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Invisible string tying you to me

Chapter Text

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp did some things her senior year of high school she never dreamed of doing
1. Run away to New York City
2. Tattoo a unicorn on a pop star
3. Fall in love with a Scottish graffiti artist

I was always homeschooled, sheltered from the outside world in my own little bubble in England.
That all changed when my parents died before my freshman year of high school. My uncle lamb became my guardian but he is an archeologist and travels the world and didn’t want that life for his favorite (only) niece. He promised to care for me and do what was best for me, which apparently included sending me to boarding school in Massachusetts since that’s what my father had planned.

So here I am at Treadwell Academy for spoiled poor little rich and famous girls. So maybe my dad was a well known preacher with his own tv Channel and podcast and maybe my uncle was technically famous in the academic world… I still felt like I didn’t belong.
It all started freshman year when everyone was obsessed with my accent. And I was cool and had my fifteen minutes of fame, until i didn’t party or drink and would rather grieve my parents then sneak off to smoke.

And so for the past four years, they called me Jesus freak. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t even sure I believed in God since my parents died in a car accident. It didn’t matter that my best friend Geillis was actually rumored to be a real sell your soul to the devil kind of witch. I was a freak, an outsider.

A month in and Senior year was off to a rough start. Of course I can't decide if i want to be an artist or a doctor so im in AP Art and AP Biology and the new course load is kicking my butt. My roommate and one of my only friends, Geillis, is acting weird. She is always really rude and snappy and just… off. This is supposed to be our year. We spent the past three years in this hellhole as underclassmen and we finally have a cool cottage apartment right off campus and finally have some cred. (Not that I care what these people think of me).

I come home from a rough bio lab involving some gross flies that have to reproduce to study their genetics, to find Geillis packing up all of her stuff.

“Going somewhere? Can I come?” I jokingly ask.
She stops rummaging through her drawers and looks at me.
“You’ll find out soon enough.”

She tried to move past me to the door but I stopped her because I am so confused.
“G talk to me, What the hell is going on?” I cringed internally. I didn’t like to curse or say words like that even if I am unsure in my faith but the situation called for it. She stopped dead in her tracks when the “witch” heard me, the Jesus freak, say hell.

“ C, my dad is in so much trouble. There’s some big financial scandal. Apparently he has been like, smuggling money. I don’t know what to do. But I can’t stay here. I don’t think we can afford to have me stay here.”

After calming Geillis down and making her a cup of tea, I look up articles about her father. And it seemed bad.
“So what are you going home to be with your family?”
She paused, “ I’m not sure if I can be with my dad right now, I have no idea who he is.”

But before I can even think of a reply, an article catches my eye because it mentions one Henry Beachump, my father.

“No, no, no”

“What, what is it Claire?”

She grabbed the laptop and read the article before I got a chance.

I know it’s weird that the Jesus freak and the witch were best friends, but really it goes way back. Our parents knew each other somehow and both involved with charities and stuff. Being into this witch stuff was Geillis being rebellious, I didn’t have that luxury since I didn’t exactly have parents to rebel against anymore.

Turns out our parents didn’t know each other through charities and good Christian acts, but through white collar crime.

“ Claire, turns out all those charities our dads worked with together…. weren’t really charities, they smuggled money or evaded taxes or stole money or something”

I felt numb.
Absolutely numb.
I didn’t know my parents at all. And I never will. The image I had of my perfect family, of my righteous father and loving mother shattered as I learned the truth about them a little too late. I wanted to hate them. How could they do stuff like this when they taught me otherwise. They taught me right and wrong, don’t sin and heaven and god loves you and all that crap. How could they be hypocrites? How could they do that? How could I still love them, remember them the same? But, could I really hate the dead, especially my parents? What could I do? My uncle was halfway around the world in some desert somewhere digging up dead things. Did he know? Was he in on it? What are we going to do?

“ we have to run away.” Geillis answered my unspoken question.

“Excuse me?”

“ I’m moving to New York. I was going to after high school anyway, might as well get a fresh start now. Join me. We are in this together.”

“G we can’t really just move to New York, can we?”

“ well we can't stay here. The other girls will eat us alive. They already call you Jesus Freak C, how much more are you willing to take?”

Somehow I ended up on a train out of Boston to New York with the money from my debit account and the clothes that fit in my carry on suitcase with my best friend, wondering where we were going to sleep that night, and every night to come.

Chapter Text

New York City is so intoxicating.
Leaving Penn station felt like entering a new world. It was the middle of the night and Times square is packed. The sights, smells, lights and noises were overwhelming in the best way. Me and Geillis linked arms like we always do so we don't get separated but this time feels different. It feels like I should be following a yellow brick road with scary corners at every turn and I will have an unexpected destination, even though I know it's not going to be the emerald city.
If only I had to look out for lions and bears; cat callers are so much worse.

Walking aimlessly around the city, we decided that we need to find an affordable hotel. Thank god Geilliis was 18. We talked about maybe getting fake IDs to change our names and so I could be 18 even with my birthday a few weeks away. Geills was having way too much fun choosing a new name. Not that I blame her, her name is Geilliis in 2020 for crying out loud. I mean, I like it, it fits her, or the persona of the witch at least. She listed every single name that starts with the letter G and I kind of tuned her out at some point.

“ GIGI.” she stopped walking, pulling my attention back to the apparently important task at hand.
“ call me Gillian Edgars, Gigi for short.” and she looked me in the eye, almost daring me to disagree with her.
“ it fits. I like it.” I paused, “ Gigi.”

Now, my name is a different matter. I happen to like my name. We argued my name as we walked towards the subway To get to a cheap hotel that we found by cheating. We really plan on throwing out our phones so we can't be tracked and so we can get a fresh start, we just haven't gotten around to it. So we looked up cheap hotels, we really need somewhere to sleep.
And apparently I need a new name.
Geillis, I mean Gigi decided that we can’t pass as sisters, and besties moving to the big city makes sense as a cover story, and well it's partly true. With her long, straight blonde hair and green eyes and small, straight figure, and my dark unruly brown hair, brown eyes, and curvy figure, we couldn't be any more different really.

G laughed, “I know, your last name can be randall after that student teacher you had a giant crush on last year.”

“excuse me G, he had a crush on me according to you, and yes we spent time together that summer because he was working with my uncle and okay maybe he was kind of attractive but…”

“Come on, Clara Randall as a nice ring to it.”

