“Sorry, what did you say?” Claire stuttered. She knew exactly what he said, but her brain couldn’t process the words it had heard.
“Isn’t it wonderful darling? I have given it a lot of thought, and I’ve decided to take you back. I really think this is a sign, don’t you?”
“Pfffftttt, HELL NO!” she screamed. She threw her phone so hard it smashed to pieces on the ground.
“OH FUCK!” She picked up the pieces that lay at her feet and walked the few remaining steps to her door with tears of anger and frustration pouring down her face. She walked in, collapsed on the couch and lay sobbing for what seemed like hours, until she heard knocking on her door.
Her heart leapt into her mouth as she realised, I never told him about Frank!
In all the time they had been together, all the long conversations they’d shared about their lives, she had never even mentioned Frank's name to Jamie, not a word, nothing about the marriage or divorce. It wasn’t deliberate. She was just always so consumed with him whenever they were together that bastard Frank had never even entered her mind. My god, what do I say?
“Coming!” she yelled. A thousand thoughts whirled through her mind as she made her way to the door. She quickly checked herself in the mirror, pathetically attempted to force a smile then opened the door. “Oh, it’s just you,” she said to Geillis in relief.
“Well, that’s a bloody lovely greeting, nice tae see ye too!” she chuckled. Her laughter stopped abruptly when she saw Claire's face stained with tears. “What’s wrong Claire?” she asked, hugging her tightly.
“I’ve ruined everything G.”
Claire attempted to tell Geillis what happened, but her anguished, heavy sobs made it hard to decipher the words spilling from her mouth. She sat drenching her friend’s shoulder with tears until she again remembered Jamie would soon be on his way over.
“Can I use your phone, please? Mine’s broken.” She pointed to the shattered remnants on the coffee table and held out her hand, desperately wanting to stop Jamie before he arrived on her doorstep.
Geillis handed over her phone and sifted through the scraps of Claire’s, shaking her head. “What the hell did ye do tae ye poor phone?” Claire didn't respond, she was too preoccupied with beating herself up for the lie she was about to tell and trying to text, barely able to read what she was writing through her tears.
[Claire 18:30] Hey Jamie, it’s Claire. My phone is broken so I am using Geillis’s.
[Claire 18:30] She's having issues at home so she’s going to stay here tonight. So sorry. See you tomorrow? I will call you as soon as I get a new phone, Sorry again.
[Jamie 18:31] That sux. Talk to ye tomorrow. Hope Geillis is ok.
Claire dropped the phone and buried her face into her hands.
“Claire, please, relax and tell me what's happened. Did someone hurt ye lass?” Geillis asked.
Claire took a deep, shaky breath and revealed everything, from the sickening call from Frank and their non existent divorce to her feelings for Jamie and her fear that she may have ruined their relationship.
“Fucking Frank,” said Geillis. “That bastard sure seems to know the worst possible time to show up, doesn’t he?” Claire laughed a little and leaned into her friend.
“You know what else I did?” Claire said, biting her nails. “I laughed at Jamie when he told me he was a virgin.”
“JAMIE’S A VIRGIN?” Geillies squealed. “Ye dinna tell me that! How could he be a virgin? He’s so...”
“I KNOW!” Claire screamed and slapped Geillis’s arm for added impact. “He’s so hot! And my god, the way he kisses me, ugh, it’s unbelievable! So when he told me, I was just so shocked this little laugh slipped out.”
She needed Geillis to tell her what to do, to tell her everything would be ok. She waited for her advice; but for possibly the first time in their long friendship, Geillis said nothing. Jamie's seemingly unbelievable virginity revelation seemed to have left her speechless.
“What do I do now?” Claire asked, almost trying to force something out of her. “I have to tell Jamie about Frank, but what do I say when he asks me why I never told him? I have no answers, I have no excuses at all.” She stood and paced the room, wringing her hands as the anxiety continued to build.
