Status: will update when possible!

Come Live With Me

Chapter 4

I’d been in the coffee house for about 10 minutes, getting there early so that I wouldn’t run the risk of missing Ben like the awkward idiot that I was. I sat on one of the stools at the counter fiddling with a small sugar sachet as I waited. I’d made sure my hair was softly curled, my make-up was particularly well done and I had worn one of the best 60s blouses that I owned with some jeans and gypsy pumps – one of my favourite outfit combinations.

“Well, this is a familiar scene, Jen.” I heard Ben’s voice say as he approached me, taking his navy hood down. I turned around and felt my eyes physically widen, before relaxing my outer body and giving a nervous smile to the source of the beautiful voice I recognised from the phone conversation, my heart pounding the whole time. My breath hitched in my throat – I had never seen a man so beautiful in all of my life. He was tall, slim and muscular, and I noticed in that first moment that he had beautiful hands; so big and safe-looking. He was wearing a lot of layers, and a hooded jumper on top with dark sunglasses, for some reason.
His face was another thing to behold; angular, pale and well-structured – really unusually attractive in a kind of old-fashioned, handsome way. Still fit, lush and all those other modern phrases too, though. His lips formed the most perfect Cupid’s bow I thought I had ever seen, and his hair was tousled and curly, short at the sides, longer on top and growing through slightly ginger underneath the brown. I found myself looking at the man like a fool before finding the common sense to speak.

“You must be Ben, unless you’re just a man that somehow knows my name.” I said, rambling nervously. Ben smiled, his under-eyes creasing with a seeming genuine amusement as he did so.

“That’s me. Do you mind if we take that table in the far corner?” Ben asked in the deep voice I was falling more and more in love with hearing, as he put a warm hand on my shoulder and pointed me in the direction of the table. I furrowed my eyebrows but went along with it anyway, watching the women behind the counter whisper to each other and sceptically look at us as we left them. I was so confused, but Ben seemed nice enough.

“So, please say I did nothing really awful to you? I feel so silly. I think knowing will put my mind at rest - or not, I suppose!” I said softly as Ben sat down opposite me in the hidden back corner of the coffee shop. He took his outer coat off as I did and hung it on the back of the chair, removing his sunglasses before answering.

“Well, you told me to ‘fuck off’ after I asked if you liked John Lennon and bought you the single most expensive drink I think I’ve ever bought in my life, and you were worried about vomiting in my car.” Ben said, raising his eyebrows at me. They framed the most incredible icy-blue eyes I had ever seen, so intense, but warm despite their colour. I hoped that I looked a sight more radiant than I had the other night as they scanned my face – I know what I look like when I’m wasted and it’s pretty awful.
“It was adorable though. You distracted me from my reading completely.” He added, to my relief.

“Oh, well, thank you for buying me a drink! I only know the pub’s name because you told me on the phone yesterday. Goodness, thank god you weren’t some pervert or something...” I sighed, relieved that Ben seemed so relaxing to be around.
I glanced around the coffee house. “You’re not embarrassed to be around me, are you?” I asked after a slight hesitant pause. Ben looked taken aback and shook his head.

“What on earth gave you that idea, Jenny?” He asked, surprised at my obvious lack of self-esteem.

“Well, I just thought with us sitting so out of the way, and after the other night with me being a stupid drunk teenager you might be embarrassed. I know I definitely am.” I said, looking down at the table and fiddling with the red and white chequered tablecloth.

“No! Jenny, I work in... the media, and I didn’t want to get heckled or anything. That’s the only reason. Did you say teenager?” Ben asked, leaning in closer to me and speaking quietly.

“Yeah, I’m seventeen.” And that was it. I saw something change in his eyes and I started to worry that I had done something wrong, as I was so used to being told so by my mother.

“You don’t live alone then?” Ben asked, as swallowing a ball of saliva seemed to become increasingly difficult.

“No, of course I don’t. I live with my mother, but most of the time... well; let’s say I’m her mother a lot of the time.” I confessed, regretting it instantly and scanning his face for signs of a reaction. That was sure to open up a can of worms. I could see that Ben saw in my expression I didn’t really want to go into it, so he politely skipped over the topic. He touched my hand from across the table, his huge one engulfing my dainty one.

“Remember, you don’t have to tell me anything, but I’m here if you ever want to vent. I told you before and I’ll hold to it forever, my little underage drinker.” He said, smiling at me. I smiled back, feeling instantly warm to this man whom in my mind I was only just meeting for the first time.
“Oh, by the way, you left two bags in my car the other night. I would say that I forgot to give them back to you, but really I was going to use it as a means to meet with you if you turned down my coffee request.” He winked, as I mock-gasped at his awful flirtation device.

