So this au has been cooking in my brain for a while now, but I finally finished the prologue and i’m finally posting this thing. So let’s see how this goes! (Quick shoutout to my two best friends @mibasiamille and @marlosbooknook for letting me bounce ideas off of them and helping me edit. Also just being overall great people, ily guys <3)
When We Collide
Oxford, England 22nd September 1976
It’s the little things that we rarely notice: those smaller, seemingly irrelevant memories that always lead to more memorable ones. We seem to forget that these events, when put in succession, can eventually change our lives forever. The aftermath can often times leave us in a state that we can never truly recover from, and can even change us into completely different people; people that we wouldn’t even recognize.
These events are usually ones we often see in films and literature; we never expect that they can happen to us. But the fact of the matter is that these things do happen, and they can happen to anyone.
One tiny fraction of a second is all it takes to change everything. Your whole world turns upside down: you can’t tell which way is up or which way is down. But these moments– they’re only the beginning.
Words fail to say how
much I appreciate everyone who invested in this fic, followed it until here,
left comments and asks, supported me and made me feel one lucky lady. I feel
only love for you all. <3
“Close your eyes.” Jamie insisted, whispering
in her ear. “Dinna be a wee cheater, Sassenach. You’ll spoil the surprise.”
“I’m not cheating!” Claire declared, irritated.
“I’m just worried I’ll fall on my face, that’s all.”
“Don’t ye worry.” She could hear the obvious smile
in his voice. “I’d still love ye - even with a crocked nose.”
“How magnanimous of you.” She puffed, walking
slowly with the guidance of his hand on her arm. “Are we there yet?”
“Yes.” Jamie surprised her by kissing her lips
and then removing the blockage of her hands from her eyes. “Tell me what ye
They were standing in an empty apartment, the
big windows harnessing enough of the afternoon light to make the wood boards on
the floor look like decadent fields of gold.
“It’s very…” Claire licked her lips, looking
for an appropriate word to say, noticing his expectant demeanour. “Empty.”
“Ach.” He clicked his tongue and opened his
arms, a big grin forming on his lips. “That is only a matter of buying the
right furniture for it. But do ye like it?”
“I – yes.” She looked around, noticing the wide
kitchen bench and the freshly painted walls. “It’s lovely, really. But why are
“Well,” Jamie hugged her by the waist and pressed
his forehead against hers, his voice sounding like the sheltering roar of the earth
underneath her feet. “I was hoping you could make it my home, if you married me.”
Edinburgh, 1 year in the future
“Lady Jane!” Joe thundered, as he saw her
striding next to a patient’s gurney, accompanying him to the recovery ward
after a long surgery. “I barely recognized you, girl! You look all tanned and sparkly.
How was Jamaica?”
“Hot.” Claire laughed, watching the corners of
his mouth twitch in a devilish grin. “I meant
the weather was very warm, you
naughty man.” Noticing that his smile didn’t fade away, but was only enhanced
by significant movements of his eyebrows that made him look like a crazy cartoon,
she smiled and conceded. “Well, that
“I had no doubt!” Her friend laughed openly, sounding
like an amused bear. “I have seen you with your Scot enough to know that, any
tropical storm in the area, was probably caused by you two going at it.”
“Oh, stop!” She playfully smacked him in the
arm, her cheeks throbbing with heat. “How is everything here?”
“Same old, same old.” Joe replied with a sudden
strange attempt at nonchalance. “You haven’t been at the nurses’ desk yet, have
“No.” Claire furrowed her brows. “I was a bit
late this morning because of…reasons,”
She ignored his smirk. “And went straight to the OR to the kidney transplant.
Shall I go there now?”
“No!” The man said vehemently, grabbing her
elbow and steering her towards the cafeteria. “I’m that hungry. Shall we go for
“It’s three o’clock in the afternoon, Joe.”
Claire gave him a questioning look. “What are you trying to hide?”
“Nothing, LJ.” He shook his head, patting her
shoulder in a reassuring manner. “You know my stomach didn’t come with a
built-in clock. I’m more of a “eat whenever
you’re hungry” type of guy.”
“What is in the nurses’ desk that you don’t
want me to see?” She halted and crossed her arms, offering him a disarming look,
suitable for young children misbehaving with their soup. “Spill it, Joe. We
both know I’ll find out soon enough.”
