chapter 16 (part 1)

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I collapsed into one of the sofas outside the recording studio with my hand clutching my stomach for what must have been the 20th time that day.

"Tamara, what the hell is wrong this time?" Alexander, my manger, roared at me with an impatient grimace. I was already behind on today's plans due to my constant pangs of stomach aches, and he wasn't the slightest bit impressed. It had been a good few months since I'd seen him, not since before my whole 'heartbroken break to the UK' thing. I'd had no complaints at being separated from him for months on end - he was a sexist jackass.

"I feel sick again," I managed to choke breathily, doubling over with the pain in my abdomen. I held back the urge to retch, and began the tiresome exercise of trying to estimate whether or not I needed to make another sprint to the bathroom, or if the nausea would pass this time. Quite unlikely, seeing as it hadn't passed any of the last nineteen incidences...

"Take an indigestive or something, we can't keep stalling like this," he urged angrily. "You promised we'd have at least four new songs drafted by the end of today."

"I don't know if I can," I challenged, my voice a whisper as I became afraid that if I opened my mouth any wider, I'd puke.

He sighed impatiently with me. "Tamara, it's not like it's mind boggling stuff. All you have to do is overview and we can put your name on the credits, darling."

"I don't want that, I told you," I argued, "I want to have an actual input."

"Then get up off your tight little arse and write something!"

I didn't have a chance to come up with a witty reply, or even answer back. I hurled myself forward suddenly as I felt my gag reflex come into action, the warmth in my throat as my light nibbles on dry crackers and water hopelessly came back up.

I just about made it to the bathroom, hearing Alexander calling my furiously from behind. I fell to my knees in front of the toilet, the same one I'd kneeled before countless times today. I choked up the practically non-existent contents of my stomach, coughing on the burning of acid in the back of my throat. When it was over I slumped against the wall of the cubicle, trying to catch my breath, refraining from swallowing back the vile taste that filled my mouth.

I questioned once again what was causing my sudden intensive illness. I'd experienced the same thing yesterday, but assuming it was a simple 24 hour bug which would clear up after a good night's sleep, I'd travelled to the studio in London early this morning for some song writing sessions. After sitting for a good few hours listening to Alexander babble on and on about how pathetic my attempts were, putting down every suggestion of me trying to write something deep or meaningful, arguing that it would bewilder all my pre-teen fans who wanted cheesy, boppy pop. I reminded him that I wasn't officially a Disney star anymore, having quit the show in September, but all he did was glare at me with that disgusted gaze that said he looked down on me for every reason possible. I would have gotten rid of him, if it weren't for his 8 month contract. I dreamed of the day several weeks from now when he'dbe out of my life forever, and I'd have every reason to stare down on him condescendingly as he had done to me so many times before.

A few hours in, and with my stomach feeling perfectly fine previously, I'd suddenly been hit by the same waves of nausea, the same stabbing pains in my stomach that made my breath catch uncomfortably with the dull agony. Since that, I'd been sick constantly, unable to keep so much as a sip of water down. I decided that if it happened again tomorrow, I'd see a doctor. No point in kicking up a fuss before then.

I rested my head back, sweating profusely. It could be stress, I reminded myself. It could be a side effect of the horrible time I'd been having of it recently. I swallowed hard despite the sick taste it provoked, trying with difficulty not to think of him. To not think of the photos of him that were plastered in every magazine. Drunk, grinning, partying. Half naked girls draped over his still scrawny frame.

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