“You sir, are a cad sir.” I said, my irritating posh accent coming through as Ben passed me the Tesco bag and satchel I had left with him. Thankfully Ben had a well-spoken accent too, so I didn’t have to diverge too much, though his sounded so much more poetic than my own.

“Look, I was thinking we could ditch this place. I mean, we’re not really drinking any coffee. Do you want to come back to mine for a chat and a drink - a ‘tall Martini’ perhaps?” Ben said smirking, as I buried my head in my hands.

“Oh good God, was I so drunk that I asked for a ‘tall’ Martini? Jesus... But sure, I have nothing else to do this evening.” I said, somewhat concerned about going back to his house, but at the same time excited. I’d never really been back to a boy’s house before – I mean, I’d fooled around with them at parties, but here was a fully fledged man who seemed kind of interested in me. A tingly, warm feeling spread over me and the goose-bumps on my arms felt good as I followed him out of the cafe. It was excitement. I was feeling excitement at this new sensation of communicating with someone I actually quite liked.

Ben’s flat in Hampstead was a sight better than my mother’s council flat, I thought as I walked through the door. The drive there in the Jaguar had been incredible – as of course I couldn’t remember the drive from the previous night – but this was the icing on the cake. His flat was very ‘traveller’; he had beautiful decorated cloths on the cream coloured walls and not much furniture – in the lounge there was a sofa, an armchair, a TV, lots of films in the DVD racks, lovely rugs spread on the floor and a beanbag, but not much of anything else, really.
My home on the other hand looked like your typical council house would, though probably a little more deprived. I had no TVs, no DVDs. The only thing close to that, which I had saved for and bought myself, was my tiny CD player. I didn’t have any wall decorations, the wallpaper was hanging on by its last layer of paste, and the kitchen constantly looked like a bomb site. All that was in my bedroom was the bed, my clothes in a chest of drawers and my make-up stand; the same for my mother. It was nowhere near as pretty and bohemian as this little set-up was.
I stroked the wall hangings and admired the little framed art pieces as I walked through the short hallway into the living room, while Ben jabbered on about where they came from. His flat was quite spacious, but small – clearly Ben lived here alone.

“Would you like a drink?” He asked, as he overtook and snapped me out of my awed daze. I looked at the smiling, now de-layered man stood in front of me. He had a loose blue shirt on now, unbuttoned by about three buttons so that a teeny bit of his chest was showing. I brought my eyes back up to his face as I stood awkwardly in the middle of his lounge.

“Yes please. Coffee will do me fine, thank you Ben.” I almost whispered, smiling brightly at the older man. His eyes darted over my face for a second, before he left through the archway to get to the kitchen.

I spotted a thick book on the armchair, which looked like some kind of telephone book from a distance. As I got closer, I saw that the cover said ‘The Imitation Game, written by Graham Moore, directed by Morten Tyldum’. It looked pretty professional; bound with some strong substance on the spine, thick and heavy. I flicked through to the first page, where there was a character list of some sort – it was obviously a script. Maybe Ben was a drama teacher or something. My eyes scanned down the page, stopping when I noticed that it was actually a cast list, and that I recognised the top billed name.

“Alan Turing - Benedict Cumberbatch...” I mumbled almost inaudibly, furrowing my eyebrows as I remembered the last name the other male voice had used on the phone yesterday. ‘He must be some kind of actor, then’ I thought to myself. The script seemed really well written – I must have read 3 pages before hearing that voice behind me.

“What are you doing?” Benedict asked, making me jump out of my skin. I turned slowly, holding up the script. I nervously avoided making eye contact with the man I had just intruded on somewhat, worrying he would be angry with me.

“I didn’t realise you were an actor...” I breathed. He swallowed hard as he stood holding the coffee on a tray, realising he was going to have to elaborate on his job a little more because I wasn’t going to let up. He tried to hide his shock, but I noticed. I was beginning to expect the whole ‘don’t you know who I am?’ spiel after the pause became slightly awkward. Benedict sighed.

“Really? So... you were just seeing me, for me – like, a real person?” Benedict asked, in a blissful state of endearment as I stood, completely oblivious to his career, fame, and wealth – though from the Jag I should probably have guessed. He put the tray down on the coffee table next to the sofa, leaving the cafetiere to diffuse the coffee for a little while longer. I sat comfortably next to him on the cream coloured sofa, as we both tried to think of something to say.

“Well, I’ve never had a television, really – so I wouldn’t have been able to follow your career. That was a screenplay, right?” I asked about the script I had just read snippets of.

