Could This Be Love? (16)

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A Story by Deborah Benson

Satine Act 1

I could have loved you but you had the hunger for a life in the lights.

I couldn’t compete with the spell you were under.

The curtain rose, blindingly bright lights cast down on an empty stage. Slowly dancers began to move like clockwork, filling up the empty space with their own stories and actions. The spotlight however, was fixed on two stationary points. The silhouette of a woman held up on a black platform without any visible way down.

And a man, kept from the platform by the sea of dancers.

“I thought I was hopeless,” he felt himself singing.

“I thought I was broken.”

Slowly he began to move through the sea of dancers, a small path allowing him to look up to the platform without any obstruction.

“I waited in the cold, but the door wouldn’t open ’til I.” He took a step down the path. ” ‘Til I heard your voice in a dream.”

Before he could move any farther the hands of stronger dancers rested themselves on his shoulder, pushing him back as the path was closed. What had been a clam group of people was now a hostile clash of male and female dancers alike, pushing and pulling him farther away from the platform. The hands of one man matching his height turned him around, leaving his back towards the woman.

The two circled each other for a moment before being pulled away, the reflection getting tossed back as he was tossed forward. It seemed as though the dancers had yet to make up their minds over whether or not he’d be allowed to pass.

For just a moment he had a clear view of the woman. The chances of having another opportunity were slim, so his next words were belted out with as much strength as he could muster.

“So sing to me and I will forgive you for taking my heart in the suitcase you packed!” The dancers began to try to push him away, despite his best efforts to never lose sight of the platform. “Sing to me like the lights didn’t blind you!” A stronger man’s hand pushed at his chest, sending him backwards. “Like you blinded me!” A woman cupped his face, hooking her leg around his to spin him away. His words now only for himself.

“When I heard your voice in a dream.”

The woman on the platform turned down to face him, her expression covered by the shadow cast from the spotlight. A single arm extended to him before the hoard of dancers pulled him back to the opposite end of the stage.

Slowly he began to fight against their shoving, working his hardest to move himself in the opposite direction. Hands gripped his shoulder before he broke free. Female dancers blocked his path, throwing themselves at him to slow him down or barricading the route with their bodies.

Yet he pressed on.

“Sing to me like the lights didn’t blind you!” The dancers surrounded him, pushing him down towards the floor.

“I thought I could love you but you had the hunger.” He fought his way past the dancers, never once taking his eyes off the platform.

“Oh nothing comes easy when everyone’s rushing.” The dancers lifted him for a moment before he escaped their grasp, running up to the platform to make up for lost space.

He could feel his voice straining to belt out whatever piece of the song he remembered. The only thought in his head was to make the woman turn down to look at him. He needed to see her face. He needed her.

Slowly as he got closer to the platform new dancers appeared, helping him make his way towards her as quickly as he could.

“I thought I could love you.”

The dancers helped him climb the platform. The hands of one woman guiding him the final steps until he had reached the top. For the first time since the lights went up he could see the woman on the platform’s face. Her eyes locked onto his as their spotlights mixed, ridding her caramel skin of any shadows.

“I thought I could love you,” he said in one final breath reaching out to touch her face.


“John. Come on, the plane just landed. We’re here.” To his left Liam sat rather disheveled, bags forming under his eyes from a lack of sleep.

He was a far cry from the sweet face he had just been staring at. For a moment he believed he could close his eyes and have her back. The glimmer of hope fading from his face as soon as he came back to his senses, feeling the stale air of the cabin around him along with the soft cushions of their first class accommodations.

A frown crossed Liam’s tired face as he realized what kind of dream he must have just interrupted. Sympathy came next, before he ultimately surrendered to how tired he was.

“Just make it to the resort. Mark says he still has your old suite so we can go stay there before the show. He said he’d try to get you back stage but he couldn’t tell me anything else before we were out of range. Something weird sounded like it was going on though.”

Slowly they began to gather their things, heading out of the plane to their boarding terminal. A driver ushered them away as quickly as they were spotted. There was no need for them to waist any time. They had come for one reason and one reason alone.

“What was going on?” he asked, putting his own bag into the car.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Liam yawned. “But I think I heard someone throwing up. And I know for a fact Mark kept trying to argue with someone. She sounded pretty bossy too.”