“And after I went on this whole damn rant with him about honesty, ‘ We always have to be honest with each other Jamie ’, ‘ Only the truth between us Jamie,’” she said, mocking her own words. “And all the while, I’m the one who’s bloody married!” She felt sick as she thought of her sanctimonious speech and collapsed in a heap onto the couch.
“Well, tae be fair, ye havena actually lied. Ye just dinna tell him...yet. There’s a difference ye ken,” Geillis said, finally offering an opinion.
“I don’t know G. I mean technically, yes, but morally, no. I completely lost it with him over Annalise and I had absolutely no right to. We had just met, but I couldn’t stand the thought of him with someone other than me. I’m such a hypocrite! I couldn’t blame him for being upset with me, for hating me even.”
A desperate gasp of fear escaped her lungs at the mere thought.
“I really think ye are being too hard on yerself Claire. Ye made a mistake, that's all. Believe it or not, ye’re only human; ye can’t be perfect all the time.”
“But I still should have told him .” Why didn’t I tell him?
“He’s so amazing G, and I'm so happy whenever I’m with him. It’s almost like my brain deliberately blocked any memories of my life with Frank so I could stay in this perfect Jamie bubble.”
She threw her body face-first into the couch and sobbed. Claire could feel Geillis gently rubbing on her back soothingly, trying to calm her down, but the pain she was feeling only grew, every touch caused her to sob harder. Geillis seemed to realise her attempt to comfort was just making things worse, so she simply lay down next to her, draped her arm across her back, and cried in sympathy.
Deciding enough was enough, Geillis unexpectedly jumped off the couch and clapped loudly, scaring the very fragile Claire half to death.
“Rrrright, what ye need right now is our little friend Mr Gin over here,” she said, as she walked to the counter and grabbed a bottle. “Come on, up ye get. I refuse tae let ye lay here and cry over something ye don’t even know will happen.” She poured two very generous glasses of gin and handed one to Claire.
“What we need is a plan tae deal with Frank, and another for Jamie. I recommend we start with the Jamie plan, as I’m guessing he has a much bigger cock.”
Despite her tears, Claire couldn't help but burst out laughing. “You really are disgusting you know,” she said as she squeezed her arm tightly.
“Aye, but ye love me anyway.” Geillis slugged her first glass and poured another straight away. “Sláinte.”
Sunshine bursting through the gaps in her blind woke Claire the next morning. Geillis was lying beside her and between them, an empty bottle of gin and one of wine. With her head pounding, she dragged herself out of bed and made some coffee.
She woke Geillis up by waving the hot drink under her nose. In one swift movement, Geillis opened her eyes and swiped the cup from Claire’s hand.
“Why are ye such a bad influence on me Beauchamp?” she grumbled.
“Ah, that’s Randall, remember?” Claire replied drolly. Geillis chuckled heartily, happy to see her sense of humor had returned.
“Alright!” Geillis said, stamping her foot and splashing coffee everywhere. “We’ve gotta get our shite together and get this mess sorted.” She grabbed Claire by the arm and dragged her to the bathroom.
“First things first, ye need a shower. Ye look like shite and ye feckin stink like a winery,” she said as she motioned to the empty bottles. “Secondly, we need to get ye a new phone.”
“Aye, aye Captain,” saluted Claire. She surrendered herself over to Geillis and was subsequently nagged and dragged around the house, all the while feeling thankful that she had her best friend with her when she needed someone most
Getting themselves ready as well as two slight women who had consumed full bottles of gin and wine possibly could, they hit the shops for a phone. Claire was the salesman's dream, taking the first and most expensive phone she was offered, lacking any motivation to try and make a deal or stick to any kind of budget.
New phone in hand, her first call was to Jamie. It went straight to voicemail and she left a short message to call or text her back when he was free. A wave of nausea swept over her and she recognised it immediately as guilt. She was relieved that he didn’t answer, how pathetic and weak of her. She wanted to talk to him and reveal everything about Frank, but she was terrified at the same time. The shame of her cowardice burned deep into the pit of her stomach. He deserves so much better than this .
