I remember the day that I woke, and realised she had gone. I ran from room to room, my heart racing, gripped with panic, refusing to believe what my Ma had told me.
Gone? It made no sense to me at all. We love each other.
Claire had been quiet in the days leading up to her departure but to be honest I thought she was expecting her period. She was always a bit short tempered and withdrawn for a few days prior to that.
On my bended knees, I pleaded with my Da to go after her and stop her before she could board that flight. They looked at me with such pity, it made me feel even more wretched and pathetic.
I called her mobile phone constantly. At first it would ring out and flip to voicemail, so I left countless messages pleading, nay begging, her to speak to me. Was she sick? Was she grieving? was Lamb sick? Was she having a breakdown? I was desperate, for anything that resembled an explanation. Of course, she never responded, eventually the line would just go dead. No connection, nothing. I did not have Lamb’s number so I could not call him and there seem to be no number listed in the directory.
Ma and Pa claimed not to have his number, not sure I believed either of them. Neither did I have Jilly’s number, I had met her a few times but there was never any reason for me to be in contact directly with her., I didn’t even know her surname or the name of her Company which made tracking her down impossible. I did have Lamb’s address though, so I penned Claire love letters every week for the next 24 months, just hoping and praying that one letter, sentence or a word would get through to her.
Neither Claire nor I were a fan of social media, our friends were here in Fife. We did follow a few bands on Instagram but the day she left she deleted her account. Another route closed.
I was bereft, I could not eat, I could not sleep, I was a shell of my former self. Of course, I failed my exams so did not make it to university. If Ma and Da were upset, they did not show it. Da eventually sat me down and gently probed me on what my plan b was. I could not think straight to formulate any kind of meaningful plan. My heart was aching and my life shattered.
Claire occupied every waking part of me. She was the last thing I thought about at night and the first thing that entered my waking mind ever morning. I craved the evenings because I could go to bed early and just lie and think about her. I would close my eyes and my mind would wander to our last night together. The closeness, the warmth, the laughter, and the overwhelming feeling of pure love. I had never felt anything like it and have not since. You see, I could not remember a time without this beautiful creature in my life, this was such unfamiliar territory, it scared me because I could not, and frankly did not want, to see a way forward out of this thick dark fog that enveloped me.
I decided to take action. I took a job at the Covenanters waiting tables, shifting beer barrels, anything the Baird’s needed doing I would do it. I needed every single Scottish pound so that I could save up and go after her. It took about three months, but I persevered, and I would not be deterred.
I did go to London to look for her, I tracked down Lamb to a townhouse in Shepherd’s Bush. He was shocked to see me; we had only met once or twice but he knew exactly who I was.
He explained that Claire was not there, she was away but he was not at liberty to tell me where she had gone. He was kindly and he looked at me with a mixture of pity and grief when I pleaded with him to tell me. That surprised me, looking back I can understand why.
I went back every day for two weeks and every day Lamb told me the same thing, he never wavered from his script. I felt like such a sap, a sad sap.
I returned home to Falkland to earn more money and from then on returned to London every weekend I could.
I continued to knock on Lamb’s door but got no response and spent two whole days standing in MacFarlane Road, Shepherd’s Bush, waiting for Lamb to return. Little did I know that they had moved house and I was standing outside the wrong house, in the relentless lashing rain. No forwarding address. Another route closed dead.
Life went on after Claire left but it was not the same. I wanted my old life not some second-rate imitation, I wanted to be with the woman I loved and have always loved, and that woman was Claire.
I had knuckled down workwise though. Da encouraged me to start an apprenticeship in Marketing at the Distillery. It was a good way to get a qualification, having let myself down badly with my Highers. I started at the bottom and worked my way around the various departments getting acquainted with the business. I found a purpose, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Slowly but surely, I got back on my feet. My heart was still broken but my mind was co-operating with life.
I still missed her dreadfully, but I had taken a step back into the real world. When my parents and siblings relocated back to the highlands, I refused to go with them. Of course, I said it was my apprenticeship, but we all knew the real reason I would not move. If she ever came back, I need to be here.
Davie’s parents were selling the Stag Inn, I had a nice inheritance from my grandparents which had been put in trust until I was 21, that was more than enough to buy the pub and even after hiring staff to run it, it would provide a tidy regular income which would supplement my meagre salary at the Distillery. I was junior management and still very much learning the ropes. Of course, the main reason for buying it was that if Claire ever returned to Falkland, she would surely visit a place that held such happy memories.
