In The Heat of Los Angeles
Make Yourself at Home (The Starting Line)
I woke up to music flooding into my bedroom. I sat up and realized I was alone in bed. The clock on the nightstand told me I’d slept in this morning, it was 8:05. When I was still in college this was called waking up early, living with Kammi I was rarely lucky to sleep past 7:00. I got out of bed and followed the sound of the music to the gym off of my bedroom where I found Harry lifting weights. I leaned against the door watching him. Yeah, I know it’s creepy to gawk at someone working out but I couldn’t help it. He was gorgeous and standing shirtless in the middle of my gym.
“Good morning,” I said. I could tell he’d been in a zone and that I’d somewhat startled him.
“Hey sleepyhead,” he replied. He finished the set he was doing before putting the weights down and coming to where I was standing in the doorway. He bent down to kiss me.
“You should’ve woken me up.”
“You looked cute asleep and I know that you haven’t slept the greatest this week. Thought you could use it.”
“It was nice to sleep in a bit.”
“I’m almost done. Then I’m gonna shower. Probably no pool this morning, I’ve got a date for lunch.”
“I hear she’s pretty awesome,” I managed to say through giggles.
“She’s more than awesome.” He kissed me again.
“Do I need to be dressed nice?”
“No, where I’m taking you is relatively casual.”
“Do I get to know where?” I asked as I batted my eyelashes hoping that he’d tell me where we were having lunch.
“Is Café Habana okay?”
“It’s perfect. One of my favorites up here. Pops and I go there a lot when we are up here. Their brunch on Saturdays and Sundays is amazing. You’ve now made me officially the happiest girl in all of California.”
“Fantastic. I’ll just be another few minutes in here.”
“Perfect, I’m going to go downstairs and make a smoothie for breakfast and FaceTime my Mom. Want one?”
“Sure.” One more kiss and he was back to his workout. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and hair. It was an absolute mess, you could tell I’d had sex last night and it had been full of pool water all day. I threw it into a messy bun and went downstairs after grabbing my laptop out of the office. The house was relatively quiet. Malibu was the only place where everyone slept in. We were usually up until the wee hours of the morning so we enjoyed mornings without meetings and agendas. I started to make myself and Harry smoothies and then once I was done sat down to FaceTime Mom.
“Good morning, Evie,” she answered. She was also on her laptop in the kitchen.
“Hey Mom, how is Chicago today?”
“Cold and rainy. I’m jealous I know you’re at the Malibu house.”
“Yeah, the weather is gorgeous here. We came up yesterday afternoon.”
“Who made the trip this time?” she asked.
“Me, Kam, Ty, EJ, Nick, Joe and Harry.”
“He got to come to Malibu?”
“He did get to come to Malibu. Thought it would be a good chance to spend some time together before I jet out of town for a week.”
“So the first date went well?” she asked.
“It did go well. We have our second today, we are going to brunch at Café Habana in a little bit.”
“Did he know you love that place?” Mom asked.
“He did not.” I saw him walk into the kitchen and grab the smoothie I made him. He smiled at me.
“I still crave the mole sauce from that place,” my stepfather said as he walked into view behind Mom. “Hey bambina.”
“Hey Dad,” I replied. Harry gave me a weird look at hearing me say Dad. Most people did the first time they heard me talk to Marco. I know a lot of people don’t call their step-parents by the traditional titles like Mom and Dad, but I always had when it came to Marco. He had met Mom before the divorce was final, I was five at the time. She was determined not to date until she was no longer legally married, despite the fact that she lived in a completely different city from my Father. Marco waited and waited. He was amazing during that time period. He babysat me when she needed it, he took both of us out to dinner all the time, he helped my buy her gifts for her birthday, Mother’s Day and Christmas, and had helped us move into the apartment we had after she and Pops sold the house we’d been living in together. Marco waited until the day the divorce papers came. He showed up to take her on a real date, without me.
Their relationship progressed quickly after that. Eventually Marco was moving into the small apartment with us. He had been working in restaurants and preparing to open his first restaurant. Due to Mom’s work schedule it was Marco that picked me up from school every day and then every afternoon I was with him scouting locations for his first restaurant. I was by his side as he signed for deliveries and hired his staff. Everyone just assumed I was his daughter so by the time they were married I had decided in all the brilliance of my seven year old mind that I was just going to call him Dad. He’d been terrified that my Father would be hurt by that, even though I called him Pops. It was a title that he didn’t feel belonged to him. My Father was amazing when Marco told him he was uncomfortable with it. His exact words had been, ‘You are her Dad. You deserve the title and there is no one in the world I’m happier to share it with’. Mom had cried, I was too young to really understand what the whole thing meant. I also never realized it was weird until Jonathan was old enough to wonder why he didn’t also call James Pops. When I talk about the two men who raised me to people who don’t know the situation I will always refer to them by their conventional titles and occasionally out of the habit of hearing everyone in my life call their father Dad I did too but usually ended up with a weird look from mine because he was Pops and always would be and Marco was Dad. Anyone who knew us knew that Marco was just the Dad I had needed then and still needed most days now. It obviously hadn’t made me any less close with my Father. We were very unconventional, but it worked for us.
