Mae faltered in the doorway of the snug. She looked like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards. She had clearly fallen at some point as the front of her thick black tights were ripped and her leather jacket skewed and torn at the cuff. Her hair looked like a burst couch and her face tearstained and contorted as she squinted angrily into the bar. It was a sad sight.
Davie looked beyond her to see if Maggie was with her, but she was very much alone. Davie sensing a scene, leapt up out of his chair and made his way towards her, he took her gingerly by the arm and gently but firmly led her out of the bar before she could lay eyes on Jamie.
Claire sat there open mouthed whilst Jamie seemed frozen to the spot with embarrassment. He reached over to Claire and grabbed her hand.
‘Come Sassenach, I don’t want you subjected to unnecessary upset.’
Claire stood and Jamie draped a protective arm around her shoulders which made her slightly emotional. She was so used to fending for herself, it was an unusual feeling to have someone looking out for her, protecting her. Claire had taught herself to be independent and had never wanted to rely on anything or anyone. This was unfamiliar territory, but she enjoyed the feeling that it opened up.
She leaned gently into him and was pleasantly surprised at how they moulded into one another so naturally. They left the bar and made their way back upstairs to Jamie’s flat.
The soft lights in the flat were still on, the log burner almost out. Jamie rushed to resurrected the fire and it roared into life again instantly warming the room.
Jamie stood with his back to Claire staring into the fire. He was thinking back to the moment that Claire knocked on his door, just after Mae had left.
She stood there, breath-taking in her log elegant dark green dress, it curved around her bust and nipped her waist and fell to the floor, it flared at the elbows with a little ruffle. The colour was a beautiful contrast to her dark curls. She was right in front of him, and he was a free man, free to love her, free to pledge everything he was, and everything he had.
Even after Mae’s bombshell, he was still feeling hopeful, he knew deep in his heart it would be okay. He had not fully registered that fact that Mae had told Claire about the pregnancy and yet no matter how much that must have hurt, she still came to him, to listen. He stood staring into the fire trying to make sense of all that had happened in the last few hours.
‘Care to share what is on your mind?’ asked Claire
Jamie turned and looked at the beauty before him, running his hand nervously through his hair.
‘Och, Sassenach, you don’t deserve all this hassle. I am just grateful that you didn’t bolt after her first outburst. I was hoping that as she and I had not been together for too long she would take it in her stride. I mean I know she might be upset but no-one wants to be on a one-sided relationship, right?
I know she likes a drink, but I don’t think I have seen her in that state before. Goes to show that she isn’t pregnant though. She’s a nurse and knows the dangers, what a daft lassie.’
Claire got up from the armchair she had settled in and made her way across to him. She wrapped her arms around his middle and squeezed.
‘Do you have any holiday left to take this year?’
‘Aye, why?’ answered Jamie.
‘Well, I have been asked to do a photo shoot for a Whisky brand. I was going to say no but it’s only a couple of hours away at Gleneagles in Perthshire. I thought you might want to come along, save me from lecherous photographers, see me in action, get an insight into my world? We could then take some time to explore the countryside, the accommodation is paid for, good food, good wine, fresh air. What do you think? A few days rest and relaxation?’
Jamie visibly relaxed, grinning. ‘Sass Alexander that is a bloody brilliant idea and the answer is yes! When do we leave? Jamie beamed.
Jamie’s phone buzzed; it was Davie.
'Mae hammered and crabbit. She is sleeping it off in my spare room. Called my wee Sister, she will stay at mine tonight, canny trust Mae. You owe me big time.' D
Jamie read out the text to Claire. She sighed. She won’t go quietly Jamie, she will not give up until she proves something, anything.’
Claire looked up at him, tears starting to swell.
‘I’ve tried not to think ahead Jamie, tried not to imagine if you are the father to her child before we have a chance to rebuild. It will make it so hard. A child with another woman will massive obstacle between us. I feel such an utter cow for even contemplating that a child could be a barrier to my happiness but that’s how I feel. I am so sorry.’
‘I know Sassenach, I know. I ken in my heart that she isn’t pregnant and frankly I hate myself for wishing that a life didn’t exist, but I know that if there is a bairn, it’s not mine and I don’t want it to be mine. That makes us equal if we are bad then we are both bad.
I know what I know Sassenach. Let’s not worry about what we can’t control right now. What was it you told me about your happy and sad box? Let’s start planning things to go into your happy box. I know some fine places around Gleneagles that we can explore. Let’s start planning and live according to us and no-one else. This is our life, and we will create our own big box of happiness full of our memories.
They spent the next couple of hours in each other’s arms, kissing sweetly, telling stories, reliving yet more memories but filling each other in on those lost years.
Jamie explained the Distillery business to Claire. How it was important to him to earn his position and to work his way up the ranks through merit and not just because he was Brian Fraser’s son. He described his vision to expand the brand internationally and put Markinch on the map once more.
