Chapter Seven

Lucy


My coffee is finished and sleep is nowhere in sight for me. I don't like going to bed when I've argued with Stellan, especially when the fight is unresolved. If Sylvie was here, she'd laugh and tell me we sound like an old married couple, but that's the way Stellan and I have always been. We tell each other everything, so there's no chance for hurt feelings or resentment. Like today, when everyone else was telling me how stunning I looked, but when Rory asked him how I looked, Stellan was unimpressed. I should be thankful to him for being truthful, but it stung.

I'm pulled out of my thoughts by a knock at the door. "Come in," I shout, making my bed quickly and sitting down on it. Stellan appears, hovering near my bookcase. It's rare to see him look so nervous, but I'm not in the mood to tease him. "Hi."

"Hi. I wanted to say I'm sorry."

"I'm the one who should be sorry, Stellan. You're my friend and you wanted to look out for me."

Stellan walks closer and sits down on the bed. "But you're not a child. You're only two years younger than me and It's not fair that I … "

I bring my hand to his lips. "Thank you for today. If it wasn't for you, I would've left with that guy. He would've made me leave straight after and I'd have felt like a fool."

"I bet he's a two-pump chump as well," Stellan states dryly. I laugh. "What are you going to do with your writing?"

"I have to think of an ending to this one. I know it will be a flop, but I want to have experience for the next one. The next has got to be good, or my writing career has finished."

"So dramatic," he tells me with exasperation. "I have an idea."

"Let's hear it. It can't be any worse than my Let's lose my virginity to a guy I just met in a club plan."

Stellan grins. "You want experience and to get rid of your virginity. I want to keep you safe and protected, right?"

"Right. Where are you going with this?"

"I can teach you everything you need to know."

"What?" I gasp, wondering if this is a joke.

"You could lose your virginity to me, Lou."

The use of my nickname at the end is what does it. This man has been my friend since he stood up for me in secondary school, back in my eighth year. We've been friends since I was twelve and here he is, offering to help me once again, the way he always has and probably always will. But what if …

I open my mouth, but he cuts me off. "Just hear me out, okay? I know this is a lot to take in, and I'm freaking out about it as well. But I know you in a way these other guys don't. If you don't like something, I'll stop, and I won't try to talk you into it. Can those other guys give you the same promise?"

"You're sure about this?"

"Yes."

"And what if this changes our friendship?"

"It won't, Lucy. Our friendship can never be damaged, I promise you that." His eyes burn into mine and I can see the sincerity in his gaze. I trust him with my life, and if I can do that, I'm sure I can trust him to make my first time good for me.

"Okay," I tell him, feeling excited now that the shock has worn off. "When do you want to start," I ask eagerly, wondering if he's ready now.

Stellan laughs as if he just read my mind. He glances around the room. "I think I can arrange something more special than this," he tells me. "Leave it with me. How does next weekend sound?"

"Next weekend!"

"That desperate to get me into bed, are you," he smirks. I try to smack him on the arm, but he moves too fast. "I inherited a cottage from my uncle. I thought we could go and check it out."

"For the weekend?"

"Yeah. We could leave as soon as I finish work."

"Sounds great."

"Good." He kisses me on the forehead and heads to the door.

"Stellan." He stops and looks at me. "I'm going to start a new book tomorrow."

"Oh? What's it going to be about?"

"Two friends who have a no-strings-attached weekend."

"What happens in the end?"

I roll my eyes. "Well, it is a romance. They realize they're crazy about each other and overcome all obstacles to get together."

His eyes light up. "You mean one of your romantic heroes is going to be based on me?"

I smile at him, feeling a rush of affection that takes my breath away. "Yes."

"I'm honoured. Goodnight, Lou."

"Goodnight, Stellan." My heart races so fast when he walks out, and for some reason, I feel lonely without his presence in my bedroom. I pull back the covers and lie down, not feeling tired at all. Stellan as a romantic hero? I'm sure he'll be a good one, but I'm too worked up to think about that right now. My work begins tomorrow.

