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The Only Way is Up

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Rock bottom. When your husband is threatening you with divorce, when you are at your lowest ebb, there's only one way to go isn't there? The only way is up. Nicole Armstrong is losing control on all aspects of her life, she has to make a stand, try to change things, or risk losing everything. Sounds easy, doesn't it? First things first, hit the gym. A good body would help, wouldn't it? But she doesn't bank on the angry, arrogant and young personal trainer that she finds herself assigned.

Age Rating:

Part One

A/N As soon as I get to the final third of a story, the next one starts to emerge. This one has been invading my mind for a long time, so the first chapter is out like a rocket. Hope you like, and as always, please, please comment. I do love hearing what you think, this is the only feedback I get.

Thanks for reading all, MZ

Chapter One

Nicole threw a crystal highball tumbler at the wall above the dining table, then cringed as it shattered into a zillion pieces.

"You'll be cleaning that up," a voice to her right snarled. Turning she took in the angry face of Vincent. He was still her husband, and she'd honestly thought that tonight he was coming home to speak to her because he realised that he'd made a mistake, that the grass wasn't greener. But he hadn't, he didn't...instead he mentioned the 'D' word and she felt as though her world was crashing down around her.

"Don't I always?" she murmured a little too quietly, but then she'd never been confrontational, not with him.

He shook his head, "I'll ignore you breaking a Lalique glass, after all what's another hundred quid in this world? Nothing your father can't afford, hey?"

She shuddered at that, her father's wealth and status had always both intimidated and brought our envy in her husband. "You said you wanted a divorce. Did you expect me to smile and be happy?"

He laughed, but it wasn't in a humorous way, "you're surprised? I left, walked out. Did you think I'd changed my mind?" When she was silent he knew he'd hit on the truth. Laughing he shook his head, "look at you! I married a woman who had something to offer, something going for her. You...you're a mess. You wonder why I found someone else? Take a look in the mirror."

With a slam of the door he was gone and Nicole slumped to the floor, unaware of the glass shards digging into her flesh.

How did it get to this place? Nicole shook her head, a year ago she'd been happily married, Vincent loved her, they had an amazing home, they were financially secure, and they were planning for the future, a family. And now?

Now she was sat on the floor of her dining room feeling as though her world had ended, five years down the pan, live over. How was ever going to cope with this? How could she move on? How could she hold her head up high and live her life knowing that Vincent had publicly dumped her, and now shamed her further by persisting with this ridiculous relationship with a bimbo?

The pounding of the door tried to penetrate her devastation, her personal hell, but not enough to wake her up, to make her stand and go and open it. Someone called her name, but she ignored that. Her humiliation was complete. Vincent wanted a divorce, the man she'd married three years earlier; the man she'd thought would love her forever had gone. She was alone, and she was a mess without him.

"Shit Nic! What the hell are you doing? You're bleeding!"

That voice forced her to look up, to take note, at her best friend Kim who was stood in front of her a shocked expression on her face.

As her friend squatted awkwardly beside her, she bent her head so that her lips were close to Nicole's ear, "what happened love? And why are you sitting in glass?"

As Nicole turned to face her friend, those unshed tears that had blocked her vision since Vincent left, finally fell coursing down her cheeks.

Kim stood up, and then using her hands pulled Nicole up too. As she studied her friend for a moment, she sighed with relief, "a few scratches, let me clean your leg, then you can tell me all about the bastard."

Nicole looked sadly at her friend, "he wants a divorce."

Kim groaned, "and you were so convinced that he was coming back."

She nodded as Kim led her into the lounge, "you deserve more than this Nic, you deserve a better man. He's NEVER been good enough for you. I mean you lost a baby, a traumatic miscarriage, and he goes off and fucks some woman ten years younger than him. You do NOT deserve that shit."

Nicole smiled sadly, "I'm almost thirty five; I'm a mess...who else would want me? I'll never have what I want." She looked enviously at her best friend's distended stomach, she'd be a mother in a few months, and it was something that she'd imagined she'd experience. And it was another nail in the coffin of despair that had taken over her life since he'd walked out on her.

Kim took her hand, "darling, you are more than this. You are the most beautiful person I know, inside and out. You aren't past it, you aren't over the hill. You aren't past it."

"She's twenty eight...blonde...slim...she's a bloody model for hell's sake."

"And you are gorgeous too, you're intelligent...could she manage dozens of million pound accounts like you do? Do you think her and Vincent talk about the FTSE? Of course not! And it'll fade, these rebound things do, he's a fool, but he'll be a lonely fool."

"He told me it was my fault that he had an affair."

Kim literally punched the sofa in anger, "the bastard would say that."

"I've put on loads of weight, I haven't had my hair dyed or cut in months...and I look awful...He's right." As if to prove a point she used one hand to part her hair to show her grey roots, and the other to squeeze at her ample waistline. "Who'd want this?"

Pulling her chin around so that Nicole had to face her friend, she almost snarled, "that man has put you down for months, the old Nicole would've raised her middle finger at any suggestion that you caused this. You have been grieving for the baby; you were just getting over that when you found them together. So in your sadness and devastation, you've not bothered as much...that's HIS fault."

Nicole stood, not wanting this to go any further, she felt responsible, she'd let things slip, she'd lost her husband, now she had to tell her family, society that she wasn't good enough. Failure wasn't something her parents recognised, and she dreaded that conversation.

Unless she didn't have it.

In the kitchen she pulled three tiny fragments of glass from her calf, each created a stream of blood that tracked down her bare leg. Grabbing a wet wipe she cleaned the dry and now fresh blood from her skin then stood, leaning against the work surface.

A few moments later Kim appeared at the door, "you ok?"

