"So I think I'm definitely gonna sign with Storm rather than Select. Even though I have tonnes of friends signed with Select I wanna model for Paris fashion week, not Topshop's Instagram, get what I mean?"
Jim nodded slowly, taking another sip of his double whiskey. She was definitely into him. She'd crossed her legs so that the slit of her silver slip dress showed her toned, caramel-coloured thigh and every now and then she would flick her shiny, golden hair over to one side, exposing the sharp and sexy angles of her clavicle. There was no doubt this one was at least a nine out of ten.
He'd picked her up at an exclusive bar in Marylebone and listened to her talk about herself for around an hour now, smiling, nodding and saying something clever or suggestive in all the right places. She had laughed at all his jokes so far and had been suitably impressed that he was in a band. Though when he asked her what music she liked and she'd said her favourite was David Guetta, he hadn't been quick enough to hide his disdain. Luckily she took it as well meaning banter.
He was sure she was a go'er, remembering how she had rubbed her arse up against him when they met on the dancefloor then turned to give him those suggestive, hooded eyes. She'd also completely abandoned her friends, suggesting they find somewhere quieter to talk. So she was basically putty in his hands at this point. He just had to seal the deal.
Too easy, he thought to himself as she guffawed at another one of his jokes and playfully touched his arm. It was the same every night. He'd find a pretty girl, he'd buy her a drink, they'd go and fuck somewhere. Preferably her place so that he could get out before she wakes up.
They knew the deal and so did he, it was a one night thing. Two attractive strangers meeting for one beautiful, passionate night to banish the demons and loneliness together. Sometimes it would happen more than once if they had chemistry or personality or mutual friends, but always with the understanding that Jim Moriarty Doesn't Do Girlfriends.
He had a few rules. He never sold anyone a dream of love or promised a phone call or friend request and he was always friendly and respectful if he saw them around after the event. He also always used protection and avoided girls who were too drunk. In Jim's mind, he was the perfect 21st century gentleman. If people misunderstood him, thought they could change him or placed him on a pedestal, that was their problem.
Maybe I do need to switch it up a bit, he thought, stifling a yawn as he watched his bar companion suck a glacier cherry seductively off the end of her cocktail stick.
He suddenly remembered Scarlett's swollen lips wrapped around a straw, her cheeks pink from her recent orgasm, her hair and eyes wild as she sucked up the air through the icy remnants of her drink.
That had felt different. New and exciting. He guessed because it was new and exciting to her. There was no way she'd ever done that before, he could tell by the surprise in her eyes. It gave him a thrill to think that he had made her lose control like that. She always seemed so mysterious and enigmatic but when she was grinding on top of him, her eyes closed and her mouth forming a soft, pink O, she had shown him the truth inside her. He had to admit, he wanted more.
He remembered how receptive she had been to him, how easy it was for him to stimulate her exactly how she liked it. He wasn't a modest man - he knew he was great with women - but it seemed like she was particularly easy for him to please and he enjoyed that.
The way she had scrambled off him afterwards simultaneously disappointed him and tickled him. He could recognise "post nut clarity" any day of the week, he'd just never seen it on a girl before. Usually girls get all gooey and cuddly after he made them come, but Scarlett clearly wanted to get as far away from him as possible, suddenly ashamed of their very public, very passionate tryst.
"Don't worry. No one can see us. No one cares," he had said, draping her legs over his. He'd seen her lie in the same position with Drew in the front room.
"That was...I'm not that kind of girl," she picked her drink up and began sucking it through the straw, panic stricken, her eyebrows furrowed and her chest still heaving as she tried desperately to calm down. She had glanced worriedly down to the large bulge still protruding through Jim's black denim jeans.
"Its just a bit of fun," he had reassured her, stroking her leg, resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to be getting any post nut clarity any time soon.
He didn't mind though. He bought her another drink and once they both cooled down they actually had a nice time together. Jim stayed away from personal questions, he didn't want her to run away again even though he was desperately curious to know more about her. Instead he stayed on topics he knew she enjoyed, like music and books and their mutual friends. He watched her relax into his touch, sometime after the start of her second drink, as she chattered passionately about Radiohead and the Talking Heads and Chuck Palahnuik and all the other things she liked so much. Drew was right, she had great taste.
Jim could see why Drew liked her so much. She was funny and pretty and cool. But Jim saw a deep, sullen darkness to her. He saw that clearer than Drew ever could. As soon as she laughed, it would slip off her face, to be replaced by a vacant glower and the light of a smile in her eyes would quickly give way to a profound and intense blackness. He also noticed a few light silvery scars on her hands and her arms and her face and the way she would visually scan a room upon entering, hiding behind her hair as she made a note of all the exits and potential threats. This girl did a good impression of a nice, normal person, but there was no way she was one.
