Coffee, Tea? Or me?

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BARTENDER-Part I

BARTENDER

Photo free exits from baby’s bedside

’Cause they don’t yet know what car I drive

I’m just tryna keep my love alive.

I

Lucy blinked a couple of times trying to take in what James had just said, in case she had misunderstood.

“I love you, Lucy,” said James.

She searched for words, her brain working frantically to select valuable data to be turned into something to say.

“You don’t have to say anything,” added James to help her fill the silence.

Finally, Lucy collected her thoughts and cleared her voice.

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be silent for that long”.

She smiled and kissed him softly, grabbing his face between her hands.

“That makes me so happy James, it really does! God knows how much I care about you! And I know I will be ready to say it, because I got you in my heart, in my veins. You’re so fucking amazing! I just don’t want to screw everything up by saying it too soon..”

James wet his lips with his tongue and smiled back.

“Lucy I understand we can be at different points in this relationship, you don’t have to feel pressured into anything. But I wanted to tell you because that’s all I can think about when I look at you, and I couldn’t lie to you or myself any longer...”

Lucy nodded and kissed him again, then placed her forehead against his

“I’m yours, you know that?”

“Yes,” said James hugging her. “You are mine”.

***

“Good morning!” Said Lucy cheerfully as James walked down the stairs.

“Good morning,” he replied pulling a t-shirt over his head. “What’s this amazing smell?”

Lucy smiled proudly

“Hash browns, fruit salad, toast and jam and most importantly coffee!”

James walked to her and hugged her from behind, kissing her neck.

“Mmm, you smell good too”.

She gave him a quick kiss on the lips and went back to the food, flipping a hashbrown.

James sat on the high stool at the kitchen counter and poured two cups of coffee, adding milk to Lucy’s.

“So what do you want to do today?” Asked James quickly dipping his finger in the red jam and putting it between his lips.

Lucy walked to the counter with a towering plate of hashbrowns and sat opposite him.

“I’m glad you asked,” she said in an accomplished tone.

“I’ve been doing some thinking last night, after...what you said”.

“What? That I love you?” he said with a smirk and stole a strawberry from her plate.

“Yes”. Lucy smiled back, secretly relieved that he had said it again, in daylight.

“Anyway,” she continued. “I’ve realised that while you’re so patient and understanding, I’ve been acting like a spoiled brat. You’ve given up so much to make this relationship work and I feel like I’ve been taking without giving”.

James took a sip of coffee.

“Lucy, I can see that you’re trying. I’ve never doubted for a second that you had a hard time in your past relationship and I’m glad you’ve decided to give us a chance so quickly. I’m aware that dating me isn’t the easiest of situations either so I don’t think your requests are unreasonable. Like I said yesterday, I don’t want you to feel pressured into anything just because of my feelings”.

Lucy nodded.

“I know, and believe me I don’t feel pressured at all. Still, I want to show you how much you mean to me. I thought it’s unfair how much we’re sacrificing and I’m ready to take it forward. Let’s be crazy, let’s go for dinner, a coffee, hell, a walk in the park!”

James looked at her for a moment.

“You want to go public?”

Lucy shook her head.

“Not really, it’s not like I’m dying to, but I genuinely want to live our relationship like a normal couple. And if it comes out, so be it.”

James took her hand across the table.

“Lucy, are you sure? I don’t know what’s gonna happen but it can be tough sometimes to protect your privacy. I don’t want you to suffer from it!“.

Lucy sighed.

“We can’t spend our whole relationship hidden at your place or sneaking in and out of hotel rooms, it’s not fair! Unless you think it’s a bad idea...”

“Not at all! I can’t wait to live a normal relationship with you, to show you off to all my friends and tell them how amazing you are!” He chuckled, ecstatic.

“We are doing it then!” Lucy shrugged in joy and ran around the counter into his arms.

***

When they left James’ building none of the things that Lucy had feared would happen, happened: no swarm of paparazzi, no flashes and cameras, no one calling James’ name. The world didn’t end nor swallowed her whole.

She had never noticed anyone lurking around James’ street before, but he had revealed in the past that he knew exactly where to spot the photographers, even if she could have sworn nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

As they reached the end of the street, Lucy looked up at him for support and he shook his head to confirm that no one was out there.

The longer they walked together, the more she relaxed.

“Are you ok?” He asked as they crossed the road into Regent Street.

Lucy smiled and nodded, feeling now silly for having made a big deal out of nothing.

Piccadilly Circus was busy as usual on a Saturday, tourists with their cameras and locals trying to power walk past them; as they joined the crowd Lucy felt completely safe.

“You’ll love this place, believe me. The pizza there is just amazing!” Said James opening the glass doors of the restaurant.

They asked for a table for two and after a few minutes, they were escorted to a window table on the upper level.

“You’ve been quiet,” said James as the waiter disappeared with their orders.

Lucy shook her head.

“I was just thinking. I was so stupid to make such a big deal out of nothing”.