“Hey Evie. Keeping out of trouble? Mom tells me you have a new boyfriend.”
“Mom! We have our second date today. He’s not my boyfriend yet,” I protested.
“He’s coming to Chicago,” she said as she turned to her husband.
“Already?” Dad seemed shocked.
“Dad, could you knock some sense into her for me?”
“Well, is he coming to Chicago?” he asked. I looked at Harry who was now laughing at me, loud enough I knew my parents on the other end of the FaceTime conversation could hear. “Who is laughing in the background?”
“He is,” I sighed.
“Let me meet him. It’s a Dad’s duty to check in on the men in his little girl’s life.” Harry came to sit next to me and I adjusted the laptop.
“Dad, this is Harry. Harry this is my step-dad, Marco.”
“Nice to meet you,” Harry said as he waived.
“Oh this is too good,” Marco said. “Have you told Jimmy yet?”
“No.” I dropped my head onto the counter. “If the situation were different and I’d taken over one of your restaurants and told you I was dating the bartender you hired how would you react?”
“Terribly, we all know most bartenders are crap. I was until I met your mother.” I laughed. He had been a bartender when she first met him. “But he’s not a bartender and based on what Mom has told me he isn’t crap.”
“I try not to be,” Harry said laughing.
“See, different story than if you were back here still hanging out with my bartenders. Which don’t act like you never dated anyone that worked for me.” The look on Dad’s face made me laugh. I had dated a bartender in one of his restaurants the summer before my freshman year of college, never seriously and Dad hated it, but he never stopped me. Just told me I was old enough to make my own decisions. “You also got into more trouble with that group of people than just about any of your friends. Joe is the exception.”
“Hey!” I turned to see Joe had just walked behind me and it made me laugh. “Marco, I thought we were friends.”
“You know I’m just picking on you.” Joe flipped him off and walked outside to the pool. He was currently the only one up. “But seriously, when you tell Jimmy, you need tell him to call me. I want to hear his reaction. He told me to lighten up the summer you dated one of my bartenders, this should be fun.”
“I hate you.” I smacked my head on the island a few times as Harry laughed and rubbed my back.
“So Harry, we are doing dinner here at the house on Friday. Any sort of dietary restrictions I need to know about for you?” Mom was trying to kill me. I looked up from the counter and glared at her.
“None whatsoever,” he said.
“No nut allergies or anything?” He shook his head. “Anything you absolutely don’t like?”
“I will be fine either way.”
“You act like you are going to Chicago.” It was his turn to be glared at.
“Your Mum invited me,” he said smiling at me. “It would be rude to turn down such a wonderful invitation.”
“I hate you.”
“You don’t though.” He smiled brightly and there they were. The dimples. Fuck. I just laughed before resting my head on his shoulder.
“You look so cute together,” Mom said.
“Thanks,” Harry replied. “I thought the same thing myself.”
“I’m taking the boys shopping for new Cubs stuff today for next week’s game. Want me to pick something up for you, honey?”
“Sure, if you find something. Probably no longer appropriate to wear the Rizzo jersey, huh?”
“Probably not,” Dad said laughing.
“I wouldn’t care,” Harry replied. “But if she had something else to wear I would much rather she wore that.”
“I’ll see what I can find you, Evie. I’ll send pictures. Harry, do you need a shirt for the game?”
“Sure, I don’t have a Cubs shirt in Los Angeles with me.”
“Do you have a Cubs shirt at all?” I asked shocked.
“I do, back home in London. It’s very old. I’m not even sure I’d know how to find it.”
“Well, I’ll get you one today while I’m out shopping.”
“He could wear that hideous Hawaiian shirt of Dad’s.” Dad flipped me off.
“I love that shirt.”
“I know, it’s gross,” I replied laughing. “You’d probably like it.” I looked at Harry laughing. He’d had a floral shirt on part of the day yesterday. “Are the boys still home?”
“They are. You know them, it’s still early enough that they are all playing video games upstairs.” She picked the computer up and started to walk through the house. I missed home. The house my parents had now they had bought together when they were pregnant with Jonathan. It had been in foreclosure and was in desperate need of love, which was just what we gave it. As I’d gotten older I’d been promoted out of a room on the same floor as the master suite and into a bedroom on the top floor of the house. It was amazing and there were few places I felt as at home in as I did the house in Chicago.
