You're sitting on the sofa in James' flat, which is now actually your flat as well, talking to Richey on the phone. James has just returned from the supermarket, being the perfectly well trained househusband he is, to find you sitting there with a broad smile on your face. You were just thinking about how funny life is; there you are talking to the person you would have died for two years ago, and even though it's nice to speak to him, it doesn't mean anything, not in that sense. Instead, you're now with the person you hardly used to look at, because you were always so busy drooling over his mate, and you love him to bits. You hold the receiver out to James. "Hi, babe. It's Richey. You want to speak to him?"
"No." he says coldly, turns on his heels and disappears into the kitchen, leaving you completely puzzled. "Eh, Richey?" you say. "I'm sorry, James is in a bit of a weird mood, I think. He'll phone you back later, okay? Yeah, bye." "I'm not in a weird mood." James says through gritted teeth, standing in the doorframe like an avenging angel. You turn around "No, obviously not." He used to find your sarcasm funny, but the look on his face tells you that he doesn't right now. "What is it?" you ask more softly. He stares at you like you're the prime suspect in a trial for mass murder and he's about to cross-examine you. "Are you seeing Richey?"
"What?" You're genuinely confused now.
"I said are you seeing Richey?" he repeats.
"James, are you out of your f**king head?"
"I asked you a perfectly simple question", he says raising his voice.
"And so did I!" you shoot back.
He's almost screaming now, "I walk into my flat and find my girlfriend talking to my best friend with a 'come and get it' smile on her face and I'd like to have an explanation for that!" You close your eyes for a second, wondering whether to laugh or cry at the absurdity of this.
"Listen, James" you begin, trying to stay calm. "I was on the phone and you don't even know what I was smiling about."
"Yes, but I can bloody well guess! How long?" He really is screaming now. And so are you. "WHAT?!!!" This can't be true, you think. This can't be true. "How long have you been seeing him behind my back?"
"James, have you gone MAD?!!!" you shout back at him.
"HOW F**KING LONG?!" he yells at you.
"You have gone mad", you mumble and turn to go, but James lunges forward and grabs you.
"Don't you dare just walk out like that. You told me you used to fancy him, so don't pretend you're Little Miss Innocent", he hisses.
"So WHAT?!!!" you scream, freeing yourself from his grip. "I fancied Richey waaaaaay before I met him. And waaaaay before I met you. So f**king what?!!!"
"I KNOW YOU STILL WANT HIM THAT'S F**KING WHAT!!!" he shouts, then seems to compose himself again, and continues more calmly "Do you think about him when we have sex?" It feels good to hit him, even though you always used to sneer at people who give in like that and resort to violence because they've run out of arguments; but now you almost understand why they do it. It's a relief. And some people deserve it. Sometimes. He stumbles, probably not so much from the force of your blow but simply out of surprise. Although you did hit him very hard. It must have hurt. He just stares at you for a couple of endless seconds, and then storms out.
James just walks, almost runs, on and on, until the streets he sees aren't familiar anymore. He pauses to get his breath back, looks around, spots a pub down the road and walks towards it. Thankfully there's hardly anyone else in there, as it's still only early in the afternoon, and he's grateful he doesn't have to avoid other people's eyes. He slides onto a seat at the bar and orders a whiskey, staring into the distance. He downs it in one. Orders another one, does the same, orders another one, does the same and orders another one. By now the barkeeper's curious. "You alright, son?" he asks. James just shakes his head. "Woman?" the barkeeper asks. James nods, pressing the cool glass against his scalding cheek. "I can bring you some ice for that." the other man offers. "No, it's alright." James mutters, then grins sadly. "She always used to say that I shouldn't rely on her just slapping me like women in films do. She always said I'd get a real hook. Well, I did." Then he adds, quietly "Deserved it as well."
Meanwhile, you're frantically running through the flat, picking up clothes, make-up, books, CDs, throwing everything into your suitcase. The cab should be there in a couple of minutes and you've already phoned up your friend to tell her that you're moving in with her again. "Why?" she'd asked. "What the hell's gone wrong?"
