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‘I need to talk to you. Major girl talk time.’ Rebecca frowned as she opened her front door to find her best friend standing there in one trainer and without a coat, tears streaking down her face. When the doorbell had rung she’d assumed, half hoped, it would be Sam putting an end to their interminable limbo of confusion and opportunity. Instead she ushered Keeley in and closed the door.

‘Okay. Is this an ice cream talk or an alcohol talk?’

‘Both.’

‘Oh shit. Go get comfortable. ' Rebecca smiled as Keeley threw herself against her in a hug before kicking off her lone shoe and flying up the stairs.

When she made it to her bedroom moments later, Keeley had already stripped off and was now snuggled under Rebeccas duvet and wearing one of her old uni t-shirts- Keeleys go to outfit for impromptu stay overs. She let her hair down and padded across the room to change into her own flannel pyjama’s. Perfect for a night of wallowing. She frowned as Keeley stayed silent despite the stripshow.

‘You didn't wolf whistle, this must be bad. What happened at the photoshoot?’ She asked as she slipped under the divert and passed over a bottle of wine and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s.

‘I think Roy’s going to break up with me.’ Keeley admitted quietly, as she took a long swig from her bottle.

‘What ?! Why on earth would you think that?’

‘I told him what Jamie said at the funeral, he told me someone asked him today if he was married after hours of hanging with her and he said no but hadn't clarified he was in a relationship and didn't to seem to know why ... I also told him about something that happened today’

‘What happened? Did he find out you're pregnant and leave you because if he did then I'll bite his balls off.’

‘Thank you for the offer but no. Do you really think I’d be drinking if I was pregnant? Anyways I’d tell you first. No, Nate kissed me.’ Rebecca dropped her spoon in shock.

‘Nate? Our Nate? Nathan Shelley our assistant coach Nate? What?! How? When? Why?’

‘He was after a new suit and I needed new clothes for the shoot so we went together and were talking about people feeling underappreciated or over looked I’m their jobs and about aspiring to be a boss. I was telling him how you inspired me to make more of myself.’

‘Aw. You inspire me too.’

‘And then he kissed me.’

‘Jesus. I take it Roy didn't like that then?’

‘He was very cool about it actually, said I must have found it awkward. It's just ... by the end of it all it was so uncomfortable. I know we've only been together a year but he didn't even think of me as a serious enough relationship to mention to a woman who has met me!’

‘Oh sweetie, That all sounds a bit shit.’ Rebecca pulled Keeley into her arms, laughing softly as her best friend pouted and nodded.

‘Yeah. It was a bit shit to be honest.’

‘How did you leave it?’

‘Well we still had a few photos left to take but I doubt they're useable as we both looked miserable as sin. He left as soon as he could and didn't say a word. I came straight here. I must have been in a fog because it wasn’t until I was halfway here that I realised I was only wearing one shoe.’

‘He broods, you know this. It sounds like he suddenly had a lot to process as once. He and Jamie have only just made peace with each other so he's probably trying to talk himself out of comilting murder. Remember how he was after Liverpool? '

‘Shit you don't think he actually would do you?’ Keeley sprung back upright to look Rebecca in the eye.

‘You know him better than I do but no, I don't think he'd kill him. If only because he knows you’d never forgive him and he’s crazy about you. You need to give him space then you need to talk to him. It might not be easy but you need to do it for both your sakes. Think about it- if he wasn’t serious he wouldn’t let you anywhere near Phoebe-you know he dotes on her.’

‘I suppose you're right!’

‘Of course I am. Actually I'm probably not the best person to give relationship advice right now.' She let out a heavy sigh, downing a significant few glugs of her own wine.

‘Shit yeah, how're you doing with that all right now? Please? l'd love to think about anything else for right now. '

‘I told Ted. I need to be as transparent as possible and it felt wrong having you and Sassy knowing but not him. He's my best friend as well despite how long I fought against that fact. He took it well - too well be honest, I feel like that's going to come back and bite me in the arse.’

‘Wish I could bite that fantastic arse!’ Keeley winked, promoting a guffaw to burst from her best friend.

‘There she is. He told me to listen to my gut and my heart.’

‘Good advice though not out and out helpful. And what are they saying?’

'That I really like Sam. A lot. I don't want him to go to Casablanca.'

‘Buuuuut...?'

‘But I don't know if I do, or could, love him. He makes me happy, he makes me smile in a way few others can he and he makes me feel heard, and understood and beautiful. I feel light when I'm with him.’

‘Can I say something?’

‘I doubt I could stop you.’

‘It sounds to me like you've got a best friend there. You two matched up so easily on Bantr because it was purely intellectual and fun. Sure you were flirting but that's harmless over text and you're a naturally flirty person even if you try to hide it behind that ice wall of yours. And sure the sex may be amazing even taking into account your tiny little vagina,' Rebecca snorted,'but I don't think it's worth in putting yourself through all this for. I'm going to take a leaf out of your book and advise you just talk to him. Have you spoken to him recently?'