“Nah, I know her voice. This girl was new. I didn’t pay too much attention to it though. They just kept arguing about pills and you, something about a plan. I’ll remember more once I’ve gotten some rest.” A shiver went down John’s spine. “You were out right after the lady offered us drinks though. So I couldn’t just tell you then.”

He didn’t need to be told. He knew exactly who was being argued over. Though the mention of pills scared him more than he cared to admit, as long as Mark was around her there was a chance he could fix his mistake.

By the sound of things, it seemed as though he would only have one chance to anyway.

As long as Kimberly would speak to him he knew forgiving her would come almost too easily. The problem was in getting to her in the first place.

“Someone sent you a gift.” Serena stated, eyeing a vase full of extravagantly prepared roses set on the side of the dressing room vanity.

Dozens of costumes lay around by order of when they were needed. Glittering crystals and transparent scraps of fabric coloring the remainder of the room into a much more cheerful atmosphere than the mood deemed appropriate. It was as if the world around them seemed completely oblivious to the situation it had put them in. Or that it simply did not care.

It certainly felt as if it didn’t.

“Morgan dropped them off,” Kimberly said, carefully applying her lipstick. “That and a nice reminder about how lucky I am to be here. And how thankful I should be toDakota and Luscious.”

“How did he seem?”

Kimberly paused, taking a moment to clean up the edges of her lips before moving on to her eyes. The brush in her hand shaking slightly before she could steady herself.

“Like he had no idea what he was doing… I think he honestly believes whatever Dakota has told him. Which makes him even worse to have around.” With several careful strokes she finished one eye, giving herself a strikingly different appearance than the sweet girl she was known to be without the makeup. “He wouldn’t have had a problem keeping with his threat.”

Serena nodded, moving to the vanity to help finish her hair. Dozens of carefully pinned up curls were released, framing Kimberly’s face before she began the task of arranging them properly. On stage she would rival any old Hollywood starlet. In the dressing room though, there was no hiding her obvious distress.

“Any word from Mark?” she asked, allowing Serena to maneuver her head however she needed.

“No… He left a little while ago and I doubt he’ll be allowed back in any time soon. Morgan keeps a close eye on who comes backstage.”

Kim’s face fell. “We both knew the chances of his plan working were slim to none. You did what you had to. It’s safer this way.”

Though there was no doubt in her mind Serena was right, she wished to be wrong. Poor broken Kimberly was a sight worse than anything she had experienced in all her years with the company.

For the first time she saw what she must have looked like when Dakota broke her. She saw exactly what she had decided to try and prevent and still managed to fail.

The only hope either of them had was the off chance plan B turned out to work. Yet neither of them had mentioned how there would be no second chance if it didn’t.

If they were going to lose to Dakota they had at least decided it would be on their terms.

“I know,” Kim muttered, lowering her eyes to glance at her opening costume. “Should I take the pills now or during intermission?”

“Take some now to keep you running, we’ll finish it off at intermission. You just have to hold through until curtain call. Then Paul will get you and you and I will take his car somewhere safe until we get a way out of here.” Serena pinned one last decoration into her hair before holding onto the smaller woman’s shoulders. “One way or another we’re getting out of here.”

Kimberly’s eyes never rose from her lap. The pills on her vanity remaining untouched until a knock came from the door announcing that the time had come for them to get into place. While Serena responded, several of the pills had vanished. Kimberly’s eyes closed tight as she forced herself to swallow.

“One way or another, we’ll remind them we’re not theirs. Just hold through until curtain call.”

With one deep breath Kimberly rose from her seat, her demeanor easily changing into her characters once the pills began to take affect.

A hallow smile painted expertly across her lips.

“There’s nothing more than can do to hurt me. I can at least make sure they wont forget me. I’ll give them their ended. Exactly like they wanted.”


The lights dimmed throughout the theater’s lobby three consecutive times, leaving John standing in the marble hallway entirely on his own. Liam was too tried to follow him by the time they had unpacked and Mark had yet to show up after he had announced his arrival.

Dozens of people past by, playbills in hand, eagerly awaiting Kimberly’s debut. From the look of the advertisements placed throughout the resort it was one of the more exciting events they had to offer. Dakota was bleeding her thin before the show had even began.

Somehow the realization only made him feel worse about himself for leaving her alone. And as fate would have it he was now the one left alone.