“It appears you have a very lovely home, Grace,” Harry said. He was also watching as Mom carried her laptop.
“Thank you, it’s was a labor of love to get the place perfect. We don’t intend on leaving anytime soon. I’ll have to give you the grand tour on Friday when you land.”
“Mom,” I whined. Harry just laughed at me.
“Boys, your sister wants to say hi. She and her new boyfriend FaceTimed this morning,” Mom said. I wanted to die. Of course, my three little brothers, new boyfriend, this was going to be a disaster.
“Hey Ev,” Jonathan said being the first to take the laptop from Mom. I saw him pause the game they were playing. “New boyfriend, huh?”
“According to Mom. Jonny this is Harry.”
“Hi mate,” Harry replied.
“Hey, I know you. I saw you play at Solider Field twice.”
“Jonny figured out the easiest way to get a girl to go on a date with you was to take them to a One Direction concert. Eliza’s Dad got the tickets.”
“Chicago was always fun for me to play. Usually easy to make Bears fans get all riled up in a Packers jersey.”
“I told Dad about that when I got home. He thought it was awesome,” Jonny said.
“Really? Someone from Chicago liked that I made fun of the Bears?”
“Yes, despite living in Chicago all of his adult life and being friends with someone who works in the front office for the Bears, Dad was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee,” I said. “Go Pack Go?”
“You did not tell me this,” Harry said. “I like this family more already.”
“So how is baseball going so far, Jonny?” I asked Jonathan.
“Pretty decently. I won my start this week at pitcher.” Jonathan was likely going to get a full ride scholarship to college to play baseball. He was incredible but had always struggled between if he loved playing pitcher or first base.
“Your hitting seems to be improving. Dad sent me the video of you guys in the park last weekend where you were taking batting practice. You were hitting the crap out of the ball.”
“Yeah, I’m trying.”
“I sent it to Rizzo and KB. They sent me a few texts with pointers.” I picked up my phone. “KB says if you swing just a half second later you’ll be able to clear the fence more. Rizzo says play first base.” My brother laughed.
“I told them we’d head to the stadium early enough next Sunday to catch BP. They want to see you while I’m in town.”
“Sweet. I’m excited. The first game of the year that we got to a Wrigley is always the best.”
“Because it's always for your birthday,” I replied laughing.
“He’s selfish,” Mason said sticking his head in to say hi and steal the computer. “Hey sis!”
“Hey Mace, how’s life? Any new recipes to tell me about?”
“Life is good and always. Dad has me working with one of his new chefs on some stuff. I’m really getting into molecular gastronomy right now.” I made a face. “You’ll like it, I promise.”
“Which chef?” I asked.
“Chef Ben from Grace. He’s awesome. Thinks I could be running my own kitchen by the time I’m 20.” Grace was of course named for my mother and one of Dad’s more popular restaurants.
“That’s awesome. You’ll have to send me some of the new recipes that you’re trying that I’d be capable of making. Harry made me steak and lobster this week. Best I’ve ever had.”
“Better than that family vacation to New England?” Mason asked. His primary focus was food. He remembered every moment in his life by what he ate. He was only 12 but already a culinary whiz kid and had an amazing food blog. He wanted to audition for one of the kids cooking shows but Mom told him he needed to wait until summer before he tried.
“Better than New England. I need to impress him.”
“You’re a decent cook. You’ve got all the recipes that Mom taught us growing up and you have the stuff your Scarcello grandparents taught you. That chicken parm you make is one of my favorite things.”
“I’ll have to try that. Though I’ll be gone for like a week and a half.”
“You travel a lot,” Mason said.
“She does appear to do that,” Harry added.
“Yeah, I know. New York for a few days and then I fly in to Chicago on Friday and will be there until Wednesday.”
“At least you get to stay here for longer than a weekend. You haven’t done that in a while.”
“I know. Not since the holidays. I’m excited to be home for a while.”
“Evie, can we go to Mom’s museum to see the Van Gogh exhibit?” The tiny little thing known as my baby brother Christopher popped into view.
“Hey Toph!” He laughed, I had called him Toph since he was little. Mom didn’t want her son to be one of three boys named Chris when he went into daycare. So she had started testing out nicknames on him as a baby to see what stuck. She tried Kit. She tried Kip. She tried Chip. And Jonathan and I settled on Topher or Toph, which initially drove Mom nuts. Mom called him Kit, it was cute. We were really the nickname family when it came to kids. Mom called Jonathan, Jon Jon most of the time. All his friends called him Jonny. Mason had always been Mace or MJ to everyone if he wasn’t just Mason. His full name was Mason James, so it was easy to get MJ from that. And I’d been asked several times if his middle name was after my Dad, it wasn’t, my Papa Ferrera went by James as most Italian men named Vincenzo did for some unexplainable reason that no Italian I’d ever talked to knew.
