14 - Flowers and friends

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  "If I didn't have you, I'd never see the sun. You taught me how to be someone." 
 

"I can't believe you're a born and bred Aussie and you've never been here

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"I can't believe you're a born and bred Aussie and you've never been here." Harry says for the millionth time as I run my fingertips over an inflorescence of magenta. 

"Born and bred in a different state might I remind you." I snort and give him a gentle shove with my free hand. We've been like this since we left the hotel - bantering like two people who have been joined at the hip for longer than they can remember. And I'm shocked to find that it's almost as easy as breathing.

It had been Harry's idea to come to the botanical gardens, citing he's been every time he's done a show in Sydney and couldn't bear to break the tradition. 

"The last time I came here with the band," Harry smiles. "Niall fell into a flowerbed and got stung by a bee." 

I grin up at him and he looks genuinely pleased with himself for sharing such comical information. He's so down to earth and normal that it's almost easy to forget about his celebrity status. We'd managed to get out of the hotel and into the gardens unnoticed, but I know it's going to be another matter entirely when we're at the venue tonight. Admittedly, I am looking forward to finally watching him perform without being in the mindset of Juni-with-a-grudge, but at the same time, a small part of me is fearful. 

It's something about Harry Styles the performer. Something about the time during those seventeen songs, when he morphs into his flamboyant stage presence and is the furthest thing from the curly-haired boy of two-thousand and ten. I think it's jealousy. Jealousy over the fact that he's become everybody's Harry. And I know it's stupid - irrational even. But I can't seem to help it. 

"Did you ever study veterinary medicine?" He asks, completely out of the blue. I realise it must have been a surprise for him to find me serving gelato rather than stitching up animals. It's sweet of him to have remembered my childhood ambition. 

I shake my head and grimace. "I didn't get the grades. It's probably a good job though because every goldfish I've ever owned has died within about two months. If I can't even keep something alive that just sits in a tank of water and eats flakes, imagine if I had to perform life-saving surgery on a horse?"

Harry tilts his head back and laughs with his eyes squeezed tightly shut. I can't help laughing too and suddenly we're both doubled over, clutching our stomachs and trying not to hyperventilate. 

This is how our friendship was supposed to be and I can't help mourning all the years we missed out on. 

"You're such a dork." He tells me before slinging his left arm over my shoulders and pulling me into his side. I collide with him and fall into step, watching as our legs move in synchronisation. I used to think that Harry and I were in sync anyway; that that was the reason we'd clicked in the first place. My mother always said we were like two peas in a pod, except I've never really felt it until right now.

A warm breeze swirls around us, catching the long hairs curling beneath Harry's earlobes and lifting the hem of my band tee. Once upon a time, we may have planned for him to visit me here in Australia. We would have had an itinerary and perhaps this would have been on it. Perhaps we'd have stayed in Melbourne and done silly touristy things like the Neighbours tour or visit the old Gaol. I'd have taken him for a slice of lamington and a cold glass of Milo in the afternoon and at dinner I'd have shown him that it's prawns that we stick on the barbie, not shrimp as the rest of the world claim we do. I'd show him the fairy penguins at Philip Island and the dolphins at Balnarring beach. Maybe I'd even introduce him to Eve. Our time together here is so short and I just hope that he'll stick to his word so that we can have these experiences. 

We observe our surroundings in silence, crushed against one another as we try not to trip over each other's feet on the gravel. I can see the Harbour Bridge to my right and I almost want to pinch myself to check that this really is happening. Perhaps it really is true when they say good things come to those who wait, but this isn't even good - this is beyond anything I could have imagined. Every moment with Harry seems to cancel out one of the millions I've spent without him. It makes the sabbatical in our friendship just that more tolerable. And I fear him leaving again is going to undo all of our hard work. I curl my right arm around his waist, pulling us tighter together.

"You ok, Juni?" He asks, peering down at me as my cheeks flush. Admittedly, I could have been a little more subtle where my separation anxiety is concerned. 

"Fine." I answer quickly. Too quickly and Harry raises his eyebrows as if challenging me to tell the truth. I sigh. "I'll just...I'll miss you when you're gone, Harry." 

His expression softens and his eyes leave my face and focus ahead. The deep groove between his eyebrows tells me that he feels it too - the uncertainty. The fear. The fingers hanging limply over my left shoulder begin to tickle the faded fabric there and he puffs his cheeks out in an exasperated sigh. 

"It's super shit timing to rekindle, I know - and that's my fault." He says. "But we have the rest of today and we have tonight and a few hours tomorrow and then to be honest, Juni, we have the rest of our lives." 

My heart's thudding again because I want what he's saying to be true. I want him to mean it and follow through with it. I want it more than anything.

"You're going to hear from me so often, you're going to get sick of me." He sniggers but I don't think he realises that that could never be true.

I can't imagine a time when I would ever be sick of Harry. Even when my letters remained unanswered. Even when he looked me in the eye at his concert and danced away. And even on the aeroplane, after finding out I'd been forgotten. Even then I wasn't sick of him.

"Who says I'm not sick of you now?" I counter and wiggle my eyebrows playfully. Harry gasps, transforming his expression into one of horror and pain, and then he cracks and the dimples break through facade.

He pinches my shoulder lightly but neither of us speak. I can't help thinking a heavy weight has fallen upon us now - the burden of keeping promises and the reality that despite everything we've gone through to get here, we're not going to see one another for a very long time.

I try to refocus on the surroundings and stay in the moment. A botanical garden in the CBD seems strange - it's so idyllic and yet I can still hear the car horns and racing traffic. Harry looks so at peace it's as if he's found paradise and quite honestly, I'd happily walk laps and laps of this place just to see that facial expression continue. But I know time is against us, this morning more than ever.

He brings his phone screen to life and sighs.

12:47

Our morning together has already slipped away into the afternoon. It's cliché but it's true when they say that time flies when you're having fun.

"Hm, we really need to head off. We need to get to sound check." He says it as if he's about to apologise. Of course a part of me is gutted that this aspect of our time together has come to an end, but I'm not going to let that detract from the fact that he's about to go and do something he loves.

I squeeze him a little tighter, possibly more for my benefit than his. "Hey, don't say it like that. This'll be fun!"

A lopsided smirk replaces his troubled expression and he begins to lead me back towards the entrance of the gardens. The car is already waiting with Elliot leaning against it, arms folded across his chest like some presidential security detail. He and Harry exchange a nod as we approach and then he slides into the passenger seat of the SUV, leaving me wondering if he'll ever forgive me for Cutlery Gate.

"Right." Harry says with a new found enthusiasm, and opens the nearest car door. "Let Bring Your Best Friend To Work Day commence."

author's note: Sorry for the delay with this one! Thanks so much for all the reads and votes and comments so far - let me know what you think! :)

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