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The Artist's Son

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Chapter 5 - Jamie and Claire

 

Claire

Dressed casually in navy blue jeans, a black wide neck sweater, black leather ankle boots and a maroon knit scarf loosely wrapped around her neck, Claire walked the three blocks to the coffee shop. She turned back towards her house six times in those three blocks. The conversation in her head made her dizzy. Her feet walked back home of their own volition.

 

What are you doing? Are you really this desperate? This guy isn’t going to like me. How could you have said yes to his mother? A blind date? REALLY Beauchamp? How am I supposed to find him? Ellen said, “tall with red hair,” that describes half of Scotland! What are you going to do, go up to every red headed tall man in the shop? Christ, I’m a mess. I should go home.

 

On the sixth turn of the block to her house, she gave herself the pep talk of a person who regularly had to go in and cut open a person’s chest cavity. She could do this, it was just a blind date. The 35 year old put on her best nonchalance armor. The armor that said I don’t even care about this. Then she summoned the god-complex that got her through surgeries and sure-footedly walked to The Empty Tin.

 

Jamie

 

Running late, lost in a story, fingers clacking at the keyboard, his mother’s words rang in his ears, “Don’t be late, it’s un-gentlemanly,” she had said. He rolled his eyes, why was she always right about everything else but his dating life?

 

Jamie was so intent on his dating hiatus, that he hadn’t given this date a second thought once his Mam had told him about it. His plan was to go, make nice, let it fail. Then step back out to the fresh air and unburden himself of dating for three full months. Without a shred of doubt, he knew that this was a fool’s errand. He berated himself for letting his sometimes, ok often, overbearing, and extremely loving mother, convince him to do something he didn’t want to do, again.

 

Putting his hand on the knob of the The Empty Tin, he realized he had no idea who he was looking for. The only detail his mother had given him was that she was a Doctor, a lot of help that was going to be in a sea of people. His Mam never did send that picture of Claire. Maybe she would be wearing a white coat and scrubs, he thought, knowing she wouldn’t be. Already off the a poor start, his mind told him, perfect, just perfect. Maybe he wouldn’t even find her and then he could just walk out having fulfilled his duty to his mother.

 

Claire

 

Claire sat at a table in the center of the shop facing the door so she could see who arrived. After five minutes of waving to every male ginger who walked in, she finally made a sign that said, “I’m Claire, Are you Jamie?” She knew it was stupid, but it was better than harassing every ginger man who walked in. Folding it in half to create a little tent, it stood on it’s own at the side of her table. The sign beckoning to the stranger she was to meet, she was able to pull out a report and make good use of her wait time. Though outwardly pessimistic about dating, in her heart of hearts she held hope, optimism and her secret romanticism . It never occurred to her that he might not show up.

 

Ten minutes later, the thought finally occurred to her. He was fifteen minutes late. Maybe he was standing her up. It’s not like there would be any repercussions. They didn’t know anyone in common and his mother had set them up for god's sake. It was easy to stand her up, she realized as her entire body deflated.

 

Nearing the end of her coffee, she resolved to wait five more minutes. She returned to reading the unusual case file that Joe had asked her for a consult on. Just as she was about to reach for the sign to put it away, a tall figure arrived at the side of her table. Looking up, she saw messy, floppy, curly, red hair.

 

Jamie

 

Jamie pushed the door open then stepped hurriedly in as his eyes scanned for a woman alone. The shop was full of them. White coat and scrubs? Of course not. He took a spin around the room before he caught the curly wig reading intently.  She chewed on her bottom lip, her long index finger made a slow circle around the rim of her coffee mug. His eyes fixed in on the paper propped up to her side facing out.

 

He didn’t know whether to laugh or grimace when he saw her sign. It was cute but also said, I can’t be bothered to look for you when you are so late.

 

At first glance, she was cute, but when her eyes rose to his as she reached for the sign, he saw that she was truly beautiful. Almost no makeup, a few dark curls framing her face having escaped from her messy bun being held together with a pen.

 

His mother had good taste, at least this time around. Claire was at least a grown woman with not a hint of swooning lassie about her.

