I’m trying to call the prison, to no avail. They won’t give me any information. I even call Murtagh who barely understands a single word I say as I’m trying to catch my breath.
“I’ll try to get more information, lass, dinna fash! I will gi’ ye a call back.”
After I hang up and silence surrounds me once again. The officer’s voice continues to echo through my mind and I wonder if I heard him say those words correctly, as if Jamie really had to go into isolation. But my biggest worry and the question that is nagging at me every passing second is if he’s okay.
His cursing, the clattering, the anger in his voice, it makes me shudder just thinking about it.
The second my phone rings, I jump from the ringtone, my finger hitting the green button quicker than intended when I see Murtagh’s name popping up on my screen.
“Please tell me he’s okay,” I say, pacing the floor as I’m biting nervously on my fingernail.
“He’s like ye said, in isolation. They said he got in a fight wi’ an inmate. I dinna ken what it was about, but they told me we canna visit him fer a month.”
It feels like someone has reached inside of my chest and is slowly squeezing my heart. Breathing becomes harder as I clutch my phone.
“Lass?” Murtagh’s voice is filled with concern as he repeatedly calls out my name. When he threatens to come over I take a deep breath to reassure him.
“I’m alright. Don’t worry.” I fake a smile to make my voice sound warmer. I wouldn’t want him to come over, I wouldn’t want him to see me like this, hell, I’m not even letting Geillis see me like this.
“If ye need anything, ye ken where to reach me.”
A few seconds of silence before I hum in question.
“He’s a strong lad, he’ll get through it.” I bite down on my lip to avoid shedding the tears that build up in the corners of my eyes.
Jamie might be strong and get through it, but I’m not so sure if I will.
Friday comes around too quickly and I’m staring at the piece of paper that has my speech written on it for the quarterly meeting. As if I’m not anxious enough already about everything going on, I have to stand in front of the whole firm and introduce myself. The very same firm that is responsible for putting Jamie where he is.
Usually I’m a very outspoken person and can handle people very well, but not if my thoughts are scattered all around, not if I can’t control the way I’m feeling, not if my mind drifts away to a certain Scot wrongfully behind bars. Murtagh has tried to call me the last few days and I kept telling him at work that he doesn’t have to worry about me, yet my glass face betrays me on a daily basis and has the poor man worried even more.
“Are ye ready?” He says from behind his desk while he watches me straightening the hem of my blazer while taking a deep breath.
“As ready as I can be.”
“Ye’ll do great,” is all he says, before walking inside the big conference room that is slowly filling with more and more people.
I did great and it’s a small thing to be proud of, yet I still smile with pride at the applause from my co-workers and my boss, Jack Randall, who sits at the head of the table, glaring at me with his dark brown eyes that send a shiver down my spine. His lips are curled up into a tiny smile before he whispers something to Dougal sitting next to him. Dougal’s shoulders shake with laughter at whatever he said and I walk back to take my seat next to Murtagh.
“I’m proud o’ ye lass.” He smiles while still clapping his hands a few more times for me.
Two more weeks pass and I haven’t heard a single thing from Jamie. No written words to read, and no phone calls to plan, and I’m going slowly but surely crazy. I’ve become so accustomed to hearing from him that this feels like a black void slowly swallowing me. And it truly scares me.
I’m sitting in front of the TV, watching the News when I realise it’s almost midnight on a Sunday evening. I groan in protest at the thought of having to go to work tomorrow and decide to send Murtagh a message that I’m calling in sick. All I want to do is sleep, bury myself in a blanket and close my eyes until I’m able to see Jamie again.
Another few days pass and I’m back at work, watching Dougal pass mine and Murtagh’s office to head upstairs where Jonathan’s office is. I turn to face Murtagh whose gaze follows the man as well.
“I think it’s happenin’ again.” His voice is just above a whisper as he comes over to sit next to me. “Back then, he used to go upstairs all the time, Jonathan using Dougals position so it wouldna be suspicious fer him to constantly visit the boss’ office.”
“He’s heading up there for the third time today,” I say and Murtagh nods.
