BREATHE ME- Part I
Help, I have done it again
I have been here many times before
Hurt myself again today
And, the worst part is there’s no-one else to blame.
WARNING: In this part there’s a description of violence. It is very mild, nothing that you wouldn’t see on day time television but I wanted to flag it just in case the issues discussed in the chapter are triggerin to some people.
James walked into the bedroom and found Lucy sitting crossed-legged on the bed, her earphones were on and she was reading a book. As he sat on the bed Lucy looked up and removed her earphones, placing the book on the nightstand. James reached for her feet and took them in his hands, rubbing them to heat them.
“What is going on James? What is it that you need to tell me?” Asked Lucy, her voice gentle.
James looked at her earnest eyes and a wave of fear hit him, he wished he could protect her but he had to be honest with her, he had no other choice. He suddenly stood up and walked to the glass wall, his back to Lucy as he spoke.
“This is not the first time I am caught in a fight. I’ve had, well obviously I still have, anger management issues”. He finally turned around and looked at Lucy, afraid of what he might see in her eyes but her face wasn’t conveying any emotions.
“For how long?” She asked.
James sat on the modern black chair near the window and leaned on his knees, scratching his cheek before talking.
“Since I was a child,” he sighed. “At first my mother thought I was just a very lively kid, with too much energy to spare but as I grew up things didn’t get better. When I became a teenager she knew something was very wrong; I would yell back at my parents, my teachers, would throw chairs and desks or punch the walls if I’d get frustrated and be very confrontational with my friends. Things got quite bad as I became stronger and I wasn’t able to control myself until one day when I was sixteen...”
He stopped and looked at Lucy again, this time his eyes were filled with shame.
“What happened, James?” She asked, calm.
“Fuck,” he said between his teeth and scratched his forehead, looking for the right words. He cleared his throat and continued.
“One day I got into a fight, I don’t even remember what about, anyway I threw myself at this kid in my class and I couldn’t stop, I was just so angry...I broke his arm. That day I was arrested”.
James glanced at Lucy and once more her face was like stone, her eyes focused on him without a particular expression. He took a deep breath and continued.
“I don’t know why but his family dropped the charges, I was released the day after and it was the end of it. From that moment I knew I had been given a second chance and I couldn’t ignore the issue anymore: I started to go to therapy, I joined the rugby team to take the edge off my stored anger and I managed to keep it under control. At the same time I got into acting and it really helped me get in touch with my feelings. When I started to act professionally I left the rugby team and got into boxing...”
He looked at up at Lucy and saw a wave of stupor and anger as she realized he had lied to her about his passion for the sport. She swallowed and moved closer to him, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Are you still going to therapy?” She asked.
James shook his head.
“No. As time went by I was able to reduce the sessions, first once a week then twice a month until I was able to only go if I felt like I needed to...I haven’t been in almost a year”.
“What changed?” Asked Lucy but she feared she knew the answer.
James looked away from her briefly.
“It’s not what you think, Lucy!”
The girl stood up hastily and scoffed, shaking her head.
“It started with him, didn’t it?”
James stood up too.
“Lucy, this is not a problem you created, I might have overreacted with Sam but he’s not the cause!”
Lucy stared at him for a while, her hazel eyes dark under the dim light with a glare that pierced through James’s soul and he thought he could have died there and then. She then turned on her heels and ran out of the bedroom, James stood there frozen for a long moment then followed her down the stairs.
When he caught up with her she was storming through the kitchen to where Ian was standing, having just ended a phone call.
“Show me the video,” Lucy said, firm.
“Ian, don’t.” Intervened James, shaking his head.
The agent looked between the two of them and before he could talk Lucy walked closer.
“I don’t want to find out what my boyfriend is capable of from the news,” she said dry, then as no one moved she insisted. “Show me the video, now!” Her voice was raised and her tone scared James. Ian must have been troubled by it too because after a heavy sigh he took his phone from his pocket and gave it to Lucy, his eyes on James.
“I’m sorry but she’s right...”
James scoffed and looked up at the ceiling in frustration as Lucy turned her back to the men and played the video.
