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Could This Be Love? (15)

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    A Story by Deborah Benson


    In Positions

    I just came to say, goodbye love, goodbye love Goodbye.


    "We started having to make excuses for you at the office. Even I was starting to get jumpy that you'd run away or something!"

    No word came from the back seat, john's eyes fixed pointedly on the trails of rain running down the window as he was driven back from the airport.

    "Of course I knew you wouldn't run off without Mark, and as long as he didn't get too jumpy over the phone you had to be coming back sometime. Though I thought he'd be coming back with you now. What happened? Lover's quarrel?"

    The words stung to even think about.

    "Something like that," he muttered in reply.

    "Mark will be back in a week or two."

    Rain continued pouring down on the city around them. Of course there never seemed to be a day without rain before he left. Though in this instance the rain felt as though it was solely for him and his misery. As if a man who could not hold onto the woman he loved could somehow find a way to bend the weather to his mood.

    Yet that seemed more possible at the moment than any chances of him recovering, so he might as well wish for it to rain until the world drowned him.

    "You alright back there? I've seen you and him fight but it's normally more 'I should break his nose!' instead of pensive moping." The eyes of his friend glancing back to him through the back seat mirror, worry obvious even behind stray strands of his curly hair.

    A partner in his father's business for what seemed like ages Liam was one of the few people aside from Mark adequately acquainted with the many moods of John Grey, but very rarely did he mention them. They were mates, the most comfort they ever offered the other was a beer and a slap on the shoulder.

    For him to bring up the issue meant he must have looked even more of a mess than he already thought.

    Wonderful.

    "It wasn't as restful a vacation as Mark had promised." He couldn't talk about her, it hurt far too much. Dakota's still got the same people around here. Not a respectable person for miles."

    Liam was quiet, allowing time for the conversation to fade off before changing the topic, deciding instead to catch him up with the latest gossip from work and recent sports highlights. As hard as he tried there was no undoing what damage had been done. They could only ride back to his home in silence with the hopes that things could return to normal without mentioning the problem.

    But the dozen or so missed calls from Mark proved otherwise.

    Countless voicemails regaled John with plea after plea for him to return, different explanations as to why she wasn't heartless, and finally a weak 'we need you here' before his box was empty. Not a single call came from the woman in question. Whatever 'we' was being spoken about wasn't any group that seemed to think it necessary to reach out to him as well.

    The following days proved no different. Mark attempted to call when he knew he'd be heading to work, eating lunch with Liam, or just before he lay down in the hopes of falling asleep. Not once was the phone answered and not once did he manage a peaceful sleep. Each night, right after listening to whatever pitiful message Mark left, John found himself staring up to the ceiling in order to avoid glancing out the large bay window.

    Accidentally he couldn't help but steal a glance out across the rainy cityscape below him.

    Thoughts of how he had planned to sit with her comfortably tucked against his chest like they had the first night she spent with him rushed through his head before he had the power to stop them. Before the idea seemed absolutely idyllic, but now it only managed to keep him awake well into early morning. His heart ached far too much for him to even imagine the possibility of sleep.

    Or the chance that dreams of her would only deepen the wound in his chest.

    His return to work was appreciated, though his mental absence could not be ignored. Even his father begun to recognize when he had allowed his mind to drift in the middle of a meeting; though after one shake of the head from Liam no one mentioned whenever it would occur. No one wanted to risk making the situation worse, and deep down they all hoped it would fade away once he fully adjusted to being back home. But it never did.

    And despite himself John doubted it ever would.

    "You know," Liam said, finally breaking the silence on the third day. "Maybe going out to see a good game would help clear your head."

    Papers for the next day's meeting lay on the desk in front of him as a gift from his father. A new project to attempt to push him back into the swing of things before the mental absence began to harm the business.

    "I don't think that'd be much help. I'd rather avoid anyone outside of here for as long as I can." He began to sift through the pile; his hands lingering over the projected earnings of his recently departed vacation stay. A print out of her advertisement stapled to the backside along with a list of the theaters earnings.

    His laps in judgment noticed by Liam, the paper finding itself changing hands before he could place it back down on the table. John reached to pull it back out of instinct, only catching himself when the standing man raised an eyebrow under his mop of curly hair.

    "I'm just giving it a look," he reassured, scanning the page before realizing it's importance. His eyes resting over the advertisement for a moment longer than simple curiosity deemed appropriate. "Dakota's got a new girl?"

    John nodded, his jaw clenched tight as he attempted to turn his attention back to the other papers.

    "Kimberly… That's a pretty name."

    The papers in his hand started to tremble before he put them back down.

    "A bit of a mouthful really," he said, straining to keep his voice calm.

    "I like it. She's pretty cute too. No wonder she's getting such a big hype. Chris called to tell us they planned to buy out your father's portion of their company once she's done," Liam continued unaware of john's distress. "If she's good enough to get them that much I may have to see about going out there to watch the show.

    Plus meeting her in person might be worth it too."

    It felt as though a knife was being jammed into his chest, breathing suddenly became difficult, and his vision began to blur. He could barely keep himself together.

