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Heartbroken in the Highlands

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HITH

“And as always, if ye have found that special someone, keep them close tae yer heart. Thank ye fer listening…until the next time.”

Claire turned off the ignition, gathered her belongings, and taking a deep breath, made a mad dash for her front door. Once inside, she set her belongings down on her table in the entryway and then proceeded to hang up her rain jacket and take off her boots. “You would think after living here for the past three years I would be used to this bloody weather,” she grumbled, trying to shake off the dampness that had seeped into her bones. And yet, here you still are…hoping…praying for a miracle, her mind reminded her.

Claire made her way into the kitchen and started to heat up some tomato soup and toasted cheese. Nothing like some comfort food to go with her current mood. She had always enjoyed listening to Dr. Alexandra’s, Heartbroken in the Highlands, segment on the local radio station. It aired every Thursday evening and there was something about the stories that the woman shared that spoke to Claire. It was as if this woman was looking into her soul and speaking directly to her. Tonight’s segment, with the trauma experience, had really rattled Claire, since it was something she had experienced as well. In an odd way, she found it comforting to know that other people had had similar experiences in their lives, but for a moment, Claire was no longer in her kitchen, but curled on the ground in Holyrood Park.

Ye need not be scairt of me, Claire…nor anyone else, as long as I’m with ye.

She shook her head and forced herself to focus on not burning the toasted cheese. While tending the griddle, she found her mind wandering again, except this time she was in Jamie’s cottage at Lallybroch.

We can make it work, mo chridhe, I ken we can.”

I want to believe that Jamie, truly I do…but I’ll be at Oxford for at least four to five years. I’ll be busy with my studies and then my residency. Once that starts, my time will no longer be my own.

Aye, but do ye trust me, Claire?

With my life.

So much hope and promise, only to be tossed aside when neither she nor Jamie were able to keep their end of the bargain. It wasn’t as if they had grown apart…Claire knew and possessed part of Jamie’s soul, just like he possessed her own, but in the end it simply wasn’t enough. Claire was at the mercy of her professors and later the hospital schedule, while Jamie was being pursued by multiple broadcasting stations. Looking back, she was proud of him for chasing his dreams. She knew how hard it was for him, knowing what his father had to give up when his mother found out she was pregnant with his older brother at the young age of nineteen. This had made Jamie even more determined to pursue his degree, and she didn’t begrudge him of that. They were both headstrong and passionate about their future careers…it just meant that their relationship hadn’t come first.

Now, six years later, a doctor at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Claire was doing quite well for herself. She had a beautiful little cottage, on the outskirts of town. Being closer to the highlands suited her. She often found herself spending her days off hiking. The serene landscape was a balm to her frenzied psyche after multiple days in a row at the bustling hospital, surrounded by the constant din of machines and neon lights. It was peaceful here and often reminded her of happier times.

Jamie! Someone will see us!”

He was quickly laying her down and pulling off her leggings and thong beneath. “I doubt that, but they’ll certainly hear yer wee noises,” he teased.

“I do not make wee noises,” she protested, right before eliciting another sigh of ecstasy as Jamie’s tongue found her center.

He pulled slightly back and looked up at her with ocean-blue eyes. “Aye, ye do Sassenach, but I would’na change a thing about ye.” He then went back to his work and Claire didn’t even try to keep quiet about it.

A warmth had flooded her abdomen, followed by a slight tingling and pulsing further below. “Jesus H. Christ, Beauchamp!” She was angry with herself for dwelling on the past, especially since it had been happening more and more lately. She knew she had to move on. Her friends, Geillis in particular, had set her up on multiple blind dates. Some of the men were lovely, others were creeps, but even the ones that she should have been attracted to, just didn’t compare to the love she had experienced just a few short years ago.

Claire settled on the couch with her soup and sandwich, flipping on the television to find something to occupy her mind. After an hour of flipping through the channels and not really watching what was on the screen, Claire realized she had been focusing on those ocean-blue eyes, framed by auburn curls, that seemed to consume every waking moment. Claire stood and turned off the television. She tidied the kitchen, made sure the cottage was secure for the night and then went to draw herself a bath. She lit some candles, played some soft music, and allowed herself to be swallowed by the bubbles. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, trying to relax and free her mind of the one person she never stopped thinking about.