“We have to think smart and we canna rush anything. We just have to be more alert and have our phones wi’ us at all times in case we can record something that may prove Jamie’s innocence.”
It sounds so easy, yet it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wonder how on earth Uncle Lamb could've found joy in dedicating his whole life to find proof of crimes like this.
I nod in response and we both continue to work, while my gaze lingers on the steps where Dougal just disappeared, as I again am lost in my thoughts of finding a way to get Jamie out of prison.
Another two weeks pass and when I wake up I realise that the month is over. A sudden warmth fills my stomach when I head downstairs to call Murtagh for news.
“He’s out of isolation and back to his usual visitin’ hours.”
“Which is today.” I say to reassure myself rather than him, but I hear his agreement through the phone.
“Ye go lass. I’ll visit him the next time,” he says and I thank him before hanging up.
A month can be short when something horrible awaits you, and you don’t really want it to come to pass, yet it can also drag out so long that it feels like sheer torture, like a black hole trying to lurk you into darkness, only wanting you to suffer. That’s how these weeks without Jamie felt.I know it’s silly to feel this strongly about someone I have never touched. About someone that sits behind bars because according to the law he is a felon. But to me, his soul is pure, his presence makes me feel alive, he makes me excited for a future. And if I’m being honest, I can’t remember the last time I felt this way.
I push the hem of my blouse into my black jeans before looking at my reflection in the mirror, nodding in acceptance before heading back downstairs to leave for his visiting hour. The streets are thankfully empty which makes my parking at the prison a little early. I feel the insides of my stomach flutter as I’m watching the prison yard filled with inmates. Somehow seeing these men always makes me swallow. To think Jamie lives amongst them, with the thought that he’s guilty… Honestly I do not want to think of it right now.
I check my watch and decide to head inside, security moves surprisingly fast and before I know it I sit down on one of the empty chairs, waiting anxiously for him to appear. I put my bag on the small table in front of me when the curtain moves and he appears. I almost forget how to breathe.
His red hair is darker, a beard slowly replacing the stubble I saw the last time. The lines on his face are harder, his cheeks hollow from lack of nourishment and dark circles linger beneath his blue eyes that have no sparkle. I reach for the phone next to me, Jamie mirroring my movement and when he parts his lips and loses a tear.
“Sassenach,” he breathes out, his voice raspy, “Ye look tired, are ye alright?”
What little breath I had in my lungs comes out in a small gust into the mouthpiece of the phone. His first concern is how I’m after he spent a month completely isolated from the rest of the world.
“That question is what I’m supposed to ask you. Please tell me you’re alright,” I automatically bring my hand to the glass, my skin begging for his touch yet when he brings his hand upon the glass, no warmth can be felt and I feel tears pooling in my eyes.
“I’m so verra sorry,” he whispers, clutching the phone in his hand, knuckles going white
“Jamie…” My voice is soft, reassuring, and I feel the urge to hug him, to hold him, to tell him that everything will be alright.
“It’s all my fault. I shouldna have intervened. But they attacked the new lad and I couldna watch it all happen. I’m so sorry!”
“It happened, and we’re here now, alright? The most important thing is that you’re not hurt… I thought when I heard you fighting… I wasn’t sure if you were well, I couldn’t bear it… I–” I can’t hold back the tears in my eyes before they trickle down my lashes and he shifts in his seat before his jaw clenches and my dam breaks beneath his gaze. More tears follow, his palm presses hard against the glass.
“Dinna cry, mo nighean donn, I beg ye. To ken I canna hold ye, to ken I canna comfort ye, is a whole other prison than the one I’m sitting in.”
“I just want you here with me,” I whisper as a sob is softly shaking me.
“Tis not going to happen, Sassenach,” his mask is up the next second and I wipe my tears from my cheeks.
“It will happen.”
“No.” Dark blue eyes linger on me and I shift in my seat.
“I will prove your innocence, Jamie and there is nothing you can do about it.”
“Ye canna prove it.”
“I already am.”
His brows furrow in confusion and I straighten my back. It’s time to enlighten Jamie and tell him what I’m up to.