Coffee, Tea? Or me?

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SOLITAIRE- Part I

SOLITAIRE

Don’t wanna talk anymore, I’m obsessed with silence

I go home and I lock my door, I can hear the sirens

I see buildings and bars from the window

And I listen to the wind blow

I see people and cars covered in gold

And I’m happy to be on my own.

I

James left the studio in Camden Town and flagged a cab, the photoshoot had run longer than expected and he was late for his meeting with his agent.

He sat at the back of the black car and gave the driver the address to the building in The City then called Lucy but the call went to voicemail.

He hadn’t talked to Lucy all day and now a feeling of unease was starting to grow at the back of his mind. He told himself that she had probably been called for a flight and, despite being annoyed that she could have left without even a text, he had learned that sometimes that was just the way her job was.

As he watched outside the window and the sky turning deep blue at the horizon, his mind started to wander again, unable to chase the odd feeling away. His thought then went to Sam and his hand closed in a fist as his unease turned to anger. He would have gladly smashed his face until it was a bloody mess hadn’t Lucy stopped him, he hoped the man hadn’t tried to see her again or James feared he couldn’t have controlled himself next time.

James bit his nail and called Lucy again, but once more her pre-recorded message answered back.

With a heavy sigh, he texted her instead.

Hey baby, I hope you’re ok. Haven’t heard from you all day...I miss you. Text me or call me as soon as you can ok? I love you.

***

Lucy pressed the accelerator of her Alfa Giulietta and moved to the right lane to pass a slow middle lane driver.

She had been driving for almost two hours now, the sky had turned deep blue and then black in the December late afternoon. Her tears had stopped and she had calmed down partially, her frustration turned into chill anger and contempt.

I’m ignoring all the dumb shit. Yo, because nothin’ is comin’ from it. I’m not gonna waste no time. Fuckin’ around my gat straight hummin’.

She rapped loudly along Cypress Hill on the radio, her hand moving from the gearstick to the air in gangster moves, as she pressed the accelerator some more.

When she saw the sign for an upcoming petrol and rest area she indicated left and made her way to the exit. It was only when she stopped her car that she realised she hadn’t eaten all day.

After filling the tank, Lucy stopped at a Greggs and bought two pasties and coffee for the drive, then went back to the car and sat in the dark eating the first pasty. She stopped chewing and listened, she listened to the silence and felt free. She had left her phone at home and for the first time in a very long time, she felt like she didn’t owe her time to anyone. Because of her job she had to be available most of her days at any time, her friends, family and James they all loved her but sometimes she found herself exhausted from trying to keeping up with them all the time, no matter how tired she was. After that morning she had also been vulnerable to random strangers meaning to hurt her but now nobody knew where she was, no way for them to get a hold on her. She grinned and started the ignition.

I tell you, mate if you think about tea, I mean really think about it, it is the weirdest thing in the world.

The Dj on the radio said as Lucy merged back into the M4.

It’s basically hot water, grass and milk. Like, here’s your cup of steaming beige beverage.

Lucy giggled.

Ok, Steve, you’ve insulted the tea. I think you’ve taken it a step too far.

No Joe, no hate on the tea, I never could. I’m just deconstructing it.

Ok ladies and gentlemen if you’re listening to Radio2 right now, and have survived the tea insult shock here’s an oldie but goldie, or beigy as Steve would dare call it. It’s Queen, Crazy little thing called love.

As the song started playing on the radio Lucy turned the volume up and gave an entertaining performance singing loudly all the words, playing the guitar solo and the drums and dancing.

When the song ended Lucy was left breathless but with a huge smile on her face. This was what she needed, she would have thought of the consequences the day after.

***

When James arrived home from the meeting it was early evening and he still hadn’t heard from Lucy. He opened Whatsapp as he took a beer from the fridge and noticed that the message he had sent earlier still hadn’t been delivered.

James opened the beer with his lighter and sat heavily on the sofa turning the big TV on the BBC where an episode of QI was on. He called Lucy’s number again but once more the pre-recorded message came back. He tried his luck on Instagram but there had been no updates on her profile in two days. A wave of worry made his stomach tighten quickly.

