STRANGE DAYS- Part one
Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They’re going to destroy
Our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town.
After her first encounter with the paparazzi, Lucy felt much more relaxed about her relationship with James. Two weeks had passed and she hadn’t seen any new pictures of them together, despite them not doing anything to disguise their relationship.
“Maybe you’re not that famous anymore,” joked Lucy while rolling a white blouse and stuffing it in her suitcase.
James walked to her.
“Don’t be silly,” he said with fake indignation.
He grabbed a flowery fabric ball from her suitcase and let it roll open.
“That’s a very deep cut,” he said, eyeing the low neckline on the bathing suit.
Lucy rolled her eyes and grabbed the item from his hand, throwing it back into her suitcase.
“Since when you’re jealous?”
“I’m not. Just protective, can’t do anything about it, it’s an animal instinct”.
Lucy crooked her head to the side.
“You wouldn’t like to be in my shoes with all the attention you get. And I mean thirsty attention”.
“I would go crazy,” admitted James, scoffing.
“Don’t go,” he said then, serious.
Lucy stopped folding a pair of trousers and looked at him
“What do you mean don’t go. It’s my job, I have to go”.
“Maybe you could be sick...”
Lucy stared at him, trying to figure out if he was joking.
“I can’t miss nine days of work,” she said eventually.
James tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and kissed her on the forehead.
“I know. I’m just...going to miss you”.
“So will I,” replied Lucy sweet.
“I love you” he whispered in her ear.
For a moment, a nanosecond Lucy wanted to say “me too”.
But as the thought crossed her mind, it was gone.
The nine days had dragged long and Lucy was looking forward to going home. They had flown to Singapore and then after a couple of days to Sydney, they had returned to the first city and were now waiting to board a plane back to London.
Lucy was jet-lagged, tired, hungry and was dreading the thirteen-hour night flight, but was ecstatic she would be sleeping in her own bed the following day and mostly she would finally be with James again.
When all the passengers were in their seats and the plane doors had been closed, Lucy took off her hat, put on her flat shoes and checked her phone for the last time.
When she opened Harriet’s message she was briefly in shock.
What she had feared for almost a month now was eventually staring back at her.
In the picture, James and she were leaving a coffee shop in London. She walked first, a paper coffee cup in her hand, the other busy placing her mobile in her bag. She was wearing black leggings and an oversized Jurassic Park sweater but her perfectly manicured red nails, her neat hair and her glamorous sunglasses made her look put together. James was walking behind her in a pair of jeans, a black v neck and an open dark grey coat, his sunglasses still on the top of his head. He was also holding a paper cup, except his left hand was on Lucy’s lower back, in a protective gesture, ushering her outside the coffee shop.
This time the photo had been taken on a bright, sunny day and it was high quality, despite the sunglasses her face was visible and recognizable.
Lucy felt a weird, tight hold at the top of her stomach as an unclear feeling rushed over her.
She noticed a message from James, it also contained an image and she knew exactly what was waiting for her. She opened the text:
This is out. Please don’t worry about it, OK? Text me if you’re still on the ground!
She closed the message, slightly annoyed. He can’t just drop a bomb like this before my flight and tell me not to worry about it!
She felt the urge to go online and look up the photo herself. Another message from James:
Baby do you want me to call you?
She closed WhatsApp and shook her head: she couldn’t deal with him right now, it would do no good. She wasn’t mad, she just wanted the quiet that came with being forty thousand feet above the ground.
"Crew please prepare your doors for departure”.
As the announcement came over the PA system Lucy put her phone in inflight mode and went back to her duties.
James waited for a reply from Lucy, but nothing came. He watched as the ticks next to his messages turned blue, suggesting that she had indeed read the texts and saw the picture.
He sent her another message but the single tick lingered there and James knew she had turned her phone off.
He bit his nail and threw the phone on the sofa where he was sitting. He knew that when Lucy felt overwhelmed she tended to build a barrier around her and he had learned to give her space.
“James!” His manager woke him from his thoughts.
“I need some details, man”.
“What do you want me to say? We’ve been dating for four months and we decided to make it official”.
Ian cleared his throat.
“Four months? And I’m learning about this now why?”
“Because it’s private”. Replied James annoyed. He felt like a teenager again, called into the principal’s office.
“Listen,” Ian walked around the big desk and sat on the sofa next to James. “I honestly don’t care what you do in your private life and if you are happy I am happy. I’ve known you for years and you’re like a son to me. I just wish you had told me so that I could have prepared myself should the press approach me”.
James shook his head already tired of the discussion.
“There is going to be interest James, you can’t ignore that! She’s a mystery girl who popped out of literally nowhere. You kept her secret even from your family until a few weeks ago and now you’re strolling around like the happiest couple on earth. Like it or not you make news and she will too!”
James sighed heavily because he knew Ian was right.
“You know what the best course of action is right?” asked the agent.
James got up and walked to the window, moving the white curtain aside and looking out into the London skyline.
“Forget it,” he said, knowing where the man was leading to.
Ian stood up and walked to him.
“James, if you go public about it it’s gonna create much less fuss. The press might talk about it for a while and then get bored of it pretty quickly. If you insist on keeping it a mystery, you’re only gonna fuel the fire”.
James leaned against the window and crossed his arms against his chest
“It’s not my decision to make. Plus I’m sure they will get tired of it pretty quickly anyway until the next Ariana or Kim will do something sensational”.
Ian rubbed his eyes in frustration.
“I’m just trying to make it easy for you two. You said she values her privacy, especially because of her job. Do you think her name is not going to come out anyway? I’d rather it coming from myself than a gossip website”.
James was silent.
“Please talk to her,” said Ian, eventually.
Lucy put her blue cardigan on and repositioned her name badge on the knitted fabric. She grabbed the small paper cup and opened the hot water faucet that turned the brown powder into coffee. She put it on the metal surface and leaned against the opposite counter watching for a moment as the steam escaped the cup. She shivered and that awoke her from her trance.
“Did you sleep well?” asked her blond colleague applying a new layer of lipstick.
“It’s always so bloody cold in those bunks, it took me a while to fall asleep”.
“I agree, stupid men and their stupid hot bodies,” the blond said with a laugh. “I’m going for a patrol walk to wake me up so you can have your coffee in peace”.
Lucy thanked her with a smile and then grabbed her handbag.
She unlocked her phone and opened the picture again, zooming on it with her fingers.
It looked so surreal, it reminded her of when Harriet and she would paste their faces on those of women next to the actors they loved.
She was glad of being on a metal tube floating on air, with no connection to reality. It gave her time to think.
She felt bad for not replying to James, but there was nothing constructive she or he could have said at that moment. This was their life now and she had to accept, or at least get used to it as James had said in the past.
She shook her head. Why was she overthinking this again?
The situation was simple: she said she wanted to be a normal couple (whatever normal meant, being with James Kent) and she had agreed to the consequences that would come with that.
Suck it up and stop being dramatic. She thought.
It might take you out of your comfort zone, but it’s not the end of the world, people will lose interest in no time.
She locked her phone and put it back in her bag, burying it along with her doubts and concerns.
It will be OK.