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Rated: 13+ · Novel · Friendship · #2076741
No matter how grown up you are, sometimes you need a helping hand...
***AUTHOR'S NOTE*** Hi Guys, this is a bit of a long exert, so maybe grab a cup of tea before you settle in and greet these three lovely ladies. Each one strong in her own right, but even stronger with her friends by her side. A tribute to my two best friends, the real life Lucy and Bea - I love you guys *Heart*

Staying Connected - Lucy

The Bedford family always went all-out for Christmas. Huge trees festooned with sparkling lights, the big wreath on the front door, homemade eggnog and Christmas cookies; and their parties were legendary – the only place to be in town on Christmas Eve.

Every year friends, family and the surrounding area would spend August through November sending gift baskets, cheques, even offering five star holidays, just to get into that bash. Their stately home on top of the hill was transformed into a winter palace, with lights and snow everywhere. They had performers every year, too – bands, DJs, even circus performers and magicians one year. Rest assured, if you found yourself with an invite to that house on Christmas Eve, you told Grannie you’d see her on Boxing Day. The real star of the show at the Bedford house, however, was the Tree.

Always over seven feet tall, professionally decorated and of course, real – Mary’s Husband, Mayor Bedford (Yes, Mayor – making sense now?) had paled at the thought when his then new bride had confessed she’d never had a real Christmas tree. Forever a romantic, he had wasted no time in planting a forest of them in the grounds of the house, vowing that every year she would have a real tree.

This particular year, the residents of Kessler village were in the highest of spirits. Their village square had been nominated for Home and Garden Magazine’s ‘Christmas Display of the Year’ award, due largely in part to Mary Bedford and her Christmas Committee (actually just her circle of friends and the local councillors, but they liked the ring ‘committee’ had to it).

A formidable woman, Mary was a force to be reckoned with all year round, but at Christmas – you were just best to stay out of her way. If you got in between her and her fifteen cherub ice sculptures or the perfectly in bloom Poinsettias, you were going to have a fight for survival on your hands. It was who she was – she’d come from nothing to have everything, and there was no way anyone was going to take it away from her. And there was much more riding on her party this year, with the judges for the award being guests of honour. She knew she had to do something spectacular. And trim the fat from the guest list too. She couldn’t risk Mrs. Lawson from the butchers having one too many sherries again and telling Angela Davies the best way to boil a pig’s head! She would have to go.

Sat at the marble-topped dining table, she sipped her Macchiato and perused the list in front of her. Sending out the invites was easily one of her top five activities in the run up to the event. It gave her a wonderful sense of power to be able to just delete people at her whim, ruining their Christmas and resigning them to an evening of staring into space. She was by no means a scrooge, more the exact opposite – she would show them the official photos when they were printed in the paper the following week.

She stopped as she scrolled further down the list to the three final names. These were the people she still hadn’t decided on. They were devious, tempestuous women, who only sought to chip away at her perfect life and loving family... they were cruel, all three of them. But one of them owned the local bookstore-come-coffee shop, and was highly respected in the village (but only because she’d managed to hide her deviant son behind closed doors); another was opening the hot new restaurant in town, and if it took off as predicted she’d need to be able to make last minute reservations, even if she couldn’t stand the owner. She’d have to be seen there to keep up appearances.

But the third name on the list - now that was a tough choice. She’d given her a chance last year, been the bigger person. It had backfired on her stunningly; people were still talking about it. She would be mad to invite her again this year.

But she is your sister, said an annoying voice in her head, not sounding dissimilar to her mother, God rest her Soul. And sisters should stick together, Mary, my girl.

There was no getting around it, even she couldn’t be that cruel on the holidays. She would have to invite Lucy.

-----------------

Lucy, meanwhile, woke up with a raging head ache and a chronic ringing in her ears. It had been a night to remember, ironically she remembered that much. Pity she didn’t remember anything else...like where she’d woken up.

As her eyes adjusted to the sunlight streaming through the blinds, she took a deep breath and sat up. Well, she was in a bed – a vast improvement on the previous morning when she’d woken slumped in the back seat of her car. But it wasn’t her hotel room – those smudgy stains on the walls and the aroma of stale urine told her told her that much. She realised with a small start that she was also naked underneath the bed sheets.