He took a sip of beer to calm his nerves and told himself that Lucy must have been on a plane somewhere and just hadn’t had the time to text him before her flight. He would have normally been happy with that explanation but the events of the previous day with Sam worried him and he couldn’t stop going back to the unanswered messages and calls and her complete silence for the whole day.

At the airport now for my on-call duty, will keep you updated should anything change. Xxx

Was the last time he had heard from her that morning.

He tried to shake those thoughts away and forced himself to wait the night, if Lucy hadn’t contacted him by the next morning then he would have gone to her place.

***

Lucy arrived at her family’s cottage in Wales that evening, she was exhausted by the drive and the emotions of the day but there were a few things she needed to sort out before she could go to sleep.

She dropped her bag on the floor and immediately started to work on the fireplace as the building was cold from the December low temperature and the sporadic use. When she was satisfied with the flames she went to the cordless phone and checked the landline, happy to find it working.

She dialled the number and sat on the floor near the fire.

“Hello?” Harriet’s suspicious voice came on the other line.

“Harriet hi, it’s Lucy,” she said quickly.

“Lucy! What number are you calling me from?” the blonde asked confused.

“I’m at my cottage in Wales. I’m ok but something happened and I need you to do me a really big favour tomorrow”.

“Ok...are you sure you’re ok? Are you hurt? Is it Sam?”

“I’m not hurt Harriet, I’m fine. And yes and no...”

Lucy recounted the events of the day and her impulse decision to run away from London.

“Oh my God sweetie, that’s horrible! He’s crossed the line, he can’t go unpunished. You need to report him to the police! I’m honestly boiling with rage!”

Lucy’s eyes watered again and she dried the tears with the back of her hand.

“I know, I just can’t think about it now. The messages were so overwhelming and knowing that he’s given my address away too...”

“Ok honey, you don’t have to do anything right now. Tell me what you need, anything!”

Lucy cleared her throat.

“When I ran out of the flat today I left my phone behind. Plus I don’t have any clothes or anything. Any chance you can pop by the flat tomorrow and get me my phone and maybe a change of clothes and bring them here? I know it’s big favour but I really don’t want to go back and I need to call work to say I’m not going in the next days...I’ll pay for your train and I’ll come and pick you up at the station!”

“Of course, honey,” said Harriet, understanding. “I’ll get your things now and I’ll try and get the first train in the morning”.

“Thank you,” said Lucy softly, feeling tears rushing back down again.

“Do you think I’m overreacting?”

“No sweetie- Harriet’s voice adamant- absolutely not. It’s a very stressful situation that knob put you in, I think some distance might do you good. What does James say?”

Lucy bit her nails nervously.

“He doesn’t know. He doesn’t even know I’m gone”.

“Ok...do you want me to text him from your phone?”

Lucy shook her head

“No. I mean yes. I don’t know I didn’t think this through”.

Harriet spoke gently.

“Lucy, he must be worried sick by now if you haven’t spoke to him all day...”

“You’re right. It’s just...I don’t want to tell him just yet. The way he reacted with Sam the other day, I’m afraid he could track him down and kill him this time”.

“He wouldn’t be missed,” said Harriet dry.

Lucy giggled.

“No he wouldn’t but I don’t want to drag James into this any further...that’s exactly what I was afraid of...”

“What do you mean?” asked her friend.

“Nothing,” said Lucy. “Listen, ok text him on Instagram and tell him I was called for a flight but my phone died and that you know this because I’m flying with one of your friends...or whatever, you make something up”.

“Ok, I will think of something”.

“Thank you, Harry, you’re the best. I love you”.

The two friends finished the call and Lucy walked outside inhaling the cold air of the night. It was so peaceful there, the stars shining bright without any light pollution, the wind through the trees the only sound. She walked back and went to his father’s studio, trying the drawers of his desk until she found what she was looking for. She opened the wooden box of La Gloria Cubana and removed one of the thin cigars, rolling it around her fingers and breathed in the familiar scent. She cut the rounded tip and, once outside, lit it, inhaling in the thick smoke and exhaling it in perfect rings.

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