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After All This Time

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Chapter Eight:

It's been three days since Claire returned home, and other than their one phone conversation where they argued, she hasn't spoken to Jamie except through a handful of texts.

And even those have been short answers—the bare basics to get by. And it's irritating her.

Jamie is pulling away, she can feel it. She's tried calling him, but he always sends a text back saying he's busy at work and will call later, but never does. Only texts. Bastard.

She should be heartsick—and a part of her is—but more than anything, she's angry. This is exactly what he did two fucking decades ago when he thought pulling away was the only way to get her to go to medical school.

He'd been right, damn him. But still. This is not how problems should be resolved between people, even two as stubborn as they are.

Memories of the past swirl through Claire's mind, which just stirs up even more emotion in her.

"How was the funeral?" she hesitantly asked Jamie, situating herself on her bed.

Brian Fraser had passed away from cancer last week, and though she wanted to fly over there to support Jamie, she wasn't able to. She'd already committed to working at the museum for the summer and couldn't get out of it no matter how much she begged Uncle Lamb.

"It was fine," Jamie said, though she could hear the emotion in his voice. "Lots of friends and family showed up."

"That was nice of them. How's Jenny doing?"

He sighed. "Fine. She and Ian just found out they're having a boy."

Claire smiled, telling Jamie how wonderful that was.

He went quiet, and she wasn't sure what to say. She just sat there, letting him collect his thoughts.

"Claire…"

Claire? The use of her name shook her, worried her. He never called her by her name. It was always some sort of pet name like Sassenach or mo nighean donn.

Her brows furrowed and she shifted up on the top of her bed, crossing her legs beneath her. "Jamie, what is it?"

She listened to him sniffle, her own eyes misting over as her stomach dropped. "I canna come back to the States."

"Wh… why?"

Jamie sighed, crying as he told her that he was responsible for the farm now. "Jenny canna do it. Ian just got out of the hospital after his accident, they've got the babe coming…" he exhaled shakily, "it's jus' too much fer her right now. I have to do this."

She completely understood wanting to support his family, but surely he'd come back for college in the fall. They were going to move to Boston together, start school in September and have a life together. It's what they'd been planning for months.

"What about Boston? You'll come back in August or something to move our things?"

"No, Sassenach," he said softly, like he was comforting a small child. "I willna be comin' back."

Anger flared in her, taking over the sadness trying to consume her soul. "What do you mean?" She started to cry, unsure if it was from being upset or being angry. "We have a plan, Jamie. We're moving to Boston together for Christ's sake. Starting school… we have so many dreams."

Jamie sighed again, then sniffled, crying to her, "I have tae put our dreams on hold." He groaned, as if upset with himself or tortured by this decision, and selfishly she hoped he was. "I have to take care o' my family, o' our business. We'd have nothin' wi'out the farm, ye ken that." He cried, taking a moment to collect himself. "Especially wi… wi' Da gone now," he choked on that last bit, and guilt swarmed in her stomach along with every other emotion she was feeling. "I'm th' only one who can manage it all right now."

"But… you'll come back, right?" She doesn't want to sound weak, but she can feel the future she'd dreamed about for the last almost year slipping away from her. "Eventually? Maybe you can start in January, or… or next fall, spend some time there until then."

"I'm sae sorry, Claire," he cried, "Oh god, please forgive me. I dinna ken what things will look like in a few months, I canna promise ye anything." He sniffled, and added, "Ye go to Boston, ken? Dinna let my bad fortune stop ye from achieving yer own dreams of bein' a doctor."

She'd cried and he had, too, both sobbing together as they knew their dreams were crashing and burning right before their eyes.

Claire had a decision to make. She could either do what Jamie said, move to Boston and become a doctor, or… or she could move to Scotland. She could be with him, maybe go to school there and help on the farm where she could.

After their phone call, Claire tried calling Jamie every day, to let him know she was considering going to school in Scotland instead. They could make it work. She'd dreamt of attending Harvard her entire life, her parents had gone there as well, and she always felt a connection to the place. But… but Jamie wouldn't be there. Could she live with that?

He answered once, was on the phone with her long enough for Claire to relay her thought process about moving overseas.

After that, however, he'd stopped taking her calls. It was as if he had never even existed in her life.

She called every day for weeks, the first month of summer break flying by in a blur of tears. By July, she'd started to accept that it was over, that he was never going to speak to her again. She'd call every week in hopes that he'd pick up, but he never did.