After ten minutes, Claire gave into the fantasies running through her brain and allowed her hand to sink below the bubbles to her throbbing center. Her fingers were a poor excuse for what she really wanted, but she was craving the touch. She hadn’t been with another man since Jamie and was convinced no one else would ever know her body the way he did. Christ, even she couldn’t please herself the way he did, but it would have to do for tonight.

When she was finished, Claire relaxed on to the bath pillow, somewhat more relaxed after her release. “Tomorrow, Beauchamp. It’s a Friday night and you are going out with Geillis. This has to stop.”

You almost have me convinced, but we both know your heart won’t be in it, her mind reasoned.

 

“Another great show, Dr. Alexandra!” Rupert teased through the headphones from behind the studio window. “Guess ye canna spend all the time up in yer fancy office.”

“Thanks mate,” Jamie replied, forcing his smile and the tone of gratitude.

“We’re headed out to the pub, care tae join us?” Angus asked, as he started shutting down the small studio.

“No’ tonight lads, but thank ye fer the offer,” Jamie replied as he started to gather his things and throw his jacket on.

“C’mon mate! Ye never come out with us. It would do ye some good, mebbe even get laid.” Rupert wiggled his eyebrows, but in reality, he and Angus were genuinely concerned about their friend. When they first agreed to help Jamie with the broadcast, they thought it would be fun and different from their other tasks at the station. But after a few months of this gig, they were quickly realizing that Jamie’s goal was not to help his fellow listeners, although that was an added bonus.

Jamie turned to face Rupert, a feral look on his face, so Angus stepped in. “Ye ken the odds of her listening are about a million tae one, right?”

Jamie let out a deep sigh and his shoulders slumped. “I ken, but somehow, talking about it, makes me feel as if she’s still here with me. Tonight threw me fer a loop. I would’na be good company. You two go out…ye ken I like tae be alone after the show, but I promise ye…I’ll go out with ye tomorrow.”

Rupert and Angus looked at him, both with skepticism etched across their faces.

Jamie chuckled, “Ye have my word.”

At that, Rupert and Angus nodded, bid Jamie good night and left, while he finished locking up. Every time Jamie left for the night, he couldn't help but look back at the two-story building that was his. His. He had worked so hard for this…to open his own studio. He spent most of his time doing managerial tasks, but a few months ago he had the idea to host this talk show. There was a tiny part of him that hoped if his ex was listening, she would pick up on the stories and realize he was speaking to her. Fat chance, ye numpty, since yer using a female pseudonym and a voice enhancer to make ye sound like a lass, he chided himself.

He got into his car and drove out to Lallybroch, his family home. His parents still lived in the main house, but the property was large enough that all of his siblings lived scattered about. Jenny and Ian had the largest cottage, since they already had one bairn and another on the way. William had just proposed to his girlfriend and they hardly left their cottage, as Jamie noted by the two cars out front and the lights out. “Christ man! It’s barely ten o’clock and in bed already…bastard,” he muttered to himself. Jamie pulled up to the smallest building that was on the property, which wasn’t saying much. It was still a two bedroom cottage, with a living room, kitchen, and one and half baths. Despite all of this, it still felt small and lonely…without her.

Jamie turned off his truck, unlocked the front door, and threw his bag over on a chair. He’d eaten at the studio with Rupert and Angus. Thursday night had become something of a ritual among them. Pizza was ordered, a six-pack picked up and consumed, all while they talked about the Scotland National team. It was as if they were all boosting their manhood, before the act that would follow. What Rupert and Angus did not know was that every Thursday night, Jamie would go home to an empty house and drink several drams of whisky, all while thinking about Claire, and tonight was no exception. After sharing tonight’s show, Jamie would be lucky if he didn’t down the whole bottle of whisky.

“Jamie, we’ve got a caller on Line 2…lad’s girlfriend is recovering from trauma. Do ye want tae take it?” Rupert asked at the first commercial break.

Jamie’s mouth went dry…Christ, I dinna want tae relive those days, but if my experience can help someone else, it might be worth it. “Aye,” he responded.

