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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2. Perfect Song

Cross-legged on the sofa with her electric piano across her knees, Coralie rested her hands on the keys and stared at the blank paper before her. For the last three days, all she could think about was the competition on the radio. It would change so much of her life, it almost felt like a necessity that she enter. Most of all, it could be her break into the music industry, and that could lead to a better life for herself and for her two-year-old son, Rory. That competition was screaming for her entry; she just needed a song.

Every morning, it was the first thing on her mind, all day at work, she’d keep thinking of it, her every movement was made into a beat, she sang every word, trying to get something to click and fit in the right order. She’d come home, make herself and Rory their afternoon snack, then send him off for his nap while she sat in the lounge room with the piano and a purple crayon, still struggling with that perfect song.

She had a whole folder of songs stashed in a box under her bed, but none of them seemed to be perfect for the competition. Her fingers danced over the keys in a simple jingle, one for a plumbing add on the telly that Rory had liked so she’d learned, hoping it would spark her into something more. She returned to the start of the jingle, both hands ready to go, and the start of a melody began to play in her mind. She pressed the keys and-

“Mama!”

With a sigh full of self-frustration, Coralie’s head dropped onto the keys before her legs unfolded and she returned the piano to its’ stool beneath the window. Dropping the crayon back into the pot on the coffee table- still strewn with Rory’s scribblings from the day before- she headed into the tiny bedroom that contained her son. He was standing up in his crib, gripping the bars, and smiled toothily at her when she appeared.

Coralie couldn’t help but smile back and hurry to him, beaming. “Hello, darling. Did you sleep okay?” He scrambled up into her arms, warm and smelling like baby powder and soap, and clung to her neck as she turned for the living room again. He used to have a nap during crèche, but since he’d become friends with a boy named Sam, the two of them got up to more mischief than they should have. Little devils. “Do you wanna go to the park tonight?” Coralie continued, peeling him off her shoulder and gazing into his wide brown eyes.

“Park,” Rory repeated seriously, before beaming with pride. Coralie giggled and set him down in the living room- he made a beeline for his little blue plastic chair and dragged it away from the drawing table, closer to the kitchen, where Coralie was peeling and slicing a banana. “Hungry!” he called, crawling onto his seat.

Coralie glanced up, eyebrow raised. “What’s the magic word?”

“Please.”

She nodded, pleased with his manners, and handed him half the banana, quickly snacking on the rest herself. They’d be having dinner when they came home, so she didn’t want to ruin his appetite, but at the same time Coralie herself was peckish. As soon as the snack was gone, Rory presented his empty Batman plate for his mother’s inspection.

“Done, Mama!” he announced, dropping the plate on her knee. She caught it, placing her peel on top, and nodded to his bedroom.

“Good boy. Go grab your coat and shoes, then we’ll go,” Coralie dropped a kiss on his squirming head and stood up, surprised that Rory hadn’t scrambled off to get ready.

“Mashic word?” he prompted.

Her eyebrows shot up and she knelt down, placing a finger on his cheek. “Cheeky boy. Please?” He nodded, grinning, and dashed off as Coralie watched him go, shaking her head. That boy was entirely too perceptive for his own good; he was only two, but he already acted like he was ready for school. He sure kept her on guard; and every single day was a brand new adventure.

“Ready, Mama!” Rory called from his room, peeking his curly blonde head around the door. He frowned upon seeing his mother in the same place as before and Coralie skipped through to the kitchen, leaving the plate in the sink for later and the banana peel in the garden bin, to take out in the morning. She hurried over to Rory’s room and scooped him up from his bucket of toy cars, the child shrieking and giggling as she tossed him above her head and spun him around. “Stop, Mama!” he shrieked, even as he laughed hysterically.

“Right, coat and shoes?” Coralie asked. He pointed to the laundry hamper at the foot of his cot, and Coralie set him down to grab them and kneel before him. “Arms up!” Rory did as he was told and giggled when she pulled the coat on over his head, then went ‘fishing’ for the sleeves of his skivvy. He sat on the hamper as she slid his shoes over his Iron Man socks- her boy was an Avengers boy… though Coralie did pick out most of his stuff- and stood, hurrying to the next room- it was equally tiny, she lived in a literal matchbox, but it was cheap- to grab her own coat and walking shoes, rather than her house flats. “Ready, Rory?” Coralie called, standing by the front door.

He was by her side in a second, stretching his arms up to be carried. She complied, and the two of them headed out towards the stairwell, avoiding the lift that was rickety and smelly and Coralie never liked it. On the streets, they turned left, heading for the park a few blocks away. Rory climbed onto her back, and Coralie looped her arms behind her back, supporting him, and skipped a little just to hear him laugh.

All she wanted to do was hold his hand, and give him everything she possibly could in the world.

Her feet on the pavement made a scuffing sound, especially as with every step she made a half-step for a skip; Rory giggled, and a passing car zoomed by. The rhythm grew with every second, and Coralie bounced her head in time with the imagined music. “All I wanna do is hold your hand, and give you everything… I wanna stand by your side and I wanna watch you…” she mumbled, delight growing as the song took shape.

Rory had fallen quiet on her back, listening carefully, and Coralie hurried to the park. There, she found a shady tree and let Rory down; he’d gripped his little bulldozer all the way from the flat and took off running for the sand pit, still within easy eyeshot. Coralie fished in her pocket, praying for the notebook she always kept handy for shopping lists and phone numbers. She found it, along with a half broken pencil, which would work just fine.

She wrote, working faster than she’d ever thought possible. The song played in her mind like she’d always known it, the melody and lyrics fitting together like tea and biscuits. Every so often, she would look up to check on Rory, always conscious of where he was even if her brain was running wild.

Finally finished, Coralie gazed at the cramped, hurried scribble and marvelled at how easy that had been when she wasn’t actively trying to write something. There, on three torn-out pages of a notebook the size of a five pound note, was a song. Her song.

Now she just had to pray it would be a winner. 

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