    "She wouldn't bother with seeing you. The only chance you have of even getting her to look at you is to pay her off like some street LovePeddler.

    Trust me the last thing you want to do is get anywhere near that girl!" The words pored out quicker than he had time to consider what it was he had said; though once he had spoken he automatically wished he could take it all back. He meant none of it. Or all. He wasn't sure. All he knew was that he would have given every cent he had to have her back.

    The outburst was noted as Liam returned the paper to the table, the pieces slowly fitting together as he watched John's attempt to recover. There were only a handful of times John had been truly heartbroken. The signs were now too obvious to ignore.

    "But you did, didn't you?" The question didn't ask for an answer. "Is she why you came back early?"

    "I don't want to talk about it. There's nothing to say." Liam wasn't buying it.

    "I was an idiot alright? That's it!"

    Calmly Liam moved over to sit across from John, pushing the papers out of the way to keep from giving him any distractions. The only thing left between them being her smiling face on the glossy advertisement. Her name printed in bold under the show's title.

    "You loved her." He didn't need to ask but hearing it aloud shook him too hard to even try to deny it. "No one over here made you come back, so why did you? Did she not love you back?"

    The question asked as gently as it could but John could still feel himself slowly starting to fall apart. Memories of her laugh, her smile, the way her eyebrows furrowed when he kissed her forehead while she tried to sleep, everything came rushing back. There was no doubt in his mind that she loved him then. She had to.

    He needed her to.

    And yet her choice hadn't been him. She had returned to Dakota and that damned investor despite anything they might have had together or that he hoped for in the future.

    "No," he said quietly. "She was just a damn good actress."

    "Then why are you acting like there was something more? You aren't the kind of guy to fall for someone who didn't love them back. I've been around to hear you brag about women you've been with and even the good ones haven't left you this messed up."

    John was quiet, his eyes fixed on the advertisement staring up towards him. Even on print she still managed to look just passed him.

    "She wanted me to leave. She… she picked someone else who could pay her price better than I could. I couldn't stay after that. I just couldn't," he spoke slowly as it hurt to get the words out. "Mark's sticking it out until the show opens then he'll be coming back. I haven't taken a single one of his calls since I got back.

    They're all the same thing."

    "What thing?"

    "He says I have to come back."

    ____

    Every pieces of equipment was accounted for.

    Even Sophie managed to learn each step and squeeze into each costume.

    From the outside the show was more than ready for opening night. Backstage however, the now puking Kimberly could barely pull through for a drink, much less an entire number.

    "I told you not to give her so many pills! We still have time to fix this!"

    "I didn't give them to her this time, she found them!"

    "How the hell could she have found them? I had Paul put them somewhere even I couldn't reach!"

    The bickering continued, muffled out by the dressing room doors. None of the other dancers seemed to notice Serena and Mark spending quite a fair bit of time in Kim's dressing room, or they just didn't bother to mention it. In the end the only thing that mattered was that she could perform long enough to get them all on and off stage without having the debt collector on their backs.

    A task much easier said than done.

    "Stop yelling," she said hoarsely, the back of her throat burning. "I had him get them down.

    Nothing else helps."

    Slowly the attention of her caretakers turned away from each other and back to the frail girl kneeling beside the sink. Gently they pulled her up from the ground and back to the seat in front of the vanity. With great care Serena helped her clean up in an attempt to hide her disheveled state.

    Mark could only stand back and watch as his friend withered away before his very eyes, the loss and the stress of her position weighing down to more than any person could bear. And he still couldn't get John to so much as answer the phone.

    "At least they haven't spoken to you since then," he said quietly. "It's a lot easier without them snooping around."

    "I don't care, Mark… Luscious still expects me to play nice," she said between sips of a soda meant to sooth her stomach. "At least the man would make him jumpy."

    "Has he tried anything again?"

    "No. We only meet at rehearsals. Serena gave him some 'resting for the opening' poo. He bought it though so I can't complain." The weight on her shoulders seemed to push her further down in her seat, the layers of makeup barely able to hide the puffiness around her eyes. "At least I look the part."Mark's heart sank.

    He should be helping her move into John's place or at least be more useful than just standing around watching her suffer. Of the first time in his life there was nothing he could immediately do fix a situation he had a hand in causing.

    "Serena, can you take her up to her room? I'm going to make a phone call. I'll be up there in a second."

    Already knowing who the phone call was going to go out to neither Kimberly nor Serena attempted to change his mind. With an arm wrapped around the frailer woman's shoulders Serena helped her up from the vanity, walking her out of the dressing room before any of the other dancers could see how weak she was growing.

    There was no doubt in Mark's mind that faking an overdose may prove too much for her body.

    She had already pulled herself through the home cocktail of medication to just get through the week and even Dakota began to wonder if she was making herself sick on purpose. And at this point Mark couldn't bring himself to rule out that possibility.

    For the second time that day, he prepared himself for john's voicemail message. His number still got through so there was at least the chance his messages were being heard.

    " You've reached John Grey, leave a message and I'll try to get back to you."