{*********************}

"Still no word from him, honey?" Lamb asked, bringing a plate with something for lunch into her room and handing it to her.

Claire smiled sadly up at her uncle, shaking her head as she reached out for the sandwich and grapes. "No," she huffed, whisky eyes filling with tears again. Her voice trembled as she told him, "He won't answer my phone calls."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. Maybe give him a few days," Lamb reasoned, "His dad just passed, I'm sure he's going through a lot right now."

"Yeah," she sighed, knowing this was different. If Jamie was just simply busy with his family's business, he would have at least answered her calls, talked through their options together more.

Claire thanked her uncle for her lunch, leaning her back against her headboard as she took a bite of the turkey sandwich, letting Will & Grace fill the quietness of her bedroom.

Lamb leaned down, placing a light kiss to the top of her head, and telling her he'd be in his office if she needed anything.

Once the door was closed, Claire sat her plate down on the bedside table. She curled under a blanket and cried into her pillow, hoping the sounds of audience laughter as Jack and Karen bumped chests would drown out her sobs so Lamb couldn't hear.

The next day, Claire rang Jamie again, and once again got his voicemail.

"Jamie," she said with a shake to her voice. She cleared it, not wanting to sound weak, but this was torture. "I just want to talk to you, Jamie. I need to know what is going on." She pulled her head away from the phone long enough to sniffle, hoping that he couldn't hear it on the message. "Please call me back. I love you."

Hanging up, she had accepted her fate and a decision was made. He'd forced her hand without giving her a choice in the matter.

She was going to Harvard.

She'd start school next month and would have to learn to live with the other half of her heart missing.

By August, she'd completely stopped trying to contact Jamie, enraged now more than upset. She and Lamb packed her belongings and moved her into her first dorm room at the end of the month, and with a giant kiss and lots of tears, Lamb left her to go back home to New York.

Since she was in college now, Lamb was going to start going on more excavations and she was happy for him. He'd always missed it, but she would miss him terribly. He'd promised to never miss a birthday or holiday, though, working his digs around her school schedule. He'd also be home every few weeks so there were weekends she could drive up for a visit.

Settled into her dorm, Claire eventually established a life without Jamie as well. She thought of him often, anger flaring up when she did, but also a level of love she thought she'd never have with anyone else. It was confusing, and the fact that she still loved him, despite being rejected and heartbroken, made it even worse.

She learned, however, to move on and live life without Jamie Fraser.

{***********************}

On this bright and early Monday morning, Claire has her first shift at the hospital since coming home from Scotland, so she shakes thoughts of the past away and readies herself, deciding to focus on work instead of Jamie.

She's exhausted, but she isn't sure if it's from jet lag or from the emotional rollercoaster she's been on since leaving him Friday afternoon.

While in surgery, she misses a call from him. But two can play the avoidance game, she decides, so she shoots him a text when she gets out, letting him know she'd been in surgery and would call after her shift.

No response.

She finishes another surgery—Joe assisting with it this time, all the while asking her what's wrong. Claire just shakes her head each time he asks, telling him not to worry. She didn't want to discuss it in front of the nurses and other doctors in the operating room, anyway. Her personal life would be the hottest gossip to spread like wildfire if she did that.

"It's nothing," she tries to assure, glancing toward the nurses.

Joe must catch her meaning because his eyes crinkle with a smile behind his mask and nods. He gives her a little wink and she grins, focusing back on their patient.

Once they are both cleaned up and changed from the surgery, Joe catches her before she can dash out of the door to head home.

"Talk to me, LJ," he says gently, taking her hand and leading her back to the chairs in his office.

Sighing, she closes her eyes and rubs her hand across the back of her neck. She's exhausted. Physically and emotionally drained.

"It's Jamie…" she starts, eyes misting over as she relays the events to Joe.

He listens intently, like always, and when she finishes, Joe tells her not to worry. "He'll come around, Claire," he assures, "He's trying to do what he thinks is best, I suppose."

With a scoff, she rolls her eyes. "That's what I'm afraid of." Glancing at her phone, which still has no text from Jamie, she looks up at her friend. "I need to get home to Julia."

Nodding, Joe stands, pulling her into a hug. "Alright, Lady Jane. Have a good night and I'll see you tomorrow." He gives her an affectionate squeeze, adding with a playful wink, "Try not to worry. He can't avoid you forever, who could?"

She smiles sadly, kissing his cheek before heading out for the night.

{*************************}

Claire walks into her house, immediately trudging up the stairs to her bedroom.

