James Hartley

“Come on,” Jenna tugged my arm, “they’re all going out for a drink and it’ll be antisocial to miss it,”

“You’re not part of the cast,” I reminded her, she clenched her teeth and her eyes narrowed,

“Thanks for reminding me,” she muttered angrily,

“It’s the truth!” I protested,

“I would be up there; you know I would…if I could,”

“What’s stopping you?” I demanded, “You seem perfectly fine shouting orders, rushing about…” Jenna’s hand collided with my face and made a loud slapping noise, it didn’t hurt but my integrity was bruised. Two of the chorus members watched as I took a step back and sat down slowly, Jenna sank down beside me. There was a calm silence and I knew we had forgiven each other, almost instantly. “When was the last time you danced?” I asked her,

“You were there James, when the doctor said I could never dance again…”

“Have you tried? It was something you loved, it was going to be your future and you’ve just given up hope,”

“It’s because I’m afraid,” she burst, “I’m petrified,”

“Of what?” I asked her putting my arm around her shoulder,

“Of never being able to dance ever again, I haven’t tried since the accident because I don’t want it to be true. If I don’t prove that I can’t dance, then there’s still a hope…isn’t there?” her voice was high and almost hysterical.

“There’s always hope,” I smiled, “Miss out of the hospital in no time,” I nudged her gently. Cara came round the corner with a man; she looked at both of us and smiled gently.

“Coming to celebrate?” she asked,

“I don’t know, James makes the calls these days,” Jenna said turning her head to me,

“Sure, I think we both need a drink,” I got up and followed the rest of the group out the theatre and into the cars; I drove Jenna and some other strangers to the pub where we all piled in and ordered a round of drinks. I settled for coca cola in a bottle, I wasn’t ready for alcohol after the spiked punch incident at prom. Jenna took three shots of vodka and then settled in a corner with a group of girls I didn’t know. I didn’t like being the new one, all these people had rehearsed for weeks together and I’d only rolled up yesterday. Eve came up to me,

“Hey James,” she grinned, “see I remembered your name,” she swayed a little tipsy, I smiled pleased for some attention. “Great job on the lights today, those blackouts were on time and everything,”

“Ignore her,” came a husky voice, “she dishes out compliments like a machine,” I turned to see the lead role female character, she was just as beautiful offstage as onstage. I laughed deeply and leant against the bar.

“Only when I’ve drunk a bit,” Eve remarked, the girl raised an eyebrow and then turned back to me.

“Well how come I deserve the attention of the leading female?” I asked flirting a little,

“You were actually in my way,” she smiled, “I was about to order,”

“What are you drinking?” I asked,

“Tap water,”

“Not a drinker?” I asked,

“I don’t find hangovers particularly helpful when performing, I see you’re avoiding the alcohol too,” she nodded towards my coke.

“I’m merely a chauffeur,”

“What’s a mere chauffeur doing here at a cast and crew party? You stalking us or something?”

“I’m working the lights,” I let her know, she nodded and smiled.

“You’re James then,” she sipped her water. Eve had disappeared off somewhere, I sat on a bar stood and she sat opposite. “You’re just as famous as me then,”

“How?” I asked,

“You were all over the newspapers,”

“That was almost four years ago and I don’t think a weekly news article about you really counts as fame, it’s surprising you remember…”

“I was there,” she said elusively,

“What do you mean?”

“I was coming out of a dance studio across the road, I saw it all, I was a witness and I’ve had nightmares about it ever since. I sent up countless prayers, I don’t know if God listened but you both survived. I even visited Jenna in the hospital when she was in her coma. I now sound like a stalker so please feel free to ignore me,”

“I like stalkers,” I grinned, “but as the stalkeree, pretend that is a word, I feel somewhat embarrassed that I don’t know the name of my family’s stalker,”

“Bella Hurst,” she smiled and sipped more of her water. There was a silence as I thought over what she had just said, I didn’t realised people actually cared and Bella was living proof that even strangers with their own lives and problems would spend time thinking of others. Bella was living proof that selflessness existed and all of a sudden I wanted to kiss her. I didn’t. But I wanted to.

Jenna appeared at my side and made the ‘I want to go now’ face.

“You know Bella saw the accident?” I asked Jenna,

“Yeah I know, she was a witness,” Jenna smiled and Bella smiled back,

“Well I’m officially out the loop and ready to uptake my chauffeur duties,” I stood up, “It was lovely talking to you Bella Hurst,” I said sincerely,

“You too James, I’ll see you around,” she smiled and I walked off with Jenna. As we got outside Jenna jabbed me in the ribs.

“Bella Hurst. Really?”

“What do you mean?” I asked,

“Lead role, beautiful woman, great dancer, fantastic singer, clever. Do you really think you could get a girl like that?”

“Who says I want to date her?” I asked Jenna pushing her back, but the truth was I did, I wanted to kiss her pink lips and hold her in my arms. I shook my head and let the fantasies crumble apart. Who was I? A mere lighting guy. Occasional chauffeur. I had gone from Prom King Stamford Student to no one.

The End

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