Fifteen years without being in a relationship was more concerning to Julia than it was to Claire. After she divorced her daughter’s father, François, Claire never really dated. In all those years, she had been seeing men she met at events, but she was too driven by her career to take the time to settle with someone.
She always told her daughter that she didn’t need a man, now that she had the only good thing he could give her: a child.
Her experience with François had been draining emotionally. He was a kind man and she liked him very much, but they simply were not meant to be together. They had married too young, too excited and too blinded by the love they had for each other.
François was a scientist and Claire was a surgeon. They would barely see each other, since they were both always working. So when they came home at night and the other was there, they were happy to be together. Two to four hours a day together was not enough for them to realize that they were not in love anymore.
Then came Julia. During the first months of pregnancy, they bonded, reconnected, both excited by the baby. It went on until she turned six. Claire and François tried to make it work for her, but it wasn't long before they realized that their time together was done. They waited until she became an adult, still trying to make it work, but then they finally divorced.
They were happier now. They were still friends, so they saw each other from time to time at birthday parties. Both had very small families, so parties only happened around twice a year.
François met a woman during a business travel in Switzerland a few years after their divorce and never came back. He moved with this woman and married her. Claire went to the wedding with her daughter. She was happy that he was with a woman who really loved him. A small part of her envied him for that.
She was alone, but she never felt lonely or a victim of her solitude. She loved to travel on her own or with a friend. She never minded until she started working part time at the hospital and realized that her retirement would be long without someone special by her side. At work, she was always surrounded by people, but retired, she would never see anyone. Julia was a successful business woman and as much as she loved being with her mother, she had a life of her own.
Julia was single and afraid to get into a serious relationship. Yet, she was always telling Claire she should meet someone and get married again, but Claire didn’t want to. Her experience with François had told her that she had had enough of marriage.
“If it has to happen, it will happen,” Claire said to her daughter at the restaurant. It was her birthday and they were celebrating at her favourite place in Edinburgh. They both had moved there ten years ago, after François moved to Switzerland.
Claire had spent her childhood traveling around the world with her uncle before they settled in Paris when she was fifteen. She had lived there for most of her life and needed a change. Julia had to move to Edinburgh for work and Claire thought she could get transferred to a hospital there.
“No, you don’t say that. You need to open your eyes to the world around you. Look at me.”
Claire laughed. “Darling, I’m not sure you are the best to talk to me about long term relationships. How long did your most serious relation last?”
“I don’t know, five months when I was sixteen,” she shrugged.
“Anyway, there’s nobody interesting, especially when you’re my age. Also, who will want an old lady like me?”
“You’re not that old, you’re only seventy four.”
“Well, men that are seventy four usually are interested in women who are maximum forty years old.”
“Eww,” Julia, who had just turned forty, said.
They laughed and clicked their glasses. They always had a special connection. Things had been different between Julia and her father. It seemed they never agreed on anything, while Julia and Claire shared a mind.
“Well, dating sites could help you find the right man,” she said, taking a long sip of her drink.
Claire rolled her eyes. It wasn’t the first time Julia had talked to her about dating sites. She had been trying to create a profile for her mother for months, but she always categorically rejected the idea, saying that back in her time, people had to talk face to face, not hiding behind a screen.
“It doesn't work for you.”
“It helps me find the right men, yeah,” she shrugged. “Come on, just try it, mom!”
“What’s the worst that can happen? Tell me.”
“Well,” Claire thought, sipping her wine, “what if nobody writes to me because I’m too old? I know it already, I don't need a reminder that I have expired,” she sighed.
“Look, I'm sure there's a seventy year old man out there who wants to meet a kind, smart and sexy seventy year old woman, but if you never try you'll never find out,” Julia said. She took her mother’s hand. “If it doesn't work, it's not because you're expired, but simply because the right man for you is simply not there, waiting for you on the internet. And yes, there are assholes online, but there are also assholes in real life. Just try and if you don't like it, we’ll delete your profile!”
Claire sighed. Maybe her daughter was right after all. If she never tried, if she was closed to the outside world, she would maybe miss her chance. “Fine.”
Julia let out a shriek of excitement, moving her hands in front of her.
“Don't get too excited. We’re only trying.”
“I know, I know.” She assured her mother. She took a sip of her drink, studying Claire’s face. She was seventy four, but she didn't look like it. Her hair was still dark and curly, with a few silver locks. Her whisky eyes were alive and alert, round and ready to learn new things everyday. Her skin was glowing and her body looked ten years younger. Working part time at the hospital helped her stay in shape. She had only one weakness: she enjoyed drinking alcohol. Martinis and glasses of rosé were often an option after a long day, but when she reached sixty and saw that her body would betray her if she kept her old habits, she started drinking only once or twice a week. She was a gorgeous woman and Julia was happy to look like her, to have her round lips and curly hair. She hoped that when she’s her mother’s age, she'll be full of life like her.
When they got home, Julia opened her mother’s laptop while Claire poured them another glass of wine. Tonight was her birthday, there were no rules or restrictions.
“So?” Claire asked, sitting next to her daughter on the couch, handing her the glass.