There was no way she could deal with anymore of this without a serious caffeine hit so they made their way to a nearby cafe and ordered some coffee and a giant chocolate muffin for Geillis.
“Ye should call the solicitor first Claire; it will give some ammunition tae fire back with if Frank decides to play any of his fucked up games wit ye,” Geillis suggested.
Taking her advice, Claire looked over the list of solicitors she found on google while Geillis happily munched away on a muffin. She offered some to Claire but she waved it off, fearing it may make her feel even more nauseous.
The first call Claire made was to a local lawyer named Ned Gowan. He was calm, kind and almost fatherly in his manner. He assured Claire that he could work through the divorce process from here in Melbourne and the whole thing could be finalised without her having to return to the UK. She liked and trusted him instantly and felt she didn’t need to speak to anyone else. He agreed to take her case on and deal with it as soon as he could.
A slight sense of relief allowed her to take what felt like her first full breath that morning and after sculling her coffee in one go, she worked up enough courage to call Frank.
“Hello darling, I’ve been waiting for your call,” he answered.
Claire shuddered hearing him calling her darling again and wasn’t in the mood to deal with any of his nonsense.“Frank, don’t speak, just let me say this. I have hired a lawyer and he will handle the divorce from here. Don’t contact me again. I've definitely moved on and you should too.”
“Fuck you Frank!” Geillis yelled at the top of her lungs, hoping he heard her before Claire bluntly ended the call. While Frank may not have heard her, the rest of the patrons and staff in the cafe certainly did. Claire mouthed an exaggerated ‘ sorry’ to a nearby staring waitress and tried hopelessly to cover her laugh.
Just knowing that the wheels were in motion, that she would soon be free of Frank -- again-- gave her some peace of mind. And besides, she was still far more concerned with Jamie’s reaction to her news than the divorce itself.
After a second coffee, they slowly walked back to the flat, finding the warm spring breeze a refreshing remedy for their tired, hungover bodies. Once Geillis was convinced that Claire would be ok alone, she left her at her door, and went home to have a nap.
Claire walked inside and sighed when she saw the state of her house; it was an absolute mess. She begrudgingly grabbed a garbage bag from the kitchen and was about to start cleaning up when she got a message from Jamie.
[Jamie 12:58] Got yer phone back I see? I will be home by 4. Dougal’s away. Come over when ye can. Door will be open. Can't wait to see ye, Sassenach.xo
Even with all the stresses whirling in her mind, her heart swelled at the adorableness of this giant 6’3 man, adding ‘xo’ at the end of his text. She had to make sure everything would be ok with Jamie. I can’t lose him
She had 3 hours till he would be home. She walked into her bedroom, garbage bag in hand, and caught her reflection in the mirror. Like Geillis had said earlier, she looked like shit. Dark circles framed her swollen red eyes, and she was as white as a ghost. Determined not to let Jamie see her like that, she dropped the bag and set her alarm. Snuggling under her fluffy doona, she yawned twice and fell asleep.
Jamie had decided that with Claire’s consent, tonight was the night he would finally lose his virginity. His close call with Analiese had strengthened his resolve to wait until marriage as he had originally planned, her reactions to his scarred body had shown how superficial and shallow people could be.
But he never planned on meeting someone like Claire, someone he knew looked past all those superficial wants and desires. They shared a connection he never imagined could exist, but it did. He needed to be one with her; body and soul. His heart skipped a beat, thinking of the bolt of electricity that surged through his body every time they touched.
Since their very first meeting, he had thought of how it would feel lying naked next to her, being inside her. His fingers craved the sensation of caressing her warm centre. His body reacted instinctively, just imagining, and he knew he needed to keep his mind busy or he wouldn’t make it through the night.
He was all prepared. Earlier that day he’d been shopping with Rupert who was full of advice, most of which was best for him to ignore. He’d purchased flowers, candles and, of course, condoms; although not the extra small Rupert had so maturely suggested.
