Read Part 1 first.
Louis: Where are you tonight?
Me: Another hotel room. Germany this time. I can’t wait for this tour to be done.
Louis: You’ll come and see me after?
Me: Depends. At your country manor or the flat in town?
Louis: Anywhere, any time.
Warmth spread in my chest. I wanted him, like I’d always wanted him. Nothing had changed.
Me: I’ve rented a guesthouse at Musha Cay, Bahamas, for after the tour. The place David Copperfield owns?
Louis: What happened to Jamaica?
Me: Not this trip. I hesitated a moment, then texted, Join me?
There was a prolonged silence, and my heart sank. Too soon? We’d been texting since I left London, all times of the day and night. It seemed he couldn’t get me out of his mind. That was only fair, since I couldn’t get him out of mine.
All the love I’d once felt for him had flooded back, stronger than ever. I scoured the internet for news about him; there wasn’t much. He’d almost dropped off the public’s radar. He wrote and sold songs, and sometimes did guest spots on the telly, but he was protecting his privacy. Maybe all that adulation and attention during our One Direction days had affected him more deeply than I realized.
I couldn’t wait to hear from him. The few times we’d managed to talk on the phone, it was hard to hang up. I ached to see him. Not being near him was agonizing.
Just like the old days.
On the last stop of the tour, I told Colin we were finished. He didn’t take it well. We argued for hours, there were a few errant punches and some tears, but in the end, he accepted it, and I felt like an absolute shit.
“Is there someone else?” he asked as he packed.
“There’s always been someone else.”
He didn’t hesitate. “Louis. He came back.” He shot me a sharp look. “All that texting… it was him, yeah? Christ.”
I felt sick. “I saw him in London.”
“Is he the reason why you took off that morning? When I was in the shower?”
“Yeah.” I was ashamed. “We ran into each other earlier, and he called the hotel and asked me to see him.”
“And you went without question.” He zipped his bag. “What happens when he leaves you again?”
I shook my head, not having an answer.
He closed the distance between us and cupped the back of my neck. “Harry, I love you. Remember that. I’ll be waiting, but not forever.” He kissed me and left without a backward look.
After one long frozen moment, I picked up my phone, unable to stop myself. I’ll be in the Bahamas by two tomorrow. Are you coming? Louis was my addiction and worse than any drug.
There was no immediate answer. Wondering if I hadn’t made the biggest mistake of my life, I threw my things in a bag, checked out, and went to the airport.
Muscha Bay was incredible. I relaxed almost immediately upon arriving. A personal chef was ready to serve my every need, and there were at maximum twenty-four guests. A few might know who I was but many wouldn’t. Since leaving the boy band, I had a lower profile, and I was fine with that.
Me: I’m here. Where are you?
An hour later, sipping vitamin water on the private beach, I got an answer: Stopover. On my way.
My heart soared.
When he arrived, he was wearing tropical white and had never looked better. I waited until the driver off-loaded his luggage and disappeared before throwing myself in his arms. He hugged me back, laughing.
“What a terrific place! Copperfield owns it, eh?”
“So I hear. Haven’t seen him. Maybe he’s made himself invisible.” I chuckled. “Come inside. I’ll show you around.”
The purpose of the tour was to underscore our privacy and isolation. Louis got that right away.
Sitting on the wraparound mahogany deck with drinks, he held my hand and gazed at the ocean. “Paradise.”
“This place is ours for a month.”
He smiled. “I can’t think of anything better. Reminds me of some of the vacations we took back then, only now there are no photographers jumping out of the bushes at us.”
“We aren’t important in that way anymore.” I was glad of it, too. The insane fame we’d experienced in the boy band seemed ludicrous in retrospect. How had we survived that? I looked at him, lounging in a cushioned chair, and realized we hadn’t.
“We have a second chance to get this right.”
He squeezed my hand and said nothing. I didn’t push it. The heart wanted what it wanted, but sometimes duty, obligation, and loyalty placed its own demands on it.
“Don’t move,” he whispered harshly.
“I want to move.”
We rode the edge as long as we could, but inevitably, we soared into freefall, then fell into ecstasy and aftermath. Breathless, hearts pounding, we held each other until our breathing slowed, then rolled apart, hands clasped. A breeze came in through the open deck doors, lifting the curtains and drying our sweat. I smelled jasmine or some other sweet flower.
We’d been at the Cay a week, and I never wanted to leave. Here he was mine, not hers, and I wanted to keep him.
The room smelled of sex, and I inhaled deeply. This was us: earthy, needy, vital, elemental. It wasn’t all we were, but our physical connection had always been a strong part of our relationship.
I traced the faint line of his ribs. “I’m starving. What about you?”
“I could eat a sea urchin,” he said playfully.
“Better than stepping on one.” He’d done exactly that before the audition for the X Factor. I’d had to carry him back. “Have you ever eaten one?”
“Yeah. Remember when we were in Japan on tour?”
“It’s good. Salty, creamy… it was still alive when they cracked it open for me.”
“Why don’t I remember that?”
“Because you were too busy staring at me?” He laughed, then rolled over and half-heartedly tickled me.
