Single mother Coralie Hartlett enters a radio competition to have her song featured on One Direction's new album... but the prize might be more than she ever expected.


11. Contract


Coralie sat in a wide office, nervously biting her nails. On her lap, Rory scribbled on a large piece of paper and seemed oblivious to his mother’s nerves. She glanced at the door and at the clock every half a minute, waiting for someone to walk in. She’d been here half an hour already; the receptionist had shown her in and said she’d be seen to shortly.

Half an hour was a long time when there was a bored two-year-old involved, but Coralie had managed as best she could. Their morning had been mostly quiet; Darien popped by to part with some more of his invaluable fashion wisdom and Coralie had even taken notes, wanting to make sure she could manage to look the part without him standing over her shoulder. She’d always been fiercely independent; the fact that she was about to sign the biggest contract of her life wouldn’t change any of that.

She hadn’t seen One Direction in two days, since they all went to lunch and to the zoo together. Coralie had been given a day to do whatever she wanted before the real work started… beginning with a meeting with her new manager, then to the studio to start working on the arrangement for Shine. They planned to have the song recorded by the end of the week and had booked in seven interviews, two a day for the next four days… Coralie glanced at Rory and bit her lip, wondering if they were aware that he went everywhere with her and she would have to work around him.

“Sorry about the wait-“

Coralie jumped rather violently and Rory’s crayon skidded across the paper; he instantly started crying, a mixture of fear and disappointment, and Simon Cowell awkwardly stood in the doorway watching the scene unfold before him. “Hush, darling, it’s alright,” Coralie murmured soothingly, as Rory turned to bury his head in her chest and give a high-pitched whine. “No, no, no, no tears, everything’s okay…” he slowly calmed down as she rubbed his back and rocked him, and she looked up to smile at Simon; who hadn’t moved and had an unreadable expression on his face. Inwardly, Coralie prayed he wasn’t as prickly as he seemed to be on TV. “Hello,” she said quietly, reaching across the table to shake his hand. “I’m Coralie Hartlett… and this is Rory. Can you say hi to Simon?” she whispered to her son.

Rory shook his head and hid his face, little fists clenched in her shirt, and she smiled apologetically at Simon who finally moved to take a seat. “Sorry for frightening you. I’m not used to children being around the office.”

“It’s fine,” Coralie replied, still rubbing Rory’s back as he sniffled. “I don’t imagine you are. I would have left him at the hotel if I’d had a proper babysitter.”

“We can arrange for you to have a nanny,” Simon offered; Coralie instantly shook her head, not wanting anyone else to look after her baby. The man himself looked unconvinced and smiled at her in a friendly manner. “I know it seems inconceivable to not take care of him yourself. But you must surely know, Coralie, that Rory can’t go everywhere with you. He can’t go onstage, if you did a meet and greet, would he be comfortable in that situation? I’m not implying that you can’t have him around, but an extra pair of eyes never went astray.”

He actually made sense, and Coralie was slowly being swayed towards the decision. He was right; it’d be nice to not have to worry if Rory was being taken care of, and Darien couldn’t always be on hand to watch him. “Lou Teasdale… she does it with Lux, right?”

“Lou isn’t the performer,” Simon replied with a small smile. “But if it helps, she’s considering hiring someone to watch Lux, especially when they’re overseas. Perhaps, if you wanted to, Rory could stay with Lou, Tim and Lux… and their nanny, once she’s hired.”

“I’ll think about it,” Coralie promised, and made a mental note to actually consider it. She’d have to meet Lou, Tim and Lux first, of course, and have a say in who the nanny was… the idea of leaving Rory under anyone’s care but her own was abhorrent, and reminded her vividly of Saturday mornings, when she would have to walk away from him as he cried for her to come back.