Everything was set. Dougal was away for the weekend so they had the place to themselves. He’d cleaned the whole house top to bottom and spent hours setting up his room. Fresh linens covered the bed and the candles and flowers were positioned and re positioned a hundred times. Everything has to be perfect. A perfect night, for the perfect lass
He had never been so nervous, scared or excited in his life. The only thing he could compare it to was the mixture of adrenaline and fear that tore through his body as he careened down that cliff the day of his accident. At this moment, he wasn’t sure what scared him more. The feelings Claire brought out in him were so intense, so passionate and so completely terrifying, he was unsure how to deal with it all.
He knew there was still a tiny part of him that was scared of rejection. The loving kisses that Claire lavished over his scarred flesh had gone a long way to mend the deep wounds he harboured, but he was still feeling the pressure of his virginity. They had the most incredible chemistry and he wanted so desperately to please her, to be the kind of lover she deserved.
What if I'm a disappointment?
His brain ran over the myriad of possible outcomes until he felt ill. Remembering the only possibly useful advice that Rupert had offered him today, ‘ Dinna put too much pressure on yerself ’ and to ‘ Try tae enjoy it ,’ he decided to finish getting ready and try to relax with a hot shower.
He found his mind drifting back to Claire’s soft lips and her tender kisses over his back. But reminding himself she was likely on her way, he finished washing and got dressed. After a good old fashioned pep talk in the still fogged up bathroom mirror, he was ready to go. He just needed something to keep his mind busy till Claire arrived.
All of his planning and preparation for the perfect night flew out the window when Claire suddenly burst into the room and declared, “Jamie, we need to talk.” Her voice was higher than usual and her face carried a heavy expression, but it was quickly replaced by a smile and rapturous laughter, as there he was, sitting on the bed blowing balloons out of the condoms.
Never more embarrassed in his life, he buried his head in his hands and let out a phony wail, wishing the earth would open and swallow him whole. “You really are the most ridiculous human being,” she laughed.
He remained seated and red as a beet as she walked to him still laughing and kicked the balloons with her feet. She pushed his legs apart with her knee and stood comfortably between his thighs.
His hands were magnetically drawn to her waist; to be so close and not touch her was impossible. Looking up into her bright, smiling eyes he felt his embarrassment wane, replaced by desire.
Pulling her to his knee, his long fingers traced the curves of her body; from her graceful neck, he glided down, circling her breasts and stomach, flowing onto her hip and thighs. As her breathing escalated at his touch, his heart rate accelerated and a tight ball formed in his throat. Before he realised what he was doing, the words fell from his mouth.
“I know we haven’t known each other for long Sassenach,” he said, placing her hand over his racing heart, his whole body now trembled, while his voice cracked awkwardly, “But, I lo--”
“Jamie, I...I ,” she stuttered. “I have to...go to the bathroom!” She jumped off his lap and ran into the ensuite, leaving him slightly bewildered and immensely regretful. He was so angry at himself. He knew it was too soon, but looking into her eyes, it just felt so natural, so right.
Ye’ve scared her off Fraser
He rolled onto his stomach and buried his head into the pillows, punching them over and over again. ‘BZZZ...BZZZ’. A sudden vibration ceased his assault on the bed. Without lifting his head, he reached under his chest and found Claire’s phone; it must have fallen from her pocket when she was on his lap. The screen came to life on his touch and he couldn’t help but read the notifications.
[Frank 15:01] Claire call me!
[Frank 15:45] Claire, I know you are angry
[Frank 16:11] For god’s sake, I’m your husband. Do not ignore me
Jamie's heart dropped, as did the phone from his tightly clenched hand. It fell back to the bed where it had lay just seconds ago, before his world had stopped. He sat deathly still, unable to contemplate what he had just seen. Without a word, he rose to his feet, grabbed his keys and left.
Claire stood shaking in the bathroom. He loves me. He was going to tell me he loves me.
The joy she felt upon almost hearing those three words pass his lips, was instantly destroyed by the memory of Frank. Tears began to well in her eyes, but she fought hard to draw them back in. She had to tell him now. She couldn’t control how he took the news, but she could control how it was delivered, and she was determined to be calm and rational.
