James walked out of the building and took a good look around but nothing caught his attention.
As he sat into his car, rubbing his face with his hands, his phone rang. Lucy’s picture on the screen.
“Lucy,” he answered on the first ring.
“Hey, sorry,” she said, her voice soft.
“Where are you? Are you ok?” James’ voice was low and hurried.
“Yes, I’m calling to tell you that I’m ok. Harriet’s here with me. I need to be alone for a while, to think things through...”
James’ heart skipped a beat at those words but he pushed the thought aside, Lucy’s wellbeing his priority.
“Lucy, I saw the pictures. I’m sorry you had to go through that, why didn’t you tell me?”
The girl was silent for a moment.
It was James’ turn to be silent
“They were taken yesterday, at your place...” he said, cautious.
“Fuck, those are out too now!”
“You didn’t know about the pictures?” he asked
“No, James. I didn’t know about the bloody pictures. I guess I’ll add that to the list!” Lucy was agitated, close to tears.
James tried his best to remain calm, he hated to see her like that but needed answers.
“Baby, what exactly is going on?”
He could hear Harriet say tell him, in the background, Lucy sniffed then talked.
“It was Sam, he gave my address to the press and put my phone number on Instagram and some of your fan pages and God news where else. I started to receive some nasty messages yesterday morning and it didn’t stop, I left work early and when I got home I found that reporter waiting for me...”
James gave her some time to continue as she caught her breath in between sobs.
“It was just so overwhelming! I’m sorry I disappeared, I just need to be on my own. I know it’s irrational but being with you right now could be a bit too much for me. I’m so sorry James, I’m really trying to ignore everything but I can’t”. And she started to cry again.
“Ssh baby, don’t cry. It’s ok, don’t think about me, you need to look after yourself now! I’ll take care of the pictures, you take care of yourself. Please get a new number and stop reading those messages, we both know they’re not true! Please don’t fall into his mind games again...” He begged her.
Lucy’s voice was calmer again and she managed to talk.
“Thank you! I promise I’ll get my shit together and get back to you as soon as possible. I will call you when I get a new number and if you don’t hear from me, just know that I’m safe”. And she hung up.
James hit the steering wheel hard with his hands and swore loudly, this was getting out of control. He couldn’t help but feel responsible for part of it, if he hadn’t hit Sam maybe all this could have been avoided, he should have let her handle the situations as asked. The thought of Lucy’s ex brought a wave of anger through him and his hands automatically closed in fists, he would have paid good money to have him there right now and beat his oversized ego out of that smug face.
He took a deep calming breath and called his agent as he started the car and explained the situation.
“Any chance you can run the pictures with the legal team and see if they can have them removed?” James asked.
“Sure, I’ll see what I can do but I won’t promise anything. I’m sorry she’s going through this, James”. The agent said honestly.
“There’s one more thing that you may want to run by the lawyers. A few days ago Lucy and the guy had a confrontation outside of her building, he grabbed her so I intervened. I punched him in the face,” James said with a thin smile.
The agent was silent for a moment, an audible sigh.
“Fine, I’ll let the team know that too” Then, in a tone that sounded like a scold added, ” You’re lucky you’re playing a serial killer in your next movie James, you might get away with looking out of control if that story comes out”.
James ignored the comment.
“Thank you, Ian, I appreciate your help” and ended the call.
On Sunday evening James walked back into his flat and sat heavily on the big sofa facing the glass wall. He had been out drinking with his friends to try and take his mind off his current situation and was now fairly drunk. He had decided to cut the evening short as his thoughts kept wandering back to Lucy and the mess her ex had created for them. James hadn’t heard from her since their conversation on the phone four days before, except for a brief text advising him she had a new number. He was afraid the situation was starting to take a toll on their relationship and at times he found himself angry at Lucy for not talking to him, or not wanting to see him. The fact that she believed he couldn’t help her or even that she found being with him overwhelming, hurt him deeply. He wanted to give her space but how long could this arrangement go on? They needed to talk. If she was rethinking their relationship, he had the right to know.
James took out his phone and pressed the video call button on Instagram, after a few rings the call was connected and a very confused Harriet answered. She was in her uniform and appeared to be inside a plane lavatory.
“James, what’s going on?” she asked in a hushed voice.
“Sorry to call you here, I don’t have your number. I need to see Lucy, where is she?“.
