Despite the fucked up situation, it was the best I’d felt in a long time. Seeing Frank’s pictures burnt and in the bin was strangely cathartic, even if I didn’t remember setting them on fire. There was probably a lot of Frank’s shit around that I had overlooked that I could also burn.
Jamie and I stood awkwardly in my tiny kitchen for a few minutes, his Viking warrior frame towering over me. I had a hard time meeting his deep blue gaze; it wasn’t uncomfortable, just strangely intimate given our surprise encounter this morning, and possibly last night. Finally, I cleared my throat.
“Um, well. It’s Sunday…” I trailed off. I didn’t have anything to do, but didn’t really want to prolong the morning-after-that-wasn’t.
“Och, aye, I’m sorry.” Jamie looked embarrassed. “I should go. Do ye work on Sundays?” He patted his pockets, probably searching for his phone or keys.
“No, but I should go down to Sainsbury’s for groceries. It’s just a short walk. St. Enoch is a couple of blocks away if you need it.” I began washing the bowl in the sink.
“I usually take the tube, but I do have a car. It’s mainly for driving up to see my family, though. I took an Uber to the pub. Since I’d planned on getting pissed—ifrinn!” he exclaimed suddenly.
“What?” I dropped the bowl, startled. It didn’t break, but it clattered noisily.
“I was supposed to meet my sister Jenny for lunch at St. Judes.” Jamie turned his phone to face me and I saw it was already noon. He ran a hand through his hair in desperation, making it even more tousled.
“No problem. I can take you in the van.”
“The van? Ye just said—”
“I’ve a van, for my flower shop. Beauchamp’s Blooms,” I said, not a little proudly.
“Yer last name’s Beauchamp?” He pronounced it the French way, and it sounded beautiful, but I corrected him.
“Bee-cham. I guess we were French at some point in history, but we’re English now.”
“So what’s a bonny sassenach such as yerself doin’ in Scotland?”
Sassenach. I bristled. “An Englishwoman like myself followed her dickhead boyfriend who had a teaching position at the University of Glasgow. I opened my own flower shop, got dumped, and now, I’ll be staying here for the foreseeable future. Unless it bothers a Scotsman such as yerself.” I imitated his brogue as much as I could, injecting it with a fair amount of venom.
Jamie turned bright red. “Och, Claire, I didna mean any disrespect. Sassenach just means English, or outlander. It’s nice to see ye’ve made a home here, and a business as well, despite yer hardships.” His tone softened. “Have others made ye feel unwelcome here in Glasgow? I apologize on our behalf.”
“A couple.” I sighed. “I Google-translated sassenach the second time it happened. Sorry if I came off touchy about it. When they said it, it didn’t sound very nice, that’s all.”
“I think ye should appropriate the word then. May I call ye sassenach? As a wee nickname?” Jamie smiled impishly.
I laughed. “Alright, why not?” I dried my hands on a tea towel and laid it next to the sink. “Well, let me find my keys and we’ll be off.” I found them in my purse and hoisted it on my shoulder as we left my flat.
We traipsed down the steps of my apartment building slowly, no doubt his head pounding as much as mine. The aspirin had helped some, though.
“Are ye a photographer then, Sassenach?” he asked conversationally.
“Oh, the pictures. No, Frank took those. It is—was—his hobby. I personally like herbs, flowers, and medicinal plants. I’m a botanist, actually. Hence, the flower shop.”
“Ye kept some on the walls.”
“They were the best ones. And the flowers, those are mine. I think we can spare them a fiery death.”
“I couldna help but notice…” I glanced at Jamie, who was turning all shades of red as he rucked up the hair on the nape of his neck in embarrassment. “Ye have this tattoo on yer back, like…”
“Oh, yes.” It was my turn to go a bit red. “It’s a gladiolus. It means strength.”
“Bonny.” Jamie smiled crookedly at me while he pushed the entrance door to the building and held it open for me. “It’s funny, I dinna even ken where in Glasgow I am. I havena been…” he trailed off as we came down the steps onto the street. The chilly November wind nipped at our exposed faces.
“Is it familiar now?” I laughed, jingling my keys. I sobered up when I saw the look on his face. “Are you alright?”
“Och, aye. I—it’s just that yer apartment building’s right next to my—”
“James?” A high-pitched, accented voice pierced the air.
“—ex’s building,” he finished weakly.
I turned to the source of the voice. A woman about my age walked towards us. She had sleek brown hair—perfectly coiffed—and fashionable matching boots and purse. Her eyes were green, and were trained on Jamie, who stood next to me, pale and silent.
I tried to whisper discreetly, “Jamie, that’s your ex?”
Before he could answer, the woman was upon us. “James! I thought it was you! What are you doing here?” She gave Jamie a kiss on each cheek, hugged him tightly, and pulled back before he could react.
Jamie swallowed visibly. “Hello, Annalise.”
