In the Mist - Chapter 2
Before I start I just want to give a huge HUGE shoutout to @takemeawaytocamelot for helping me with this chapter. If it wasn’t for her I don’t think this would have ever gotten done. Also thank you to @mibasiamille for believing in me and encouraging me to write! This chapter was a pain in the ass and these wonderful ladies made it all worth it. Thank you so much, I am eternally grateful.
So without further ado, I give you chapter two.
28th March 1858
He had tried so hard to forget, to put it all behind him. But you can’t run from your past, the pain and trauma always followed no matter the distance. Even if he was an ocean away from where it all happened, the scars and the memories remained.
No matter where he went, there were walls. Everything had walls, both physical and mental. Whether to lock something in or keep something out, he was never sure. The thing he was sure of, there was always a wall.
The stone walls of Wentworth prison acted as a barrier between life, and death. The separation of humanity, and the broken spirits of those who had lost it. They trapped abused bodies and tortured minds inside those bloody walls. Those who still had hope would try and fight it. They screamed and screamed, the sound echoing on deaf ears, unheard.
They fought against the iron chains that held them, leaving their wrists red and raw. Jamie remembered every single moment, every detail.
If he closed his eyes, he could feel the sharp pull of the hairs on his wrists being caught in the irons. The metal that had been so cold at first, now warmed by his own body. That sound of chain scraping against stone would never leave him, constantly echoing in his mind.
The leather of the whip that had been used to tear him open felt as vivid as it had the day it happened. Each time he heard the snap, he felt its bite. He’d refused to cry out or beg for mercy, he would not give the onlookers that satisfaction. Then that thick, warm liquid ran down his body, turning sticky as it dried. His life’s blood, leaving him behind.
But above all else, that voice stayed with him. Whispering the same proposition over and over again.
Give yourself to me, make free of your body. Do it, and I will make sure there is no second flogging.
But Jamie wouldn’t break–refused to give him what he wanted. What would his family think of him if he surrendered himself? What would he think of himself?
Maybe it would have been less painful, but he would not give in. It didn’t matter if he died there, at least he had his dignity and his pride. He would still be Jamie; not some shell of a man, living the rest of his life in shame.
Even so, the memory of it tormented him – reliving it every time he closed his eyes. But this time was different. This time, he wasn’t so lucky. He didn’t escape, and as a result, allowed Randall to do with him as he pleased.
Jamie, wake up!
He woke to find her face hovering over his, and immediately, he felt safe. He tried to speak, but the words remained trapped in his throat.
“Are you alright?” Her hair hung loose around her face, the white of her shift peeking through the blanket that was wrapped tightly around her. She looked exactly as she had that morning in the woods.
All he could manage was a nod, even though he was nowhere near alright, and she knew it; but she let him keep his pride and said nothing.
She stood and readjusted the blanket that was the only boundary between scandal and modesty.
“Breakfast will be in about an hour. Try to get some rest until then. You’ll need it.”
He tried to swallow the lump in his throat as the door closed behind her. He couldn’t tell if his heart was still racing from the nightmare, or because of her.
The sun had barely peeked above the horizon, but his day, like the rest, had already begun.
Once falling back to sleep proved futile, Jamie slipped out from the warmth and safety of the sheets and into the unknown of the day ahead.
For the first time in days, he saw his reflection and immediately felt sorry for anyone who had laid eyes on him.
Any bit of exposed skin was covered in a layer of dirt and sweat, only adding to the stench of a life lived outdoors.
His once auburn hair had faded to brown, the accumulation of dust and dirt snuffing out the red flames. Along with the other new aspects of his appearance, a beard was just one more thing to add to the list.
He was grateful that he had been provided with clean clothes and water to wash.
Now all he needed was food to quiet his rumbling stomach.
With his basic grooming needs satisfied, he finally had the chance to properly observe his surroundings. Everything looked different in the light of day, like he was seeing it for the first time.
It was small, but it had a warmth to it that made it feel like home. The floor was made up of a dark wood that contrasted nicely with the lighter walls. There was a medium sized hearth on the far wall that was always burning, keeping the inhabitants of the building warm. The room was only big enough for three tables, and they sat close enough to one another so that conversation came easy. And then there was the bar, behind which the Sassenach stood.
There were several young girls in her employ, some no more than twenty. But there was one girl in particular that caught his eye.
Her hands shook as she placed several bottles into a large basket, no doubt to make a delivery from the tavern’s distillery. He could see her chest heaving from across the room. Fear wracked through her body, her back ramrod straight, and if she was trying to hide it, she wasn’t doing it very well.
Jamie couldn’t help but feel bad for the girl, he knew what people were capable of.
Quietly, he pulled her employer aside.
“Is she alright?” His head tilted in the direction of the girl.
“Mary? It’s her first time making a delivery. I know she’s afraid, but I can’t spare any of the other girls to go with her.” He could see the guilt behind her eyes, and all he wanted to do was hold her and tell her it would be alright. His father had told him when the right woman came along, he would know. He never understood it, until now.
“What if I went with her? I know I haven’t anything to pay ye with, but I can protect her. Ease her mind a bit.”
“You’d do that?” For the first time he saw the woman beneath the hard exterior, a crack forming in a wall so carefully built.
“Well, I figure I do owe ye something for all ye’ve done for me.”
Her lips curved into a genuine smile, one that reached her amber eyes.
“Thank you, Jamie. Truly.”
“It’s my pleasure, Sassenach.”
And once again, he headed into the mist.
The sun had come and gone, and they returned as the last bits of light were consumed by the dark – the absence of light signaling its people home.
When they left, Mary had kept her head down, her eyes focused on the ground instead of the strange man walking beside her.
They spent nearly an hour in silence.
But as time passed, she began to relax, allowing the walls she built around herself to fall. Eventually she began to enjoy herself, returning to the happy girl she once was.
No one had ever seen Mary so happy, so full of life. No longer the meek little girl, afraid of her own shadow.
She was about to head to the storeroom, to record the day’s transactions, but was stopped short.
“I’ll take care of it, you go.” Jamie said, taking the basket from her hand.
Strange, the way life works. How one day everything is falling apart, and the next a stranger walks through the door and the whole world changes.
And that stranger just so happened to be a large, stubborn, red-headed Scot.
He was no one, in all honesty. No money, no home, no family. He had nothing to offer but himself, even though he had no obligation to do so.
I don’t know what I expected, or what I wanted. I still don’t. He’s only a stranger, so why don’t I want him to go? I know tragedy, and I know it well. He could have taken advantage of me, or worse. But he didn’t. He was the sort of man who kept his word, a kind and genuine gentleman. A truly honest man.
Jamie was a man trying to start a new life, just as I was.
“Thank you. For accompanying Mary and keeping her safe. I’ve never seen her so happy.” I said as he came out of the store-room.
He smiled and looked down at his feet, avoiding my gaze. “Think nothing of it.” He let out a sigh before continuing. “It’s late, I should probably head up.”
“See you tomorrow?” Of course you’ll see him tomorrow you fool.
“Aye. Goodnight Sass-”
“Claire,” I blurted before I could stop myself.
“Goodnight, Claire,” he said with a smile and slight nod of his head.