“Well, I’ve entered your phone number so your account is created.”
“Sea of Love,” Claire read the site’s name, smirking. “Cute.”
“So, name: Claire Beauchamp,” she typed. “Age: 69.”
“Sixty nine?” The Englishwoman exclaimed. “We can't lie!”
“I thought you said you didn't want people to reject you because of your age!” Julia lifted her hands in the hair.
“No, but I won't lie about it either! I'm not ashamed to say my age. Why? Do you lie about your age on dating sites?”
“No…” Julia chuckled.
Her mother eye sided her. “That's not how I raised you.”
In her head, she chuckled. The situation was ridiculous. She was maybe a little drunk, creating an account on a dating site. When she thought about it, she had to admit that the thought had crossed her mind more than once. She wouldn't admit to anyone, not even to herself, but she had considered the option when she met a man and didn't feel any connection. It was tiring and she was too old for this shit.
“So I'll write that you are an Englishwoman based in Scotland, because it's very important. You don't want to scare them off on the first date when they hear your accent.”
Claire looked over her daughter’s shoulder as she created the account. As she read the text Julia was writing, she felt tears veil her eyes, touched to learn what her daughter thought of her.
Both of them were not very expressive of their love for people in general. They loved each other very much, but hugs and ‘I love yous’ were not how they told each other these things.
Adventurous woman who traveled the world, studied at medical school in Paris. Works part time at the hospital and spends the rest of the time with her cat.
“Don’t talk about my cat! What do you think I'll sound like? I'm not a crazy cat lady.”
“Well, I can't not talk about your cat! You love it more than you love your own daughter.”
Claire rolled her eyes. “Oh, please!”
They both looked up at the Persian grey cat looking over at them from the opposite couch.
“Alright, no talk about the cat, then,” she sighed, erasing that part of the text.
Works part time at the hospital and spends the rest of the time reading and traveling.
“That's better,” Claire smiled. “I look like a real classy woman.”
“That, you are.”
They completed the first part of the profile. Claire was started to get excited by this. It was a new experience, an experimentation, and she felt like she was doing something rebellious, crossing a line she had drawn in her life.
“Now, what do look for in a man?”
“He has to be a feminist,” Claire said. “I was not president of the feminist and anti-patriarchy committee in High School for nothing. He has to be open to the world and love Bette Davis’ movies.”
Julia looked over at her. “Mom… Something more… I don't know, general? You can talk about your love for the silver screen on the first date, but maybe not here.”
Claire sighed. “Well… What do I look for in a man? Clean teeth and fresh breath. No hair in the nose.”
“Eww, come on! You can't write something like that! Just let me,” Julia said. She sounded annoyed, but she was actually smirking.
Looking for a gentleman who shares my passion of traveling and reading. A man interested in different cultures and politics.
“Oh no, not politics,” Claire said.
“You are obsessed with politics.”
“Maybe, but I don't want that in a man. No, say a man who stands for his opinion.”
Julia smiled, typing her mother’s words. “You sound like a real snob.”
“I'm not a snob!” Claire pretended to be offended. Julia liked to mock her mother’s British snobiness.
“Now, we gotta find the perfect profile picture that will show off all your assets.”
“Not all, we want to keep a surprise for the first date,” Claire joked.
“I imagine you don't have pictures in your laptop.”
“No, they're in my room! Give me a minute.”
Claire walked up the stairs to her bedroom and came back a few minutes later with boxes of pictures. “I think I found the right one!”
She opened a box, showing pictures in black and white, from when Claire was thirty. “Look how pretty I was!” She exclaimed. “So gorgeous.”
“Yeah, but mom, we can't put a picture from 1970! It’s 2019, for Christ’s sake!”
“1978,” Claire corrected. “And I know it's a bit old, but don't you think it shows all my assets?”
“Yes, it's a beautiful picture, but Christ it's like forty years old!”
Claire realized just how much time had passed since the picture was taken. Forty years. She was shocked once more by how fast time passed.
“And no offence, but your boobs are not as firm as when you were thirty.”
“I know,” she sighed.
Julia turned to face her mother, her hands on her shoulders. “Look, Mom. Yes, you're fucking gorgeous on this pic, but don't talk like you stopped being at forty. You are still very beautiful and I'm sure - no, I know for sure - that there is at least one actual picture in these boxes where you look as stunning as you do on this one,” she said, putting the photograph in the box.
“You really think so?”
“Of course. How many times do I have to tell you?”
Claire sighed. “I'm sorry if I'm annoying.”
“You're not,” Julia said, taking a box of pictures. “Where are your pictures from your trip to Cambodia?”
“In this box, I think.”
Julia looked at the picture from Claire’s travel with her best friend Joe, the year before. In every picture, Claire looked very happy, always smiling and her eyes shining. She really was an amazing woman.
“Look at this one,” Julia showed her a picture where Claire was standing in front of a temple. Her hair was tied in a ponytail, untamed curls escaping around her face. She was looking at the camera, a big smile on her face. She looked beautiful.
“I don't look so bad, don't I?” Claire admitted. “But I'm not sure it's the type of picture you use for a dating profile?”
“No, it's perfect.”
