“Dammit! Oh GOD. Oh. Oh God.”
She heard the crash from her perch on the fire escape. And then the swearing. And underlying it all was the pain. Claire had been sitting out on her fire escape, watching the sun go down in an orange blaze. Setting aside her steaming hot tea, she crept down the iron stairs slowly, her big woolen blanket still wrapped around her. It was a deep autumn night in Edinburgh, and the chill in the air was sharp. She didn’t want to appear like a weirdo, but the pain in his voice was too much to ignore.
And when she saw him, she reacted without thinking. Dropping the blanket, she crawled through his open window, hand outstretched and voice soothing. “Hi there. I’m Claire. I live upstairs. I heard the crash. Are you okay?” He looked at her, eyes wild, short of breath and clutching his right arm. A clearly dislocated shoulder. “I’m a nurse. Let me help you.”
He never said a word, just nodded at her and allowed her to lead him over to the coffee table. She sat him down gently and looked him in the eye. “Brace yourself. It will hurt. Just…just don’t fight me, okay? I need to get the arm in the correct position, and then I’m going to put your shoulder joint back in place.” He nodded again, and took a deep breath. She could see in his eyes when he was ready for her. She nodded back at him, their silent communication forged. Slipping her hand into his, she concentrated on what she was doing until she felt the joint slide home.
“A Dhia.” he breathed. He looked at her with surprise, relief, and nothing short of admiration. She smiled.
“Aye. Thank ye!”
She looked around. “I need to make you a sling. Do you have a scarf, maybe?”
“Maybe in the hall closet,” he said, but when he stood up, he swayed.
“Woah!” Claire placed her hands on his waist to steady him. “It’s the pain. You should sit.” He turned slightly and that’s when Claire noticed his belt. “Wait!” He cocked an eyebrow. “Your belt. It will do nicely.” And before she realized what she was doing, she undid his belt buckle, slid it free of his jeans and used it to immobilize his arm. “It’s just for tonight. Sleep carefully, perhaps with a pillow under your shoulder. Tomorrow I’ll bring you a proper sling from the hospital.” She finished her ministrations, marched to the bathroom hoping to find some type of pain medicine or anti-inflammatory in the sink cabinet and then strode through to the kitchen to get him a glass of water. She righted the bar stool he obviously tripped over, wrote her mobile number on a piece of paper and told him to call her if the pain became too much.
And crawling through the window again she gave him one last wave, picked up her blanket and mounted the rusty stairs. It was only after she was back in her flat coming down after her healing adrenaline rush that it hit her. How very firm his waist was. How tall, and big. With a myriad of red in his longish hair. Hair that curled just at the nape. And it registered that when she finally looked him in the eye, he’d had a small smirk pulling at his lips. Because she was unbuckling his belt….and she felt the heat of embarrassment flood her face. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Claire! You need to not be so bold!
Downstairs, rubbing the torn bit of paper between his fingers like a rosary bead, Jamie felt as if he’d been hit by a lorry. Oh, his shoulder felt okay. It hurt, but it was manageable. No, the lorry that hit him had curly black hair, a no-nonsense manner and a good touch. Not to mention the last image he had of her leaving his flat. That sweet, round arse disappearing up the fire escape.