Luke huddled deeper into his coat as he emerged from Leicester Square underground, trying to focus his thoughts on the upcoming matinee but finding them being pulled back to his pregnant girlfriend, Emma. He smiled unconsciously as he walked along, remembering her teasingly trying to entice him back into bed, urging him to call in sick. She’d said it would be a kindness to his understudy, letting him play the lead, and while that may be true it wasn’t exactly professional. Besides, he still got such a buzz playing this role and didn’t want to miss a single performance. His casual elegance and confidence gave the only hint that he wasn’t just another tourist as he made his way through Covent Garden, preferring to leave the tube one stop early and walk the last stage in order to avoid the congestion at that station. He turned into the alleyway that led to the stage door, quiet at this time of day, and was almost at the end when the door jerked open and a young girl emerged. Her hair was tied back into a rough ponytail, not her usual style, and her face was devoid of make-up but he still recognised her.
‘Lucy, I didn’t know you were in today’ he greeted her, surprised when she glanced up at him to notice the glimmer of tears in her eyes. ‘Are you okay?’ he queried gently.
‘I need to see you, after the matinee. It’s important’.
‘Ah, Luce, you know how it is on Saturdays love, with two shows. Come back though and I’ll try to pop my head out, say hi’. She looked up at him almost pleadingly then, quietly saying
‘Not today Luke, I need more’. He must have looked as baffled as he felt as she continued, ‘I’ve left something for you…’ Her voice tailed off and she placed a hand on his arm, ‘Please Luke…’
‘I can’t promise Luce, I need to dash now darling girl but we’ll talk at some point, maybe grab a coffee again eh?’ He bent then and gave her a swift hug before walking through the door, already putting her to the back of his mind as he signed in until the doorman handed him a package.
‘This just came for you mate, young girl left it, the one who’s always here. Think she’s got a bit of a thing for you, I’ve seen it before’ he grinned. ‘Lucky buggers you actors’.
‘Nah, she’s just a kid’ Luke returned the grin, taking the package. He turned and almost ran down the corridor to his dressing room, yelling in response to the stage manager’s barked questions that yes he was finally here, yes he knew he was cutting it fine and yes he would be ready on time! Dropping the package on a table he shrugged off his coat. He’d initially thought the lights around the mirror a little pretentious but now felt they helped his room feel cosy as well as serving their actual purpose, and he quickly stripped off and began to apply his make-up, all thoughts of Lucy disappearing as his mind turned to his imminent performance.
It was several hours later when Luke emerged from the theatre, freshly showered but tired and with the unopened package in his hand. He’d forgotten about it and when he’d dashed out between performances Lucy hadn’t been around to remind him. Whatever is was couldn’t have been that important after all, he reflected, but he’d take it home to look at all the same as no doubt she’d be back next week. It was funny, he’d never really thought too much about her before, what she did for a job or whether she was still in education, where she lived or… well, anything really. He felt a little guilty then, that he had never really taken time to get to know her, although he had shouted her a coffee on a couple of occasions. In truth though, she was just another fan, albeit sweeter and less pushy than most and he thought of her in a similar way to his younger sister’s friends; no trouble, pleasant and always around.
Sunday was spent baby shopping with Emma, it was only a few weeks now until he would become a father and he still couldn’t decide whether he was more excited or scared. Lucy and her package were far from his mind until he was about to leave for the theatre again on Monday and he noticed the package, lying where he had left it on Saturday night. He grabbed it as he passed, sticking it in his bag as he headed for the tube. He figured he should look at it on the way, just in case she was there today expecting something to be signed and decided also that he would endeavour to ask her about herself, get to know her a little. He grabbed a Metro newspaper as he passed the stand; never too much in it to read but a brief synopsis of the news was all he ever wanted. A glance at today’s headlines was enough to remind him why. The first two pages alone included a story about an old man being mugged, a hit and run in which a young child had been seriously injured and a suspected suicide found in the early hours of the previous morning, a young girl apparently. He didn’t read any of the details, just felt immense sorrow for her parents as he thought of his own child, not yet born but already so very much loved.
Thrusting the newspaper into his bag, he noticed the still unopened package and pulled it out. Lucy was so loyal, it would be nice to be able to do something for her for once. He slid open the envelope but instead of the expected photo or card to sign, there were some sheets of paper stapled together in one corner. They looked like they had come from a notebook of some description and it was only on a closer look that Luke realised they were diary pages. How strange that Lucy should give him something so personal. He felt slightly unsettled, he didn’t feel he should be reading this but it was obviously what she wanted him to do. The first page was dated almost eighteen months ago.
June 15th 2013 – Today was the best day of my life! I finally got to meet Luke Appleton and OMG he is so gorgeous! I was so scared when I actually saw him, when he came out the stage door, but he was lovely!!! He spoke to Sophie first then he turned and he winked at me. Me! I actually think he likes me! I asked him to sign my programme and he put ‘To Lucy, thank you for coming, love Luke’. LOVE LUKE! The play was great but I always knew he’d be good if I ever got to see him live and now I have. I’m so happy right now, I have to go and see him again soon. I wonder if he’ll remember me next time?