“Clara?” I repeat, raising just one eyebrow to give her my most judgemental stare, even though I probably looked ridiculous.

And yes, i learned that look from G herself because she just returned it, but looked so much better and more confident.

“Fine.” i submitted. “get me a fake ID that says Clara Randall but i will only answer to C or Claire.”

“Sure thing, miss randall.” she winked at me. “ now if i sold fake IDs where would I be…” she wondered out loud.

“Probably where kids that wanted fake IDs live.” I responded.

“GENIUS,” she yelled before running into a pizza shop full of teenagers hanging out.
G always had that confidence to just talk to strangers and be herself she never cared what other people think. She came back out after asking about where to get fake IDs with a location of a store in the same direction as the hotel, and some guys number. (Of course)

We continued walking in the direction of the subway to get to our hotel but made a pit stop for fake Ids.
We walked into a sketchy looking storefront and ended up taking turns getting our photo taken and filling out the information we wanted.
The guy made a bit of fuss over california licenses that say we were eighteen since most people want them to be twenty one but to be honest, i don't think either of us could pass for twenty one. Also G had to do most of the talking since I have a British accent and can barely speak convincingly in an American one even though I’ve been going to school in Boston for over three years.

After leaving that store a few hundred dollars poorer and officially eighteen as Gillian Edgars and Claara Randall, we entered the subway to get to our hotel.

I've been to new york before. But never on the subway. I don't know what i was expecting, but it was not this. It smells like urine. I've been to different countries in all different conditions over the summer with uncle lamb and I've been involved with charity work, but the homeless people on the subway still unnerved me. It never crossed my mind that poverty was just as common here and I could've done more to help yet it was terrifying in a new uncontrolled environment.

I stared at my new ID to keep from falling asleep, G was already sleeping leaning her head on my shoulder, someone had to stay awake.
I was never the biggest fan of my appearance. I could never control my hair. And it was curly and brown and boring. My eyes were pretty enough I guess but also brown and therefore boring. I was pale, not tan and cool. I have a photo of my mom and dad that showed her smiling, her bright blue eyes shining, her curly brown hair perfectly blowing in the wind. She was beautiful, I always hoped I could be pretty like her. My dad stood next to her, arms around her waist, and his light brown eyes looked alive and warm, instead of dull and boring. I often wanted to be like him when I grew up, so sure of myself and poised. But now i'm not so sure if i want to follow in their footsteps, even in looks.

Suddenly, I was fully alert when I felt someone staring at me.
Sitting across from me was a young man, around my age, staring right at me. We made eye contact, but he didn't look away embarrassed like I would've if I got caught staring at someone. His gorgeous red hair was curling around his ears, looking like he was growing it out after cutting it short. He pushed up his thick black glasses that were slipping down his nose with one finger. He had round black spacers in his ears, but they were small enough that they were cool and intriguing instead of gross. The spider web tattoos across the tops of his hands had the same effect of being interesting instead of weird. His backpack on the chair next to him had interesting doodles all over it, and I studied it instead of looking back at the guy, because I didn't want to be caught looking back at him.
He was totally not the kind of guy that I would meet at school.
He was also the kind of guy that I would never think of as cute.
But, he totally was so cute. I hope I'm not blushing.
I pretended not to notice when he stood to get off the train, but I couldn’t help but peak. But he smiled at me and gave me a little wave as he exited.
W H A T
Boys don't notice me. They notice geillis, i mean Gigi. they wave at her , not me. Yet he did.
Even though it should've been the last thing on my mind, I spent the rest of the train ride thinking about that and if I'd ever see him again. Now that would be a miracle.

Chapter Text

I rush on onto the subway just in time, as the doors close, and I find an empty seat. I set my bag down and take out my airpods, settling in for my commute to a late shift at the blue phoenix.
I love being a tattoo artist. I'm able to use my talent and creativity and bring joy ( and a little pain) to people's lives… and it doesn't hurt that it pays well so I'm able to care for my family.

I look up at the girls sitting across from me. One is asleep, and I try not to laugh as I see her mouth hang open and drool, her hair spread across her face, as she sways back and forth. Her head is leaning onto another girl's shoulder, and she seems to not mind.
The second girl’s attention was on something she was gripping tightly in her hands. It seemed all of her focus was on a card? An ID? I noticed that her hands and forearms were covered in doodles, she was an artist, maybe. There were sunflowers all over one hand and they were really good, they would have made a really cool tattoo because of the style, the flowers were all drawn with only one line.
She must've felt me looking at her, because suddenly she looked up and met my gaze. I should've looked away, I didn't mean to stare, I wasn't trying to be creepy. But I couldn't look away.

I’m paralyzed by her gaze.

Her eyes were an intense golden brown, they reminded me of the eyes of a leopard.
She blinked, and I remembered how to breathe.
I pushed my glasses back up my nose, annoyed that they slipped down and at myself for being awkward.
I tried to focus on something else, maybe look out the window, or pay attention to the song blasting in my airpods, but my gaze kept going back to the girl. She had a beautiful mess of brown curly hair that surrounded her like a mane of a lion. God, eyes like a leopard, a lion's mane of hair, this girl was fierce.
I realized my stop was coming up and I desperately was trying to memorize her. From an artistic angle of course. I wanted to remember the one line drawing of the sunflowers, the detail of the lips drawn on her wrist, the exact color of her eyes that I decided were the color of whisky, her hair since it was an array of different shades of brown and gold, changing like the water in a burn.
I got up and slowly made my way to the exit, I took one last glance at the girl. I realized she was again, looking back at me. She doesn’t look mad, or scared. She looks like she's taking me in, the same way I am of her. With the encouragement that she showed some interest in me, I gave her a small smile and a little wave.

As proud of myself as I was for waving at her, I berated myself as I walked to work.

God! If only I was more confident I would've gotten the courage to ask for her number… or at least her name. I should've talked to her.

No. she's a woman on the subway at night, basically alone. It would've been weird if I approached her.

But she didn't seem angry at me for basically staring at her.

She was looking at me too. Maybe she was just shy like me.

Or maybe she wasn't interested and I just freaked her out.

I sighed in relief as I made it to the blue phoenix, a world renown tattoo parlor. I could focus on work instead of mysterious girls on the subway.

I met her on the subway. It doesn't matter what she thinks anymore.
I'll probably never see her again.