“Hey Evie! I miss you.”
“I miss you too, Toph.”
“It’s only six days until you’re home.”
“I know. I can’t wait. So we will go see the Van Gogh exhibit at Mom’s museum. You let me know when you want to go. Mom told me that I planned a good weekend and all of you are out of school on Monday.”
“We are,” Mason said. “Some teacher inservice or something.”
“Nice. Gives us a little more time to hang out while I’m home. I have to head to Evanston on Tuesday to talk to some students.”
“They sent me some recruitment stuff,” Jonathan said.
“Baseball or football?” I asked.
“Both. Dad said that it’s only the beginning and as I start junior year it’s just going to get worse.”
“Worse and better, J. I mean, I’m biased. You would look great in purple. But a lot of schools will send you stuff and make offers. You need to do what is best for you. We both know I did. Don’t let any of us try and convince you to just follow what we did. Be your own man, forge your own path.”
All three of my parents carted me around the country to visit colleges that I was interested in. Each of them had their own goal of where they wanted me to end up. Pops was pulling for UCLA. I could live in LA with him all year. Mom loved the idea of me following in her footsteps and going to DePaul. Dad had gone to Loyola. I of course chose nowhere any of them thought. Mom was pretty sure I was going to go to UCLA because of how desperate I was to be done with college and working at SME. Dad thought I’d end up at the University of Iowa or Drake University, both in Iowa, a lot of my friends from high school were going to both schools. Close enough to home that you could make it back for a long weekend, far enough away that your parents didn’t just pop in unannounced. Pops just hoped that Mom was right. In the end when I sat down with them at dinner in the fall of my senior year after my early acceptance letters came in I told them I picked Northwestern. They were all surprised but happy I made the decision that I felt was best for me.
“Mom said you’d probably take me on a visit sometime.”
“Of course. You name the time and place and I’ll be home to take you. I’d take you Tuesday but you have school.”
“I know,” Jonathan said. “I’ve already tried to convince Mom to let me skip and go with you.”
“No skipping school. It’s important you’ll miss it when you’re done. I promise. I’d rather sit through Mr. Wilson's organic chem class any day over all day meetings with clients.”
“Hey!” Harry said next to me. “I’m a client and we had an all day meeting this week.” I watched my three brothers start to giggle.
“You don’t count. You said it yourself, you’re not just a client.”
“So Harry, are you coming home with Evie?” Mason asked.
“Mom says he is,” I replied.
“Do you say he is?” Jonathan asked.
“Haven’t decided yet. He’s growing on me and it might be fun to bring him home. But it’s also your birthday.”
“Do you want to come home with her?” Jonathan continued the questioning, it was obvious he was the oldest of the boys.
“I do want to but only if she wants me there. I will keep trying to win her over so I can come with her and meet all of you.”
“You’re doing good so far,” Mom said. “Alright, Evie. I hate to cut this off but I have to get Kit to his art class this morning.”
“Okay. I love you all,” I said. “Stay out of trouble and I’ll see everyone Friday.”
“Bye Evie,” all of my brothers called.
“Bye,” Harry and I replied. Mom took the computer back.
“Evie, I love you and miss you. Can we get some girl time when we are home?”
“Of course, Mom.”
“Dad can keep Harry entertained.”
“Uh-huh, sure,” I replied laughing. “You need to stop assuming he’s coming with me.”
“He is honey. I know he is. I can sense it. Mother’s intuition.”
“Alright. Tell Dad I’ll call him Monday morning to talk about next weekend. Love you Mom. Miss you.”
“Come home in one piece. Love you too Evie.” Harry and I both waived and we ended the call. I closed my laptop and turned to look at him. I kissed him and smiled.
“You are adorable.”
“No, you are,” he replied. “You and your family are very cute. Even if I don’t go to Chicago with you I’m excited to meet them.”
“Good, they are the best thing in my life. Thank you for doing that with me.” I kissed him again.
“It’s just another window in the wall around you opening up. Anytime you let me help with that I will.” I stood up and walked out onto the deck. Joe was swimming laps in the pool. I sat down on the couch under the cabana and Harry sat down pulling me into him so I was laying down. Joe stopped his lap and rested his arms on the edge of the pool.
“FaceTimed home?” he asked.
“Yeah, I haven’t done that in a while.”
“You normally are like clockwork but I’m used to it on Sunday mornings.”
“Yeah, Mom said today was better. I can’t wait to go home, if you want to come you can. It’s Jonny’s 16th. Mom is throwing a big party, I’m sure Dad is bringing in some chef from one of his restaurants to cook dinner for all of us.”