I lie in bed thinking of the preparation I'll need to do. Sylvie and Maria will help me with that. I must plan what I'm going to wear and maybe buy some new things as well. A girl doesn't lose her virginity every day, so I plan to look as hot as possible for the event. Maybe I'll get a better response from Stellan than the one I received tonight.

With that pleasant thought still resting in my head, my eyes start to droop. I fall asleep with a smile. Everything seems to be coming together quite nicely.

I'm woken up by the sound of clattering pans in the kitchen. Stellan must be up. He's most likely putting the dishes away — unless he's attempting to cook, but I can't see that happening. Stellan and cooking aren't a match made in heaven — unless you like your macaroni cheese on the burnt side. I picture him in my apron with a white chef's hat on. The idea makes me giggle as I get out of bed, feeling much happier than I did the day before. My next book is going to be a hit. I'm not ready for contemporary romance again, and I don't know if I ever will be again after Samuel.

When I arrive in the kitchen, Stellan is putting the last of the cutlery back in the drawer and closing the door to the cupboard that stores the pans. He turns around to greet me with a smile. "Morning. Coffee?"

"Please," I answer, returning the smile with a grin and sitting down at the table. It's great having a neat freak as a roommate, as I get the benefit of a tidy flat without having to lift a finger, and all I must do in return is cook the meals.

"You look like the cat that ate the canary. What are you so happy about?"

"Everything seems to be coming together nicely. I have big plans for my next novel."

Stellan pours in the milk and brings the drinks over, sitting down next to me. "I'm happy for you. To be honest, I'm surprised at how you're taking the breakup. You've barely mentioned Isaac."

Isaac's been pushed firmly into the back of my mind, and I rarely give him a second thought. I guess that tells me something about how well suited we are if he's so easily out of sight, out of mind.

I take my phone off charge and turn it on. I have twenty missed calls and two voicemails; there are also five messages. I feel Stellan standing behind me. He whistles when he sees the amount of effort Isaac's been putting in since he revealed what an arsehole he is. "The bloke won't take a hint, will he? Do you want to hear what he's got to say, or should I deal with it?"

I'm touched by his unexpected offer. "You'd do that for me?"

"Of course, that's what friends are for." He stares at me with an earnest expression in his eyes, and I know he means it.

I shake my head. "Thank you for the offer, it means a lot that you'd do that for me, but I need to handle this on my own."

Stellan nods. "I had a feeling you'd say that. My offer stands if you change your mind."

"Thanks." I surprise myself and him by jumping up and throwing my arms around him. We stay frozen like that for quite some time until Stellan clears his throat and steps away from me. I mimic his movement and step back, grabbing my coffee. "Well, I'm going to …, " I trail off, gesturing to my bedroom door.

"Okay, I'm going to the gym. See you when I get back."

"Okay."

He turns around and leaves without another word. I head to my bedroom, even though Stellan's not around. My brain is screaming warning signals about the nasty messages I've likely received from Isaac, and I have a horrible feeling that it's right. He always did have a nasty tongue when things didn't go his way, and he can only keep his sorry act up for so long.

I switch the phone on again and brace myself for the worst. With any luck, it won't be so bad, and I may see pink pigs flying past my window. I bite the bullet and look at the messages first.

Lucy, please call me back, I'm begging you. I don't know what came over me, but I'm sorry. I love you.

You know I don't like being ignored. Call me back so we can talk about this like civilised adults instead of toddlers having a tantrum.

I've taken a day off work and I'm out drinking. Is this what you want? I'm sorry, but you need to accept your share of the blame. Call me before I drink myself into the gutter. That is if you love me the way you say you do.

This was sent on Saturday night when I was out as well. I managed to not send him passive aggressive messages all night. This. Is. Not. My. Fault. I repeat the mantra, but it's getting harder to remind myself of that. I wish Stellan was here to reassure me of what I know to be true.

