Coffee, Tea? Or me?

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Part III

III

Lucy leaned back to the rear edge of the boat and wrapped herself in her padded Levi’s jacket, it was a cold New Year’s Eve night, but the alcohol in her system shielded the sensation slightly. There were eight of them on the little boat that they had rented to spend the midnight on the London canals: Lucy, James and his friend Rob with his girlfriend Carolina, Harriet with her boyfriend Ben and their friend Chris. Jack had joined them last minute when Lucy had found out he was alone in London after his flight had been cancelled that afternoon. He and Chris were hitting it off so well that Jack hadn’t given James a thirsty look in hours. It was twenty minutes to midnight and the group was chatting away, empty bottles of Champagne on the wooden table at the centre of the boat, evidence of their intoxication. James sat next to her and brushed a strand of hair off her face.

“I think there’s love in the air,” he said pointing at Jack and Chris taking cute selfies on the other end of the boat.

Lucy chuckled.

“I think I’ll take credit for that.”

James scoffed and cleared his throat.

“You know, Chris is sort of the reason I dared to ask you out...”

Lucy turned to him with a quizzical look on her face.

James nodded, eyes slightly tinted with shame.

“The first day that we’d been messaging, I saw your stories on Instagram where you and he were on a night out hugging and being very physical and that made me jealous, I knew then that I had to do something about it. I didn’t know he was gay...”

“So you asked me out just because you were jealous? What if he were my boyfriend?” Lucy asked with fake indignation.

“No, I would have asked you out regardless at some point... and really? As if you’d have told me that you had a boyfriend...” he left the sentence lingering in the air.

Lucy looked away and scoffed, feeling hit in the wrong spot.

“Touché,” she said eventually and looked back at him. “By the way Chris is not gay, he’s bi,” she added with a satisfied smirk.

James’ eyes widened.

“Have you two ever...?”

Lucy winked and got up, making her way around the table to Harriet, leaving James with a stunned look on his face.

“Should we take an old year selfie? Last one before midnight?” asked Harriet getting up from the bench.

Everyone crowded around the table; Carolina sat on Rob’s knees, Harriet on Ben’s, Jack and Chris sat together and Lucy sat on James.

“Ok one second, I want to find a good filter,” said Harriet fiddling with her phone.

Lucy turned around to give James a quick kiss and caught him looking at Chris, then back at her.

She chuckled and grabbed James’ cheek pulling him close.

“Let it go,” she said. “You’re the best sex I’ve ever had.”

James laughed and licked his lower lip, looking away sheepishly.

“Ok, ready?” Harriet pointed the phone to the group and placing it at the other end of the table, she pressed the timer.

They all cheered as the flash went off.

“Right, now only the girls.” Said Lucy.

The group dispersed so that only the three girls were sitting together, Jack cleared his throat dramatically.

“You too Jackie, come here.” Said Lucy patting the spot next to her.

Jack joined them and James offered to take the pictures, they all posed offering smiles, serious faces and funny ones.

“Guys, one minute!” Exclaimed Ben.

The group cheered again and Carolina grabbed the big bottle of expensive champagne that they had been saving for the midnight. They all stood around the table and as the seconds went by they started to count out loud.

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two...Happy New Year!” And Ben popped the cork off the big bottle, foam escaping out of the neck.

They all shared hugs and kisses on the cheeks before filling their glasses.

Lucy sat back on the wooden bench and looked around; the Big Ben starting to come into view as the boat slowly glided on the water, the people on the river banks cheering and waving. She turned to her friends who were screaming and toasting and observed James laugh and smile that childish and sexy smile that had made her fall in love. He hugged his friends and Harriet then, as he turned to Jack he grabbed his chin and gave him a quick peck on the lips, causing a momentary breakdown on the man’s face. Lucy giggled to herself. Then James took two glasses and turned to Lucy, sitting next to her.

“What’s that beautiful smile for?” He asked.

Lucy shook her head, freeing her forehead from her fringe.

“This is perfect, all my favourite people in one place.”

James looked at the group and nodded in agreement.

“This is the type of happiness I always long for. Normal banter, simple life.”

Lucy tilted her head.

“You talk like an old man,” she said, looking at his eyes lost on the London skyline.

James shrugged and turned to her.

“I’m an old soul,” he replied with a smile.

“I love you,” said Lucy.

“I love you too,” he whispered, interlocking his fingers with hers. “Thank you for giving me what I’ve always longed for.”

***

The next morning Lucy woke up in James’ bed, her head pounded softly and she stayed still for a moment trying to assess her hangover, when she established that it was much better than expected she slowly hoisted herself up to a seated position. She looked at James still sleeping next to her, one forearm resting on his forehead, his lips curved in a slight peaceful smile.

It was a beautiful day outside and the sun was coming in bathing the room with light, Lucy took her phone to check the time and found countless messages from Harriet and Jack, most of those pictures. She scrolled through them and a fond smile appeared on her face as she reminisced the night before and the amazing time they all had had, how James had gone along well with her friends, the way they all had bonded and enjoyed themselves. No drama, no trouble.

Lucy thought for a moment, biting her nail then opened her Instagram app for the first time in weeks.

She pressed the plus button and selected several pictures from the night before: the one of the group together, one of the girls and Jack posing like pinups, one of just the boys all focused on a bottle of wine that nobody was able to open and finally one of Lucy and James alone. It was a candid photo that Jack had taken, the two of them were sitting alone on the bench and were mid-conversation, Lucy was looking up at him with dreamy eyes and James down at her, his lips in a sweet smile and his knuckles on her cheeks. She pressed next and captioned the photos Normal banter, simple life. With a deep breath, she pressed post and a quick smile appeared on her lips.

She was done being afraid, done trying to hide for other people’s sake, done compromising her love life in exchange for privacy. She was in love and wanted to scream it to the world, like a normal person. At that moment she decided she would have gone back to be who she was and do what she liked and would have ignored what people had to say, she had nothing to lose.

Lucy leaned over and kissed her boyfriend who reluctantly opened his eyes and smiled as he looked at her face.

“I was dreaming of you,” James said.

“Oh yeah? What was it about?” Asked Lucy.

“Mm,-he groaned- let me show you”.

And, moving on top of Lucy, he kissed her gently as their bodies woke up together.

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