Saturday, 31 May 2014

Of Letters and Pages

credit to lemon @tda

The literacy, musical, and gossip-sharing community 
would have something to discuss about. 

But literally, Cat Buckland couldn't be more careless about it.

The rain fell steadily as Cat opened her front door, but she paid it no mind. As the vapour of her vanilla latte showered over her face, she bit her lips.

Tonight was the night. Finally, September 20th had arrived. She should have been nervous about the launch of her book, but instead, all she could think about was her invitation to Zayn. She hadn’t heard anything from him since she’d sent that letter. The air returned with no reply, but she was certain he’d received it. 

As to whether or not he’d show up, she had no idea. After yesterday’s Mirror article, the only thing she was certain of was that he’d be in a foul mood.

She’d spent a lot of the time since sending that letter with Jess, who now knew the entire story behind Zayn and her, and seemed to accept it. They’d had a lot of discussions the past few weeks about it, and Cat was closer with Jess than she had been in years. 

Jess was happy, too, in her newly established romance with Thomas. She’d been waiting for years for the opportunity, and, even in Cat’s state of limbo, she could be more than happy for her too. Everyone deserves a happy ending. 

As for Vera, her bestfriend for five years – longer than her friendship with Jess, Cat hadn’t spoken to her that much to know anything other than what was needed to be known. She didn’t approve of Zayn, and Cat had a feeling she never would. Cat was too stubborn to apologize to her, since she didn’t think she’d done anything wrong. Vera wasn’t around very much anyway, having just started dating the guitarist in an indie-rock band that played Oasis and U2’s songs at bar to bar every night. 

Cat and Elaine, her sister, were in an even worse place in terms of relationships. They’d had disagreements over the years, but nothing like this. This as in different directions and views over privacy and financial supports. 

Every time they’d met in the past few weeks, they’d argue. The issues with their family finances had finally been solved just a few days previously, thank God. Cat couldn’t put up with Elaine much longer. She was bitter, lashing out at anyone for no apparent or at least hinted reason. 

Whatever the problem was, she hadn’t opened up to Cat, nor did she expect her to. Cat simply chose to limit the time she had to spend around her until she’d worked things out.

She walked straight into the entrance hall of the building the book launch was to be held at. Hans Haven had organized the whole thing, so she’d had very little say in anything. She couldn’t complain, it was the launch of her first book. She, hopefully, had plenty of time to get things close to perfection. 

Assuming she ever finished her fiction manuscript, that is. She had stumbled into the horrors of writer’s block in the past few weeks, something that Jess said directly correlated with her anticipation of today and Zayn’s reception of her letter. According to her, until she’d sorted out her relationship issues, she’d be unable to finish the story. 

Jess was probably right, nothing else was working.

“Ah, Cat, you’re here!” Haven said, appearing out of a side room, looking uncharacteristically fresh, sharp, and clean in dark suit and designer button ups. 

Whilst a book launch wasn’t particularly a strict formal occasion, we all wanted to make a good impression. Apparently, Cat’s book had a rather lasting impression on many of the country’s music veterans, and Arnold Finch, who’d helped her to acquire her first interview with Zayn, had organized for himself and many of retiring or not retiring musicians to be here. 

Whilst she’d known them a little after interviews by interviews, she was still in a fair amount of shock over the fact that they’d be attending. They weren’t all that warm back then. Cat still remembered their cold stares and vacant faces while she tap her pen nervously on her booknote. They were celebrities, after all.

“Just through here.” Haven said, leading her into a room full of what seemed to be the majority of the limelight biographic literacy community. 

September 20th had arrived. 


Three days earlier.

“Money’s not going to just pop up out of nowhere, Cat.” Elaine frowned, her lips pursed. 

Mr. Buckland sat quietly in the corner, letting Elaine and Cat argue it out. 

“Well, what do you want me to do? I can’t support our family or Dad, I can barely support myself.” Cat said truthfully. 

It pained her to admit that, but it was true. For the moment, at least. 

“So you expect me to take him, just because you can’t? I’m busy, Cat, I have a full time job, I’m a long life learner, unlike you, I can’t just-"

Cat cut her off. 

“Elaine, he doesn’t need anyone to take care of him! He’s out of the woods now, the doctors have told us that at least five times, yet you seem to refuse to listen to anyone’s advice if it contradicts your beliefs-"

Their voices quickly rose as the argument escalated, as it often did. There was several minutes of back and forth bickering, full of typical sibling jibes. 