My third lonely year was coming to an end, I was in the newsagent on the High Street when I saw her. The lass in front of me had picked up a copy of Elle Magazine and there she was. I thought I would pass out on the spot at the sight of her. She was shining from the front cover, dressed in a scarlet red halter neck top which amplified her breasts. Her long chocolate brown locks had been styled into generous waves. She was not smiling which only enhanced her cupid bow and made her lips look even plumper. Her mesmerising eyes, smoked with grey glittery kohl, the large pools of liquid gold were recognisable anywhere and they stared deep into my very being.
Well then, at least I knew what her occupation was and after a wee bit of detective work, I knew her name, Sass Alexander. No wonder I could not find her. Not only had she changed her phone number, address but also her fucking name! I still had no way of contacting her, she was an enigma, no social media presence, no Wikipedia, nothing. My heart warmed at her choice of professional name though. I allowed myself to feel a little happier that day. I was still part of her.
I had also finally accepted that she did not want me to find her, and I had to respect that no matter how much it hurt.
6 months ago, Davie introduced me to Mae. Davie was dating Mae’s sister Maggie. Aye parents with a sense of humour and obviously big Rod Stewart fans.
Maggie had been lucky enough to last for 3 or 4 dates with Davie before he moved on. To be honest, I was not keen at first, we went out on a few double dates with Davie and Maggie, and I eventually found myself having fun.
When Davie finally moved on, I continued to see Mae. We live miles apart and as a Nurse she works shifts so we don’t see each other often but we do see each other regularly. I have told Mae I am not looking for a serious relationship. Like Davie, I was very open and honest to Mae about that.
Mae is fun, a great girl and a good laugh, she has an amazing appetite for life which I really admire. I do not love her though and I know I never will. You cannot force love. You can love to be with someone but not be in love them. We don’t make love either, we have sex, it’s fun but completely devoid of all emotion. It is an act of expression, release, and enjoyment, not an act of love. It’s two 23-year-old youngsters doing what comes naturally. Love does not enter the equation, well not for me anyway.
I think she may have some feeling that the relationship has run its course, she wanted sex the night I saw Claire again for the first time. I just could not, my mind was too sad, joyous, confused and brimming with hope. It would not have been right, I would not have been thinking of Mae and I would rather disappoint her than use her.
She got the right hump though, telling me that the only reason she had worked the shift was to get her ‘reward’ at the end of it.
To be honest, I have been lacking in that department for a wee while. Ever since Claire appeared on the telly in the Chanel advertisement. Luckily, I was on my own, so my tears of frustration, loneliness and love were witnessed only by me. Seeing her on my HD tv brought her back into my life, m sitting room, my home, her smile, her walk, her magnificence. From that moment on it felt wrong to have sex with Mae as my mind was so infatuated with Claire.
Mae deserves someone who will love her, unconditionally and that person will never be me. It would have come to a head sooner or later because I can feel that she wants more, much more than I am able or willing to give. As much as I do not want to hurt Mae, I will hurt her more by staying with her.
When I saw Claire on Friday, I genuinely thought I would pass out at the sight of her. She was as I had always remembered. Her hair was an abundance of wayward dark curls which framed her flushed creamy skin. Her large amber eyes sparkled as she smiled softly at me, looking as nervous and emotional as I felt.
When I got close to her, I could hear her breathing anxiously, it took every ounce of will I possessed not to draw her into my arms and weep. When I moved forward to touch her, she suddenly recoiled. I almost crumbled right there and then. I don’t know how I kept it together.
I cannot express how I felt after seeing her and talking to her.
It was like the sun had come out on a dreich day, my body feels lighter, every nerve I have is alive and hammering for attention, I have more energy, more energy than I have had in years, I can’t stop grinning, I have been running on a diet of love and adrenalin, I didn’t want to sleep that Friday night in case I woke up and discovered it was all a dream.
When Claire told me about our bairn, I felt a tsunami of raw emotion. The happiness we lost is crushing my soul, but more heart-breaking is that she experienced another death. She has had too much to bear in her short life. The extreme highs and low's of emotion I felt was staggering, the deep yearning to protect her was overwhelming.
I am determined to give her space, to let her decide her next step, I want her more than the air I breathe but she stayed away for a reason and that reason was because she did not want to be with me. I must respect that, as much as it feels like my limbs are being torn from my body, I must respect her choices and give her space but also all my support and love. As long as I am walking this planet, she will never be alone.
But now, I was raging, fucking raging.
She will not be a notch in Davie’s belt, over my head body. Don’t get me wrong, Davie is always up front with the lassies, letting them know he is only out for a good time. Some hear the message, but 80% do not and think they convince themselves that they will be the one to tame him. They always fail and inevitably get hurt or angry, sometimes both. I know that Claire has probably met men like Davie before, she’s travelled the world and is wise to men like Davie. How can I be sure though?
Now, more than ever I needed a solid plan. My plan is pure and simple, first protect Claire, second let Mae know that our relationship has run its course.