“I’ll think about it. I haven't been to Chicago in a while. Harry, are you going to Chicago?” he asked.
“Still up in the air,” Harry replied. He hugged me a little closer to him. Neither of us had showered yet and he was still a bit sweaty from the gym.
“So what are you two doing today?”
“Probably going to go upstairs in a bit and get showered and dressed for our brunch date.”
“Where are you going?” Joe asked.
“Café Habana,” Harry answered.
“Nice choice. It’s one of her favorite places. She’s literally drug me up here for brunch once a month, even when we aren’t regularly coming up to Malibu for the weekend. You made a good decision.”
“I honestly had no idea. But I feel pretty lucky. Everything I’ve picked so far she’s been happy about. Well, except Craig’s.”
“She loves Craig’s. She hates cameras. She has a hard time with that,” Joe said.
“It’s because I’m always at Craig’s with you. The fact that Perez Hilton reported that you were cheating on Gigi Hadid with me because we had dinner there is why I hate it. You have no idea how many requests for comment Eliza dealt with because of that. And then there was the pleasant appearance of Gigi in my office telling me to back the fuck off and get out of your life.”
“I still feel like I need to apologize for that,” Joe said.
“Eh, it is what it is. She and I didn’t get along. She felt threatened by me which is just weird. Nothing has ever happened between us and nothing will. You’re like a brother.”
“And if I had a sister it would basically be you,” he said.
“You ready to go upstairs and get ready?” Harry whispered into my ear. I looked up at him.
“Sure.” It wasn’t even 10:00 but getting ready now wouldn’t be so bad. We could go early and have a relaxing meal together and spend a bit of time away from the house and all of my friends. There were a lot of people here and it was only going to get worse when Pops and the flavor of the week showed up. Alone time was probably a good idea. I stood up and helped Harry off of the couch. “We are going to go get ready for our date. Enjoy your laps.”
“Have fun,” Joe said as he turned to go back to his laps. I could hear movement around the house but it still appeared that no one had emerged. Everyone had consumed a lot of adult beverages the night before so I wasn’t totally shocked. I was sure they were just getting ready to spend the day by the pool drinking again. I felt Harry’s arms snake around my waist as we walked up the stairs. His lips connected with the skin on my shoulder where the cut up t-shirt I was wearing hung off.
“Do we get to share a shower today?” he asked. “I’m growing used to you handing me shampoo.”
“We have a date. Shouldn’t I be allowed to get cute without you watching?”
“I like watching you get cuter, because you’re already cute.” He shut the bedroom door behind us.
“I know and I’m going to get ready in my bathroom.” I kissed him and walked towards my bathroom. I opened the glass pocket doors to let the fresh air in, turned on some music, stripped out of my pajamas and got into the shower. I was singing along mindlessly to the final cut of Nick’s album as I’d done a few times this week. I needed to tell him how happy I was with the way it turned out. The door to the shower opened and I jumped. “What the fuck are you doing in here?” I asked. Harry was standing naked in the shower with me.
“The shower in my bathroom is completely glass and looks out onto the backyard where Joe is currently swimming laps in the pool and Eliza is laying out on the deck talking to him. And I can hear Nick and Kammi talking about making drinks. I didn’t want them looking up and seeing me naked. Your shower is more private. So we are sharing.”
“Fine, I guess you can shower with me,” I replied.
“You guess? Yesterday you rather liked showering with me. In fact I think you tried to convince me that we could have sex in the shower."
“But we can’t now?”
“The doors are open in here to the pool down below. You have this ability to make me scream louder than I ever imagined I could scream. They don’t need a show today, at least not yet.”
“I guess I can wait until later. But I am going to kiss you right now.” He leaned into me kissing me as he pushed my back up against the wall of the shower. He really was an incredible kisser. His kisses had the ability to make me completely forget how to behave normally. I just melted into a pile of mush every single time his lips touched mine. Which is exactly what was happening right now. I heard the sound of Eliza screaming and a splash into the pool to break my concentration and the kiss.
“JOSEPH ADAM JONAS YOU ARE DEAD!” Eliza yelled.
“I’m going to assume Joe just threw Eliza into the pool.”
“It does sound like it,” Harry said. I moved to get the shampoo and poured some in my hand before handing it to Harry. The noise from below was just enough to get us to just shower and not spend the whole time making out with each other. Once we were done we both wrapped ourselves up in a towel and stepped out of the shower.
“Now go in your own bathroom to get ready.”
“Fine, you’re being no fun this morning.”
“I’m always fun, I just want to have the chance to get dressed for our date so that you can be impressed with how I look at the end, not watch the process.”
“I don’t mind the process.” He raised an eyebrow at me.
