh,” Louis chokes out. “Oh. Right. Jen. You were talking about Jen. Yeah, that’s what I did with... Jen.”

“Yeah?”

“Right. No - yeah - er - you know what you need?” he asks suddenly, face flushing a bright red. “You need to go out and have fun. Forget about whatever it is that’s bothering you. My mate Parker invited me to a party tonight - you should come with me. It’ll be fun.”

“Maybe,” I say softly. Parties aren’t exactly my idea of fun, although I guess going out to one is better than moping around and crying over Ian. “But until then, I think I’m going to sleep. And I’m not sleeping on that stupid couch anymore. It’s uncomfortable.”

“Fine,” Louis says, watching on with amusement as I slide off the barstool. “But where else are you going to sleep?”

“Your bed,” I reply simply, and saunter out of the room.

There’s silence from the kitchen, so I’m just going to take that as approval. When I don’t receive an answer I always automatically assume the verdict is in my favour. Usually it isn’t, but whatever. Sometimes you just have to be aggressive.

“Ava,” Louis calls after me warningly, but I’m already leaping onto the bed and snuggling under the sheets. He appears in the doorway a few seconds later and leans against the frame coolly.

“Yes?” I ask innocently, batting my eyelashes.

“As much as I like seeing you in my bed, I don’t -”

“Well, you’re not using it, are you?”

“Technically, but -”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Louis sighs and throws his hands up in exasperation. “Fine. Whatever. I see you’re really taking this whole ‘make yourself at home’ thing to heart.”

“Wait,” I say slowly, closing my eyes and concentrating. “Fais comme chez toi. That’s what you said.”

“Very good. I’m impressed.”

“I try.”

“Get some sleep,” he says quietly, moving out of the doorframe and back into the hall. “You need it.”

The door swings shut and I let out a breath, sinking down against the pillow. All I want is - is - well, I don’t actually know. I’m not really sure of anything in my life anymore. Everything seems so delicate, so capable of tumbling over at any moment.

Thinking about it, I guess the one thing I really want is to get over Ian, except I don’t quite know how to do that. I suppose this is a good place to start, right? Sleeping in another guy’s bed?

...well, perhaps I’m not exactly going about it in the right manner, but it’s something. This is a good thing. It is. I’m not really sure how, but it is. I can feel it. Getting a fresh start and whatnot. Things will be better this time. They will.

Fais comme chez toi.

Make yourself at home.

If this is my new home, I think I could’ve done a lot worse. It’s not exactly the most welcoming place, but it’ll do for a temporary stay.

Yeah.

I like my flat.



A/N: Translations!

Fais comme chez toi. = Make yourself at home.

Tu me plais beaucoup. = I like you a lot.

Tu vas me briser le cœur. = You're going to break my heart.

J'ai vraiment peur. = I'm really scared.

L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers. = Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.

That last one ("l’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers") is a direct quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's work Of the Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right. Needless to say, I am not Jean-Jacques Rousseau, nor do I own his words.
  


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