I frowned. I don't know why the thought of never seeing some random girl again would affect me this much.
I walked through the shop, past the front counter where some random guy was flipping through a book of tattoos, and the rooms, where I could hear the buzzing of a tattoo gun. I entered the break room, thankful to see Murtargh leaning against the counter, drinking coffee.
My godfather Murtargh is a famous tattoo artist that has been around forever, and tattooed everyone and seen everything. He started out in Scotland but moved out to NYC to be near my family. He could work wherever he wanted since everyone wanted him. He was a legend. And I want to follow in his footsteps.
Hopefully he can distract me from my thoughts of the girl on the subway.

“Hey Jamie.” he grumbled, his face still in his coffee mug.

“Hey, any crazy customers lately?”i ask, knowing it’d set him off on a tangent about some drunk guy or a girl that wanted an infinity sign. I was not disappointed.

The night continued with a few appointments and walk-ins. With my spare time I couldn't help but draw and sketch leopards with golden eyes. When murtagh made a face at me drawing yet another leopard, I switched to lions with crazy manes, with piercing eyes, or mid roar.

“What's with the animals, Jamie? You don't have a custom piece like that.” Murtargh questioned me.

“Nothing, I’m just inspired I guess.'' I responded.

But I flipped the page over in my sketchbook and began to draw a fairy. Thinking back now, the girl could be one of the fae from the stories I was told as a child with her eyes and pale skin. She looked so out of place on the subway, like she belonged on a dun.

At three in the morning, back on the subway heading home, I pulled out my sketch book, and started drawing a sunflower on the page with the sketch of a fairy. A new idea for a mural that I could spray paint just formed in my head, and there was a plain brick wall near my apartment that has been calling my name.
I smiled as I continued to sketch, thinking about the blank canvas by the skate park, and coincidentally listening to twenty one pilots cover of I can't help falling in love.

Chapter Text

So the hotel that we found for cheap may be a hostel. A really gross hostel.
“ Thank god I never actually went backpacking through Europe like I wanted,hostels are gross.” G complained.
I just sighed in reply.
I was too tired to care where I slept as long as I could sleep. We put our bags in the lockers we were given. I put most of my money in my bra and socks to keep it from getting stolen even though it was kind of uncomfortable.
When we got to the room, it was full of bunk beds with other women sitting or sleeping. The beds were small and covered in hard plastic. I guess we were supposed to bring our own sheets.
As soon as I got semi comfortable and tried to fall asleep, I felt bugs jumping around my ankles and biting me.
“Bed bugs! I want my money back tomorrow morning, are you kidding me?” some other girls said before it went silent again.
So with the noises of twenty other women breathing and bugs biting at my ankles, on a plastic wrapped bed, I finally fell asleep after the longest day of my life… so far.

***
The next morning we left the hostel as soon as possible. We decided that the first thing we needed was an apartment.
We ended up at a coffee shop for breakfast. Before now i had never batted an eye at the price of a coffee and muffin, but now we had a limited amount of cash, and were looking for apartments and the idea of wasting even 6 dollars physically hurt.
G was scrolling through her phone looking for apartment leases while I was trying to figure out our budget. I admit we were really bad at running away. As far as we know the cops aren’t after us… yet. Gigi’s dad is the criminal, not us. We just don't want to deal with the consequence of our parents actions.
“Claire, my mom just texted me.”
I looked up, alarmed. This was the first time that Geillis, i mean Gigi’s mom had tried to contact her. The fact that i haven't heard from my uncle wasn't that surprising as he is currently on a dig in like Egypt or somewhere.
“She said that if I'm able to stay away and safe, then I should, and that she loves me…”
We both just sat there dumbfounded. This is less like running away and more like just moving to new york.
Screw it, I thought, if we still have our phones, if G’s mom approves, then why are we trying so hard to hide? Yes people might recognize us but we can deal with that later.
“I have a stupid idea,” i said.
I told G how my uncle has a small apartment in the city that he kept after teaching a few semesters at a college. I thought that if he isn't subletting it, we can just crash there.
We looked up the listing for my uncles apartment. It was on some website, where my uncle lamb was looking for subletters.
We couldve applied for the apartment. But i thought of something else.
I guessed my uncles username amd password to get onto the website. It was easy. His password was my initials and birthday.
I deleted the listing from the website. And then continued to make sure it wasnt liksted on other sites.
“ You smart ass bitch I love you.” G said when I was finished.

We then made our way to the apartment, which is in chinatown. Technically my uncle is kind of rich, but he loves a deal, and saves his money, so a penthouse in manhattan that he doesn't get to use didn't make sense. So paying for a small place in chinatown that he can sublet when he feels like it works just fine. I think I remember him saying something about how he pays for the apartment when it's not occupied and even if it is the money goes through him because he doesn't trust others with his finance and stuff, like landlords. hopefully I'm remembering correctly.

I struggled up the six flights of stairs with Gi trailing behind me. Eventually we made it to apartment 3C and I began the search for the spare key, which ended up being behind a loose board of the border around the door. Classic uncle lamb.

