Chapter Nine: Kimber and Eboni

Meanwhile, outside in the studio carpark, Danse had perched herself on the wall, pulling her friend down beside her.
"Well? Well what?" Eboni demanded. Danse's brow knitted into an uncharacteristic frown.
"I'm waiting for an explanation."
"I don't have to justify what I do to anyone. Least of all you."
"I think, in light of the circumstances, that you do." Danse folded her arms. "Firstly, you lie to me about taking drugs - more than that, you reproach me for even thinking it of you. Secondly you practically throw yourself on Shawn - whether you have a grievance or not, a scene is not worth your hassle. And thirdly...well, I guess I'm worried about you, too. This job was meant to be your ticket out of your problems...what are you playing at? Don't forget that it's my reputation on the line here too. I brought you here, promised you wouldn't let me down!"
Eboni bit her lip.
"You don't understand." She whispered. "What he's done to me..."
"Listen, Eb." Danse put a gentle arm across her friend's shoulders. "I know that he hurt you badly, probably a lot more badly than he even realises. I know that you wanted to go abroad with Michel but you couldn't because they queried your marital status and there wasn't the option to fuss about with paperwork when he wouldn't comply with your wishes. I know all of that. But you're destroying your own happiness by staying so bitter."
Eboni's green eyes clouded over.
"What happiness?" She demanded. "Ellie, Michel was everything important to me. He was the first guy who ever really loved me...just as I was. Neuroses and all. I didn't feel I had to pretend with him. And I woulda forgiven Shawn the debacle of our marriage...hell, I would've conceded him anything if he'd just done that one tiny thing and given me my freedom."
"Well, in all honesty I don't feel very amiable towards him myself right at the moment." Danse admitted. "I'm finding it hard to equate him with the image you've painted for me of your villainous other half. It doesn't fit with the Shawn I know. All I can think is that he acted without thinking and he really didn't understand how important this was to you."
"If someone wants a divorce, in the circumstances he and I were in, the only reason for not granting it is malicious self-interest." Eboni spat out the words. "And he can go to Hell if he thinks I'm giving him one now. I don't care what his feelings are for Kimber...he's not going to marry her. Not while there's still breath in my body."
"And if you carry on taking whatever it is you're taking, that might not be so very long." Danse pointed out acidly. "What are they, Eboni?"
Eboni glanced down.
"Anti-depressants." she admitted. "Well, sort of. I was on prescription for a while but that ended and they wouldn't give me any more. So...I found another way. You know that I know enough people."
Danse sighed.
"Yes. I know you do." She said sadly. "Oh, Eboni...what am I going to do with you?"
"I...I'm sorry I lied." Eboni murmured. "I didn't want to get you involved, and...well...I thought if you knew you might feel you had to boot me off the set."
"Are you addicted?"
"I don't know." Eboni confessed. "I take them when I feel bad...and that's more often than not these days." She looked apprehensive. "Are you going to ask me to go?"
"I don't think that it's my right to do that." Danse frowned. "In any case, though it's probably bad judgement, I can't turn in a friend like that. What worries me more is that Shawn or Saffron might say something. I'll do all I can to argue your case, Eb, but you have to swear blind to me that you won't take anything else while you're on set, okay? You were acting crazy just now and I can't take responsibility for that liability."
Eboni let out a heavy sigh.
"I...all right." She said slowly "I'll promise, Ellie, for you. You're the only person who has any faith left in me...I don't want you to hate me too."
"Of course I don't hate you." Danse hugged her impulsively. "You have problems, and you need help, Eb."
"Maybe, but not now." Eboni waved it away impatiently. "I have things to settle. I need to speak to Kimber..."
"I don't think that would be wise." Danse looked cautious. "This show is high profile. If noone picked up your earlier outburst, you were fortunate, but don't try your luck again. The backers are coming to inspect the premises in the next day or two, if what Jem was saying is correct...for Heaven's sake, Eboni, the stakes are too high!"
"I don't want to attack Kimber." Eboni replied with a shake of her head. "I'm sobered up now, Ellie...I promise I am. I want to warn the girl of what she's getting into."
"You'll break her heart." Danse protested. "I know Kimber, Eboni, and I know she loves Shawn a hell of a lot. As much as you loved Michel, in fact. It'd be too cruel!"
"She can never marry Shawn while he is married to me." Eboni got to her feet. "And for the sake of other women, I intend on maintaining that matrimony. I might as well make use of it. Michel was the only man I ever really loved, and in truth I still do love him, more than anything...but I can't have him, so I'll resign myself to being the troublesome wife, shall I?"
