I woke late, considering I had only fallen asleep at sunrise. Judging by the way the light slanted past the window I knew it was mid-afternoon; about 2 o’clock. The time on the alarm clock confirmed my suspicions. But looking at my bedside table I saw something else. The white, rectangle box that I knew would contain an iPhone. I grabbed the box, squinting in my groggy state to read the post-it note attached. No one will ever know :) Harry xx
I smiled and sighed. He didn’t have to, but Harry was always generous like this. I had told him about my ruined phone the other night and so this was his way of helping. It was typical Harry; understated generosity.
He must’ve crept in this morning and put it here. He knew I didn’t want anyone else finding out about anything and so he would’ve just done it quietly.
The post-it said it all, no one would ever know. The phone was the exact replica of my old one and I set to work putting my old SIM in and syncing it to my laptop and within an hour, no one would ever know that it was different to the one I had crushed.
All my texts came through from the past couple of days, only a few from the boys starting up a chat. Then my memory was jogged by a text from Liam, sent only this morning:
Mornin Jee:) got wrk till 5 then we gna get changed at home for charity ball tonite. We r leaving at 7. Be ready :) xxxxx
I smiled at his familiar typing. He was fully literate yet he seemed incapable or texting or tweeting without using some form of abbreviation or mistakes.
As I rattled about the flat I couldn’t quash the growing thought in my head. It had stared like a seed in the back of mind, but it kept being watered, now growing and spreading through my brain becoming stronger and more legitimate with each moment.
There was just a chance that Liam still liked me, in that way. He was acting oddly; not like we did as best friends. I mean, what was last night all about? We went up, alone, to the roof and watched the sky and he played our song… I couldn’t be misinterpreting the signals could I?
I had never been good with boys and the signals. I wasn’t pretty, boys always preferred Lex, but if, for some reason, a boy liked me, I could never tell. And similarly, I thought boys might like me who didn’t.
But the thought was there, convincing me more as it spread through my mind.
It was an odd feeling, to be so totally in love without ever even telling him. I mean, it usually takes a while to love your boyfriend properly but I already loved him more than anything.
I heard the clamour of the boys arriving home but I was in the shower and so didn’t go out to say hello. All I head was Liam call at my bedroom door that their stylists would be round soon. It was a very public event which, for them, necessitated stylists.
I was nervous about tonight. Since they’d become famous we had attended only a few of their formal commitments. Of course we were invited to the parties but this was an event where they were invited as One Direction, not as friends. Luckily they each had a plus one and a lot of people we knew were also attending.
Out of the shower I did my hair and makeup and then finally pulled on my dress.
It was a risk but I had to wear something special. It seemed even more vital now, I wanted Liam to love me properly.
The dress was bright red and silken, full length with a long split on the right side. The dress was backless, leaving down to the small of my back exposed. I checked carefully that no bruises were evident. Luckily they were fading and the worst were around my front so I was ok.
The flaming silk ran smoothly down my body, unexpectedly concealing my insecurities.
My dark hair was gathered on top of my head, twisted and pinned, a few errant curls falling around my face still.
I smiled at the person in the mirror who looked like a serene version of myself. For just one moment I thought I was pretty. But blinking several times transformed me back to the plain girl staring at the mirror.
I slipped on my black LouBoutins that Liam had bought me last Christmas. They were my favourite shoes. I was suddenly six inches taller.
I twisted my body around once more, leaning over my shoulder to check the back of my body.
I had made a decision. I wasn’t going to mess around. Tonight I was going to tell Liam how I felt. I had a plan and I would follow it. I would tell him how he made me feel warm inside and how his smile melted my heart. I would tell him how he fixes me and makes me feel safe for just a while. And how, every time he got near, my heart would accelerate slightly. Tonight, I would tell him how I was completely and utterly in love with him.
Final inspection complete and with only a few moments to spare, I pushed open the door. Lex was waiting outside my door and she looked beautiful. Just completely and utterly gorgeous.
Her flaxen hair fell gently over her shoulders, straight and shining. Her slim figure was covered by a black maxi-dress, bought in at her waist by a silver studded belt. The heel on her patent black shoes was covered with the same studs. Her eyes were dark and smoky, her face tanned and beautiful.