Inside the apartment were the bare necessities, but after the night in the hostel and living in dorm rooms for three years, this was all we needed. A small kitchen, that was basically the same room as the living room with three doors visible, leading to the bedroom, office, and bathroom.
Just like the kitchen, the bathroom was tiny, the bedroom fit a bed and a dresser, the office a desk and pullout love seat, it was perfect.
We both crashed on the red coach in the living room, facing an ancient tv. Of course, we argued over which room we each got. We both wanted the smaller one, the office.
G argued that technically it’s my place so I should get the bigger room with the real bed.
I said I don’t care and I rather have the desk to draw at. And she deserves a real bed too.
We compromised by moving the dresser into the office and the desk into the bedroom since it had a tiny closet. I got the bedroom, I didn’t mind but I still felt bad.
I was exhausted. I thought about the last 48 hours. How my life went from stressing out over an AP Bio lab to stressing out about where I’m going to live. I didn’t have time to process the fact that my dad was a criminal because we’ve been moving so fast.
Was everything fake? Was my childhood real? How could I have had everything I’d ever want, a big doll house, a horse, while all the people that needed more suffered because of my dad's actions? Seeing people all over the city asking for spare change broke my heart. The few times I went into Boston with friends from school, they’d make comments about how it was their fault because of drugs or something and wouldn’t give them change. But really paying attention this time, feeling the sense of not having a home myself, I noticed that a lot of them were young, like me, and we shouldn’t judge others like that, but help them. Now that we have this apartment for now, we can afford more, like being able to spare change at least.
The world I grew up in was a lie. The closest I got to anything real was traveling with my uncle over the summer, and even that was different, protected and from a distance, seeing the real world through tinted windows or through the finds of his digs. I found myself excited about being in the city, having no plans and no clue what will happen next. I was completely terrified, my stomach in knots, but I couldn’t stop smiling.
I settled down on my bed and looked out my window at the view of a brick wall. (Of course)
But something caught my eye, a familiar shade of red. I sat up on my bed to see the graffiti that was covering the wall just outside my window. It was an image of a man and a woman, the woman was in a white dress and they were holding hands but there was a cloth wrapped around their hands, and it was stained red. What? The man had dark hair and was looking at the woman like she was his whole world and the woman was smiling and laughing. She had bright red hair with golden and copper highlights. It felt oddly familiar.
Suddenly it hit me. It reminded me of the mysterious boy on the subway. I can still remember his piercing blue eyes looking at me with the depth of the ocean, maybe because of the color, or something else entirely.
He was so bold. Tall, bright red hair, and his tattoos. He was so noticeable, but he noticed me.
I fell asleep for a quick nap once again wondering if I’d ever see that cute smile again.
***
Gigi and I had a rude awakening after our very long naps.
We didn’t have tampons and now are out of toilet paper… and need to find a laundromat.
We made our way to a local store to get the basics. We filled up our cart with tampons and bread, toilet paper and toothpaste. The fact we only had a few thousand dollars in cash was still on my mind as I tried to do the math in my head about how much food and tampons cost. I think we need to get jobs.
I lost G down the beauty aisle. Damn.
I found her holding different boxes of hair dye in her hands.

“What do you think you’re doing,” I asked.

She whirled around and looked at me with wide eyes like she just got caught sneaking out of campus at school or passing me a note in French class.

“ just thinking about dying my hair… we might need disguises, you know, so it’s harder to recognize us. I don’t want to be seen as “Geillis Duncan - daddy’s girl’.”

As much as I wanted to tell her to put the 20 dollar hair dye back, she had a point. We don’t want to be questioned by reporters or something. She continued mumbling to herself about how blondes have more fun but redheads are fire. Then I heard her mention me and bleach.

“Woah, you go for it but I am not dying my hair!”

“Come on!! I’m going red, you can totally pull off blonde!” She pleaded.

Just then, a worker came up to us, he was a tall black guy that smiled and looked nice even though he was working at a store at 6 pm and wearing a gross orange vest as his uniform. His name tag said Joe.

“Need any help ladies?” He asked in a way that made it seem like he really was interested and wanted to help.
He noticed the boxes that G was holding and plucked them out of her hands.

“No, That is all wrong for your skin tone, try this red instead…” and then he turned to me, “was the blonde for you?”
I tried to tell him that I am NOT dying my hair blonde, because I don’t think my curls could take it, and I really don’t want to be blonde, but he interrupted me. He pulled down on a few strands of my hair.
“You have gorgeous curls, but GIRL What is with these dead ends?”

My brilliant response was an “uuhhmmmm.”

“Do you guys want to get paid for me to do your hair?” He asked suddenly.

I looked at G trying to convey my confusion with my eyes. What is this guy on?

“Look dude, whatever kink that is, we are not interested…” G began, but he started laughing, once again interrupting.

“No, no. I’m a hairstylist, well I’m trying to be. I’m showcasing how to cut a long bob and do a dye job for some new students and I need people to work on. I can dye your hair red, and cut hers. You each get fifty bucks.” He finished, still smiling at us.

G and I looked at each other and shrugged. Sure why not I thought. I get PAID to get my hair done.
We agreed to meet him tomorrow at the salon he is training at around 9 am and followed him up to the register to pay.
I noticed nail polish on display for 99 cents. I picked up a bottle of black polish. I would never in a million years wear black nail polish at school. I think I’ve only ever had my nails painted pink and yellow. But this is a new life, one where I can be anyone and do anything I want. I’m gonna have a freaking bob tomorrow. I just thought “freaking” and “damn” earlier. The old me might not have had short hair and black nails, but the new me will. I put down the polish next to the toothpaste, which earned a glance from Gigi, but she didn’t say anything about it on the walk home. (HOME)
***
The next morning, G and I trudged to the salon Joe worked at with three coffees. We left early, because I really wanted to make a good impression for some reason. At 8:45 we arrived to find Joe sitting outside on the steps. G handed him the coffee and we headed inside.

There was a bit of awkward silence before Gigi boldly asked Joe how old he was.

“Eighteen,” Joe said defensively, “I dropped out of high school last year and enrolled at the Beauty Academy in Queens. Luckily I got into the styling program here. That’s important. You gotta make connections with the right stylists to find a job.”
“ We are eighteen too. Oh I’m Gigi by the way and this is claire… a.” G said. She forgot the new name she picked out for me apparently. I kind of did too.
Gigi continued to ask him questions, maybe trying to flirt, or she was actually interested in becoming a stylist. If I had to guess, it’s a little bit of both.
“Dang, you ask a lot of questions,” Joe exclaimed, sounding humored and not annoyed. “If I tell you everything I got now, then what am I gonna put in my autobiography?”
I smiled thinking about Joe writing an autobiography,I think it’d be funny. Gigi tilted her head to the side, playing with a piece of her hair, obviously confused but also still flirty.
“I’m just messin’ with you,” Joe said, while slapping the air with his hand.
He suddenly became serious again by pointing us to sit in chairs as the class started to come in. He tried to be all professional in front of the students, a lot of them older than he is.

“The first thing we gotta do when cutting a fierce bob is find the natural jaw line,” Joe said as he began instructing the class, and cutting my hair.
G was spinning around on her chair, once again twisting her hair with her fingers. She noticed me looking at her and gave me two thumbs up and a small smile.
I was breathless. I had never imagined what I’d look like with short hair, but I looked completely unlike myself. I looked more mature, and somehow my eyes looked larger. Joe managed the impossible, he controlled my hair. With a deep conditioner and a diffuser, my curly hair framed my face perfectly and I think I could now manage it better at this length. I’ve never had hair this short, it’s always been longer than my shoulders. Short hair felt so freeing, the physical weight on my shoulders gone, matching what I felt about being in this city, starting a new life.

