Could This Be Love? (14)

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A Story by Deborah Benson

The Show Must Go On

Inside my heart is breaking, my makeup may be flaking But my smile still stays on. It had to be done.

There was no way around it every possibility ended the same. A fight would break out, the theater would be reported, and the company would be on the street. No matter what route they took there was no change. There was no avoiding it.

The only thing that she could do would be to keep from pulling her down with him.

Letting him go was terrible, but losing him would have killed her before anything else could.

She had to convince him to leave without her.

One way or another he was leaving London on his own. It was only a matter of how to break the news.

Without a plan or any alternatives Kimberly found herself standing out front of John’s flat, sans suitcase, praying that somehow the right words would come out and he would understand. She couldn’t tell him the situation without him wanting to fix everything. He would be the type to think he could take on the world and win.

She wasn’t going to risk losing him. It would hurt and he might hate her, but he’d be safe.

That was the only thought she allowed in her head as she knocked.

What she hadn’t counted on was the look of childlike excitement beaming back to her as the door opened that managed to break her heart before she even began. At least she knew there was no way he could hate her more than she was bound to hate herself.

“There you are! I just called a friend back home, we’ve got two tickets out of here first thing tomorrow morning and Mark will be flying back in the next few days after getting the rest of our stuff,” John said as he pulled Kim into the flat.

He leaned in to make up for their last far to brief kiss but for the first time she turned her head, denying him a proper goodbye. Had she felt her lips on his she doubted if she would have been able to hold herself together long enough to be convincing. Having to look in his dazzling blue eyes was difficult on its own, the last thing she needed was him making it any harder.

“Where are your things anyway?” he asked, looking down to her empty hands confused.

It was now or never. It had to be done. It had to.

“I’ve changed my mind,” she said as coolly as she could manage, all the while refusing to look him directly in the eyes. “Give the second ticket to Mark.”

Shock was the first emotion she recognized before forcing herself to look away to the rest of the flat, as if she was indifferent to any reaction he might have had. In all honesty watching him realize she had not misspoken was simply too much to bear.

“What are you talking about?” A forced laugh tried to deny what he had just heard.

“Oh come on, John. I know you aren’t stupid.

It’s no use; it’s time we both accepted that.

This wasn’t going to work from the start so why bother pretending?” She walked passed the now stunned blonde, taking one final walk around the living room.

“Kimberly you’re not making any sense.” He already sounded desperate. “Just go get your things, we can go to the airport right now they’ll give me some place nice to stay.”

She could feel him walking up behind her, dangerously close to being able to hold onto her arms before she turned around to face him.

Every bone in her body screamed to take it back but she couldn’t give in. He deserved so much more than to die for some poor show girl.

“How can I make this clearer?” She paused, needing a moment to think up a strategy. “I ran into Lu when I went down and he promised me everything. Everything I’ve ever wanted.

Even you can’t do that John, but he knows people and he’s going to help me become a star. You’re just a rich boy who can’t even make a name for himself outside his father. That’s all there is to it.”

Stabbing him through the chest might have hurt less. His proud shoulders sank, his strong jaw clenching, a faint swelling in his eyes he was no doubt trying to hold back. He was desperately trying to keep himself together and that stung worse than if he had simply lashed out.

He was trying so hard to keep from hurting her when that was all she aimed to do. She could feel her heart breaking as she looked away, her own tears starting to threaten to fall. How she managed to find someone like him in the first place was a mystery, the fact she was being forced to let him go however, was much closer to what she felt she deserved.

“Is it the money?” he asked weakly. “How much is he buying you for? I can pay more I swear.

Let me please, please Kim don’t do this.” his voice broke, the tears glistening in his eyes starting to fall despite his obvious efforts to hold them back.

“You can’t throw your money at this and hope something will change.” She couldn’t look at him, the taste of salt touching the corner of her mouth before she moved away from him to the door.

In one final attempt to stop her John reached out to hold onto her arm to stop her. Kimberly pushed him away, her composure breaking for a moment at the strength of his grasp. This slip did not go unnoticed as it gave him reason to continue his attempt. He tried to pull her back but she squirmed away, he grabbed at her waist but she thrashed in his embrace, he spun her around to face him and she slapped his face.

Fast, deliberately, and hard, harder than she ever wanted to hit someone again.

For a second everything went quiet, even their tears seeming to freeze as they stared at each other in shock. A glowing red mark on the side of his cheek glaring down to her as she forced herself to recover first. She had never meant to have to hurt him physically as well, though she doubted it was the force of the hit that was what really hurt him, but it managed to get the message across.

“This is the story, John. I am the headlining act, and I chose the seedy foreigner. That’s the ending. I leave with him, I don’t stay with you, and no one gets hurt. I don’t care where you go tomorrow, but if I see you around the theater again…” her voice broke, threatening to throw off the entire performance. “Just don’t bother because I’m not yours. I was never yours.”

She couldn’t look at him. She knew any image she could have imagined would have been nothing compared to seeing his heart breaking.

Without another word or even a second glance she left the flat, pulling the door closed behind her before letting her tears flow freely.