‘Lexi,’ I smiled, sighing at my best friend’s utter beauty.
‘You look amazing,’ she grinned back at me but I batted the compliment.
‘I better do… Lex, tonight’s the night. I’m gunna tell him,’ I nodded petulantly though a smile still played on my lips.
Lex smiled softly, her greenish eyes wide.
‘Jesus Christ Heidi!’ I heard Niall’s accent exclaim.
My hand flew to my chest as if to confirm he was talking about me. ‘You look stunning!’ He said sincerely. I mock scowled at him, trying to jokingly hide my genuine doubt.
‘C’mon, we’ve gotta go now,’ he beckoned us towards the front door.
Their makeup artists and stylist bustled around, applying last minute hairspray to Zayn’s quiff and powder to Harry’s nose. But among the throng of unfamiliar women, I spotted a face I knew. I had only really seen her once, but I would know her face anyway.
She clung, almost nervously, to Liam’s arm, grinning at the other boys.
I stopped in my tracks, staring as the scene played out like a horror movie in slow motion.
She was at least a head shorter than me, and even shorter than that on Liam but she looked slim and goddess like in her dress. It was Grecian style, white and one shouldered, the chiffon fabric flowing effortlessly over her perfect and sculpted curves. Her pale brown hair was curled gently, falling about her face and shoulders. Her big brown eyes were framed darkly, big and doll like.
I could never compete with that. I felt like a child who’d dressed up in her mother’s clothes and heels, spreading some lipstick over their lips in an attempt to look grown up. I looked like a stupid child compared to her.
Alice, that was her name. I remembered it though I had only ever heard it once because the memory was still painfully poignant in my mind.
Liam looked over to me, his brown eyes looking me up and down. I saw his lips part slightly as if he was in awe. Which he evidently was not.
My whole face fell, but not only that. My body became slack, as if whatever had been holding me up had been cut away. I fell limp, as a marionette puppet does without a puppeteer. Yes, I was still standing, but only out of sheer will power. I just wanted to crumble. I wanted to fall into a pile on the floor and be forgotten about. I was embarrassed for myself. How could I be so foolish.
How could I imagine that he would’ve dumped the kind, smiling beauty that stood before me, for the chubby, gangly, girl that I was? How could I think that he would love someone like me though anything? How could I have thought that he would pay me a second glance after someone like that walked his way.
And the heart breaking thing was, I couldn’t even hate her. She wasn’t arrogant, or rude, or showy. She was kind hearted, I could tell by her smile. She held herself almost timidly, just slightly unsure of herself.
Yet despite the inner turmoil that rattled through my body, I pushed a smile back onto my face, though it was more of a grimace.
‘Right guys, let’s go!’ One of their management spoke but I couldn’t look round to see whom. I wasn’t interested in anything else. Niall linked my arm playfully and lead me out of the flat. Lex looked over her shoulder, already holding hands with Lou and shot me an apologetic look. She couldn’t say anything but the look conveyed her sympathy.
I managed to hold it together in the car. Over the years I had become a very good actor. I could hide everything I was feeling and just smile. That was exactly what I was doing. I grinned and sang along to the radio. I talked to everyone, even complimenting Alice on her dress. The only person I couldn’t talk to was Liam.
I continued to maintain the carefully crafted veneer as we got out of the car. The whole event was heavily publicised and there was a gold carpet leading to the door, both sides lined with a dense line of paps.
I smiled softly, walking next to Lex, Alice on her other side, as we followed the boys down the carpet towards the doors.
Those who had been involved in the accident still displayed signs of it though the makeup artists had worked to cover the cuts and bruises. Louis left hand was still encased in a brace, stiches still placed across Niall’s temple. But luckily the press had been there, done that and got the t shirt when it came to covering that story. There wasn’t much they could say after the police released the official statement urging that the crash was an accident and that Louis was completely sober when driving.
The flashing of the lights was continuous. Every time I blinked, my vision was obstructed by patches of brightness which faded to malignant splodges of black, refusing to disappear.
But soon we were inside the clamour of the photographers was a distant drone the in the background.
The venue was grand, a Victorian ballroom, marbled and shining. The roof was glass, looking straight out into the clear sky which was morphing into night.