“Fine!” Joe threw his hands in the air in a
gesture of surrender. “I was just trying to spare you. But please, Lady Jane,
you need to keep it cool. I’m sure he had the best possible intentions…”
Before Joe was able to complete his sentence,
Claire was already sliding past him and marching in the direction of the nurses’
area. As soon as she became visible making a turn on the corridor, two nurses
jumped from their seats – they had been whispering with their heads together,
looking at something – and stood like two soldiers on a parade, their hands
hidden behind their backs, blushing madly.
“So,” Claire smiled pleasantly, taking off her
surgical cap and brushing the mad riot of curls, eager to finally be wild and
free after so much time in confinement, like eels on a barrel. “What is going
“Doctor Fraser.” The younger nurse saluted her,
looking slightly out of breath. “So good to see you. How was your honeymoon?”
“Fine, Nurse Hawkins.” She nodded, tapping her
fingers on the counter in an evident display of impatience. Both nurses looked
at her hand like disciplined cats, fascinated by the repeated movement. “There
seems to be some kind of disturbance taking place here. I want to know what is
“LJ…” Joe started, trying to block her vision
from the nurses. She gave him a look so dark and dangerous that he immediately retroceded
to her side.
“Let’s hear it.” Claire repeated, glancing at
the nurses under her lashes and placing all her imaginary coins on the beat of
Mary Hawkins breaking in seconds under pressure – too bad it was only the
casino of her mind, because it was a smashing jackpot.
“We were just looking at it, Doctor Fraser.”
Mary explained in a high pitched voice, slightly stammering. “We meant no
disrespect. It’s a beautiful work and such a good cause.”
“Give it to me!” She demanded, reaching out
with her open palm. Slowly but surely, Mary Hawkins delivered her the source of
all the ruckus.
It was a calendar commissioned by the Fire
Department, sold to raise funds for a new Burn Centre and to support the widows
and children of fallen firefighters. The calendar was illustrated with
photographs of gorgeous men in the corporation – and front and centre,
occupying almost two thirds of the cover, was James Fraser. He had been photographed
sitting in a chair of the headquarters, naked from the waist up, the suspenders
of his loose equipment trousers falling along his hips. His hair was tousled
and he looked like he had just arrived from a massive fire, finally relaxed and
at ease – except his eyes were playing with the camera, teasing of his secrets,
undoubtedly igniting other flames on the belly of any woman looking at it.
Claire said in excitement, her finger absentmindedly caressing his exposed
chest. “It’s finally out!”
“You knew about this?” Joe asked, gobsmacked. “That
your husband is featuring in a steamy calendar, which probably will be the
erotic fantasy of every female in the Edinburgh area?”
“Of course.” She raised a brow. “Who do you
think took the photo?”
“Hmmm. Don’t stop!” Claire moaned, her toes
curling in pleasure. “That is definitely the spot, Jamie. Keep going!”
“Hmpf.” Jamie snorted from the other extremity
of the bed, skilfully massaging the sole of her foot. “Yer wee noises are
making my cock ache, Sassenach. If it’s really yer foot ye want me to massage,
best ye stop.”
“Again?” She smiled lazily, watching as his
knuckles applied pressure on her battered points. “We did it this morning,
already. And twice last night.”
“It’s fortunate there’s not a limit to it,
then.” He bit her big toe making her yelp, as his hands went on to rub her
calf. “Even when I’m still inside ye, I’m already missing ye.”
“How many love letters did you receive today?”
Claire asked, nudging him with her free foot. “I’m expecting the mailman
already knows your name by heart.”
“They are more lust letters.” Jamie sighed, letting go of her leg and stretching
next to her in bed, playing with her curls. “About a dozen or so. Apparently
there is another man called James Fraser in this area who has been receiving
some by mistake – he is sixty and dinna understand why all of the sudden so many
women were sending him photos in their undergarments and making indignant
advances on him by mail.”
“Lucky man.” Claire laughed. “May your success serve
“Ye ken what day is it today?” He stroked her small,
pointy, ear and temple, gluing their bodies together.
“I do.” She kissed the tip of his jaw, feeling
the small stubble prickling her lips like fresh grass. “Fourteen years ago we
were married for the first time.”
“Aye.” He kissed her mouth, tasting her lower
lip, the pressure of his teeth just enough to make her moan against him. “I
have a wee present for ye.”
He retrieved a small package from his nightstand
and she unwrapped it, kissing him amidst the confusion of paper and ribbon. It
was a custom made blue surgical cap, clearly designed for her, with a
forget-me-not embroidered on the side and underneath it, printed after his own handwriting,
the words “Da mi basia mille”.
