It was as if God wanted to play some sort of twisted, sick joke on me. I wanted to regurgitate the warm coffee I’d sipped on with Vic just an hour before, wanted to rip my hair from my scalp, wanted to scream. To cry.
I had no chance to further react to the horrifying revelation presented through neatly-printed ink on the slip of paper before me, however, for the sound of the door at the front of Liam’s apartment echoed between us. Heavy, steady footsteps followed the noise of the door closing and moments later, the Devil himself appeared across the room from his bewildered band mate and myself.
A smile spread across his mouth as his eyes locked on me, and I felt my chest clench painfully as he reached for the expensive, deep red patterned scarf draped loosely around his neck. He pulled the material away swiftly, the motion making a soft swishing noise as he dropped it onto the back of the leather sofa adjacent to him. He then proceeded to unbutton his jacket, sliding it off his arms with ease and dropping it to join the scarf. I closed my eyes tightly, turning away from him as the scent of his pricey cologne wafted into my senses. Even as the rage continued to boil away within my veins, disbelief flooded through my mind as a realization hit me. I was still reacting to the scent of him, the sight of him, the general presence of him being so close to me. My heart still hammered erratically and the ability to breathe comfortably diminished. I hated him – but I was still in love.
“I did the impossible,” Liam spoke as Zayn approached the kitchen. He grinned proudly, nodding at the plate sitting dangerously close to the car receipt I’d discovered just moments prior.
Zayn’s eyebrows furrowed as he narrowed his syrupy gaze at the arrangement of muffins scattered across the ceramic plate. “What are – “
“Muffins!” Liam grinned, clapping his hands together lightly. “I made them! No help at all!”
“No you didn’t,” Zayn murmured, his head shaking slowly as he continued eyeing the muffins with undeniable suspicion. “There’s no way, you can’t even make a bowl of cereal without messing it up.”
“Shut up, don’t be an ass,” Liam snapped, pushing the plate roughly towards his friend. “I did make them, ask Sam.”
My eyes closed again as I attempted to maintain a composed breathing pattern. My fingers were sprawled flat across the car receipt paper, anger bubbling within me as I tried to ignore the fact that the two of them were acting so casual around me. Both knew they were fooling me – lying to me, and Liam especially recognized that I’d been bothered by the revelation of their identities. He knew something was up by the way I’d reacted to finding the paper yet here he was, joking light-heartedly about some fucking muffins he’d probably baked out of a quick-mix boxed good.
And then there was Zayn.
Oh, how there was Zayn.
He’d not only kept it a secret that he was an international popstar, but he’d blatantly lied to my face for the past month about the supposed damages I’d inflicted upon his precious little car.
Breathe, Sam, I told myself. Breathe.
Zayn stepped near me, a smile playing at the corner of his full lips – I had to tear my eyes away from his mouth and remind myself that he’d spewed a horrifyingly grand lie from that same beautiful pair of lips.
“Well?” he murmured teasingly, leaning towards me. “Is it true? Did Liam succeed in the imposs – “
It was the feeling of his fingers gently reaching for my forearm, their calloused tips brushing so affectionately against my warm skin there. The fine hair on my arms immediately stood up and I practically ripped my body away from him, sliding off my seat and standing a good distance from him.
“Don’t touch me,” I spoke quietly, swallowing against the lump lodged in my throat. “Don’t you dare.”
His eyes widened for a fraction of a second before narrowing at me, glancing quickly at Liam and then reverting back to my gaze. “Sam, what the fuck?”
“Don’t act like you don’t know,” I spat, crossing my arms across my chest protectively as he attempted to reach for me again. I laughed bitterly, brokenly. “And you try to touch me, knowing… knowing that you – “
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t act like you don’t know,” I repeated, my voice trembling. My lungs were burning, my head was throbbing; I was certain I’d fall to the ground in an ungraceful heap at any moment from the intensity of the emotions swirling through my head.
He sighed heavily. “Don’t act like I don’t know what, exactly?”