Searching around I knew I was going to have to keep my mask up for a lot longer. There were press everywhere. They were authorised to be here, to raise the profile of the event. Cameras would be clicking feverishly all evening and even though none would be purposely pointed at me, I was likely to be caught in the frame with the boys.
I felt awfully silly, dressed up like this, trying to be beautiful when indeed I was not. I was surrounded by many famous faces, TV presenters, singers, actresses; I was just a kid who grew up in Wolverhampton who happened to be friends with Liam Payne. That was it. People like me didn’t deserve to be here, I didn’t fit in. Lex was now firmly clung to Louis’ strong right arm, her hips pressed to his side. She belonged here. And Alice, Liam’s arm grasped around her waist, speaking quietly in her ear. She belonged here too. But I stood alone, behind the group of us, the odd one out. Not because I didn’t have a boyfriend but because they looked like they belonged. I didn’t. I was wrapped in a beautiful woman’s dress, but the person who was wrapped inside did not match.
The boys were almost immediately snapped up by their friends, rushing straight over to them. I watched almost in pain as Liam introduced Alice to a group as I stood on his other side.
I searched around the room, trying to find some form of escape from the torture of standing here next to them. But I didn’t need to find one, my escape came to me.
‘Heidi!’ The mancunian accent squealed happily.
My head flipped to the source, though I didn’t need to see her face to see who it was.
‘Lauren!’ I grinned, flinging my arms round her shoulders and hugging her. ‘No one said you’d be here!’ I exclaimed.
‘Yeah. I wasn’t gunna come! But Harry said you were coming so I decided to come with Matt,’ she explained.
Lauren and Harry were old friends and it so happened that, whilst working as a radio presenter at radio 1, she met a fellow DJ and another of the boy’s friends, Matt. They fell in love and had been together for about three years now. It was handy that she worked at radio 1 because it meant Lauren was attending a lot of events that we were at too.
‘Where’s Lexi?’ She asked, looking over my shoulder. She could always usually be found somewhere near me.
‘I’ll explain in a minute, let’s go get a drink,’ I persuaded her, finding my opportunity to get away.
Lauren was dressed in a dramatic royal blue high-low dress, killer heels punctuating her thin legs. She grabbed my hand and we rushed through the crowd, straight over to the bar.
Champagne glasses in hand we relocated to the sweeping staircase, sitting delicately on the shining marble steps.
‘Where’s Lex then?’ Lauren asked, pulling her dark hair back over her shoulders.
‘With Louis somewhere I suppose,’ I answered, shrugging.
‘With?’ She asked, trying to ascertain the meaning of that statement.
‘Yes, with.’ I confirmed.
‘Oh my god! When did this happen!’ She cried excitedly.
‘I dunno how long it’s been going on for but we found out just after the accident,’ I explained. Lauren knew all about the accident- she was a close friend of ours, but we didn’t see her as much as we’d like- she was busy at work, her show being in the middle of the day.
‘Oh! How exciting,’ she smiled.
‘Indeed. He’ll treat her well,’ I agreed, spotting them moving slowly through the room, talking to various people. But despite the distractions, Louis was always 100% conscious of Lex and where she was.
‘Who’s that girl with Liam? I can’t say I recognise her?’
I took a breath, guaranteeing my tone would be perfect to say these words. ‘That’s Alice, his girlfriend,’ The four words took a lot of concentration to sound even and I didn’t succeed totally.
‘Girlfriend? Liam’s got a girlfriend?’ She raised one dark eyebrow.
‘Yeah- what’s wrong with that?’ I asked lightly.
‘I just thought…’ She trailed.
‘Thought what?’ I probed.
‘I just thought you and him were… I dunno… I thought he liked you..’ She tried tentatively.
I shook my head suddenly, laughing. I forced myself to laugh, as if her suggestion had been preposterous.
‘No!’ I laughed. ‘Course not! I could hear that my laugh sounded wrong but Lauren said no more. She knew me too well to fall for my façade but also that she shouldn’t continue to press.
After a while of chatting, Lauren had to go.
