The red carpet for the Vanity Fair after-party was a completely different experience.
James walked the carpet with confidence holding Lucy’s hand as they made their way along the big crowd of photographers whose flashes went off with ever-growing greed. They were all trying to scream questions over the noise but James ignored them all, simply walking with his usual charming smile and British aplomb until they reached a stand where a host was waiting to interview him.
“James, what a night!” Said the man. “What happened?”
The actor smirked.
“I had promised my girlfriend an exciting night, I felt the red carpet wasn’t enough,” he joked.
The interviewer laughed at that and with an amazed smile still on his lips said.
“We weren’t sure we would see you here. We thought you would find it a contradiction to come to the after-party after shading the ceremony...”
James ignored the teasing tone of the comment and simply smiled.
“Not at all. I didn’t shade- he quoted with his fingers- the ceremony, all the talented artists that were awarded tonight truly deserved to win, I just wasn’t so sure about myself.”
“So it wasn’t your intention to brush off the Academy?”
Lucy felt a sudden desire to punch the guy in the face and was glad that James squeezed her hand reassuringly as he sensed her tense.
But the actor casually shook his head.
“Absolutely not, mate. I do believe we still live in a world with freedom of thought and speech, so I merely voiced my opinion on my particular case and about a situation I felt needed attention”. And he fleshed a well-calculated, innocent smile.
Lucy was enchanted as he watched him speak. His tone was deliberate and defiant, a cheeky smirk constantly on his lips. He looked confident and disarmingly sexy.
“What do you hope to get out if this stance?”
James tilted his head and his lips twitched to the side.
“I hope I’ll get people to discuss the reasons behind my decision, to truly think what really happened with the media process, the cancel culture and why the public opinion has been so much harsher on this particular individual than with many others, including myself, coming from an entirely different background.”
The host was briefly silent, looking for a response to James’ subtle accusations.
“You know some people might call my gesture brave, others thoughtless or even disrespectful and that’s ok. That’s brilliant, actually! I mean, that’s all we’ve been talking about so far, right? So it’s already working...”
“Now if you’ll excuse us, I promised this beautiful lady some champagne,” he said in his most polite tone as he placed his hand on Lucy’s lower back and ushered her away.
“That was amazing,” Lucy whispered in his ear with a grin.
James answered with his best side smirk and a wink.
After that, they stopped for the official photoshoot and finally entered the Wallis Center.
James made his way through the thick group of guest looking for his girlfriend. He had left her to go to the restroom and then he had been stopped by two fellow actors who wanted to chat about the Oscars Incidents, as they had started to call it.
He eventually found Lucy sitting alone at a round table in the garden area, sipping a glass of champagne as she looked at the party evolving around her. He looked at her for a long moment, appreciating how simply beautiful she looked, naturally standing out from the glam surrounding her. He finally walked to her and sat at an empty chair next to her.
“Your social battery died, didn’t it?”
Lucy immediately sat up straighter.
“What? No, are you kidding me? This is the most exclusive party! Look, I could just walk over there and chat Leo up...” she hinted to across the grass. “And Jennifer Lawrence said she loved my dress!” She added with excitement.
James nodded slowly, a tender smile on his face.
“And yet, you’re sitting here by yourself. And you’re loving it...”
“I was with Karen but she and Sarah wanted to dance.”
James reached out and with his fingers caressed her hand resting on the table.
“Do you want to go?”
Lucy looked honestly into his eyes.
“James, this is your big night. You call the shots.”
“Good,” said James taking the flute from her hand and gulping down the drink in one sip. “Cos I wanna get out of here.”
Lucy and James stepped outside the taxi into Lincoln Boulevard, James holding a bottle of expensive Bollinger that they had swiftly stolen as they had left the party.
“Let’s go, I’m starving!” He said taking Lucy’s hand and guiding her to the McDonald’s at the end of the road.