Next up was G. Joe repeated the process of explaining everything he was doing to the class as he dyed her hair. Gigi kept her eyes closed even when she wasn’t in front of a mirror, like she was afraid to look at her new reflection.
When Joe was done blow drying her hair, he made a big flourish of showing it to G.
Her hair was bright red. It looked like she could be Ariel, a more badass mermaid. It wasn’t a natural red at all, but it was Gigi.

“Now your hair matches your personality.” I said. And I meant it.

She looked at me beaming. “I know right!”

“Damn I outdid myself on you guys! Can I take pictures for my portfolio?” Joe added.

After taking our pictures, and then a selfie of the three of us, Joe handed us each fifty dollars and led us out of the salon.
He was basically the first person we met in the city and he was really cool. He was who we were trying to be, still technically teenagers but thriving as adults.
“Hey wanna get lunch with us? Our treat?” I asked, holding up the fifty dollar bill he just gave to me. I knew G would agree, seeing as she might have a little crush on him.
Joe looked up from his watch with a giant grin on his face like he was actually surprised and happy that we wanted to hang out with him.

“Sure thing lady Jane.” He said as he led us in the direction of a burger joint.
We settled in our booth, and ordered drinks.
Finally having a moment to breathe, I repeated, “lady Jane?”

“Oh! Your accent, it’s all posh and proper and fancy. You sound like the queen of England. It reminded me of this character fromaromancenovel so…”

Gigi looked at him skeptically, “you read romance novels?”

“Kind of, my girlfriend got me into them. It’s kinda like my guilty pleasure.”

I decided I liked lady Jane more than Clara, and Gigi decided she wanted a nickname.

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know Joe and it felt like we had known each other our whole lives. He told us about his relationship with Gayle but also the complications with some guy named John they were both involved with. I can barely wrap my head around it. Gigi also wants us to try calling her Red. I think it’s a little too on the nose but she seems to like it.

“ So Lady Jane, Red, you’re both new in town.” It wasn’t a question but a statement.
Joe inquired as he walked us back to our apartment. What a gentleman.

G huffed in response. “How did you know?”

“ because you’re still excited to be here… don’t worry you’ll get over it. And I get to watch as you become dead inside and see the light fade from your eyes as you become real New Yorkers!”

He walked us to our building and we exchanged numbers. We made our first real friend. Now all we need are jobs

Chapter Text

I walk next to G, picking at the black nail polish on my nails. It was weird getting used to the color, but now i like it. And it gives me something to do.
G and I are on the hunt for jobs. We've been going from restaurant to restaurant and store to store looking for job applications.
Getting work has been challenging. When we walked into some snooty store that everyone at school always shops at, the manager wouldn't give G an application because of her hair. We walked out and were met with a picture of one of our classmates who may or may not have made my life a living hell, in a photo modeling for the store. To say we were pissed would be an understatement.
A few days into the search, G was able to land a job at a new fancy restaurant. There is no doubt in my mind shel get great tips because of her shameless flirting and her people skills.
I was definitely put off that I hadn't gotten a job yet. I mean i know i'm not the only one applying but i haven't gotten a call back anywhere and when i call, they just say they've already found someone.
G nudged me to get my attention, pulling me back to reality.

“ why don't you apply for a job you'll actually enjoy.” G said while pointing at the art store across the street. “ We get free food from my job, and I get people's numbers, you should like your job too, and you like art…”

 

The job was mine the second I said that I would gladly work weekends. Jack, the manager is apparently tired of all the college kids that he hires not wanting to work the weekend shifts. So i told him i wasn't a college student.

The shift manager, Tom Christie or something gave me my schedule with my first shift tomorrow. He offhandly said “I cant believe Jack hired you.”

I did a double take… what

“Why?” I asked.

“ because he never hires cute girls, and you're cute.”

Maybe i should have been wary of that compliment but i had just landed a job and a college guy thought that i was cute. G and I were thriving in our new lives in the city. We were going to be fine.
My good mood didn't last very long because i saw a magazine on the way home with pictures of our parents on the front cover. I kept telling myself that ot wasnt our problem now.

***

Life in the city was really working out for G and me. We had friends, actual friends. We are going out to celebrate Joe’s birthday with some of his coworkers and friends that all seem really great. We finally got to meet Gayle, and she and Joe are so cute together. Apparently, John Grey is going to be the DJ at the club that we are going to.

As we walked into the club full of bright lights and blasting music and sweaty bodies, my mind went back to the fortune cookie I got at dinner that had said - you will find great love. -
I may as well have faith in mundane things like fortune cookies at this point. So maybe I had my eyes peeled for love, but have been seeing more challenges than romantic possibilities.

The club was packed. I had never seen anything like it. Parties at Treadwell were not like this, not that i had ever gone to one. All of my classmates were stuck in their rooms because of curfew and I am here, living my dream life.
Joe comes back to our little group handing us drinks. I'm hesitant to drink but Gigi definitely isn't. So I sip the beer, it's gross.

I was trying to hear Joe and Gigi talk when suddenly Gayle grabbed my arm, and said in my ear, “ oh girl, eleven oclock!”

All of our heads turned to the direction she meant. There was a guy looking at me from the crowd on the dance floor. Something about him looked really familiar but I couldn't place it. I mean, i didn't know any cool guys in Brooklyn.

“ Do you know this tool?” Gigi asks all of us, as the guy started walking towards our group.

Joe and Gayle shook their heads no, and I did too, even though I wasn't sure.
He had longish red hair, I think, because it was hard to tell with the colored lights, wearing glasses, and was tall, really tall, which is really attractive.
iT was when he waved that I recognized him as the guy from the train, covered in tattoos, on my first night in the city. He waved in the same awkward way, with the same crooked smile on his face. It was adorable.

He shouted hi into my ear and i did the same, wondering how the fuck our paths crossed again.

“ you changed your hair,” he said pointing at my head. I thought the same of him, when I guess his hair just grew out a bit more, while I chopped most of mine off.
Once again i was thinking how did we run into each other again and more importantly how the actual fuck did he recognize me, remember me?????