Her tone was bitter, and Danse frowned.
"Don't be like that." She chided. Eboni snorted, lighting up a cigarette.
"Well, how else should I be?" She demanded. "My husband wants to marry another woman, the man I love is in France, probably married himself by now, and I'm screwed up to the sky on anti-depressants which, if I'm honest, don't work all that great anyway. You tell me what I should do with my life?"
"You're not old enough to be so bitter." Danse scolded. "I tell you what. Forget Shawn. Put him out of your head. Come on set and meet the Holograms - be nice and friendly and you'll find they're nice in return. Kimber knows nothing of Shawn's behaviour to you, I'd stake a lot on that, because she isn't a malicious don't take it out on her."
A memory of her discussion with the Misfits flashed into Eboni's mind and she frowned, flicking ash onto the concrete.
"There's something else I need to tell you." She said slowly, her conscience coming to the fore for once. "It's...about the Misfits." Carefully she explained the deal she had entered into. Danse's frown deepened.
"I'm glad you told me." She said quietly. "Pizzazz has a lot of money, Eboni, and she and her father have a lot of influence - I believe Harvey is involved in funding this production, actually. But she's not to be relied on...she'll get you doing her dirty work and then she'll most likely pull her name out of the hat leaving you floundering. Besides..." She paused, then, "I did hear a rumour about her knowing Shawn rather intimately herself at one time."
"I did wonder why she was so keen to do the dirty on Kimber." Eboni admitted. "I don't really care anything for either the Misfits or Kimber, Ellie, but I don't want to screw this up for you. I guess I'll go tell Pizzazz I don't want any part of this after all - that it's too personal to me. I guess it's true. I'm having all kinds of feelings that I've not had for years, and some of them are verging on homicidal."
"I know. You gave us an ample demonstration of them." Danse said dryly. "Come on. It'll be all right, and if you really want to help me out then you'll come and do as I say. I'm sure you won't regret it."
"I hope not." Eboni sighed, getting to her feet and taking a drag on her cigarette, then flicking it into a nearby drain. "Okay, here I come. I'm sober now at least...more or less, anyway. No more wild temper, I promise. I'm in control."
The Holograms were setting up on stage when Danse and her friend reentered the auditorium. Eboni hesitated a moment, sure all eyes were on her but as luck would have it the fracaar had been little noticed, and Shawn had not wished to make a big deal of it. Saffron had withdrawn to the models' dressing room, deep in thought over the whole matter, and the set was peaceful once more.
With a glance at Danse for support, Eboni detoured across the set to where the Misfits were having their makeup seen to.
"Pizzazz, I thought things through and I need this job to badly to mess it up." She said quietly. "In any case this is too personal to me...I don't want to be involved."
"Wimp." Pizzazz's eyes narrowed. "I saw the way you flew at Shawn, though...what did he do to change your mind?"
"Nothing. I still hate him as much as ever." Eboni replied. "But I don't think I can do this. I guess I'm sorry...I gotta do my job and try and keep out of it."
Before Pizzazz could retort she turned on her heel, rejoining Danse across the studio and the two girls headed across to the stage.
"Hi, Danse!" Aja sent the dancer a grin. "This is your friend, I trust?"
"Yeah. Eboni, meet the Holograms." Danse nodded. "Aja, Raya, Shana...Kimber...and their leading lady Jem. Girls, this is Eboni."
"Is that your real name?" Raya looked curiously at the dancer, for Eboni's appearance was more than a little striking.
Eboni looked rueful. She shook her dark head.
"No." She admitted. "But it's all I answer to these days, for various reasons."
"How long have you two known each other?" Shana asked.
"A long time." Danse grinned. "We actually met at Haven House."
"Oh?" Aja looked interested. "How come?"
"We're both runaways." Eboni smiled slightly. "In a way it's logical we wound up friends."
"I didn't know you were a runaway, Danse." Kimber sounded surprised.
"No...but you do know that I didn't grow up knowing my father and that I was seperated from my mother when I was a young girl." Danse replied. "I was put into foster care but it didn't work out and I was reckless...I ran away, but I met up with a volunteer from Haven House and she helped me. I was fifteen at the time. Eboni arrived the same night I did, and we wound up sharing a room there. We hit it off right away and we discovered we both loved to dance. We went to Dance school together - working jobs, scholarships, whatever it took to get there, and we roomed together there too. We've been in touch for ten years or so, though not always in immediate contact."