“Yeah, I mainly do screen work at the moment, though I do dabble in theatre and radio every now and again. I had no idea – I thought most people had a TV now.” Benedict said, in what seemed like a state of shock.

“I’m clearly not most people, then. Even when my father lived with my mother and me, I was never able to watch the television. Father was always very strict on what I could and couldn’t do, and that was over a year ago, before we couldn’t afford one anymore.” I said, remembering all of the rules my father had imposed on the household when we had all lived together in a nicer home than the one I had now, when my family had money and didn’t live in a near poverty. When my mother was still well...
“There was one film I watched as a child though, my mother’s childhood favourite. I haven’t seen it for years though - Valley of the Dolls?” I said, asking if he knew it.
Benedict raised his eyebrows empathetically at me. He poured us both some coffee into our mismatched mugs (I liked that – it made Ben seem humble and the already cosy flat more homely) and took his un-milked and two-sugared one in his hands, warming them gently. He clenched his jaw in consideration of what to say next.

“Yeah, I know it. Poor girl... I’m kind of embarrassed to say now, but I do kind of, Hollywood movies and BBC shows, all that stuff.” Benedict said, pausing between words and not making much eye contact with me, apparently feeling ashamed that he was living in a lot more luxury than I was in that little council house on Richmond Street.

“Why are you embarrassed, you ridiculous man? I’m embarrassed! I should have listened to people at school and looked out for your name a little more. Cumberbatch does sound familiar, though.” I said, feeling like I had probably heard the name somewhere before.

“You don’t think it sounds poncy then? I think it sounds like a fart in a bath. You might have overheard friends say it or something. And never be embarrassed about that – I love that you don’t know who I am. At least I know that you’re only seeing me for me and not the characters every other woman I’ve spoken to seem to have fallen in love with.” Benedict expressed, turning to me before regretting how forward that sounded. I gasped out a chuckle, slightly amazed that he was actually interested in getting to know me.
“I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to make you feel like I was propositioning you or something.” Benedict mumbled charmingly. I tucked my hair behind my ear and started giggling hysterically; laughing at him for thinking his comment was anything extreme. He was clearly well mannered.

“You idiot! That was hardly even scratching the surface of ‘propositioning’ me. I honestly don’t mind – it’s nice to hear! I’m not used to it, really.” I answered, taking a sip of my coffee as I grew more and more comfortable around this man. Benedict’s face contorted into an expression of complete and utter bewilderment and shock.

“That surprises me...” Benedict mumbled. I tilted my head to the side and raised my eyebrows.

“Oh, does it now? Why’s that, then, Mr Cumberbatch?” I smiled knowingly, beginning to feel the chemistry between us become more apparent, loving every minute of making this man nervous.

“Well, you’re a very beautiful, smart, funny girl as far as I can tell so far. I don’t see why guys wouldn’t be falling head over heels for you all the time – I was captivated the moment I saw you, even after you told me to ‘fuck off’.” Benedict babbled, his nerves showing through as he revealed his true thoughts about me. My cheeks blazed; I felt like they were burning up in embarrassment. I’d not really been told anything like that before, so eloquent and politely worded – not like the wolf whistles across the street from some creepy builder with a beer belly that I was used to. Apart from schoolwork and caring for mother, my appearance was the main thing I always made a special effort with (unless of course I was completely hung-over), and sometimes it disheartened me when I was never properly chatted up, but I learned to live with it. This felt good, I thought, putting my coffee down on the table.

“I don’t get out much anymore, to be honest. I mean, I was only out the other night because I was shopping and suddenly felt really shitty.” I admitted.

Benedict suddenly put his coffee down and wrapped his arms around me tightly, bringing me into a close embrace as he rested his head on my shoulder. I hugged him back after the shock had subsided, wrapping my arms around the well-built man’s torso. My mind swam as I imagined what he looked like underneath his clothes, feeling the tense, impressive toning even over his shirt. I breathed in the scent of old cigarettes and whatever fragrance he was wearing – I couldn’t work out which one particularly – as I in turn rested my chin on his shoulder, enjoying the warmth he was radiating. I felt so safe in that man’s arms. The fact that he was older didn’t bother me at that point – all that mattered was this moment; this warm, beautiful aura that had surrounded me the whole time I was near Benedict. The only time I had felt truly happy in just over a year; and I’d only met him once, properly.

“By the way, Jen,” Benedict mumbled in my ear.

“Mm-hmm?” I replied.

“We take our coffee exactly the same way.” He said, as I felt him smile.

“Well, it was obviously meant to be then, Mr Cumberbatch.” I smiled in return, melting into the charming man; the first person to have stolen my heart.