Jamie listened intently as Claire shared experiences from her modelling career, it felt therapeutic to share her new world with her old world. Of course, she only gave him the good parts, travelling the world, making good money, and keeping the designer clothes. She did not share the lecherous photographers, the sexual predators, of both sexes, the long boring days, and the repetitive nature of the work, being recognised, adored, and vilified, in equal measure as the face of Chanel.
Claire eventually made her way back to the Covenantors, as much as she wanted to stay cooried deep in Jamie’s arms all night, she had reluctantly pulled herself away. It was important that they took this this slowly. Neither of them wanted this relationship to be about memories or merely physical attraction. It had to be real, something that could be sustained and that meant taking it slow.
The next morning Jamie woke feeling hopeful for the first time in years, he felt refreshed. peaceful, invincible. He smiled to himself, dreamlike, knowing he would be seeing her soon.
As he lay in slumber, a warm pair of familiar arms wrapped gently around his middle and he sighed pleasurably, all was good with the world.
He suddenly realised that the hands wrapped around his torso were rough in texture and not the smooth hands he had been dreaming of. He shot up in bed to find Mae lying completely naked beside him, her clothes in a heap on the floor at the far side of the room.
‘Mae what the fuck are you doing here?’ fumed Jamie.
‘I know you love me, and I know you won’t turn your back on me Jamie’ She was half screaming and half sobbing. He glared at her wondering if she was still under the influence of drink.
Jamie was too angry to feel sympathy. She can’t just wander into his bed for fucks sake, it’s just not right.
A second later he heard the front door to the flat slam shut and a familiar voice sweetly filled the air.
‘Jamie, are you there? I have bacon rolls and fresh coffee from Campbells!’ Claire shouted through to the bedroom.
Jamie’s blood ran cold as he pulled on his jeans. He had no idea how to explain this one to Claire. Fuck.
Jamie rushed bare chested into the sitting room ‘Claire, before you say anything, I have to let you know…….’
Before Jamie could utter one more word Mae appeared behind him, wearing Jamie’s shirt from the previous evening and obviously totally naked underneath. She smiled at Claire.
Mae looked like she was the proverbial fat cat with the double cream.
‘Good morning, Mae, glad to see you looking better than you were last night’ chirped Claire staring directly at her, completely unfazed.
Mae visibly bristled at the slight from Claire. Clearly that blow had not landed.
Jamie, mortified, looked behind him. ‘Mae what are you doing? I’ve told you once, you can’t just sneak in here whenever you like and climb into my bed, I won’t stand for it, do you hear me? You don’t live here, you never have!’ Jamie felt that he had to repeat himself once more just so Claire could hear it.
Jamie was panicking wildly, and he had broken out into a horrible clammy sweat. He knew how this must sound to Claire right now.
‘You didn’t say that to me earlier this morning Jamie’ said Mae cattily ‘When you told me you were glad that your bairn was in my belly, and you made love to me again’
‘What? Are you mad woman? I didn’t even ken you were there! Out now, if you don’t dress right now, I will dump on the street with your clothes in your arms, I am warning you Mae’
Mae, huffed and stormed back into the bedroom slamming the door behind her.
Jamie rushed to Claire, ‘Sassenach, it’s not what you think, I swear to you sweetheart, on my life and on the lives of those I love and hold dear’ begged Jamie.
Claire stepped towards him and laid her soft hand gently on his cheek.
‘I know’ she smiled up at him.
‘I saw her let herself in to the flat though the side door, she got the key from the key box. I would have come earlier but I am ravenous and thought that if we were going to have a scene we might as well have something to sustain us’ Claire turned the oven on low, wrapped the bacon rolls in tin foil and placed them inside the oven, to be enjoyed when Mae had left.
The bedroom door opened, and Mae came storming out. ‘You bastard, this is not the end and don’t think it is’ spat Mae as she went to leave. However, before she reached the door Claire shouted out to her.
‘Mae wait.’ Mae turned round in surprise, and she watched cautiously as Claire move towards her.
Claire reached into Mae’s coat pocket and fished out the key to Jamie’s flat.
If looks could kill Claire would have been several thousand feet under the fine Scottish peaty earth.
‘I don’t think you will be needing this. Sorry Mae, but you can’t just let yourself into Jamie’s flat whenever you like. I am so sorry for what you are going through but there are boundaries. You know what boundaries are don’t you Mae?
I don’t have to want to call on our local police constable, do I? Unlawful entry for starters. Goodness knows what else you tried to do in there without Jamie’s consent. You are supposed to be a pillar of the community Mae, it would not look good if you were carried off to the klink for breaking and entering or touching someone without consent. Take some time to think about it dear Mae.’ Said Claire firmly.
Mae’s worried ashen face glared at Claire as Jamie stood by mesmerized by the new fierce Claire.
‘This is not the end,’ she huffed, ‘he will pay for the bairn’