Yesterday my husband surprised me with the best early birthday
present ever, my other life partner. As I sent some emails, still in my
pajamas, looking like hot morning garbage, a familiar voice rang
through the hallway to my office. I looked up from my computer and saw
the heavenly vision of @CelesteBonin,
fresh off a plane, and yet somehow looking like cartoon birds in a
Disney movie got her ready that morning. Without thinking I
instinctively mounted her. Then I looked in her eyes and said “Why are
you so pretty? I forgot how much I hate you.” - AJ #bestpresentever#mytwohusbands
I think the number one thing that I find important is the importance of honesty with your friends and your parents, if you can be. But I think that telling people how you really feel, being who you truly are, being safe and taking care of yourself is the most important thing.
The North Star can always be found among the millions of other tiny specks of light, its presence just a little bit greater than the rest. It’s a fixed point in the sky; never moving, never fading. The stars are a map of light; and people trusted it to guide them, should they lose their way.
Claire. Sorcha; her name literally meant light. He laid there, staring up at the ceiling as if he were gazing at the stars.
She was his North Star.
He had been lost for so long, never knowing what he wanted, or even deserved. He was a broken man who was surviving, but never living. He had lost his home and his family: everything that mattered. He didn’t care where he ended up or what happened to him. What did he have left?
Then one morning, he woke to find her face hovering over his, the one that tore him from the torment that lived in his dreams.
Before that, he was trapped in the dark, no light to guide him out.
But She was the light.
He couldn’t sleep even if he wanted to, his heart beating erratically in his chest and his stomach dissolving into thousands of butterfly wings. There was nothing except her.
And it had only been two days.
Forty-eight hours, and he would never be the same.
It had been a year, but everything was as vivid as if it had happened the day before.
I was afraid that when I opened my eyes I would still be in that room, and that this was the dream.
Though it might as well have been a dream; my body was free, but I was not.
The physical wounds had healed and faded, but emotionally, they festered; refusing to heal.
I thought I had escaped, but truthfully, I never really left.
The tavern was rarely ever closed–they needed every penny they could get just to keep the place running. It was a sanctuary, a place that gave people second chances. So many people relied on it not only for financial income, but because for some, their lives depended on it.
But today was one of the rare ones. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, only blue. It was a day that finally felt like spring. Flowers began to blossom, trees began to bloom, grass was beginning to turn green again; the world was alive.
The girls took advantage of the break and nice weather, finally free to be themselves. The world was at their feet; they had their entire lives ahead of them; the possibilities were endless.
Jamie couldn’t help but smile, seeing the utter joy in their faces as they savored the light of a new day.
But none of them were Claire.
As he mounted the top of the stairs, he could hear the shuffling of footsteps coming from Claire’s room. It was just past noon, and it became clear to him that he hadn’t seen her since the night before.
He stood outside her door, trying to decide whether or not to interfere, or leave her be.
Then he heard… crying?
And before he knew it, his knuckles were pounding against the dark expanse of the wood, announcing his presence.
He heard a sharp intake of breath and then… nothing.
“Claire?” He tried again. “Are ye alright?”
Silent footfalls and then the door opened just enough so that she could peer through the opening.
It was obvious that she had been crying, her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were red; lashes still wet with tears.
She swiped at her cheeks with the back of her hand and cleared her throat. “Y-yes, Jamie?”
She had tried to sound strong, and look it, but her voice wavered and trembled as the words left her mouth. Additionally, her face was transparent: the pain bright as day, as though he was looking through a window into her very soul.
He felt an ache in his chest, his heart practically breaking as he looked at her. What had happened to make her feel like this?
“What’s wrong, lass?” His eyes searched hers, looking for a way in.
Let me help, mo nighean donn. Please.
Her brows furrowed and she turned her gaze to the floor, so that he couldn’t see her face. She nodded, opening the door further to let him in.
He stepped inside, closing the door behind him. Claire sat at the edge of the bed, her knees tucked up beneath her chin with her head bent in such a way that the dark waves of her hair hid her face from view.
Jamie stood a few feet from the door, shifting from foot to foot; unsure of what to say while silent sobs wracked through her body.
Cautiously, he stepped towards her before sitting beside her, the mattress shifting beneath his weight.
He fought with himself, debating whether he should just sit there and wait for her to speak, or to listen to his heart and wrap his arms around her and hold her until she stopped crying.
But she was in nothing but her shift, and being here in this room–alone–with her would certainly ruin her reputation and everything that she had built.
She was upset and vulnerable, and he could so easily take advantage of that.
His jaw clenched in decision and he wrapped his right arm around her shoulders, pulling her towards him. The dam broke and the tears ran freely, nothing to hold them back. She couldn’t remember the last time she let herself feel so freely: a way in which she did not hide every little thing she felt. The walls of her fortress came crashing to the ground, leaving her naked and exposed.
Jamie held her tighter to him, her head resting against his shoulder, staining his shirt with tears.
“Shhh, mo nighean donn. I’m here. I willna harm ye.” He whispered into the clouds of her hair before gently kissing the top of her head.
They sat that way for a long time, until her breathing slowed and tears no longer flooded her eyes. His left hand laid flat against her back, his fingers moving in soothing circles as he held her. It was almost as if he was shielding her from harm–he would let it all land solely on himself if it spared her the pain.
Slowly, she raised her head so that she was looking directly at him, their faces only inches apart. Then she was leaning towards him, and he towards her, as if some outside force were pushing them together.
Their lips met, and the rest of the world melted away: along with every painful memory, every broken dream, every ounce of wariness disintegrated until nothing was left, but them. Only them.
