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.


14. Duet


She jumped, water leaping from her cup and landing on her shirt. Fortunately it was a black shirt so the moisture didn’t show up instantly. “Sorry,” she said instantly, placing her water down and clearing her throat. They’d been in the studio for three hours already and combined with a stressful afternoon the day before… the conversation with her mother played on her mind, the first words spoken between the two of them since Rory’s birth hadn’t exactly gone well.

“Are you alright?” Liam asked, holding up a hand to pause the music. “Coralie?”

“Hmm?” she hummed, looking up and pushing her hair out of her eyes. Spotting five concerned glances, she nodded and forced a smile. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just… family stuff. No worries.”

Nobody looked convinced but just as Louis moved to speak to her, Coralie nodded and the music for Shine began to play. Still looking unconvinced, Liam sang the first few lines while she stood by her microphone, chewing her lip until the chorus came around and she joined the harmony. The six of them had sat down earlier to learn the lyrics and divide the lines. Niall and Louis had been the most surprised when Coralie insisted on giving them solos, at the sacrifice of her own. Instead, she’d opted to round out the choruses and add backing vocals; Louis had tried to protest on the grounds that ‘it’s your song Cora, you should sing it!’

This was their first proper run-through of the song and the boys were glued to their sheets, while Coralie, who had been an advisor on everything that happened with her song from arrangement to tempo, knew it inside out and could watch the sound techs in the booth to gauge their reactions. She saw smiles and head-nodding, which she took as good signs, and it boosted her mood.

But only so far. She was distracted, and it showed, because One Direction were laughing and joking between takes and she could barely muster a smile, even when Louis bounced in front of her and took her hands, swinging them in a large circle. “Cheer up, buttercup! We’re not that terribly hard to deal with, are we?”

Coralie softened, shoving her worries aside for the moment. “Oh, you’re terrible,” she replied cheerfully, giggling as his face fell and he spun her under his arm, trying his hardest to distract her from her thoughts. “Every single one of you,” Coralie added.

The boys looked hurt, though the atmosphere of the room was entirely positive and there was a joking vibe between the six of them. In the sound booth, the techs rapped on the window to get the attention of the artists. “I wanna do that last bit again, starting from your solo, Niall. Louis, can you do Harry’s part of the duet with Coralie? Just to see how it sounds.”

Louis nodded and switched a page of the lyrics with Harry, before coming to share Coralie’s mic. He definitely looked much happier now that he wasn’t on the end, and high-fived her as they heard the music start again. Niall waited for his cue before starting to sing; Coralie bounced her head to the beat and smiled, her heart racing at hearing her song being sung by One Direction.

All too soon, it was her turn, and she stepped closer to the mic, ignoring how close behind her Louis actually was.

“I wanna watch you,” she sang, as smoothly as she could.

Louis leaned over her shoulder, his cheek against hers. “I wanna watch you,” he echoed, his hands clasping around her waist. Coralie couldn’t think of anything but how nice if felt to be held by Louis Tomlinson.

“I only wanna watch you shine,” they sang together, and Coralie caught the sound techs nodding to one another, clearly happier with this arrangement than the first one.

The boys joined in to repeat the line again before the six of them launched into the chorus one last time, with Coralie and Louis stuffing around trying to out-sing one another, repeating the title of the song. As the music faded, Louis spun Coralie around and she laughed before she could stop herself, the sound no doubt being caught on the track.

“Good job guys,” the sound tech called through the window. “Come listen on this side.”

There was a mad scramble for the door, Niall and Zayn making it out alive and ahead of the crowd, with Liam and Harry pretending to slap one another for the right to go second. Coralie, being small, slapped both of them on the backside and slipped between them as Louis laughed at their stunned expressions, the three of them sauntering in after a moment of humiliation.

Louis hovered by Coralie’s side, propped up by a chair. As the song began to play Coralie covered her mouth with her hands, delighted to finally hear the finished product. It needed refining, a bit of practise, but for a first full version it sounded spectacular.

“Happy tears, I hope,” Louis whispered during a lull in the music. Coralie instantly wiped her eyes, unable to pinpoint exactly when the tears had started to fall, but her fingers came away wet and she laughed through her sobs, nodding, unable to speak. Louis pulled her into a hug and the boys joined in, sandwiching Coralie between the five of them and standing together until the song had finished.

“It’s fantastic, better than I ever dreamed,” she declared once the music faded- her laugh was included, and it made Louis poke her ribs with a wink.

The sound techs looked pleased and nodded to the door. “If you guys wanna grab a coffee or something, we’ll do a bit of clean-up and send it to SYCO. If anything needs changing, they’ll tell us.”

Filing out was a much more orderly process and Coralie- predictably- found herself shadowed by Louis. She really was flattered by his attention and how friendly he’d been to her since they’d met. A small voice in her head suggested it was something more than being friendly- especially since the night she and Rory had crashed in his and Harry’s flat- but her rational mind kicked in pretty quickly and said there was no chance.

She knew it was ridiculous to think otherwise. No twenty-two year old pop star wanted to tie himself down to a single mother and a toddler. That only happened in fanfictions.

“If it’s okay with you guys,” Coralie suggested as they headed for the coffee machine. “I’m going to see Rory.” The boys nodded and she headed for the lifts, aiming for the floor below’s waiting rooms.

Her son had been reluctantly left in Darien’s care all day. Simon had been true to his word and a day after the big meeting, Darien Eves was Coralie’s official stylist and personal friend. Their late night chats were a godsend as he had never tried to bullshit her or manipulate her. Facts from Darien were truthful and blunt and she loved that he had already threatened to pull her down a peg if she got too cocky. Since she’d met his ex-husband and two little girls the same day he’d been hired, Coralie and Darien’s friendship was firmer than ever.

It helped knowing he’d never have an objection to taking care of Rory. The suggestion of a nanny was looking better now that she’d had a taste of how stressful it was to balance a day in the studio with motherhood. The lift opened on the second floor and she stepped out, walking past the magazine stand to the waiting room door. A flash of an image made her freeze and turn back, gasping.

Louis Moving On Already?

The headline screamed out at her and she tore the magazine from the rack, staring at the picture on the front cover. She’d had no idea this had even been taken… it must have been the night she stayed at their place. Louis was holding her bag in one hand, his arm over her shoulder, and was whispering in her ear.

Louis and Eleanor broke up less than three months ago, but is the heartthrob already moving on? He and competition winner Coralie Hartlett stepped out of her hotel late on Friday evening, looking very comfortable in each other’s company. It’s reported that she and her young son, Rory, stayed the night with the band at their private residence. From where we’re sitting, they certainly look happy!

More news as it unfolds!

Coralie felt sick. She knew what the internet’s reaction would be. She knew what some fans would be saying, had heard all the names before. She knew that no matter how much she denied it, people would come to their own conclusions anyway. Her mind flashed to the Larry Stylinson drama; Louis and Harry had admitted that they’d been told to stay apart in public, and a core part of their friendship had been rocked by rumours that they were more than friends. The last thing she wanted was for that to happen to Louis and herself.

But with articles like this flying around... the chances of anything existing between Louis and Coralie might be dashed before they begin.

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