They stepped into the restaurant giggling for an inner joke Lucy had said, catching the attention of the few patrons sitting inside, who looked at them in amusement.
“I’ll get the usual,” said Lucy while James studied the menu.
“Hey, how are you? Could I please get a veggie burger and a Big Mac to go?”
Lucy heard James order as she took the phone out of her clutch.
“Extra fries” she instructed over her shoulder, finally checking the numerous notifications that she had been ignoring so far.
You look absolutely stunning, sweetheart. Love, Mom and Dad.
Eeek! You guys are so adorable! And your boobs are something else!! Read a message from Harriet.
Then a few hours later.
What. The. Actual. Fuck. Just. Happened???!!! Harriet had texted again.
Erm...babes...did your boyfriend just call the Oscars people racist? Had enquired Jack in an Instagram message, after sending a short clip of James’ speech.
She chuckled to herself and closed the notifications, she would have replied to all of them tomorrow, she opened her camera instead.
She started a video with a panoramic of the fast food.
“It’s eleven-forty pm and we’re having greasy food to get some of the glam out of our system.”
She then focused the camera on herself. In the background James was putting his wallet back in his back pocket, Lucy moved the camera so that he wouldn’t be in the shot.
“Plus I had to starve myself to get into the dress, so I need food!” She joked.
“Is that video for your public or private archives?” James’ voice could be heard.
“Both?” She said into the camera, rising a perfect eyebrow.
Then to her surprise, James walked into the shot, his arms wrapped around her waist and leaned slightly forward placing a kiss on her neck.
“Perfect ending to a perfect night,” he said and winked before disappearing from the video again.
Lucy fanned herself with her free hand and cleared her throat.
“Perfect indeed,” she said before ending the video.
While they waited for their food Lucy posted the clip on Instagram.
Perfect night with James <3
It was a drunk post. Hopefully, James won’t have bitten her head off the day after.
When the food arrived they walked the short distance to the ocean and sat on the cold sand, James laid his jacket for Lucy to seat on so not to ruin her beautiful dress.
He quickly unwrapped the foil from the champagne bottle and popped the cork causing Lucy to cry in excitement, then poured the wine into two empty McDonald’s paper cups.
“To a night hard to forget!” He toasted and Lucy touched his cups with hers.
They both dug into their food avidly, ravenous from the long day and the drinking.
“So,” started James in between bites. “Will you still love me when I’ll have to find a new job and move into your studio?”
Lucy shrugged and bit a fry in half.
“It depends, what would you do?”
“I don’t know, I’d probably be a clerk or a bricklayer...”
Lucy interrupted him by holding up her index finger and closed her eyes, letting a low mmmh sound escape her lips, then quickly opened her eyes again.
“Sorry, I was picturing you as a bricklayer: your hands dirty, your sweaty body covered in dust...”
James chuckled and drank from his champagne again.
“Glad you can always find a silver lining!”
They both were silent for a moment, concentrating again on the food.
“Seriously though,” Lucy asked then. “Are you really worried?”
“Naah,” said James cleaning the grease off his hand with a napkin. “People boycott the Oscars all the time, us performers are dramatic like that. They will get over it. Plus, this might even give me an edge,” he joked.
“You already have an edge,” said Lucy mindlessly.
“I’m sorry,” she added quickly.
James just blinked a couple of times as he briefly looked away.
“I didn’t mean it like that”.
She took his hand and squeezed it gently.
James looked back in her eyes and smiled, to say that it was ok.
“So did you enjoy today?” He asked changing the subject.
Lucy nodded vehemently.
“I did! I mean, it was one of the most exhilaratingly terrifying experiences of my life but it was something else entirely! I’m glad you made me come...”
“I always make you come,” said James, stealing a fry from the red box Lucy was still working on.
The girl rolled her eyes at his bad joke.
“See this will be the reason why I’ll dump you one day.”
James laughed and poured some more champagne for both himself and Lucy then became serious again.
