The following day, as Lucy came back from the grocery store, she found herself wishing James had indeed flown back to London early.
As she stepped into the hall of her building Nigel called her.
“These came for you,” he said, serious. “That guy Sam brought them. I stopped him and told him to either leave them with me or go”.
“Is everything ok?” he asked then with concern.
Lucy gave a quick smile.
“Yes, I think he’s trying to win me back. But that ship had sailed”.
Nigel nodded and passed her the bouquet of blue hydrangeas.
“Thanks” Lucy smiled again and grabbed the flowers.
Her instinct was to run outside and toss them in the nearest bin, but curiosity won and she carried the bouquet into her flat.
She placed the shopping bags on the counter and took a deep breath, bracing herself for whatever the message would say this time.
When she opened the little envelope she read
It’s all clear now. You sold yourself to the highest bidder.
She crumpled the note and angrily threw it on the floor.
Evidently, he knew about James. Another mystery solved.
All Lucy could feel was rage. She wasn’t scared or sad, she was angry. How dared he bully her like that? What was he hoping to achieve? But she knew the answer too well, she knew he was provoking her, he wanted a reaction, he only wanted to mess with her life and her happiness. He wanted to make sure she couldn’t move on. Pathetic, she thought.
Lucy grabbed the bouquet and once again crammed it inside the bin, then removed the black bag and quickly walked to the disposal room where she shoved it down the hole. He could have sent her fucking Kew Gardens, flower after flower for what she cared, she wouldn’t have given him the satisfaction of an argument.
As she walked back into her flat she debated whether to call James and tell him but she knew he would have been back the day after so there was no reason to worry him. She didn’t have the strength for another debate. She sat heavily on the sofa with a tub of B&J and a packet of Walkers shortbread and called Harriet instead.
Lucy’s phone rang the next morning and slowly stole her from her dreams, she had had problems falling asleep and now she was still in bed halfway through the morning.
Her hand travelled from underneath the duvet to the bedside table, it grabbed the phone lying on it and quickly retreated under the warmth of the covers.
When she saw that it was James calling, some of her anger disappeared and she woke herself up enough to be able to have a conversation.
“Hello?” her voice groggy.
“Hey, baby. Were you sleeping?” James asked.
“Yes. Couldn’t sleep last night,” Lucy said rubbing her eyes.
She could hear the airport baggage reclaim announcements in the background.
“Oh I’m sorry,” James’ voice was sweet. “I’m waiting for my suitcases, then I’ll hop on a cab and come to yours. Is that ok?”
Lucy sat upright and turned the side lamp on, trying to wake up fully.
“Yes, that’s great. Can’t wait to see you. Wanna go to yours later today?”
“Yes, that sounds good. Make sure there’s coffee ready, I’m in desperate need”.
“So am I! See you in a bit,” and she hung up.
By the time James arrived Lucy was fully functional, she had showered and washed her hair, ensured she had all her uniform pieces ready to be packed and had washed the dirty dishes from the day before.
When she opened the door she greeted James with a hug and a deep kiss, tasting the mix of mint and cigarette so familiar to her. She had missed him intensely.
“How was your flight?” She asked busying herself with the cafetiere, as James removed his coat and set his cases on the side.
Then walked to her and hugged her from behind, slowly turning her to face him.
“How are you?” he asked, serious.
In her bare feet, she came up to his chin, so she lifted her head to look him in the eyes.
“I’ve been better and I’ve been worse. Sam’s gonna get bored and I’ll move on”.
James took a step back, his hands still resting on her waist.
“I’ll support you no matter how you decide to deal with it. I just need to know you’re safe, I worry about you”.
Lucy grabbed his hands and interlocked her fingers in his.
“I’m fine,” she said for the hundredth time and went back to the coffee.
A few hours later, when they had drunk the coffee and Lucy had finished packing, they finally left to go to James’.
As they exited the lift and walked through the white hall Lucy halted briefly.