She nodded, "he said he's taking Shelley...that's her name, and he's taking her to the Winter Ball at work. How the hell can I show my face there if my husband who is also my ex boss is there with some young tramp on his arm?"

Kim squeezed her shoulder, "you go, with your head held high and looking a zillion dollars."

Holding out both arms she pointed at herself, "I draw your attention to exhibit A, me, you'd be lucky to get ten dollars."

"You are wrong, you are beautiful. And he'll see what he's thrown away. A lick of paint and you'll be fine, and if you want to get fit, lose weight, then I'll speak to Mike."

Her husband ran a few gyms in the town as part of his portfolio of businesses, but both women knew that the gym was the last place that Nicole would venture by choice, another symptom of her lack of confidence and self worth.

As expected she snapped a response. "You think I'm going into a mirrored torture chamber full of plastic-titted women who'll look at me like I'm the dregs of the earth. I've never liked the gym, and I can't imagine going now."

She was almost on the verge of tears, she'd never felt so helpless, so useless and so unattractive.

Kim sighed, she'd watched her best friend have every ounce of her self confidence stripped by the bastard that she married, and she couldn't take it anymore. "Look, he's got that new place, across town, part of the sports complex he and his partners bought a couple of months back. They were going to renovate the gym as it's to quote him, 'earthy', but it's surprised him, it's busy with a proper understated crowd. A few boxers, some of the staff at the complex, busy but low key, no Lycra, no gym bunnies, no one to put you off. Just normal people and normal trainers. Let me speak to him, get you set up with one of them."

Nicole looked terrified as Kim prodded her, "come on. The Ball is eight weeks away. At least you'll feel you've done your best. Yes?"

As she entered the gym three days later, Nicole was still grossly unsure of what she was doing there. Her dark lank hair was pulled up into a pony tail, and she'd tried to hide her lumpy, obese body under a shapeless black t-shirt and loose joggers. Keeping her eyes down and ignoring the rest of the room she entered the ladies changing room and she nervously tossed her jacket and car keys into a locker then turned to re enter the gym and wait for the trainer that Mike had promised her. Eight weeks, that was all she had to endure.

Kim was right though, this was no normal gym, as she stood she looked around, hoping she appeared discreet and not terrified. To her left were a bank of treadmills, to her right a bank of static bikes, but the rest of the room comprised of a boxing ring, some punch bags, and a lot of free weights. There were three machines that she recognised from the last time she was in a gym many years ago, but everything else was grossly different.

A few muscular men stood in the corner chatting, towels around their neck, another three were spotting each other as they did some form of bench press, and a woman was power lifting under the instruction of a middle aged bald man. No one looked up, no one stared and there was no air of pretention.

There were a lot of things to say about this gym, but it wasn't imposing for the same reason that other gyms were. She didn't immediately feel like she was out of place, she didn't feel intimidated in the same way. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than nothing.

Maxim Chertoff was about to blow his one remaining fuse. Mike Parfitt sat behind his desk and whilst he wasn't smug, he wasn't appreciating exactly the effect he was having.

"You are telling me that I am training someone? You've made me into a personal trainer? Is that what I'm worth?"

Mike shook his head, "of course not. I am asking you to do this as a personal favour. Look Max, you owe me a favour, this is me calling it. I wouldn't ask, but this is a very special person, I need someone I can trust. Ok?"

Max followed Mike's eyes out of the one way window that looked down on the gym and suddenly saw the woman stood there looking nervous. Quite rightly so. He'd never seen someone look so out of place. She looked middle aged, dressed in what looked like gardening clothes, and the way her eyes were dropped to the floor she didn't exude any positivity. Hell. That was what this was, another overweight woman wanting a personal trainer to take responsibility for her own bad choices. He wasn't a personal trainer and he resented this SO much.

"That? That is who I must work with?"

His Russian birth barely made it to his accent these days, it was so long since he left his mother country, but when he was angry or stressed it was more than a subtle hint in his voice.

Mike eyeballed him, "that is a person who needs this place and I'm asking you, as someone despite all this that I trust. Don't let me down Max."

Max scowled at him, then left the office slamming the door in his wake. When he hit the gym floor he knew he needed a moment, to walk away and take a deep breath. As he strode forward the woman looked up, her whole demeanour told him that she didn't want to be there. A hint somewhere deep in him told him that it was his job to change that, to make her see that this could be what she wanted it to be, but he was too busy trying to control his own emotions.

"You're here for personal trainer?"

The face that peeped up from under the thick unruly fringe of hair looked terrified, she bit her bottom lip nervously before nodding. He nodded back then pointed to the corner of the room.

"Warm up, treadmill, ten minutes." Then he headed back into the office to speak to Mike again, he had to get out of this as quick as he could.

Nicole watched him disappear, she was shaking. Everyone in the room was casual, older, normal looking, but the man who'd just scowled at her was the opposite. Her heart was still pounding from his glare, from his scrutiny, and from his scorn. This was all wrong, firstly he was significantly younger, then everyone in the room, including herself, she'd have put him at maybe twenty five. And he was sinfully handsome, despite the scowl, the scraped back collar length dark hair, the facial hair that was scruffy, unruly whilst looking natural and in keeping with a feature in Vogue. His t-shirt did little to hide the toned and athletic body underneath, and the sweat shorts revealed shapely calves. The man, or rather the boy, was beautiful, and she had no intention of spending any more time with him than was necessary, this was the exact thing she was hoping to avoid, her imperfections being displayed for all to see against something so perfect.

He'd be a good match for Vincent's new love Shelley, and for a moment she considered trying to set that up. But that meant that she was thinking of Vincent again, as her heart sank even further, she headed in the direction of the treadmills and a 'warm-up."

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