Chapter One:

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Seven Years Previously...

"Getting up at the arse crack of dawn should be outlawed." I grumbled as I shuffled into the kitchen.

"Owen, watch your language please." Dad sounded just as tired as I was. Sitting at the creaky table tucked in the corner of the kitchen, I watched him pour himself a strong coffee, my brother lazing on the sofa, bleary eyes trained on his phone.

"Sorry." I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to mean my apology, and he let it slide; just this once. My phone chirped in my pyjama pants pocket. On the way, are you ready? The text from Shaun made my stomach flip over with nerves. Driving over to pick us up with his parents and a couple of the other lads, and their families, would take less than an hour, then we would head over to Josh's place. I wasn't sure how were we going to fit everyone in their small flat before heading out to the Lyric Theatre for the audition?

"Who was that mate?" I looked up at dad as he joined me at the table, a smile on his face. He was just as excited for me and the boys as I was; all our parents were.

"Shaun. He'll be here soon to pick us up."

"Well, you better go and get yourself washed and dressed then. I'm not taking you to potentially be on national TV in your PJs." Grinning, I jumped up and gave him a quick hug. The text had woken me up, and despite the nerves, I was excited to see what the day would bring us.

When I came out from the bathroom, freshly showered and dressed, the kitchen and living room were full of people. Fighting to get through the crowd of my mates and their families, I pushed my way into the kitchen, looking for dad who was making hot drinks for everyone. I grabbed a cup before moving to stand by the window, watching three of my best mates and their families chatter nervously.

"Right, it's time to start heading out to pick up Josh and his mum." Shaun's dad, a taxi driver, boomed from the doorway. "Reckon we can fit us all in a photo?" Shaun groaned as his dad began ordering everyone around, making sure me and the other boys stood in front of everyone, standing out in the photo. "And someone remind me to get another one later, once we've got Josh with us."

"I'm regretting getting him that phone for his birthday. He's taking photos of everything and posting them online." I couldn't help but burst out laughing at Shaun's words hissed into my ear. I'd seen some of the dodgy photos his dad had been posting on Facebook and Instagram, making sure I showed extra appreciation for any that showed Shaun in an embarrassing light.

"Let's go people, don't want to be late. Today's the day to make our boys famous." We all followed Shaun's dad, Steve, out to the large minibus he'd borrowed from work to taxi us all to the theatre. My heart jumped at the word 'famous' but I kept my mouth shut in fear of throwing up.

I climbed into the vehicle which was plastered in printed pictures of me and the guys. Most had been taken at rehearsals in Brad's garage by his mum, but a few were taken when we'd been asked to perform at family parties. Our families all supported us one hundred percent, and were proud to tell the world about us and how much they wanted us to succeed.

:: ::

Following a whistle-stop tour of London to pick Josh and his mum up, we pulled up in the car park, the seventeen people in our 'entourage' filed out and began heading towards the theatre, following the signs for the show's auditions.

"Just think, our first proper performance on a real stage." Leighton walked next to me, excitement pouring off him.

"Yeah, if we get past the second producer audition." Brad called out, reminding us that it wasn't as easy as a lot of people thought it was to get on the show. He'd researched the entire process carefully once we'd made the decision to apply for the show. We'd already passed the first round of producer auditions that had been held in secret a month before at a posh hotel in Central London. Standing in a small room, facing five people who could make or break our future was nerve wracking, but we got through it in one piece. My entire body shook throughout our short performance— how would I cope today, especially if we got to stand on the stage at the Lyric?

A couple of the panel had wanted to send us straight to the 'big one' in front of the celebrity judges, but they were outvoted and we would have to perform once more in front of the show producers. If we survived that audition, then we'd get to sing on the stage at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith in front of four celebrity judges who knew the music industry inside out, boybands in particular, and an audience made up of five hundred members of the public. The entire idea was surreal, but something we wanted so much.

"Stop being so damn negative Brad. You need to think positive. We will fly through the producer audition, we will impress the producers, and we will get onto that stage. It might not be a full capacity audience, but it's a bloody start." Leighton was a natural optimist, and usually it could get annoying after a while, but it was exactly what I needed to hear today. I didn't want to remind them that the audience in the theatre would be pretty much at full capacity.

Josh and Shaun jogged to catch up with us, and we walked in a line, joking and shoving each other around to try and seem as unaffected as possible, it worked for a while.

"Shit! Look at that queue." Shaun blurted out as we came to a stop outside the main entrance of the theatre. "It's gonna be a long day lads."

Our huge group joined the end of the long queue for registration. Thankfully, the organisation was excellent and it moved pretty quickly and soon we had our audition numbers and were told to wait in the even longer queue for the producer auditions.

"Does anyone want a drink?" Josh's mum pulled a couple of flasks and water bottles out of the huge, canvas bag. A murmur of voices called out and she began to hand out drinks and some sandwiches None of us had realised she'd made. That was typical of her; it may have only been just Josh and her at home, but whenever we went anywhere as a group, she always made enough food to feed an army, so why would the day of the most important audition of his─ our life be any different?

"You okay sweetheart?" She asked me in a quiet voice as I bit into a ham and cheese sandwich. We stood away from the others a little, giving me some space to calm myself down a little.

"Yeah. I just want to get in there, you know?"

"I know Owen, but it'll be worth the wait, I'm positive." A gentle kiss was placed on my forehead. "You boys are going to blow them away." She'd always been so supportive of us whenever we made a choice about the band. She treated us all like her sons, and we appreciated it just as much as the support of our own parents.

"Thanks mum." Wrapping my arm around her waist, I pulled her in close for a tight hug. I may have been fifteen, a kid, but I wasn't scared to show her affection in front of my mates. It had been just the two of us for two years, ever since the loser I was supposed to call 'dad' had got himself banged up for ten years.

Josh's dad was something he kept quiet about, and if I was honest, I was scared of his being inside getting dragged up by journalists if we did get on the show. I'd watched it religiously for the last four years, ever since Guy Murray had decided to set up his own label, using the show to find unsigned acts, so I knew the media soon latched on to the contestants, and their families, even those who didn't get through to the live shows. All our parents had told us not to worry about it, even if we did get through to the live shows. Whatever anyone we knew had done shouldn't have any bearing on myself and the lads. It was hard to take her words to heart, but I needed to.

:: ::

"Number one five four three five, you're up next." Shaun jumped up at the show runner's voice calling the number that was pinned to all our chests. "Follow me. I'm sorry, but your families will have to wait here."

After hugging as many members of our families as we could before they pushed us away, we followed the runner. She led us to a double door which led into a meeting room, so the sign said.

"Just go on in. Good luck guys." She left us alone, outside a set of brown, oak double doors, all six of us shaking as nerves began to kick in big time.

"Right, better get it over and done with." Shaun took a deep breath and put his hand on the doorknob. "Lads, whatever happens in this room, I just want you to know I love you guys."

"Open the door you sappy bastard." Brad grunted out, unused to the emotion Shaun was showing. Laughing, he twisted the doorknob and pushed the door open.

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