Inside My Head

Our lives used to be different. We were always on the go, always on the move, never staying in one place for very long. There wasn’t a lot of time to Skype with friends and family, because when we had a couple moments to ourselves, they were usually spent drinking with the crew, or the time difference was too great.

At least, that was what I always told myself.

I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. Now, I supposed, I had all the time in the world. I couldn’t help but notice the date – July 23, 2016. That day used to mean so much to us, and now it was just another box on the calendar.

It was also nearly a year to the day since I’d seen the others.

And while I dialled Perrie’s number, my eyes briefly lingered over the microphone tattoo on my arm. It’d been nearly a year since I’d held one of those too.

It was funny, I had gone into The X Factor with ambitions to be a solo artist. Now, after getting put in a group I couldn’t imagine ever going back to that. It hadn’t felt right… my perception of the industry had changed so much, and I didn’t want to go into it alone.

“Zayn?” I heard Perrie’s high voice on the other end of the line, pulling me out of my nostalgic thoughts.

“Yeah,” I said quietly, my voice catching in my throat a little.

“Are you drunk?” she asked, sounding irritated.

“No,” I said. It wasn’t a lie. Hungover… probably. Drunk, no. Though I couldn’t exactly blame her for thinking that. It wasn’t like I hadn’t rang her up when I’d been drunk multiple times before.

She sighed. “Zayn, you have to stop calling me. It’s been years… get over it. It’s done.”

Then she hung up the phone. It was my turn to sigh as I slipped it back into my pocket.

Yet another person from my past who wanted little to do with me.


The Vault was an evil program.

First of all, I remembered a time when our videos would be shown as part of a top 40 countdown, not just the hits of yesterday. I couldn’t decide if I felt nostalgic or sad while I watched us frolic on the beach to the soundtrack of our first single.

When my young face showed up on the screen, I touched my head instinctively Just looking at how blonde my hair used to be made it hurt. All that bleach was painful. I suppose if there was one thing to be thankful for, it was that I didn’t have to do that anymore.

I didn’t have to do anything anymore, really. My life was my own again, and though the freedom was nice, I would have gone back to those days in a heartbeat.

I’d been able to move back to Ireland, and that was also nice. It’s weird, you spend your whole life wanting to get away from home, but when you’re away from it, it’s the one place you wish you could be.

I mostly spent my time now writing my own music, and playing little acoustic gigs of my own around the country. Everything came full circle, I guess. That was the sort of thing I’d done before The X Factor… but it felt so strange now. Every time I wrote a new song my first instinct was to call up Liam or one of the other lads and tell them about it… but then I remembered that I couldn’t.

What Makes You Beautiful ended and our video for One Thing started. I knew I probably should have changed the channel, but I kept watching it. I remembered shooting that video like it was yesterday. It hadn’t even felt like work, it just felt like we were out in London, having a laugh, with cameras following us around everywhere.

Everything had been so easy back then, in the beginning of it all. What had happened to us? Why had we all drifted so far apart, and why had we let it happen? Were we really going to let a few little arguments get in the way of the strong friendship we’d once had?


The boyband bubble had burst, as it always does. One Direction’s third album brought in less revenue than the two that had preceded it. Their tours no longer sold out in minutes. Simply put – their fans were growing up. They had better things to spend their money and time on.

Simon Cowell was a fickle man. Always looking for the next best thing. He was a mogul in the music industry – and it was easy to see why. It was almost eerie. The group had been signed to his label for a three album deal. After that third album, they had been told, another contract would be negotiated.

But that third album flopped, as Simon had always known it would. Their time was up. The negotiations never came.

It was a harsh realization for the boys; the fact that they’d always had an expiration date. The reason they’d all auditioned for The X Factor was because they’d wanted a career out of music and singing, not just a few years in their late teens of extreme popularity.

They had enough money to their name, so if a record label wasn’t going to back them up, they figured they would just go into the studio on their own. They’d all written their own music before, how hard could it be? They didn’t need the expensive producers and managers.

They could show the world that they were more than just a flash in the pan boyband.


Every boyband has that one member who tries to launch a solo career when it’s all over. No one’s very successful… unless you’re Justin Timberlake, I guess.

But he wasn’t one half of Larry Stylinson. And guess which one of us it was that the fans blamed for our break-up? I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t Louis. He’d always tried to help me. If anyone was to blame for the break-up of the group, not just our bromance, it was probably me.

Louis had always tried to help, like a good best friend would. But I was young, naive, and going through a phase where I didn’t think I needed to listen to him.

I couldn’t get his words out of my head.

“Harry, you shouldn’t drink so much.”

“Harry, you should stop picking up groupie girls and try to focus on having a meaningful relationship.”

“I swear to God Harry, if I have to pick your drunk ass up from a club one more time, I’m never speaking to you again!”

And you know, eventually, he kept his word. It had probably been almost a year since I’d talked to Louis. It was too bad, really. Him cutting me off had given me the push I’d needed to start getting my life together.

I’d quit drinking, I’d stopped going out to the clubs, and tried to just focus on my music. Like I said before, it wasn’t very successful in the eyes of the public, but it was an accomplishment for me.