“Oh God, not again.” She growled to herself, searching the room for her clothes. It wasn’t the drink that led her here, as everyone was always so quick to point out. It was more the mind-numbing state that it induced. Being a rock star with stage fright made her a bit of walking contradiction.

She was frantically searching for her bra when she heard the toilet flush. Oh God, she thought. It would be less embarrassing if they just left afterwards!

She dived back into the bed and tried her best to cover herself as the door handle turned.

“Good morning beautiful. I’m glad you’re awake. Breakfast?”

Well Done Lucy, she scolded herself. You’ve officially hit Rock Bottom. Congratulations.

This guy was a scumbag, how drunk had she been not to see it? She’d wanted to party after the gig, she remembered that much. Had he given her drugs? A raging alcoholic she may be, but she’d never been into the harder stuff. Looking at him stood in the doorway, she could see he clearly was. Wearing a scruffy pair of jeans, he was so skinny he could almost be translucent. He had the most awful tattoos all over his chest, and tell-tale pin prick marks on his arms and stomach.

He walked towards her and she could smell the mix of alcohol and weed smoke seeping from him. He gave her a grin filled with browning teeth, raking his bloodshot eyes up and down her body as she gripped the sheet tighter.

“Erm, Hi.” She began, trying to think quickly with someone tap-dancing on her temples. She quickly calculated that getting dressed and out of the door would take all of two minutes, providing she could get him out of the room first.

“You were so great last night, baby.” He said, coming closer. Thankfully, he sat down on the sofa opposite her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a rolled up cigarette, which she was willing to bet wasn’t tobacco. “Want some?” He asked, offering it to her.

She smiled weakly. “Erm, no, I’m ok thanks. Still pretty wrecked from last night. Did, er, did you say something about breakfast?”

“There’s a vendo machine in the parking lot. Diet Coke?” He asked, leaning over so that his sunken, sallow face was inches from her. “Your wish is my command, my Queen.”

She held her breath as he planted a sloppy kiss on her forehead. The second he was out of the door, she bolted from the bed, trying to wriggle into her dress so fast that she ripped the hemline. She stared blindly around the room for her phone, seeing it on the counter in the bathroom....the top of which looked like it needed dusting. Her stomach turned over at the thought of what else that white dust might be. What on earth had she gotten herself into this time?!

She peeked through the door a minute later, thankful that there was still no sign of her mystery ‘date’. Now, to just find a way out...


Love line Lost – Amy

“Doesn’t it look so beautiful out there?” Amy Martin sighed, cupping her coffee mug to her chest as she gazed out the window at the snow. It had been falling all day, and would mean that she’d be sleeping at the shop instead of going home, but it was worth it. She loved the peace that fresh snowfall brought, as though a mute button had been pushed high above them. The fact that it was also early December just made her festive mood deepen.

She’d sent her assistant Jade home earlier that afternoon, making her promise to call as soon as she got back safe.

“Now that I’m home it looks wonderful!” she replied. “Are you staying there tonight?”

“Yeah, I figured it was probably safer than trying to walk home. I can take as long as I want to walk home in the daylight tomorrow.” Amy said. “It’s ok.”

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright there by yourself?” Jade asked.

“I’m not by myself.” Amy replied, looking at the bookshelves around her. “I’ve got millions of characters to keep me company, and all the coffee and slightly stale cake a girl could wish for. I’ll be fine.”

“Ok, just make sure you keep warm. Do you need me to call Richard?”

Amy smiled at how thoughtful but slightly tactless the youngster was. “Jade, you do a lot for me, but I think I can call my own husband.”

“Oh God, I didn’t mean – ” She started.

“It’s ok, I know you didn’t.” Amy smiled to herself, moving away from the window to sit in the big leather chair nearby. “You have a lovely evening with your family; watch something Christmassy. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

After she hung up and finished her coffee, she began to close up. No one had been in since lunch time, and it wasn’t like people were going to be trekking out in this weather for a coffee or the latest Cecilia Ahern. Nope, she decided with a sigh, it was five o’clock and even if she was staying put, work was done for the day. She cashed up the till (not that there was much in it), and after finishing her paperwork and putting everything away in the safe, she sat back down in the chair with a fresh cup of coffee, and gave a contented sigh.