They finished creating her profile and Claire realized that she was proud of the woman she had become. Looking back at her achievements, she couldn't help but smile. If a man was not interested in her, then it was his loss.
“I'll probably regret this tomorrow,” she chuckled.
“Probably,” Julia admitted. “But not the day after. And you try it and if it doesn't work, it's fine.”
Claire let out a sigh. It was very late and all this excitement had drained her. “Thank you for helping me. I couldn't have done this on my own.”
“I know,” Julia smiled. Her eyes were small and Claire saw that she was tired too. It was late and they had drank a lot of wine.
“Why don't you stay here for the night? It's getting late. I don't want you to drive back home, especially with all the wine you've had.”
“I'm too tired to decline,” she admitted.
They got ready for bed and Claire went to visit her daughter in the guest bedroom. Julia was already asleep. She kissed her daughter’s forehead. Before leaving her room, she looked at her and thought of François in Switzerland. She was truly happy for him, that he had found the one even at an old age. She hoped soon it would be her turn.
The morning after, Claire was in the kitchen, making pancakes when Julia walked down the stairs. Her hair was a mess like her mother’s. She yawned and sat by the counter. “Mm… It smells so good, what are you doing? Crepes?”
“Pancakes,” Claire said, serving her some coffee.
“Thank you,” Julia said and sipped the burning beverage. “So? Did you check the site? Any valentines write to you yet?”
“I didn't check and I won't for the day.”
“Aren't you curious?” Julia smiled.
“I am, but I don't want to look too… Hungry for attention, checking too often.”
She put a pancake in her daughter’s plate and sat next to her. “Are you busy today? I need to go to IKEA.”
“I'll never say no to a chance to go at IKEA. And we can eat the donuts afterwards!”
“I thought you were doing a diet?” Claire asked, taking a bit of her pancake.
“I am, but not this weekend.”
They finished their breakfast and got ready to go at IKEA. They spent the day shopping around town and came back at time for supper. Julia had to leave, because she was working early the day after, but before, she wanted her mother to check Sea of Love. “It's been long enough,” she said.
With a sigh, Claire sat at the kitchen counter and opened her laptop. She pretended she didn't care, but she was actually excited, feeling a strange knot in her belly at the idea that someone might have written to her. She knew she would probably end up being disappointed, but she had hope.
“You have a notification!” Julia exclaimed.
Claire couldn't help but smile. She clicked on the notification and her breath was caught in her throat at the sight of the man who had written to her.
“O. M. G.,” Claire whispered, blinking several times to make sure she wasn't dreaming. “O. M. G.”
“What? What's wrong?”
Julia looked over her shoulder. “Oh, he's cute.”
“I know him,” Claire looked at her daughter. She could see the shock on her face.
“You know him? James Fraser,” she read over a shoulder. “How?”
“He was my first love,” Claire smiled, tears veiling her eyes.
Thank you all for the reviews on part 1! It made me very happy! :)
The last time Claire had seen Jamie Fraser was about sixty years ago. The first time they met, she was only sixteen and even if he was a few years younger than her, she fell madly in love with him.
From the moment they met, she never stopped thinking about him and she knew her heart was beating for him only.
It had been almost a year since she and Lamb had settled in Paris, when new neighbors moved in the building in front of the one where they lived. He was moving in with his older sister (who was Claire’s age) and their parents. She remembered seeing him get out of the car, looking around, scared by his new surroundings that he now had to call home.
He was fourteen at the time, but he looked older than that. He was tall and skinny, he had beautiful slender blue eyes and a long, thin mouth, but the first thing she noticed was his hair.
The most glorious mop of red hair she had ever seen.
The sunlight was catching in the auburn locks as he stepped out of the car. Her heartbeat increased and she thought it would burst out of her chest.
She had never been in love before, but if this was how a person felt at the sight of their loved one, she wanted to be in love forever.
“We should go see them,” Lamb said. “Welcome them to the neighborhood.” He patted her back, and they walked out of the building and crossed the street to meet them.
The father had dark short hair under a hat. Claire immediately saw they weren't French. She bet in her head that they were scots, by the look of them. She thought about the time they were in Scotland a few years before. When she heard the man say something to his daughter in English, she recognized the accent. She smiled to herself.
Lamb noticed too. “Other outlanders in the city of light,” he smiled at them.
The man lifted his head towards the voice, a big smile on his face.
“We see you're moving in,” Lamb said. “We live across the street. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Thank ye,” the man said, shaking Lamb’s hand. “I am Brian Fraser. This is my wife, Ellen, my daughter Jenny, and my son Jamie.”
“Enchanted,” Lamb shook the kids’ hands. When she heard the voices, Ellen came to stand between her children. “I am Quentin Beauchamp, or Lamb, and this is my niece Claire.”
She smiled at them, her eyes resting on Jamie longer than the rest of the family. He was looking down at his feet, his hands buried in his pockets.
“So you're from Scotland,” Lamb smiled.
“Aye, we come from a village near Inverness. We moved here for my wife’s work and for the kids to go to school.”
“What do you do?” Lambert asked Ellen.
“I’m a professor,” she said shyly.