Each step was less coordinated than the last as her vision blurred. Breathing became a challenge as she started to gasp for air. The hand she had struck him with burned as though she held it too close to a fire.

Her heart felt as though it had been torn in two, slowly, agonizingly, without any care for if she would be able to survive the sheer pain of it all.

By a miracle she made it to her floor, collapsing in the corner of the stairwell before breaking down into incoherent sobs and violent shakes.

The echo of her trauma managed to reach Serena who had been waiting by her room, drawing her to the stairwell as the only means of moving her some place truly private.

Getting her back to the apartment was a struggle but having anyone else find out a gun was being held to their heads would have been even harder. After what seemed like ages of stumbling and falling against the walls Kimberly found her way to the small couch in her apartment.

And without any protest from Serena she took several left over pain pills to force her body to go numb for the rest of the night.

Her last thought being a fleeting memory of John’s hands on her to try and make her stay. It had hurt, there would be bruises in the morning, and she would try to convince herself that was reason enough to not want him back.

He was safe, she shouldn’t want him back, and she was broken enough to accept a fate with Luscious.

But now she couldn’t imagine how she even deserved him.

It felt as though his chest was being crushed, a pressure and a pain he hadn’t thought possible from just one person. The light bruise forming on his cheek stung as though he had been burned, for such a small hand the mark seemed incredibly large. The force of the blow hadn’t even been very strong and in retrospect it wasn’t even his face that hurt the most.

In only a matter of minutes he had felt the world around him shatter. He was never one to fall in love, but he had. He had fallen utterly and completely only to have it torn from him before he could even revel in it properly. The happy life he had imagined for him and Kimberly far from everything else falling apart so suddenly.

She had taken everything back without so much as a goodbye.

That alone killed him. He could have dealt with her changing her mind if it was what truly made her happy. Hell he would have forgiven Dakota and Luscious had she told him to.

But she had played him. She played him like he knew any dancer working for Dakota would. He had been a fool to think a pretty smile and some good nights together would change anything. He should have left the second he found out her loyalty could be bought. That was the first rule. Never fall in love with a woman who sells herself.

Yet he had broken that rule and she had broken him. He couldn’t stand to even stay the night anymore. The entire flat still smelled faintly of her perfume triggering memories of their first night together and it made him sick. He had to leave.

He couldn’t even be bothered to wait until morning.

In a hurt and blind rage he collected anything of immediate value, shoving it into his suitcase until there was no longer any room left. Without any care for the amount of noise he continued through the rest of the flat until he had enough to get him far from the resort. It wasn’t until the door to Mark’s room opened that he even remembered to figure out a purpose for the second ticket.

“What the hell John? You should be sleeping your plane isn’t for hours,” Mark muttered, rubbing his eyes to see the chaos John had caused. “Where’s Kim?”

Admitting everything only rubbed salt into the still open room.

“Gone. She’s staying,” he replied dryly. “I’ve been an idiot. A complete bleeping idiot…

Dakota can have her.”

Confusion stained Mark’s face until he had completely woken up, realization quickly dawning as he hurried to block John’s exit.

What he lacked in bulk he made up for in height.

He could have managed to slow down John if he needed but the sight of a bruising tear stained mark on his cheek stopped him.

Pity filled the bright blue eyes staring wearily at John before the path in front of him was cleared. He had witnessed him break up with women in the past but he knew the look on John’s face all too well to find a way to tease him. He knew the anger was all that kept him from breaking apart.

The only difference was that when he lost Fiona it was the world he had been angry with for taking her away. Kimberly had left John; the blame could only rest on the two of them.

There was no way of determining who he hated more, himself or her.

“You’re making a mistake,” Mark said calm, trying to stall his friend. “Please this isn’t like her you know it. There has to be a reason.”

“She was playing me! That’s the reason! She played me and now she’s going back to the other people like her!” Fresh tears began to swell in his eyes the longer he had to speak about her. He was holding together by a thread.

“Don’t do this. Some things are worth fighting for you can’t just—”

“Shut up Mark! For once in your life shut up!”

John lashed out. It was like watching a wounded animal trying to protect itself. There was no more Mark could do for him. “You’ve got your ticket. Do whatever the Bleep you want with it. Throw her’s in the trash. And don’t you ever mention her to me again. Are we clear?”

There was no response. None was needed. In a matter of seconds John left his friend alone, slamming the door behind him as he headed down to the lobby. Everything from then on went by in a blur.

A car picked him up. A man walked him through the airport. He was escorted to a waiting lounge. Somewhere a large bill was being drawn to the Grey name for several expensive bottles of whatever alcohol he could get his hands on. The remainder of the night was spent in the lounge, nursing a headache while avoiding any and all human contact.

The following morning his sent a text to a friend back home, having him arrange transportation before he was sent to boarding.

And as quickly as he had allowed London into his life, he forced it away.