Switching over the voice enhancer, a lovely lass’ voice came across the airwaves. “Thank ye fer joining us tonight. I understand we have a caller on Line 2. Are ye there?” “

Aye,” came a weak voice. “I was hopin’ ye might be able to give me some advice, Dr. Alexandra. See my girlfriend has just been through an awful scare…something I would’na wish on my worst enemy. I want tae be there fer her, but she keeps pushing me away. I ken she’s scared, but we need each other now more than ever. What do I do?”

Keep it together, Fraser, Jamie thought to himself. “Weel, everyone processes trauma in their own ways. I experienced a trauma back in high school, no’ sure if it’s what yer lass is going through, but I was attacked while on a date. Lookin’ back, I should ne’er been out with this boy, but the heart wants what it wants, when it wants aye? I can joke about it now, but it took many years to reach that point. I had a close friend who never left my side. Did’na push me tae talk, but was just there. I opened up when I was ready, but by him simply being there, made me feel safe again.”

“That makes a lot of sense, Dr. Alexandra. Thank ye, truly. I dinna want tae disclose what has happened to my girl, but it was traumatic. Thank ye fer being brave enough tae share yer experiences with us. I’ll just be there fer her, even if it’s just tae hold her hand.”

“That’s a good lad. She just wants tae ken that someone is there. She’ll open up when she’s ready.”

Jamie threw the first dram back in one gulp. Frank Randall, the fuckin’ bastard! Down went the second dram.

Jamie had been in love with Claire from the moment he’d laid eyes on her in freshman English the first day of school, but for some reason he still didn’t understand, Claire had been drawn to Frank Randall. Maybe it was because they were both English, or that he was a junior, while Jamie was only a freshman…he didn’t know, nor did he care, but from Day 1 there was something about Frank Randall that he didn’t like. One night, late in October, Jamie had been out for a run in Holyrood Park. He was trying to keep his mind off of Claire, when he heard what appeared to be an argument between two people.

“You’re such a tease, Claire. What am I supposed to think when you dress like that and suggest we walk in the park after dinner?” It was Randall!

“Honestly, Frank. I’m 5’9”, everything is too short for me and I thought a walk in the park would be romantic. I didn’t expect you to put your hand up my skirt.”

Jamie was seething and using every ounce of energy to not jump through the bushes and throttle the man.

“Well, I’ve never been told no and I certainly won’t have a freshman denying me.” Randall then grabbed Claire and forced her up against a tree, while hiking up her skirt.

“Frank!” she screamed. “Stop! You’re hurting me!” Claire was desperately trying to pull her skirt back down, but Frank had her hands pinned above her head, while the other was unzipping his pants.

Claire was struggling to free herself when Jamie came running in and grabbed Frank by the back of the neck and threw him to the ground. Randall was slight for his age and Jamie was well-built and tall for his. He had four inches on Randall and at least thirty pounds. He put himself between Claire and Randall, fists clenched, ready to do whatever necessary.

“I heard the lass say no from thirty yards away, sae I ken ye heard it too. Leave Randall, now, and no harm will come to ye, but if I ever see ye touch Claire again, ye’ll have two black eyes and a broken nose…that’s a promise.”

Embarrassed and pissed, Frank rose and brushed himself off. “You can have her, but let me warn you before you pull out all the stops…she won’t put out. Damn prude that one.”

Jamie saw red and lunged at Frank, but Claire’s cries caused him to halt his advance, giving Randall time to retreat to his car.

Jamie would never forget the sight of Claire when he turned around. She was crumpled on the ground, shaking from the cold and fright of the situation, and sobbing…the sobbing is what tore him apart. Jamie remembered kneeling down and trying to put his arm around her, but she flinched at his touch and that broke his heart more than seeing her this upset.

“Ye need not be scairt of me, Claire…nor anyone else, as long as I’m with ye.”

Coming out of the memory he quickly poured himself a third dram and threw it back. His beautiful Claire. What he wouldn’t give to have her in his arms tonight to show her how loved she was and assure her that he would always keep her safe. This gig of assuming the role of Dr. Alexandra had seemed like a good idea at first. What he hadn’t prepared for was the flooding of memories that came during and after each show. Christ, how long can ye keep doing this tae yerself man, he asked himself every week, but his heart always had an answer…As long as it takes tae find her again.