Four days later Lucy woke up to fifteen new followers on Instagram and knew something was up.
She put on the kettle and pressed the button near the entrance that slowly changed the big window from dim to clear. James was in Ney York again, but she had decided to stay at his place so she could pamper herself in the wellness centre near the gym. Plus she loved how private his flat was.
She sat on the big sofa with the morning light starting to peek at the horizon and checked her notifications again.
All her new followers worked for her company, which was at the same time reassuring and concerning.
She wondered if Jack had spilt the bean, but she didn’t want to confront him without any evidence.
She took a sip of her coffee, scrolled through her feeds and liked a picture that James had posted, a rare thing for him, with one of his colleagues in NYC.
Immediately after a new post from one of James’ fan accounts made her heart skip a bit: new paparazzi pictures. These had been taken a couple of days before as they were leaving a tube station and went for a stroll in Regents Park. She was wearing a thick winter coat and a scarf around her neck, her hair was loose and curly and because of the cloudy weather, she wasn’t wearing sunglasses. James was also wearing a winter coat, unbuttoned, and a pair of dark denim with boots. In one of the pictures she was looking up at him with a smile as he was talking and in another they were holding hands.
No doubt about their relationship now.
She read the quote to the post
James with his girlfriend in London. I don’t know who she is, but they’re so cute together!
Aw, thank you stranger on the internet. She thought.
She scrolled down and started to read some of the comments, which were mostly hearts and smiles and ”And where is she coming from?” until she was hit with a
"Who the fuck is this w*re? Why the hell is he with her?” and a ”Bitch is ugly, he can do much better!“.
All the supportive comments suddenly disappeared from her mind and she was left with the bitter aftertaste from those mean words.
She quickly changed her Instagram settings to private and put her phone down on the coffee table where she left it as she went for a swim in the heated pool.
Lucy entered the briefing room with one minute to spare; there had been a technical issue in one of the Piccadilly line stations and all trains were running late. She was flustered and out of breath for the run.
“Hello, everyone! Sorry for the delay” she said, closing the door behind her.
“Don’t worry, you’re not late just right on time”. Said Charlie, the cabin manager, a stunning Anglo-African man with a smile to die for.
She nodded and looked around for an empty spot on the long L-shaped sofa. As her eyes scanned the room, she was met by a few furtive glances and stares, she lowered her head trying to ignore the sudden attention and eventually sat on a stand-alone chair. She could hear low whispers filling the room.
“If you’re all done reciting your prayers, maybe we could start with the briefing?” said Charlie, shifting the attention back on himself.
Lucy gave him a tentative grateful smile.
As the meeting went on, Lucy’s mind was somewhere else. Rumours travelled so quickly in the base, cabin crew liked to gossip and now she was at the receiving hand of it. She took a deep breath trying to calm herself down.
“Lucy?” she heard Charlie call her name and was awoken from her thoughts.
“At what altitude will the oxygen masks drop down automatically?” he repeated the question, after her momentary silence.
“Erm, fourteen thousand feet” she replied finally with confidence.
“Correct”. Charlie gave her a supportive smile.
The rest of the briefing went by in the same blur, she barely retained any of the basic information, nor any of the pilots’ names or faces.
The flight itself was a bit better as she was working in economy and they were all too busy helping with luggage, reseat families that had been separated and then feeding two hundred and seventy-five people chicken curry or cauliflower and cheese to worry about her.
After the meal service was when she was approached for the first time about the subject.
The four other people working in her cabin gathered in the galley and a short brunette timidly said:
“Lucy, we wanted to apologize for the commotion in the briefing room. We were just curious to know, though. Is it true? Are you dating that actor?”
Lucy leaned against the metal counter, fiddling with a plastic cup.
“Thanks for the apologies, must admit that didn’t start my day right. But yes, it’s true”.
A choir of what? Oh my god? Are you for real? I knew it! filled the galley and Lucy, for the first time that day, smiled a genuine, right-from-the-heart smile at their colleagues’ stupor.
“For how long?”
“How did you meet him?”
“That’s insane, do you have pictures?”
“Does he give some good rogering?”
The smile on Lucy’s face died as a feeling of being overwhelmed started to take over.
“Oh my God,” Said a blond tall girl. “I bet he’s so good and rough”.
All five of them turned when they heard someone clearing their throat, Charlie was standing just after the curtains at the entrance of the galley
“I see you’re done with the service, maybe you want to go and help in business as Lucy finishes tidying up the galley?”
The four cabin crew nodded and left.
“Sorry about that,” said Lucy, busing herself with overfilled trays.
“Don’t apologise. It must feel like a very long flight, innit?”