“I stared at you a lot back then.”
“All the time, but I stared at you, too. God, we were so young.”
“And in love.”
“Yes.” He kissed me with great tenderness. “I still love you.”
I was thrilled to hear the words. “And I love you, but you’re married.” A shadow fell across his face. “Where does she think you are, and with whom?”
“She knows I’m with you.”
“You told her the truth?”
“I owe her nothing less.”
“How much does she know about us?”
“Are you kidding? She knows how to google. Larry Stylinson is still out there.”
Larry Stylinson, the name some band fans had made up to define the relationship Louis had consistently sidestepped or denied, while I’d remained silent. How anyone could watch those clips and not think we were fucking was beyond me. The connection between us had been so visceral, so intense, it almost embarrassed me to see them.
“And she was okay with you coming here?”
“I didn’t say that.”
He moved over next to me and laid his head on my shoulder. I curled an arm around him. It was a familiar position. “She said, ‘Go and figure it out, and if you come back, you’ll never mention him again.’”
A chill went through me. “If?”
“We talked a lot after we saw you in London.” He idly tweaked my nipple. “Turns out she knew about us years ago. She’d been one of the fans who believed we were real.”
“And she married you anyway?”
“She loved—loves—me, and I love her.”
“But you’re here, not there.”
I didn’t know what to say. Everything that occurred to me sounded wrong, but the questions raced through my mind. Are you here to compare me with Giselle? Are you thinking of leaving your wife for me? What about your kids?
The days flew by, and I realized I was the happiest I’d ever been. Our renewed love affair was tempered by our maturity, but the same old heat and passion consumed us.
We visited the sandbar, a long strip of white sand that appeared during low tide and vanished again later. Alone that day, we walked its full length, holding hands. We chatted about his songs and my music and inevitably things we’d done and places we’d gone in the past. During our frantic years in the band, we’d lived at least three lifetimes, maybe more. Some of it had been bad—the times when management had pressured us to hide our relationship and then turned the screws to make sure we followed orders—but most of it had been good.
“Let’s go to the buffet and theatre tonight,” I said toward the end of the second week. “Seafood and sirloin.” My stomach rumbled at the thought.
We put on more clothes than usual and joined the other guests. The famous magician was not in residence, but I recognized some of them, and they recognized us. Right away, Louis put physical distance between us and became more reserved. I looked at him questioningly, but he ignored me.
I watched him through dinner, joking and entertaining everyone, and while he was certainly warm toward me, he was cultivating the impression we were merely old friends who’d gotten together to catch up.
I heard him say to someone, “Harry and I ran into each other in London and decided to renew acquaintances. It’s been years since we saw each other.” He went on to talk about his wife and kids in glowing terms, while I got more and more pissed.
Nothing he’d said was untrue, but it was all weighted toward emphasizing his straight life while minimizing any serious involvement with me. During the movie at Dave’s Drive-in, he did not hold my hand or lean on my shoulder, as he would have done if we’d been alone.
I silently fumed, barely able to sit still, and the minute the credits ran, I said goodnight to everyone and returned to our private guesthouse. Louis tarried, the life of the party, as always, and by the time he joined me in the master bedroom, I was half finished packing.
“What’s going on?” He lounged in the doorway, relaxed and content, oblivious to the effect our evening out had had on me.
“I’m leaving. The boat is picking me up in ten minutes.”
He straightened. “I don’t understand.”
I glared. “You’re still denying who you are. I heard you tonight, blathering about your precious, perfect life and how you were looking forward to going home.” I slammed a pair of shoes into my bag. “You made it sound like we were having great fun lolling about, reliving past memories, but your real fucking life was back in England with the wife and kids.” He gaped while I went into the bathroom and gathered my things, kicking the door hard for good measure. It hurt, but I only winced and returned to the bedroom. “Go back to that life and never talk to me again. I won’t go through this a second time, Louis. I refuse. I love you, but I stopped being a masochist when I grew up.” I shoved my stuff in a side pocket and zipped it closed. “I’m out, and I will not go back in the closet, even for you.”
I picked up the bag and patted my pockets for wallet and passport, then stalked to the door.
I glanced at him. He was white, his blue eyes huge. I was too furious to see how much pain I was causing him, though I realized it later and cringed.
Caught up in righteous indignation, I said clearly, “Fuck you,” and departed. This time I didn’t trip over anything, my exit clean.
I was at my Manchester flat early the next morning. Sometime during the trip home, I’d calmed down, though I still clenched my teeth now and again when I recalled bits of conversation I’d overheard from Louis during movie night.
His refusal to be true to himself had been our biggest problem back then, and apparently, it still was. Either a relationship moved forward, or it died.
I wanted to call Colin and tell him he’d been right, apologize for being a sentimental arsehole, beg forgiveness, and ask him to take me back, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I wallowed instead, drinking too much, not eating enough, slacking on my usual exercise routine when not on the road, and sleeping far too late.
This time was worse than the first. Pouring myself another drink, I took it out to the terrace, plopped down on a lounger, and glowered at a beautiful sunset. “I hate you, Louis Tomlinson.”
But I didn’t and never would.