Then, the real blows started flying.

“Well, it’s not MY fault we have no money anymore.”

“What, and you think it’s mine?” Cat retorted, not seeing any logic in her sister’s argument. 

“Well, who else could it be? You’re not the smartest person, Cat, I mean, you’re obsessed with Zayn Malik, for God’s sake.” She said with a rather cruel laugh.

Cat glared at her, not quite sure what to say to that low blow. Fortunately, she was saved from answering by a soft wheeze from the corner.

“It’s my fault.” Mr. Buckland said, speaking for the first time in almost half an hour.

They both turned to look at him, the animosity between them abating slightly. 

“I spent too much on her funeral. She deserved a proper send-off, but we didn’t have the funds. Our family came from a respectable background and politically important, living off the riches we’d piled up over the years. Yet, nothing was going into those funds. We were taking, but not replacing. It is entirely my fault. You two deserve better than this.” He said, looking at Cat and Elaine in the eye, and air of seriousness descending upon the room. 

“We don’t blame you, Dad.” Cat said, after a beat’s silence. “We don’t blame Mum’s funeral either.”

Elaine quickly agreed, both of them moving to his side. 

“I’m sorry that there’s no solution to this. You both will have to fend for yourselves; my mistakes, and the mistakes of my parents, have cost you financial security. You, both of you, deserve so much better.” He said, placing a hand fondly on top of Cat’s, where it rested on his arm and squeezing Elaine’s hand with his other.

A look passed between Elaine and Cat, a bitter streak breaking up the fondness of their father’s speech. It was a sad situation, but Cat believed every word he said. 

Elaine, however, not entirely. She glared at Cat out of the corner of her eye, and Cat knew she would never entirely trust her either. They were too different, always at odds with each other. 

Perhaps they’d both mature in years to come and their relationship would heal. Cat doubted it, however. It would have been easy for her to just blame Elaine entirely; she was largely in the wrong, especially when it came to Cat’s relationships. Yet, she had a few valid points. Cat hardly ever devoted time to family, and she made sure to point that out. 

Neither of both girls was perfect. It was ironic; really, that the flaw Elaine had pointed out in her was also the trait keeping her from trying her hardest to fix things. She didn’t see the point. If she wouldn’t accept her desires, why should she even try?


One day earlier.

Previously coming with a loud bang on the door, Jess appeared in the middle of Cat’s kitchen, startling her to the point that she split juice on her poor (and previously clean) kitchen table. 

“Jess! What the hell?” she chastised, wiping the juice with a dirty napkin. 

Surprisingly she was starting to get the hang of some of the common cleaning skills. She still wasn’t touching the oven, however, for fear of damaging (or exploding) something.

“Have you seen the front page of the Mirror?” Jess said, speaking so quickly that Cat almost didn’t catch it. 

Without waiting for a reply, Jess thrust the newspaper under her nose, presenting Cat with a picture of a sight she’d become somewhat familiar with. 

It was not, however, a sight she would have expected to see beneath a news headline.

Yasser Malik: Karma at Its Best

The title, as was typical of a gossip article, didn’t give much away, but the picture beneath it, of Yasser in his room at Harold Wood, sure did.

Cat had no idea how the reporters had found out. Zayn had been keeping the whole thing as quiet as he possibly could, and as far as she knew, Tricia had been doing the same. It was odd, though, that she’d never once seen Tricia in the hospital, yet she’d ran into Zayn countless times. 

Nevertheless, the reveal of Yasser’s illness was a shock to the gossip-reading (or generally newspaper-reading) community. Scanning the article quickly, she almost chocked on her orange juice when the true story finally presented itself. 


She closed her eyes briefly, thinking back over what Yasser had told her, how he was dying, about Zayn’s reactions, the tension she’d been seeing him in. Even the conversation between Tricia and Zayn about looking for “someone that would be there for him all his lifelong”, that had, in some odd way, started all of this, made sense now. 

Yasser Malik had a brain tumor. According to the article, though Cat wasn’t sure how reliable their sources were, the doctors had no way of fixing it. Medicines hadn’t worked, and surgery on that area of the brain was considered no help, only slowing it down briefly.