She tosses her briefcase onto her bed before stripping down as she makes her way to her bathroom.

Showering takes longer than planned. She was going to just hop in and wash her body off, but she's plagued by what is happening. She lets the water run over her skin as memories from the past fill her mind.

She cries into the shower's mist, hoping Julia cannot hear her.

She's angry at Jamie, misses him at the same time, though. And more than that, she's angry with herself. She is a thirty-eight year old woman, she should not be pining away for a man like this. She has a child, a steady career, she has everything people want in life… except love. She thought she had that, but…

Claire finally pulls herself from the warm shower, drying her tears and her body before throwing on yoga pants and a t-shirt and heading downstairs.

Julia is in the kitchen and the smell of something delicious hits Claire's nostrils before she's even inside the room.

"Something smells divine," she declares, plastering on a smile and walking to stand beside Julia at the stove.

Wrapping her arms around her mother, Julia smiles and thanks her. "I'm making us enchiladas."

"Sounds delicious," Claire says, hugging her daughter. She moves with a practiced ease, pulling out plates and silverware. "Thank you, darling. I'm sorry you had to cook tonight."

Julia shrugs, "You had a long surgery today. And besides, we both know your cooking isn't that great, Mom, so it really was no trouble at all."

Claire chuckles, but even she can tell it doesn't sound as genuine as it should.

"What's wrong?" Julia asks, eyeing her mother skeptically.

She doesn't want to burden her child with boy problems, that's her job when Julia has an issue, so she shakes her head, saying it's nothing.

Julia tilts her head, giving Claire a look that clearly says she doesn't believe her. Reaching for the oven mitts, Julia pulls out their dinner. Claire begins to plate their food while Julia pulls out glasses and fills them with water.

Once at the table, Julia tries once again to coax it out of her. "Spill," she demands, taking a bite of her food. She tells Claire that she's been there for her when she's upset, "especially when it comes to boys," the teenager grins wryly, "which I have a feeling that's what this mood is all about." She reaches for her mother's hand, adding, "You haven't been yourself since you got back from Scotland the other day."

Claire grins, albeit half heartedly, and sighs.

"It's nothing. Really, sweetheart." She glances up at Julia and swallows around the lump forming in her throat. "Let's just enjoy these delicious enchiladas and then we can watch a movie before bed." She smiles brightly, a false smile, but one she hopes convinces her daughter that she's alright.

"Okay…" Julia drawls, clearly not believing her but letting it go for the time being anyway.

She picks up her fork, taking a few bites before saying, "Are we still going to get stuff for my dorm tomorrow?"

"Of course," Claire smiles, emotional now over the fact that her baby is all grown up more than her issues with Jamie.

With a sigh, Claire decides to focus on the positives in her life, at least for now, and they spend the rest of dinner planning what Julia wants her dorm to look like, and things she'll need like dishes and a small television.

{**************************}

The next day, she has a day shift at the hospital, so with a kiss to Julia's cheek as the teen heads off to school, Claire makes her way to work.

It's Tuesday, just four days since she's been back, and the pit of dread in her stomach has only grown. Jamie didn't respond to a single message yesterday, and she doesn't know what to do.

She meets Joe at their offices, both having a mound of paperwork and patient files to get through before they perform a surgery on their patient's brain tumor. They've been preparing for it for weeks on end, the tumor is in a tricky spot and will take a lot of concentration, so Claire tells herself to put her boy troubles out of mind and focus on the task at hand.

"You good in here, LJ?" Joe asks, walking across from his office to hers. He's got a stack of files under his arm, and he drops them on the small table in her office.

He sits down, making himself at home.

Claire smiles, nodding. "Something wrong with your office?"

Joe snickers, looking over at her. "Nah," he shrugs, "I just figured this way I can get some work done and get you to open up about Jamie."

She rolls her eyes, looking back at her latest file with a huff.

"But work can come first," Joe declares, going quiet as he looks over his paperwork.

She appreciates him, really, she does. He's a comfort to her right now, and even though she doesn't want to talk about it, wants to just put Jamie behind her for the time being, she knows she'll open up to her best friend.

They work in companionable silence for half an hour, Joe's eyes glancing over to her every now and then.

Despite telling herself she wouldn't, Claire can't help but check her phone for any messages.

I have that massive tumor surgery today I told you about. Wish me luck and have a good day… call me later. is what she sends, cursing herself for being weak and reaching out after she told herself she wouldn't.