"Hello, are you there?" A slim, tanned hand bedazzled with jewels and shiny nails waved in front of Jim's face, bringing him out of this thoughts. He noticed David Guetta was playing.
"Actually, I just realised I'm knackered," he stood up off his stool and reached for his jacket.
"Oh okay, lets get a taxi then."
Jim grinned awkwardly, pulling a hand through his hair, "I don't think we're going in the same direction, love. I'll probably get a tube. Have a great night though, eh."
He reached forward to kiss her politely on the cheek and pulled on his jacket, heading quickly to the exit to save her the embarrassment.
* * * * *
Scarlett couldn't sleep. Nothing new there. She'd had problems sleeping for as long as she could remember but it seemed to have really ramped up since moving to London. These days she could only really sleep if she was drunk or stoned. Luckily, she drank and smoked quite a lot but today she had been working and everyone had been busy in the evening with coursework or dinner plans so she had decided to try for an early night.
4 hours later, she lay blinking in the dim light of her bedside lamp, reading Steppenwolf for the tenth time to try and take her mind off the jarring thoughts whirring round her head and preventing sleep.
Every now and then, just as she felt herself drifting off, she'd smell beer and body odour and feel a heavy weight on her chest. Or she'd see a mascara soaked face and red wine lips, writhing and convulsing in the dark corners of her room. Or hear a child's voice crying and calling for her outside her bedroom window. She'd jolt awake, her hair stuck to her head, her breath fast, just to find herself alone in her humble, little room in Shoreditch with the tiny life she had built, thankfully far away from the reality behind her recurring nightmares. She'd count to 10 and remember the cleaning checklist from work or the chords to This Charming Man or the first few lines of her favourite Robert Frost poem and do her best to lock the bad thoughts away, back to that space in her head where she could forget about them again.
Tonight was just like that. Scarlett shook her head, as if trying to physically shake the thoughts out of her ears, and reached for her phone. She had sent Sasha a few tentative texts, offering to pay back the money she had borrowed and apologising for being rubbish with communication. Sasha had rather predictably exploded at her and Scarlett hadn't felt like reading the essay she sent her at the time. She flicked to her inbox.
OMG about time!!!!! why are you like this?!?!! me and mum have been worried sick but I'm just glad you're okay. you NEED to call billy. he's worried about you too. mum called the social worker the other day she nearly wasn't gonna tell her anything but basically it doesn't look like jack is coming back anytime soon. but she says he's okay so that's good right? saw your mum in pig an whistle the other day and she is nooottt good. have you spoke to her? mum was thinking about going round there to check on her but your mum can be really funny sometimes so I dunno..? what do you think? when are you coming home? or if not when can I come visit??? DONT DARE blank me for ages this time!!!! love you xoxoxo
Scarlett rubbed her stinging eyes after she had read the words, not quite taking them in. For a few glorious months she had just been Scarlett, who works at Matilda's café and lives her with friends on Luke Street in Shoreditch. She wasn't Jack's sister or Victoria's daughter or Billy's girlfriend. She didn't have to think about the mess she'd left behind and the destroyed relationships that littered her past. She missed Sasha, but she was always so hellbent on talking about everything. It was exhausting.
Scarlett resolved to text Sasha back in the morning. It wasn't her fault that Scarlett was running away from her past, she wasn't running away from her. She was the best friend she'd ever had, more like a sister. And the fact that her mum was still trying to protect Scarlett's family, even with her and Jack gone, made her broken heart twinge.
Just as she was placing her phone back on her beside table, she heard the front door opening and closing. That'll be Mr Moriarty, she thought to herself, taking a deep breath and turning back to her book. It had been a week or so since the "incident" on her birthday and she was trying hard to forget it. Jim had gone back to his normal, elusive, infuriating self immediately afterwards and it had left her feeling foolish because she couldn't stop thinking about him.
She listened intently as he made his way up the stairs. He would need to walk past her room to get to the stairs leading up to his attic room. His footsteps were slow and heavy, she could imagine him now, his eyes half closed, a wry smile on his face as he shambled drunkenly towards his bedroom. But then his foot steps stopped. Right outside her room.
Scarlett held her breath. What was he doing? Did he need help? Should she go out there?
It was in that moment of pure suspense and uncertainty that she heard him knock, softly but assuredly, on her bedroom door.