It would have hurt less if he could just find his way inside the theater to see her. The poster resting against the wall was a far cry from the original, the original wouldn’t have stayed silent for so long. At this point he’d be happier even if she were only yelling at him. Anything was better than nothing.

“You actually showed up…” A voice from the back door startled John, causing him to lose his train of thought automatically.

“Mark… I don’t… I’m not here to apologize for leaving,” he said with less resolve than he had hoped.

His friend’s face on the other hand was far cry from sympathetic. If he hadn’t known him better he might have expected him to want to hurt him. John knew however, that the look was simply reserved for the few moments when he felt exceedingly disappointed with him.

Mark’s current expression was the most disappointed he could ever remember his usually optimistic friend being.

“I don’t care why you’re back. I just need you to stay a little longer this time.” Worry lines aged his friend greatly, his cheerful grin nowhere to be seen. “We can’t go backstage until intermission, you think you can stick around that long?”

“She made me leave. Has she been telling you something else?”

“No you a****le. I’m not going to tell you what she needs to, but you can be damn sure she’s never done a damn thing to hurt you if she could help it,” he said, practically biting out his words.

John wanted to argue, say something in defense of himself, but was cut off by the lights dimming one final time. Mark didn’t speak once the lobby went dark and instead gave him the single opportunity to follow him into the theater, flashing two tickets easily in order to get them through. Where he managed to get them from he couldn’t be sure.

They were seated in the back of the mezzanine, looking down at the stage with ease. The velvet curtains opening slightly to allow Dakota to give a quick speech. She practically glowed under the spotlight. No one in the audience had even the slightest idea as to what she was willing to do to stand where she stood.

Mark’s eyes automatically locked themselves onto the dancers as the curtain rose, scanning over certain people before fixing himself on Serena. The glance was not affectionate in the least but more of a look of worry. Something was going on with the two John wasn’t being told.

But before he could think about it further she made her entrance and the world seemed to stop.

Even from so far away he doubted he had seen her more beautiful before. No. No he had. Waking up beside her in the morning, having her smile meant just for him. As beautiful as she was he could tell the smile she had one was far from the same one he had loved so much. This smile seemed almost forced.

He didn’t need to think long before he realized he was one of the main causes.

The musical continued as he leaned forward to try for a better view. Kimberly sang, stealing the hearts of every single person in the audience before the second scene. Her character flitted around, starting a doomed romance with the owner of her club as they sang the song John had once hoped was meant for him.

Their romance built up until the gangster was introduced and unlike in the version he knew before he left, he managed to sweep Kimberly off her feet with incredible ease. The two male leads would face off, forcing Kimberly to choose. She spent her time with both, finding nothing appealing in the poorer man. Though the story tried to paint it as a noble action based off a deep romance there was no doubt in his mind that had been Luscious’s doing. Suddenly he felt sick to his stomach knowing he had left the two alone at all.

By the time he pushed himself back to watching the show Kimberly and the gangster had decided to run off together, sharing a new number having something to do with it being them against the world that seceded in making the feeling even worse. Curtains fell for intermission with her in his arms, the smile on her face fading ever so slightly before they disappeared from view.

People around them began to stand, talking amongst themselves about what they thought of the show. Mark, however, seemed to be pushing John out of their row as quickly as possible without so much as a word.

“What are you doing?” John hissed, going wherever he was instructed.

“You’re only going to have a few minutes to talk to her. Make it count,” he said, ushering him behind a small door at the side of the theater, leading him down a hallway barely big enough for the two of them. “Her dressing room is the first one on the right. If anyone knocks that you don’t know hide. We could get in huge trouble for being back here.”

He left no room for argument, pushing and shoving John down the hallway as if he was worried they were being followed. Dancers passed them without any acknowledgment of their intrusion, all too busy getting ready for the next act to care. Mark however, stayed on high alert before letting the larger man go, ushering him to the dressing room on his own.

For a moment he froze not knowing whether to knock or simply just walk in. He couldn’t think of what he wanted to say or what to expect when he saw her. For the first time in ages the only thing he felt was afraid. Terribly afraid of being hurt again, but even more afraid of pushing her further away.

Without realizing what he was doing he opened the door, walking into the dressing room unannounced, closing the door behind him quietly. He seemed to move without thinking, walking over towards the vanity where he could see Kimberly sitting, her eyes closed as she swallowed something she had eaten before he walked in.