In short, it wasn’t good. The journalist who’d written the article, apparently a distant cousin of Perez Hilton, clearly had no shame, and was quick to call the situation karma. They only judged by what media wanted to say and totally sweeping aside that everybody makes mistake. Yasser certainly didn’t intended to deliver human. He was tricked, but no one cared. It was appalling, and Cat could only imagine what Zayn would be going through. 

“God.” Was all she managed to say. 

It took a lot of self-control to stop herself from running directly over to Zayn’s residence – doing that would help nobody, especially since she hadn’t heard from Zayn since he sent her that-sort-of-rejection- sort-of-declaration letter. 

That letter that had changed everything. 

“You can’t just go over there, Cat.” Jess said gently, prying the paper from Cat’s fingers. 

“I know.” She said quietly, staring off into the distance as she thought back over the past couple of months. 

Her mind was a whirlwind, a mixture of her novel and actual facts. All of it, however, centered around Zayn Malik. 

“I have to wait till tomorrow, I know.” She grimaced, repeating it over and over to herself in her mind.
She couldn’t allow herself to live her life thinking only of Zayn. She was her own person, and whether or not he showed up tomorrow shouldn’t determine the course of her life. Unfortunately, it felt like it did. 

He’d said he loved her. Surely he’d intended to show. 

Yet, all of this had happened today with his family. Perhaps he’d be busy, trying to squash the story. Perhaps he hadn’t meant what he’d said in the letter. That seemed likely. She was Catherine Buckland, after all. She was hardly a catch.


She would find out tomorrow.


Present day.

“It’s surely a rad concept, dear, featuring those who don’t get all the recognition. Of course Coldplay did a marvelous job, but I think there are a lot of others out there that rocked their fuckin’part. My cousin Arnold, for instance, you may have heard-"

She nodded along, pretending to listen attentively to Nicola Roberts detailed account of Arnold’s gait during the early 1990’s music industry. This was the painful part of the book launch, according to Haven. The ‘mingling’. 

So far, she’d spoken to the manager of HarperCollins, the literary critic from Time Magazine, and elderly couple whose daughter she’d mentioned in her book a.k.a Alison Krauss’ parents, Arnold Finch, and Nicola Roberts. She could see Chris Martin and Neil Tennant on the other side of the room, engaged in what looked like a very animated conversation with a balding man in a purple suit.

“I hear there’s a whole chapter devoted to the Maliks.”

Cat’s head whipped around, coming to stare at a couple, probably a few years older than her, who were talking in hushed tones beside the punch table. 

“The Maliks? Really?” 

“Apparently,” the man said, leaning closer to his companion, “she’s involved with Zayn Malik. They say he’s changed. Not that rude, not smoking pot or drunk every night anymore, but I doubt it. That whole family’s bad news, if you ask me.”

She’d heard enough. Excusing herself from Nicola’s company, Cat retreated to the hallway under the pretence of needing some fresh air. 

She didn’t know (literally knowing, not just seeing them in TV) anyone at this launch except Haven and Arnold Finch, and frankly, socializing with the literary community was rather boring. 

She managed to hide out in the corridor for twenty minutes or so, before Haven came to drag her into the spotlight. 

Apparently, it was now ‘officially’ the launch time.

Cat only half listened to what Haven was saying. It was all promotional dribble, nothing worthwhile or particularly true. The launch was a big event for one main reason – it sold books. If we talked the book up enough, we’d hopefully get more sales, which translated into more money for her, always a good thing. 

Haven paused, having said all he’d planned to say. The guests still watched them with rapt attention, and she knew they expected her to say something, anything. 

“This book…” she started, having no idea where she was going to take this impromptu speech. 

“I started writing this purely to give the unsung heroes of the music industry the credit they deserve. Now, months later, I still see that as the main aim of the book. However, it’s been such a learning experience for me. I’ve learnt things about the world, about others, and, most importantly, about myself. I've grown, I've matured, and I’m a writer now, no matter if this book succeeds or not.”

She paused, her eyes sweeping the room. A flash of jet black hair in the doorway caught her attention, and her heart leapt to her throat. She allowed herself to hope that he’d shown up. Flicking her eyes briefly to the doorway, a pair of warm brown eyes looked into her own, and she smiled. She could see the love in his eyes, solid proof of everything he’d said in the letter. 