“Are you ok?” he asked, then.
“Yes of course. It’s just a very new situation and I didn’t expect the gossip to travel so quickly! I know they mean well and they’re just curious, I’m sure they’ll get bored of the idea pretty soon”.
“Being curious is not an excuse to invade someone’s privacy,” said Charlie helping Lucy with some empty boxes.
“I know. And they aren’t really, I mean you know that jumpseat talk can become quite intimate sometimes, it’s part of the job. It’s more the sudden attention that frustrates me, to be honest, but again, I’ll deal with it”.
“Ok, that sounds good. But if you think any of them is crossing the line or is being disrespectful, please report it to me. No catfights on my plane!”
Lucy laughed softly.
“Ok, I’ll try not to pull anyone’s hair then!“.
Charlie patted her arm and went back to his duties.
James took a bite of his chocolate croissant and looked up from his phone to see a very distracted Lucy.
She was sitting crossed leg on the chair on the opposite side of the table and was deep in her own thoughts, scrolling down her phone.
With his new commitments and her busy flying schedule, they had found it hard to spend some quality time together so, when Lucy was given a trip to San Diego they had decided to meet in LA, where James was shooting a scene as a guest star in a TV show.
She had had a stressful flight but didn’t want to talk about it and James knew better than to push her when she wanted to be quiet.
That morning they had ordered room service and sat on the big balcony overlooking the ocean, but Lucy seemed still distracted.
He opened his phone again, taking advantage of that silence to reply to a couple of emails.
“You know I’m not with you for the money, right?” Lucy’s statement caught him off guard and he looked up in surprise.
“Cos that’s really not true” she continued, her eyes wide.
James put his phone down and directed all his attention to her.
“Of course baby, why would I think that? Did I say something?”
Lucy shook her head.
“No, you didn’t say anything. I just wanted to make it clear. If I cared about the money, I wouldn’t be a flight attendant”.
And she gave a weak laugh.
James looked at her for a moment, studying her expression then walked to her and kneeled down so that his eyes met hers.
“Where does this come from then?” he said gently.
Lucy shrugged and bit her fingernail.
“Hey,” he stroked her cheek, “I can tell something is off. Talk to me, please”.
She kept her eyes on his, evidently debating her intentions then said
“I didn’t want to say anything because I don’t want you to think I’m difficult but...I’ve been having a hard time recently”.
“I’m sorry baby, what happened?” He took his chair and pulled it close to her, then sat down.
“Well, on one side there’s work. The gossip is out and it spread faster than I thought. No one’s been nasty to me but they’re all so curious and sometimes they forget about boundaries and ask thousands of questions, quite intimate sometimes...”
James lowered his head and nodded slightly, he knew exactly what Lucy meant.
“But I can handle that, I’ve got my sassy face for that,” she scoffed. “What’s been bothering me the most is this:” and she showed him her phone.
The fan page she had been following was open on one of their pictures and the comment section. James read:
WTF is he doing with her? I heard she’s a dumb trolley dolly.
Ugly bitch, my James deserves better.
You can tell she’s with him for the money and the publicity.
She must be a good f**k for him to fall for that!
James looked up at her with worry.
“Lucy, this is not right! Why didn’t you show this to me before?”
“Because I know that they’re just stupid comments from some fifteen-year-olds infatuated with you, and I shouldn’t even be reading this...”
James pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her forehead.
“Baby, you are right, these comments are stupid and ignorant and all that’s wrong with social media, but I can understand how they would affect you. It’s only human.”
“I’m just overwhelmed. Can’t stop reading them...”
James took her phone from her hands.
“This is confiscated,” he said with a smirk.
“We’re going to have a great day together today, and I’m gonna show you how much I love you every single chance I have. I will make you forget all about those comments!”
He kissed her passionately and his hand travelled down between her thighs.
Lucy moaned softly.
James gently grabbed her neck, pulled her closer and said in her ear
“No more keeping things to yourself, ok?”
“Yes, sir” she whispered in a cry.
When Lucy arrived home two days later her mood was significantly improving, her flight back had been uneventful and her colleagues, already bored of the gossip, had moved on to the next rumour at the base.
She pulled her suitcase inside the marble entrance hall and had a quick chat with Nigel, the doorman.
As she left the lift and walked to her flat she noticed something outside her door, she bent and picked the bouquet of hydrangeas.
Once inside she got rid of her coat and with a smile opened the little envelope clipped to the wrapping, ready to read some cheesy lines from James.
But her smile died as she read the message in black ink:
Thank you once again for reading the story, I’m very grateful for that! Things seem to be taking a turn now!