It wasn’t much, her little shop, but it was hers. Her corner of the street where she could see people and be a part of the landscape that was their town. Although she’d been more than uncertain when Richard had bought the run down coffee shop, she’d thrown herself into it and found, to her delight, that she actually wasn’t bad at it. Looking around at it now, it’s bare bricks almost completely covered by bookshelves and paintings, with the huge central fireplace currently blazing just for her – it was more like her personal living room than her business. But that’s exactly how she felt it should be. She wanted people who came in for the first time to feel instantly at home there. Since this winter had been more bitter than most, she’d even taken to putting thick tartan blankets over the back of every arm chair, especially for those tables that bit closer to the doors and windows. Once there was a bit more spare money she’d get them replaced – in the warmer months it was no problem, she could have them all thrown open, the smells of baking lemon cupcakes and the promise of icy cold fruit punch enough to keep everyone coming back. But when it got to winter, people seemed to want to grab their coffee and head back to their warm offices and cars. Those windows let out a lot of the heat and were taking customers with it; they’d just have to go.

She was broken from her thoughts by her mobile phone vibrating along the table beside her. Glancing at the screen, she smiled as she answered.

“Hello darling, I was just about to call you.”

“Hi! Did you make it home ok?” Her husband Richard was on the other end, calling from the office.

“No, I think I’m just going to sleep here tonight. It’s safer than trying to get back up the hill, and there’s plenty here to keep me going.” She told him with a wry smile, eyeing up the coffee and walnut cake that she’d put out fresh that morning.

“Are you sure you’re ok there? Do you want me to come down in the Land Rover and get you?” He asked, sounding concerned. He was so sweet to think of rescuing her.

“No, really, I’ll be fine." She said. "I’ve got the fire going, plenty of blankets and coffee on tap. It’s not ideal, but I’ll make the best of it. Nick is staying at Mike’s tonight, so don’t worry when he’s not home; and James and Lily got back from hockey practice at four, Michelle called just as I was sending Jade home to let me know. She’s a great help to have around, God love her. So there’s just you to take care of for dinner.”

“I’m sure Michelle will have something prepared by the time I manage to get back.” He replied. “Traffic out there is a nightmare!”

“I can imagine!” She said, pulling the nearest blanket onto her lap. “Well be careful out there, get home safe, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You will.” He said.

“I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.”

As he hung up, Richard Martin paused for a few seconds, as though the situation he found himself in was finally beginning to unnerve him. Then, as quickly as it had come, it passed. He picked up the bottle of merlot on the kitchen counter and returned to the living room, to the leggy blonde curled up on his sofa.

“Everything ok?” She asked, holding out her glass for a refill.

“Yes, fine. As I suspected, Amy is staying at the shop tonight, she said she’d be back tomorrow.” He replied, looking around the open plan living and dining room. “Where are the kids?”

“Studying in their rooms.” She purred, running her fingers lightly over his thigh as he sat down beside her. “We won’t be disturbed.”

“Ah Michelle, you really are the best.” He said with a devilish grin, putting their drinks on the coffee table and pulling her onto his lap.

“Oh I am the best at many things, Mr. Martin.” She replied, running her fingers through his short salt and pepper hair as she leant in close to his ear. “Would you like me to show you?” she whispered.


Straight Laced, Straight Faced, and Entirely Fabulous! – Bea

As she looked over her reflection in her mirror, she had to admit that she didn’t look half bad. Being back at home in London had its perks – access to her full wardrobe for a start. Sleek, professional suit and heeled court shoes in the exact same shade of charcoal. She’d pinned her wavy red hair away neatly into a bun, and with a final flourish of Chanel, she was ready to go. This meeting had the potential to catapult her from ‘just another food critic’ to ‘restaurant owner feared by all’. She had to make the right impression.

Her agent had been in talks with Michel Bellamy, one of the country’s best chefs, for weeks, to set it up. He was currently head chef at The Bissette, the best French Bistro in the city, and doing very well for himself, by all accounts. She had eaten there a few times, and he was one of the few chefs she’d ever given a rave review. He truly was a brilliant man, and she wanted him...for her restaurant, of course.

“Bea, there you are!” Looking tired and harassed, her agent Melissa greeted her with a kiss on the cheek as she entered the restaurant. “You’re almost late, what happened?”

“Oh, some idiot came off his motorbike on the way here.” She replied with a sigh. “I honestly don’t understand why they haven’t banned those god awful things yet. Is Michel here?” she added, looking over to the table they’d reserved. By the window to be seen by the press, but a booth for that touch more privacy from prying public.

