Coffee, Tea? Or me?

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Part II

II

James was awoken by loud laughter on the tv, he sat on the sofa and rubbed his face as consciousness slowly sank in and his thoughts went straight to Lucy. He grabbed his phone from the coffee table and checked for any notifications from his girlfriend but again nothing was there, except for an Instagram message from Harriet. James felt a prickle of fear in his hands as he opened the text.

Hello James, I know you must be worried about Lucy but I just wanted to let you know that she’s safe and well.

What did that mean? It didn’t explain anything, in fact, more questions ran through his mind. She wasn’t flying, she had chosen not to contact him but why? Did he do anything wrong? Had something happened?

Where is she? What happened?

He typed, impatient.

He walked to the fridge and grabbed another beer as he waited for a reply, trying to calm his nerves.

I can’t say. I’m already breaking the rules by telling you this and not some crappy excuse but I thought you needed to know she’s ok.

He wanted, needed to know more. Apparently, Lucy didn’t want him to know where she was or what was going on that had asked Harriet to lie to him and this hurt him. Why hadn’t she gone to him for help if something had happened?

At least tell me if I did something, is she hiding from me?

He took a sip of beer and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

No, you did nothing wrong! Sorry, I should have opened with that! Anyway, I will see her tomorrow and tell her to call you. Please don’t ask more.

Ok, thank you. Feel free to text me whatever happens!

James walked to the glass wall and stared outside at the busy street underneath as he slowly drank his beer, unable to concentrate on anything in particular. When the bottle was empty he went to his room, got undressed and lied in bed, his arms behind his head, Lucy the only thought on his mind.

***

“You look terrible,” said Harriet, sitting into Lucy’s car.

“Good morning to you too,” replied Lucy, sarcastic.

“Good morning Lucy, you look terrible,” said her friend.

Lucy started the car.

“Didn’t get much sleep. Did you have any problems getting into the flat?”

Harriet shook her head.

“No, the doorman was already gone and I didn’t notice anyone suspicious outside. I charged your phone last night and I didn’t know how long you were planning on hiding, so I filled the gym bag to the brim. Just in case”.

Lucy nodded, grateful.

“Thank you so much, Harriet, I owe you a huge one”.

“Don’t mention it, honey. Listen I’ve texted James...”

“And?” asked Lucy, sensing there was more to the story.

“And I couldn’t lie to him. I told him you’re safe and that you would call him today, I didn’t say anything about what happened”.

Lucy looked at her briefly, then sighed.

“That’s ok. I know he must be wondering what the hell it’s going on. I don’t want to punish him, I just... don’t think I’m handling this situation very well”.

Harriet put a hand on her thigh in reassurance.

“There’s no right or wrong reaction sweetie. Just call him, he’s on your side. You don’t have to go into details if you don’t want to but I’m sure he will be happy to hear your voice and to be reassured he’s done nothing wrong to you!”

Lucy stopped the car in the cottage front yard and looked at Harriet.

“I think deep down, I ran away from him too. I think on some level my brain blames him too for what is happening”. Her eyes watered and tears started to fall down her cheeks.

Harriet stroked her hair and didn’t say anything, letting her friend empty her mind from those emotions.

“And this makes me even madder because I’m sure that’s what Sam wanted. How can I blame James for this? It was my idea to go public, I agreed to be with him even though I knew there could be drama, there always is with me!”

Her tears were falling fast now and she was talking in sobs.

“Sshh, ″ Harriet reassured her with a hug “Lucy, don’t say that. It’s not your fault, do you understand me? Don’t you ever say that again! Can’t you see what’s going on? Once again, somehow, you think you are the problem! Sounds familiar?”

Lucy dried the tears on her face with the back of her hand.

“Fuck, you’re right! How does he still have that power on me? How does he do it?”

Her sadness now turning into rage. She fidgeted with her hand on her lap and was silent for a moment, then opened the car door.

“Let’s go inside, I’ll give James a call and make us some coffee”.

***

James turned one last time in his bed and tossed the duvet on the side, quickly getting out of bed. It was five in the morning and he had barely managed a couple of hours of sleep, his mind racing from Lucy to her ex and the myriad of possible things that might have happened the day before.

He put on a pair of grey trackies and an old t-shirt, filled his bottle of pre-workout and headed to the gym to let out some steam. He started with a light jog on the treadmill, his feet moving to the beat of his playlist and his mind still wandering away to his girlfriend and her escape. He sped up the pace, now fully running as fast as he could.

When his phone illuminated he quickly lifted himself on the side bars of the treadmill and placed his feet on the fixed edges, hoping for a text from Lucy.

But once again it wasn’t her.

James opened the message from his friend David to find two pictures of Lucy. She was in her uniform and was walking into her apartment building, her side to the camera and looked like she was trying to run away from the photographer, her expression dismal. The second picture had been taken from behind, the girl dragging her suitcase through the door, looking up at Nigel, who had a displeased look on his face.

Mary sent me this, are you aware? Is everything ok?

James immediately stopped the treadmill and dried the sweat from his face, this wasn’t good. He was starting to get a picture of what might have happened. Quickly he went back to his flat, showered and headed for Lucy’s place, he doubted she would have been there but it was a place to start, plus Nigel was in the picture so he might have known something.

He just couldn’t sit at home waiting for her call when he knew what could be going on through her head. The paparazzi had found out where she lived somehow (and a gut feeling told him Sam had something to do with it) and he knew that was one of Lucy’s worries. She had agreed to go public for his sake but had always been clear about keeping her privacy as intact as possible. He just wished she had told him because he, for one, knew what it felt like to be in that situation and could have helped her through it. And he was her boyfriend, she should confide in him...

James parked not far from Lucy’s building and jogged the distance to the main entrance, heading for the lift.

“She’s not home,” said a familiar voice from behind the reception desk.

James stopped in his track and walked to the doorman.

“Hey Nigel, do you know where she is?” he asked.

“I thought you knew,” said the man.

James shook his head.

“What happened yesterday? I saw the pictures, I had no idea till this morning...”

The man recounted what he had happened.

“I couldn’t hear what they were saying but I saw that Lucy was agitated so I decided to step in. I’ve rarely seen her so distressed”.

James swore between his teeth.

“I don’t know if it’s important but I’ve seen two more men lurking around yesterday, I guess of the same kind...”

“Thank you, you were very helpful. That’s my number,” James slid a piece of paper on the desk. “Please call me asap if Lucy shows up”.

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