“Get out.” I shoved him out of the bathroom and looked down at the pool to see all of my friends on rafts in the pool. It made me happy that we were all here together. The best part about Malibu was that we all stopped checking email and thinking about work. We just came here to hang out and have fun. To be the kids we all were when we grew up together, before our lives became so intertwined with our working relationship. As we grew up and started our lives, we still had each other which was more than anyone could ask for when it came to their childhood best friends.
I headed into my closets and started to look through what Ty had packed for me and what just happened to be in the closet here. The first date was always the first impression, though ours hadn’t been. The second date was a little bit more intense and ours would be more so than normal. We already had a bond that was difficult to explain but definitely special. I liked being around him. I liked that this morning, despite him being awake before me and that it had only been one night that my bed smelled like him. That even though we were surrounded by friends last night that he found every excuse to touch me possible and kissed me in their presence. Drew had been anti-PDA. He didn’t want to do much more than hold my hand, even around my best friends. He’d grown to know everyone who was down by the pool today and was still friends with them despite our breakup. But he always acted like touching me in public was a health hazard or something. Harry was the polar opposite of that and it made me giddy. I loved the way it felt to have him want to show everyone he cared for me. It was new and something I was enjoying immensely.
I first put on a black bikini with that had thin straps. He said to dress casually. I didn’t want to exit the room and look like I’d dressed for a fancy dinner at a five star restaurant so I pulled on a pair of extremely short cut off shorts and a white crop top with an embroidered design on it. My hair was going to end up wild and crazy because of the product that I put in it. In Malibu I always cared less about how perfect my hair looked. The people I saw here didn’t think of me as the woman walking in a board room, I was just the kid enjoying the California weather. I went light on the makeup knowing that I’d end up in the pool and have makeup everywhere if I wore too much. I found a cute pair of sandals, threw everything I needed into a smaller handbag and walked into the bedroom. I was upstairs alone so I headed down to the main floor where I found Harry laying on one of the loungers next to Nick. He had on ripped black jeans and a short sleeved black and blue plaid shirt.
“Hey there,” he said as I walked over to him. He took my hand and pulled me so I laid down on top of him. “You look cute.”
“Thanks. Are you sure I’m not under dressed for our date?”
“No, you look beautiful. I like the shorts.” His hand rested on the back of my thighs and I felt his thumb slide under the shorts rubbing back and forth on my skin.
“So a brunch date?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, you crazy idiots will be okay here without us for a while.”
“Of course. Have fun.” Nick smiled at me. I knew he was glad I was trying. He always told me I shouldn’t plan on being alone forever.
“You ready to go?” Harry asked. I nodded and he kissed the tip of my nose before I stood up.
“Okay, we are leaving all of you here. We will be back later today. Don’t burn the house down,” I said to everyone who was in the pool.
“Dammit, that was my plan,” Joe said. I just laughed and flipped him off.
“Have fun!” Kammi and Eliza yelled.
“Don’t miss us too much,” Ty added.
“Don’t worry about that,” I replied before we headed to the door. As we walked out I took my keys and held them in front of Harry. “Want to drive?”
“Sure,” he said taking my keys from me. He helped me climb up into the Jeep before walking around to the driver’s side. He pulled out of the driveway and onto the road. His hair was again blowing in the wind, his hands constantly trying to calm it down. I couldn’t help but watch him and smile. I almost felt giddy. He parked the car and we walked in.
“Your usual table, Mr. Styles?” the hostess asked. She was cute and blushed a little as he smiled at her.
“If it’s available, Lauren. Thank you.” She led us through the restaurant to a table on the patio. I slid into one side of the corner booth with Harry sliding in next to me. There were two empty chairs at the table so I put my purse in one of them. We ordered drinks quickly before we were alone. “I’m glad we’ve gotten this chance to sneak away for a bit by ourselves,” he said as he took my hand in his, lightly kissing my knuckles before releasing it.
“Me too. It’s overwhelming to be around everyone back at the house. Those five have been some of my best friends for a really long time. They are crazy and can be a little much sometimes. You’re a brave man to face a weekend away with them just to spend time with me.”
“Time with you is worth it. I’m having fun. But you’re right, they are a bit overwhelming. You all have your little inside jokes and stories. I know that eventually I’ll know them and we’ll have our own but right now I'm just trying to learn what you guys mean when you say things.”
“I’ll try and fill you in on things. I don’t want you to feel lost around all of us. They all like you. Obviously you know my roommates and Nick like you. Joe told me last night that he likes us together and I need to work on being happy.”
“When did you and Joe talk about us?” he asked. I couldn’t read his emotions when he asked the question.
“When I couldn’t sleep. I went down to get water at the same time as Joe. We talked until I got tired and came up to bed.”
