26 - Buses and warthogs

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"Choose your words 'cause there's no antidote for this curse."

Incessant prodding against my shoulder is not how I envisioned being woken up from my nap - especially when I was advised that a four hour bus journey would be the perfect opportunity to tackle my jet lag.  

"You snore like a warthog, you know?" A voice - that sounds uncannily like Harry's - announces as I attempt to bring myself into consciousness. My neck is stiff from being bent towards the window for an extended period of time and my cheek cold from the glass pane. I groan and roll my head towards him.

"I hope you have a damn good reason for waking me up." I open one eye and find him knelt in the seat beside me - a navy Baker Boy cap pulled over his unruly curls. He looks about as tired as I feel, and yet is somehow still grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

"Juniper!" He exclaims in mock astonishment - one hand clutching at his chest. "This is the Harry and Juni tour of America! And I don't want you to miss any of it. I can assure you, I only have your best interests at heart."

I crane my neck so that I have a clear view of the bus - everyone else is sleeping. Elliot in particular is full on mouth-open-dribbling two rows behind us; head tilted backwards revealing an unsightly view of his nostrils. "Spare me the dramatics, Harry. You're bored, aren't you?"

His lips twitch and I know I've got him hook, line and sinker. There's something so satisfying about knowing someone well enough that you can see right through them - and I can't help but grin.

Harry rolls his eyes and slumps down into the seat with a defeated sigh. "Ok, ok - you got me, Juni." I watch with tired eyes as the fingers on his right hand lace through the ones on my left. "But we both know you were dreaming of me anyway, so might as well just spend time with the real thing, right?"

My cheeks flame a furious scarlet and I snatch my gaze away from our interlocked hands. I know Harry's kidding, but despite not remembering, I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if he had taken the lead role in my dream. For the last eight years all my mind has wanted to focus on is Harry - why should now be any different? I retrieve my hand from his and pretend to have an itchy nose.

"Life doesn't revolve around you, ya know?" I tell him in the most unperturbed tone I can manage, and when I finally look back up at his face - I'm not at all surprised to find him wearing the biggest shit-eating grin I've ever seen. "You're such a goose."

Harry flashes those perfect white teeth of his one last time and then smiles more sincerely. "Man, I'm so glad you're here, Juni."

"You mean you're so glad I'm awake." I smirk, resting my back against the headrest. He gives me a pointed look in response.

"Only because Mitch wouldn't wake up. You're a fairly decent second choice."

There's a moment's silence as Harry attempts to keep a straight face and I attempt to stop my jaw from falling into the footwell of the bus.

"You dick!" I exclaim and smack my left hand down on his hat. The resounding laugh that leaves Harry's mouth is so loud that I'm quite sure it's woken the whole bus. "Why did I ever become friends with you?"

"For my Pokemon cards obviously." He chortles from beneath the cap where it's slipped down his face, and I'm reminded of the padded airmail envelopes - the ones I received in the early days of our friendship. The ones concealing a single Pokémon card in the back, while my card of choice was flown to the other side of the world. I'd told myself our international card trades were special - I'd cherished them.

"Oh yeah, that's totally it." I retort sarcastically as he readjusts his headwear - even though at ten years old that was most definitely it. "I think I just had poor judgement when it came to friendships."

Harry shakes his head frantically like some sort of dashboard ornament. "Woah woah woah. Let me stop you right there, Juniper." I watch him with a single raised eyebrow and as he rattles on like Noah Centineo in that Netflix film. "I will hear no ill words against us. We are Harry and Juni. Juni and Harry. And I will fight for this friendship until the death."

I cease with my jesting and stare at him. Because despite his humorous tone, when Harry says he'll fight for our friendship - I know he really means it. And I can't argue with that.  

"Now who's being a sap?" I say quietly, echoing his own words from last night. Harry's chest had remained pressed up against my back right through until morning - the two of us tangled together like an eternity knot. It was only when the sun had become too bright, too hot against my closed eyelids that'd we'd separated - I'd slipped out before Harry had even woken up, and made my way towards the bathroom feeling as though I'd just completed a "walk of shame". One side of his mouth pulls up into a half smile and he toys with the frayed left knee of his jeans.

"So, Juni," he starts, not looking me in the eye, and I sense a significant shift in tone. "Do you have a boyfriend?"

I laugh in response but it sounds more like a strangled choking sound. The air has become very thick and insufferable and I'm suddenly wishing I'd never opted for the window seat - wanting for the first time to create some space between us. Why is Harry asking this random question? If this were a rom-com, I know this would be the part where Eve and Penny would be throwing popcorn at the screen. They'd be bouncing on the sofa cushions - squealing. They'd point and tell me that this is an iconic moment. Like in Love Actually when Andrew Lincoln's wedding footage is revealed to be just of Keira Knightley, or when Liam Hemsworth camps out to protect the sea turtles with Miley in The Last Song.

"No." I manage with a shaky breath, but I can barely hear the words over the sound of my pounding heart. "I don't." Harry remains focused on a loose thread sprouting from his kneecap and a torturous silence follows. Sometimes I wish he wasn't the way he is. This loveable, sensitive soul who says all the things that my brain and heart cannot handle. Harry is my best friend but why - when he asks these questions - does it feel like so much more? "Why do you ask?"

He lifts his head after what feels like an eternity, that earlier shit-eating grin now resurrected. "Just checking that I haven't missed my chance to have one of those if you hurt my best friend, I'll kill you conversations, you know?"  

I blink at him and then force out a single laugh.

I've never felt more stupid. What exactly were you expecting him to say, Juniper?

"Can I be your boyfriend?"

Sheesh.

And now I don't even know what to say in response. I suppose logically speaking I should ask him if he has anyone, but I can't bring myself to do it. And would I be ok with it if there was?

"Well, if the opportunity arises - I'll let you know." I say blankly. Harry purses his lips and nods, but offers no comment, leaving us with only the low hum of the bus engine and the sound of his fingernails picking at thread. I want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. I want to know why this feels weird. I want to know what his problem is - or is it my problem? Things are supposed to be better now - we're reunited and we're on tour. I open my mouth to say something - anything - just as Harry pulls the cap back down over his eyes and folds his arms across his chest.

Rejection hits me like a smack in the face. 

Maybe if I were a little more like Harry, I'd prod him relentlessly until he came back to consciousness. Maybe I'd ask him the weird and random questions plaguing my mind - rather than have to be one uncomfortably giving all the answers. 

But I'm not like Harry. And with the bitter sting of tears in the backs of my eyes, I turn my head towards the window and wonder when the complications in this friendship will ever come to an end.

author's note: here I am again, grovelling for the horrendous delay. The writer's block I had for this chapter was honestly something else. I definitely did not do myself any favours by writing three future chapters because all I want to do is be writing from that point now. So if you are reading this, thank you for sticking with Remember Me! Things are all very confusing for Juniper at the moment but I'm certainly enjoying guiding her through understanding her feelings and I hope you're enjoying reading it too. Next chapter will be a little more light-hearted and focused on the friendship that we love :) If you don't hear from me before - I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas (if you celebrate it). Chloe x

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