Smiling now, she continued.

“There are things in that book that will cause gossip, I’m sure of it. I’ve already heard some of you talking about it. Frankly, I don’t care what you say. Everything in there is my opinion; you are free to make your own. You can’t deny, however, that each and every person I mention did something to help in the rise and fall of music history – which means one of our country’s major incomes – big or little. Personal feelings aside, that fact is still undeniable.”

She looked up again, her eyes locking again with Zayn’s. 

The glance that passed between them was one of promise, one that spoke of the future. He’d come, and everything was different now. Her happy ending was within her grasp. 

“I hope you all appreciate my book for what it’s worth. Music is one of the most cherised part in our lives and frankly, in history. And we all know someone who was affected by it, in some way or another. Perhaps think of them whilst reading.”

Cat paused, having no real idea of what she wanted to say. A large part of her wanted to run from the spotlight and straight to Zayn, to finally resolve their relationship.

“Thank you.” She finished rather lamely, stepping back to let Haven wrap it up, somehow.

She somehow made it out of the crowd of critics without being accosted with questions, heading straight for the dark figure in suit waiting for her. A few people, mostly those who were part of the high end society circle and therefore knew the gossip, had noticed his presence, and were watching her procession across the floor with great interest.

“You came.” She said, slightly breathless. 

She could feel her cheeks colour, but she didn’t care. Yes, the mere sight of him apparently made her short of breath and caused her to blush, but she had no problem with her feelings for him being obvious. He loved her.

He really did love her.

“I almost didn’t.” He said softly. 

She wanted to reach out, to comfort him in some way, but she refrained. She could see the conflict in him, an echo of what she’d read in his letter. 

“You were wrong, Zayn.” She said, taking a careful step forward. He looked up, his gaze questioning. 

“Your letter, you were wrong. You were that person, the one who made the wrong choice. Even then, you did it for your family, and in part, that’s admirable. That was years ago, however, you’ve matured since then. I can see it now, Yasser’s illness has changed you. Don’t you dare pull away from me, Zayn, you need me just as much as I need you.”

He looked at her, the sadness in his eyes paramount. Cat could see the pain the reveal of his father’s illness had caused, she could see the strain in the lines around his eyes. 

“I don’t know how they found out. They shouldn’t have. And now his last few months will be ruined with reporters and questions.” He said bluntly, looking at the ground.
She sighed, this time not hesitating before placing her arm gently on his shoulder. 

“They’ll stop, after a while. It’s the initial shock that keeps everyone intrigued, but it will die down soon enough.” 

He looked up, and she smiled at him. 

“Just don’t give up hope.” She said, with an air of finality.

He chuckled slightly at that. 

“I suppose that’s good advice; after all, where would we be if you’d given up hope? Certainly not here.”

“Where exactly are we, Zayn?” She inquired quietly, as they stood surveying the room. They both knew she wasn’t talking about their physical location, and she gave him a moment to consider it.

This was the moment. The moment everything came together.

“I love you, you know that.” He said finally, turning to face her, their bodies’ closer this time. 

“You’ve known for a while what my intentions are.” She responded, smiling.

There was a pause, but not an awkward one. They simply stared at each other, taking in the newfound status of their relationship. Yes, things weren’t perfect, but it would hardly be realistic if everything resolved itself at the same moment. 

Jess and Vera would be happy for her, both for the book and for Zayn. Her Dad would understand too, and she doubt he’d complain since the Maliks were – aside the gossips and lies twisting around them – a good family.

“It’ll all work out, somehow.” She whispered, more to herself than to him.

He didn’t respond, only lifting his hand so his fingers gripped her chin, turning her head slowly to face his. Gently, his lips moved to touch hers, and they kissed. 

They kissed in the middle of the hectic and longing aura, in the middle of the expensive room, in the middle of dim lights and autumn air. She was in the middle of Zayn’s embrace and the swirling feeling she thought she’d never know.

It was the supossedly realistic version of a happy ending. The eighteenth century romances she’d been comparing her life weren’t possible, nothing was ever perfect. The story continued on, problems kept appearing. 

This was just one chapter in her life. But now, she had Zayn on her side, and she would keep him until the very end of the pages of her life. And after the kiss that seemed like forever, she knew he feels the same.

This was just one chapter in her life. And nothing would ever be the same.

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