“You can wake me up when you can’t sleep. I’ll keep you company.”
“I didn’t want to disturb your sleep. I was just going to sit by myself but Joe happened to be up. So we talked for a while. We’ve always been the ones who struggled to fall asleep. Most of our best conversations happened in the middle of the night while everyone else was asleep and the two of us stayed up with each other.”
“Okay,” he said. “So, I noticed you call Marco, Dad.”
“I do. I always have.”
“Really? Does James have a problem with that?”
“Not at all. I told him that I was going to call Marco Dad the week my Mom and Marco got married. I was seven. It seemed weird to be calling him Marco. So I just declared that I was going to call him Dad. Even at that point James was Pops. So it just made sense to me. Marco tried to fight it until he was told it was okay.”
“By James?” Harry asked. I nodded. “That’s very cool.”
“They get along really well. In fact Pops was one of the initial investors in Dad’s restaurant group. Pops wanted him to succeed and be able to provide a good life for my Mom and essentially for me. So Pops told him there was no one he’d rather share the title of Dad with the night before Marco married Mom.”
“How did they meet?” Harry asked.
“Marco was working at a restaurant near the house that I lived in with Mom and Pops. It was my favorite restaurant at the time. Way too grown up for a five year old but I never felt like I was a five year old, I was just a tiny adult. I wanted to go eat at fancy restaurants. It wasn’t long after they separated and it was just us in Chicago. Pops had moved to Los Angeles at that point. We were there to celebrate after a dance recital, no joke Mom had me in every sort of dance possible as a kid. Well at that point it was completely common to get a last minute phone call from LA that Pops wasn’t going to be able to make it home for something. Mom was depressed and it was sort of influencing me. So Marco kept bringing me Shirley Temples with extra cherries to make me smile. He was amazing. He complimented me on my tutu, he brought me dessert on the house. It was perfect. And the next time we came in he waited on our table, despite the fact that he was the bar manager. It was that way every time we went in for the first two months then he finally asked Mom on a date and she said no.”
“Really? Two months of wooing her daughter and she said no?”
“Yeah, she was still legally married and I think secretly holding out hope that Los Angeles wouldn’t be everything her husband dreamed it would be and he’d move home. She told him that she couldn’t date until she was no longer married.”
“Well, we ended up needing to move and there was a little two bedroom apartment above the restaurant Marco worked at that we rented. He helped us move in. When my uncle was in a car accident and my Mom needed to rush to the hospital Marco left work and came to watch me. That was when she started to weaken. He would babysit me, take us out to dinner so Mom didn’t feel like she was on a date with him because I was there. If she had to work on a Saturday he’d take me to the Art Institute to bring her lunch, which he made and he’s an incredible cook so it was always fun. Eventually he started picking me up from school so Mom didn’t have to pay for a nanny, she was going through an expensive divorce. He helped me shop for presents for her because I didn’t have a Dad there. The divorce took what seemed like forever to go through. The day the divorce papers came I knew something was wrong because Mom just sat there crying. Her lawyer had delivered them to her. She had gone into her bedroom to be alone so I snuck out of the apartment and downstairs to see Marco and told him the lawyer brought Mom some papers. He showed up after work with flowers for her and an offer for dinner. Finally after 16 months she accepted. I stayed with Eliza so that they didn’t have to worry about me. After about three months he moved in with us, after six they were engaged.”
“That’s incredibly sweet. He sounds like a wonderful person.”
“He’s one of the best men I know. He’s been my Dad for as long as I can remember so it only makes sense to call him Dad. When he proposed to Mom he also got me a ring. I wore it on a necklace my entire childhood.” I held out my right hand and on my middle finger was a ring that was shaped like an arrow circling my finger. A tiny heart shaped diamond the tip of the arrow. “Now that I’m an adult I’ve had it sized to actually fit my middle finger. I usually tell him it’s so when he pisses me off and I flip him off he can be reminded that he loves me.” Harry laughed at my comment. Dad and I were tremendous smartasses to each other.
“I look forward to meeting him. He’s obviously very special to you. You appear to have a great relationship.”
“We do. Marco is my Dad, there really isn’t another word to explain it. He was the one to put the bandaids on the scraped knees after I thought I could skateboard with the boys on our block. He was the one that surveyed the dates I brought home. He was who taught me how to drive. He taught me about football, thus the whole Packers fan thing. Pops isn’t really the biggest football fan. He taught me how to cook along with Mom. He was the Dance Dad who sat at my rehearsals. He used to let me run around his restaurants as a kid. Mom worked a lot of Saturdays because the Art Institute was always busy on weekends. We would explore together just us. Once the boys were born we would take them along but he never treated me any different than my brothers. I wasn’t biologically his, but I was his daughter. The boys just always wondered why they didn’t call James Pops as well. Marco knew that Pops couldn’t be there every day but he could so he made it a point to be there for everything.”
