Coffee, Tea? Or me?

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"In the smoke they can hear me coming

If you were me, and I was you I’d get out of my way. [...]

Who’s tougher than this bitch? Who’s freer than me?

You wanna make the switch? Be my guest baby...”


“Please take a seat,” said the man with salt and pepper hair sitting behind the desk. “My name is Josh Spencer and I’m the fleet manager in charge of this meeting. This is Julia, she’s the office manager on duty today and is here for support both mine and yours.”
The woman took a seat next to the man.
“This is Ricardo from the Union,” Julia said pointing at a third person sitting across her. “He’s here to make sure everything is legal and it’s conducted in the fairest way for both parties.”
Ricardo held his hand up in a greeting.
Lucy swallowed hard trying to stabilise her heartbeat.
“So, Lucy Hamilton,” said the salt and pepper man looking at a computer screen “First of all, how are you?”
Lucy relaxed a little and cleared her throat.
“Much better, thank you.”
Josh nodded “Good, happy to hear that. I assume you know why you’re here, so should we jump right in?”
“Sure,” said Lucy playing nervously with her hands.
“You were sick for eight days and you didn’t send a doctor certificate. Are you aware of the procedure for sicknesses of more than three days?”
“Yes,” Lucy said softly, then louder “Yes, I am. I am really sorry for not following it, I was going through a very stressful time and honestly, that was pushed at the back of my mind.”
Julia tilted her head to the side.
“Legally you don’t have to share the reason for your sickness but if you feel like it, we’re here to listen. This is your time to explain.”
Lucy looked at the union representative who gave a little nod in agreement.
“I wasn’t sick per se, but things happened and I needed time off and I couldn’t go through the process of requesting it. Again, I know I was wrong in doing so and I’m sorry...”
“Are these things that happened related to the other reason why you’re here? The pictures?”
Lucy nodded. She was silent for a moment, debating how much to share until she spoke.
“There was... there is a person with malicious intentions towards me and my partner who went above and beyond to ensure my privacy and possibly safety were compromised. I had to act fast and probably on impulse, to put an end to it. Those pictures were taken against my will and have been removed from the website. I value my job very much and the reputation of the company is my primary concern, I am always impeccable while in my uniform both with looks and behaviour.”
The three people behind the desk looked at each other, then Josh spoke.
“I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. Is this situation ongoing?”
“We’re working with a legal team to pursue this person. I will do anything in my power not to let that aspect of my private life affect my job.”
Josh placed his elbows on the table and leaned towards Lucy.
“Miss Hamilton, I am happy to hear that the company’s interest is up in your priority list but we’re really here to make sure you’re ok, not only because that’s the only way you can optimally perform your role but also because we care about you. So, are you ok?”
Lucy looked down at her hands and played with her nails for a second.
“I am sir, yes. I have a great support network at home and as I said, we’re dealing with the situation. The best way for me to move forward is to go back to work as soon as possible.”
“Good, I’m happy to hear that.” Said the man. Julie and Ricardo smiled.
“So here is our decision: since you have no prior occasions of sickness, no-shows, lates, let me say one of the most impressive records I’ve come across, we’ve decided to reduce your performance monitoring period from six months to three. We still have to manage your lack of regard for procedures but we don’t feel like adding stress to your situation would do you any good. Please, Miss Hamilton, don’t see this as a punishment but as an opportunity for you to come forward and ask for help should you need it.”
Lucy let go of the breath she’d been holding for the past twenty minutes and smiled.
“Do you accept this or you wish to proceed forward with a complaint through the union?”
Lucy nodded and grinned.
“No, sir, I think it’s more than fair. Thank you so much!”
The four of them shook hands and Lucy signed the paperwork for the meeting agreement.
“Oh before you go, Lucy,” said Julia with a kind smile “There’s something else we wanted to tell you”.