Claire’s eyes opened wide. Suddenly, she wasn't interested in the son anymore. “What do you teach?” She asked her.
“Wow,” Lamb and Claire said at the same time.
“Aye, she worked verra hard to become a professor. And now she's going to teach in Paris,” Brian looked at her fondly.
“I've never met a woman professor,” Claire said.
Ellen blushed, looking at the young girl.
“Claire wants to become a surgeon when she grows up,” Lamb said proudly, putting a hand on his niece’s shoulder.
“Really?” Ellen looked pleasantly surprised. “That's amazing! I encourage you to do it,” she smiled kindly.
“And what do you do?” Brian asked Lamb.
“He's an archeologist. But now he's going to teach at university as well,” Claire answered for him. “Maybe you'll teach at the same university.”
After chatting a bit, Lamb invited the family to come for dinner the day after. They were happy to accept the invitation.
The day after, they met again and this time, Claire talked more with the children. She became friends with Jenny and slowly, Jamie started opening up to her. Jenny explained to Claire that he was sad to leave Scotland and that he'd been the only one not excited about the idea of moving to Paris.
As the days went by, Jenny made friends with other girls in the street while Jamie and Claire started spending all their free time together. They became the closest friends.
Lamb became friends with Ellen and Brian, so they often met for dinner, all the families together. Claire was in admiration with Ellen, who she saw the mother she never had the chance to know.
With each day spent with Jamie, Claire was falling more in love with him and she felt like he was too. He wasn't a shy and tormented young boy anymore, but a smart teenager that was always interested to hear what Claire had to say.
One night, they smoked together for the first time and kissed, sitting in a park close to their homes. They were in love and thought they would be forever until Ellen suddenly passed away. Two months later, the heartbroken family moved back to their homeland.
During their last day in Paris, Claire watched them put their bags in the car. Tears were streaming down her face, and even if she didn't want to cry, she couldn't help it.
Lamb came to stand behind her and patted her back. “Time to say goodbye.”
Everybody was seated in the car but Jamie. When Claire crossed the street, he took her in his arms. He was sixteen now, taller and broader. She loved to be in his arms; she felt safe.
She breathed him in, remembering what it felt like to be close to him, to feel the heat of his body as he held her.
“I can't let you go,” she whispered.
“Ye have to,” he said, but she heard in his voice he didn't mean it. He pulled back and cupped her face with his hands, looking at her. “I will miss you, my Sassenach. Promise you'll write to me.”
“I will. I promise.”
He took a letter from the pocket of his coat. “Starting with this one,” he handed her the letter. “Open it tonight.”
She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his mouth. He kissed her back until it was time to let go. “I hope that one day, soon, we’ll see each other again and will be together.”
“We will,” she said, her forehead resting against his. “You were my first love.”
“And my last,” he whispered, kissing her forehead. “I love you.”
It wasn't the first time he said it, but each time he said those three words, in Claire’s heart it was always like the first time. “I love you.” She kissed him one last time and let go of him.
Jamie walked to the car and looked over his shoulder one more time to see her face. He had a picture of her, but he wanted to make sure he'd never forget the features of her. He smiled sadly and sat in the car.
She watched until the car was out of sight, the letter clenched against her heart.
Julia’s eyes were filled with tears and her heart of stone was heavy in her chest after Claire ended the story.
“I didn't know this! You never told me about him.”
“Well, I never really had a reason to,” she shrugged.
“So this was the last time you saw him?”
Claire nodded. She regretted how things had ended between the two of them.
“We wrote to each other for about a year after he left Paris, but then we eventually stopped.”
“Because life happens. We were both very busy with school so we didn't have as much time as before. Eventually, we stopped.”
“Do you know what happened to him?”
“No. Last time I heard from him was in 1965.”
“Wow….” Julia said. “And he saw your account on Sea of Love recognized you.”
“I never thought he would remember me… Almost sixty years later,” she smiled.
“Let's look at his profile, we’ll see what he became.”
It was even more exciting for Claire than this whole online dating thing. For sixty years, she had kept the memory of Jamie Fraser buried in her heart. She had missed him terribly during the years after he left, but after a while, she moved on and met François. She had been in love with him, but she never felt the way she did about Jamie with anyone else in her life.
Even if she, at some point, stopped missing him in every breath she took, he was always there in the back of her mind. Her first love. Her lost love. She often thought about him, feeling nostalgic about the love they had shared, wondering how different things would be if he had ever come back. Or if she had moved to Scotland to be with him.
In all those years, she would sometimes let her mind wander and imagine where he was and what his life looked like. Even if she wasn't part of it, she hoped he was happy.
So when Julia clicked on his profile, she felt her heart start hammering in her chest at the idea of finally knowing what he turned out to be.
Single, that was for sure.
“Member since October 13, 2019,” Julia read over her mother’s shoulder.
“So what does it mean?” Claire asked, lifting her glasses on her nose.
“Well, that he hasn't been lurking on here for too long.”
“Maybe he just got divorced like me…”
“Mom, it's been fifteen years.”
“When you're my age, darling, you'll see time passes by very fast.”
