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Deep breaths Liam. In and out, you can do this. It’s been ten years already. Just one song and then you can leave, go home and sleep it off. I kept repeating this to myself. The other lads are here for support. I let out a nervous laugh. I shouldn’t be nervous I’ve performed exactly two hundred live shows before, why should this be any different? I knew exactly why this was different, I just didn’t want to admit it.
The arena was pitch black. I stood center stage and I glance to my right, I notice Harry, he gave me an encouraging smile but I could tell he was finding this just as hard as I was. I knew my wife, Danielle, and five year old son James Niall Payne sat in the front row, although, I was unable to see them from the lack of light in the darkened room.
My palm became clammy as I grip the microphone tight. I hadn’t noticed I was shaking until I glanced down at my vibrating leg. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
The first note of our song begins to play and the lights flickered, revealing us lined up along the edge. With the stage lights on, the audience became more visible. For a second I stood in awe at the sold out arena. One hundred thousand seats all sold out just to hear us perform one song. Fully aware of this performance being aired live on television I raise my microphone to my mouth. I steady my breathing and prayed to God when I opened it to sing that words would come out. The crowd fell silent anticipating our performance tonight.
“Shut the door, turn the light off…” Minor success, the words did come out, at least I hadn’t stuttered, yet.
Mindlessly I finish my solo. I heard my voice as I sung, yet I could not feel what I was singing, I felt numb. It was a relief when Harry swooped in with his rocky voice and sung the hook. I join in the chorus with another deep breath. Piling in a group, the lads and I wrapped arms around one another’s shoulders for support.
There was a video montage of the X-Factor days, the video diaries, our old video clips and award shows being projected on an enormous screen behind us. I couldn’t bear to turn around and look.
As the chorus fades into the next verse I froze, it took everything in me not to throw up. I instantly regret volunteering for this responsibility. “C-close the door.” I stuttered. “Throw the key, don’t want to be reminde-“ I stopped, I couldn’t bring myself to finish, it just wasn’t right, it didn’t sound right.
I fall to my knees and let the tears that had formed in my eyes roll down my face. Louis rested his arm on my shoulder and Zayn knelt down to my level. I couldn’t face the crowd so I stared at the stage floor.
“Look up,” Zayn whispered in my ear.
I raised my head to see the flickering orange flame of one hundred thousand candles light the arena. The crowd was holding them up for respect and to show remembrance.
The boys helped me to my feet. “Together,” Harry stated and I nodded.
The four of us – Harry, Zayn, Louis and I begin to sing the little Irish mans solo. When the song faded to silence I once again put the microphone to my mouth.
“Thank you all for coming tonight, I’m sure you can all imagine how hard this was for us to come out here tonight,” I sniffled.
Harry gently patted my back with Louis close at his side and Zayn held my other hand while tried to regain my voice. I could see they were all puffy eyed and red faced.
“This has been our first performance since, the accident, and it is going to be our last,” I stated.
The crowd erupts with what sounded like gasps and cries.
“We’re sorry to disappoint our fans but we are no longer One Direction, we haven’t been for ten years, without Niall there is and never will be a One Direction. Thank you again for coming, Niall would have been amazed at the turn out.”
I rest my microphone on the stand in front of me and exit the stage with my arms intertwined with the other lads.
Once we were backstage and off camera I completely lost it. I once again fall to the ground and begin crying. This time the other three wrap their arms around me and begin sobbing too.
Tonight was a memorial. Tonight was the first time I had sung since the day of the accident. It had been ten years to the day since we lost our Nialler. I remember ever detail of the night as if it was yesterday.
We’d just finished our first world tour we were celebrating the closing show. I had something else I was happy about but I didn’t want to draw the attention away from the bands successes.
“Absolutely brilliant lads, just brilliant!” Louis slurred, stumbling from the bar.
“One tour down!” Zayn giggled.
“And with many more to come!” Niall shouted.
“Alright since I’m the sober one tonight I’m driving, keys please Harry,” I held out my hand.
“You’re always the sober one,” Harry laughed.
“Yeah Mr. I only have one kidney,” Louis mocked me causing everyone to laugh.
“Get in the car you idiots,” I rolled my eyes.
“Wait,” Niall stopped us.
“What?” I turned around confused.
“I just want to take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come, as a band and all that we have accomplished.” Niall ginned from ear to ear.
“We did it,” I grinned. The five of us shared a group embrace.
“I love you guys,” Niall grinned.
