Kerrigan Brady just wanted to meet her favourite band. Not like this. Never like this.


14. -Thirteen-


“So tell me Kerrigan- are you excited to see the boys again?”

I smiled fondly, my hands folded neatly in my lap. My dress itched but I couldn’t squirm, I’d just give the game away. The lights were hot and I was sweating, not that you could tell under the layer of makeup caking my face. Across the stage from me, in an identical black armchair that made me look as pale as paper, Yvonne French, an interviewer for Morning Entertainment News, gave me a blank smile and waited for my answer.

“Of course I am,” I replied easily, truthfully. She nodded and glanced at the teleprompter- I couldn’t see it from where I was sitting, a clever trick designed to try and catch me out. Liam had warned me that sometimes they would throw difficult questions at me to try and make me say the wrong thing; I’d spent hours practising my poker face and was quite sure that nothing they asked would catch me unawares.

Yvonne leaned forward and threaded her fingers together. “I hear your recovery is going very well,” she said, to my proud nod. “I bet the messages of support from fans worldwide have made it so much easier on you.”

“Oh yes,” I said quickly, a genuine grin on my face. I wouldn’t admit that I hadn’t been paying any attention to what people were saying about me until this interview- the first since I’d been back in the UK, and my second in all- and had spent the night before scouring social media for my name. Narcissistic maybe but I wanted to know. In all, the internet was feeling positive about me. “I don’t think I’d have made it through without it. Even if I don’t reply to you personally, I read as many messages as I can and each one is a push in the right direction.”

“There’s only One Direction to go, isn’t there?” Yvonne asked, as the audience tittered at her pun. I fought the urge to roll my eyes and giggled along, hoping I didn’t look empty-headed. “You can’t get much lower than a hospital bed, can you, Kerrigan?” I wished she’d call me Kerri. Or Kez. I shook my head in reply and Yvonne’s expression was genuine for a moment. I caught a glimpse of the woman beneath the camera-façade, a rare thing indeed. “I know you’ve been very lonely these last few weeks,” she continued, as my eyebrows shot to my hairline. “So we’ve decided to give you something very special… bring it in!”

A stagehand wheeled in a massive wooden box with a latch and I laughed as I was ushered to open it. “Did Louis have a hand in this?” I asked, eyebrows raised. Yvonne shook her head with a tight smile and I made a dramatic gesture of wiping my brow- people laughed and I smiled to myself, hoping they liked me. Turning to the box, I undid the latch and stood back as the stagehand opened the door… “Niall!” I shrieked delightedly, as he emerged from the box and was the first to hug me. Liam, Zayn, Louis and Harry were on his heels and my surprise was genuine; they’d told me they weren’t due back until next week!

“It’s good to see you, Kez,” Harry beamed at me as I tackled him in a hug, laughing and trying not to cry.

“You wicked things!” I exclaimed, whacking Liam’s arm. “You told me you weren’t coming back until next week!”

I was aware that behind us, Yvonne had started to close the show while the six of us huddled together. “Surprised?” Liam asked, eyebrows raised.

“Good surprised, I hope,” Niall grinned, standing beside me. He hadn’t moved more than a foot away since he appeared.

“No, Niall, I’m horrified,” I deadpanned; the sarcasm went right over his head as he pinched my cheek and I poked his stomach to make him move. We turned on cue to wave to the cameras and the audience before being rushed out the door; Mum met me backstage, grinning slyly and high-fiving Liam. “Oh, trust that you’d be in on it,” I grumbled good-naturedly.

“I wanted to see you smile again,” she replied, cupping my face. I hugged her tightly before she said goodbye, leaving me with the boys. We headed for dinner first- Niall was starving and I hadn’t eaten for nerves before the interview- and each of us had to struggle to be heard over the babble of conversation. I faded out for a moment, watching the five of them, still struggling to believe how lucky I was to count them as my closest friends.

Niall noticed my silence and shuffled over, as he was sitting next to me. “Alright?” he asked, eyebrow raised.

I rested my elbows on the table and smiled, nodding happily. “I missed you guys, as weird as that sounds,” I replied. Niall’s face lit up and he bumped my shoulder fondly.

“We kinda missed you too.”

There were no words to describe what hearing that did to me, but I couldn’t stop grinning through the rest of my meal, feeling happier than I had been in weeks. I felt stronger having them back, and I was aware of how strange it sounded. After all, I’d met them in person only a handful of times. It didn’t exactly constitute a strong friendship but there was something there, in the back of my mind, a sort of gentle reassurance that they were real and so was I and nothing could change that.

“Wanna get out of here?” Louis asked eventually, and we rose as one to head to the limo rented especially for tonight. We couldn’t fit in one car, hadn’t wanted to split the group, and when Harry suggested the limo and I said I’d never been in one, that was it and Zayn was on the phone before I could stop him. Cameras flashed in our faces as we hopped in, names and questions shouted as the door was sliding shut.

There was one question though that stood out from the rest of the babble to me. I couldn’t shake it out of my mind no matter how hard I tried; even Niall walking me to my front door, because bless them they’d insisted on driving me all the way home, couldn’t get the words out of my head.

“Come visit us sometime,” Niall suggested, leaning against the doorframe as I stepped inside. “We’ve got a few weeks off. It’ll be fun.”

I forced a smile and nodded, distracted. Niall’s face fell at my lack of enthusiasm and I mentally kicked myself; I was taking my mood out on him and it wasn’t fair. “I’d love to,” I replied aloud and, before I could think about what I was doing, I leaned up on tiptoes to kiss his cheek gently. “See you, Niall.”

He grinned at me and sprinted to the car, turning to wave at the last minute. Harry dragged him inside and I laughed at the yelp of indignation; the door closed and I was about to turn away when the limo’s skylight opened and Niall popped out with Louis right beside him. “Bye, Kez!” Niall shouted as the car took off. I laughed and waved back, closing the door when they turned the corner and disappeared. Mum was asleep, the lights upstairs were all off, and the silence only made the words in my head louder.

Kerrigan, they said, horribly loud and horribly smug; are you using One Direction for publicity?

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