Julia chuckled and read Jamie’s page. “He's a retired engineer!” She exclaimed.
“Will you please let me live this moment? I've been waiting decades to know that, I’d like to gather the information by myself!”
“But I'm curious!” Julia pouted.
“Do you think I'm not?
With a deep sigh, Julia continued reading in silence.
Retired engineer who loves to read and travel around the world. Loves to cook and watch the sunset on the sea. Born and bred scot who always likes a good whisky in good company.
Claire smiled, feeling her cheeks turn pink. He was still like the sixteen year old boy he has been, more than fifty years later.
“I wonder what he looks for in a woman,” she said, scrolling down.
A funny woman who will be willing to travel and hear him talk passionately about Scotland.
Claire chuckled, but Julia frowned. “I guess his forty year old daughter didn't help him to write this. I'm sure it scared many women.”
“No, I think it's cute.”
Noting the emotion in her voice, Julia turned to look at her face. She was beaming, her cheeks red, like she had never seen her before. “Mom, you're smitten.”
“I think I am,” she said, clicking on his picture.
Jamie was sitting on a rock on top of a mountain, a bandana wrapped around his head.
“His hair’s still red.”
“Do you think he dyes it?”
“I don't know. His father didn't have a grey hair on his head.”
“He looks good. Very tall and broad for his age.”
“He’s only seventy two,” Claire remarked. “He's always been very active physically. Always loved to do sports. He was a great tennis player. I went to play with him from time to time.”
Claire fondly looked at the picture for minutes, trying to notice every detail.
“Don't you want to see what he wrote to you?” Julia asked, impatient. She was caught in her mother’s story and already had plans for the perfect first date.
Claire seemed to remember he had sent her a message. “Oh!” She exclaimed. “Where can I see it?”
Smiling, Julia clicked on the message.
I do wonder if I've gone crazy, but when I got a message saying I had a “connection” with Claire Beauchamp, I couldn't believe it. I was very happy to get news about you. I was wondering if perhaps you would like to have dinner with me? To catch up on all those years. I'm glad to see you live in Scotland. I hope you are doing well.
“Oh my my,” Claire breathed. “Jamie Fraser. I can't believe it!”
While she was lost in her head, Julia took the computer and started to type an answer. It took a moment before Claire realized. “What are you doing?”
“I'm answering his text.”
“What are you writing?”
“That you're happy to hear from him and will gladly accept to go for dinner at your favourite restaurant next Saturday at five pm.”
“What? Give me that!” She said, taking the computer from her. “Six is too early! Who has dinner at five p.m. anyway?”
“Old people,” Julia shrugged.
Rolling her eyes, Claire erased the message Julia had typed.
“Hey!” She protested. “What the hell do you think you're doing?”
“I can't go out with him,” Claire said, looking at her with scared eyes.
“Why not? If he texted you, it's because he’s interested.”
Closing her arms around her chest, Claire looked at the message Jamie had texted her at two p.m. “What if… What if he doesn't like the person I've become? It's been sixty years, for the love of God. I've changed so much in that time. I'm not eighteen anymore. What if he doesn't find me interesting?”
Julia put her arms around her mother’s shoulders. “Maybe. There's a chance you two don't connect like you did when you were young. But, mom, you lived sixty years wondering what happened to him, do you really want to miss the chance and spend the rest of your days regretting because you missed the opportunity?”
Claire had to admit that her daughter was right.
“Look, I'm sure you were a nice young woman with a lot of interesting things to say, but you are definitely much more interesting now. Jamie loves to read and to travel probably as much as you do. You will have much more to talk about than when you first met him. If he loved you back then, he will likely find you interesting today.”
Encouraged by her words, Claire couldn't help but smile. “If he's on a dating site, it's because he wants to meet someone.”
“To travel with…” She smiled.
Taking a deep breath, Claire started to type a message.
It's a pleasure to hear from you. I will be happy to go out with you. Are you free this Saturday around eight? There is a lovely French restaurant in the Old Town by the National Library. It's a very nice place.
Claire sent the message and looked over at her daughter, hope painted everywhere on her face.
They heard the sound of a notification.
Perfect! I will meet you there.
Seven days before Claire’s date with Jamie. The seven longest days of her life.
At home, she tried to occupy herself by reading and working outside on her garden to stop thinking about their date, but it didn't work. At work, she thought that studying the patients’ cases would change her mind, but he was always there.
She couldn't stop imagining the evening, their conversations and what he would look like. She knew she shouldn't do it because the only thing that could happen was that the night or Jamie would disappointing. Who knew what he had really become during those years?
When she told Joe about the dating site, the message from Jamie and their upcoming date, he didn't help calm her excitement. He was as excited as her, telling her to give all the crunchy details when she comes back the week after.
“Don't be disappointed,” she chuckled. “There won't be crunchy details.”
“Mm, I wouldn't be so sure if I were you. I know you well, LJ, I know you well.” He smirked. What Joe didn't know was that Jamie was different from all the other men she had had a fling with.
Finally, Saturday arrived. Claire barely slept that night and woke up before the sun. She went to sit outside her house, sipping her cup of coffee. It was still dark, but slowly, life was coming back to town.
