Coffee, Tea? Or me?

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WHITE ROOM- Part I

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

WHITE ROOM

At the party, she was kindness in the hard crowd

Consolation for the old wound now forgotten

Yellow tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes.

I

The aftermath of James’ declaration had been a whirlpool of opinions, some people believed he should have been punished for his actions but many others praised him for speaking up and campaigning for mental health issues. James had decided to distance himself from the noise and keep a low profile until he was due back to work at the end of January with his new movie, which he had been relieved to learn was still on offer. He had agreed to several interviews to discuss the subject and had been more active on his social media, trying to promote awareness through literary resources and websites. But mainly he had been concentrating on himself and the work he was doing with his therapist which was proving beneficial. He had taken advantage of the time off to remove himself from any stressful situations, to really focus and work on himself and his relationships with his loved ones.

Lucy, on the other hand, was keeping up with the debate and, despite James suggesting many times she should be careful with it, she had reassured him her searches were healthy and she wasn’t obsessing over it. “I feel like I have a second agent now,” he had told her one evening as she quoted an article about him she had read online, although secretly he liked her preoccupation over his career and public image because he knew her interest was out of love.

While looking up a post about one of James’ recent interviews Lucy came across another picture of the two of them, which had been taken the day before at the grocery store. James was pushing the trolley and Lucy had her arm hooked around his elbow, looking up at him and smiling, his face was half-covered by a black baseball hat but his grin was visible like the tip of his tongue cutely trapped between his teeth.

Since posting the pictures from New Year’s Eve on her page a couple of weeks before, Lucy hadn’t paid too much attention at the comments in an effort to make peace with the situation, willingly ignoring all the reposts she had come across on her search page. This was the first picture of the couple together she had seen since and was compelled to click on it and have a quick look.

James Kent and girlfriend Lucy Hamilton looking happy while grocery shopping in Chelsea yesterday morning.

Underneath that, the fan page admin commented.

This had been a rough beginning to the new year for James and we want to express our full support. Seeing how happy he looks in this picture after the storm of the past week melts my heart. Lucy obviously has a great impact on him and we need to be grateful he has someone to walk this journey with. On this note, I want to stress again that there is no space on this page for hate and any disrespectful comments about Lucy or them as a couple will be reported. I know we all wish we were her, but if you truly care for James you can only wish him joy and be happy for him. <3

At this Lucy’s heart warmed with gratitude, she finally felt like she had an ally, despite it being a stranger on the Internet and she felt better about her decision not to hold back on her relationship. She had promised herself not to care but despite everything, she did care because she loved James more than anything and she wanted the world to know this, especially now.

The relationship between Lucy and James became stronger after his confession, as James didn’t feel the need to lie or try to conceal some of his emotions around her anymore. There had been some moments of tension but James had managed to work through them with Lucy, who had agreed to attend a session with his therapist to have a better understanding of how to deal with the situation.

Lucy was learning the little signs that warned her James was building up tension and realised they had been there all along, she just had brushed them off as bad days.

One evening she called him from her hotel room in Munich only to be greeted by an annoyed James who claimed she had forgotten to tell him she was going to be away for the night. Her first instinct was to tell him he was mistaken and that she was too tired to be having that conversation but she had stopped herself and, sitting in the dimly lit room she had managed to calm him down and helped him process his frustration.

“I’m sorry about yesterday,” was the first thing James told her when they met the day after. It was a beautiful day and they had met in Hyde Park for a walk. “It’s not fair you have to walk on eggshells all the time around me”.

Lucy threw her hands in the pocket of her coat and looked up at him.

“It’s ok, James. I understand...”

James shook his head and looked in front of him with a dry smile.

“Normally, you would have told me to fuck off and hung up on me. I know you’re holding back for me”.

“I don’t want you to let me get away with things because you’re afraid of my reaction...” he added after a moment of silence.

Lucy took a few steps without saying anything, thinking about what James had just said. Was she really letting him out easy? Was she afraid of him?

She looked up at him, squinting from the sun that had just appeared from behind a cloud.

