Chapter 13

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It hadn't taken long, with Kimberley in charge. Cheryl had re-entered her suite, ridiculously grand and overpriced, reeking of early morning smoke and what was left over from the night's sexual escapades.

For all her unhealthy morning rituals, she looked the picture of vitality.

"I didn't know which one you'd prefer so I've laid out your dresses over there," Kimberley was pointing to one of the many piles she'd arranged of Cheryl's potential clothing options.

"I've got your jeans and short shorts here, oh and I found a load of stuff in your squishy bag still."

"Yeah, that's from Friday. I guess I didn't have time to unpack it."

Kimberley acknowledged this with concern. "See, that's what I'm talking about. You're always rushing all over the place. It can't be good for you."

Cheryl instinctively laughed, "You sound like me mam."

She'd meant it as a joke, but Kimberley could only muster a slight pout as she turned away.

"Hey, Kimberley, I - Come on, I'm only messin' with yous. Kimba?"

"It's fine, Cheryl," she raised her hand to signal the end of it and Cheryl knew better than to press it further. Kimberley was hardly ever the one to delve into a mood, she usually exercised that right herself.

Kimberley was far more patient, far more selfless than she could ever be and Cheryl knew it. She loved her for it. So when Kimberley felt the need to snap at her or cut her off she usually held her tongue and waited. Partly because she knew it would work its way out eventually, partly because she didn't know what else to do, but mostly through fear of making the situation worse.

They mechanically began sorting through the piles of clothes, designer labels aplenty, tens of thousands of pounds worth of thread and lace and fabric slipping through their fingers and into plush padded luggage. They worked almost silently, Cheryl's hand brushing Kimberley's back, the tensing underneath that she tried to ignore.

But she'd laughed when Cheryl showed her the latest hotpants she'd acquired from some Paris boutique. Told her she'd get arrested for indecency then blushed when Cheryl had replied she'd only bought them to wear for her.

They moved and flowed and soon the excuse their hands needed was at an end.

Cheryl had moved in for a hug, thanking her, arms outstretched and wanting, but although she was soft and warm and still smelled as intoxicating as ever, the air remained unsettled.

It made Cheryl more confused, more determined to squeeze harder, strangle every unspoken insecurity, every threatening uncertainty.

"Don't, you'll break me," Kimberley murmured against the smothering embrace.

"Never. I never will," Cheryl whispered back with a ferocious earnestness that made Kimberley catch her breath in waves and gradually relent.

"I'm sorry Kimba," she went on, loosening her hold a fraction, "I'm sorry I have to work so much. I don't want to be away from you. I hate it. I'm rubbish on me own."<

Kimberley smiled a bit at the admission. "You're not rubbish. And you're never on your own."

"Feels like it," Cheryl replied without hesitation as she stepped back, subconsciously crossing her arms, rubbing her shoulders for reassurance.

Kimberley thought about all the people that trailed after Cheryl every time she flew abroad. Her PA, sometimes her manager, sometimes her mother, a stylist, a "spokesperson" - no prizes for guessing who that usually was, although this was only reserved for attending official events.

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