She looked at the dark blue sky and thought about the last time she’d seen him. It had been decades, but she could still feel her heart break like it had all those years ago.
Claire had given up on hope of seeing Jamie again moons ago. She didn't wear the burden of losing the love of her life. It took her some time, but she had made peace with her past and accepted that he wouldn't be part of her future. She had lived a very happy life even if he wasn't by her side. It didn't stop her from longing for him, from time to time, but it never weighed on her.
But now that there was a chance, now that he was so close to her, she felt like a seventeen-year-old lass in love. And she didn't hate it at all.
She watched the sun rise,feeling peaceful and grateful for her life. She knew she shouldn't imagine things, but from what she'd read on Jamie’s profile, they were a perfect match. She was thinking that she had found a travel partner and a fellow book lover. She was starting to imagine him cooking for her, but she shook her head. “First things first,” she told herself and went back inside the house. She got dressed and did some work outside her house.
Around lunchtime, Julia arrived and parked in front of her house. “I found the perfect dress for you!” She exclaimed, getting out of the car with the dress wrapped up. “You're gonna love it and I'm one hundred percent sure Jamie will too.”
They ate together and afterward, Claire took a long bath while Julia watched television. She eventually fell asleep, feeling relaxed and hot in the bathtub. About an hour later, her daughter knocked on the door, wondering if she was alright.
Claire got out and dried her hair while listening to There Is A Light That Never Goes Out on The Smiths playlist Julia had put on. She put on some makeup and Julia helped her do her hair. “There’s not much that can be done with hair like that, I'm afraid.”
Claire was sitting in front of the mirror in her bedroom, Julia standing behind her.
“Trust me, I know that fine well,” she sighed. “But you know, I like your hair better. I'm glad I have it and not dad’s hair.”
“I'm glad too. You know,” Claire said, studying her daughter’s face in the mirror, “you do look like him. Sometimes you smile and I can see him. But all in all, you look more like me and it makes me happy. Uncle Lamb used to say you look like my mother. And you have her name. Somehow, I feel like when you're here, she is too.”
“You miss her?” Julia rested her hands on her shoulders.
“Can you miss something you never knew?”
“Yes. You missed having a life with Jamie.”
Claire smiled, putting her hand on hers. “I had that. I would have taken more, but at least we had two beautiful years knowing each other.”
“Did you ever…. You know… With him?”
“Julia!” Claire exclaimed, shocked. “Don't ask me personal questions like that!”
“Well… I mean it's nothing to be ashamed of! I know you, you know. That's why I thought you had. But at the same time, things were a bit different back then. I believe. So, tell me! Did he deflower you? Did you deflower him? ”
“I'm not telling you that kind of information, young lady.” Claire said, blushing.
Julia smiled, lifting Claire’s hair in a bun. “So you did?”
“End of the conversation,” Claire chuckled.
They stayed a moment in silence while Julia tried to find something to do with her hair. “It looks better when it's down. Wear it down,” she said and surprised her mother with a kiss on her head.
Claire was ready for the date. She was wearing the beautiful red dress Julia had bought for her and had a bit of make up, but nothing to hide the imperfection of her face. “How do I look?” Claire asked her, standing in front of the door.
“Glamorous,” Julia smiled fondly at her mother.
“Do you think Jamie will think so?” Claire asked, her cheeks turning pink.
“He'd be blind if he didn't.”
She kissed her cheek. “Thank you, Julia. For everything.”
“I just want you to be happy. And I think Jamie could be the one to make you happy.”
“I was happy before him.”
“I know that, but you are allowed to have someone. Someone that will want nothing but to be with you all the time. Someone that will do crazy things for you. I think that you and Dad loved each other, but it was not the kind of love that happens once in a lifetime. I think what you have or had with Jamie is special. A love that never leaves you and that endures time. No matter what, you always end up finding a way back to one another.”
Claire smiled, cupping her daughter’s cheeks. “Look at you, being all romantic! What's happening to you?”
Julia chuckled. “I think that now I see you and I believe in it,” she shrugged.
Finally, Claire left and took a cab to the restaurant. Her heart was hammering in her chest. She was about to do something crazy, something she didn't know but had wanted to do for years.
She looked outside the window. The nightlife in the city. Young people just starting their lives, not knowing what was coming ahead of them.
Claire had lived more than half of her life. It had been a wonderful life, filled with adventures and moments she would never forget. She had been fearless, from the moment she started walking to the moment she and Julia had created the account on the dating site. As a child, she would never sleep with a light on even if she was afraid of the dark. When she was alone in the desert while Lamb was in his tent, studying artifacts, she often feared something would come up and take her.
When she was small, Claire never wanted to step in puddles. She couldn’t bring herself to believe that the perfect, smooth expanse was no more than a thin film of water over solid earth. She believed it was an opening into some fathomless space and if she stepped in, she would drop at once and keep on falling. Even now, when she sees a puddle in her path, her mind half halts, though her feet do not, and she hurries on.
She opened the door of the cab and saw a puddle right at her feet. She looked at it. She had had her fearless moments and her moments of longing. She had put a cross on a life she had terribly wanted to live when she was younger. A life François was never able to give her, no matter how hard he tried.