Oh, no. I could sense anxiety rolling off Jamie in waves. He was speechless, while there was something smug about Annalise’s own smile. The cow probably thought he was stalking her; still pining, after all this time. No wonder Jamie looked so panicked.
He was almost shaking, while Annalise waited for him to explain why he was there. And she was pointedly ignoring me completely.
Oh, this wouldn’t do.
“Hello! Did you just move in? I’m Claire, I haven’t seen you around!” I chattered brightly, channeling one of my old friends from university. Keeping it light and bubbly, but still honed like a knife. I practically shoved a hand in her face, forcing her to step away from Jamie.
Finally, Annalise took my proffered hand gingerly with her fingertips, like it was a dead fish. I flashed another insincere smile, even though I wanted to wipe my own hand on my jeans.
“Well, Claire, as it happens, I’ve lived here for quite some time now.” Her tone was condescending and forced. “James and I… we used to go out awhile back.” She glanced at Jamie as she said this, and he stared at his shoes. He looked trapped and desperate.
Admittedly, I had known him less than 24 hours, but he had helped me forget about a hellish night and torch some of Frank’s memories; I was his unconditional ally now.
Fuck her. Let’s do this.
“Oh really? Jamie, darling, you didn’t mention that!” I giggled and pressed myself against Jamie, lacing our fingers together.
Jamie only had time to look at me with wide, stunned eyes before Annalise butted in. “James, you are dating her? Since when?” Her nostrils flared, though she tried not to show her agitation.
I ignored her implied insult. “Hmmm, let’s see… about six months?” I replied. I leaned in and kissed Jamie’s surprised open mouth. “Best six months ever, am I right darling?” He still tasted faintly of booze.
“I, um, I think that…” Jamie stammered.
“So, we have not seen each other in almost a year, have we James?” Annalise crossed her arms over her chest, heel tapping. Where did this bitch come off acting self-righteous? I nuzzled Jamie’s neck lightly and turned to Annalise.
“Well, we’re moving in together. We just clicked, and everything happened so fast and it’s so intense, but just wonderful!” I gushed. I gave Jamie a light pinch on the arm; he shook his head as if to clear it, and I took the opportunity to stand on my tiptoes (damn his Viking height!) to plant another kiss on his cheek this time.
“Moving in?” Annalise’s naturally high-pitched voice went up another octave, sounding strangled.
“Oh, yes, which reminds me, we’re late for the meeting with that realtor, so we should get going.” I nudged Jamie and stepped on his foot.
“Ann—Annalise, it was… good seeing you… again, and I, um…” Jamie gave me a side-long glance, urging me to help us escape.
“James, you never liked for me to call you Jamie,” Annalise said, still ignoring me.
“Actually, I do like it. ‘Twas you who didna care to call me that,” he managed, finding his voice at last.
“So, anyway, nice to meet you, Annalise! Have a good day!” I grasped Jamie’s forearm, locking it with mine and dragging him away.
Annalise stood there for a moment or two, before stomping off on her chunky-heeled boots, coat swinging. I tugged on Jamie, who was still out of it.
“Come on!” I hissed in his ear, and then we rounded the corner. Jamie slumped against the faded brick wall, and I let go of his arm.
“Oh Christ. It’s like I couldna even think, she made me shut down…”
“Breathe, Jamie. She’s gone.” I patted his back gently.
“It’s just… I didna think she still had that effect on me,” he said, wincing.
“The power to make you hurt?” I supplied. A feeling I knew all too well.
“Aye,” Jamie grimaced. He inhaled deeply until some color returned to his face.
“Are you feeling better now?” I asked, stamping my feet in the cold. The wind was still whipping against us.
“I think so. Where are we goin’, by the way? I thought the van was—“
“Well, I wanted to walk away from your ex in the opposite direction, so she wouldn’t know which was my car.”
“Why?” Jamie looked puzzled.
“You know, in case she felt inclined to scratch it with her fingernails or key the paint job, throw eggs or something.”
“Och, exacting revenge on the new girlfriend?” he teased, nudging me with his massive shoulder as we turned back; the coast was clear and blessedly Annalise-free.
It was my turn to stutter and flush red. “By the way, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. You know, with the kissing and hand-holding. Annie there was getting to me too.”
“Nah, ‘tis fine. That was some quick thinking. Thank ye for rescuing me like that.”
“My pleasure.” I stopped in front of the delivery van. “Here we are.”
Beauchamp’s Blooms was printed on the side of the van, in curly script, with purple orchids and violets in the background. Jamie traced his finger over the letters.
“I like it. The purple suits ye.”
“Those flowers are some of my favorites. Orchids mean love, luxury, beauty, strength. The violets symbolize that the giver’s thoughts are occupied with love about the recipient.”
“Ye speak the language of flowers,” Jamie said with a smile.
“It’s an easy one to learn,” I replied simply, before we climbed into the van and drove off. As Jamie fiddled with the radio on the van, I let the sounds wash over me.
For the first time in months, it felt like things would be alright.