short-man-with-a-tall-woman

And While We Live (chapter 2)

Uncle Lambert’s little helper

previously

It was so windy… So loud. Such a turmoil inside my body. It looked like my organs had separated from their cavities  and stood in suspension for a while, before they return to their place. I felt my hair in the air, I felt so light.

Glasgow, present day

She had dreamed of that day, tonight. And she had dreamed of Uncle Lamb again. It was all a mess in her sleepy mind… Opening the curtains of her bedroom, she noted how the clouds seemed to match the turmoil going inside her brain. They were white and grey and so, so angry. I am not angry. I am confused, I am tired of battling demons I don’t recognize. Adapting to a new place, a new job, a new time (JHRC!!), was not easy. Letting go of the past, of the literal past, felt like tearing up an arm. But she had made a promise to her Uncle, a promise she was hell bent on keeping.

A few months after moving into her apartment, Claire was still in a whirlwind of new things, shiny discoveries, amazing places that she reached without leaving the same spot. On that Netflix programme, she found and watched the most amazing film - “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. Sean Connery reminded her so much of her Uncle Lamb, that she found herself putting it on for company and comfort, while she cleaned or cooked.

Uncle Lambert knew. He knew a lot and while he hadn’t prepared her for it, he had left everything ready for a life she had to now live as if she hadn’t had one before. She was thinking about her old life, as she made her coffee and toast. The war was over, it was time to think about other things. About marriage, about family, about where in the world Uncle Lambert was now. About not wanting to stop being a nurse… What would Frank think about that? Quentin Lambert Beauchamp was a Blitz survivor, a true bachelor of the english kind. If he was a wanderer before, the war had just turned him into a bigger one. While he hadn’t asked to raise Claire and certainly wasn’t a by-the-book child tutor, he had done a good job. Claire was who she was, in part, because of the life she had led with this man. All the adventures, the stories, the work, letting her be who she wanted and do things considered not proper for an english little lady or lady to be…

After the stones, however, Claire had a turmoil of doubts about Uncle Lamb. The pieces of the puzzle started to be put together quickly after her arrival.

In the 30s, Lambert Beauchamp had settled for a bit in merry old England while Hitler rose to power. He had decided to teach at Oxford. There, a few years later, Claire met one of her uncle’s students, Frank Randall: dashing historian, older man. Uncle Lambert liked Frank and never stated any sign of approval, or disapproval, for that matter, regarding the relationship. But he did insist on them not getting married right away, not for the wrong reasons, or so she thought… “Wait until we settle this mess, my darling girl.” This mess being WW2. Claire saw right through him and while Frank would have liked to be legally married, Claire followed Lambert’s advice. Nothing prevented them from meeting and act like husband and wife when their leaves from duty allowed it. What was a piece of paper? But now, it seemed Uncle Lamb simply didn’t want that tie to exist, that legal impediment. What else Uncle Lamb, what else? Frank and Claire had seen each other and had a good relationship and courtship for a year, until war erupted. The United Kingdom did its call to arms, Claire followed her calling and trained as a nurse… you said it would be the appropriate thing for a woman, Frank, but if you saw me now… And if you had listened to me then… and Frank put his knowledge to the service of the MI6 after being recruited from officer training.

Their correspondence kept them alive to each other, the rare but well enjoyed encounters had been good. And they were planning on getting married once the war was over. In the autumn of 1945, they were in Scotland, in Inverness, in a magical romantic inn. They had been together for a few days. They would have gotten married on *that* day, if it weren’t for Uncle Lambert’s accident, that delayed his trip north. Accident…? It was going to happen the day after, if it weren’t… If it weren’t. More than 70 years had passed, it literally felt like yesterday. Claire also thought about those days with some longing, but with a tug in her heart, a question mark forged into her sixth sense. After years of seeing each other scarcely, of two day trips where the needs of the flesh were more urgent, after letters that were rare towards the end and in which a quick “hello, I’m alive, I’m alright” seemed enough, there had been some awkward conversations, some clouds of doubt that were quick to dissipate when the adrenaline of the decision of getting married rose in her heart and in his pleading arguments.

Claire’s loneliness made her heart ache for Frank and what could have been… But she had made a promise to her dear Uncle. She promised to carry on living, she promised to follow her dreams, she promised to not look for him, she promised not to look for Frank. There had been a Claire Beauchamp in 1945. Unfortunately killed in action, or so the documents said *snort*. But there was a new Claire Beauchamp in the 21st century, born in 1989. One that had in her hands a pack of letters to open, in order, per another request.

“Please madonna, please follow your uncle’s instructions and open one by one, follow the dates on the envelopes. Trust us.” “Please Claire, ye have to promise us.” She was still so confused, so dizzy, but these people were there, they knew her, they knew Uncle Lamb, they were standing in the middle of the square in Inverness while she was running around looking, wanting to go to the police because surely someone must’ve stolen her car after. “I feel asleep picking flowers. That was it! I must’ve forgot to have a decent breakfast.” They were there when she started looking around and getting out of her frenzy state into a slightly more frenzy scottish town with cars that really weren’t cars, street signs that she did not recognize, clothes that looked strange. Everything was the same and everything was different. The short froggy man and the tall read headed woman approached her, casually, “Hello Claire, please keep calm.” “WHERE AM I?” They smiled like she hadn’t just screamed, like she had just said hello how are you dear friend. “Please Claire, we are friends, we are here at the request of your Uncle… I’m Gillian, this is Raymond.” And so she went.

Claire shook off the memories, the doubts, the questions. Every three months she opened a letter, an action that left her with more questions than before. She had been so tempted to look for them. When the loneliness was almost strangling her. But she kept the promise.

Putting the mug in the sink, she checked her reflection in the mirror, applied lipstick, tucked her shirt in her jeans, put on her coat and went off to another day of classes. As she turned to close the door on her building and check something in her purse, a black motorbike stopped at the traffic light in the road ahead. The helmet didn’t quite completely hid the mop of red hair peeking underneath. The biker liked what he saw, when he turned his head while waiting for the light to change.

Have a great weekend! :)