Simon nodded, accepting the answer, and opened a folder of paperwork. He handed her a wedge as thick as her hand and, upon seeing her incredulous face, chuckled. “That’s terms and conditions, ones you’ll have to actually read and sign. Not right now, but before any recording is done, yes. It’s the do’s and don’ts of being signed to my label-“

“Wait, so I’m actually being signed?” Coralie interrupted, eyes shining. “I thought it was a one-off deal?”

Simon’s eyes crinkled at the corners. “It is, for now. If the song goes well I’ll consider asking you to record a full solo album. I want to make sure that if that happens, you’ll be with me and not anyone else.”

Coralie’s head started to spin and she couldn’t help but grin and cuddle Rory closer, excited despite herself. If Shine was a hit with the world, she could become an artist in her own right… it was a notion she’d never entertained before now, and an idea she couldn’t get out of her head. “Believe me, Simon, you’ve given me my break and that’s something I’ll never repay you for. Signing with anyone else would feel like blasphemy.”

“I like you,” he replied; Coralie marvelled at how different he was without the cameras around. He was actually a really nice guy, not prickly or nasty at all, and to hear that he liked her made her grin. “You’ve also got your Modest contract. All my acts are managed through this company, so I’m afraid you’ve got no choice as to who your entourage will be. For now, I’ve asked those working for One Direction to take you on as well, but if you’re signed solo, you’ll get your own.”

“But…” Coralie said before she could stop herself.

Simon raised an eyebrow. “But?”

Flushing, Coralie’s eyebrows drew down over her eyes, a crinkle appearing in the middle. “Um, it’s just… Darien. The competition stylist. I was hoping…”

As if he read her mind, Simon was instantly nodding. “When I say you’ve got no choice, I don’t mean you’ll be stuck with people you don’t like. Darien… Darien Eves? I’ll make a few phone calls, see what I can do. You’ll need friends behind the scenes.”

“Thank you so much,” Coralie replied, and she meant it too. Simon nodded at her and slid a pen across the table; the only thing she had to sign was a pre-contract, that basically said she had fourteen days to change her mind and cut the deal. Fourteen days to read the terms and conditions and make her decision; Coralie had already made it, but she wasn’t about to sign any dotted lines without reading it all through properly.

She left an hour later, a spring in her step as she carried Rory across the road to a little chippy for their lunch. Simon had actually recommended it, once their conversation turned from business to how she’d been enjoying living in London so far. He’d suggested that she might want to start thinking about moving closer to the city- nothing was set in stone, but looking never hurt anybody, and Coralie grabbed the newspaper while Rory slowly dug through the chips on his- and later, her- plate while she scanned the real estate.

Everything looked so expensive. She had no idea how much the advance payment was going to be, but she was damn sure it wouldn’t cover the cost of a mortgage on a London flat, even a one-bedroom in a basement was out of her range.

Sliding the paper away, Coralie looked up to scan the other patrons of the shop, and wasn’t surprised to see most of them in business gear. Simon had directed her here specifically because it was where most of the Modest staff came to eat, and the servers were quite used to high-powered people and celebrities coming through the door. It was a place they could eat without being mobbed or interrupted; though Coralie hadn’t had that experience yet, she had no doubt that if her star continued to rise, the more tricks of the trade she knew the better off she would be.

“Lou-eh!” Rory shouted abruptly; Coralie’s eyes snapped over to the door which had opened to let in a group of five lads, all laughing and shoving one another. She couldn’t help but start to smile and Rory stood up on his chair to wave at them. “Lou-eh!” he shrieked, delighted when Louis turned and spotted them.

“Rory!” he cried, rushing over with arms open wide. The boys followed and Coralie held up the contract so they could see; their cheers nearly brought the roof down on their ears, and she ducked behind Harry to hide as people laughed at their antics. The boys settled around the table- Rory forgot his food as he started babbling to Liam from Louis’ lap, Niall went straight up to the counter to order their food, and Zayn and Coralie started pouring over the paperwork with their heads bowed together.

Neither of them noticed the slight glare that passed over Louis’ face. 

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