When the recording started a man was getting up from the floor and charging James, he cornered the actor against a wall and assessed a punch to his stomach. James winced and bent forward, taking in the painful strike then his jaw clenched and his lips curled up in a menacing grimace as he looked up. A second later he was on the man, his right elbow lifted high behind him charging his fist with strength until it landed on the man’s jaw in two quick repetitions, followed by a third with his left hand. The man hit the wall with his head and shakily managed to move away from another blow coming from James. As the actor looked briefly away at Karen screaming behind him the man regained his balance and charged James again, pushing him against the opposite wall and landing a punch to his jaw, which allowed him only a second of rest before James regained his strength and looking at him with rage, he tilted his head back and with his forehead forcefully hit the man hard on the face, his nose bleeding immediately under the impact. At that moment two security guards arrived and the person who was filming stopped recording as they moved away from the scene.
Lucy slowly turned around and handed Ian his phone back.
“Thanks,” she said softly to the man then turned to James and with chilling calm, she said.
“You fucking hypocrite.”
James combed his hair back with his hand and wet his lips.
“Ian, can we talk to PR tomorrow?”
The man nodded, happy to be able to move away from that situation.
“Yes, of course. Give me a call when you can. Bye Lucy,” he said and grabbing his coat he left the flat.
Lucy didn’t reply but kept her eyes on James until the door locked shut behind her then she spoke again.
“All this time and not a word from you! You nagged me for days because I wasn’t talking to you, wasn’t sharing my feelings and now turns out you are the one who was hiding all along!”
James sighed heavily.
“I was scared I would lose you, Lucy, you’ve seen the video!”
“Yes I have, and you think that’s what’s bothering me?” She opened her arms and let them fall at her side in exasperation. “Fuck, James you know me so little”. And she sat heavily on the sofa.
James closed his eyes for a brief moment and followed her, sitting on the sofa opposite her.
“I’ve opened my heart to you, I’ve told you how Sam would drive me insane, how violent he made me. I shared my mind and insecurities with you and never once you thought that, maybe, you should have shared your issues with me; that, considered the situation, I would have understood how you felt! And on top of that, you accused me of keeping my problems to myself...all while hiding this bombshell!”
James swallowed hard.
“It hadn’t been an issue for a very long time and didn’t see the point in bringing it up! That’s not something you tell a woman you want to make fall in love with you...”
“So you decided to lie? To make me fall in love with a different person? You’re unbelievable!”
She stood up, her hand to her forehead deep in thoughts and James felt suddenly afraid that he had lost her. He let his head fall in his hands.
“You could have told me after you hit Sam when you knew you weren’t ok again, I would have understood. Was I too preoccupied with myself to notice something was off?”
James’ head shot up and he stood.
“No! Lucy this is not your fault. It has nothing to do with you or Sam, this is my won problem, OK? You’re right, I lied to you, I made you fall for the person I wish I were and not someone capable of beating a man so brutally”. He sat back again and spoke with his eyes to the floor. “When I hit your ex I had the confirmation something was resurfacing but I hid it from myself, not you. I didn’t want to believe it was happening again...truth is, I was scared. Scared to go back to my old self, scared to hurt you, Lucy. You’ve seen the fucking video, I have no control!”
Lucy looked at him as his hands stretched out and closed in two tight fists, his eyes on them, filled with disgust.
She moved close to him and James was surprised when she gently reached for his hands, opening them and locking her fingers with his.
“You are not that person, James. You’re so much more”.
He looked in her eyes and a glimpse of hope crossed his, quickly replaced by pain and sadness.
Lucy kissed his palm “You’re kind”.
Then the cuts on his knuckles. “You’re caring”.
She kissed his fingertips “You’re funny and gentle and humble.”
She let the strap of her nightgown fall on her shoulder, freeing her breast and placed James’ hand on it, which he cupped feeling her hard nipple against his palm.
“I’m not scared of you, James,” she said softly and kissed the cut on his cheekbone, then looked into his sorrowful green eyes and pushed against James’ hand on her.
“You are human, you have flaws and I love you because of that,” she said kissing his lips, careful not to hurt him.
James swallowed hard.
“Those are fucking scary flaws,” he said hoarsely against her neck.
Lucy pulled back locking her fingers with his again,
“Someone once told me I’m here for you, let me take some of the blow for you“.
James scoffed, remembering the words he had told her only a month before.
“Well I’m here to do that,” she said softly against his ear. “I’m not going anywhere, James. I love you”.