Returning to Jamie, she found the room empty. She walked out into the kitchen, then the lounge, and there was no sight of him anywhere. Retracing her steps, she called out, “Jamie, where are you?” With no response, she was about to return to his room when she noticed the front door was wide open; she peeked outside and called him again, her voice audibly shaken and still, no Jamie.
Panic began to set in; she ran back to his room and spotted her phone on the bed. As she drew closer, it beeped and Frank’s name flashed on the screen. She saw all the notifications and vomit rose to her lips.
Ignoring Frank's messages, she called Jamie’s phone over and over again, but it rang out every time. Jamie, please answer. By the sixth attempt, it went straight to voicemail.
Running from the house, she made her way down the street calling his name. She awkwardly tripped and fell on the cracked concrete. Sitting on her hands and knees crying, she tried to think clearly, What do I do now? S he almost jumped out of her skin when her phone began to ring; it was Geillis, how did she always know the right time to call?
“Geillis, Jamie knows! He saw messages from Frank on my phone, and he left. I don’t know where he is, what do I do?” Breathing so rapidly and crying, her lips began to tingle and she felt dizzy; she knew she was beginning to hyperventilate, and Geillis could hear it too.
“I need ye to breathe Claire, just breathe. We will sort this out. Now where are ye? I’m at the hospital, but I’ll leave now. Where are ye, Claire?”
Claire made a conscious effort to slow her breathing. “I have no bloody idea where I am,” she replied . She had run blindly from the house and had paid no attention to where she was running too. Glancing up to her left, she could see a street sign. “Royal parade. I’m on Royal Parade, in front of number five. Please hurry G.”
She remained slumped over on the footpath, crying over both Jamie and the pain from her quickly swelling ankle until Geillis finally pulled up in front of her.
As soon as she sat inside and saw her friend's smiling face, her breathing regulated and a sense of calm began to wash over her, Geillis would make everything ok.
“Who’s car is this?” she asked as she put her seat belt on, knowing Geillis didn’t own one.
“It's Lizzie’s, she was with me when I called ye, and she let me borrow it. Don’t worry, I didn’t tell her anything.” She patted Claire on the leg and drove away. “Now, let’s just drive for a while and figure out what we are going tae do.”
Claire sat in silence for the most part, except for an occasional teary sniffle or yes and no answer. Geillis had decided to try and get a hold of Rupert; he knew Jamie best and would be the person to consult for advice.
They made the short trip to Rupert's home and pulled into the driveway. The first thing they saw was Jamie, standing beside Rupert at the front door. As soon as he saw Claire in the car, he took off down the street. Claire jumped out and chased after him, limping and begging for him to stop.
“Jamie, please listen, I can explain everything,” she cried. “I know you’re angry, just stop, please.” Something she said stopped him dead in his tracks.
“Angry? I’m not angry Claire,” he said. He turned to look at her, tears ran down his red cheeks. He moved right into her face, looking directly into her sad eyes.
“I’m a fool Claire. I’ve fallen so hard for ye. I would do anything for ye lass, I would sell my soul for ye, just to be with ye.” He wiped his tears away and grabbed her by the arm. “You asked me to tell you the truth that day, remember? When I told you about my back and my virginity, that day ye laughed at me.”
Claire was struck but the bitterness of his words, ‘you laughed at me’. He’d never mentioned it since , but it had obviously hurt him more than he let on.
“You said it has to always be the truth between us, but you don’t have the guts tae be honest with me, tae tell me that ye’re married. I just don’t understand it Claire. I thought I knew you, but I don’t at all, do I?”
“But you do Jamie, I have told you more about myself in the time I’ve known you than I have ever told anybody. You do know me, it’s just this one little thing.”
“Little thing! Little thing! Ye’re bloody married Claire! It’s not like you didna tell me ye like pineapple on yer pizza!” Now, he was angry. He threw her arm away in disgust, turned and punched an old elm tree on the nature strip so hard it shook.