James was sitting at a private corner table at the Starbucks on the departure level of Heathrow airport, he sipped on his black coffee as he gazed around for any signs of Lucy and pushed his black NY Yankees cup down his head. The airport was busy on a Sunday morning and he found himself curiously looking at the buzzing of people running to their check-in desks, saying goodbye or lazily strolling around the stores. His eyes went to the First Class wing on the opposite side of the terminal and the lift where for the first time he had seen Lucy appear like a mirage. As his mind wandered to that day in summer Lucy walked into his line of vision, bringing a smile to his lips.
Her face was serious, her hand grabbing her bag tight as she walked swaying her hips in her simple and hypnotizing way, graciously gliding through the terminal building. James’ heart skipped a bit, that was the effect she still had on him.
Lucy walked into the cafe and looked around, James lifted his hand to grab her attention and the girl made her way to his table, her face unreadable.
She sat at the table opposite him and was silent for a moment.
“I got you a caramel flapjack,” said James tentatively pointing at the paper bag in front to him, not knowing what to make of her silence.
Lucy suddenly grinned and grabbed his hand.
“Not fired, all’s good!” She said cheerfully.
James’ smile matched hers and he leaned forward to kiss her quickly, aware of their surroundings.
“That’s a relief baby, I’m so happy for you!”
“There’s more,” Lucy started, picking on the flapjack. “Every year the company throws a Christmas charity dinner party where all the foundations they support come together and raise money. During this dinner takes place a ceremony to award their staff who were nominated by colleagues and praised by customers. Guess who is one of the nominees for outstanding cabin crew for my fleet?”
She goofily pointed to herself.
James’ eyes widened and he chuckled.
“Flipping hell, love, that’s amazing! I’m so proud of you, you really deserve it! I’m glad I helped that with my customer compliments.” He winked.
Lucy laughed.
“Yeah, let’s keep that to ourselves, I really don’t want to be accused of impeachment!”
She took another bite of the flapjack.
“The ceremony is on the twenty-second, I thought that maybe if you’re not busy you could be my plus one?”
James looked at Lucy for a moment, his eyes on hers trying to read her.
“I’d be honoured,” he said eventually. “Are you sure though? Last time we tried this it didn’t go very well...”
Lucy interlocked her fingers to his.
“I’m sure James,” she quickly looked around and lowered her voice. “When I told you that I loved you, that was the moment I realised that you are worth any struggles and that I would do anything in my power to live this relationship. We will take care of Sam and your fans and the media, well they’ll have to deal with it because I’m not going anywhere. Come at me bitches, I dare you!” She said with a smirk, puffing her chest up.
James laughed and stroked her hand with his thumb.
“Ok, calm down tiger! But seriously, I’m glad to hear that and I promise it will get better once the storm with your ex has calmed. And if you want nothing to do with my public life I respect that.”
Lucy bit her lower lip and looked outside the big window where a plane was taking off.
“I want to though, that’s the point. I don’t want to have to cherry-pick when I can be myself around you or be around you at all. I think what we were doing pre-Sam’s vendetta worked quite well, plus my fear of bringing the company into this has come true so that’s one less thing we have to worry about now. Let’s just play it as it goes.”
A barista approached the table and cleared the empty mugs and plate and smiled at Lucy then at James where her eyes linger for a little while, slowly filling with recognition.
“Thank you,” said Lucy louder than necessary. “Thanks a mill,” she said again more softly as the girl looked back at her.
The barista nodded briefly and left.
“Not a tiger, a lioness,” said James with a side smirk.
Lucy stuck her tongue out and got up.
“Let’s go home, we have work to do.”
James stood up and followed her through the tables and when they were outside of the cafe he locked his fingers with hers and led her outside of the terminal.