“I’m not afraid of you, James. I mean it. Maybe I am more cautious but that’s just because I think it would be stupid to be stubborn and confrontational just to prove a point. I don’t need to win an argument, I need you to be better”.

James nodded slowly but didn’t say anything, Lucy squeezed his hand and he turned to look at her.

“You need to stop worrying about me and put yourself first for once,” Lucy said.

James observed her for a moment, surprised by her words.

She continued.

“We can beat around the bush as much as we want but there is an issue and we have to deal with it. Together. I know you have good intentions towards me but the sooner you’ll stop acting like a bodyguard for my feelings, the sooner we’ll be able to find balance as a couple in this new dynamic”.

James chuckled.

“Wow, my therapist really had an impact on you”.

Lucy smiled back.

“Indeed!”

“I’m so glad I found you. I owe you so much,” he said pulling her closer with one arm, Lucy held his hand resting on her shoulder.

“If it makes you feel better, I can keep a black book of all your wrongdoings and we can fight about them in a few months,” she joked.

“I think I’ll take the free passes,” he replied kissing her forehead.

They knew it wasn’t going to be easy but knowing they were fighting for their relationship made the journey worth it. They walked like that, holding each other, enjoying the sunshine on their faces and the comfortable silence between them.

***

On James’ birthday, his friends had organized a big night to celebrate and take his mind off his recent problems. James had wished he could have enjoyed a quiet evening with Lucy, but unfortunately, she had to work so he couldn’t find any excuses to prevent the celebrations from happening. It was one in the morning and they had already been in two different clubs; since James had stopped drinking as he had returned to therapy, his friends had decided to join in on his decision and were all having a dry night. Despite this, the group was having a great time by simply being together.

As they left the second club Rob pitched in.

“There is a great place we want to take you to, hop in the cab”.

The group sat at the back of the black car and David gave the driver the address, ten minutes later they were left outside an exclusive looking place with a white CASINO sign above the door.

As they walked to the entrance, Rob leaned towards the bouncer and said something in his ear, resulting in the man lifting the red cord that blocked the door and letting the group in without queuing.

Once inside James followed the small group past the bar and the dancefloor into what must have been the gaming area of the casino, expecting to be given a table but his friends kept walking until they reached a padded red door with another bouncer standing next to it. Again Rob talked to the man and he opened the door letting the group into a smaller room. The lights here were lower and warmer, a bar on the right side and a few small tables with padded chairs in front of a small stage that extended between the audience mainly consisting of men, a woman in a tight corset was dancing to the sensual music.

James stopped and looked between the stage and his friends briefly

“Really guys? A strip club?” He said over the loud music.

David placed his hand on James’ back and pushed him forward.

“Just come with us....”

Reluctantly James resumed walking and followed the group to a corridor and into a separate room. The walls were iridescent red tiles that looked like a mosaic, on the left a black leather couch and neon lights running along the floor to the opposite side of the room where a rectangular stage extended to the centre of the small room a few feet from the sofa, a pole in the middle of it. The lights were low and blue, which gave a general purplish hue to the room and the music from the main club was muffled and barely audible.

“Enjoy, mate,” said Rob, leaving the room followed by his friends.

“What?” James was honestly shocked. “A private room? In how many ways do you want me to get in trouble?”

His friends grinned as they closed the door and James was about to follow them outside when the lights dimmed some more and he instinctively turned to the stage. A warm light came on behind a white fabric panel and the silhouette of a woman could be seen in the shadows, her legs were slightly open and her right hip was sticking out giving her body a winding shape. As the music came on James could see the shadow slowly pulling what must have been a dress over her head and throwing it on the floor.

He wanted to look away, wanted to leave but something about the way she moved compelled him to stay; he sat on the sofa, his eyes glued to the shadow of the woman, mesmerized by her fluid movements. Then the woman stepped out of the panel and the shadow was replaced by her real body, her naked legs moving slowly to the intro of I feel like I’m drowning, out of the darkness and into the spotlight where the pole was.

When James saw her face his heart stopped.

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