the trial of james

chapter 1

Uni pubs were the worst if you were sober. Still, it was no worse a chore than the dead-end job James had worked to get to where he was, and he was not going to stop applying himself now. He was a man with a purpose and tonight, that purpose was to catch as many of his promising classmates in embarrassing situations as possible. His sobriety allowed him to always keep out of frame and his stylish good looks and sharp with allowed him to egg on those who were not so clever as to abstain. In a few years, when these silver spoon idiots graduated, he would have their balls in a vice, with pictures they would not want spread when their parents got them the jobs they really should have given to those who actually put in the work. Like James.
Tonight proved to be less productive than he had first thought, though. Sure, the usual suspects were there, and they had gathered a larger crowd of hangers-on that were getting inebriated – all the makings of a great evening of manipulation and photo ops. However, James’ attention had been divided. At a booth in the back were seated a woman he found himself unable to look away from for long. She, much like him, took obvious care of herself. Her sense of dress was expensive and impeccable, down to her stylish shoes to her conservative cocktail dress to her large diamond earrings. Her raven hair was just a smidgen too long to be properly called a page and her eyes, steely and blue, were impeccably made up to appear even bigger than they actually were. The entire evening, she had sipped from the same small glass of expensive spirits, despite having a bottle of it at the table, and he was sure he had caught her staring at him more than once.
Considering the company she kept, that was no surprise. While the gentleman next to her was just as well dressed, that was where the similarities ended. Where she was slim and athletic, he was massively fat. Her face was thin and angular, with cheekbones that could kill. His were buried under cheeks so chubby they made his face spherical. His scarf did little to hide his bulging double chin and even his fingers, frequently grabbing this snack or that, were thick and sausage-like. James detested people who ate so much they turned themselves into lumps of fat, but there was something about the man that drew his attention to. He was sure he had seen him somewhere before.

The third time he caught the woman stealing a glance at him, he knew he had to go over to the booth and put his mind at ease. “James Lippe,” he greeted them as he extended his hand to first to the man. He found himself trying extra hard to hide his Brummie accent.
Grasping the hand with surprising strength, the fatty answered. “Sir Aloysius Thistlewaite,” he offered with a sonorous tenor. “And this magnificent specimen that you have been checking out all night – oh, do not be embarrassed, everybody does – is Lydia Aldric. We are pursuing our doctoral studies here and let me say that we are overjoyed to be drinking with another adult!”
As a student who had to work to pay his tuition, James was in his late twenties, much like the pair seemed to be. Doctoral students, then… and if the fat man had been knighted that would explain why he had looked familiar. Was he a poet, maybe? No matter, now he could focus entirely on Lydia. As he extended his hand to her, he felt the impossible smoothness of her skin. Her grip too, was strong, but it was a feminine kind of strength. Much like everything else about her, James decided. “What are you studying?” she asked, her voice low and husky, her focus on him and him alone.
“Bachelor of Business, second year” James replied. “I want to bring some common sense into the business world, coming from a humble background myself…”

Lydia’s eyes seemed to glaze over at that point and all she offered was monosyllabic answers. Sir Aloysius, however, was all the more interested, carrying most of the conversation on his broad, flabby shoulders. He laughed at James’ jokes, a hearty laugh that made his chest and belly jiggle like marmalade, and he shook his head in convivial disbelief when appropriate. Over the course of an hour or two, Sir Aloysius had pried James entire life story from him between bites of a truly massive pile of chicken wings. As the last bone, picked completely clean, hit the plate Sir Aloysius wormed his way out of the booth and began fumbling for his coat, wordlessly handed to him by Lydia. “Well, this was certainly lovely,” the fat man murmured to the table, “but I simply have to call it a night. Big morning tomorrow and all that.”
James held his breath for a moment until Lydia brusquely muttered “Will you walk me home, Alo?”
“Certainly, my dear” he responded, before turning to James. “Please tell me you will be here on Tuesday. You made a bleak evening of drinking, or in my case, eating so much more interesting.”
Mind ablaze with twin ideas of networking with nobility and seeing Lydia again, James nodded his assent perhaps a little too swiftly. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
“Well, it is always good to know one compares favourably to the world! Are you coming, Lydia?” Sir Aloysius asked as he prepared to plod through the throng of inebriated twenty-nils.
Lydia turned to James one last time and rolled her eyes. As she turned back again, she knocked over the bottle that had been kept next to her all night. It hit the floor with a loud crash and an “Oops” from between her full lips. Whatever had been in it, smelled heavenly. With a “Well, toodles!” she was gone.
1 chapter, created 1 year , updated 1 year
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