“It’s beautiful, Jamie.” She said in a husky
voice, a knot forming on her throat – it was always disarming to realize how
much he knew her and appreciated her. “I - I have something for you too.”
Claire added slowly.
“Aye?” He smiled, so tender and alight that her
body was immediately blazing just to see it. His eyes shone blue and knowing, with
a hint of mischief hidden in the deepest pools of blue sea.
“You know, don’t you?” Claire realized, their
noses almost touching - their eyes so close they could plunge into each other
without taking another breath. Slowly, like a dance learnt in another life and
scripted into their DNA for permanent remembrance, their hands entwined -
silver wedding rings meeting like titans clashing together.
“I know, mo
nighean donn.” Jamie nodded and his hand came to rest solid and sure on her
stomach - cradling the tomorrow they had lost, fought to earn again and hoped
for with all their hearts.
Jurassic World: The Revival Series - Book Two: Indomitable
impossible to subdue or defeat. “a woman of indomitable spirit”
Alan Grant leaned forwards, pressing a kiss to the top of his daughters head. He was readying himself to leave the facility, although he had been telling himself that for the past forty seven minutes and he still hadn’t actually been successful in leaving. “Do you know what it means?” He asked curiously.
Ellis looked up at her father, taking in the lines of his face and the small crinkles at the corners of his eyes. “Indominus Rex?” She queried. The pair had been talking about the hybrid for the past couple of hours, much to Ellis’ displeasure, as the hybrid dinosaur and the events that unfolded as a result of it’s escape had quickly become Ellis least favourite topic of conversation.
Alan shook his head, no. “Indomitable,” he corrected. Waiting a moment until Ellis shook her head to continue. “It means impossible to defeat, but look at you Ellie, the progress you’ve made…”
Hey everyone! I got this dialogue prompt from @random-superwholock-images and this was tons of fun. Thanks again Squishy! Hope you like it. As always, leave whatever comments/critiques you have in my inbox or in the reply sections! Thanks!
Summary:Claire and Alex are best friends with the reader, the Winchester’s adopted sister, and when you disappear after a hunt with Jody and her family, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands…
Warnings:Mild language (d—, s—) agnsty fluff? I dunno…
“Claire, you don’t have to do this by yourself.” Alex pleads with friend and near sister, her dark hair brushing in front of her eyes briefly. “What if she doesn’t want to be found? Or if you end up in trouble?”
“No one wants to be alone. Even when I was on the run, part of me wanted to be found. To be safe with someone, even if I didn’t know who that might be. It’s why I kept going back to Randy.” Claire shoves another pair of shirts into a dark duffel bag before scanning the room for weaponry. She talks as she gathers her hunting items. “Look, Jody and Sam and Dean aren’t gonna get anywhere with their searching. Y/N knows what they’re looking for, so she knows how to stay off their radar. And there’s a reason why she hid her journal for us before she disappeared. She doesn’t want the boys to go get her. Y/N wants us!”
“Dean told us-”
“Dean is wrong, okay? Just because he’s a Winchester doesn’t make him right about every little thing.” Claire raises her voice before seeing the hurt flash across Alex’s face. Claire puts a final ponytail holder on her wrist, zips up her duffel, and spots her angel sword across the room. She sighs, grabbing the angel weapon and turning back to Alex, a weary gentleness in her eyes. “Alex, I’m going after Y/N. I don’t care what happens to me, but I’m gonna find her. I’ll find her and bring her home. I promise.”
“Then I’m coming with you.” Claire raises an eyebrow and Alex rolls her eyes. “You’ll need backup, whether you want it or not. You know that I hunt as well as you. And Y/N means as much to you as she does to me, so…I’m coming.”
A small hint of a smile passes over Claire’s lips. She tosses an empty duffel bag she had slyly grabbed over at Alex, fully well knowing that Alex would join up. “Good thing I packed you some extra shirts then.”
Jody calls up the stairs to the girls’ bedroom. “Claire? Alex? Dinner!”
Hmmm….odd…Jody learned a long time ago with her late son to go with her parenting intuition. She begins climbing up the stairs. “Girls? Sam and Dean are coming over again and you know they eat everything!”
Jody pushes open the door of her new daughters’ bedroom. She bites her lip and sighs at the sight that hits her tired eyes.