Another ten minutes, and still no response, she huffs, tossing her pen down on her wooden desk.

Claire looks over at Joe, who is already staring at her, his eyes so sympathetic that it makes her want to cry. "He hasn't answered my texts at all since Sunday. I know that's only two days, but..." she trails off, rolling her eyes at her own weakness.

Joe's lips purse, and she can tell he's trying to choose his words wisely. "Do you think giving him some space would make him see reason or do you think it'll push him away?"

She shrugs, telling him honestly, "I don't know. Last time this happened, he stopped answering my calls and I didn't hear from him for two whole decades." Her eyes grow wet, but she blinks the tears away. "I don't want to lose him, but I also don't want to have to chase after a man. I feel pathetic." She scoffs, picking up her mug to take a sip of coffee. "Like a desperate little girl chasing after the only boy she's ever loved."

"Would you go to him?" Joe asks, clasping his hands together and resting them on his belly as his legs stretch out in front of him.

Claire looks at him incredulously. "I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because that really would be desperate. I just got back from Scotland four days ago." She scoffs in derision once more. "That would be rather piteous of me—a grown woman, to chase a man halfway around the world, don't you think?"

Her friend shrugs, casually asking, "Do you love him?"

She sighs, closing her eyes briefly to collect herself. "Of course," she tells him. "I—I don't know how to explain it. It's crazy, Joe, but loving Jamie…" she shakes her head, "it's the most powerful thing I've ever felt in my life."

Joe gives her a soft smile, saying calmly, "Let me ask you this then," he pauses, gathering his thoughts, "Would you rather fly across the ocean one more time to try and fight for your relationship, or are you okay just letting him go with no resolution? Never to speak to him again." He gives her a look that says he knows what she truly wants but won't admit it to herself. "Because I don't know if I could if I were you; I didn't in fact."

"What do you mean?"

He grins, telling her how before he married Gail, she'd broken up with him and gone back to her ex. She was scared, afraid of how serious they were getting, and Joe eventually went across the country to Seattle and begged her to come back. "It made me feel weak, and pathetic, but you know what? I knew I was in love with her, that she was my person, and I'd do it all over again to end up married to my girl."

Claire smiles, she never knew that about her friends. And she can't lie, it does give her some hope.

"Joe," she sighs, closing her eyes and tilting her head back, trying to reel in her emotions. She opens, looking back at her friend. "I don't want to lose him," she admits, voice growing thick with emotion, "But like I said, I just got back a few days ago."

"So?" Joe asks, as if that's the silliest excuse he's ever heard. "I'd rather you get on another plane and try to find the happiness I've seen radiating from you for the last few months, than have you mourn a relationship for years to come, especially when you could've done something about it."

She sighs, his words cutting to her core. She tears up, squeezing her eyes tight, causing a lone tear to cascade down her cheek. She doesn't want to cry, doesn't want anyone to see her falling apart over this. God, she feels so ridiculous. An independent woman shouldn't be this heartsick over a man. But, when it's love, she supposes there are no rules.

Joe gets up at the sight of her tears, sliding into the chair on the other side of her desk. He reaches out, and she takes his hand, sniffling and apologizing.

"You have nothing to apologize for, Lady Jane," he tells her softly, giving her hand a squeeze, "but let me say this." His brown eyes connect with hers, making sure she's really listening before adding, "I've watched you for years put your daughter and your career first. You've always put yourself on the back burner in order to give Julia the best childhood possible." He smiles, "and you have. You've made that little girl beyond happy. But you deserve the same type of happiness, too." He sighs, leaning back in the chair and looking at her pointedly. "If you have a second chance at love, you should take it."

Damn. His words hit her full force, and she thinks her heart might actually be splitting in two.

He's right… she still feels desperate, pathetic, not the woman she knows herself to be. But she also knows she'll spend the rest of her life with only half a heart if she doesn't talk to Jamie.

Joe's words definitely give her a lot to contemplate.

But she has to focus on work right now, she can't be distracted.

With that, she gives Joe one last grateful smile and takes the last two swigs of her coffee.

Standing, Claire comes around the desk to hug her friend. "Thank you, Joe," she murmurs, "I'll think about it, I will."

He smiles right back, "Good. Plus, you know," he draws, giving her a devious little grin, "I've told you time and time again that Raigmore is close to Jamie's house. It would be an easy commute when you move there."

She rolls her eyes, swatting at his shoulder. "You're never giving that up, are you? Convincing me to move to Scotland."