"Ellie's usually the one who gets me out of scrapes, not the other way around." Eboni laughed, but the laughter did not reach her green eyes and there was a strange ring to it. "She's the good girl...hard to believe she was once impulsive enough to run away."
"So that's why you're so devoted to Haven House, Danse." A look of understanding crossed Jem's features. "I've often wondered."
"Well, now you know." Danse smiled. "Anyway, back to business. Where do you want us and what can we do? The other dancers are in the dressing room I believe, but I thought I'd come check the choreography with you girls first. It's your show, after all."
"Don't remind me." Shana pulled a face. "I get butterflies just thinking about it."
"She's having a fit of panic about how good her fashions are." Aja rolled her eyes. "As we've all told her, her clothes are fabulous, but you know Shana."
Danse laughed.
"Yes, and I know they'll be fabulous." She agreed. "Don't worry, Shana. You and Regine are two of the most talented people I know in terms of fashion."
Eboni tuned out of the conversation, eying each of the Holograms in turn. Danse had been right. They were friendly and open with each other and with her, a stranger to them all.
"If only I hadn't known about Shawn and Kimber." She mused. "I might even like them all off bat. As it is I can't help feeling...something about all of this."
Her gaze rested on the redhead, and her expression became thoughtful.
"Young, naive, pretty." She decided. "Danse is right. She's not the kind to play a guy to get another woman hurt...I'll bet she doesn't know what a duplitious creep her boyfriend is."
Kimber caught her gaze, offering a smile.
"Do you live in California?" She asked. Eboni nodded.
"Yes, but not for long, and I don't know how long I'll stay on." she replied slowly. "I don't tend to settle easy in one place...I prefer to be on the move. A couple of years here, another couple there...that's why since we left dance school and our early shows together Ellie and I have only been in spasmodic contact, though we write and phone."
"You must've been to lots of places."
"Yeah, guess I have." Eboni let out a bitter laugh. "Never been to France. Shame really. I have a feeling I might have been happy there."
Startled by this, Kimber made no reply, and, glancing at Danse to make sure she was fully occupied in what she was saying, Eboni took her opportunity. She lowered her voice.
"Listen, kid. Keep away from Shawn Harrison. He's nothing but trouble."
Kimber stared.
"Trust me. Ellie said...lots of people have said that you have a big thing going with him...well, take my advice and quit while you're ahead. You'll only regret it...he'll only hurt you. Take it from one who knows."
"I don't understand." Kimber looked both bewildered and stricken, too surprised to be angry at the remarks. "What do you mean? Why would he hurt me? What do you know about him, anyway?"
Eboni produced her left hand, holding it in front of the redhead's gaze and wiggling her fourth finger.
"That's what I know." She said quietly.
Naive she might be, but Kimber wasn't stupid, and she understood fully her companion's meaning. Stricken surprise became anger and she pushed Eboni's hand away.
"You're lying!" she exclaimed. "He wouldn't have...he'd have told me if..." She trailed off, her expression so bemused and distressed that it pulled a little on Eboni's heart. "Wouldn't he?"
"We were very young." She said now. "Too young and very stupid. He don't love me, Kimber, I can guarantee you that, and he hasn't seen me more than once since we split up, which is...well, too long ago now. But in that meeting he refused to give me a divorce so that I could go marry the man I loved...he turned me down and I lost my chance at happiness. I've hated him so badly since that day and I didn't want to meet you because I didn't know how I would react if I did...but now I know who you are I want to stop you from getting your heart broken. Shawn's a married man, and Kimber, I ain't giving him up, not while there is life in me. Till death us do part, that's what our vows said, and he reminded me of them when I asked him to divorce me. That's what he wants...he hasn't any intention of divorcing me, and you're only gonna get burned if you keep believing his lies."
"I don't believe it." Kimber's face was ashen, and her words were barely above a whisper. "I won't! Not Shawn! Not...not my Shawn..."
Carefully Eboni slid the ring off her finger, handing it to the other girl, who took it rather dazedly. Inside it was engraved with two names, and Kimber could read enough of them to know that the stranger spoke the truth.
The ring fell out of her hand, clattering on the ground and Eboni stooped to pick it up, glancing at it and then sliding it back onto her fourth finger.
"I haven't worn it in years, but I wore it today because I was going to use it to hurt you." She said gravely. "But it's not