Coffee, Tea? Or me?

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CINNAMON- Parti I

CINNAMON

But if you hold me without hurting me

You’ll be the first who ever did

Hold me, love me, touch me, honey

Be the first who ever did.

I

James walked outside the tube station at Green Park and found a missed call from Lucy’s old number, he quickly called her back and listened to the phone ring as he walked on the pavement trying to avoid slow walkers.
“James!”
He was surprised to hear a voice that wasn’t Lucy’s and it took him a second to realise it was Harriet’s, a wave of fear hit him.
“What happened?” he asked.
“James I need your help. I know last time we spoke I promised I’d have Lucy call you, but we both know how stubborn she can be sometimes”. Harriet’s voice was somewhat calm and that reassured him slightly.
James nodded.
“She texted me yesterday morning, so I guess that’s something. Is everything ok?”
Harriet took a deep breath.
“Lucy received a call from work this morning, they want to see her and have scheduled a meeting at the end of the week. She hadn’t been at work in more than a week and didn’t send a medical certificate; plus, apparently, they’ve seen the pictures that that photographer took of her in her uniform and they want an explanation”.
James insistently pushed the walk button on the pedestrian light.
“What? How can she be in trouble for that?”
“I know it’s not her fault but they are very fussy with anything that involves their brand. They want to know what is happening. James, Lucy has never missed a flight, she has never been sick before so I’m sure she’ll be fine, but she’s freaking out now.” Her voice was hushed as if she were hiding. “She loves her job so much and the idea of losing it sent her down another spiral of anxiety and anger. I don’t want to leave her alone but I have a flight and she won’t let me call in sick for it. We got into a major fight earlier and I don’t want to add to her stress. She’s at her family’s cottage in Wales, can you come? I know you might be busy...”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” said James interrupting her. “Thank you for calling, Harry, you’re doing the right thing”.
“I need to know she’s safe. I’ll wait until you get here to leave”.
As the call ended James walked back to the subway station and call his agent, leaving a voicemail as the busy tone met him.
“Hey Ian, sorry to be so last minute. I can’t make the interview with the guy from Vanity Fair this afternoon, things have happened and I need to deal with them immediately. Please apologise for me, actually give me his number and I’ll call him personally; hopefully, we can reschedule”.

James drove all the way to Wales at the maximum speed limit, pressing hard on the accelerator of his fast car and overtaking every driver that stood in his way. He kept checking his phone screen for any calls or messages either from Harriet or Lucy, relieved when Harriet texted saying she was still with Lucy and she had managed to calm her down a little.
When he parked in the cottage driveway it was mid-afternoon and the sky was just stained with deep blue at the horizon. He walked to the door and with force knocked, Harriet opened the door and rushed him in, she was wearing her coat and a suitcase was ready near the entrance.
“Thank you so much for being so quick! Lucy’s out, she went for a run and said I should be gone when she’s back. Honestly, I have no interest in getting into another fight with her today... I’ll leave that to you”.
“No, thank you for calling me, hope this won’t get you into trouble later...”
Harriet shrugged
“I don’t care about it, as long as she’s safe I’m happy, I’ll deal with the consequences later. I better go now, my Uber is on its way”.
James nodded, then after a moment’s thought he pulled her close unto a one-arm hug.
“Thank you for keeping her safe,” he said in her ear.
Hadn’t her best friend been on the verge of a mental breakdown, Harriet would have died at that contact with the actor but she simply hugged him back and nodded as she left.

***

When Lucy came back to the cottage the sky was dark and the initial drizzle that had accompanied her for her run had turned into pouring rain and then snow. She had run through the woods hoping to get some shelter, but she was still wet and cold and was looking forward to the comforting heat of the house. As she walked down the gravelled pathway she noticed the lights were on inside and shook her head at how stubborn Harriet was, although a tiny part of her was relieved her friend was still there.
She opened the door and took off her shoes in the mudroom before walking to the living area.
“What the...I’ll kill her!” she said as she saw James sitting on the big sofa.
He quickly stood up and walked towards her, a mix of worry and joy on his face.
“Lucy you’re soaking through, you must be freezing!” he said looking at her shorts and thin white t-shirt, definitely not warm enough for the British December weather.
Lucy shook her head and walked to the kitchen, filling a glass with water. She leaned against the counter and turned to face James.
“I guess Harriet brought you up to speed with the recent events,” she said, and a shiver shook her body.
James walked to her and stroke her arm.
“Yes sweetie, she did. We can talk about it or not, whatever you want. First, we need to get you out of these wet clothes and warm you up or you’ll get pneumonia!”
Lucy moved a strand of wet air that had stuck to her face and without realising it, she started to cry. Seeing James had filled her with a mix of joy and anger and all the events of the week before came crashing back, adding to the latest news from work.
James pulled her close and hugged her and her anger dissipated a little. She was happy not to be alone, after all.
“Baby, don’t cry. It’s gonna be ok, I promise. Whatever happens, it will be ok”.
He took her hand and lead her through the living room to the back of the house
“I’ll draw you a bath, I know you love them...” he gave a tempting smile.
Lucy smiled back and followed him into the bathroom where she watched him fiddle with the tap of the big white bathtub with chrome feet, standing in front of a wall to ceiling window. He played with the handles to make a perfect temperature before emptying a bathgel bottle that immediately created inviting soft bubbles.
As she leant against the sink she found herself wondering if she could really live without him.

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