Coralie

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.

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12. Moment

“Thanks so much for your help today, Liam, Zayn,” Coralie called through the window of the SUV, the driver of which was Liam. They’d hired the car after lunch; the boys, having the afternoon off, had insisted on taking Coralie and Rory on a drive around London that had cumulated in them returning to the hotel she’d called home for two weeks and taking over the playground. While Harry, Niall and Louis had kept themselves entertained chasing Rory all over, Zayn and Liam had sat with Coralie and helped her go over the paperwork.

There was still a lot to do, but they’d been fantastic guiding voices and she now knew how to spot word-tricks and make sure the contract wasn’t locking her into anything she didn’t want to do.

“You’re welcome, Coralie,” Liam replied for them both, smiling at her as she stepped to the back door to wrestle her son away from Harry and Louis.

“No!” Rory cried, wriggling away and laughing as Louis helped him. “No go!”

“Rory,” Coralie sighed, half climbing over Louis to reach him. Rory only giggled and stepped all over Harry’s lap- he winced but held himself together, very macho- to get away. “We have to, love. Come on. I’ll let you watch Ben10 with popcorn!”

“Bribing your child, how horrid,” Louis grinned, poking her side as she half-sat on his lap, panting out a joking ‘piss off’ so quietly that it was almost inaudible. Liam and Niall were chuckling and Zayn had leaned forward, coaxing Rory into climbing over Harry’s shoulder to him.

“Oops, now it looks like we’ve got to keep him,” Zayn remarked instantly, as Rory giggled at Coralie’s harrumph of resignation and the pout on her face.

“Why don’t we keep you, too?” Niall suggested, twisting around to speak to her from the front seat.

“Yeah, come over,” Harry added, as Louis nodded eagerly and Zayn just shrugged.

“We do have your son,” he pointed out, and Rory waved as Coralie realised there was no possible way she was going to win a six-on-one argument.

Sighing, she shrugged; “Why not?” she said finally, to nods of triumph shared between the occupants of the vehicle. “Let me go get a change of clothes. Ten minutes?”

“Alright. We’ll park down the road, we’re blocking a driveway here,” Liam called as Coralie stepped away, heading for the hotel. She heard a car door slam and the engine rev; her hands shook a little, not used to hearing someone drive away with Rory and without her. It took all her restraint not to go demand he came with her; not that she didn’t trust Liam’s driving, he’d done a fantastic job all day, but… Rory was her son.

“Cora, hold the lift!” Louis was shouting, running through the lobby and leaping over a coffee table. She did as he asked and he slid to a stop against the back wall, breathing hard and chuckling to himself as she let the doors slide shut. He was the only one to call her Cora, and though she’d hated it when she was younger, it sounded good coming from Louis. “Sorry. Just had a thought; you might not find us after, and I’ll give you a hand with the bags,” he said finally.

“I could have called you,” she pointed out. Louis gave her a sidelong look and smiled, casually slinging an arm across her shoulders as they walked for the door. Coralie couldn’t help but feel her face start to heat up; this felt all too natural, all too nice, though she knew she shouldn’t feel this way.

“Home sweet home, huh?” Louis grinned as she opened the door. She loved this hotel room, she really did, but there was an ache in her chest when she thought about the Manchester flat, about old Jane who lived a floor below, about the coffee shop and her manager who was still patiently holding her job in case she came back. If someone had told Coralie that she’d one day miss that tiny flat and monotonous job, she would have laughed in their face. “Speaking of home- you’re from Manchester, right?” Louis continued, following her through to her room.

Nodding, she tossed in her PJ’s and a change of clothes for the morning, opting to choose from the stuff Darien had picked for her rather than the things she’d brought with her, which were frankly getting a bit stale. “Born and raised in Barnsley, though.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Louis asked, sitting cross-legged on her bed and covering his eyes like a child when she went for her underwear draw. “That’s like, twenty miles from where I grew up.”

“I know,” Coralie replied, shooting him a grin when he rolled his eyes.

“Why’d you move to Manchester?”

She grew quiet, considering her answer very carefully. She had told them the briefest details of her life the day they’d met; not wanting sympathy or pity votes, she’d avoided mentioning the icy terms on which her parents disowned her, or the way her friends slowly turned away because having a baby along cramped their style. “Rory,” Coralie finally settled on saying, and she hated that her voice broke in saying his name.

“Cora…” Louis murmured, standing so close behind her she could feel his body heat through her shirt. “You don’t have to tell me…”

She hiccupped, and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. She hadn’t even noticed the tears had started, and as soon as she did they stopped. “I will,” she promised Louis, not having the energy to meet his gaze. “One day. Not just now.”

As she turned around to head for Rory’s things found herself gathered in a tight, warm hug, Louis’ cologne getting up her nose and his chin digging into the top of her head; she didn’t care, it was comforting and Coralie hadn’t had many decent hugs over the last few years, not from people taller than her at least. “I’ll listen whenever you’re ready,” Louis promised in a whisper, holding her tighter when her arms wrapped around his middle and she nodded once.

The moment was shattered by Louis’ ring-tone. He answered it with a rather sharp “Yes?” barked down the line; his expression softened as whomever it was started to laugh. Coralie, still encased in his one-armed embrace, could recognise Niall as he asked whether their watches were slow because it had been twenty minutes already and didn’t Coralie know that leaving her boy with One Direction was bound to teach him bad habits?

“I’ll teach him all my knock-knock jokes,” Harry’s voice promised.

Louis laughed and Coralie took the phone from him. “Don’t you dare, Harold! We’ll be right down.”

Grinning at one another, Louis grabbed the bag and Coralie hurried to grab Rory’s things, shoving them in alongside her own. With a last glance at the hotel room to make sure everything was in its’ place, the two of them headed off to the lift again. Louis’s arm somehow made it across her shoulders again and Coralie couldn’t bring herself to shake him off, even when they stepped outside and heard the tell-tale snapping of photographers.

“Do you mind?” Louis murmured in her ear, having to bend down just a little.

Coralie bit her lip as she shook her head; “Might as well get used to it,” she replied in a whisper. The look he gave her hovered between pride and sadness, and she didn’t care to decipher it as she handed her bag through the car window to Zayn- Rory had taken pride of place next to Harry, and Louis held the door as Coralie slid in first, following quickly himself and buckling them all in.

“All set?” Liam asked, eyes twinkling in the rear vision mirror.

Coralie poked out her tongue and the sound of a rumbling stomach sent the seven of them into giggles; “Shall we stop for dinner first?” Coralie suggested, covering her stomach in case it made more silly noises.

Niall spun around to grin at her, high-fiving over the seats. “Yep, you can stay,” he told her seriously.

“Good, because anyone who thinks differently will deal with me,” Louis announced, his tone almost entirely joking as laughter bubbled forth once again. There was a serious note in his voice though and Coralie smiled fondly at him, loving the way he made her feel even if there was no chance of the crush developing into anything else. 

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