Lucy walked out of the train station in Richmond and put her earphones on, a nineties punk rock tune powering her steps. Two days before, Nigel had told her that Sam had shown up at her place demanding a copy of the CCTV recording and had threatened to come back with a warrant from a lawyer if they refused to provide it, Nigel had politely told him to leave immediately if he didn’t want to have to come back with two people to sue, instead of one. She and James had met with his lawyers the day after and had worked out a plan to put an end to the madness her life had become; James had offered to postpone his short trip to Paris to support her through the process but she had put her foot down and refused to let the situation disrupt his professional life more than it had already done.
Lucy opened the little black iron gate and walked the short paved pathway to the semi-detached house she and Sam had once shared, then rang the bell.
When the door opened a surprised Sam stood before her, he quickly regained his usual smug expression and walked outside the house, leaving the door ajar behind him.
“Look what the sue threat brought back. I’d let you in for your begging but I have company...”
Lucy removed a strand of hair that the wind had blown to her face and smiled drily.
“Good for you, but I’m not staying long.”
Sam took a step forward,

Lucy didn’t move.
“I’ll go straight to the point. I have two pieces of paperwork in my bag, one is a pending restraining order that will prevent you from coming into contact with me. We’ve extended this to my family, Harriet and James. It has a validity of ten days from the moment the judge signs it, after that you’ll be required to appear before a court and the judge can extend it or even make it permanent. You won’t have a criminal record, but work will need to know why you’re summoned before a judge and, believe me, I’ll make it so they will know. Also, our legal team will request moral compensation for me and repayment for the days I had to take off work plus they’ll ensure that the proceeding expenses are charged to you. Believe me, those are extremely expensive lawyers.”
Sam opened his mouth to say something, his face in an evil frown but Lucy held her hand up and stopped him, quickly resuming her speech.
“The second paper is a private agreement that you will need to sign. It states that you will cease any contact, be it in person, via telephone or the internet with me, my family, Harriet and James forever. As per the agreement, you can’t fly with my airline either and you agree to stay away from anything that belongs or will belong to me, Harriet, James or my family. And judging by the look on your face, I guess you know where I’m going with this...not so stupid after all. The house you live in was built by my father and he owns a percentage of the market value, so yes you need to move. We estimated a week will be sufficient. After that, we will leave you alone and won’t pursue any monetary payback.”
Lucy held out a brown envelope “So what do you pick?”
Sam shook his head, a look of contempt on his face.
“You whore. I will sue you both, that prick punched me remember? Do you think the press will not eat him alive?”
“Really Sam? First of all, I think you should enrich your vocabulary because your insults are frankly getting boring. Secondly, four thousand pounds an hour lawyers and you seriously think they haven’t taken into consideration all options? If you do we’ll press charges for violating my privacy and for attacking me.”
Lucy pushed the envelope to his chest.
“I’m telling you as a friend, sign the agreement. Unless you want to go bankrupt trying to fight the shitstorm that you created for yourself. Be smart, for once.”
Sam took the envelope and grabbed her arm and harshly pulled her close to him, towering over her, his face a mask of hate.
Lucy didn’t pull away but got on her tiptoes closing the distance between their faces so that they could almost kiss.
“What are you gonna do?” She hissed between her teeth, her voice low. “Hit me? Go ahead, I can’t wait to add it to the list. You created this and I will fucking destroy you.”
Then she tugged away and flashed a perfect, flight-attendant-style smile, taking a pen from her bag and handing it to Sam.
He looked at her for a moment and Lucy could swear she saw a hint of admiration in his eyes before hatred came back to shield them from her. He took the pen and unwillingly signed the paperwork.
Lucy put the envelope back in her bag.
“Someone will come by next Wednesday to ensure you’ve vacated the house.”
Then she turned around and walked to the iron gate, opened it and before closing it she turned to face him again “Merry Christmas, Sam,” she said and walked away without looking back.
As she turned the street corner she halted and took a deep breath, allowing her hands to shake now. She pulled out the paperwork and checked the signature again, then, without any concern for the people walking around her, she started to jump and dance on the pavement.

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