We stood there like idiots for a few minutes trying to shout at each other to have a conversation in the loud club. I guess John was having a good set, I wouldn't know.
We went to step outside a door to where some people are smoking, to continue this strange conversation after getting our hands stamped.
For mid november, it was absolutely freezing. It began to snow, just little flurries. The silence after the loud club was deafening. I felt like I was watching somebody else's life, like a movie on in the background with the muffled volume, the colorful lights casting blue and purple shadows across the guys beautiful face, and the snow.
I decided to play dumb. Honestly it wasn't a decision, I was just in disbelief. That he remembered me. That he recognized me. That we somehow were able to meet again. I needed to hear his side first, so I can process, and assess if he is a stalker or not. I don't think so.

“ Do we know each other?” I asked him.

He reminded me, “ I saw you on the train… I think?” I noticed he had a slight accent. Like me. Was he irish? Scottish?
“That was you, wasn't it? The uptown train a few weeks ago? It was kinda late?” he just kept rambling. If he's not a stalker, he's cute.

I nodded, not knowing what to say. I was really curious about this guy. He looked so… cool, but seemed just as awkward and shy.

“ I thought so,” he said, clearly pleased with himself.

“ How did you remember me? I mean, why did you?” I Asked, shivering and teeth shattering. Shit my coat was inside.

He smiled that stupid smile again. “You remembered me too, didnt you?” he teased.
“I don't know I thought you had an interesting story to tell.”

Somehow in the cold, I responded, “ I could say the same about you...”

I looked him in the eyes for maybe the first time outside, finally able to get a good look at him with the streetlights. With the glow of the changing lights from the club illuminating his hair, it still stood out as an array of reds. His eyes are piercing blue, with so much depth, I feel like I could drown. I hold my breath to stop my teeth from shattering. He had a bit of scruff, with his hair curling around his ears and jaw. And, I noticed a lip ring, a silver hoop on the side of his lower lip, that was still stretched into a cute smile, even if the lip ring freaked me out a little.

I continued when he didn't, “ no one has ever thought my story was interesting before.”

“ aye, well I think you look like you have plenty of interesting stories to tell, sassenach.” he responded.

I've heard that one before, though. “ looks like we are both outlanders here.”

With an once over glance at me, he continued, “ nope, i'm from new york.”

“ okay then, before, because i'm pretty sure gaelic isn't from brooklyn, and you have an accent.”

“ i was born in scotland,” he said. “ we moved here when I was eight. And you, sassenach?”

We were really gonna exchange life stories before we tell each other our names… sure why not. There's no reason to lie, i mean i do have an accent, i can say i moved here, right?

“ Well you've already determined that im english, I'm from Oxfordshire, originally.”

The cold was getting uncomfortable and I was bouncing on my feet to keep warm, it wasn't working, but I didn't want to go inside and end this conversation. Not yet.

“Like I said, interesting.” he said.

“ I think it's cool you know some gaelic, even if it's just offensive words towards the english.”
“ well, those are the most important words to know, are they not?” he tried to be cool, and wink, but did this weird owl like blink that was absolutely adorable. He didn't stop there. I guess his attempt at winking that made me smile and breathe out a laugh gave him some confidence.
“ I thought that you were very memorable when i first saw you, you're beautiful.”

No boy has ever called me beautiful before. I'm not blushing, it's definitely just the cold. I mean, even if this isn't real, if it's a pick up line, it's sweet. So I put up with the cold and we keep talking. Either I'm so focused on this guy, or my hands and feet are finally going numb because the cold is barely bothering me anymore.

“ So what do you do?” i asked him, after i told him i work in an art store.

He extended his hands to me, palms down. He was showing off his spiderweb tattoos that spread across both hands and wrists.

“You're a tattoo artist, that's really cool.” and terrifyingly intimidating, I thought.

“ Obviously, I didn't ink these because you'd be crazy to do work on your own body, but I did design these.” he said with his hands still outstretched towards me. It would be weird to touch them right? Trace the lines? It is a really interesting design, even if the tattoos themselves scare me a little.

The guy finally asked, “what's your name?”
He looked right at me with those big, blue eyes, almost shaped like a cat, at a slant, and his gaze is so intense it's like he's looking right through me. I felt so exposed, but so safe that I opened my mouth, forgetting all about clara Randall, but -

“ Get back in here! How have you not frozen your fat little ass off?” Joe had thrown open the back screen door of the club and the music shocked me once again as it exploded back onto the street, bringing me back down to reality, far away from whatever movie scene i thought i was in. He motioned for us to come back inside.
I turned towards the guy, blushing like crazy, “ I'm freezing,” I said while giggling and moving towards the door, ever so slowly, as the guy smiled warmly at me.

“G is going to murder me if you get sick and die, i dont trust her to keep you alive even with a cold,” jow complained as he closed the door behind us.
The guy was still next to me, and I felt his hand on my shoulder.

“Tell me your name.”

I wish I could see his face again, in more light, to see his facial expression, his smile, to memorize so i could draw him, or just to see him clearly. I wish his hair looked red instead of a mix of purple and green. I wish it wasn't too dark so i could see the blue of his eyes.

“Claire!” I shouted in his ear, hoping he could hear me.

“Claire,” he repeated, and even in this club, with my heartbeat pounding as hard as the bass, I was able to hear the way he said my name, preciously, with his scottish burr, and I cherished it. “Im Jamie.” he shouted in my ear.

I got chills, even in the heat of the club, from his voice in my ear, his lips so close. Jamie. That name sounded perfect. Suddenly I wondered how we were ever going to find each other again. Or, if i'm more disappointed at the very logical conclusion that we won't, then I am terrified that we will somehow meet again.

“I'll see you around, Sassenach,” he said.

I wanted to urge him to stay, tell him not to go so soon. But maybe i did want him to leave, I should want him to leave, right? It was too late, Joe was pulling me onto the dance floor to join Gayle and Gigi.

Chapter Text

After helping John set up for his set I decided to wander around. I had to take off work to come to the club tonight but it's worth it to support john. He's a great friend and he's always supported my work, being one of the first people I tattooed.
After getting a beer at the bar, I start making my way through the dance floor to get to the side door. I can see people smoking outside, so it might still be a little suffocating but it will hopefully be a little quieter since this isn't really my scene. The dance floor was packed, it looked like John was doing a great job, I'm really happy for him, he deserves to be successful.
I don't really pay attention to the people around me as I make my way through the club, nobody really catching my attention. That is, until I saw that girl from the train a few weeks ago.
She was with a group of people around one of the small high top tables. I can't believe that she is here, that we met again. Well, we haven't exactly met yet, but I want to meet her.
The girl was laughing at something a guy said, when suddenly she was looking at me after her friend grabbed her attention. With all the lights, I couldn't see if she recognized me or not.