They lost themselves in each other and, for a moment–just a moment, there was hope: that she would be okay, in the end. That the future would be brighter than the one that was so greedily taken from her. That she could be the person she had eventually lost sight of.
And then it was gone; the kiss ended abruptly as she jumped back and stood in front of him, eyes wide and mouth agape.
Jamie looked at her, his brows knitted together in confusion. Had he done something wrong?
She backed away until her back hit the wall, her chest heaving as her breathing picked up again.
“I’m sorry…” She whispered, and then she was on the floor.
She turned her head away from him and bit her lip in an attempt to keep the sobs from escaping. She wouldn’t look at him–couldn’t. Jamie stood and started towards her, one hand extended in front of him as if he were trying to calm a spooked horse. Kneeling in front of her, he placed his hand to rest on her shoulder. She flinched away from his touch, scooting further into the corner.
“It’s alright. I won’t hurt ye.”
He paused for a moment, giving her the chance to respond. When she didn’t, he continued.
“Ye can tell me what’s wrong, Claire. I promise, I won’t – I will not - judge you. Whatever ye tell me will never leave this room, I swear it. Let me help ye, mo ghraidh.”
She turned to face him, a river of fresh tears streaming down her face.
“If I tell you–” She clenched her jaw, trying to rein in her emotions.
“If I tell you,” She tried again, this time gaining her composure. “You will never look at me the same.” Her eyes shifted to look sharply into his. It was clear to him that whatever her situation entailed, it was serious.
He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry, and murmured, “Tell me.”
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, the images so clear in her head.
“My real name is Claire Beauchamp, and you’re one of the only people left to know that. Here, I go by Julia Lambert, for reasons you will soon understand.” The tears stopped flowing from her eyes, and her face was stone, void of any emotion. She didn’t look directly at him, but instead at the space next to him, as if he had disappeared and she was bearing her soul to the empty confines of the room.
“I was raised by my parents, Henry and Julia, not too far from here. My father loved my mother and I deeply, and he never thought himself superior to women.” A faint smile appeared as she remembered her childhood, but it quickly faded. “I suppose that our views were very different from other families, and I’m grateful for that.”
She licked her lips before she spoke again. “They died when I was six. Everything I knew had been ripped out from under me, and the happy little girl I used to be went with them.”
She glanced at Jamie as she said this, her face didn’t need to express anything; it was all there– in her eyes. Looking away again, she continued.
“Uncle Lamb was the only family I had left–he raised me for the remainder of my childhood despite the fact that I had stopped being a child the minute my parents died. But living with him wasn’t much different than with my parents: their values and beliefs remained one in the same.”
“He respected me the same way that my father did. He taught me to stand up for what I believed in and to chase after what I wanted. He used to say, ‘If you can dream it, squirt, you can be it.’ And so I did. I wanted to be a nurse, to help people. I could do for others what I couldn’t for my parents. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, a smile creeping onto her face.
“I loved being a nurse,” she said. The smile faded as she exhaled. “Uncle Lamb eventually became ill, and there was nothing I could do to save him. He was all I had; it was because of him that I had a roof over my head and that I believed in myself. But between the both of us, we barely had enough to keep that. So when he died, I knew I would’ve been forced out onto the streets.” She closed her eyes, bracing herself for what came next.
“So he arranged a marriage.” She opened her eyes but shifted her gaze to the floor, her hands clutching the thin fabric of her shift so that her knuckles turned white. “To a soldier.”
“Johnathan. Wolverton. Randall,” she hissed through clenched teeth.
Jamie’s ears pricked at the name, his eyes wide as he stared at her.
“Did ye say Randall?” He asked, voice barely above a whisper.
She turned her attention toward him, her eyebrows knitted together as she gazed at him. “Do you know him?”
Now it was Jamie’s turn to remember, his usual calm blue eyes turning to ice as he stared at his hands. “Aye,” he murmured, his voice deep–hard. “Aye, I ken the man well.”
Claire crawled towards him, taking his large hand in hers.
“So you know what he’s capable of?“ Her attention was fully on him, her mind returning fully to the present.
Jamie’s face hardened as he looked up at her, into those deep, swirling pools of whiskey. He nodded, his thoughts grimly imagining what he could have done to her.
He brought his other hand to grasp their joined ones, squeezing as he spoke. “Did he hurt ye?” He was no longer looking at her, he couldn’t. He couldn’t imagine what he had done to her, this amazing, perfect, woman.
She swallowed, “Yes.” Her voice was flat, Jamie knew him. Then realization dawned on her; What had Randall done to him?
She squeezed his hand in return. “Did he hurt you?”
Jamie could only nod, his mind no longer in the room with her. Instead, he was back inside the walls of Wentworth prison, his hands chained to a post as the whip came down onto his back with such force, such fury.
Her hand came to cup his cheek, forcing him to look at her. “He’s gone, Jamie. He’s not here. He can’t hurt us now.”
She never imagined herself saying those words, because to her, Randall was still very much here.
She crawled closer to him, so that she was practically sitting in his lap, her arms wrapped around his neck. All she could do was hold him, and him her.
And they sat that way for a long time, struggling to rid themselves of the same man that had single-handedly broken them both.
I’ve seen even the closest of friends fall apart, turn away from the people they used to walk side by side with.
I’ve seen the most honorable people break their promises, utter words that they wish they could take back the second it got out.
And that happens, because life’s not perfect. We’re not perfect. Dreams are crushed, friendships falter, priorities change, so on and so forth.
But the memories we keep in our hearts and minds hold a moment of imperfect perfection—one that eliminates the bad and amplifies the good—one that will always take us back to each other no matter how far we drift away.