“Alright enough of the sappy crap, let’s get you all home,” I laughed unlocking Harry’s Range Rover.
Zayn, Liam and Harry piled into the back seat and Niall sat in the passenger seat beside me. I took the usual route back to the complex buildings.
“Put your seatbelt on Louis,” Niall stated while we were in stationary position at the traffic lights.
“Yes Sir!” Louis saluted Niall and obeyed his command.
I shook my head. The traffic light went green and I put my foot down on the accelerator.
“Liam look out!” Niall shouted unbuckling his belt and grabbing hold of the steering wheel.
The tires screeched, and the car swerved, suddenly there was a bright light, followed by a massive thud. The Range Rover was sent shooting across the intersection and rolled over three times in a summersault motion.
I must have blacked out because I woke with my head resting on the steering wheel. I turned around to find Harry, Zayn and Louis in the back seat unconscious.
“Boys, wake up!” I yelled.
Louis rolled his head forward opening his eyes.
“What just happened?” He asked wearily.
“We were in an accident, quick check the others,” I said frantically.
Louis managed to help Zayn and Harry regain consciousness. I turned to my side.
“Niall are you okay?” I asked. My heart sank. Niall was no longer in the passenger seat. I look at the shattered windscreen traced with blood.
“Call an ambulance!” I yelled at the others whilst unbuckling my belt.
I raced out of the car and looked around. Since it was the very early hours of the morning the intersection was deserted. I saw the truck that had impacted with our vehicle.
My eyes wandered, and then I saw him. Niall. My Niall, lying motionless on road metres from our car. A man whom I later discovered was the truck driver hovered over him.
I ran to Niall’s side. “Get away from him!” I yelled at the man.
I fell to my knees and took Niall’s head and rested it in my lap. He had a large gash on his forehead and it was dripping with blood.
“Niall can you hear me?” I gently tapped his cheeks.
“Liam, is that you?” Niall’s eyes opened slightly.
“Yes babe, it’s me,” I began to cry.
“I can’t feel my body,” He whispered.
“Shh Niall, everything is going to be okay,” I tried to soothe him.
“I’m not going to make it,” His eyes glaze over.
“Don’t talk like that Niall, you will get through this,” I shook him as an attempt to keep his eyes open, “just keep talking to me while we wait for an ambulance.”
“Are the others okay? Did Louis put his seatbelt on in time?” Niall coughed.
“Yes Niall, you saved him, why did you take your seatbelt off Niall?” I cried loudly.
“I saw the truck coming, I needed to save you,” He tilted the corner of his mouth upwards.
“You shouldn’t have done that, this is all my fault,” I sobbed.
“No!” Niall spat, “you did absolutely nothing wrong, and I don’t want you to live thinking you did!”
“Niall don’t,” I cried.
“Don’t what?” He said closing his eyes.
I tap his cheeks, “don’t say your goodbyes.”
“I love you Liam,” He smiled.
“Niall you can’t leave me,” I rubbed his cheek gently, “I can hear the sirens of the ambulance now.”
“It’s my time,” He nodded.
“No Niall you need to hold on,” I let a tear splash on his face.
“I can’t,” He whispered.
“You have to, who’s going to be my best man?” I asked.
“You proposed to Danielle?” His face lit up.
“Yes, now you have to pull through this and be my best man,” I wiped away my tears.
“Choose Zayn,” He whispered.
“No Niall, I want you, you’re my best friend,” I clench my jaw.
“I know Zayn will be there for you, so will Harry and Louis, but I think you should choose Zayn,” Niall coughed loudly.
“I love you so much Niall, please don’t leave me,” I said letting tears stream down my face again.
“Thank you Liam,” Niall smiled.
“For what?” I asked confused.
“Being the best friend anyone could ever ask for,” Niall’s eyes closed and his body fell limp in my arms.
“No, wake up Niall!” I screamed, but it was no use he laid motionless.
“No, please no!” I heard Louis’ voice behind me. He had managed to get Harry and Zayn out of the car also.
“Please don’t tell me he’s…” Harry trailed off.
“He’s gone,” I cried.
The rest of the band erupted with tears and heavy wailing.
Ten years ago today, at the tender age of nineteen our baby Nando’s was taken from us. He was my best friend, my brother and now he’s gone. He now lives on in my memories and will never be forgotten. My son will grow up with the name of his uncle, the name of his guardian angel. James Niall Horan.
I love you Niall, always have, always will.
AND THE TEARS STREAM DOWN MY FACE OMFG