“Alex! Claire!” Jody shouts ring through the whole house fruitlessly; there’s no one home but her. A pit forms in the sheriff’s gut. She glances around at the teens’ room, looking for some kind of clue. There’s not much, but there’s enough for Jody to piece together what’s happened. Two duffel bags gone, the lack of clothes in the drawers, no wallets on the night stands, and the most obvious one: Claire’s missing angel sword.
Damn it. Jody reaches into her pocket with a heavy hand, fearing the worst. The past two days have really taken a toll on her, trying to find out what happened to Y/N. Claire and Alex loved her like another sister, as did Jody. Her disappearance his everyone hard. Y/N was a good kid, always doing the level-headed choice, becoming the Winchester’s conscience. Running was so out of character, it hit Sam, Dean, Jody, and the girls in the gut that morning yesterday.
She presses a number on her speed dial and holds the cold box up to her ear. Her breath trembles just barely as she hears a dial tone and almost immediate click.
“Jody. What’s going on?” A familiar rolling voice responds over the phone.
Sheriff Mills takes a deep breath. “Sam. Is Dean with you?”
“Yeah, hold on. I’m putting you on speaker.” Jody wipes her eyes for a second, hot beads of water stinging. “Okay. We’re listening.”
“You got anything?” The gruff tone of Dean Winchester cuts over the tinny audio.
“Yeah. Bad News. Claire and Alex are gone.” Jody pauses. “And I’m pretty sure they went after Y/N.”
The sky darkens from a shade of twilight gray to a deep, midnight navy. Clouds hide the moon and starlight. Icy, biting wind cuts into your body and face. Acrid winter air and blustery gusts blow, swirling invisible needles of pain into you. Yet you run. That’s the only thing that can make sense to you right now. Running. I have to get away. They’re in danger. I have to go… The same phrases repeating over and over in your mind. You don’t know what they mean, but you know from the pit in your gut and the panicky state you’re sent into whenever you try to remember why that something is coming. Something big.
And you have something to do with it.
You don’t remember how you got the series of deep gash marks on the backs of your arms, where you came from, your family if you even have one, your own name, nothing. Just a whole great big series of nothing. You know that you’re dangerous though. I mean, why else would a person carry around so many different weapons constantly? Or have wayyy more cash than anyone should in a duffel bag on your back. Or how every time you saw something strange, your first instinct was to try and help. Or kill.
But you know nothing.
Except that you have to run. Danger is coming after you, apparently something even more dangerous than you. That idea alone makes you shudder. But, it’s bad. And you don’t have the foggiest idea on what to do but run.
Your mysterious life on the lam has led you all over the US over the course of three days, beginning back in the mid-west. You found town names that elicited feelings in you, hoping to find some kind of connection to anything. Right now, you are back in somewhere called Poughkeepsie again. It feels…safe for you. You know it has significance, but, like everything else about your life, you just don’t know. You’ve been circling some of your paths in an effort to throw off who, or whatever, was pursuing you.
You run your fingers through your freezing hair, trying to come up with a place to stay the night where you won’t be recognized. The hotel knew you, as did the Women’s shelter. You sigh and bite your lip. It looks like your options are either the street or the homeless shelter. You could snag a hot meal, maybe even a shower if you went to the shelter, but that risked being spotted or followed. A cold wind stings your face and you bundle in yet another layer of plaid. Your stomach growls in envy, moaning for sustenance you haven’t received for a day or two. And dumpster diving wasn’t something you could just bring yourself to do yet.
Maybe…you don’t want to, but hijacking a gas station wouldn’t be the first time you’ve robbed a store. The last time went smoothly and so did the others, but you know luck has to run out eventually. You quicken your pace against the stinging wind and find a corner building doorway to rest for a moment. Cars drive past at a decent city speed, the lights just a little too bright for your taste.
That’s when you see him. Your heart quickens, sending a small rush of heat and adrenaline through your body. Perfect. A man, clearly well off in life, is walking down the street your way. He pauses at the crosswalk and presses the button, hands in his coat pockets, clearly outlining a wallet. A pickpocket target. You might not go hungry tonight after all…
You brush a stray piece of hair from your face and step towards the street as the light turns green. A familiar orange hand made of tiny lightbulbs flashes on the opposite side of you. You stride along the crosswalk, the wealthy man coming towards you. You rub your fingers together, warming them back up for a clean swipe of the wallet.