And if Louis was still talking to me, I was sure he’d be proud.


When I heard that Harry had been working on a solo record, and had begun to get his life sorted out, I couldn’t have been more proud.

Of course, instead of calling and telling him that, I just kept up with what he was doing via twitter and message boards. I had so many questions for him. I wanted to know everything about the process, and if it was weird being in the studio alone, without the rest of us there. But I knew as much as any fan would, because I supposed that’s all I was to him now. Just a fan.

I was sure he didn’t even think that highly of me though. I’d been rather harsh with him the last time we’d spoken. I’d told him I wanted nothing to do with him, and he’d said the same of me.

There was a time in my life I couldn’t imagine going one day without speaking to my former best friend. Now, it had been nearly a year. I suppose things change. It wasn’t just that once instance, there had been a growing rift in our friendship for the past couple of years. He’d gotten more and more out of control with his drinking, while I’d settled down and gotten married.

Our lives were so different now, and it was strange because we used to feel like we were the only two people in the world who were the same.


Being in the studio wasn’t as easy as the boys had thought it would be.

“For the last time, Niall, you’re singing on the bloody album,” Liam said with exasperation, running a hand through his short brown hair.

But Niall just shrugged, plucking lazily at his guitar. “I just said that if I sang less, it’d be fine. I could play guitar for the acoustic tracks… that’d be my contribution. Besides, I sang less than you guys on our other albums, we might as well keep it the same.”

“Right,” Louis said sarcastically. “Because we want this to be exactly the same. That worked so well with our last album. It didn’t get us dropped from our label at all.”

“Well, I just thought…” Niall said quietly, but was quickly cut off.

“I don’t care what you thought, Liam’s right, you’re singing on the bloody album.” Louis was tired, and put his head in his hands in frustration.

They’d spent over two weeks in the studio, just the five of them, and tempers were beginning to run high.

Of course, it was rare that five of them were actually in the studio together. More often than not, they were missing a member.

“Louis,” Liam said gently, trying to talk his friend’s anger down. After years in the group, he was still the one doing all the conflict mediating and having to put his own feelings aside. It was getting tiresome. “Give him a break.”

“Oi, knock it off Liam, just a second ago you were berating him for the same thing. But no, no one’s allowed to tell off Niall except for you.”

“You don’t have to talk about me like I’m not here,” Niall muttered, but was ignored.

“Oh, sorry Louis,” Liam rolled his eyes, no longer caring to play the role of the peacekeeper. “Just because Harry’s not here and is probably out at some bar when we’re supposed to be working doesn’t mean you get to take it out on other people.”

Louis rolled his eyes. Liam continued to glare at him. Niall and Zayn gave each other an uncomfortable look.

It was becoming more and more frequent that they accomplished more arguing while in the studio than actual recording.


Sometimes, when I walked through London, I stopped at Wembley Arena and just stared.

It was rarely ever quiet in that area, but all the noise around me seemed to disappear while I stood there. Instead, it was replaced with screams from The X Factor crowd, the opening notes to Viva La Vida, and of course, our voices blending together whilst singing Torn.

This all happened inside my head, of course. I doubted our voices would ever come together to sing Torn again, to be perfectly honest. Or anything else, for that matter.

Spending five years straight with the same lads will drive even the most patient person mad. I considered myself to be fairly easy-going, but by the end of it I was content to never see any of their faces again.

Now, more than anything, I wished that just once I wouldn’t be the only one of us standing in front of Wembley Arena, reminiscing about a simpler time.

“Come on, Li,” Danielle said quietly, lightly linking her hand with mine and pulling me out of my thoughts. She gave me a small smile. It was true what they said about pregnant women – they had a sort of radiance about them. Not that Danielle hadn’t been radiant before, but you know what I mean. “Let’s go home.”

I nodded at her. I knew she knew what I was doing. I couldn’t help it. I loved my life now, and I was definitely happy. But sometimes, I wished that I was still able to share that happiness with my four best friends in the world.


After yet another unproductive day at the studio, Zayn turned off the lights. It was only him and Niall left. Louis had stormed out, Harry had never shown up, and Liam had left early, saying he had some sort of business with Danielle.

Both boys were quiet as they walked down the streets of London. That was another thing they found strange – being able to walk around London without security. There was no chance of being mobbed now.

“Do you think anyone will even care if we release this album?” Zayn asked, looking over at Niall.

“How can they care when we don’t even have an album to release?” Niall asked, more bitterly than he’d intended to.

Zayn sighed. “I think you mean, how can they care when even we don’t?”

Niall gave Zayn a sharp look. “I care.”

Zayn just shrugged and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, quickly lighting one up. He offered the pack to Niall, but he just shook his head.

“I thought you were going to quit,” he said with annoyance.

“It helps relieve stress,” Zayn said simply.

“It won’t help when we need you to sing live,” Niall countered.

Zayn gave Niall a look. “You actually think we’re going to tour? We can’t spend a day in the studio without fighting. What makes you think we’ll be able to plan a tour, much less actually do the tour without killing each other?”

Niall shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.” He looked up at the crosswalk. This was where he and Zayn usually split off to go their separate ways. “Well… I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you.”

But the next day, the studio was empty.


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