I never meant for this to happen. Over the course of the night Serena had stayed watch beside Kimberly, making sure the medication didn’t do any excess damage. There was no doubt in her mind Kim would have allowed it to without question at that point but her giving up wouldn’t solve anything. She had lost John but there was still a reason to fight. There had to be. She had tasted what it was like to stand up to Dakota, to finally feel some control over her life again and it was far too sweet a feeling to give up. It might take longer than they planned and they may lose more than they wanted to but somehow they would both be free from her. They at least deserved that. Different plans on how to try a second time ran through her head well into the morning. Kimberly’s uneven breaths keeping Serena awake through the night without any trouble. It was her fault for not finding a way around the debt collector, so taking care of his aftermath became her responsibility. And despite his being forced to leave she still had her deal to protect her for John. Though in all honesty, she needed Kimberly just as much as she needed her. Finding a way to beat Dakota would take more than just one person. She couldn’t involve the company without risking someone letting it slip, and contacting the authorities could very well get them all in serious trouble regardless of who was turned in. With Kim virtually comatose there weren’t very many options left any real help. It was only when a quick set of knocks ran through the flat that there was even any sign the rest of the world continued to spin on while theirs was falling apart. As long as Dakota didn’t feel the need to break whatever remained of the small woman’s spirit there was no harm in opening the door. However, the indignant look on a long, sleep- deprived face seemed to beg to differ. “Where is she?” he demanded, trying to look past Serena. “I’m sorry but aren’t you supposed to have left by now?” One slender arm barred the taller man from entering. “Or is your friend sticking around to just make life harder?” “No, he’s gone I can promise you that. He couldn’t leave fast enough.” He sounded hurt, his expression softening. “I know something’s wrong. None of this makes sense. Please just let me talk to her.” “You can’t. She’s out cold.” Reluctantly she allowed the man into the flat, nodding towards the bedroom before letting out a tired sigh. “She had to do it Mark. We didn’t have another option.” “The hell are you talking about?” For a moment she considered making him leave, forcing him out to protect Kim from having John return. The opportunity for outside help, however, was too good to pass up. Having someone close to the Grey’s without actually being a Grey may prove to be just as useful to them as the debt collector was to Dakota. A tension filled the air before she sat Mark down, carefully explaining everything that had happened on their side when they left for the suitcase. Not a detail was changed from their conversation about the future to how the only thing keeping Kimberly from breaking Dakota with her own hands was the mention of John’s life being on the line. She explained how the debt collector worked. How his loyalty to Dakota and the theater trumped any qualms he had with the acts he committed in order to ensure their safety. Morgan was not an evil man by nature, and many of the dancers enjoyed having him come around, but there was no mistaking what he was capable of if he saw a threat. And Kimberly losing Luscious had certainly become a threat. “So it was forcing him to leave or risk us all being killed. She didn’t want to do it but there was no other choice!” At the sounds of Kim stirring in the other room Serena lowered her voice. “You have to understand this is hurting her just as bad, if not worse, than it’s hurting John. But he can’t interfere. We have until opening night to find a way to get her away from here or she’s stuck with whatever the investor wants.” The man’s  face seemed to have grown wearier as the story progressed, the weight of both of his friend’s sufferings pressing down on him hard. He took his time to recover, allowing his mind to process the new information as best it could. When he finally decided to speak his eyes seemed fixated on the bedroom door, Kimberly’s jagged breathing barely loud enough to be heard from where they sat. “She’s letting him make a huge mistake.” “She’s saving his life. We have to figure out how to save hers.” Mark’s eyes left the door, locking themselves on Serena’s with a steely resolve she couldn’t help but admire. No matter how foolish it may have been. “We bring him back. We make sure he’s back on opening night so Dakota can’t make a huge scene.” Serena scoffed, knowing very well romantic ideas of forgiveness and grand rescues were not things people in their line of work were granted. “If you can get him to come back that’s still cutting it too close. We need a better plan for when that one backfires.” “Do you have one?” he snapped, standing up from the couch to rummage through his pockets. “Well,” she muttered, caught slightly off guard. “No…” “Then I’ll see what I can do. His plane should land in a few hours so he could be back here on opening night if we catch him in time.” Frantically he started to dial his friend’s number, his eyes darting to the bottle of pills resting on the coffee table. Worry flashed across his face as he shot an accusatory glare towards Serena, a protest hanging on the tip of his tongue before she pocketed the pills, cutting him off with ease. “They were just to help her calm down. A few of these and some pain pills and she was out like a light. It wont hurt her if this is the only time she does it. I’ve taken far more and lived. They’ll make you pass out once the high wears off, people thought I OD’d dozens of times cause of that.” An idea sparked as Mark turned his attention to the sound of John’s answering machine, distaste still evident on his face. Plan B had just presented it’s self, and though it was just as, if not more risky than Mark’s plan, it offered one thing his didn’t. If she could pull it off correctly there wasn’t even the slightest chance Dakota would bother Kimberly again. If she was under the impression something had beaten Morgan to the punch there would be no further need for his services. And with Dakota being the supplier removing her from the picture would be even simpler. The only issue was in finding out where the line between faking an overdose and actually causing one lay. Of course if Mark’s plan failed it may not even matter.

With opening night a little over a week away there was no think about the risks. If they lost they’d all risk dying, if they won then maybe, just maybe things would turn around.
One way or another it was bound to be a show none of them would ever forget. If they managed to live past curtain call, that is.

…to be continued

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