Claire recoiled and gasped with each strike on the trunk. Jamie didn’t notice her reaction until the last blow and even in the heat of anger, he couldn’t bear the thought of frightening her.
He stepped towards her and took her hands in his. He took several deep, slow breaths to calm down. Claire stayed perfectly still, bar the shaking of her hands, not knowing what to say for fear of making things worse.
“Please Claire, just give me some space. I canna talk tae ye like this. I will call ye when I’m ready.” And with that, he dropped her hands and walked away.
Every step he took, every millimetre more between them, felt like a dagger tearing through her heart. She watched, waiting for him to look back to her, but he didn’t. He turned the corner and was out of sight. Claire limped back to the car, slumped into the seat and fell to pieces.
Geillis, who had been standing next to Rupert watching the scene unfold, gave him a pat on the back and joined her. She gave her a quick cuddle, then backed out of the driveway. They drove home in silence, Claire staring out of the window the whole way, hoping to see Jamie and again beg him to listen and forgive her.
As soon as they walked into the flat, Geillis made them both some tea and grabbed an ice pack for Claire's ankle.
“What did Rupert say? Does he hate me too?” Claire sobbed, almost choking on the bile that persistently rose in her throat.
“He doesn’t hate ye, Claire, and neither does Jamie. I gave him a quick rundown of the situation, and he was very understanding. I think Jamie will be too once the dust settles. Ye just have tae wait for him tae be ready.” Claire placed the ice pack on her swollen foot, while Geillis rubbed her back with one hand, and wiped her tears away with the other.
“He loves ye Claire, blind Freddy can see that. He will forgive ye, lass, I’m sure of it.”
“I love him too, G. I know it’s happened so fast it’s crazy, but when he touches me, it’s the most powerful thing I’ve ever felt. There’s something deep inside me that knows him, and needs him. I feel like I've been dreaming of him my whole life. What if I lose him?”
The roller coaster of emotions and pain became too much and she was no longer able to swallow the bile down. She ran into the bathroom and violently vomited again and again. Crouching next to the toilet crying, she had never felt more miserable and desolate. I'm so sorry Jamie
Geillis came to her side and helped her to her feet. Wiping clean Claire's face and hands, she fought hard to hold back her own tears. “Ye need to go tae bed mo ghràidh. Please, try and rest, for me”. She wiped the hair that clung stubbornly to her friends face and led her to bed. Claire was utterly exhausted and followed her request with no reply. Geillis sweetly fluffed her pillows, tucked her in tightly and lay down, holding Claire’s hand as she cried herself to sleep.
Jamie tossed and turned in bed. It was four am and he had not a wink of sleep all night. He felt he was being ripped apart at the seams and had no idea what to do to pull himself back together. She’s married; how could she be married and not tell me?
He truly believed he knew her, and maybe he did. Maybe she was right this afternoon; it was just this one thing she hadn’t told him. But how could she just forget to tell him? She had revealed so much about her past over many different conversations; how could a whole chunk of her life be excluded without it being a deliberate deception?
Could she be ashamed of being divorced so young? Or maybe she was unfaithful in the marriage and couldn’t bear to confess her adultery?
He felt sick as one particular thought crossed his mind; perhaps he was a violent man and she was too traumatised to talk about it. Now, he had gone and treated her like this, yelled in her face and frighted her by punching that damn tree. He would never forgive himself if this was the case.
His mind was being torn in two, as was his heart. He picked up his phone to call her but stopped. He needed to give himself and her more time. He dropped his phone and lay back in his bed. He tried to sleep, but every time he closed his eyes, he heard her gut-wrenching cry as he walked away from her.
Unable to stay in bed any more he got out, threw on his sneakers and went for a run. It was still dark outside but that suited him fine; his tears wouldn’t be visible to any passersby this way.
He was on his third kilometre when his phone rang. It was Jenny. He really couldn’t deal with her right now so just let it ring out, but she called again immediately. “Yes Jenny, do ye know what time it is here?”
“Jamie it’s Da!