Turning the paper over Luke noticed a heart drawn on the back with LP loves LA written in it. He’d figured she had a crush on him but it was a little odd that she was sharing her diary pages with him. He frowned, his brow furrowed in concern as he picked up the next page.
Dec 14th – Happy Christmas to me!!! I went to see Luke again today to give him a Christmas card as his play ends next week and Mum said I couldn’t go after this because she needed help getting ready for Christmas with Dad being gone. It’s not MY fault he’s gone, I miss him so much. I really wanted to go and see Luke next week too as I don’t know when I’ll ever see him again. Anyway, I gave him the card and he said ‘Thanks Lucy’. Just like that. ‘Thanks Lucy’. HE REMEMBERED MY NAME! I’m so happy and he didn’t remember Sophie’s name but she’s not been with me every time but anyway I know that he treats me differently to her. To all of the girls. He gives me this special smile. He’s so lovely.
Luke grimaced unconsciously as he was reading. He probably did treat her a little differently and remember her name because she was always there but he’d better be careful. She clearly was a little more attached than he’d like but it sounded like her Dad had left so he could understand her looking for a male substitute. Not that he was that much older than her, nine or ten years probably, but old enough to feel somewhat responsible. There were more pages with hearts and kisses and Lucy Appleton written all over. He ran his hand through his hair, groaning slightly. God this could get messy, he maybe needed to have a little chat with her, let her down gently.
April 5th – I hadn’t seen Luke since last year, that’s five whole months and finally he’s doing another play so I went to see it today. I went on my own, Sophie said she was bored of me drooling over him. More like she’s jealous because she knows he likes me and she’ll be so jealous on Monday when I tell her what happened! Luke was really pleased to see me and took me out on an actual date. He said he’d missed me! We went to this little café and he bought me hot chocolate and he had a latte. He couldn’t stay long, he had to get back to the theatre but he gave me a hug when he left and he kissed my cheek. I can still feel it now.
It wasn’t a date! Luke leaned back against the carriage window, trying to recall what had happened. He remembered being surprised when she’d appeared, it was Chekhov, not exactly the sort of thing he imagined she’d be into and very unlike the previous comedy she’d seen. He’d been on his way out for a quick coffee and to pick up a sandwich and felt sorry for her as it had been chilly so offered to buy her a drink. They’d only been there a short time though, how could she possibly have imagined that was a date? He probably had given her a hug and a kiss too, but he was an actor, it was de rigueur to be a little theatrical, a little European, everyone in the West End was. A glance out of the window told him he was approaching Stockwell, he’d shortly have to change. There looked to only be another page or so, he’d have time to glance through them if he was quick. He needed to prepare what he was going to say to her if she turned up today and at the moment he had no clue.
I hate him! I want to die. He cheated on me, why would he do that? I thought he loved me. He has a girlfriend and as if that wasn’t bad enough she’s pregnant. Pregnant! With Luke’s baby. It’s so unfair. I love him and I know he loves me. She must have trapped him, that must be it. He’s too nice to tell her it’s me he loves and I bet it’s not even his baby! It was in the papers and everything. I wish my Dad was here. He’d tell me what to do. I miss him so much and Luke would have made
The rest of the sentence was smudged and indecipherable, she’d obviously been crying whilst she’d been writing this. Luke was scared for her now, this was too weird. She clearly needed help. He felt angry too, although he tried to block that out, about the way she’d written about Emma and their baby. He was just about to gather his things to change trains when the date on the last piece of paper caught his eye. It had been written on Saturday morning, the day she’d handed it over to him. He sank back into the chair with a feeling of dread.
November 8th 2014 – This could be my last day and I’m scared. But I can’t do this on my own any more Luke. My Dad is the only man I ever loved but he died. And then I met you. I know your girlfriend is pregnant but even if it is your baby I don’t care. I need you. You have to decide Luke. By the time you read this, I’ll be waiting for you at Kings Cross. I’ll wait by the Harry Potter trolley, it’s a bit out of the way there. I’ll stay until 11.30pm, which gives you lots of time to get there after the show tonight. If you don’t come, if you choose her, then I’m going to go to my Dad. I love you Luke.
He felt sick. His station passed but he sat there numbly, reading and re-reading the final page. He hadn’t read it when she’d expected but surely it had been an empty threat. This was clearly a cry for help and he’d ignored it until it may be too late. He tried to put his thoughts into some coherent order, panicking slightly when he realised he didn’t even know where she came from. Then the Metro headlines came back into his head. No. Oh no. He slowly pulled out the paper again. And there it was in black and white. Lucy Pinder her name had been. She was only nineteen. Her mother was said to be inconsolable. Her husband had died less than two years ago. Lucy was their only child.
Luke and Emma’s baby, a girl, came into the world on a bright February morning. He had looked down at her and been overwhelmed with love. ‘I’d like to call her Lucy’ he said and turned away from Emma as the tears threatened. ‘I love you Lucy’ he whispered and softly kissed his daughter on the head. Emma’s heart filled with pride as she heard him tell the baby ‘I will always be here for you, to listen to you, to love you and protect you’. She never heard his silent prayer to the older Lucy, to ask for forgiveness for not realising how much she had needed him, for not being there to protect her.
©Michelle Harris 2016