I stared at her as she hurried backstage, sneaking a glance over her shoulder to check if I was looking.
And of course, I was.
She had blonde hair now and had lost some weight and was using a lot more make-up than I remember.
I looked at Liam who looked as shell-shocked as I was.
I nodded slowly, my brain still trying to process what I just saw. I wondered if I missed her so much that I was hallucinating. I dreamed about her frequently but I'd always wake up, feeling that sharp pang in my chest.
Without thinking, I got out of my seat and rushed backstage. In these cases, being a celebrity and previous X Factor contestant was an advantage. I heard Liam behind me, quietly searching for her as well. There were many greetings and earnest attempts to engage in a conversation by various contestants, a little squealing and some familiar faces like Caroline Flack which I had no desire to entertain.
"Maybe she's at the dressing room?" Liam suggested.
Sure enough, we saw Danielle, having changed out of her dance outfit, chatting with the same blonde. My gut was wrenching and my palms were sweaty.
Danielle noticed us, quickly glancing at the blonde, a confused look on her face before she greeted us.
"Niall! How are you?" she greeted cheerfully. Her friend, Jamie, I presume, still didn't turn around so her back was to us. Danielle hugged me and I reciprocated with one hand. Then, she proceeded to walk away with Liam, leaving Jamie and I alone.
"How long have you known?" I asked, trying not to sound suspicious. Surely she couldn't have intentionally kept Jamie's whereabouts from us, or me. She knew how Niall felt.
"Known what?" she asked, innocently, releasing me after we hugged.
She looked at Jamie. Then at me, her eyebrows furrowed. She looked over her shoulder at Niall.
"She's THAT Jamie?"
I nodded. Was she lying? Pretending not to know what she meant to Niall?
But then I looked deep into her eyes.
"You didn't know?" I asked. All of this this was very bizarre.
She shook her head vigorously. "She never mentioned anything."
She turned around slowly, biting on her lower lip.
"Yeah," she replied, not looking in my eyes.
"How are you?"
"I'm all right, thanks. And yourself?"
"Fine. Your hair looks great," I complimented, trying to break the ice.
She touched it with her fingers. "Oh, thanks."
Something was different. It was as if she didn't know me. Or forgot about me.
"Why'd you leave?" I asked suddenly.
If she didn't want to be with me anymore, I deserved and demanded to know why not.
"I..." she looked confused. "The performance ended."
That was it. I lost my temper. After 11 months, this was all she could say?
"Do you think all of this is a f*cking game?"
She took a step back, stunned.
"I fell in love with you. And all those things you said, all the promises we made to each other, all those moments we had together... Are you telling me it's all a lie?"
"I'm sorry! I don't know what you're talking about! I just met you!" she yelled anxiously.
"Dont play games!"
"I'm sorry but I think you have me confused with someone else," she told me, looking shaken.
And then she walked away.
And once again, she left me.