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Caught In The Middle

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Claire Beauchamp opened her eyes as the train announced it was arriving into Edinburgh train station in a few minutes. She was utterly exhausted. The journey from Euston station had been a long one. She'd had to change trains at Lancaster with her rather large suitcase, making it difficult to lug from one platform to another. 

 

Claire stared out of the window, starting to see Edinburgh Waverley train station's many rail tracks come fully into view. She could see parts of the old town, standing there all mighty and proud of its astounding beauty. The sandstone buildings were just incredible. She had always loved Scotland for its beautiful architecture. She smiled to herself at the thought. This beautiful city was now her's to call home. The train finally came to a halt, causing a sudden flurry of people grabbing travel bags from the top of their seats, wrappers shoved into pockets, coats being zipped up, ready for the unpredictable Scottish weather. Claire waited, knowing there was no point in battling against everyone else trying to get out of the carriage. 

 

"Ye get out dear, I see ye have been waiting a while." a kind elderly woman says, beaming at Claire and beckoning her to go forward, pointing her perfectly manicured nails elegantly ahead. Claire looked at them, recognizing the hands of dancers immediately. Claire smiled gratefully at the woman, bowing her head ever so slightly as she grabbed her rucksack and suitcase resting beside her. Claire stood up, putting her arms through the strap's loop with care and delicacy as if she was dancing at the barre again. The woman's eyes sparkled, watching her, recognition filtering through her seeing Claire with her bags. Once a dancer, always a dancer. 

"Thank you," Claire says gratefully. She moves out of the carriage and onto the platform with a lightness that wasn't there before.

 

Her student halls were a fifteen-minute walk from the station. Claire walks with purpose, itching with excitement to get to her new place. After getting out fo the ticket barrier, she moved herself to a corner of the station to text her Uncle Lamb, letting him know she arrived safely and in one piece. 

 

Her Uncle was devastated that he couldn't bring her up to Edinburgh; he started his new job as a classical archaeology professor at Kings College London.

She opened up her messages and wrote:

 

I just arrived in Edinburgh.

It'll take me about fifteen minutes to walk to the new place. 

I'll call you later tonight. I hope your first day was okay.

C x

Claire closed her messages, opened up her Spotify, and put her music on shuffle. June by Florence and The Machine was blasting sweetly through her ears, encompassing her senses. She walked with purpose to the beat of the music; it enhanced her awe of the city as she marveled at the old Mile; she felt like it was in a whole different time altogether. 

She came to a halt outside the building that was her student halls. She stared up at the tall, obnoxiously cobalt blue building. Colour withstanding, you could tell it was move-in day, many boxes were getting lifted, suitcases dragged, parents getting yelled at by their teenagers for being slow and asking too many questions. Claire felt a pang in her stomach, watching the interactions. If only her mother and father were here. She sent a quick prayer to them like she always does whenever she thinks of them. Claire sighs, takes a deep breath, and drags her suitcase to the entrance.

 


Her flat was 20B on the second floor. Thank goodness there were lifts; she didn't think she had it in her to haul her suitcase up those very steep steps. The elevator doors opened up, and she moved down the corridor, looking for flat 20B. 

It turns out flat 20B was at the end of the hallway. She smiled warmly, and the other students were moving in along the hallway, stopping to let parents and luggage move past her. When she finally reached her end of the hall, she was surprised to see that her flat door was closed, unlike the rest of the hallway. She heard voices inside, which made her stomach knot up. She was nervous. What if they were all already friends, and they hated her?

'Oh, do be quiet, Beauchamp,' Claire muttered as she knocked on the door. Here it goes…

"Come in!" The voice of a woman bellowed rather much to Claire's shock. She took a breath and opened up the door. The bedroom doors within the flat complex were all stuffed with messily placed boxes and suitcases. No one had started unpacking yet. She saw the kitchen up ahead of her had four people sat around it laughing. 

"Well thank God for that, another lass! I thought I was going to be spending my first year of uni drowning in testosterone at this rate!" the girl shouted rather loudly as she rushed over to Claire, hugging her. Claire was somewhat taken aback. From her speech, she could tell she was a Scot. She was rather striking, was Claire's first thought. Her hair was long and straight, with the most brilliant shade of red. She was pale, and her features were delicate yet strong. She looked like a Vermeer painting.

On the other hand, she looked nothing like a Vermeer painting. She had her septum pierced with the most beautiful detailed silver hoop. She wore black, ripped skinny jeans with not-so-white-anymore- converse trainers. Her tube top was a cherry red, making the brilliance of her hair even more pronounced. 