Do I go up to her? She's with a group, I don't want to interrupt. But what are the chances of us literally running into each other randomly in brooklyn? Maybe on the train again if we had the same commute… but this? This has to mean something. Maybe i'm making it up, seeing something that's not there, but she still looks just as intriguing as last time. As an artist I take inspiration from everything, and she really inspired me that week. I want to know her name.

Cautiously, I made my way over to her group. She stepped away from the table and stood closer to me, I took that as a good sign. I had to shout for her to hear me say hi. Seeing her up close even in the club, her eyes shined, and she had freckles on her nose. I noticed she had cut her hair, and it came out my mouth before I could stop it. Thank god she didn't hear me floundering, trying to save the conversation.
Outside was better, the cold air cleared my head as the door closed and I could hear myself think. I was still nervous, but I could breathe. The way the girl was looking at me, it was like she recognized me too, like she was just as nervous. I hoped she remembered me, or this might be kinda awkward.
Oh god, does she not remember me? She just asked if we know each other and the answer is no, no we don't, at least not yet.
Again, I stutter through an answer, an explanation, except this time she can hear me. Fuck. “I saw you on the train… I think? That was you wasn't it? The uptown train a few weeks ago? It was kinda late and…”

She nodded. Thank god, she nodded. “I thought so.” i said instead. And I couldn't help but smile.

Now, I could really focus on the conversation, on her, because she knows who I am, well, she remembers me. Why did she even remember me? Was it because I freaked her out, or she liked my tattoos, was she fascinated by me as I was with her? Just as I thought that, she asked that very same question. On the muted back porch of the club with only a few stragglers smoking and talking a few feet away, I could finally hear, and process her voice. Her accent.
A sassenach.
An outlander in new york in many ways, seeming out of place, and at home, but so far away from where she is from, like me. She still reminds me of a fairy, out of space and time outside of this club, with snowflakes falling in her hair, making it darker, curling around her face.
I needed to hear more.

I Responded, “You remembered me too, didn't you? I don't know…”
I do know. She fascinated me, inspired me, and I spent basically an entire shift sketching. I designed dozens of pieces based off of lions and leopards and flowers. I've never been so focused on work yet so distracted. How could I not remember you? How could I not want to know everything about you?
“ i thought you had an interesting story to tell.” I finished lamely. God, that sounded like a line didn't it? It's not a lie. She does seem really interesting.
I didn't realize she wasn't really looking at me, the way I was staring at her, until she shifted her gaze. I visibly saw her eyes light up at that, as well as a smile. Over the last few weeks I forgot some things, like the shade of her eyes. I knew they were light brown, but seeing that exact color, the color of whiskey was a shock, like a shot burning my throat, craving more. She was beautiful. A mess of brown hair, fierce, intelligent eyes, and a really distracting mouth. She didn't have many doodles on her arms this time, just a few flowers on one hand. They look like forget-me-nots to me. The streetlights made it seem like she was glowing, like a fairy, with her pale skin and all black ensamble.

Just as her eyes lit up before, they sparked a flame for a second, when I accidentally called her sassenach. I don't know her name. I need to know her name. I didn't mean it like that, as an insult. I was about to apologize, beg for forgiveness, when she smirked.

“Looks like we are both outlanders here.” she countered, still smirking. She's a witty one. This woman!! I was trying not to stare, at her lips, in her eyes.

Even though I'm from scotland, and it has a special place in my heart, and will always be my home, I also am a new yorker at heart. I love the city and the noise as much as I love the country and quiet of scotland. So i didn't even hesitate before i corrected her, that i was in fact, a new yorker.

This mysterious girl is so easy to talk to. The conversation flows until, once again, I can't keep my mouth shut, and I tell her that she is beautiful. It's true, and I won't apologize for what I said this time, but I didn't mean to say it, at least not yet. But she blushed, and looked down, like she wasn't used to those kinds of compliments. She couldn't stop smiling as we continued the conversation, and she seemed to keep getting more and more comfortable, like I am. She deserves to be called beautiful, because she is. God, she is so beautiful, inside and out as far as i could tell.

She said she worked in an art store. I knew she was artistic like me. What else was she doing. Was she designing, or studying? Was she a graffiti artist like me? Not a tattoo artist… yet. And when I showed off my tattoos, I swear she reached out. So I kept my arms out, in front of her to see, my designs, my artwork, my passion. She was tracing the spiderwebs with her eyes, her hand that she reached out, but pulled back, still had twitching fingers. Did she want to touch my tattoos, or hold my hand?
Please be both. Please do both.
Finally, i finally asked her what her name was. She opened her mouth, but was interrupted by a guy yelling about her ass and the cold. Fuck.
He motioned for us to go back inside. And then it registered that it was november. It was snowing. She was in a t- shirt, and so was I. She giggled and it was maybe the cutest thing i ever heard as she said in her posh accent that she was freezing. As we came back inside the guy kept going on about a “G” killing him for letting her get a cold… who's G? And what's her name?
Her friend is motioning once again at some people on the dance floor, which was still as packed as it was before. It seemed like a different world. I didn't want to keep her from her night out, with her friends, with G.
Gently, I reached for her shoulder, for her attention. Her eyes, pupils blown wide, staring back at me, as I asked for her name. She has to reach up for my ear, brushing my hair out of the way. The things that simple gesture did to me…

“Claire!” pierced through the noise of the club, in her posh, british accent. Claire.

I bent down slightly, I tried not to focus on the heat of her skin, her perfume and scent, or her hair touching my face as I shouted back “Jamie!”

Claire glanced back at her friends, and I looked up at John at the DJ booth. It's getting late, I need to get up early tomorrow. I'll let her get back to her group and I'll check on John and try to leave early. I decided.

If we saw each other tonight, maybe we'll find each other again. On the train, or at the Blue Phoenix, maybe somewhere normal like a coffee shop. Maybe im fucking crazy, but I’d like to think of it as faith.

“I’ll see you around, Sassenach.”

Chapter Text

Hours later, when we were on the M train headed back to lower Manhattan, Geillis’ curiosity about Jamie was endless.

“So who was the guy that was all over you at the club?”