"Is it working?" he asks with a silly gleam in his eye.

Shaking her head, she can't help the blasé smile she gives him. "Goodbye, Joe," she asserts with a straight face and a raise of her eyebrows, pointing in the direction of his office.

He chortles, patting her on the shoulder before picking up his files and walking back to his office.

Sighing, she picks up the last bit of the protein bar she'd been munching on and gathers her first patient's file.

As she passes Joe's office, she calls out, "I'll see you in surgery at noon."

He smiles and waves her off, and Claire grins, feeling much better now that she's unloaded her feelings on Joe and gotten some advice.

{***************************}

After work, she heads home, showering and changing into jeans and a plain black shirt while she waits for Julia to get home from school.

Once she does, they load up in the car and head to the nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick out all the accessories that Julia will need in her dorm room.

"You'll need bed risers," Claire informs her, pulling into the parking spot. "That way you'll have more space under your bed for storage."

Julia nods, adding it to her ever growing list of things to look for.

Twin size bed comforter, pillows to match, a small tv, under bed storage containers, bed risers.

She taps her notebook, saying, "I think we should be able to find all of these things here, except the TV."

Claire smiles, glancing over at her daughter as they make their way inside the store. "Don't worry, darling," she tells her, "Joe and Gail said they wanted to get one for you as a graduation gift."

Julia beams, bouncing on her heels as she flits from aisle to aisle, touching everything and adding more items to her list.

Claire laughs, knowing she'll get most of these things at her graduation party, but she's glad Julia is having fun.

Thinking of her graduation party just leads her mind to wander to Jamie. They'd talked about him flying to Boston for the graduation and staying for a week or so.

Her heart physically aches with the thought that he might not be there now.

Even though she told herself she wouldn't, Claire takes out her phone, tapping on the screen to see if Jamie has replied to her earlier message.

She'd done her best to stay busy at work today, only checking it a handful of times, which just ended up being torture for her so she eventually shut it off until the end of her shift.

No unread texts. Fuck.

"Mom?"

Claire glances up, locking her phone and sliding it into her back pocket. "Hmm?"

"You alright?" Julia asks, an uneasy laugh bubbling out of her. "I was asking what you thought of this comforter."

She holds up a light blue and green plaid bedding set, and though it instantly makes her think of the tartan scarves she'd gotten for Louise and Gail, she swallows down the lump in her throat and tries to stay present in the moment with her daughter. "It looks nice, I like the colors."

Julia nods, giving Claire a small, dubious smile. "I like it, but I think I might want like, a plain color so I can add all different decorations."

"That makes sense," she replies, smiling as Julia puts the plaid one back and proceeds to look at the solid options instead.

They shop for the next hour, collecting all the items they'd gone after, plus a few more.

After shopping, they head to dinner at their favorite Italian restaurant. They're seated in a booth near the back, and as they receive their garlic knots from the waiter, Claire checks her phone one more time.

Sighing, she closes her eyes, her heart breaking a little bit more. It's only seven in Boston, and she knows there's every possibility he's asleep since it's midnight, but he could have answered her at any point today.

"Are you okay, Mom?" Julia asks sincerely, reaching over to pat Claire's hand. "You seem like you're a million miles away."

Claire wills herself to smile, knowing her heart certainly is. She takes a sip of her water as she nods. "Yes, darling," she assures, "I just haven't heard from Jamie in a few days."

"You haven't?" the teen asks, eyes widening. "That doesn't sound like the two of you."

Claire grins humorlessly, taking a deep breath to try and calm her racing heart. She doesn't want to talk about this, not with her child, so she tries to brush it off. "He just seems to be pulling away ever since he found out about the chief of surgery promotion." She shrugs, trying to act like it isn't vexing her as much as it really is. She doesn't want her daughter to worry about her. "He hasn't really answered my calls, and he barely responds to my texts."

Julia's brows furrow, and Claire can't help but to chuckle at the protective gleam in her child's eyes. "Well that's annoying."

"Yes," Claire smirks, "it really is." She sighs again, saying, "I know he's doing it to show me how much I love my work, but…"

"You love him more than being chief of surgery."

Claire looks up from her plate, glossy eyed. "When did you get so smart?"

Julia snickers, "I've always been this smart. You're just the one usually trying to help me solve my boy problems."

They both laugh, and Claire reaches out, taking Julia's hand in hers.