    Of course you'll only try if you aren't playing victim. "John. It's me. Again. Listen I know you're getting these messages I just…" he paused. The usual strategy of begging hadn't gotten him anywhere so far and they were nearly out of time.

    If he had to play dirty then so be it.

    "I just think you should know Kimberly's getting sick. Really sick. We're trying to keep her in one piece but there's only so much we can do. I'm sure that Lu guy will take her to a doctor after the show but we wont get to go with her then. If you have anything you want to say to her I'd get it in before she's gone for good."

    The sound of static came through the opposite end of the phone as it usually did until the faintest sound of something moving followed.

    You're screening my call… You sneaky bastard.

    "She's given up on you coming back, but I still have a ticket to opening if you feel like coming.

    I'm going to be backstage with her anyway," Mark paused giving the offer time to sink in.

    "I'm not going to try and fix anything between you two because honestly she deserves better than someone who just gives up. I'll be back after opening night."

    The background noise continued until Mark hung up completely satisfied that his message had gotten through for once. He could only hope John would take the bait so he wouldn't have to worry about resorting to plan B.


    ___

    Both Liam and John sat in shock, starting down at the now silent phone lying on the desk between them. When they had seen Mark calling the initial reaction had been to ignore it.

    Liam however, was too intrigued after their recent conversation to just let the call go unanswered.

    It had been his idea to screen it. Though there had been nothing preparing either of them for the news.

    Once her name had been mentioned he was lost for good.

    "Buddy? Say something."

    'Kimberly is sick…given up on you…deserves better' John's mind was racing too quickly to even hear his friend's question as he pulled himself up from behind the desk.

    "The hell does he think he's doing? I'm the one who gave up! Me? He's completely insane! She was the one who made me leave without her.

    She made me go! I didn't just give up she wanted me gone!" Fuming he shoved the phone back into his pocket, pacing around his office agitated. "Do you know what she said to me?

    She said there was no use in 'pretending' that she chose her sleazy investor over me. And then she hit me. There is nothing there about a woman who deservers any better than where she's going I can promise you that!"

    Unaffected Liam simply watched as he paced the room, the advertisement sitting on his lap the entire time.

    "So either she's a bird with a broken wing or some LovePeddler looking for a quick buck. Those two always go hand in hand," he said coolly.

    "Oh come off it you can't actually believe him.

    It's Mark . He thought Dakota was a good person for years!"

    "We all did John, his judgment isn't any worse than ours. The difference between you and Mark is when you're hurt you try to lash out at other people. He only blames himself." Liam stood, handing over the advertisement face up.

    "But if you're as completely done with this as you sound like you are throw her away."

    "What is that supposed to—"

    "Do it. No one here can just fly out to catch a show so we don't need it. Get rid of it."

    John froze, the scared anger slowly starting to fade away as he tried to convince himself to dispose of the page. It should have been so easy, just one quick balling up followed by a well-aimed toss into the wastebasket. Yet the longer he stared down at Kimberly's innocent smile the harder it became to let the paper go.

    His hands began to tremble as he handed the paper back to Liam carefully, attempting to seem indifferent to the challenge.

    The paper was never retrieved, being left in John's extended hand as his friend went back to the desk.

    "You still love her."

    "She broke my heart," he finally admitted, feeling sick to his stomach the moment he heard the words out loud.

    "Obviously. But just because she broke your heart doesn't mean you've stopped loving her.

    You can't even through away her picture John, you can't just pretend like she doesn't matter anymore." Sympathy filled his friend's eyes before he turned his attention to the computer, booting the system back up as quickly as he could manage.

    John knew what he planned to do but even as he folded the advertisement carefully to fit into his pocket he couldn't reason an excuse to return. She wanted him gone. That much was certain. There was no way he would even be allowed into the theater after they were found out anyway.

    "You like window seats right?" Liam asked, browsing through flight schedules with ease. "I can't go back there," he replied weakly. "Even if I wanted to. She wouldn't want to see me."

    Liam sighed, turning from the computer back to face John. For once the difference in their ages became blatantly clear as the curly headed man looked up. Small lines crossing his forehead, countless days spent working without sleep showing up in the way he held himself.

    But he still seemed to be holding himself together far better than the younger man was currently.

    "Then don't go to see her. Go to see the show, or even to see Mark. Dakota can't turn away a paying customer and if you happen to wander backstage for our scrawny little friend then so be it. But you are going back," he affirmed, returning to the booking website. "At least go to figure out why she changed her mind so quickly. No one just turns on someone out of no where."

    There was no reply, but there was also no protest. The possibility of facing her again seemed even more terrifying than facing an entire army. At least when an army would kill him quickly, Kimberly would show him no such mercy.

    Though if anything Mark had been preaching was true he didn't disserve any.

    Liam was right though, he would never be able to get over her until he knew how she could walk away from him so quickly. He had to return to London. One last time.


    ...to be continued
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  • Oyin Young: Monday, 19 June 2017 at 12:29:00
  • Label(s): Could This Be Love?
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