But you never make it to the man. You hear him shout at you suddenly mixed with a blaring horn. Blinding light fills your eyes as you turn your head and reel back at the glaring brightness. A scream dies in your throat before it can hit the chilly air. You go flying for a moment and then hit the hard, cold pavement, the pain of the car worse than any wind hitting you before. That’s the last thing you register is the extreme pain. And the rich man running towards you.
Dawn peeks over the land as Claire sighs in the shotgun seat of a borrowed car Alex drives down I-280. Yes, they really did borrow it. Nothing was hot wired or stolen or anything like that classic Winchester business. Though, it is a classic car. 1966 light blue Mustang, a loan from a friend of Alex’s. But, for Claire, the excitement of the pretty classic wore off fast as the two girls drove down the monotonous stretch of land across Iowa. Lotta farms, not much else. Alex tries to make the boring landscape go away by cruising at 90mph for most of the flat land everywhere. They’d be out of the state in a half-hour if things kept up.
“Alex, when we get to the next town, I’ll take over. You’ve been driving all night just to get us to here.”
“I’m fine,” Alex responds with bloodshot eyes. “I can go for a little bit longer.”
“Alex, you haven’t slept all night. You gotta let me take over before we get pulled over by somebody.”
“Okay, okay. I will. Just let me cross the state line first. Then we’ll switch.”
“Deal.” Claire turns back to the roadmap she had stolen from Jody. She felt bad when she took it, but getting Y/N was more important. On the map, Alex and Claire had marked out some locations that were safe for a runaway. Alex’s bait and lure life over most of her youth gave her traveling and runaway knowledge. Claire was runaway for years. Combined with what they knew about Y/N, the two girls had made a list of where Y/N would go, as well as where she wasn’t. Usually those points were in areas Sam and Dean thought their younger, adoptive sister might be.
“She’s got a three day start on us, roughly. We’ve struck out all the areas Sam and Dean thought Y/N could be, but lucky for us,” Claire reaches under her seat and pulled out a lovingly worn black leather book, “She’s got a list of safe hideouts under code names. Like this one.” She runs a finger down a handwritten page of your journal to a name. “Nice Cinderella’s.”
“Yeah, that’s our house. You know, two girls and their guardian? Well, stepmom kind of, but same idea.”
Claire shrugs. “Makes sense. Most of these are under mythology and fairy tale names. Like over here, Bobby’s house is listed under Hephaestus’s Dump. Scrapyard.”
“It’s gonna take us time to figure all these out…”
“There’s some coordinates in the back that line up with the codes, but they’re in code also.” Claire pulls a face looking at some of the numbers. “What kind of language is this?”
Alex glances over quickly before turning her attention back to the road. “Calculus, I think. My old boyfriend took it and I’m pretty sure that’s what it looks like.” Alex let’s out a sigh herself. “She went through a lot of code, didn’t she. This is not gonna be fun.”
“You expect any less from Y/N?” Claire smirks gently. “Think about it. I mean, she’s crazy smart, but she’s just…”
“Yeah. I’m still trying to figure out any idea to what happened.”
“What do we know? Just, trying to make a timeline kind of thing.” Alex keeps her eyes on the road as she spots an exit sign coming up in the distance. She slows the car down to 70 mph. Claire stares and Alex shrugs. “Typical cop hideout.”
Claire nods. “So…we know Sam and Dean and Jody found whatever they were hunting.”
“Because we were there too.”
“Right. We snuck behind watching them with Y/N.”
“Then there was an attack behind us from a hiding creature.”
“Y/N tackled it and got a little scraped up. I chopped its head off and then Sam and Dean showed.”
“Yeah. Then Jody got mad for us following, but it was good because that creature would’ve gone into town on a rampage like the one they were hunting.”
“Which we still don’t know what it is.” Claire sinks down into the shotgun seat some more before continuing. “Everyone leaves: Winchester boys to a motel and us girls back home.”
“Y/N gets bandaged up by Jody, we talk upstairs, wake up and she’s missing.”
“And doesn’t show up on anything. Phone ditched, no credit card trail, no cars stolen, nothing. Completely invisible. Sam and Dean freak out and start searching the nearby areas for a Jane Doe.”
“Nothing pops up for two days, and they were going to expand the search to other towns and hunting safe houses.”
“Today. But we found her journal she left yesterday and decide to go after her.”