"Is it my fault?" Julia asks softly, a look of guilt on her face. "I was the one who said something about the promotion to him on the phone."

"Oh, no, darling," Claire assures, squeezing Julia's hand and tugging it a little closer. She kisses the hand she's still holding, telling her, "He would have found out one way or another, it doesn't matter which one of us it came from."

Julia nods, but Claire can tell she still feels bad. And shit, that is exactly why she didn't want to involve her daughter. She would never want her to be burdened by her mother's dating issues.

But, well, she's involved now, so Claire relents, admitting, "I… I don't exactly know what to do."

Julia is aware of Claire and Jamie's past, of how everything went down when they were her age, so Claire knows that she understands fully when she confesses, "I'm just scared it'll be another twenty years before I see him again."

"Well, that," Julia says with a soft smile, "is not an option."

Claire huffs a soft laugh, shaking her head. "I can't just keep calling him in hopes that he answers, nor do I want to stop talking to him completely." She lets out a long, deep sigh. "It's complicated."

"So… go to him." She shrugs, picking up a garlic knot and taking a bite.

"What?"

"Go to him!" Julia repeats, sitting up in her seat. "He's clearly just being stubborn, so if he won't answer your calls or texts, force him to talk to you by showing up on his doorstep… Like not in a creepy way, of course, but in a romantic movie, I can't live without you, type of way," Julia chuckles, then gasps, eyes going wide. "It'll be just like a movie!"

Grinning, Claire rolls her eyes. This is ludicrous. Julia sounds just like Joe this morning. Shaking her head, she tells her daughter, "I've been gone so much lately between my business trip to Scotland, work, and then going back to Scotland. I don't want to leave you again." She huffs softly, slumping back against the booth's seat. "You move out in two months, I want all the time I can get with you!"

"It's just a weekend, Mom. I'll be hanging out with Lizzie and them anyway; we have Lizzie's slumber party on Saturday, remember? And I can go stay with Uncle Joe again on Friday night if it makes you feel better."

The irrational part of her wants to jump at the opportunity, wants to leap up from her seat, book a flight and go right now. Her heart is screaming at her to do it, to go to him, to fight for them, but her mind is swirling, telling her how foolish this is, how desperate she seems.

She's torn. But she knows that Jamie is just as stubborn as she is, if not more, and if they're going to make this work, really and truly work, she'll have to be the bigger person and give in first.

She's pulled from her thoughts when she hears Julia saying, "You know you're gonna end up moving there eventually!"

Her daughter laughs, but Claire's heart stops for a moment. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, come on, Mom," Julia snickers. "I know Uncle Joe gave you those brochures you pretend not to look at every night." She smirks, reaching to take Claire's hand. "You love Jamie, and I'll be off at college in a few months. It would be like so perfect!" She claps her hands together excitedly, continuing, "It would also give me a great excuse to come visit Scotland… I mean, as long as you're paying for the flight, of course. I'll be a broke college student after all."

Claire laughs at that, shaking her head. "Darling, I…"

"It would be so romantic!" Julia interrupts, eyes growing wide. "You have to do it! Or at least think about it."

The teenager shrugs, grinning into her glass as she sips her water. "But you can think about that after you go to Scotland this weekend and make up with him. Listen to your heart, Mom!"

She swears her seventeen year old and Joe have been conspiring together, have to have been, and god, her daughter is just as sappy and romantic as Jamie is. She chuckles to herself at the thought, heart stinging just a bit more at thoughts of him.

Joe's words from earlier, and his story of chasing after Gail and how much it was worth it all swarm her mind, like a constant buzzing she can't seem to shake.

Closing her eyes, she takes in a long, steadying breath to calm her heart. She makes a decision that gives her even more anxiety, but she has to believe is for the best. Pulling out her phone, she looks to Julia, admitting, "Alright… if you're sure."

"Yes! Absolutely!" Julia claps her hands together excitedly, practically bouncing in the booth.

With a nervous stomach and a shaking hand, Claire books a last minute flight for Friday, just three days from now. She feels like a fool, feels as if she's making a mistake, but she pushes those fears down, telling herself that it'll be worth it.

It could all blow up in her face, she could come back on Sunday a broken hearted mess, but Joe's words keep playing on a loop in her mind.

If you have a second chance at love, you should take it.

She just hopes Jamie is open to a second, or rather, third, chance at love as well.

{***********************}

It's crazy y'all, but love makes you do things you never thought you would so *shrugs* lol… I hope you liked this one. Please let me know what you thought!