“He’s on his way, he’s also stuck in the traffic. So we have a little time to go over things. Oh, excuse me!” She called, collaring a bar tender. “Dirty Martini for me, please, and an iced water for my friend Beatrice here.”

He reacted exactly the same as everyone else did the first time they saw her. They give her a quick once over to confirm their horrified theory, and then their pupils begin to dilate, beads of sweat forming quickly on their brow. He was no different, playing his part beautifully before spluttering, “B...Beatrice Fletcher?”

“That would be me.” she replied with a professional smile. “Can you please tell the chef we’re ready to order, and have someone show us to our table?”

Melissa watched him run off as soon as he’d seated them. “I never get tired of seeing you do that!” She grinned, taking out a leather bound file. “But down to business now. There’s a few things I think we should go over before Michael arrives. I’ve been talking with his manager, and it seems if we want him, we’ve got to jump through some hoops to get him.”

“What do you mean?” Bea asked, frowning. She’d hoped the last agreed wage increase would be enough, it would almost bankrupt her as it was. “I thought you had this under control, Melissa.”

“I do have it under control, Bea. I just wanted you to be aware of what they have asked for before –”

“Ladies, my apologies for being so late.” A smooth voice said from behind them. “Zere was a terrible accident not far from ‘ere; I ‘ad to stop and do what I could to ‘elp.”

That, of course, was the other reason why Beatrice simply had to have Michel Bellamy work for her. He was a truly kind and caring man, always willing to help – a character trait you don’t find in a lot of Michelin starred chefs. Growing up, he’d done a lot for the community in the French costal village where he lived; organizing a team and raising funds to re-build the local church when it collapsed in a storm. He was also an Adonis of a man – tall with broad shoulders and an even tan; cropped dark hair with just a hint of a curl; and eyes that were almost as dark as her morning coffee...God, how she’d like to fall into those eyes. This fact alone would have made him a high choice on the shortlist. The fact that he could also do things with truffles that she’d never even dreamed of made him her only choice.

“Michel, Bonjour, lovely to see you!” She smiled warmly, getting up to greet him with air kisses. “It’s not a problem, we’re just catching up on some other business. Can I get you a drink?”

“Just a water, S’il vous plait. I am off to zee restaurant after we finish here.” He replied, sitting down opposite her. “Speaking of which, why are we not doing zis zer? Surely we should celebrate our new venture in its own building, non?”

It took a couple of seconds for Bea to register what Michel had said, and one look at Melissa’s quickly reddening face was enough to know that she hadn’t misheard him.

“I’m sorry, Michel, please forgive my ignorance. What exactly are you talking about?” she asked. “The restaurant is going to be in Kessler, remember we spoke about this?”

He frowned slightly, he too shooting Melissa a look as he reached across the table. Taking her hand in his, he sighed.

“My darling woman, I must apologise. I zought you knew.” He started. “It’s my final condition for signing zee contracts to be your head chef.”

“They want the restaurant to replace Michel’s current space. Here in the city.” Melissa whispered, too afraid to look her boss in the eye. She would be so fired for not getting to this before he arrived.

“I cannot leave my own restaurant in zee hands of an amateur while I go running off to ‘eaven know’s where. My name, my standing, my career – it would all disappear and I would become a nobody chef. I worked very ‘ard to get where I am today. I have to stay ‘ere in ze city to protect it. Zis must be something you can understand, Beatreece?”

Ignoring the flutter she felt when he said her name, Bea said nothing at all for a few seconds, choosing instead to close her eyes and take a long sip of her water. She tried to keep her swirling thoughts at bay, arranging her anger and surprise into something of a coherent response.

“Michel, you know how I feel about your food.” She began, setting her glass down slowly. “It is the only food I really want to serve at The Old School Hall. As an acclaimed food critic I too have a standard to uphold. I want other critics to shake with fear when they come to check out the competition.” She paused to drink in his melodious laugh before she continued. “But the location is something that I have had planned out long before I even became a critic. All I have ever wanted is to own a first class restaurant, and I’ve had my eyes on Kessler Hall since the beginning. I have increased your wages, offered you a living space and given you free creative reign on the menu, which I might add I wasn’t overly thrilled about. But I agreed, all to get you to come and work with me.”