“Aaaaaand then we’re driving.” Alex smiles as a mile marker appears. Only 20 more miles of unbelievable flatness and dull farmland til Illinois. But her smile disappears fairly quickly as the two girls drive past the freeway exit.. Red and blue lights start flashing in the rear view mirrors and familiar sirens ring out on the flat land. A cop car peels out from the Interstate off ramp and follows Alex.
“Aww, shit.” Alex pulls off onto the shoulder and stops the car. Claire reaches for the glove compartment for the hidden tranquilizer gun they had also stolen from Jody. She hides it in her inner jacket pocket as the officer walks towards the driver’s side of the car.
“‘Scuse me ladies, but may I ask what you two are doing at this hour of night?” He has a deep voice with a slight twang of a Midwest-hillbilly accent. Kentucky maybe. A grey mustache dons his upper lip and thick holster on his hip.
Alex puts on a sweet smile and a heavy accent of her own. “Officer, I’m just driving my sister and I back to our farm and Ma over in the next state over. She ain’t doing so well and my sis and I wanna see her real soon before noon hits.”
The cop scratches his head. “See now, girls, I’d let you get going now, but I just got in a call from a friend of mine that this car is on the stolen vehicles list and I’m sure you two wouldn’t happen to know anything about that now, would you?”
Alex turns her head at Claire and widens her eyes. Claire leans over, copying Alex’s accent roughly. “Sir, now why would our car be on a watch list? It’s been our Mama’s car for at least 40 years.”
“Kid, when I get a call from Sheriff Jody Mills saying that her two girls ran off in a ‘66 blue Mustang, don’t play dumb with me. Now, I know that something’s a’going on so you better come up with a good reason why you just lied to a federal officer.”
Claire stammers for a sec. “Uh…we-”
“Oh, that’s it,” Alex interrupts, dropping the phony accent. She yanks the tranq gun out of Claire’s jacket and fires. Two large darts sticking out of the policeman’s chest, the cop falls backward onto the asphalt with a heavy thud. Alex brushes a stray hair out of her face and tosses the gun in Claire’s lap, hitting the gas again.
Claire stares, completely shell shocked. “You just shot him!”
“With the highest dose of darts we have. Good call on loading those up. We gotta swap cars next town over.” Alex drives like nothing happened.
“You just shot a fed!”
“Like you wouldn’t have done the same thing.”
Claire raises her eyebrows. “Wow. Didn’t expect that to come out of you.”
“Hey, we’ve gotta get Y/N back. And now we’re on a smaller timetable. It’s like you said. We’ll find her and bring her home.”
The Mustang cruises back up into the triple digits as the fire of determination rekindles back up in the girls.
anonymous asked: Sapphire’s post reminded me of Our Story! The most recent chapter wasn’t the last one was it?
Liv says: I’m calling this Chapter 8.5. It still ties into their second marriage, of course—I just couldn’t resist Julia and little Claire. And a massive thank you to @lenny9987 who is always willing to read my drafts and give me feedback <3
has few memories of her mother, and those that exist are only half-formed. Hardly
memories at all.
blips of sight and sound and smell. Directionless aches in the night, skin
raised to gooseflesh by a living darkness. Sometimes there is a vision of two
fine-boned hands, their fingers playing the air with passionate arcs and flutters. At
others, there are emeralds winking from pale lobes, and a whisper of bergamot
on the stretch of neck below. Baby, a voice says, so clear
but distant, it’s only for one night. We’ll
be back before you—
these, however, there is one that is complete. It is something Claire parades
at dinner parties, a piece of trivia that reduces her childhood to the first
five years of her life. No funerals, no suitcases. No grief hollowing her
little, avian bones. Only: Easy.
this memory, Julia Beauchamp wears a sweater dress and Kork-Ease boots. Her
heels are impractical for a stroll through the park, though that is what they
are doing—strolling—as they have done every Friday since Claire could walk. It
is just the two of them, mother and child, while her father toils in a dark
mechanic’s shop, slicked with sweat and sleeved in black grease.
will return so deflated that evening—“Like my own bloody oxygen pumped the
tires.”—that Julia will kiss the moons under his eyes, will regret not capturing the
sun. And so the following week, when Claire remembers her father’s tired face,
she will produce a drained Dasani and hold it skywards. Autumn seeping inside the bottle and then inside her pocket; the bright November gliding down Henry’s throat over an meatloaf dinner. (He will
indulge his sweet daughter, drinking and drinking until the December day where he
cannot; where Claire must pour the bottle over a mound of dirt.)