My voice came out as a yell, and I saw his lean body jerk noticeably at the sudden fluctuation of the tone. His eyes were wide then, the hardness from his features nonexistent, and as he looked to Liam, I saw his friends face downcast with an emotion reminiscent of guilt.
“She knows,” Liam murmured quietly, avoiding both my gaze and his brother’s. “She found out, Zayn.”
Zayn swallowed hard. “How?”
I reached for the tabloid, picking it up roughly and shaking it in his direction, the pages crinkling together softly and wrinkling the beautifully brushed photograph of he and his band. His eyes widened even further, his pupils dilating and concealing the warm brown color of his irises.
“Funny, isn’t it?” I practically snarled, waving the page in front of his paled complexion tauntingly. I dropped the magazine unceremoniously onto the marble counter top, the front cover wrinkling beneath the weight of the other pages. “I go for a nice stroll with my best friend and discover this little fun fact.”
Zayn was silent, his eyes still locked on the tabloid sprawled messily on the surface of the counter. His face was literally void of any sort of color, and as he closed his eyes slowly, I heard Liam sigh beside me.
“I told you to tell her sooner,” he said softly. “I told you it wasn’t a good idea to keep – “
“I was going to tell you,” Zayn interrupted quietly, eyes still closed. I knew his mind was racing – I knew he was desperately thinking of an excuse, of anything to mend the situation at hand. “I swear, I was going to tell you, I just – “
“When were you going to tell me, Zayn?” I snapped. “Were you going to tell me today? tomorrow?” I paused a moment, smiling cruelly at him. “Or were you going to tell me after our little contract was up?”
His eyes snapped open then, locking on mine.
I knew he was silently begging me to keep my mouth shut about the little secret he’d made me keep from his best friend, but there was no way in hell I was going to continue with his little charade. Not after the disgusting evidence I’d found on that slip of paper.
“Contract?” Liam spoke up, dark brows furrowing in confusion. He glanced at me and then at his other half, frowning. “What’s she talking about?”
Zayn continued looking at me, shaking his head, silently pleading with me to not to reveal the unbelievable terms of condition we’d agreed on a month ago. He stood there, arms limp at side, looking so damn vulnerable and pathetic – something new to see – and for a moment I considered waiting for Liam to leave until I’d explode on his moronic, arrogant older brother.
But then my eyes drifted down to the paper on the counter, and the numbers mocked me as I took them in.
Should I keep Zayn’s secret under my belt?
I smiled then, cocking my head slightly at Zayn. “Why don’t you tell him, Zayn? Tell your buddie about our contract.”
His jaw clenched noticeably, his fingers pressing into his palms to form rigid fists. “Please,” he managed to grit out, swallowing hard and inhaling slowly. “Please..”
“Please what, Zayn? What the hell is she talking about – a contract?”
I turned to Liam then, smiling sweetly. “It seems Zayn should have told you something much sooner, too, Liam.” I paused, glancing at Zayn with a malicious gaze. “Tell him, Zayn. Tell him that I’m not just doing your fucking chores for some extra money – tell him I’ve been your fucking slave for the past weeks.”
A deafening silence chilled the air, and Zayn’s eyes were closed once again. He was avoiding the situation – oh, that was evident.
“Zayn,” Liam’s voice was a near-whisper. “Tell me what she is talking about.”
“Here I thought you two were closer than anything,” I drawled. “Yet it seems Zayn has the habit of lying to everyone, his own best friend included.”
Zayn inhaled shakily, refusing to open his eyes. “Sam, please…”
“No, not Sam, please – what the fuck is she talking about, Zayn?” Liam bit out, inching closer to his friend, his own face paler than usual. “Tell me!”
“Liam, it’s not simple – “
“Fucking tell me!”
I knew from the uncharacteristic roar of Liam’s voice that I’d unleashed something horrific between he and his friend, but at that point I couldn’t give a damn. I was crushed – beyond crushed – feeling lower than I’d felt in my entire life, and I needed payback.