“I’m so glad you came too, Lucy. I know I’ve said this so many times it’s probably starting to sound fabricated but I couldn’t have done it without your support. There’s a good chance I would have chickened out if you weren’t waiting for me in the audience...”
“You really keep me grounded and I would just die to make you proud.”
Lucy brushed a lock of hair that had fallen back on his forehead.
“Oh James, I am proud of everything you do, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you.”
She looked briefly at the paper cup in her hand.
“I have a confession to make...watching you giving back the award, standing beside you on that red carpet while you stood your ground...well, it was a bit of a turn on...”
A faint cheeky smile appeared on James’ lips.
“You looked so unapologetic and powerful, a no fucks given attitude while you dealt with that interviewer...”
Lucy narrowed her eyes as she studied James’ expressions change as she spoke.
“You enjoyed that a lot, didn’t you? For once, you just didn’t care what they thought, you were proud and confidently defiant...almost cocky”.
She made a point of shaping her lips in a perfect circle on the O.
A fire passed James’ eyes as his gaze lingered on Lucy’s pucker.
She passed her index slowly on the outline of her bottom lip.
“I’m so facking proud that you are my man.”
A couple of weeks after the Oscars life was getting back to normality; James was still in Vancouver busy with the filming of the movie and Lucy had finally managed to get the city as a destination, so every other trip she would be in Vancouver for a couple of nights, giving her time to breathe and actually have a life back in London too.
“What’s the matter?” She asked in response to James’ loud puff.
“Nothing,” he replied, reaching out to sweetly wipe a foam moustache from Lucy’s upper lip.
Lucy placed her mug on the table and leaned forward with a motherly smile.
“Well, you sound like a steam train with all that umfing. And I’m the queen of overthinking so you can’t fool me...”
James took a quick glance around the little cafe with its soft lights and wooden furniture, the quiet jazz music and general humming noise of conversations gave him a sense of calm.
“Ian is trying to talk me into another interview...”
Lucy’s eye widened.
“You? An actor? Interviewing? How dares he?” She exclaimed with sarcasm.
James rolled his eyes and held his hands up to show that he’d given up on the subject.
“Sorry baby, please explain...” she encouraged, softly touching his forearm.
“It would be about the Oscars again...” he said.
“Well that’s what you wanted, isn’t it? I think that’s great they’re still talking about the issue...”
James took a bite of his chocolate muffin.
“Yes but that’s the thing, I feel like it’s backfiring somehow.” He paused to chew and swallow then continued. “I feel like they’re only focusing on the sensation my speech created, more than have a real interest in the point I was trying to make.”
Lucy nodded in agreement, the past weeks many public figures had spoken in support of James and his stance but only a small number of them had really listened and done something concrete, and this had started to frustrate James.
“You don’t want the focus to be on you...”
“Exactly. I’ve talked to Pablo and he’s as frustrated as I am. He told me that whenever he tried to raise awareness, even before all this bullshit happened, all the attention was on himself and his brave gestures more than on the problems he was trying to highlight.”
He shook his head.
“You’re screwed if you do, you’re screwed if you don’t...”
Lucy took a final sip of her latte then crooked her head to the side.
“What if you associated your name, but let the real people do the talking?”
James looked at her, intrigued and confused.
“Think about it baby, you have this huge platform,” she lifted her phone as evidence. “You could lend your name and leave that space to the people who know what they’re talking about, who have first-hand experience with the matter!”
James’ eyes filled with interest and he smiled briefly.
“I could partner with Pablo and if he’s willing we could let all those different organizations, charities and more use our accounts periodically!”
“I mean, who better than the people who live the issues every day to talk about the problem? I’m sure having a bigger account to post on would be beneficial”.
James nodded enthusiastically.
“No more empty interviews, let the real people do the real talk!”
He smiled a happy, fulfilled child smile and reached across the table to reward Lucy with a big kiss.
“You’re a genius!”
And Lucy was ecstatic for his boyfriend’s new sense of purpose.