"The piercing is fake in case ye were wondering. In the words of my mother, "Ye can wear it all ye want Geilis; just for the love of God, don't let ye grannie see ye wearin' it during kirk she'll have a heart attack seeing ye. She'll for show know you dinna have a preference for the lads" Claire blushed the deepest shade of red; she was embarrassed at getting caught looking at her. To be honest, Claire didn't realize she had been staring. She was disconcerted by the boldness of this woman whom she met only 5 minutes prior. 

"Telling her ye life story already, Gellis?" One of the other boys pipes up laughing at the girl, Geilis. He was tall. He had the most mesmerizing shade of red hair. His eyes slanted like a cat. They were a beautiful sky blue and had a soft kindness about them. He grinned at Claire, giving her a playful wink. She smiled warmly at him. 

"Rude of ye Geillis to start talking about ye self before even asking the lass her name?" The boy with red hair said as he poured boiling water into the mugs on the table. 

Geilis scoffed, rolling her eyes at him as she grabbed the tea towel from the kitchen side and threw it at him. 

"That is such a guy thing to say. Asserting your authority and overriding the fact that your talking over me is doing what I was doing in the first place. So really, James, I am doing womankind a favor, dick." She said smugly as she sat down and put her feet up on the table on triumph. Jamie grinned widely at Geilis, nodding along to her arguments in agreement. 

"Aye, yer right. I shouldna' have said it like that. I'm sorry-"

"Ah, quit yer gallantry, Jamie, it makes the rest of us normal lads look like complete twats” Another boy (who was also a scot) says, swatting at Jamie with such cockiness it made Claire roll her eyes. 

"Oo, the lass speaks without speaking!" The cocky boy pipes up, looking her up and down. "Probably yer Englishness tongue ties ye to say anything that resembles disapproval" He taunts at her. Claire purses her lips, takes another breath, and shows him exactly what her Englishness will do.

"You know, insulting others is one of the lowest forms of wit. How very progressive of you to want to be better than sarcasm; better luck next time. Let me guess; you must be studying sports?" Claire added, satisfied as she saw the look on the boy's face drop for a second, and then he began to laugh. Claire smugged, very pleased with herself. 

"Oh, I like ye verra much. I know we're going to get along just fine" the boy says, raising his mug of tea as if it's a holy chalice. Claire rolls her eyes again.

"We'll see about that" she muttered under her breath. 

"And for your information, I am studying Applied Sport Science. And the names Ian." Ian says, beckoning for the quiet boy next to him to speak. He, too, looked tall. The boy had a studious look about him, donning a  mauve wool jumper with a cream collared shirt. He had such kind features and gorgeous, hazelnut coloured eyes.

"Um, hello, my name is John. John Gray, I also am English like yourself. I hail from Melton originally. I am studying History of Art and English Literature. Thank you" He added awkwardly at the end, blushing at his awkward choice of wording. Claire gave him the biggest smile she could to show him his sweetness meant a lot. He returned it, tension realizing slightly in his body. 

"Well, since we're doing one of those old school drama games I'll go next; My names Geillis, I'm a lesbian, and I'm studying astrophysics; Ian, your turn," Geillis says as she throws an imaginary ball to Ian. The group laughs at this as Ian dramatically 'catches' it. 

 

"I'm Ian, the asshole, and there's not much more you need to know about me. Right go on, Jamie, impress away" Ian says, letting the imaginary ball die in his hands forgotten. Jamie grins widely at him.

 

"Well, I'm Jamie, I'm from the highlands, and I'm studying Greek and Philosophy. I'll pass it on to you, Sassenach” Jamie says, recreating the ball and softly throwing it to Claire. He looks at her, smiling. She returns it, giving him a little nod. 

"My name is Claire. As we established earlier on, I am English, and I'll be studying Medicine." 

Everyone's eyes widened at that. 

'Ahh, so we'll be in safe hands with a doctor in the mix. I knew I liked ye for a reason; not all these artsy asswipes with their intellectual brains no, you and I are going to be practical ones." Ian smirked, giving Claire his fist.

'Jenny would give ye a bollocking if she heard this. It's almost painful to listen to ye man!" Jamie said, raising an eyebrow at his friend. The whole table laughed at this. 

 

Claire sat there, watching the member of her flat interacting. Geilis flamboyant hands and energy was helping John come out of his shell as they talked. John's calmness was bringing peace to the whole room. She looked over at the two men Ian and Jamie. They spoke to one another in Gaelic with such familiarity that their body language was so comfortable with one another. She could see the two of them had a special friendship. Perhaps Ian wasn't as cocky as he wanted to be. It was a facade. She could see that now looking at these two friends just merely being. Jamie laughed, joining in on Geilis' conversation. 

 

What will these new groups of people be to me? Claire wondered. She had a feeling deep down that these four strangers were about to become the most important people in her life. 

 

Little did she know just how much love and heartbreak they would bring her.