Welcome back to Your Imaginary Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Jezebel's series in which we explore the wild and entirely fabricated world of dating a famous person. As is the risk with most fan fiction, things might get weird and things might get creepy, but the important thing is that we all have a good time.
Today's Imaginary Boyfriend is One Direction.
You were once told that a dying person will see their entire life flash before their eyes, but now that it's you feeling your life spill out onto the cobblestone road, you can confirm that's not true. You don't think of your sister waiting for you back at the tavern or that time when, as a child, you burned your hands stealing a loaf of bread out of the baker's oven just so you'd have something to eat. You don't think of Bill Sikes or Fagin or "Oom Pah Pah." You don't think of any of it, really. The only thought you have — the thought that overwhelms your entire dying brain — is the thought of sweet little Niall Horan, boy orphan and refugee from the poor house. All you wanted was to get him away from this, to hand him over to billionaire/star maker Simon Cowell so that he'd have a fighting chance in this stupid, mad world, but you couldn't do it. You failed. You were quick, but that terrible Bill Sikes was quicker. He has Niall now, just like he has the other boys — Harry, Liam Zayn and Louis — and God only knows what will become of them.
In a way, you're lucky to get out early. It's more simple to die quick and easy in the street. To almost everyone, you'll just be that murdered barmaid, forgotten as quickly as you're remembered, but maybe — hopefully — the rough-and-tumble boys of One Direction will remember you as something better: a friend, a protector, a warm laugh and a kind smile. The thought sends a flutter of joy through your slowing heart and for one pure moment you're truly happy.
They find you with a ghost of a grin on your cold, still face.
"It's a fine life," you always used to say and you meant it. Working in the tavern, singing rousing anthems with your 200 closest friends, caring for your sister and joking around with Harry Styles and his ragtag gang of pickpockets was always enough. Sure, there were more respectable things you could be doing. You exchanged words with a lot of seedy characters and occasionally dealt in the black market yourself, but there was nothing else that could be done. They say that there are the haves and have-nots, but there in Saffron Hill, one of London's poorest neighborhoods, you never met a 'ave. Everyone there did what was needed to survive and what was needed was rarely legal.
Still, you never envied the fancy ladies — them with their bustles and parasols — who you'd see when business took you to the nicer parts of town. You'd much rather be where you were, shacking up with Bill Sikes, working at the tavern and dancing on tables, with no one giving you trouble when your ankles showed or you failed to stick you pinky up when drinking the brown water that passed as tea in Field Lane.
There were days when you felt sad — the days when you missed your long dead mum and dad or couldn't ignore the hunger in your belly — but the cure was always simple. You'd just walk up to Fagin's den to see the 1D boys and ask them to perform a li'l song and dance for you. They were always trying to make you happy. They'd croon and play at flirting — "That's what makes you beautiful-ul-ul!" — and you'd laugh and laugh and laugh. You'd always brush them off at the end of the song with a cheerful "You're all too young for me and I hate your tattoos," before merrily strolling back home, whistling "Kiss You" all the way.
It was a fine life, indeed.
One day, during a particularly heavy bout of sadness — Bill hadn't come home the night before and wouldn't tell you where he had been — you walked to Fagin's to find Zayn, Louis, Liam and Harry crowded around a new boy. Blond, half-starved and as adorable as a kitten, the boy had been thrown out of a work house in the country — all for asking for a second serving of gruel — and walked all the way to London.
"Considah ya'self at 'ome!" Harry sang to him. The sight filled you a sense of parental affection. You watched silently — hidden behind a wood beam — as they they taught him the ropes through elaborate song and dance. It was only when they were done that you stepped out from your place of hiding.
"Ahem," you said clearing your throat to draw attention to yourself. "Ain't you gonna introduce us then?
The small, towheaded boy was named Niall — not that you ever got much of a chance to know him. He was with 1D for less than two weeks before he was caught breaking into that billionaire Simon Cowell's townhouse and — lucky kid — Cowell found it in his enormous cow heart to take him and give him a recording contract.
The fact that the boy had stumbled into such good fortune filled Bill and Fagin with rage, but you could never understand why. You were happy for him. Not only were you growing more and more dissatisfied by this "fine life" everyday, but all it took you was one look at the kid to know he wasn't built for the street. He was too soft, too honest. Harry could always get by on his charm, Zayn could survive on his handsomeness and the other two — well, no one ever paid them much mind, but Niall had an open heart and here in Saffron Hill, an open heart will get you nothin' but killed.
You were furious the day you found that Bill and Fagin had kidnapped him away from the Cowell house. Furious enough to do something foolish and self-sacrificing. The men were afraid that Niall knew too much about their pickpocketing business. They said he would go on The X Factor and rat them out to the entire nation and a judging panel made up of Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole. It was all nonsense, of course. Utter paranoia. But unfortunately men like Bill and Fagin thrived on paranoia. That's why they lived their lives the way they did — criminal and underground.
You asked what they planned to do with the boy. "Any'fin to keep him quiet," came Bill's response and you knew that only one thing guarantees silence and that's death. Your life stopped being fine quite suddenly.
The only answer was get Niall out of there. You'd need the rest of One Direction's help, but there was no question of whether or not they would do it. They loved you more than anything. They loved you more than they feared Bill, which if the moment were less tense, you'd admit was quite the accomplishment.
It was decided in a flurry of whispers that they would make a diversion. They would burst into the room where Niall was being held and start singing "Best Song Ever" to capture Bill's attention. He'd be so enraptured by their charisma, by Zayn's piercing stare and Harry's crooked grin that he wouldn't notice as you spirited Niall out of the room, through the winding streets and to the bridge where Simon Cowell agreed to meet you to reclaim him. ("I'll be the one in the too-tight black t-shirt," he told you. "No duh," you responded.)
You had been so close. You could see Simon's massive blockhead from the bridge as you rounded the corner, towing small Niall behind you. You even managed a shout before Bill stepped seemingly out of nowhere to obstruct your path, to club you over the head in a final, fatal blow. Niall's scream had pierced the night, but it was fuzzy and far away. Your last thought was a prayer. Please let him be safe. Let my boys in One Direction be safe.
You were once told that a dying person will see their entire life flash before their eyes. It's not true, you think. Now you know it's not true.