My publicist called. “Davey Coker wants you on his show tonight. Someone canceled at the last minute, and he heard you were in town and wondered if you might be free.”
I’d been back from the island a fortnight and was still rough and bleeding ’round the edges. “I’m not really in the mood, Nan. Maybe another time?”
“Hon, this is a good opportunity to put your face out there. You can sing a new song from the upcoming release.”
Sing? The thought made my throat clench. “Tell him next month, okay?”
“You’re doing it,” she said cheerily. “Be there at six. You know where to go.”
She hung up, and I steamed. Then I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Christ, I looked like shit. My hair hadn’t been cut in weeks and had grown out enough to curl. Louis would have loved it, I thought with a mental sneer. The uneven stubble on my jaw and circles under my eyes made me look like a homeless person.
This was going to take real effort, and I was so knackered I could barely stand. I forced myself to cook and eat an egg, then crawled into the shower. I was determined no one would know I’d been gutted and somehow lived to tell the tale.
The makeup lady did an outstanding job, covering the evidence of my deterioration, and when I was called onstage to talk to Davey, an old friend, I thought I’d pass muster. He stood to greet me, shaking my hand, then he sat, and I planted myself on the couch next to his desk.
“Haven’t seen you in a while, Harry.”
“I’ve been busy. Just finished a tour and taking a rest before recording some new music.”
Davey glanced at the studio audience. “As most or all of you know, Harry was once in a small boy band.” The audience hooted and clapped. Davey grinned. “One of Harry’s old friends is backstage right now. Please welcome Louis Tomlinson.”
The audience screamed in excitement as Davey rose to shake Louis’s hand. I froze, wishing I was back at the flat with my bottle of whiskey. Was this some kind of joke? Why was he here? Sod off, you wanker. I glowered, realized I was doing it, and stopped. How bad would it be if I got up and left right now?
He sat beside me, smelling great. Our thighs brushed, and I pulled away. The makeup lady had been at him, too; this close, I could see he’d been having a bad time of it lately, same as me.
Good. Why should only one of us suffer? Even as I had the thought, I felt awful. I wanted him to be happy, I really did. But I wanted to be happy, too.
“Nice to see you again, Louis,” Davey said. “What brings you by?”
“I have a confession to make,” he said shyly. “I arranged with your booker to get Harry on the show tonight so I could say something to him.” He gazed at the audience, who were listening, spellbound. “You all will be my witnesses, yeah?”
They clapped. I stared into the darkness off-stage, lips pressed together. I wasn’t interested in anything he had to say.
Louis was still addressing the audience. “Back when Harry and I were in One Direction, some fans thought they saw something between us. How many of you remember Larry Stylinson?” There were cheers and hoots. He nodded. “Thought so. It’s never gone away, and it’s time to set the record straight.”
What? I turned to him, and that’s when I saw he was terrified. He’d gone pale under the stage makeup, and he was trembling, though it was slight enough the audience couldn’t see it.
He plowed on, regardless. “It was love at first sight, at least for me.” He openly took my hand in his, and I held my breath. The audience seemed to hold their breath, too. His voice shook a little. “We had a torrid affair management tried to cover up with fake news, beards, and finally threats. They didn’t think the fans would like us as much if they knew we were involved, and that was important to them. The money, you know. It was all about the money on their end.” He looked at me. “But I committed the worse crime. I remained closeted until recent events forced me to confront the truth at last.”
No one made a sound. My mouth dropped open. Tears welled, and I swallowed convulsively to keep them from falling.
“I was a fool for letting you get away.” He spoke softly, but it was so quiet in the studio, I was sure everyone heard him. “I’m not about to let that happen again. I love you, Harry. You’re the piece of me I’ve been missing. Please tell me it’s not too late.”
Cognizant of hundreds of listening ears—thousands if you counted the home viewers—I leaned close and whispered in his ear so only he could hear, “Giselle?”
He whispered back, “We’re getting a divorce.” He raised his voice to normal levels. “No more lies, Harry. I’m through hiding. Love me?”
I shuddered, hot and cold at the same time. “Yes.”
He kissed me. I kissed him back. The audience sighed, then chaos erupted.
I still don’t remember what happened after that.
The internet had a party over the news. The hashtag #LarryStylinsonLives trended for weeks. The clip of us on Davey Coker’s show went viral. Congratulations poured in. Our former bandmates were thrilled for us; they’d always hoped we would get back together one day.
Louis and I returned to Muscha Cay to wait out the storm. Delirious with joy, I couldn’t keep my hands off him. Between love-making bouts, we discussed teaming up again in a new band. Our voices had always blended perfectly.
Louis, an astute businessman, suggested we take advantage of the surge of interest in us and rush out a new CD. “I’ve got a couple songs ready, and we can write a few more.”
When we at last felt the need to get out of the bedroom for a bit, we wandered down to the buffet. A different set of guests were in residence, and they all said hello and asked how we were doing. Their knowing looks told us they’d heard. We were famous again.
Louis smiled and said, “Brilliant! Never been better.” He kissed me on the cheek.
We had dinner, then watched the movie at the drive-in.
He held my hand all night.