‘I just got back when you arrived. I was waiting on his doorstep when she got back from his day out with Edwin. I told him I couldn't give him an answer regarding the two of us, that I wouldn't ask him to stay, but that I hoped he would. And then I left like coward.’

‘I don't think you're a coward Rebecca. Is dating Sam the most sensible thing you've ever done? No. As your PR girl I'm wary. But as your best friend I'm backing you to the fucking hilt. In my opinion there is nothing braver than being honest and it sounds like that’s what you were.'

‘Thank you. God this is all a mess.’

‘At least we’re a mess together.’ Keeley leant over to kiss Rebecca on the forehead before snuggling into her side and shovelling ice cream into her face.

‘I can’t believe you have 3 guys after you and I can’t even handle one.’

‘Excuse me I am not coping,' Keeley waved her spoon around the pair of them and their current state, 'and I’m only interested in one of them. Still it’s nice to feel wanted.’ They giggled.

‘Is Nate a good kisser?’

‘I don’t know. I was too busy being surprised to pay attention and it only lasted like 3 seconds. Do you think I lead him on?’

‘I think you have the biggest and kindest heart of anyone I've ever met and he has self esteem issue. He probably misinterpreted your kindness or just got swept up in the moment. You're like the sun Keeley-when you look on someone they are filled with light. I know there have been times I've been half tempted to kiss you.'

'Get in!' Keeley fist pumped.

'He’s harmless though. Come Monday morning it’ll all be forgotten about I’m sure.’

‘He’s a good guy.’ Rebecca’s phone began to ring. She declined it. ‘You didn’t have to do that.’

‘This is ladies night, not ladies and Ted, especially if he’s going to bite my arse.’ It rang again. She declined. Her phone buzzed with a text. ‘SOS? Shit I’d better take this. Hi Ted-Keeley? Yeah she’s here with me -Keeley did you leave your phone somewhere?’

‘Shit I think it’s in my living room.’

‘Don't take it personally Ted she also forgot to put on one of her shoes. You’re on speaker now. What’s up?’

‘We have a problem. Possibly a major PR issue.’ The ladies glanced at each other, both straightening from their flumped and entwined positions.

‘Oh my god Roy DID hurt Jamie. Fuck!’

‘No no it’s nothing about them. It’s me. I’m sending you through a screenshot of a conversation I just had with Trent.’

‘Crimm? The Independent?’

‘Yes.’ Rebeccas phone dinged and the pair grabbed hands before she opened the message. Their eyes scanned over it.

‘Oh no how did he-NATE?!’

‘What-oh my god Nate? Trent must be confused-maybe he doesn’t know who Nate is? Maybe someone gave him a fake name?’ Keeley suggested as if that would be more plausible. Hell it WAS more plausible.

‘Unfortunately I know for certain he knows who Nate was even before he went viral. FUCK! Ted I-I’ll sort this.’

‘We'll sort this. Right we need a crisis team. Ted can you get over here? Neither Rebecca or I are sober enough to drive right now and I walked here. Ted who else knows about this?’

‘About my attacks or the article?’

‘Both.’

‘You two know about the article and Beard, Roy, Higgins and …Nate know about the attacks. And Dr Sharon of course.’

‘Right. Ted you get yourself over here and we’ll round them up. Don’t worry Ted we’re going to get you through this.’

——

‘Right. So we all know why we’re here don’t we?’

‘Fucking Nate. Little prick. He is on a roll today.’ Roy paced the floor, swinging a kick at the beanbag beside the TV, too angry to work out why Rebecca Welton -queen of chic and elegance- had a purple fluffy beanbag in her living room.

‘Why what else has he done?’ Higgins frowned.

‘Not the moment!’ Rebecca barked as Keeley shot a dark look at Roy, standing to address the room.

‘Look the way I see it this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Shut up!’ She cut off their protestations. ‘There’s been a recent clamour for talk about mental health in sport yeah? Maybe we can spin this -do we think Trent would be up for an 11th hour interview where you bravely come forward to erase the stigma. Would that be okay with you Ted?’ They turned to look at him, head buried in his hands, looking worryingly small in Rebeccas over stuffed armchair. He looked up and shrugged.

‘Honestly? No. I’d rather not do that but if the information is coming out anyways then I guess it’s better to control the narrative as you PR bigwigs say. Only problem is I’ve already said no comment to Trent.’

‘No problem. I’ll call him. We’re going to sort this.’ Keeley pulled him up into a hug before dashing from the room. Rebecca settled on the arm of his chair, slipping her hand into his and squeezing as a thought occurred to her.

