When James woke up it was early afternoon, the sky was heavy and black clouds were approaching from the horizon. He had been brought back to reality by music but as he now lied still in bed the flat was silent, the space next to him empty. He pushed himself up to seated and touched his face, wincing at the pain that he knew he deserved, he really needed a cigarette.
He got out of bed and pulled on his grey trackies and a black t-shirt, retrieving the pack of cigarettes from the jeans he’d been wearing the night before, then he made his way out of the bedroom, welcoming the cold feeling of the metal stairs against his naked feet. As he left the bedroom the music he thought he’d heard earlier started again and he stopped in his tracks, taken aback by the soft beauty of it.
Lucy was sitting at the piano, her legs crossed on the low stool in front of it, her knees peeping out of her black cotton rope. Her delicate fingers were pressing the keys of the piano with purpose creating a melody that sounded like a lullaby, her lips slightly parted and her eyes focused, giving away her struggle; when she hit a wrong chord she halted immediately sighing heavily and rolled her neck to release her tension.
“So you really can play, I always thought you lied about it.” Said James, descending the remaining steps to the living room.
Lucy suddenly looked up at him, only then noticing his presence.
“As you can tell I’m not very good at it, don’t usually fancy a crowd.” She replied, playing a few random keys.
“It sounded beautiful to me, what was it?”
“It’s Beethoven’s Symphony N.7. A bit sad I know,” she scoffed. “How are you?” She asked then as James leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek.
“Sore. Was going for a cigarette, care to keep me company?”
Lucy stood up and grabbed a blanket from the sofa then followed him up the staircase that led to the glass door into the rooftop garden, the cold air sent shivers down their spines and Lucy wrapped herself tightly in the blanket.
James sat on the sofa in a covered corner of the patio next to the granite fire pit that was now off and wet, Lucy followed him sitting on the armchair in front of it. He leaned forward, his elbows on his parted knees and lit a cigarette, inhaling the smoke and holding his breath for a moment before releasing it in a thick cloud through his mouth and nose.
“Last night I was in a fight.” He said breaking the silence, his eyes on the cloud of smoke.
Lucy tilted her head in a you don’t say movement.
“What was it about?” She asked gently.
James scoffed and leaned back against the sofa taking another drag of the cigarette.
“I was drunk, that’s how it usually starts.”
He quickly glanced at Lucy and saw a confused look on her face, he leaned forward again.
“I was in this club with the lads, my friend Karen was there too” he began, his cigarette between his thumb and index moving with his hand as he spoke. “At the beginning of the evening I had an altercation with this guy I don’t know: I bumped into him, spilt my lager on his shirt, I tried to apologise, he didn’t take it very well, we shared words, we moved on. Later on in the night I saw him again, he was trying to dance with Karen who obviously wouldn’t have it, then all happened so quickly: he pushed her against a column and tried to kiss her, I was at his side before I even realised it and I pushed him away, he turned to me and said something about her that I’m not going to repeat...” James stopped for a moment, looking away briefly, then continued. “Anyway, I lost it. I just couldn’t control myself, the security guards manage to separate us but the rest was a blur. I couldn’t stop.”
He extinguished his cigarette in the ashtray and leaned back again, waiting for Lucy to say something.
“How’s the guy?” she asked, her voice barely audible. She remembered how James had hurt Sam with just a punch, she was scared to know what he could have done to a man he got into a fight with.
James seemed to catch on her fear and looked away from her again briefly.
“From what I can remember he probably looks like me...with a broken nose... He left on his own two feet anyway.”
Lucy nodded slowly then moved to sit on the fire pit in front of James, she took his hand and gently circled the outlines of his cuts and bruises.
“James?” she called to get him to look at her and when he didn’t she softly grabbed his chin and turned him to face her.
“How are you?” She asked looking earnestly in his eyes and he knew she didn’t mean physically.
James scoffed and hastily got up, he passed his hand in his hair while pacing up and down the patio then lit another cigarette.
“Like shit, Lucy. I feel like shit.” He bit his lower lip and winced at the sharp pain but immediately bit at it again.
Lucy looked at him not sure what to say, his eyes were covered with something she could only describe as sadness and gloom, his physical state an accurate representation of his soul. Before she could find something of value to say James spoke again.
“It’s not because of the fight itself, Lucy,” he said then took a long drag of his cigarette and when he exhaled he looked straight into her eyes. “There’s something you should know...”
As he said that his phone started to ring from the fire pit, James looked at it and saw Ian’s name on it, he thought for a moment then answered the call.
“Ian’s outside.” Said James apologetically and disappeared inside the house.
Lucy didn’t move, still staring in front of her where James had been a few moments before. Cold raindrops started to fall on her bare legs and her face but she sat still, grabbing the edge of the firepit, her mind trying to process what James had just said, wondering what else could be coming her way after all she had been through recently. When the sporadic drops turned into pouring rain she slowly stood up and walked into the house.