Can you guess who I just called? I'll give you three clues. She's blonde with big tits, she's leggy, and you've always felt threatened by her. Call me now!

He called Chelsea! Of all the people he could call, he called the woman who makes me feel two inches tall every time we're in the same room. She wants Isaac, and she let me know it every time.

Don't you believe me? I'll send you a picture if you want. Chelsea is looking hot tonight. I should be thankful that I've got rid of you. I bet she isn't a cock tease.

Underneath, just as he promised, is a picture of my ex and the woman I hate. She's dressed in a red dress much shorter than mine. She's making the most of the v neck, practically pushing Isaac into her large breasts while smirking at the camera. "I've won," her expression says, loud and clear. Right now, it seems like Chelsea has won, but I'm not sure if Isaac is much of a prize. Chelsea can have him.

Someday I'll be speaking the truth when I say this. Right now, I feel hurt, betrayed and angry. But in amongst the negative, there's a tiny flutter of relief. I stood up for myself and did what felt right to me, and I'll always be proud of myself for that.

Onto the voicemail. I'm glad there are only two of them, but the time tells me that they were sent after the last message. He was with her when he sent them. I shouldn't care about what he did, but a big part of me does.

Frigid fucking bitch. If you don't call me back right now, I'm taking her home. Your call.

I could've left with the jerk in the bar last night, but I didn't feel the need to broadcast it to him. Why the hell is he doing this to me, and why the hell can't I stop listening? I need to know what he did, even when I know it won't help. It's a sick torture I'm inflicting on myself, but I can't stop.

I slept with her. I hope you're happy because it's your fault. Don't bother calling me again, you had your chance and you blew it. Fuck you.

His voice is slurred but I hear every word he says. The cold tone cuts through me like a dagger hacking into my heart and killing my resolve. Was Isaac the best I was going to get? He seems to think so, and I don't know anymore. I should've let Stellan deal with it, but curiosity got the better of me.

Speaking of cats, I want a cuddle from mine. There's nothing that a cuddle from Freddie can't solve or lessen the impact of. I head to the living room and sit down. As soon as he sees me, he comes running over and jumps onto my lap, brushing his head against mine and purring. "Hello, puss. I've had a bad day and I need some company." Fred purrs louder and snuggles into me as if he understood. His purrs are soothing to my frazzled brain and battered heart. I join Fred for a nap on the sofa.

I'm woken by the door slamming. A glance at my phone tells me I've been asleep for an hour. Fred jumps off my lap and runs to see Stellan. I hear him greet Fred and fill up his bowl. Stellan wasn't thrilled about having a cat, but he saw how much I loved him and said we could keep him. The two of them seem to muddle along okay, most of the time. "Lucy?"

"In here," I shout. "What's wrong?"

"Have you had lunch yet? I picked up a few things, just in case."

My stomach rumbles at the thought of food. I haven't eaten yet, and my appetite has caught up with me. "Good. I'm starving," I tell him, walking into the kitchen and seeing him dish up the food. He stares at me, his eyes burning with curiosity. "Well, what did he have to say for himself?"

"He was sorry and wanted me to call him, he was angry and wanted me to call him, and he was about to shag Chelsea and wanted me to call him."

Stellan looks furious. "Anything else?"

"He shagged her; that was the last voicemail. I also have a nice picture of them in a bar with her hanging all over him." My voice breaks at the end of the sentence, killing my flippant tone. Stellan drops the bag of food on the table and comes over, drawing me into a tight hug.

"You deserve better, Lou. He's done you a big favour by showing you his true colours. Onwards and upwards."

I take deep breaths, enjoying the comforting smell that emanates from my best friend. "Onwards and upwards. Let's eat before it gets cold."

There's one thing that I can thank Isaac for. He's made me more determined than ever to go through with my plan for next weekend. And after the way Stellan's treated me today, I know he's the perfect man for the job. Friday can't come soon enough for me.