The black curls he loved so much were pulled to one side of her face, falling across her back and shoulder in elegant waves. The skimpy costume glittering under the vanity’s lights, practically making her warm skin glow. All he had to do was step forward and reach out and he could have touched her bare shoulder yet he managed to at least hold himself back, waiting for acknowledgment before even bothering to speak.

“Did you bring that water I asked for? I already took them so it’s kind of pointless but I’m still parched.” She spoke before raising her head, her brown eyes going wide when she saw his reflection in her mirror. For a half of a second they seemed to spark before she regained composure. Of course it may have just been the lights. “What are you doing here?” her voice barely managed to come out.

She sounded so different from how he remembered her. She sounded colder, tired, and most of all she sounded broken. So much more broken than even he was. And he knew that.

Kimberly’s really sick. He remembered Mark saying, his stomach sinking even further. How could he have left her?

Why did he ever think he could stop loving her?

“I needed to see you,” he said plainly, finding it incredibly difficult to build a proper sentence.

“You shouldn’t be here.” She stood, holding onto her chair tight to balance herself. “You need to leave now.”

“Not before you tell me why you made me go,” he replied, not moving an inch.

The strain on her body became visible as her arm began to tremble before she straightened herself out. She stood before him regal despite her broken pride. Her makeup hiding her exhaustion better than anything else could have managed to.

“No. I told you all you needed to hear,” she said with resolve, walking past him to finish putting on her costume. “Just go.”

Her casual dismissal of him stung more than he wanted it to. He already had lost control of his actions. Having his mouth follow suit was regretfully too expectable.

“Then let me pay my bill.” Kimberly froze for a moment before finishing preparing herself, heading out of the dressing room only to have him follow her. “You made me believed you loved me, so why shouldn’t I pay my debt? Just like your investor right?”

Whether or not his words stung her he couldn’t tell. He reached out to slow her, finding her resistance to be far weaker than when he had tried to stop her before. Though her withering away before his eyes wasn’t exactly reassuring that the lack of an attempt to push him away was a sign that she wanted him back.

“Please, just go,” she said, refusing to look him in the eyes as she tried to hurry out towards the stage entrance.

John followed suit, desperately trying to get a response from her. “Oh but you did your job so incredibly well. Why shouldn’t I pay you like he has been?” He could hear his voice rising, unable to stop himself even as the other dancers began to spot them.

Kimberly continued to try and escape him, her body betraying her as she needed to slow to catch her breath multiple times, the black eyeliner beginning to smudge as she fought back tears. All the while refusing to look at him.

“Don’t… don’t there’s no point,” she muttered, holding onto the railing near the stage door tightly. “Just leave.”

He moved closer and she began to run again, going through the doors to the space behind the curtain, attempting to lose him in the maze of props and finished set pieces. Finding it increasingly harder to keep up speed as she went.

John caught up to her easily, reaching out to her hand in order to pull her back; unaware of where they had stopped. She had lost all strength to pull away, turning to face him against her better judgment, the tears starting to fall despite her best efforts. She still refused to look him in the eyes.

Her face instead became glued at a point behind him as shock began to wash over her face. Her hands gripping John’s shoulders tightly, attempting to move him out of the way.

Unbeknownst to him the commotion had alerted one of the dancers to tell Dakota about their visitor, who quickly sent out her right hand man to deal with the issue. While John desperately tried to get Kimberly to speak with him the man in charged with keeping everything in order now stood, gun in hand, mere feet behind the couple.

“No,” she whispered, gripping his shoulders tighter, tears streaming down her face. “Get out of here please, go! Go!”

“Let me pay! Let me pay or tell me you don’t love me!” Completely at a loss John gripped for the last gimmick he could think of. Unaware of the man behind him or of the rising curtain they stood behind.

Without any means of moving him Kimberly began to plead for him to leave, trying to move herself into Mogan’s line of range. Her tears flowed to hard for her to speak properly, reduced to shoving and shaking her head. The light from the stage seeping across the floor along with Reed’s voice cueing her entrance as both John and Morgan continued unaware.

“Then tell me you don’t love me!” John nearly yelled, keeping Kimberly from moving away from him.

But before she could croak out a response the curtains had risen completely, leaving them both on stage in the midst of their argument.

The entire theater fell silent save to the sound of a wine glass falling to the floor. Unmistakably coming from the investor’s table.

…to be continued

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