Harriet’s eyes widened.
“James, are you serious? I’m boarding a plane! You scared the hell out of me, I thought something happened to Lucy!”
James scratched the back of his neck, he knew his behaviour was out of line but the alcohol in his body convinced him it was the way to go.
“Well, I wouldn’t know if that were the case because my girlfriend is not talking to me! I don’t even know where she is, she could be literally anywhere in the world!“.
Harriet opened the lavatory door slightly, looked out and quickly locked it again.
“James I appreciate you’re worried, angry and drunk, probably but there’s nothing you can do about it right now, especially if you show up like that. I’ll land back tomorrow, go straight to her and I’ll tell her to call you because I think you’re right, you two need to talk. But I’m not doing anything right now and please don’t do anything stupid!”
James rubbed his face with his hand and inhaled sharply, at least he now knew Lucy wasn’t too far from London.
“Fine, ok. Thank you. Sorry for the drama. Are you anywhere nice?”
“James. I’m. Boarding. A. Plane. Bye”.
And she disconnected the call.
The day after James woke up with a pulsing headache and felt ever so grateful for following Harriet’s advice. He checked his phone but no sign of Lucy yet, just an email from his agent.
The legal team dealt with the pictures; since they had been taken on private property (apparently the area covered by a security camera is part of said private property) and because Lucy obviously never agreed for them to be taken, they managed to have them removed from the website. Obviously, they can be easily shared, so don’t be surprised if you see them again, there’s not much we can do about it unless you want to pursue every single private user who posts them. (I advise against). In regards to your Rambo moment, they said they should see the recording and work a strategy from that. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary.
Well, at least some good news.
James busied himself with the gym and some work to take his mind off the fact that it was now mid-afternoon and Lucy still hadn’t called or texted. He threw the script he was reading on the coffee table and started to pace around the living room. This was ridiculous. He grabbed his leather jacket and his car keys and left.
Lucy threw a popcorn kernel at Harriet.
“Stop being on his side! I know I’m a horrible person, I will call him tomorrow!”
Harriet held her hands up in defence.
“Hey, I’m not on his side. I’m always on yours, that’s why I want what’s best for you and James is good for you”.
“I know. I’ve been a bitch, I’ll call him tomorrow I promise. I do want to hear his voice. I don’t know it’s such an irrational thing but every time I’m about to call him I get this anxiety and I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe he’s better off without me...”
Harriet rolled her eyes.
“God woman, you’re so frustrating! That’s it, I won’t engage in this silly conversation anymore. Get up”.
Lucy giggled “What?”
“Get up, I said. We’re dancing your stupid self-pity doubts away”.
Harriet connected her phone to the wireless loudspeakers and selected Good as Hell by Lizzo.
She started to lip-sync to the song Come now, come dry your eyes, You know you a star, you can touch the sky and grabbed Lucy, dragging her up from the couch.
“Come on baby, sing it for me!” She said over the music while dancing to the beat.
Lucy laughed and shook her head.
“I know you want to,” said Harriet with a tempting grin.
Lucy scoffed and smiled, her face illuminated.
I do my hair toss, check my nails. Baby how you feelin’? Feeling good as hell!
And they both started to sing at the top of their lungs while performing badly choreographed dance moves and jumping around the living room, their faces lit with amusement.
James arrived at Lucy’s cottage driven by hope, he wasn’t sure she was going to be there but it had sounded like a valid option and he just couldn’t sit still and do nothing anymore.
When he saw Lucy’s car parked in the driveway he felt a wave of relief. He didn’t know what he was going to say or how she would react, but at least they would be face to face soon.
He got out of the car and walked the short distance to the door, as he approached the cottage he could hear loud music and a warm light coming from the living room window. He walked to it before ringing the bell and saw Harriet laughing and then Lucy dancing and jumping around the big living room, her lips moving to the lyrics of the song. She looked happy and carefree, the biggest grin on her face.
James smiled, his heart filled with love and he walked back, hiding from view. He had arrived intending to talk to her, even get into a fight if necessary to try and solve the situation but now all that frustration was gone. He couldn’t bring himself to ring the bell and potentially destroy that spark of happiness that Lucy was now experiencing. He trusted her, he would have waited. Careful not to be heard or seen he walked back to his car and drove away.