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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16. Run

-14-

Locking herself in a bathroom cubicle, Coralie let her fears and doubts escape in a low whine as she pulled her knees up under her chin. She alternated between replaying the five minute conversation she’d had with her mother- it hadn’t ended well, not that she’d expected it to- to letting her mind linger on the magazine article. Running a hand over her face, Coralie sat back against the toilet seat and sighed.

“God sakes,” she muttered, lowering her feet back to the floor and standing to leave, to return to the studio and to Rory. She almost couldn’t wait for this day to be over. She never expected to want to be alone- especially since she really did love hanging out with the One Direction lads- but all she wanted was to go home and hide away and figure out her next move. Did she try to call her mother again? Should she spend less time with Louis? Should she tell him her concerns?

Shaking her head, she emerged from the stall and ran the water, washing her face before staring at herself hard and making up her mind. All she had to do was have a chat to the boys, five minutes at best, and they’d be able to help. Simple. All Coralie would have to do… was swallow her pride and ask for help.

Returning to the waiting room, she peered in to see two adults standing with Darien and Rory, their backs to the door. She frowned, feeling the familiarity in how the man held his hands in his pockets, and the tight brown curls on the woman’s head, now flecked with grey. They were entirely too close to Rory for Coralie to be comfortable and she pushed the door open, already a little bit fired up.

“Mama!” Rory cried at once, craning his arms out of Darien’s grip towards her. He let the boy down and Coralie’s gaze flicked to the couple, who had turned to look her way. She froze, ice forming over her heart. Rory fell into her knees and she bent to pick him up, but the smile she gave her son melted as soon as she faced the couple.

“Hello, Coralie,” the man said first, stepping forward as if to embrace her.

Coralie stepped back, on alert and guarding her son. “Hello,” she replied warily, not giving an inch. “How did you find me?”

“We called your hotel,” the woman replied, giving a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “They said you were recording today. We’ve been keeping an eye on your story, Coralie. We’ve missed you.”

“Right,” she replied, her tone ice cold. Rory, sensing his mother’s distress in the way she held him tightly, cuddled against her. “What do you want?”

The man’s eyes flashed and Coralie trembled where she stood, held in place solely by the need to not cause a scene. “Is that any way to speak to your parents, Coralie?”

She heard Darien gasp, and glanced to him; his gaze was on someone behind her and she turned to see One Direction, who had come in search of her. Louis looked the most surprised and he looked between Coralie and her parents, taking in the similarities and the way Coralie was holding Rory away from them. “We want you back,” her mother said quietly, pleadingly. The tone she used when she was begging Coralie not to throw a tantrum, to give in and go along with whatever they wanted.

Spinning to face them with fire in her eyes, in her heart, Coralie stormed across to grab Rory’s bag, slinging it over her other shoulder as she held him tightly in the curl of her left arm. “You should have thought about that before you tossed us out,” she snarled, eyes narrowed and tone scathing, before heading for the door and dodging everyone’s glances.

“Mama mad?” Rory muttered once they were in the stairwell, running down rather than waiting for the lift.

“No,” she replied tightly, but Rory sniffled anyway and held on for the rough ride out onto the streets. Coralie ignored the paparazzi and the fans coming her way; she didn’t even look for the car that she’d been riding in all week. She stuck her hand out on the road, whistling through her teeth, and jumped in the first cab that skidded to a halt. “Mama’s alright, Rory,” Coralie murmured, spotting the tear tracks on his cheek.

“Want Lou-eh,” Rory mumbled, and his tears redoubled when Coralie shook her head. She thanked the driver when they pulled up at the hotel. She hurried through grabbing their things, knowing someone would be coming after them, before hurrying back down and into another cab to the train station. She carried Rory onto the first one leaving for Manchester, regardless of how many stops it had on the way. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she fished it out, biting her lip.

“Louis,” she mumbled to herself, her heart freezing over again. She could hear the pity in his tone now, the condescension as her past was revealed. She hadn’t told them the truth about why she didn’t speak to her parents. She didn’t talk about that if she could help it. Unable to face the questions and the guilt, Coralie switched her phone off and shoved it deep in the bag, forgetting about its existence as she stared out the window and hummed to keep Rory calm.

Miles whizzed by and Manchester loomed; Coralie and Rory made a pit stop for a late lunch before heading for the park. Being two, Rory’s tantrum over wanting Louis was soon forgotten as she gave him ice-cream and a free reign. They walked the perimeter until Rory was too tired to go any further, from whence Coralie carried him until she felt herself about to drop.

“Home sweet home, honey,” Coralie murmured, letting Rory slide down to the ground as she brought their bags in behind her. Their flat was cold and dark, and not exactly where she wanted to be, but her time in London had come to an end. Shine was recorded and finalised, due to be released in a fortnight, and Coralie couldn’t afford to stay in the city any longer. Her savings were completely drained and the all-expenses-paid had only been for two weeks. It was over.

Reality was rushing back in as she switched on all the lights, turned on the telly so the room wasn’t so silent, and fixed Rory his favourite snack. He yawned through eating it and Coralie watched him with a small smile, half focussed on her son’s tired babbling and half off with the fairies. The thought of going back to the coffee shop to get her by until the royalties came in was dreadful.

At least it wasn’t Saturday.

“Are you ready for bed?” Coralie asked as Rory slowly stopped talking and stared at the plate of half-eaten yoghurt and blueberries. He hadn’t eaten much but it wasn’t like he hadn’t had a proper dinner; for her last night in London, One Direction had insisted she and Rory come out to dinner with them as a sort of see-you-soon dinner. Coralie, still fearing the press, had kept her distance from Louis and he must have noticed; she accidentally overheard him asking Harry if he’d done something wrong.

Gathering her son in her arms, Coralie moved to the couch and curled up with Rory on her lap. He turned away from the television and the late-night infomercials she wasn’t watching at all, nuzzling into his mother as she reclined on the cushions and stroked his hair. It wasn’t long until he was fast asleep, drooling lightly onto her shirt, and she chuckled gently and lumbered to her feet to tuck him into bed.

Returning to the couch, her eyes landed on Rory’s bag and she guiltily dragged it over, grabbing out her phone. As she turned it on, tears pricked her eyes to see the nineteen missed calls, and as she listened to the frantic, then worried, then frightened and slightly teary voicemails from her five new friends, her throat closed up and she choked on a sob.

Her fingers shook as she dialled the last caller back; after a ring or two, a familiar voice was answering the other end. “I’m so sorry, Louis, I’ve caused you all so much stress… I’m sorry…”

“Coralie, where are you?”

She closed her eyes, the distance feeling three times as far. She couldn’t believe how much she wanted to see him, to hug him, to reassure him that she was okay and she was sorry… the urge was overwhelming, and not for the first time, Coralie wondered whether Louis felt that for her. “I’m home, in Manchester… I’ll come back tomorrow, I swear, Louis…”

“No, don’t,” he replied, as she heard a door slam and a car engine start. “I’m coming over.”

“It’s nine at night!” Coralie protested weakly.

Louis chuckled and her heart skipped a beat. “Then I’ll be there for midnight. Keep a light on.”

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