‘You may want to call Michelle and Henry. Prewarn them what’s coming. Or would you rather I did that?'

‘No I should. Thank you though. I appreciate the offer a whole lot.' Keeley slid back in

‘Okay Trent is on his way over now. Hope you don’t mind that I gave him your address Rebecca?’

‘It’s fine.’ She shrugged, the press hadn't hounded her since she'd moved to this house and she hoped this wouldn't be the beginning of it starting again but under the circumstances it was a sacrifice she was willing to make.

‘Great. He’ll be here in 10 minutes. Do you want me to make up your spare room? I don’t think Ted should be alone tonight.’

‘I don’t want to put you out. I’ll be fine.’

‘I’m already crashing in Rebeccas bed tonight so you’re just an extra person at the breakfast table tomorrow. She has this incredible cereal she gets imported from Switzerland but I think she has emergency coco pops too.'

‘He can stay with me, or I can stay at his.’ Beard offered, speaking for the first time since his arrival.

‘Can I decide after Trent is done?’ Ted asked, his shoulders loosening a little as he realised just how many people loved him and were willing to breakfast with him.

‘Of course. I’ll make up the room now just in case.’ Keeley dashed out. Ted couldn’t help the smile that crept into his face.

‘Should I ask why she knows where your spare linen is?’

‘Girls night gets messy sometime.’ Rebecca shrugged, her face turning an odd shade of pink. Ted made a mental note to press her for details at a later biscuits with the boss. If he even still had a job for her to be boss of by the end of it all. He knew she'd never willingly fire him, not over this, but the public and investors may force her hand and he'd never put her in a position to be forced to choose.

‘Keeley can come home with me if you want her out of your hair.’ Roy offered. She glared at him.

‘I don’t think that’s a good idea right now do you?’

‘What’s going on?’ Ted frowned looking between the two usually friends.

‘Nothing for you to worry about just yet.’ An awkward silence fell over the room. Higgins choked.

‘I think I’ll head home now. It seems you all have it covered-unless you’d rather I stayed Ted?’ He offered.

‘Nah it’s alright Higgie Smalls. Thank you for coming. I appreciate you man.’

‘If you need anything-ANYTHING- you give me a call yeah? I mean it. Even if it's 5am and one of the kids is vomiting and another hasn't come home from a night out yet?

‘I know you do. Thank you.’ The men hugged and Rebecca showed Higgins to the door.

‘Thank you Leslie. It means a lot that you came.’

‘Of course. Nice outfit by the way.’ He smirked as her face fell, looking down at her body.

‘Shit. Forgot to change in the chaos. Sorry.’

‘It’s nice to see you with your hair down-figuratively and literally.’ They hugged, something they were still getting back into the habit of.

‘Thank you? Text when you get home yeah? I’ll let you know how it goes in the morning.’

‘Will do.’ They opened the door to fond Trent, hand raised midknock. ‘Ah that was a quick 10 minutes. ‘Night Rebecca.’

‘Goodnight Leslie.’

‘Trent.’ They nodded at each other.

‘You’d better come in. I’m not sure if I should be thanking you for doing this or plan your murder for writing the article in the first place. Has Keeley explained our plan?’

‘She did and I wish I hadn’t had to write the article but if it didn’t my source would have gone to someone else and I hope I can paint this more positively than another journalist.’

‘Well I can’t say I disagree on that front and you don't need to hide your source -Ted showed me your text. Come through. Ted? Trent Crimm is here.’ Trent felt his stomach knot as he saw the usually so creerful man look so broken by his actions. He had helped make the problem, hopefully now he could help mitigate it.

‘Hi Ted. How do you want to do this?'

‘Why don’t Roy and I leave you three? Don’t want to crowd you and I have a bone to pick with him anyway. The moment you want or need is just call.’

‘Thank you.’ She squeezed his hand and kissed his cheek, ignoring the raised eyebrow from Trent. She turned to Roy.

‘You. Come.’ Rebecca jerked head towards her kitchen. He followed her silently, closing the door behind him as she snagged against her kitchen counter.

‘Rebecca-'

‘What the fuck happened tonight? I’ve heard her version but I’d like to know why my best friend ended up on my doorstep in tears because she thinks you’re going to break up with her? Well?’

‘What did she tell you?’

‘I asked first.’ She folded her arms as she straightened against her island.

‘Fine. Keeley told me the prick kissed her today so I told her I’d spent some time with Phoebes teacher and not clarified I had a committed girlfriend when Mrs Bowen asked if I was married. And then she told me fucking Jaime told her he was still in love with her at your father’s funeral but hadn't said a word to me even though it was weeks ago.'

‘And?’ She cocked an eyebrow.

‘And that’s it?’ He floundered, surely he hadn't done something else without realising? He'd removed himself from the situation as soon as he could before he said something he regretted. Had the damage already been done?

