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Floral Tributes

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Ellen sits in her dressing-room, twisting Titania's diadem in her hands. The performance of the Dream the day after Oliver's death was cancelled, of course, but Richard was never going to do more than the minimum required for decency. So tomorrow night she'll be delivering the forgeries of jealousy speech with her back to the audience, thanks to Oliver's incompetent blocking. And no one will see her or hear her. Again.

First, though, there's the funeral to get through. She wishes she'd brought a flask with her; god knows she'll need a stiff drink after sitting through the usual mix of self-indulgent anecdotes and sentimental claptrap, topped off with Richard's idea of tasteful stage design, the abominable Claire butchering Shakespeare's Sonnets, and yet more bloody flowers.

Ellen's had enough sympathy bouquets to keep her in flower crowns for the rest of the run, if she wanted them. A friend died and he didn't have any family. So they're sending flowers to me, she'd told the young, young man who'd brought the latest delivery and stayed to lecture her about chameleons and drink wine and share her bed. Under the mistaken impression that we were close. Which we haven't been for ages.

The Hamlet photograph's still there in the corner. She doesn't know why she kept it all these years - some kind of penance, probably. A frozen image of her and Geoffrey and Oliver happy together, posing for the camera, before their relationship crashed and burned and everything went to hell.

She could have left New Burbage after that, but she stayed. Stayed here and watched Oliver slide into alcoholism and indifference, as if there was nothing left to care about any more. They never talked about what had happened between them, and now they never will.

Maybe now Oliver's gone she can find some kind of peace. Maybe she can finally be free of the past. If that's a selfish thought to have on the day of his funeral, well, sorry. Ellen's spent the past seven years being the woman who ruined everything by saying yes when her gay director made a pass at her. It's time for a new start.

She retouches her make-up, buttons her jacket, and drapes the purple scarf around her neck. Breathe. She opens the door and steps out into the corridor.

Geoffrey is standing right there, staring at her.

Ellen freezes. Then she runs.