‘Urgh,’ she sighed, pushing herself up, pressing her palms into her knees to help herself. ‘I’ve gotta go. Believe it or not, I’m working tonight,’ she chuckled. ‘Interviews need to be done. I think I’ve got the boys on my list actually.’
‘Oh right,’ I sighed, saddened about having to end a conversation with my friend. ‘Ok, well I’m sure I’ll see Matt around somewhere, but if not, tell him I said hello!’ I smiled at Lauren. ‘And you two need to come over sometime soon, ok!’ I wrapped my arms around her neck, careful not to muss her hair.
‘Yeah, Matt’s not working so you’ll see him around.. In fact I think I can see him over there with Harry,’ She gestured with her hand which held her clutch to the opposite side of the room after she had returned the hug.
‘Ok. Bye Lauren,’ I waved.
‘Bye Hi,’ She waved over her shoulder and walked off across the busy room.
I wasn’t interested in much tonight. I was sick of seeing Liam wandering around with Alice perched neatly on his arm, looking beautiful. I didn’t want to think anymore and so I threw back glasses of champagne as if they were water.
But they did separate for a moment. I only knew this because Alice came wondering up beside me.
‘Heidi,’ her west-midlands accent seeped through every word she spoke.
‘Yes.’ I said sharply but then checked myself. I couldn’t be horrible to her. She had done nothing wrong but show Liam what he really wanted.
‘Do you know where Liam’s gone?’ her voice was quiet, almost shy.
I shook my head, displacing a few more curls from my twist of hair. ‘Haven’t spoken to him all evening,’ I told the truth.
‘Oh,’ she sighed quietly. ‘Are you ok, Heidi, standing her on your own?’ her forehead crinkled slightly, the only blemish on her flawless pale skin.
‘Yup,’ I smacked my lips. ‘I’m not on my own. I’m in-between conversations. To be honest, I’m trying to find Ed,’
‘Ed? Ed Sheeran?’ Her small voice asked, curiously.
‘Yeah, that’s the one. Ginger, about yay high,’ I gestured above my head with my free hand, slightly sarcastically, but not out of meanness.
‘You know Ed?’ She asked, her brown eyes wide in awe.
‘Yes..’ I trailed, my eyes squinting.
‘Woah,’ She smiled.
‘He’s a friend. The boys are good friends with him. Knowing lots of famous people is what comes from hanging round with that lot,’ I smirked slightly.
‘That’s amazing. Liam’s been introducing me to all sorts of people tonight. I feel a bit silly but he makes me feel happier about it,’ she grinned.
‘Oh, right,’ I replied, lacklustre.
I was keen to get away from Alice. If she started to talk more about Liam I wasn’t sure if I could keep the cover up. ‘Do you want me to introduce you to Ed?’ I asked, spotting my opportunity.
She nodded, her small mouth formed an ‘o’.
I scanned the room, easily locating the mop of ginger hair. I made sure Alice followed me and walked straight towards him.
‘Mister Sheeran,’ I grinned at him, getting his attention.
‘Look who it isn’t, Miss Graham!’ He grinned, leaning to kiss me on the cheek.
We exchanged friendly pleasantries, but I was rushed, not in the mood to converse with my friend right now.
‘Ed, this is Alice,’ I gestured to each of them back and forth.
‘Hey Alice,’ he smiled crookedly.
‘Alice is Liam’s… uh….’ I struggled for the word, though I knew what it was. ‘Friend,’ was the word I settled upon. I couldn’t say the words again.
Once I saw Alice began to talk, I shuffled away, in search of another glass of champagne. I wasn’t drunk enough yet.
Towards the end of the evening, slower music drifted through the ballroom, slow-dancing melodies.
Louis and Lex danced, Liam and Alice joining them. Harry was the only one who understood why I was staring, glassy eyed, at the dance floor, unable to engage with the scene and pulled me up, forcing me to dance with him. But as my feet moved, all I could do was look over Harry’s shoulder to Liam and Alice. Her head rested on Liam’s shoulder as they moved slowly around the floor, rotating gently as they went. I watched as Liam’s arms hung loosely around her hips, hands clasped at the back, their bodies so close together. It was tearing me apart. He didn’t see how much I could love him. And as I watched Liam dancing with Alice I couldn’t help but think; that should be me.