‘So you didn’t give her the silent treatment then leave her high and dry?’

‘Uh-‘ She took pity on him.

‘Look-I know you like to retreat into yourself but you have got to talk to her. We both know how she can overthink things - christ that’s why she slept with Jaime after your aborted kiss in Liverpool. Yes I know everything about that. She’s may not have said the words to be but I can tell she's worried you see her like all her old boyfriends did-a good shag and a fantastic pair of tits. She thought you were serious about her but that now you see her more as a fling.’

‘Fucking hell- do you really think I’d let Phoebe grow attached if I wasn’t serious.’

‘Hey don't shoot the messager, I told her the same thing. You know I will always take her side in this but I really am rooting for the two of you. I’m just telling you what she told me, or what I can tell she's thinking.'

‘I appreciate that. Do you know what I realised after I left Keeleys earlier?’

‘What?’

‘I don’t want to tell Mrs Bowen about my girlfriend, I don’t want to have to clarify things to her.’ She cocked an eyebrow.

‘This had better be going where I hope it’s going or you’re in for a world of pain. Your knee will be the least of your worries.’ Her eyes flicker downward and he gulped.

‘I want her to be my wife and in a few days, when I have grovelled sufficiently, and this has all died down so neither of you think it’s an automatic reflex to what happened, I’m going to come to you and ask you for blessing as her family to ask her to marry me. I know we're all feminists and she doesn't belong to anyone and I don't need permission but I'd like to know I have your approval . And then I’m going to ask you to help me find a ring because I have no fucking clue where to begin. I was looking on a website when you called and fucking hell how is it so fucking complicated to buy one fucking ring?!'

‘In a few days I’ll be happy to talk to you. And help you navigate the terrifying world of jewellery.'

‘It’s a date.’ They shared a smile and she poured them both a drink

‘Did-did you have any idea Nate was going to do this? I’m completely blindsided.’

‘He made a comment today, yesterday now I suppose, about coming up with the plays and Ted taking all the credit but I thought it was just general work frustration. Nate has gotten a lot more credit than many assistant coaches would. He went fucking viral for fucks sake. He had a fucking hashtag!’

‘None of this makes any sense. Unless…’

‘Unless?’

‘I just-at my fathers funeral I saw Rupert pull him aside and have words. Everything was fine until then.’

‘Well not fine. Nate’s been being a bit shitty to Colin for a while and Will’s been looking at him a bit oddly recently, almost as of he’s scared of him but I never put two and two together until now.'

‘Roy you're my friend, I know you'll give it to me straight. Have I let my staff down? I’m supposed to be looking out for you all and I’ve been distracted by stupid shit.’

‘Yeah Keeley accidentally told me what was going on with your Bantr man. At the risk of pissing you off further- what the fuck were you thinking?'

‘I’d rather not discuss that whilst there’s a journo in my living room. Fuck I hope there's nothing embarrassing lying about in there. Suffice it to say it’s mostly over and will be fully over come morning.’

‘Good. No lightning then?’

‘Rather bright flashes in the distance but nothing worth getting burned for.’

'You'll find it. And in the meantime Keeley and I have an understanding that if you ever want to shag her she gets a free pass.'

'Um thank you?'

‘Bed’s made.’ Keeley popped her head around the door, eyes firmly locked onto Rebecca and pointedly ignoring her companion. ‘Is there anything else I can help with do you think or is it all down to Ted now?’

‘Why don’t you pop up to bed, I’ll wake you if and when Trent sends over a draft for you to approve.’

‘Thanks babes. Night Roy.’

‘Keeley wait.’ Rebecca slipped out the room. ‘Keeley now isn’t the time or the place to have this conversation properly but please believe me when I say that I love you and I have no intention of breaking up with you. I hope you don’t plan on breaking up with me either?'

‘I don’t want to. I won’t. But you really hurt me today. I can’t go back to you going silent and brooding everytime we have a fight. I want to know that I'm not wasting my time here.'

‘I know and I’m sorry. I’m working on it. Sometimes I just need a kick up the arse even if Rebecca's only wearing slippers not those rather impressive heels of hers at the time.'

‘She offered to bite your balls off earlier.’

‘That woman is fucking terrifying.’

‘Sexy though. I could have jumped her when she said that. Sorry, I shouldn’t joke right now.’

‘It’s okay. I would say I agree but I’m afraid you’d hit me.’

‘Only with a proposition for a threesome.’

‘I don’t think I’d survive the fucking night.’

‘What a way to go though.’ They shared a laugh.

‘Yeah. I’ll head up now. We’ll talk tomorrow? Or whenever we can after this has all settled down?’

‘I’d like that. We’re okay?’

‘Yeah Roy. I think we’re going to be okay.’