“Sam agreed ..” Zayn began softly, his voice slightly hoarse and his eyes opening to reveal a softened light brown gaze. He licked at his lower lip tentatively, “…She agreed to … to do some things for me… after there was an incident…”
“Agreed?” I laughed loudly, the sound lacking any sort of humor and resonating a harsh bitterness that made Zayn jump. “You think I fucking agreed to be your slave, Zayn?” I grit my teeth together, shaking my head. “This was no agreement, this was a fucking manipulative, pathetic motion on your half.”
“You made her work as your servant?” Liam whispered, his eyes glimmering with disbelief and undeniable pain. “Zayn, please tell me this is some sort of sick joke… please…”
“It’s the truth,” Zayn replied quietly, his head hanging and his eyes avoiding his friends.
“I accidentally put a small dent in his car,” I turned to Liam. “I’m poor, I don’t have much money, so he made me agree to work off the damages.” I turned to Zayn then, my eyes cold and my chest still painfully clenched. “How much were the damages, did you say?”
Liam, who was leaning against the counter, stared at the sheet of paper from the car dealership. His eyes lit up slightly and he glanced at me and then to Zayn. “Wait, is this from you?” He motioned with a finger down at the charges. “Is this dent the one involving you?”
“Yes,” I grinned bitterly, nodding slowly at Zayn, who’s mouth had slackened. “Yes, Liam, that is from me. Zayn… how much was I working off?”
“Fuck,” his murmured under his breath, reaching up to press a hand to his forehead, concealing his face from the two of us. He muttered something in Urdu under his breath, with another fuck and God laced somewhere in between.
I smiled at Liam. “I was working off three thousand dollars worth of damage.”
Liam’s mouth parted then, his syrupy eyes widening before he looked rapidly down at the sheet of paper. “But the dent only cost – “
“Seventy-five fucking dollars,” I interrupted quickly. “Yes, I only found this out today.”
Zayn opened his eyes, and I noticed the lining was slightly watering and glimmering under the dim lighting of the kitchen. “Sam, please, let me –“
“Explain? Let you explain? Explain how you forced me to do your errands and your chores for four weeks for damages less than a hundred bucks? How you humiliated me and degraded me?” I realized I was on a tangent, my breaths coming in and out rapidly and my own eyes watering as hot tears began to drip softly onto the sensitive flesh of my cheeks. I closed my eyes, the last of my words coming out as a trembling, broken assortment. “How you made me feel something for you?”
When I looked at Zayn then, I saw his own cheeks were covered in a light wetness. His eyes were red, his complexion flushed, and I knew he realized he’d fucked up.
“I’m leaving,” I announced with a hoarse voice, reaching up to wipe roughly at the wetness on my face with the back of my hand. “Have fun explaining to Liam how you lied to him for the past month.”
As I pushed past him, I felt his fingers wrap themselves around my wrist, turning me around to face him. His face was more wet than before, his eyes visibly producing tears, and I was in complete denial that the hard-ass, arrogant asshole I’d grown to know was actually crying.
“Don’t leave,” he pleaded, his voice thick. His fingers trembled against my wrist, their grip tightening as he blinked away some more tears. “Please, stay, I can’t – “
“Go to hell,” I snarled, wrenching my wrist from his grasp. My eyes continued watering, and I didn’t even bother concealing the broken sob that erupted from my throat. “I want n-nothing to do with you.”
“Sam,” he whispered, eyes closing as a rush of teardrops trailed down his face. “I’m sorry – “
“Fuck you,” I spat through another hiccupped-sob. “I don’t ever want to see you again.”
As I turned away from him, walking quickly to the front door, I heard something reminiscent of a deep sob echo across the walls. I realized it was probably his – I couldn’t believe it, but before I could maintain any sort of emotional connection to his reaction to this hellish situation, I ripped the front door open and slammed it behind me.
The sobs came then, wracking my entire body as I covered my face with my hands. I’d ended it. Whatever the hell we were, was over. As I let the scorching tears stain the palms of my hands, I shook my head in a desperate attempt to erase any of the memories and feelings I had for him. I hoped I’d never see him again.