Henry tinkers with cars so, too, does Claire’s mother do her own work.
Observing, absorbing, and storing the day away—right here, on this park path.
That is how Claire’s one full memory begins: their joined hands swinging, and their eyes
taking. Dried leaves; flannelled backs bent over canoe oars. So vivid in
her mind, even now.
when Julia says, “Baby, how about we play our game?” young Claire breaks the
hold and sighs.
At this point, it
has been two weeks since the death of her four-year old self, a feat for which
she feels a tremendous pride. With the simple opening of her palm, she can now
present her age—Five! Can you imagine?—without
ever bending her thumb. Her parents often overlook this incredible development
in Claire’s life, still seeing her as the girl with four wiggling fingers, as
the walnut nestled in Julia’s stomach. Baby, Baby, Baby.
waves at her mother, as if to say, Five, Five, Five.
me!” Julia cries. “What I meant to say was: Claire Elizabeth. An honest mistake.”
correction is enough to earn Claire’s forgiveness. She huffs a petulant “All right,”
though she has been waiting for this all week, the moment when her mother’s words begin to change. Their game, with its stories she only sometimes
understands, is the key to a world she is slowly (but surely!) approaching.
looks around and searches for their first target.
she says, pointing to a man grieving his damaged kite.
It lies in the arms of an oak, speared but bloodless, and the protruding branch reminds Claire
of summertime splinters. Those little knives of wood, which always wheedle
beneath her toes when she dances across the porch, barefoot. (Julia is an expert at
removing such splinters. No tweezers needed, just, All better?—and it is. Her fine-boned hands giving Claire’s feet their
He’s a bit of an odd duck, isn’t he?” her mother says, studying the old man.
She tilts her head to the side, as if the angle will reveal the source of his
almost-tears, his slumped posture, the very soul within. “Robert! That’s his
name. Robert—Owner of Toy Shops.”
giggles with excitement. This has always been her mother’s trick: the divining
of lives from the smallest of glimpses. Julia has been known to call it Magic,
though Claire has grown more skeptical since the dawn of October 20th. (Magic is,
after all, a baby’s word.)
a recent widower. Do you see how he wears a ring but keeps watching the couple
does see, and she drafts a mental note for school the next day: Tell Mrs. Heath that Mum is smarter than that
scraggly bugger, Albert Whats-His-Face.
children either. He and his wife…his wife…” And just as Claire remembers, Einstein! Julia cries, “His wife, Susan! Dear, dead Susan. Both
turned off by the whole business of childrearing. Susan’s mother up and left
when she was only three.”
joined the circus?”
I daresay she joined the circus.”
Robert, Owner of Toy Shops,” Claire laments. “Poor Dear, Dead Susan.”
such a shame. Poor Dear, Dead Susan didn’t stand a chance against those wretched measles.” (At this, Claire’s fifth year gives her a sudden
rush of gratitude. For Dr. Rawlings, who once stuck her with a vaccination
needle. For her mother, who covered the red dot with a Pooh plaster. All better.)
why is he flying a kite, Mum?”
is a crucial part of their game: where Claire probes with further questions,
thereby allowing a detailed history to form. No room for doubt when everything
is fully realized—just the growing surety that maybe, maybetheir guesses are correct.
wager he’s quite lonely now, and for the first time in his life, he’s
regretting they never had children.” Julia’s voice is so confident, that Claire
nearly forgets it’s all a game. Almost believes in the name and the wife
and the unborn children her mother has given this sad, old stranger. “Flying
the kite is a way to…conjure them into existence. A big What if?
Rather maudlin if you ask me.”
cannot make sense of these fancy, foreign terms—conjure? maudlin?—or why anyone
would fly a kite for their nonexistent kids. Still, Claire nods, Of course, of course, and plans to comb the ‘c’ and ‘m’s of her father’s dictionary.
Ask him, casually, for clarification. (And if Henry were here, he would temper his
wife’s candor with a more age-appropriate fantasy; shake his head. Even to her own husband, her mother
has always been slightly incomprehensible.)
Julia says, suddenly serious. “Claire.
Don’t you dare live to regret a thing. Promise me that if something scares you,
you’ll do it.
not scared of anything,” Claire announces (except spiders and cavities; except
Father Christmas burning in the chimney and the night noises coming from her parents’
bedroom). “When Willie Burke stole Jacob’s sausage roll last week, I gave him a
wedgie. And he’s two years older than me!”