Chapter Six

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Tears streamed down my face as I followed three out of four of my best mates off stage.

"Where's Jonesy?" Leighton asked, looking behind them for me, his voice cracking from his own emotional rollercoaster. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. "We should all be together."

"Come on you beauties!" My yelling filled the air as I flew towards them and jumped onto Shaun's back, my fist in the air in celebration. "Lads, we fucking made it."

Our tears of relief soon turned into cheers of celebration as we danced around in circles like twats. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see us being filmed, but I didn't care. We were through to the next battle, and if we made it through that, we were on the lives.

"Congratulations boys." Katja approached us, a wide smile on her face which had an effect on Shaun. Shrugging me off his back, he turned to the woman he'd fantasised about for a year, a huge smile on his face.

"Thank you sweetheart. We're well chuffed."

"I bet you are. Well, good luck for tomorrow. Maybe Veronica and I will be interviewing you and the cameras will be following you back home as you get ready for the live shows."

"That would be wonderful." I rolled my eyes at the act Shaun was putting on and his obvious and painful flirting..

"See you tomorrow then." With a little wave, she walked away and through a door at the end of the room.

"She wants me." Leighton shoved Shaun at his words with a laugh.

"You're a twat." Grabbing the pair of them in a headlock, I plastered a kiss on each of their cheeks.

"I think we need to get back to the hotel and have a chill out night. Christ knows what song we'll be given, and who we'll be facing." Of course, Brad had to bring us down to earth with a bump. He was too business minded for his own good sometimes.

:: ::

"Yes Dad, I'm eating properly. No, we're not eating junk food every night." With a twinge of guilt, I looked down at the large pizza box on my lap. It was almost empty and I was starting to feel queasy again.

"I just worry about you son. Congratulations again, and good luck tomorrow. I miss seeing your mug around the house." I was feeling homesick even though we weren't that far apart, and having him tease me like that made my not being with my family hit home that little bit more.

He'd understood why we weren't allowed to stay at home during The Battle Zone, but more than once I'd had to remind him about us not being able to tell anyone we were on the show, even this part, until it was going live. After that, we could tell whoever we wanted. I knew, even though all of our parents knew we were through to the next round of the battle auditions, they wouldn't rest until she knew for sure if we got through or not. Dad was also watching the start of the show, waiting for our audition to be aired on TV, so he could brag to his mates at work.

The auditions were on TV at the moment, and once this stage was finished, we'd have a week before the live shows started. We'd been told that if we went through, that week was to give us time to go home, spend some time with family before packing and moving into the posh block of flats that would be our new home until we left the show.

"Yeah, miss you too, but I'll be home soon and you can boss me around again." Dad laughed at my words.

"Yeah, but you won't be here for long enough."

"Oh, don't jinx us." I didn't want him, or me, to get complacent.

"I'm not jinxing you. We all know you're going to get through to the next round and we're all so proud. You can guarantee we'll be there every week to support you." He went silent for a moment. "It's gonna be weird only having your brother at home."

My brother, Andy, was only fourteen. He was starting to act like a stereotypical stroppy teenager. He would be driving dad nuts, and without me as a buffer between them, their arguments would be epic as they took their frustrations out on each other. He was a good kid at heart, but was pushing his boundaries in much the same way as I had at his age.

"Dad, you know he'll calm down; I did." I could hear the stress in his voice, and felt a twinge of guilt at leaving them alone. "Listen, I have to go, but I love you, and I'll see you soon." Dad grumbled said his goodbyes and we ended the call. Feeling a bit down, I jogged to catch up with the boys.

"Don't worry about it buddy. Just think, when we're mega famous, you can buy your old dad a massive house, and fill it with pictures of you so he doesn't miss you so much." Shaun wrapped an arm round my shoulder. "It could be worse, look at Josh's face..."

I looked over at Josh, seeing his red-rimmed eyes as he spoke to his mum made me feel worse despite Shaun's attempt to cheer me up.

:: ::

We'd been paired with another group of five lads. M16 were a bit older than us; all of the lads in their group were in the twenties, and played on it. They flirted with anything in a skirt, and more than once, turned up to the studio hungover. Yeah, I got it; they wanted the lifestyle, but it seemed like they weren't interested in working for it. They were the type of group who wanted to be famous for being on TV rather than for their music ability, which was impressive despite being a bunch of egotistical arseholes.

"We need to blow them idiots out of the water." Shaun, on more than one occasion, had made it clear he didn't like M16. He thought they were 'arrogant northern twats'.

"We will mate, if you stop bitching about them and concentrate enough to practice this song." Brad snapped. We'd been given Don't You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds to battle it out with M16 and it wasn't one we knew that well. Brad wanted us to be word perfect before having to be stuck in a room with them, learning the arrangement for the performance.

"Yeah, sorry man. I just..." Shaun's voice drifted off. "Let's get on with this." I knew what he was feeling. M16 seemed to be the ones to beat in this round, and even with the reactions we'd had from the audience at our audition and the previous battle, we needed to work hard.

Eventually, we were sat with the other group with Samantha discussing the arrangement for the song. She was determined to split it equally between us and them, but the M16 lads kept arguing over the 'best bits'. In the end, Sam lost her temper and told them to 'pack it in and behave like professionals', which Shaun loved, and left us to rehearse.

A couple of times, Brad had to pull Shaun to one side and give him a talking to in case he ruined our chances of getting through the final battle before we even went out on stage. Even I was starting to get really annoyed with him, but I kept my mouth shut knowing nothing I said would make a difference to him. When he was pissed off like this, he was the most stubborn person I'd ever met.

Finally, we went to the canteen for some food before being dragged into hair and make-up, my least favourite part of being on Next Big Boyband. Louisa, the girl in charge of our make-up teased me all the time when I moaned about having to wear any, but I just teased her right back because it was obvious how much she fancied Shaun. Whenever he sat in her chair, she always took her time with him, chatting away. It was funny, but Shaun only had eyes for Katja which was never going to happen.

It felt like we'd only just sat down to eat when we were being ushered into the studio, ready to record the final battle. I stood, shaking, backstage listening to Veronica and Katja introducing the judges, then bringing all the remaining bands out.

:: ::

"Dad... we made it. We're going on the live shows." I spoke quietly, almost scared that if I said it too loudly, someone would tell me that they'd made a mistake and M16 would be going through instead.

"Owen, mate. That's wonderful, I'm so proud of you son. You don't sound very excited about it though."

"I am, I just don't think it's sunk in yet. We only found out ten minutes ago." Sliding down a wall, I landed on the floor with a hard bump. "Dad... We're gonna be on the telly. What if we get voted off the first week? What if people hate us? What if we fu-mess up?" My chest felt tight and I couldn't breathe properly.

"Kid, you're all going to be amazing. I promise."

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