It Has Always Been Forever
So, after a little(
lot) hesitation, thought I’d try my hand at a Modern Neighbors AU! It’s a bit of a slow burn, but their journeys always lead to each other :)
They’d lived next door to each other for well over three years and had barely said one word to the other - other than the occasional ‘hullo’ and exchange of pleasantries or lingering look in the hallway or stairwell. They were more like passing ships in the night – She’d see him come home from a long day’s work, tension drawn all over his face, just as she was headed out to start her night shift at the hospital. Then later as she stumbled back at dawn, body aching from the grueling hours, to see him stepping out for his customary early morning run.
Their apartment walls weren’t as thick as some may have liked, but she’d come to love hearing him through the walls in those occasions they happened to be home at the same time. His horrendous, tuneless singing as he made himself something to eat. The way he indignantly bellowed at his TV when his favourite character died or his footy team lost a match, or speaking in rapid Gaelic as he chatted on his phone, never failed to put a smile on her face and filling her with a sense of quiet comfort.
He too had grown to love smelling the charred remnants of a meal she’d been cooking and the accompanying flurry of cussing that followed as the smoke detector went off. Loved when she’d leave her balcony doors open on Sundays and he’d sit on his listening to her humming to herself, the floral scents wafting into his living room as she mixed this herb or that, or when she read her flash cards out loud, memorizing one grisly condition after another.
They’d never really spoken, but they knew the other’s routine as if it were their own; whether meaning to or not, whether liking to or not. Claire knew when exactly the rugby would be on, she’d hear the lads rampaging through the hallway like a crash of rhinos, knew Jamie’d always run out of beer, with the inevitable chiding from his mates in raucous Gaelic, inevitably hearing his door open and close and his hurried footsteps through the hall as he rushed to the store to get some more.
She always kept extra in her fridge just in case he ever knocked on her door.
The only time Jamie hated knowing so much about his neighbour was when her husband was home. As far as he could tell – and what he’d gathered from helping their nosy neighbour Mrs. Bug with her groceries up the stairs on occasion – Frank Randall lived in England, where he taught history at Oxford. And Claire, studied medicine in Edinburgh, doing her residency at the local hospital. Claire had married young and had already been qualified as a nurse, just before being accepted into med school a few months later, while Frank had been well established at Oxford already. Six years of marriage, Mrs. Bug had said, and they’d barely lived together.
When Frank was in Scotland, all Jamie could hear was polite, quiet exchanges, the occasional argument or chastising remarks from Frank about her “rather unseemly swearing” that just irked Jamie to no end – he couldn’t imagine ever treating her like that. And - to his horror - the sounds of lovemaking drifting from her open windows – her bonny wee noises punctuated by the man’s grunts that made Jamie’s skin crawl. His only defence; cramming in his earbuds and cranking up the volume to the noisiest music he had, a book in hand. And when the images couldn’t be drowned out; a late night run. Since Jamie had moved in, he’d only actually seen Randall perhaps a couple of times in years, yet the sight of the man irritated him and filled him with an ache so piercing he couldn’t begin to explain. Once, seeing them hand in hand going into her apartment, Claire trying her hardest not to meet his eye, hurt more than he could bear.
She isna yours, dammit! Dinna be tying yerself up in knots for a woman that you know damn well isna yours!
For the most part, he could make himself forget. Forget she belonged to someone else without the constant reminder around. Yet, he couldn’t help but sense something off about her marriage. They weren’t unhappy as such, but they weren’t exactly overflowing with passion for each other either. They were reserved with one another. He found it strange how formal they would be. Perhaps, after such long periods apart, the distance didn’t give them a chance to be too familiar?
“Ye need to stop pining, lad.” His godfather Murtagh would constantly urge. He’d seen Jamie fall but had been powerless to stop it. Jamie’s mates, Rupert and Angus, knew of a few girls who would jump at the chance to date him and had tried setting him up numerous times. None managed to stick though.
Rupert though, had one girl in mind that he thought may (or rather hoped) do the trick and pull Jamie’s gaze away from his married, English neighbour. A young, pretty Mackenzie girl – Laoghaire.