"It's over" was all you'd been able to say, feeling tears start to well up in your eyes. Someone honks outside - your taxi. You slam the suitcase shut, praying you haven't forgotten anything, and walk out of the door. You've almost reached the car when you remember something. You turn around, fumble for your key ring and detach the key to the front door. You stare at it for a second, silver and cool in your hand. Then you dump it into the letterbox.
The flat is dark and still when James arrives later in the evening. He'd spent most of the afternoon drinking in that little pub, getting more and more miserable until he suddenly missed you, more than he'd ever missed anyone in his whole life. He'd left immediately, hailed a cab, asked the driver to take him to Harrods, where he'd had a very strong espresso to sober up again. Then he'd stormed right into the jewellery department and picked a ring for you. "Can I help you, sir?" one of the clerks had asked.
"Yes, I'd like to buy a ring. That one", he'd answered, already having chosen one he knew you would like. "Oh, yes, well chosen. A lovely engagement ring. Simple and tasteful." the clerk had exclaimed. James had just nodded. Now he's back at home, a little box with the ring in one hand, a bunch of daisies, freshly stolen from the park around the corner, in the other. He stands in the hall for a moment, surprised not to see light anywhere. "Darling?" he calls out. No answer. He supposes you've gone to bed and carefully tiptoes into the bedroom. It's empty. So is the bath. He's just about to turn around to check the living room, thinking that maybe you've deliberately left the lights off, when he notices something strange about the room. He looks over to the sink, then to the bathtub. He opens a cupboard. All your things are gone. A thought flashes through his head. He runs into the bedroom and opens the wardrobe. All your clothes are gone, too. So is the suitcase. He feels faint as he walks into the living room to check the bookshelves and the CD rack. He sinks down onto the sofa, staring at the presents in his hands. Then he reaches for the phone.
"What, that's all!?" Your friend's proving to be far less understanding than you think she should be. "You're not going leave him because of such a stupid little row, are you?" You roll your eyes to the ceiling. She just doesn't understand. "Listen, I -" The phone interrupts you. Your friend picks it up.
"Oh, hi James." she says pointedly, looking at you. You shake your head. "No, she's not here." your friend says, making it plain that she doesn't approve of your little game by staring at you like a teacher does at a pupil who keeps chatting during class. "No, I don't know. Sorry. Bye."
"Don't look at me like that. You're not my mother!" you explode when she's hung up. Your friend sighs. "So what's the problem then?"
"The bloody problem is that he obviously doesn't trust me. He was just so… the whole thing was so ridiculously over the top."
"Talk about making mountains out of molehills", your friend mumbles. "Exactly, and - " you want to continue, but your friend's not finished yet. "I meant you as well. He ran away because you're probably the only woman apart from his mother to ever have slapped some sense back into him, and in all likelihood also because he knew what an idiot he'd been, and you act like he's an abusive husband you've finally managed to break away from. I want you to phone him. NOW. Christ, he probably rang to apologise. Come on, you know you want to. You love this man."
You just shake your head, "I can't." Your friend groans and disappears into the kitchen, leaving you to think about James. It's true, you do love him, but the way he acted was so… scary. Telling him about Richey was quite a big thing for you, because you'd felt so strongly about him for such a long time, and because you'd been so frightened that James wouldn't take it well or perhaps even laugh at you. But he'd seemed reasonably understanding. It had never appeared to matter to him. So now you can't help feeling that he might have overreacted like that to get rid of you. Maybe he'd been bored with you anyway and had seen this as a good opportunity to end your relationship. He says something nasty to provoke you to leave him and he's a free man. It works for a lot of blokes. The phone rings again. After the fifth ring your friend comes running. "Why don't you answer it? After all, you live here now, too", she says. "You know f**king well why I don't answer it", you reply. Your friend shakes her head. "Hello? Yes, she's here, hang on." She holds out the receiver to you. "It's James." You're furious.
"I told you I didn't want to talk to him." you complain. "He sounds very upset." Your friend's still holding out the receiver. Reluctantly you take it. "Hello?" But he's already hung up.