 

Jamie and Claire

 

“I’m Jamie,” he said pointing to the sign, “I like yer wee sign, thank ye for waiting for me.”

 

“I was just about to leave,” she said grabbing for the sign, annoyed at herself that she had waited this long. Even though the sight of him was, well, rather breathtaking (even with his slightly disheveled appearance), she didn’t care for people who had no respect for her time. That was a big strike in her book.

 

“A sassenach….Och, sorry, well nice to meet ye Claire, I hope ye have a lovely day then,” he said sticking out his hand to shake hers.

 

Claire took it hesitantly. The sensation that ran between them was uncomfortably familiar and she immediately grabbed her hand away. Her brain told her to ignore the sensation like it was a phantom of her imagination.

 

“You could have just said no to Ellen instead of being late and hoping I would leave,” she blurted out, a scowl coloring her features, as he took his hand back and stuffed it in his pocket.

 

“That’s a hell of an accusation to make towards someone ye just met…,” he said matching her tone, a defensive stance taking over his body.

 

“Tell me I’m wrong…” she said standing up and resting her hands on her hips.

 

“Yer wrong,” he shrugged, looking her dead in the eye.

 

Tapping her foot, she waited for him to continue and when he didn’t, she decided all bets were off.

 

“You clearly didn’t want to come. Do you deny it?” she spat.

 

“Will ye sit,” he asked motioning to the chair as he went to sit opposite her.

 

Huffing, she slumped back down, arms interlaced across her chest.  

 

“Are ye always like this?”

 

“Are you kidding me right now? What a waste of time,” she huffed out and began packing her things.

 

“Claire, hold on, let’s start again, aye?”

 

His mind was swimming, he was expecting a disaster, but this was just plain weird.

 

The bag, and books came to rest again on the table. Claire sat still.

 

“Good. Hi, I’m Jamie, I’m sorry I was late, I was working.”

 

“Hi I’m Claire, sorry I was rude....this is too weird for me.”

 

“Well then, hello Claire, it’s weird for me too. My Mam won’t stay out of my business, I came today even though I have sworn off dating, AND anyone my Mam wants to set me up with,” he said sincerely.

 

“At least it’s out in the open now,” she said relieved to know they both thought it was a mess and very unusual.

 

“Aye, ‘tis,” Jamie said really looking at her for the first time, their eyes meeting long enough for him to discern their deep golden brown hue. An altogether not usual shade of brown.

 

“Well, since you are on a dating hiatus, let’s just call this failure what it is and both be on our way, but, answer me one question before we go...why exactly are you on a dating hiatus?”

 

With that, Jamie poured it all out on the table between them. He hadn’t meant to, but since he had nothing to lose with a woman he would surely never see again, it spilled out. The dating disasters, the specter of his parent’s love story, the string of set ups from both parents. ALL of it.

 

Not normally one to overshare, he finally caught himself about an hour into his diatribe. Embarrassed and pink cheeked, he cast his gaze down, intently examining the wood grain on the table like it was the most interesting thing he had ever seen.

 

“Sae sorry, that was...too much information, I dinna ken why I just told ye all that…” he said curling into himself and making himself small ( a very hard task for such a large man).

 

“It’s ok, I thought it was interesting and rather well thought out. Want me to overshare so you feel better?” she offered with sincerity and a kindness that warmed him and cooled the heat of his embarrassment at the same time.

 

He nodded his head and accepted the offer and she was off to the races before he could say another word.

 

Claire told him how she was starting to feel invisible as a single woman in her mid 30s. How she got looks of pity and shame from people in her life for being single for so long.  How med school and residency precluded any sort of real dating life, and now that she just barely had time to date, she hadn’t done it in so long that she didn’t know how. She said it always became an unthinking comedy of errors. By the time she finished, she had shared so much that she wanted to run screaming all the way home. The voluntary vulnerability made her bones brittle and nervous system fray. The vulnerability muscle long since in disuse and disrepair got a marathon sized workout with no warning. She hadn’t been able to stop once she started. She felt sick.

 

“Well aren’t we the pair, the invisible woman and the man on a dating hiatus. That is a start to a bad joke,” she cackled uncomfortably.