James smiled.

“Not at all. It is a big deal, especially if you’ve never asked for the attention. But I can promise you, it gets easier”.

They ate their pizzas, drank their beers, chatted about everyday life and enjoyed their first dinner out as a couple, without any hesitations.

As the waiter came back with James’ card he shyly asked.

“I’m really sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you’re James Kent?”

James looked at Lucy, who shrugged.

“I am”. Confirmed James smiling.

“Oh, I’m a huge fan man, loved you in the X-Men! Any chance for a quick selfie?” Asked the boy excited.

“Thank you! I really appreciate it. Of course!”

The boy took out his phone and focused it towards himself and the actor.

“Do you want me to take the picture for you?” asked Lucy, hesitantly.

The waiter smiled.

“Oh that would be great, thank you, Madam”.

Lucy took the picture and gave the phone back to the boy, who thanked them again and said goodbye.

Lucy looked at James with a persistent smile,

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing, you’re sweet”.

James shook his head, almost embarrassed.

“I think this will give me so much more perspective into your life,” said Lucy putting on her jacket. “It’s like a side of you I still have to get to know. Public James, he’s fairly new to me”.

James squeezed her hand.

“You know the most important side of me, the one I hide from everyone except you”.

And Lucy knew she was very lucky because she adored that James.

***

Lucy was lying on the leather sofa, her feet on James’ lap, who was attempting to paint her toenails.

Suddenly she said.

“You know, I’ve realised that most of the facts I know about you I’ve learned on the Internet”.

“Like what?” asked James, his focus entirely on the little brush.

“Your birthday, where you were born, where you went to high school, how many siblings you have, what car you drive, even your favourite colour, your past relationship”.

She thought for a second.

“You have to work so much harder to learn stuff about me”.

“Well, I like to ask and you like to talk, so that’s a win-win”. He said with a smirk.

Lucy gently kicked his lap.

“Don’t move!” Scolded her James, checking his work for damage.

“How many times have you been in love?” She asked after a moment of silence.

“You didn’t find that on Wikipedia?” he asked sarcastically, closing the nail varnish bottle.

“I’ve been in love once before. Obviously, you know who she is, but yeah Sarah and I were together seven years. We were really young when we met on set and we basically grew up together. Then when I left the show to shoot my first film, things started to unravel...I was away for long and she had to stay in London for filming. I guess we just grew up to become two different people and each time I came back the spark was cooler. I do have great memories though...”

Lucy smiled,

“You’re just so sweet”.

James shook his head.

“I’m not afraid of my feelings. I live passionately and I love passionately. Life is too short to play games and pretend you’re too manly to have feelings. What about you?“.

Lucy moved towards him and crouched, sitting on his lap.

“I don’t think I’ve ever truly been in love before. Surely I can’t call what Sam and I had love. Passion maybe but not love”.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” asked James rubbing her thigh.

Lucy looked in his eyes.

“I do”. She said as if she’d just realised it herself.

James was silent to allow her to continue.

“Only Harriet knows about how deranged our relationship was. Sam and I met when I was in high school at a common friend’s party. I had such a big crush on him, you know, tall, handsome, charming. We went on a date but then he had to leave for military school so we lost touch for ages, we met again about four years later and it all came back. I really fancied him and we hit it off right away. We were inseparable. I think we moved too fast, we decided to move in together four months later and it was the beginning of the end”.

James cleared his throat, unsure of how to approach the subject.

“Did he ever...hurt you?”

Lucy shook her head vehemently.

“No, he never touched me. Even when he was at his angriest he never hurt me.”

She looked down, ashamed.

“I did”.

James placed his finger under her chin and lifted her face.

“Don’t look away, that’s not who you are...” Said James, a pained tone in his voice.

Lucy nodded slightly and continued.

“He had this ability to drive me insane, to touch my most exposed nerves and I would explode like an atomic bomb. I would shout and throw things at him, slap him, punch him, kick him. He was never bothered by it, I realised he used it against me. I think my brain felt threatened by his oppressive behaviours and, feeling under pressure it exploded into violence. And for years I thought I was the problem and that he was putting up with me. And I thought that was a sign of love, that no one else could have loved me because I was damaged. He would always find the most subtle way to diminish my worth and make me feel like he was the only one for me. I was angry for so long that I believed that was just who I grew into”.

She took a deep breath and continued

“I broke up with him some many times, and each one of them I went back to him because that’s where I felt at home. And the cycle began again. It took me five years and many fights with Harriet to realised that she was right. She’s always been right. An I’m grateful Sam never succeeded in his intent to break our friendship because that’s what saved me”.

James stroke her cheek.

“Have you ever felt trapped or threatened with me?”

“Absolutely not! You show me every day what a real man is and what a healthy relationship looks like. And I am ever so grateful I met you. You’re healing me”.

James kissed her softly and leaned his forehead against hers.

“You have no idea how much that means to me”.


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