She looked into those coffee coloured eyes for what she hoped wasn’t the final time. “I’m sorry, Michel.” She took a deep breath. “But if you are now saying that you cannot move to Kessler - you won’t...then I’m sorry, but I can’t have you as my chef. I won’t.”

Michel looked as though he had been dowsed in cold water. Melissa simply sat agape as Bea heaved a sigh and picked up her bag. “If you don’t mind, I won’t stay for the drinks, or dinner. I think I’ll head home. It seems I have some re-planning to do. Melissa, we’ll talk tomorrow. Goodbye, Michel.”

“You are a strong woman, Miss Fletcher. I like zat.” He replied, standing as she did. “If you change your mind, it will be an honour to work wiz you.”

---------------

“You don’t need some fancy pants chef to make your restaurant great, and you know it.” Amy told her when she called later on. After a brief run-down of her children’s latest achievements and husband’s high-profile case, Bea couldn’t last any longer, blurting out the entire story in one long breath. Amy had listened like any good friend should, and was now ready to give her the dose of tough love that she clearly needed.

“I’m serious,” She continued. “Michel Bellamy will not make your restaurant any better than the one he owns in the city. He’d be mad to, it would only profit you. He would only make it as good as at best. Who wants to be as good? Go and find another chef, or even do it yourself; and make it better.”

“How on earth will I find a chef better than Michel Bellamy?” Bea said, laughing at the very idea of it. She loved Amy; she was still the same down-to-earth, straight shooting woman she had been when they met aged 15. But she wasn’t exactly the most worldly-travelled of souls, and her idea of good food was Richard’s Spaghetti Bolognese that he made for her once a year on their anniversary. “He’s got a Michelin Star, Amy – do you know how good that makes him?”

“As good as Alyn Williams, but still no Michel Roux Junior?” She replied, feeling smug as she scrolled through the list on her laptop browser.

Bea paused. “Are you Google-ing Michelin Stars right now? Just to prove your point?” She asked.

Damn, she knows me too well. “And so what if I am? It makes my point beautifully, don’t you think?” She closed the laptop and re-filled her mug from the coffee pot on the counter. “Look, all I’m saying is don’t be in such a hurry to give in. Think on it. You’ve wanted Kessler Hall as long as you’ve wanted a place of your own. Don’t let brown eyes and a hand with the truffle oil get to you.”

“Hm. How come you’re still at the shop anyway?” She asked, changing the subject. She’d had her rant now, she could do with taking her mind off it. “You can’t be doing stock take at this time of night, it’s almost ten.”

“Well, you know how work-focused I am.” She joked, going back to her seat by the window. “Nah, the snow’s been getting steadily worse all day, so I’m camping out here for the night. Tomorrow’s Sunday and we’re closed, so I can take all the time I need to walk home.”

“Why didn’t you call? I’d have come to fetch you in the Jeep.” Bea told her, looking out of her own window. Almost a hundred and seventy miles away, a little snow never stopped anyone in London. Up in Kessler, however, it was a different story. “I’m coming back up tomorrow anyway, to look at how the renovations are going on.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll be fine for tonight. I’ll take you up on it for tomorrow morning though, if that’s ok? I told Richard I’d walk home, but I’m not looking forward to trudging back up that bloody hill.”

After they’d made arrangements and hung up, Bea sat silently at her desk for a moment and smiled to herself. Amy always knew just what to say to get her to unclench, without even knowing she was doing it. It was part of the reason they were still such good friends after nearly twenty years; they always had balanced each other out, even as teens. Lucy was always in and out of the picture, even more so when she started touring with her band, but they kept in touch as best they could. Amy’s Mum had always told them that between the three of them they’d conquer the world.

“Well, maybe not the whole world, Mrs. P.” She mused to herself as she wandered through to the kitchen and poured a glass of wine. “But maybe we could have just a little corner of it.”


Lucy

Having darted out of the door and bolted for the nearest staircase, Lucy was now cowering in a darkened corner, desperately trying to stop her head from spinning. She couldn’t see straight, her stomach was churning and she had somehow lost a shoe on her way down. The bright light of everyday Florida was too much for her eyes to take. They refused to open fully, forcing her to squint as she made her way, slower this time, down the final flight of stairs to the car park.