The next morning you know exactly what to do. "I'm going to Cardiff. I need to talk to Richey", you announce, joining your friend for breakfast in the kitchen. She just shrugs. "Personally, I think you should go and see James, not Richey, but you never listen to me anyway." Right, you think and get on your way to the train station. The journey passes quickly. You keep thinking about James, wondering what he might be doing now. When you arrive in Cardiff, Richey is really lovely, but it's still hard to explain everything. You'd always avoided telling him about your feelings, so now you're terribly embarrassed; the circumstances certainly don't help. But he just listens, then gives you a cute smile and tells you how flattered he is. Instantly, you remember why you used to fancy the pants off him, but while you're still trying to figure out where that thought came from, the phone rings. Richey answers it, and you immediately hear the voice on the other end of the line starting to talk without pausing for breath. Richey frowns. "Who is it?" you ask, and right away the voice on the other end stops. Then the line goes dead. Slowly, Richey puts the phone back down. "That was James." he finally replies. "He heard you." There's only one thought in your head. "You know what he's thinking now." Richey says gravely. You nod, then hide your face in your hands. He's thinking 'I was right. They are having an affair'.
During the next weeks, nothing changes. Nicky phones you up every now and then to fill you in on the latest news. Richey and James aren't speaking anymore, Richey feels responsible for the whole mess, James refuses to talk about you. The rest you can guess from gossip columns in the music papers. JDB sighted at the London gig of X, JDB sighted at a party held for Y, JDB sighted at the opening of Z, always partying hard. The boy about town to a T. Maybe he really is glad to be free again.
So, tonight's the night. You're at some semi-official record company do, feeling lost and self-conscious. You aren't convinced that you really should be there, but your friend, Sean, Nicky and Richey insisted that you go. James is bound to turn up sooner or later, and they reckon that once you're face to face again, you'll be able to sort everything out. You're nervous as hell and alternate between happiness at the prospect of perhaps getting back with him and gut-wrenching nervousness. Finally, you spot James. Your heart starts bouncing around in your chest. You haven't seen him in the flesh since you broke up and you're not prepared for the sight of him and what it does to you. "Hey, seen James? God, I hope he turns up soon." Richey appears next to you. You clear your throat. "I've already seen him. He's here." Your voice sounds very meek. You turn your head to look out for him again and almost faint when you realise he's confidently walking towards you. This is it, you think. This is it. Then James' eyes wander from you to the person next to you - Richey. He seems to want to turn around and walk off again, but he checks himself and comes closer. He nods at you, his eyes cold. "Nice to see you made it out of bed to ruin my evening."
"James, come off it, it's nothing, we're just - " Richey begins, but James cuts in, "Is he good in bed?" he asks staring at you. Something inside you snaps. Richey seems to know it, too, since he tries to say something so you'll shut up, but you ignore him. "Yes, he is." you shoot back. "He's much better than you ever were, actually."
"What the f**k did you say that for?" Richey hisses, but James has already turned on his heels and left. Richey runs after him, grabbing his arm, trying to explain, but James just shakes him off and storms out. Everyone is staring. You shakily move over to a settee somewhere in a corner of the room and sink down on it. Richey joins you, sighing, "You really deserve each other. You're the biggest idiots I've ever met." You shake your head, smiling sadly. "I know. He just brings that out in me, I can't explain why. When he gets like this, he just knows exactly how to hurt me, and all I can do is hurt him back. The funny thing is, I was actually prepared to crawl. I was prepared to apologise. But not like this. Not like this." James, meanwhile, takes a cab home where he spends the rest of the evening holding on to a bottle of whiskey until he eventually sobs himself to sleep.
You've packed your bags again. You can't stand London anymore, so you're only too glad when your auntie asks you to house-sit her little cottage in Cornwall while she's on holiday. You spend the days taking long walks, chatting to the neighbours and even do some gardening. You don't read the music press - thereby missing an interview in which James answers the question 'How the devil are you?' simply by saying 'Lovesick’. You avoid everything on telly that has anything to do with music, you switch off the radio when the Manics come on. You think you're starting to feel better. It's easier to forget about him at the end of the world - at least during the day. At night, it doesn't really matter whether the bed you don't share with him is in London or in the remotest part of Cornwall. It hurts not to fall asleep and wake up next to him.