“Just some guy,” I said. I couldn't stop smiling, which totally gave me away. Stupid glass face.

“He looked like he was about to propose or something, head over heels and all that. Do you like him?” she asked.

I never thought that I'd have a crush on a guy with tattoos and a lip ring, and I also never thought that a guy like that would like me. What was the point? I'm never gonna see him again, the city is huge. The chance of us running into each other three times is impossible. But…

“I like him.”

G looked at me, “Finally! You like someone!!! You better get with him, before I do, he was a cute little fox.”

I rolled my eyes. “ G, I don't even have his phone number.”

This time, she rolled her eyes, “you really need to work on your game. I’ve been getting so many dates from work, and good tips too. That boy would've married you tonight, if you'd asked. He was staring at you like you were a snack, a full meal, fucking thanksgiving dinner. Never would've thought that was your type though, i thought you liked one direction, not five seconds of summer or twenty one pilots. You know I like my all time low and little mix.”

 

We walked home, watching the sun rise. We had stayed late at the club because Gayle and Joe introduced us to John, the DJ. Finally stumblin into our apartment, I went to bed in my clothes, not bothering with anything. Thank god I didn't have to work today. I stared out my window at the graffiti painting on the wall of the building across the alleyway. Staring at the painting of the mysterious bride and groom, wondering about them, their story, was how I often fell asleep, their smiles imprinted in my brain. I wanted to dream about their love, dream about mine, if I'd ever find something like it. Which of course made me think of Jamie, and how maybe that could've been something, which scares me, but now it never will, because i'll probably never see him again. I startled myself with how sad that notion made me feel. I rolled over, trying to sleep without dreaming of a certain redhead.

***

My job at the art store and the routine of working at the cash register quickly banished high school from my mind. The work was mindless, but I didn't hate it, because I was surrounded by art supplies. By the time I had been working there for a month, high school felt like a fever dream, a million miles away. The stress of AP biology is nothing to the worry of having enough money for groceries or the subway. Wondering if/when I'll get to eat is so much worse than wondering about how much homework i'll have and if I'll be able to do it. With my entire month of experience being an adult, my former classmates seem so ignorant and naive, and they'll probably stay that way in their little bubble of daddy's money. School was a joke. Nothing prepared me for this. It was useless. I wasn't prepared for the real world, and there is no need for trig when I'm scanning canvases and paint brushes.

I didn't want to work here forever, even with the perks like a discount, but balancing my hours with classes seems hard, and sounded like a lot of money. So when I saw Tom steal some gold leaf, I didn't do anything. I wasn't sure if he stole it. He winked as he put it into his locker in the break room. I wasn't used to the flirty attention. Didn't know what i was supposed to do. So I did nothing. I couldn't imagine why'd he steal, what the point was, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I shouldn't have.

Work was the same, day in, day out. Same coworker drama, and stories about nights out, same snacks in the break room. It was boring, mind numbingly boring. But I needed the money. And I tried to enjoy it, think of the good things about my job, like the money, the discount. Not tom, definitely not tom.

I was so used to the routine, the plastered on smile, the customer voice, and cashier act, that I almost didn't notice Jamie walk into the store. Almost, because his height and hair color were kinda hard to miss.
I was with a regular customer, putting their supplies in a bag when he walked in. I Glanced up to see familiar glasses, and tattoos, and red hair, before he disappeared down an aisle.

Was it really him? Could it really be Jamie? Was he searching art stores for me? I haven't been searching for him in tattoo parlors. Or by some miracle, did he just wander in here, and we can meet, again, by chance, for the third time.

I've caught myself thinking about him a lot lately. G has caught me thinking of him often with my “fox face”, as she calls it, since my face gives it away that I'm thinking of him. I've been regretting not getting his number, but also freaking out about what i would've done if i had.

Twenty minutes later, I was breathless from pacing back and forth behind the counter. He finally emerged and our eyes met. Gold on blue. It was painfully obvious that i had been waiting for this moment, the moment we could acknowledge each other and pretend like we were surprised to see each other.

I noticed he was carrying several cans of spray paint. He wasn't just here for me.

We maintained eye contact, and it felt like I was drowning, I couldn't catch my breath, I was sweaty and nervous. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be struck by lightning.

Jamie ignored the other register, and came to mine. I am freaking out.

“Hi.” I said, trying to be nonchalant.

“So, we meet again,” he said, smiling.

“Yeah,” Replied, blushing. I tried to focus on ringing him up, wishing I knew how to flirt.

“Are you working on a project,” I asked as I bagged the six cans of spray paint.

“A project of sorts… I Like to do morals, and there's a brick wall in my neighborhood that has been begging me to decorate it.”

Glancing at the register I told him the total. I was a little afraid i waS going to forget to ask him to pay. Why am I so nervous? I didn't want the conversation to end as he fumbled with his wallet to hand me a few twenties.

“Where's your neighborhood?” I asked. God, I sucked at flirting.

“Brighton Beach,” he said, “But I work near here.”

I had no clue where Brighton beach was, but I Knew that i'd look for it on the subway map after work.

“Where do you work?” I Asked as I handed him his receipt.

“Blue Phoenix,” Jamie said, his tone implying that I should recognize the name. “It's a pretty famous tattoo parlor on Avenue A. you should come by sometime.”

“Sure,” I said, already trying to figure out how to get up the nerve to drop by his work unannounced, without having to get a tattoo.

I handed him his bag, desperate for this to not be the last time I see him. This has been the third time we've run into each other by chance in the city.

“Merry Christmas,” I offered. “I mean, if I don't see you before then.”

“Merry Christmas, Sassenach.” Jamie said. He smiled that cute little smile, just like outside the club, and gave me a little wave as he walked away, like he did on the train that first night. He left, but not before looking back at me, through the shop windows, for one last glimpse.

I berated myself for the rest of my shift. I was so bad at flirting with him. I should've asked more about his mural. I was an idiot. I bet he was just there to buy paint, not see me. But he told me where he worked, like he wanted to see me again. But i have absolutely no clue how to go about doing that. I don't know how to date. And I really don't want to ask G for advice, and I don't want to tell Joe about my complete lack of experience. It's so weird that we are all the same age, but at completely different levels and places in our love lives.

My only hope is to think of something fucking brilliant to say, and then to visit Jamie at work and stun him into liking me, and leading the way into a relationship because I have no clue what Im doing.