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.


7. Studio

The studio sent a black SUV to gather the contestants and take them to Abbey Road, where they’d each have a few hours to try and impress the band and their management. Whoever managed that would win the recording contract; Coralie had skipped breakfast for the sake of nerves, only just managing to get through helping Rory eat his porridge without losing her mind entirely. Darien had swung by about nine to help her pick an outfit and do her hair and make-up, and he snuck in a packet of hot, fresh cinnamon donuts that didn’t last long once Rory had his hands on them.

Their week’s holiday was over; it was time for the real work to start now. Coralie had properly met with the other competition winners- a redheaded girl from Missouri and a boy/girl duo from Paris- the day before over lunch and while they’d seemed nice, there had been an undertone of competitiveness that couldn’t be fully suppressed. She hadn’t been oblivious to the judgement in their eyes when Rory was introduced as her son, either, though they hadn’t outwardly said anything.

“Where we go?” Rory asked, spying the car. He looked reluctant to get in it; probably recalling the day before, when he’d been placed in the car and dragged halfway around London to every fashion house there was. The upside had been the lunch at a fabulous bistro Darien had whisked them to- which had a playground and free ice-cream- but Rory had still been bored half the time.

Coralie booped his nose with hers, grinning. “Mama’s gotta sing somewhere special,” she explained as best she could, more excited than she was showing. Rory nodded dutifully, and obediently clung to her side as she adjusted the bag over her shoulder and followed her fellow contestants to the car. The redhead- Sarah- handed her bags off to the driver and climbed in without a word, while the duo- Henry and Monique- hissed at each other in French, fury in their eyes.

“I’ll take your bag?” the driver- the same one who had dropped them off, Coralie realised- held out his hand for it.

Her smile was warm as she gave it up. “Thanks, Dean,” she nodded, climbing into the car and sitting next to Sarah, facing backwards. Coralie had always wanted to face backwards in a car, and this SUV was more like an oddly shaped limo. There was even a champagne bar, which nobody touched.

The ride was silent; Henry and Monique occasionally looked at one another and glared, the tension between the two of them making the entire car feel awkward. Sarah was on her phone, her fingernails tapping away against the screen, and the sound was driving Coralie quietly mad. Rory had his sketchbook and crayons, which she’d purposefully packed in the knowledge that he’d need something to keep him amused while she sang.

Henry and Monique were the first out the door, and the moment their feet hit the pavement they were talking in rapid-fire French again. Coralie couldn’t help but think that was slightly rude of them- they could speak perfect English, they’d demonstrated that during lunch yesterday. Sarah glanced at Rory, whom Coralie was trying to quickly organise, and ducked out second, stepping on Coralie’s foot as she left.

Biting her lip to keep from snapping, Coralie packed away Rory’s things, soothed the tears before they started, and emerged onto a street she quickly realised was lined with photographers. Of course it was busy; One Direction were in the building, and this was the first proper glimpse the world would get of the people who might become the next big thing.

“Mama…” Rory whimpered, frightened by the flashes, and hid his face in Coralie’s neck. She ducked her head and covered his curls with a hand, hurrying inside as Dean appeared to guide her to the lift. The others hadn’t waited, but she didn’t mind as Dean handed back her bag and turned to take the car away. “Bye-bye!” Rory shouted, perking up again now that they weren’t being shouted at. Dean turned and saluted, which made Rory giggle with delight, and Coralie smiled as she nuzzled his forehead softly.

The lift opened and Darien opened his arms, grinning. “Coralie and Rory! We were getting worried,” he greeted her, ushering her inside. “You okay, kid?”

She took a deep breath and nodded, looking up through wide eyes. “I kinda feel like throwing up, but yeah, I’m good.”

Darien laughed gently. “I’m guessing you haven’t eaten.” His eyebrows were in his hairline and he wasn’t looking at her, but he was smiling tightly. She scoffed and shook her head, saved from answering by the doors opening and the duo starting to walk to the holding room. Right outside the door, Darien span in front of her, blocking her way. “Coralie, look,” he caught her attention, holding both her arms- and gently chucking Rory under the chin- “I like you the most, and I know they will too,” he said urgently, keeping this conversation as quick as possible. He didn’t want to be overheard, understandably. He hadn’t heard Coralie’s song but it didn’t matter; she had been the more genuine, the more down-to-earth, of the three, and he was certain that if she kept her mild-mannered and unassuming nature the band would like her very much. “I’ll watch your boy for you, shall I?” he said louder, as glances came their way.

“Rory would love that. Thank you, Darien,” Coralie replied, and she played with her hair as she spoke, silently telling him she wasn’t just talking about the offer to babysit. He smiled and lead Rory to a quiet corner, where he spread out the play mat Coralie had purchased. Rory was occupied and safe; it left her with nothing to do but fret, and worry, until her name was called. Darien shot her a wink and Rory clapped his hands as she entered the room; her eyes instantly locked onto someone across the room, and her heart felt as though it would explode.

Louis was cuter in reality. He was also the first to speak, rising to shake her hand. “Hello,” he said brightly.

Coralie had to swallow hard to get herself breathing right again. “Hey,” she replied. 

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