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My Nightingale

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It had been a few weeks since Claire last heard from Jamie. Her father’s condition had only worsened. Claire felt like the ceiling would crash over her head and she knew she had to get out. She had to get away, somewhere far away. She wanted to spend some time outside civilization with her father and enjoy some quiet.

She scrolled through some pictures of an Airbnb which was only an hour’s drive from where they lived. It was a little cottage in the Highlands, surrounded by nothing but beautiful nature. Her father’s birthday was coming up, and she thought, since she wanted to get away anyway, she would book it for the two of them.

Claire read through the confirmation of the place they would go. One week. Just one simple week away.

She went to the living room, where her father laid comfortably on the couch, watching his favorite tv-series. Claire sat next to him, smiling slightly.

“Sweetheart, are you alright?” he hadn’t seen his daughter smile for a while now. He felt touched by the sight of her lips curling upwards, and his heart fluttered, making his lips curl automatically up as well.

“Yes Dad, I have a surprise for you.” She looked excitedly at him, feeling again like the eight year old little girl that went on trips with her then healthy father.

“A surprise?” he didn’t manage to say more but was listening now, even more than before.

“I booked a little cottage in the Highlands for us Dad. Next week your birthday is coming up and I thought we could enjoy it as much as possible, just the two of us completely away from civilization. We will leave Sunday and stay for a week.”

She talked fast, savoring every bit of his facial expression that had changed while she talked. He looked happy and calm, and just the thought of him and her alone like the old days made him look like he was the happiest and luckiest man walking on this planet.

-

Henry looked at his daughter packing their bags on Saturday evening. He wanted to help her, but she insisted that he rest as they had a one hour drive ahead of them.

A one hour drive didn’t sound long, but he knew that his daughter was right. For someone in his condition a minute could feel like forever.

He looked at her as she kept asking what clothes he wanted to take; he either nodded nor shook his head. Henry started to get sleepy very quickly and his daughter realized. He only felt her soft grip around his shoulders, laying him down into bed. He heard his daughter whispering “Good night, Dad. I love you.” And he drifted into a deep sleep.

-
Claire had finished packing last night and put all the luggage into her car. She couldn’t contain her excitement, and was surprised that that emotion still existed within her.

Her alarm rang at six in the morning. She got herself ready and then prepared snacks for the hour she had to travel with her father. Claire put his medication into a container, which was divided by days of the week. After having prepared everything, she decided to wake her sleeping father.

She woke him softly, careful to not be overly excited so he could start the day as calm as possible. Claire got him dressed, helped him to the bathroom and sat him onto the kitchen table.

“What will it be for breakfast today, Dad?”

“Nothing, my beautiful Sweetheart. I’m not very hungry.”

Her smile faded, but she tried to contain her facial expression as much as possible to not show him that she worried. But she accepted, as she didn’t want to argue with him on this day.

“Then we are all set.” Claire forced her smile once again and helped her father into the car.

-

While driving, Claire put on her father’s favorite CD, and she saw him swaying from left to right when his favorite number came on. She was glad she wore sunglasses as her eyes started to tear up. What will she be without him? She shook her head slightly to get the thought out of her mind and kept driving until they reached the beautiful little cottage in the green. She stepped out, took a deep breath, and knew that this had been the right choice.

After helping her father out of the passenger seat, she supported him, helping him walk inside onto the big couch that was placed in the center of the cottage. It looked even more beautiful than the pictures Claire looked at last week. The cottage was decorated with candles that filled the whole cottage with their smell. The tiny kitchen fit perfectly into the corner it was placed in, and the stairs led up to the two bedrooms which filled the whole second floor. She looked at her father and knew that he loved it just as much as she did.

-

Jamie had escaped his pain with work. He started to work double shifts at the museum to not go crazy by staring at his phone most of the time. Those last weeks had been the worst in his life and his heart ached more by the day.

He tried to remember a certain time he could’ve done something wrong. Was it his mistake? Did she leave him because he had said or done something she didn’t like? His mind was racing and didn’t seem to stop anytime soon. Tonight Jamie would go out with his godfather, Murtagh. He was coming to see Jamie because he couldn’t bear to see his godson suffer like this.

After Jamie finished his shift, he went home, prepared dinner for the two of them, and sighed with relief when he heard the doorbell ring.

“Ghoistidh.” was the only thing he managed to whisper after breaking down in his godfather’s arms. And Jamie just sobbed, until there were no tears left anymore.

A while later, the both of them were sitting on the couch. Jamie had updated Murtagh with everything. His godfather was as puzzled as Jamie of Claire’s behavior.

“Ye have to forget her lad. Come live wi’ me for a while. Ye ken I am always here for ye, and ye dinna have to worry about money or anything. I just canna bear the sight of you suffering like that.”

Jamie looked at him, not minding this idea at all. Going away from here, the memories he had with Claire in his apartment, sounded like the best idea that occurred to him in the past weeks, but he knew he couldn’t.

“I would love to, but I canna just leave my work, I love it too much. I love this place. I thank ye, truly, ye ken I’m grateful for ye.”

“I understand, Jamie. But know ye always have a home wi’ me.”

Jamie nodded and thanked him again. As much as he would love to go with his godfather, he was just not quite ready yet.

-

Claire and her father had settled a bit; she’s hidden the bag with birthday decorations, as she wanted to decorate it for his birthday in two days. He was turning forty-five years old. She swallowed, as she knew this was the age he would die. Her heart was aching and she felt a sudden sting in her stomach as the wave of nausea hit her once again. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, not again. She ran to the bathroom where she emptied her stomach once again. This had been the third day in a row. What was wrong with her?

She blamed the stress for her morning nausea, and said to herself that her body must feel punished with all those emotions going through her. After freshening up, she went to sit on the couch, next to her tired father.

“Sleep a bit, Dad.” She stood up and wanted to touch his shoulder but he stopped her.

“Sleep? But Sweetheart, we wanted to go for a hike.” He wanted to stand up, but with a sudden realization that hit him like a ton of bricks, he leaned back. She saw that her father realized that he didn’t have any strength left for the hikes they used to go on together. She saw that for a moment he had been trapped in the past, where she was a little girl and his body still contained the strength to hold her on his shoulders.

Claire put him to sleep into the bed upstairs, after getting him out of the clothes he travelled in. She went back downstairs and took a pillow and she cried. The tears were streaming down her face and the sobs struck the fabric of the pillow she held and she couldn’t stop. Claire felt panic creeping up on her body, her cries didn’t intend to stop and she felt like this was it. Those would be days she had to live with for the rest of her life. She remembered the dream she had, alone in the corner, having no one, crying out Jamie’s name and her father’s but no one answering. Just like she was now, she was alone.

Her sobs stopped when it started to get dark outside. Claire thought once they arrived here she could at least escape her pain a little, as sleep wasn’t her safe space anymore. She took her phone and opened her contacts. She saw his name immediately Jamie Fraser

Claire didn’t know what to do with him. She didn’t want to fall more in love with him than she already had. She couldn’t do this to someone as caring as Jamie. She scrolled down until she saw the words Delete contact then pressed once on it waiting for her phone to ask for her confirmation if she was sure, and she clicked yes. Her nightmare became true, she would be alone. But at least she wouldn’t hurt anyone else with it. Or so she thought.