She was surprised, relieved and alarmed all at the same time when she spotted her guitarist and friend Joe sat in their touring van two hundred yards from her. He was looking at something on his phone, his blonde dreadlocks tucked out of his eyes into a rough ponytail. Through her squinting and stumbling she got close enough to see that he, too, was still wearing his ripped sleeve Metallica shirt from the night before.

I don’t care how or why he’s here. She told herself as she waved her arms at him with all the strength she could muster. I’m just so glad he’s here!

“Lucy?! Oh thank Fuck for that!” He yelled, leaping out of the van to hug her. “Woman, you have got to stop scaring me like that!”

“How did you know I was here?” She asked, going to take his sun glasses from his face. She took one look at the bloodshot eyes behind them and put them back. “Rough night for you too?”

He smiled sheepishly, his hands in his pockets. “Kind of, yeah. You remember Trisha from the bar?”

Lucy laughed, immediately wishing she hadn’t. “The barmaid?” she said, trying not to heave as he pulled the van door open for her. It was too hot to be stood around outside. “Let’s get back to the hotel so I can shower and eat. Then you can tell me all about her.”

Joe had to stop the van twice for her before they got back to the hotel. The record company had paid for them to stay in a really posh place this time since their reunion album was selling well. It had a real doorman (a sweet old guy called Norman), bellboys to move your luggage for you, a concierge service, and a huge marbled lobby that reflected all that sunlight beautifully. The place was almost magical.

Unless, of course, you were a hung-over thirty-something who was now wearing last night’s burger run. Then, although Norman was still lovely if a little annoying, but the lobby was your Everest. To get through it without A, being noticed by any of the snooty staff who already hated having you there, and B, not throwing up on the beautifully clean floor, was going to be a challenge.

As he had looked after a worse-for-wear Lucy for nearly fifteen years, Joe had already thought of all that. He kept a spare shirt in the van at all times, along with some baby wipes and deodorant. He also kept good old Norman sweet with concert tickets (his daughter was a fan), so he would let them in through the service entrance at the back of the building.

“Here you go, kiddo.” He said, passing her the shirt and wipes. “You might want to freshen up a little first.”

Yet again Lucy marvelled at her friend’s intuition. “Will there ever be a time you don’t have my back?” She asked him, pinching his cheek playfully.

“Will there ever be a time you don’t need me to?” He replied the same reply he’d been giving for years, and turned his back while she changed. They’d had a brief thing years ago, so it wasn’t like he’d never seen her naked before. But he respected her enough not to look all the same.

They scuttled through the kitchen like a couple of teenagers sneaking in past curfew, and dived into the first lift to open.

“Ok,” Lucy huffed, pushing Joe’s sunglasses up her nose. “So the story is?”

“We went out for a few drinks after the gig, had a few too many, and stayed in a nearby motel ‘cause it was the responsible thing to do – no drinking and driving.” Joe rolled off the explanation they had concocted on their way back. It covered them being seen so early in the morning, together, outside a cheap motel.

“In separate rooms – don’t forget the separate rooms.” She added.

“Oh, so you will sleep with Mr. Scumbag but you’re worried about people saying things about us? Lucy, I’m hurt!” He put his hand on his heart, feigning pain.

She punched him on the arm, only half playing. “I mean, the press would have a field day if we don’t stress that point. I can see the headlines now – ‘Bedford Branded Home-wrecker in Rust and Dust Scandal!’. Your crazy ex-wife already hates me, I’d rather not actually give her a reason to.”

It was true that Lucy had come between Joe and his ex-wife Marcy, but not in the way that you think. He and Lucy were the ‘it couple’ for the first few years of their career – it was part of what skyrocketed them to fame in the first place. When they had a pretty public break up two years later, it almost ended their career. But a few months on the road, performing and making music, reminded them both that they were friends before, and they’d be firm friends afterwards too.

Unfortunately, not long after his wedding, a rather embarrassing photo of the pair was leaked to the press, and it didn’t go down well with Marcy. It didn’t matter how many times he told her it was an old photo, and that she’d been hammer drunk and passed out on his lap, and that was all. Marcy had decided they were having a raging affair whilst on tour, and told him she was leaving. She still held something of a hate-torch for Lucy though, and took every opportunity to trash her in the media.

“Good point. Separate rooms, too much to drink, got it. Ready?” he added as the lift came to a stop.