You're standing in the living room, watching how the thunderstorm rages outside, purging the landscape. The sound of the doorbell makes you jump. It's not like no one ever visits, but in this weather? You sigh and walk down the narrow corridor. You open the heavy wooden door and are faced with James, soaked through, looking pale and unhappy. You just stare at him for some seconds, absolutely speechless for the first time in your life. He's so unspeakably beautiful. He brushes some wet strands of hair out of his face, obviously trying to muster up the courage to say something. He looks at you, defiantly. "I love you", he croaks, his voice choked with tears. It feels as if your whole world goes out of focus from one second to the next. You keep staring at him, like in a trance, until you finally wake up and fly to hug him. You bury your head on his neck and hold him as close as you can, oblivious to the rain drenching you to the bone. You seem to stand there for ages before he picks you up and you somehow stumble inside, kicking the door shut. All of a sudden you feel this need to say something, anything, just to talk to him. "Do you want a towel?" you ask breathlessly, immediately flinching at the question, wondering why your mind came up with something so senseless. James just shakes his head. "I want you" he says hoarsely and kisses you harder than he ever has before. Everything falls away; there's no house anymore, no thunderstorm, there is no stupid row that almost ruined your life, there's only James. The next thing you know is that you're laying on the bed, frantically ripping off each other’s wet clothes. When you feel his burning skin against yours, something jolts right through you. He still feels the same, tastes the same, smells the same. In a way it's as if you never split up, but then again you've never wanted him so badly. He loudly groans when you grab his throbbing d**k and guide it inside you, unable to wait any longer. Of course you'd missed the sex, but even though you'd always remembered it as completely mind-blowing, you realise now that that was nothing compared to how it feels to actually be doing it again. He still knows exactly how to touch you to drive you crazy with desire, and he's so incredibly huge and demanding inside you. You cling to him, and somewhere in that tiny little corner of your brain that is still capable of thinking, you vow never to let go of him again. He presses himself so hard against you it seems he wants to crawl inside you, and you wrap yourself around his body, almost going insane because you want to touch him everywhere at once but can't. The only thing that matters right now is to make him cum, to satisfy him, to make him understand that you've never been so close to anybody in your whole life. Your orgasm takes you completely by surprise and is therefore all the more intense. You hadn't been thinking about yourself at all, the only thing on your mind James, his weight on your body, his hands in your hair, his tongue hungrily exploring your mouth. When he hears you scream his name, he seems to explode inside you, crying out in relief, and you melt into each other, his hot semen mingling with your liquids deep in your body. "I love you,” you whisper.
"I love you." He looks into your eyes for a very long time, still snuggled inside you, and you feel like he's diving into your soul. Then he kisses you again, and for that split second before your brain switches off and all you're able to do is just to feel, you think that this is going to last forever now.
"I had a complete speech prepared. I rehearsed it all day long on the way here…I've forgotten everything now." James chuckles. He's lying on his side, facing you. You stroke the hair from his face, running your fingertips over his cheek. "I don't mind,” you say quietly. "I'm just glad you're here." He closes his eyes, and you lean forward to kiss his forehead, his lids, his whole face. He holds quite still, enjoying every single moment. You've never been so happy. "Oh, wait, I've got something for you." he suddenly remembers, opening his eyes. He gets out of bed, not without giving you a deep kiss first, and starts going through the pockets of his clothes. You watch him, propped up on your elbow, smiling to yourself about his eagerness. "Ah, there it is. Actually, I'd meant to give this to you earlier, but you were sort of… unavailable." he says sheepishly. He opens a small, expensive looking box and kneels down before the bed.
Hours later James is fast asleep in your arms, but you're still awake; there are far too many thoughts running through your head. You're twisting the unfamiliar ring around your finger. Mrs Dean Bradfield… doesn't sound bad. Doesn't sound bad at all.