It's always been him, she thought. From the beginning it was him.
Every decision she had made in her life, it had all led to this moment. Once more, it came down to him. Her first love. Her lost love.
Getting out of the cab, Claire stepped in the puddle.
“You were my first love,” she had said to him, all those years ago.
“And my last.”
When Claire entered the restaurant, the first thing she laid eyes on was him.
Her breath was caught in her throat and she felt like her knees would give up on her.
She stopped in her tracks, looking at him. He hadn't seen her and was nervously looking around, his leg shaking under the table.
She couldn't help but smile and feel her eyes water at the sight of him. His hair were still red and curly, but less voluminous than all those years ago. Still glorious, though.
The most glorious mop of red hair she had ever seen.
At that moment, Jamie looked up and saw her. He froze and for a man who was good at keeping a straight face, she saw his it change. He stood up, a smile forming on his face.
“Excuse me, Madame?” Claire turned to the young lady who had spoken to her. “Do you have a reservation?”
“I'm with him,” she said, looking over to Jamie.
Slowly, Claire made her way to him. He didn't move, looking at her like she was a vision. His eyes trailed down her body, up to her face. He was speechless.
“Hi,” Claire said, her cheeks turning crimson red. She was still feeling seventeen.
“Claire,” he whispered. His voice was filled with emotion that made her eyes well up.
Without a word, she hugged him tightly. He closed his arms around her and held her close to him. “I canna believe it's really you,” he said when she pulled away to look in his eyes.
His face was so close to her, she had to fight the urge to cup his cheek.
“You're so beautiful,” he said. “Ye didn't change one bit.”
“Well, a bit, yes,” she chuckled, looking into his ocean blue eyes. “You didn't either. You still have those happy eyes.”
He smiled shyly and kissed her cheek.
Jamie helped her sit and went back to his chair. “So I take it it's not your first time here?”
“No,” she smiled. “It's my favourite restaurant. Have you ever been here?”
“Never,” he said. “But it looks nice.”
The waiter came to fill their cups with wine and they clicked their glasses together. “To the Internet,” Claire joked.
Jamie laughed, a sound that still made her insides turn into knots. The most beautiful sound she'd ever heard.
“Aye, the Internet,” he chuckled.
They spent the minutes after studying the menu. Claire already knew what she wanted to eat since she always ate the same meal when she came to this restaurant. But she was afraid to speak with him, not knowing what to say, where to start.
From time to time, they looked up from the menu, wanting to study the other, but meeting their eyes. Every time, they smiled shyly or chuckled.
“So what do you suggest?” Jamie finally asked.
“The Ratatouille is my favourite, but the steak with French fries is very good. Or the duck. Depends on what you like.”
“A wee bit of everything, but the steak looks good.”
Finally, the waiter came back to take their order and left with the menus. They didn't have anything to hide behind anymore.
“So I take it you're not married?” Claire asked, feeling a bit ridiculous start with this question, but she was too intrigued to wait more.
“No, I'm not married. I never was. And you?”
“I've been divorced for fifteen years, now. I have a daughter,” she smiled proudly. “Her name is Julia.”
“After your mother,” Jamie smiled.
Claire nodded. “And she does look like her, Lamb always said.”
“Oh, Lamb!” Jamie exclaimed, remembering the eccentric uncle. “What happened to him?”
“He got married, can you believe it? About six years after you moved out. He finally retired and moved to England until he died in 1994. He lived a happy life.” Claire smiled fondly at the memory of the uncle who had loved her like his own daughter. “What about your father? And Jenny?”
A shadow crossed Jamie’s face and Claire was afraid she’d said something wrong. “My father died a few months after my mother. He was heartbroken. I think he stopped living the second he learned about her sudden death, but slowly it killed him.”
“I'm so sorry, Jamie.”
He shrugged. “I always told myself ‘at least they're together now’ and it helped. Jenny,” a smile appeared on his lips, “Jenny got married not long after we came back to Scotland. She reconnected with an old friend of the family, Ian, and they immediately fell in love. They have beautiful children and many, many grandchildren.”
Claire realized she was smiling, happy to learn that Jenny’s dream of having a big family had come true. “Do you have children?” She asked him.
“No, I don't,” he smiled sadly. “I always wanted to, but I never met the right woman,” he said. “I made peace wi’ it. Took some time, but at least I have Jenny’s bairns. I'm their favourite uncle.”
“I can imagine,” she chuckled.
They were smiling, looking over at the other when the waiter came with their plates. They started eating in silence, until Jamie finally spoke. “So ye did become a surgeon, then. I'm not surprised, I always knew ye would. My mam would be very proud.”
Claire’s face lit up at the mention of Ellen Fraser. She was happy that Jamie thought so.
“And you still work?” He asked, taking a bit of his steak.
“Yes, but just two to three days a week. And I do less surgeries. It's harder for my body to stay standing still for hours. I miss it, doing big surgeries, but now when it's longer than four hours, my body ache for days after,” she chuckled.
“You're good to still be doing it when you could've retired years ago.”