“Definitely.” She gave him a shining grin as the doors opened to reveal their long suffering manager Ivan. He was purple in the face with rage.

“Then again, maybe not.” She mumbled. “Morning, Ivan!”

“Sorry we’re late, mate.” Joe started. “We went for a few drinks after the gig last night - ”

“Oh I know where you’ve been, you pair of fucking idiots!” He screamed, holding up his phone. “This isn’t the ninety’s anymore you know. The news pings straight to your phone now; instantly. Isn’t that just fucking brilliant?!”

“Ivan, calm down and tell us what’s wrong.” Joe said, putting his hands on Ivan’s shoulders and steering him back to their suite. “You’re going to have an aneurysm if you’re not careful.”

The door swung shut behind them, and as soon as the lock had clicked into place, he let rip even louder.

“Your tour is only half way through, another twenty nights to do all over the world!” He spat. “And you had to go and get yourselves seen - there!

A quick, confused glance between the pair was put to rest by Ivan throwing his phone onto the table for them to see.

“Well,” Joe sighed. “Bang goes our story.”

Lucy couldn’t hear him. All she could hear was the pounding of blood in her head, and a high pitched ring as she stared at the headline in front of her. It was so, so much worse than another ‘affair’ with Joe.

He was dead. Mitchell Jones, aged twenty nine...found in his motel room after an expected overdose...stars Lucy Bedford and Joe Strand seen leaving the motel in question...just an hour before Jones was found...

Shit. She thought. I am in the Shit.


Amy

The gentle tap-tap-tap on the window next to her woke her first. Though she knew it would be Bea come to her rescue, she had slept fitfully throughout the night; convinced that every noise was an axe-yielding robber. Now that she was finally comfortable, she refused to believe it was morning. She kept her eyes tightly closed and pulled the blanket up over her head.

The tapping got louder, closely followed by the clatter of her letter box opening.

“Amy Martin, I can see you, you know! Get up and come and let me in! It’s bloody freezing out here, and I came all this way to rescue you like you asked.”

Grumbling as she shuffled to the door, Amy unlocked it and wrenched it open, glaring at her friend. “I did not ask, you offered. And you were coming home anyway.” She grumbled. “Now do you want free caffeine or not?”

“Wow, I forgot how mean you are in a morning.” Bea grinned, shaking the snow off her coat and boots as she walked in. She shivered. “It’s almost as cold in here as it is out there! Get the kettle on, Mrs. I’ve got loads to do today – the builders weren’t even there when I called in on my way here.”

“It is only seven AM, on a snow-covered November morning.” She defended them as she fired up the coffee machine, mumbling as she added “I know I’d rather not be up yet.”

“I heard that!” Bea called after her. “Time waits for no man, Amy – or woman. I’ve got far too much to do for them to have a snow day.”

Amy smiled to herself as she bustled about behind her counter. Only Beatrice Fletcher would expect outdoor labourers to turn up in a foot of snow and crack on as normal. When she first bought the Book Cafe, Richard had put Bea in charge of the renovations needed. ‘So that things actually get done, Amy’ he had told her when she’d asked him why. ‘You’d offer them tea and cake every two minutes’.

Although exaggerating, he was partly right. She had always believed that a happy workforce was a productive one, but she knew that many didn’t agree with her. People like Bea and her husband might get the job done, and maybe yes, a little quicker – but her father had managed to run a successful Greek restaurant for years without ever being un-necessarily rude to his staff. And if it was good enough for Nikolas Petru, it was definitely good enough for her.

Forty minutes and two double espressos later, they were ready to leave. Amy had checked everything was locked up, pulling her scarf tighter around her as she closed the front door.

“I’m assuming Richard know that I’ve come to fetch you?” Bea asked as she slowly pulled her car away from the kerb. “He won’t be trekking out to meet you himself?”

Amy shook her head. “I told him I was walking home, so I doubt it. Even if he thought to come out in the car for me, he wouldn’t set out so early. Sunday’s the only day he has off, he likes to make the most of his lie in.”

"Maybe you'll get home early enough to surprise him, eh?" Bea giggled, giving her a playful nudge.

"Bea! You're incorrigible!" She replied, smiling herself. It had been a while, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea after all...


***Sorry, I said it was a long one! More to come soon, please leave feedback - it's all welcome!*** xx
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