“Stay here” she ordered James, in a tone that allowed no retorts.
She walked outside the building with confidence and stopped a distance from Sam, who was standing on the pavement, leaning against a lamppost, his face smug.
“What are you doing here?” She asked annoyed.
“Wanted to see your pretty face,” he answered with a smirk and took a step forward, his tall figure towering over her.
Lucy’s palms itched, she wanted to slap him so badly.
“I know you sent the flowers. I think it’s time to grow up, Sam”.
He shook his head, a malicious grin on his face.
“Probably not my finest hour, I’ll give you that. But I needed to tell you what I think of you”.
Lucy looked in his eyes, not breaking eye contact, her face like stone.
“I thought you said you didn’t want anything to do with me anymore. You got my hopes high...”
Sam took another small step forward.
“That was before I found out you left me for your new sugar daddy...”
Lucy desperately wanted to be away from him but forced herself not to move.
“Please, we both know that I dumped you because you’re an unbearable arsehole. Besides, it says more about you then it does about me if I rather fuck a man I don’t love than be with you...“.
“You were always a slag...” Sam said between his teeth.
Lucy rolled her eyes and as she did Sam grabbed her by the back of her neck and pulled her closer.
“I fucking hate when you do that”.
With the same speed as Sam had seized her James was at Lucy’s side, he grabbed Sam by the collar of his coat and dragged him away from her, then, before Sam could even see it coming, he charged his right arm and landed a quick punch on his face with the strength and the precision that came from his practice. Sam lost his balance and fell butt first on the pavement.
“Oh my God, James!” Lucy yelled in shock.
What was wrong with men?
For a moment no one moved, Lucy still covering her mouth with her hand, James panting in rage and Sam recovering from the hit.
He looked at James with hatred and slowly started to get on his feet, he touched his bleeding mouth and looked at his fingers with disgust.
“You’re fucking done, mate,” he said pointing his finger at James, a menacing look in his eyes. Then he walked away.
Lucy pushed James inside her building.
“What the fuck, James? What’s wrong with you?” She asked, agitated.
“You said he never hurt you!” James yelled back. His green eyes were now dark with rage, his jaw twitching as he clenched his teeth tight.
Lucy had never seen him like that, she took a moment to study his expression, then said:
“No, he never hurt me because I know how to handle those types of situations! You should have stayed inside like I told you”.
“So now I’m the arsehole” James replied, opening his arms in disbelief.
Lucy shook her head and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“No, you’re not. But you don’t know him,” she said now calmer. “He will want to get back at you”.
“So?” asked James with a stubborn shrug.
“So this will never end if that’s how we decide to deal with it”. A tired sigh escaped her lips. “Plus this can damage you, James”.
James walked closer to her and slowly said:
“I don’t care, Lucy. He can’t treat you like that. And it’s his word against mine”.
Lucy exhaled, now exasperated.
“There are security cameras outside the building, you dummy. Not that bright for a star...”
James looked away from her briefly, clicking his tongue against the top of his mouth. Lucy could see him taking a few calming breaths.
“He grabbed you, Lucy. I don’t care what happens, he deserved it. And if this goes forward and the footage comes out, so be it. I’ll stand by what I did”.
“That could stain your reputation,” she said pleadingly, stroking his arm.
“I’ll be fine,” he reassured her again.
Lucy looked at his honest face, still traced with anger and hugged him.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you. And thank you”.
James gave her a soft kiss on the head.
“I’m sorry for interfering. I know you can handle yourself”.
They looked at each other for a moment then broke the hug.
“Should we go then?” asked James.
“Yes, you start going and call a cab, I’ll be out in a minute”.
Lucy watched James walk outside the building, light up a cigarette and take the phone from his pocket.
She walked to the reception desk.
“Sorry for the drama,” she said to Nigel.
The man shook his head.
“Don’t worry. If he hadn’t done it I would have”.
“Listen, if Sam shows up again, call the police. He’s transpassing”.