“I would miss it too much. And I sometimes think about retiring but I just don't know what I would do at my home.”
“Ye like to travel,” Jamie smiled.
“Yes, but I don't have the money to travel all the time.”
“Where have you been?”
“Oh,” she smiled shyly. “A few places. But my favourite travels where in Norway, California, and Mongolia. I went to Cambodia with a friend last year. It was amazing.”
Claire noticed Jamie was carefully listening to her, as if he was afraid to lose a word she spoke. It was nice to have someone very interested in the things she said. “What about you?”
“I went to India for two months last spring. I climbed Mount Everest, you know. About twenty years ago.”
“No way!” Claire exclaimed.
“Aye,” he chuckled. “It was the best time of my life.” Apart from the time I was with you, he almost said.
They slowly started to talk more about themselves, about their lives and the lives they had lived since they'd last seen each other. Claire talked to him about François and their life before and after Julia. She talked about her daughter, what she had become and what she was like.
Jamie had never been married and had never really stayed in a long relationship. “I think I am a solitary person and I found my job more interesting than actual people. I know it sounds horrible, but I was never able to love a woman and I didn't want to keep them with me because I didn't want to be lonely. They deserved someone who was going to love them. I broke their hearts, but later they realized that it was only for the best.”
“But now you're on a dating site,” Claire smirked.
“It was all Jenny. She did it without my knowing about it. One day, I received a message from a woman I didn't know who wanted to go out with me. I thought it was spam, so I deleted the email. Then I told Jenny about it and she blushed, telling me what she had done. I was angry, but then she said she knew I didn't want to spend the rest of my days alone. She told me just to try it, so I did. A few days later, I received an email saying we were a match.”
Claire laughed, shaking her head. “It was my daughter who encouraged me to create an account. I had no hope, but then, I had a nice surprise,” she smiled at him.
They stared at each other, both very smitten. “Would you like to go walk around town with me? I dinna want to leave ye just now.” Jamie was suddenly very serious.
“Me neither,” Claire said. Her heart was hammering in her chest.
Jamie insisted to pay and helped Claire to put her coat on.
It was chilly outside, but the streets were still filled with people running from one bar to another. They walked in silence, breathing the fresh air of this October night.
Claire noticed Jamie’s arm along his body, inviting her to take his hand if she felt at ease. Slowly, her fingers enlaced his hand and they walked hand in hand. “When I saw your name on my computer, I thought…” He trailed off.
“What?” She asked, holding his hand tightly to encourage him to continue. “Tell me.”
“I thought maybe life was giving us a second chance.” He looked down at her shyly.
“I thought so too.”
They smiled at each other, continuing to walk in silence, considering a life they had never dared to hope for.
Their feet led them to a small park and they sat closely on a bench. Claire realized that Jamie’s body was still a furnace. She snuggled against him, her head on his you shoulder.
“You lived a happy life,” he said, his fingers drawing patterns on her hand. “I'm glad you did. You moved on and found something that made you happy. You got married, had a daughter and a successful career. You traveled and read things that interested you. You were curious and never stopped dreaming, as passionate for life at seventy as you were at seventeen.”
He shrugged and Claire realized that Jamie’s life hadn't been like she thought it had.
“I was happy, I really was. I had my sister and her family. I loved my job more than anything and I have many beautiful memories of travels and adventures. But… I never stopped longing for ye. Every time I saw curly brown hair or when I heard a woman talk with a British accent, I always hoped it would be you. I know it's crazy, but I couldn't help it.” He took a deep breath and Claire could feel the sadness in his voice. “I never loved anyone but you.”
“Jamie,” she turned her body towards him and cupped his cheek. “I was happy, but in my heart, you were always there.”
“You were stronger than me. You moved on.”
“So did you. But the pain of leaving someone you love never leaves you. I never loved anybody the way I loved you. What I had with François doesn't compare to what I had with you.”
“I always believed I would find you again. I think it's what kept me alive. I still have so many things I want to tell you, so many things I want to do with you. I still love you, more than I ever loved you before. Now that I see you, full of life and love to give, I never want to be away from you ever again.”
A tear slipped down Claire’s cheek. “Me neither, Jamie. To have you back in my life is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Jamie smiled, his eyes veiled with unshed tears. “I never stopped loving you, my Sassenach.”
Claire’s heart beamed in her chest at the name only Jamie used to call her.
“I would… I would verra much like to kiss you. May I?”
Claire nodded and their lips met softly. It felt like the last time they had kissed was just hours ago, yet somehow it also felt like it had been a thousand years.
After their dinner, Claire and Jamie saw each other a few times. They went to the restaurant or went to a concert. Jamie met Julia and it immediately clicked between them.
Two months later, they married at Jamie’s family ancestral home with Jenny and her family, Julia, Joe, François and his wife as witnesses. A few weeks after, Claire retired from the hospital and moved in a white house by a water stream in the Highlands. They spent their honeymoon in Australia, a country they both wanted to visit, but never had the chance to. They traveled the world, started a book club in Fort William and never stopped doing projects.
They lived for the fifty six years spent apart.
Thank you all for reading this fic!!