“That’s incredible. You seem very happy talking about him.”
“I love him to death. I may want to follow in the footsteps of my Pops, but if I hadn’t done this I’d probably be back in Chicago running one of Dad’s restaurants right now.”
“How many does he own?”
“Six,” I replied. “He has a seventh opening up at the end of the summer. He just signed the lease on it a few weeks ago so I finally get to see the space when I go home at the end of the week.” I smiled at him. He really did want to know about my family. “So how about you with your step-dad? Do you get along?”
“Yeah, wonderfully. I mean I don’t call him Dad, but he and my Mum got married after I was already touring most of the time. They’d been together for several years. I was actually the best man in the wedding along with my step-brother. Walked my Mum down the aisle and everything. Robin is wonderful. I feel lucky that my Mum has him. Someone to take care of her now that I’m gone a lot. It’s nice to go home. He’s always the first one to knock me down a peg or two. Remind me that I’m still the kid that needs to take out the rubbish bin if I’m home.” I laughed at the image of international superstar Harry Styles taking out his Mom’s trash can.
“That’s always good. Having people who can keep you grounded is important. I imagine you miss home a lot. Do you make it back often?”
“As often as I can. The last several months I’ve been able to get home more often because of not having to work or tour. It’s a nice change. I still feel like kid I was when I lived there when I go home which is nice.”
“That’s how I feel in Chicago. I totally get that.”
“Life is different with family, right?” he asked.
“It is. You can see that Dad is pretty good at keeping me grounded. If I ever came home with a big head he’d just remind me that I am still the girl that tripped going up the stairs at her high school graduation.”
“Yup, absolute klutz. I finally learned how to wear heels. Back then I was in flip flops or Vans every day. No heels and Mom told me I couldn’t wear my Vans for graduation.”
“I know. Jonny figured out how to turn it into a gif when he was like 13 and it’s me tripping and in this repeating video. Don’t worry, Dad will show it to you someday.”
“So I’ll get to meet him?” Harry smiled.
“Eventually I’m sure you will.”
“Do you even want to go to Chicago?”
“It sounds like it would be fun. Especially if all of your friends are going back. Less intimidating to meet the girlfriend’s family if she brings home a circus of friends they all love.”
“I’m not your girlfriend.”
“Yet,” he said confidently.
“You are so cocky.”
“You like it.”
“You’re right. I do.” I leaned forward to kiss him. He smiled at me before kissing me again. As I started to lean back that’s when I heard it.
“Evie, I didn’t know you’d be having lunch here.” I looked to see my father walking towards us with Jessica.
“Fuck,” Harry and I both said under our breath.
Did James catch them kissing? This could be an interesting way to tell Pops that they are dating. I’m anxious for Everlee because she is probably freaking out right now.
Okay...as for the rest of the chapter I AM LOVING the relationship that Everlee and Harry are developing. This second date was a really great, they are truly getting to know each other and enjoying what they are learning about the other. I am having SO MUCH fun writing them that I can’t even explain it. The way they are growing has been the most fun I’ve had writing anything in my life and I can’t wait to keep writing them.
I also had a lot of fun writing them FaceTiming her family back in Chicago. Being able to tell a little about her relationship with each of them before she heads home felt necessary to me. Get some of the backstory on her brothers, her Mom and her Dad out of the way before hand. I also wanted to express just how important Marco is in her life. Her relationship with her father is very important to her but also drastically different from the relationship that she has with her step-father. I wanted to convey just how much so that as she arrives home in Chicago we understand why she’s excited to go home to see Mom and Dad. I know it can be controversial for a child to call a step-mother or step-father Mom or Dad, it was a decision I had to make once upon a time in my life. But it just felt right to me that Marco was her Dad.
I can’t wait to write the next chapter. I’m starting on it tonight since everyone voted to have this portion up tonight. I hope you like it. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Your comments and messages mean the world to me. It’s an unnerving thing being a writer (fanfic or otherwise). You put your ‘baby’ out into the world and just have to wait to see if anyone likes it. The chapters where I hear nothing make me nervous because I just want people to enjoy reading what I write as much as I enjoy writing it. So let me know what you think by sending me an ask on Tumblr or leaving a comment here. I’m anxious and excited to know. If you missed the posts on Tumblr about the houses that we’ve visited so far and are curious as to what they look like you can find them here:
James Scarcello’s Malibu House
Everlee Scarcello’s Condo
THANK YOU for reading this. I am so grateful for all of you. I also would love to know where you are from and how you found ITHOLA if you feel compelled to share that with me.