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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13. Shock

-12-

Manchester hadn’t changed.

Coralie hadn’t really expected it to; she’d only been gone nine days after all. The car drove to her building and she stepped out, standing aside as Rory climbed his own way down and toddled off for the front doors, waiting for Coralie as she thanked the driver and asked if he’d come back for them in a few hours. He waved as he drove off and she turned to scoop up Rory and head for the stairs, her new boots thudding on the wood.

“Shall we say hi to Jane?” Coralie whispered as Rory looked horrified. Giggling at his expression, she knocked on the door and waited for the little old lady to pull it open.

“Coralie?” Jane’s eyes flew wide and tears sprang to them instantly as she dragged the younger girl down into a hug. “Oh, darling, I’ve missed you so much! And little Rory, my favourite boy! Where have you both been? Not in London, surely?”

“In London, yeah,” Coralie confirmed, sitting on the couch and letting Rory slide to the floor. He immediately climbed back up to sit on her lap, refusing to budge as he was terrified she was going to leave him there. “I should have called really… I won the competition! They liked my song!”

“I’m so delighted for you, dear,” the old lady said earnestly, and she genuinely looked so proud that Coralie wanted to cry. After her own mother’s betrayal, Jane had been the only person Coralie could rely on; she might’ve been a neat-freak and a fusspot and a bit nosy, but she meant well and Coralie couldn’t be more grateful to have had her support. “Shall I put on some tea? We could open a tin of biscuits, have a celebration.”

“That would be lovely, Jane,” Coralie smiled. She continued chatting about London, the competition, the band, as Jane bustled around with the tea and soon set two mugs on a tray with a cup of milk and brought it over with a tin of biscuits, Chocolate Kimberleys from six months ago. Rory dug in despite himself, and even started to babble himself about meeting ‘Batman’- his nickname for Liam- and about meeting the Cow Man- Simon Cowell. Jane listened intently, beaming and asking all the right questions.

“Oh, Coralie dear,” Jane sighed finally, an hour after the tea had gone and when the conversation had lulled for just a moment. “I always knew you were meant for more than that coffee shop. I hear you sometimes, you know, if I’m in the garden and you’re up there singing. I always wondered why you didn’t audition for that show- I’m glad you finally had the confidence to share your talent.”

“I wouldn’t say confidence,” Coralie replied with a pleased grin. The flattery was making her head swell to dangerous proportions; she might need a dose of humility if she wanted to leave. “Sheer dumb luck, maybe.”

Jane tutted, clearly disagreeing, but said no more on the subject. “And by the way, your mother came by looking for you just the other day.”

“My…” Coralie trailed off, stunned into silence.

Jane nodded. “Hmm. She seemed quite concerned when she couldn’t find you. I’ve never seen her around before, Coralie. I was under the impression that you were… without parents.”

The younger girl smiled humourlessly, her hands clenched into fists. “So was I,” she muttered, inwardly fuming. “Did she say why she was here?”

“No,” Jane shook her head, pursing her lips. “She left a number for you to phone her though… I promised I’d pass it on.”

Coralie took the number without looking at it. She had no intention of phoning her mother; she might reconsider if it was an emergency, but even then she might be hard pressed to initiate a reconciliation. They couldn’t toss her away like old news and expect to be welcomed back. Coralie had forged a life for herself when they’d left her with nothing to her name- she knew her father expected her to come crawling back and beg their forgiveness, something she’d sworn never to do.

The thought of her mother snooping around the building made Coralie shiver and pull Rory closer. The fact that she didn’t know why set her teeth on edge. “I’m afraid we’ve got to go,” Coralie said quietly, her whole mood soured. Jane looked disappointed for a moment but nodded, clearly sensing that there was more to Coralie’s relationship with her parents than she was saying. “We just had to pick up a few things before heading back to London. We’ll be back properly next week.”

“Alright. You take care now,” Jane hugged them both goodbye and Rory sat still for a kiss on his cheek, though he usually squirmed away. Coralie smiled thinly and headed upstairs, opening the door to her flat and letting Rory down as he wriggled for freedom. He disappeared into his room and she heard him laughing; he’d missed the place like she had, obviously.

Taking a step inside, her foot came into contact with an envelope and she froze, recognising the handwriting on the outside. It only said her name but it was so familiar that it made her stomach churn.

“What the hell, Mum?” she muttered, bending down to pick it up and take it to the lounge, where she collapsed to read it.

Coralie;

A man contacted us yesterday asking about you and Rory. Apparently you’re making a name for yourself in London? I’m so proud of you, my darling, even if you can’t believe that. Your father and I have discussed it and we believe we acted with undue harshness. We would like to see you, to try and right the wrongs of the past. Do you think you could forgive us for what we’ve done, and let us be the grandparents Rory deserves?

Love, Mum and Dad.

Coralie’s jaw clenched and her hands shook with the effort of not tearing the paper in half with how furious she was. The tone of the letter was apologetic and even kind, but in Coralie’s mind it was a poor attempt to start making up for three years of heartbreak and pain they’d caused her. The night Rory was born, her mother had handed her some money in an envelope and said she wasn’t welcome home. Admittedly, it was a nice sum of money but it had still been a paycheck to leave them alone. Her parents, as upstanding members of the community, would rather deal with the scandal of a runaway daughter than a teenage pregnancy.

The memories made her throat burn and her teeth grind; she shoved the letter and the phone number into her pocket, intending on ‘accidentally’ putting it all through the wash, and gathered whatever she needed with sharp, angry movements.

The ride back to London was silent apart from Rory pointing out everything he could see through the car window; Coralie was still inwardly fuming, and could barely muster a smile as she walked from the car to the hotel and the press called her name, seeking interviews that weren’t due to start until tomorrow. She ignored the requests and went straight up to her room, where she set out a bowl of yoghurt for Rory and sat down to re-read her mother’s letter, somewhat torn.

She had been heartbroken when they disowned her.

She had been angry and full of hatred for them for the last few years.

But despite all of that they were still her parents and they had been very good to her when she was young, and she was damned if she said she didn’t still love them. She couldn’t bring herself to not give them a chance… she couldn’t remember grabbing her phone or dialling the familiar number- she was surprised that her mother still had the same one, and that she still remembered it- and by time someone picked up, Coralie was crying into her hands.

“Hello?”

“Mum?”

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