Simple. (pt.9 of Sonas/Happiness)
Hi guys, I really hope you like this chapter. I spent a long time thinking about it and what I wanted was something that captures the best of these characters. Not just their love, but their humour, resilience and kindness too and that is what I have tried to write here. Thank you for all those of you who have followed this story so far, thank you to @yesfangirl for the prompt which has led me down this route and thank you to everyone who shares my work and takes the time to say something nice. Much love, Han xxx
p.s. you can find the links to the rest of this series here: https://redstarfiction.tumblr.com/masterlist
Jamie’s eyes fluttered open again before the sun was fully risen. Pale pink light was filtering through the windows, casting a faint rosy glow across the room and casting squat shadows.
For a moment, his mind was blank, memory lost in the foggy space between sleep and waking and then it all rushed back. Brianna. His daughter! Ah Dhia!
He sat up, careful not to wake Claire, and got out of bed, crossing to the window and easing it open. He needed air and drank huge gulps of it as quietly as he could whilst waiting for his heart to slow back to its regular rhythm.
Jamie smiled, laughed and then realised he was about to cry and closed his eyes tightly, forcing the emotion back. He would not meet his daughter with red-rimmed eyes and a wobbly chin. God! The thought alone made his stomach knot with shame.
As if eager to make its presence felt more keenly, Jamie’s stomach rumbled loudly and he realised with a vague sense of surprise that he was ravenous. Not surprising considering it had been nearly eighteen hours since he last ate. He decided to shave before eating. The stubble on his cheeks was itchy but the moment he was done and suitably fresh faced, Jamie tugged his breeks on, not bothering with a shirt or stockings and barefooted, made his way down to the kitchen, casting a lingering look at the door behind which Brianna was still asleep before descending the stairs.
There were scones in the breadbox that Jenny, as their mother before them, kept stocked free for whoever was hungry to rummage through and help themselves. Jamie helped himself to a generous dollop of jam and then another for good measure and set about the scone, using his right palm as a plate.
As he lifted the last morsel to his mouth, a blob of jam fell from the crudely broken scone and slid down his forearm. Without thinking, Jamie lifted his arm and craned his neck, trying to lick the smear of strawberry from his elbow.
His head snapped up and his eyes widened in shock. Brianna stood in the doorway, a chamber pot held out before her like a bizarre offering, her own face a mirror of his and her cheeks rapidly reddening, just as Jamie’s were. She was wearing Claire’s dressing gown, a rich blue that contrasted beautifully with her red hair and Jamie could scarcely believe how incredibly beautiful their child was. Despite seeing her the night before, looking at her now, poised and elegant as her mother, Jamie found himself at a loss for words.
“I’m sorry … I was just trying to get outside …”
The lass looked down at the pot in her hands and her face flamed a truly magnificent shade of crimson. Jamie was recovering his composure quickly and he smiled, hoping it looked welcoming, encouraging, and fatherly and not the deranged grin of a fool who was just licking his own arm.
“I didna hear you approach, you have a light footstep, lass.”
She gawped at him as if he had spoken a completely different language.
Jamie opened his mouth to say something but she cut across him.
“Are you my … I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but are you Jamie?”
Time seemed to slow down for Bree in the second between the question leaving her lips and Jamie … her father … answering her.
“Aye, and you are Brianna.”
The way he said her name was strange and not at all like anyone else had pronounced it. Jenny and Ian had been careful to say it exactly as Mama had when they had been introduced but Jamie said it with a completely different inflection. It was as if the word meant something more to him than just being her name, he spoke with a sort of reverence that made her feel at once incredibly self-conscious but also very happy.
She stood awkwardly for a moment. Neither of them seemed to know what to say and then Jamie, stepped forward and held out his hand.
“Can I take that for ye?”
Bree looked down and remembered afresh that she was holding a pot of pee and wanted nothing more than the ground to swallow her whole.
“No, it’s fine. I … Oh God. Okay I’m going to get rid of this … if that’s alright?”
She stammered and hurried to the kitchen door and out into the courtyard before he could answer. Around the side of the house, Bree set the pot down, closed her eyes and leant back against the sturdy stone and took three very long, very deep breaths. Once she had let the last one go, she opened her eyes and very quietly, but distinctly said
That said, she felt immediately slightly better. She knew he would be waiting for her and she knew, instinctively knew, that he would be kind and patient and he wouldn’t be annoyed that she had just run out on him, babbling like a crazy person. He had that air about him, gentle despite his size and God! He was huge! Mama had made him sound like a giant and he wasn’t that but he wasn’t far from it either. Bree had noticed the size of his hands and the breadth of his shoulders immediately, but when he had noticed her and drawn himself up to his full height … she snorted. Well she was six foot tall herself, he was hardly likely to be a small man, was he?
And they looked so similar too! Everyone had said it. Mama of course, Jenny and Ian and all of her cousins had made some exclamation to that effect but seeing it for herself had been a bit of a shock because they truly were startlingly alike.
Jamie. James. Father. Certainly not Daddy. Never that.
Bree shook her head. She didn’t know what to call him at all. ‘Jamie’ felt a little rude, a sort of improper use of the affectionate pet-name his family and friends called him. ‘James’ sounded too stern and ‘Father’ was painfully formal and perhaps even more improper because despite what Mama thought, there was a chance that he didn’t actually want that relationship with her at all.
Bree wished fervently that her mother or Jenny, anyone really, would get up and come and save them both from the clumsiness of the encounter. She knew she should go back in; it wasn’t fair to just leave him stood there in the kitchen. She smoothed her hair and then lifted her chin and made her way back to the kitchen.
Jamie watched his daughter hurry past the window, her gaze rigidly on the garden path in front of her. The moment she was out of sight, Jamie slapped his forehead with the palm of his left hand and closed his eyes, making a noise that was half-way between a moan and a laugh. The poor thing! She had just been trying to go quietly about her business and instead stumbled upon her father, half-naked and licking jam from his arm like a dim-witted child.
His back! Jamie didn’t think she had seen it but she surely would if he didn’t dress himself properly before she returned. He barrelled from the kitchen and took the stairs three at a time, snatching a clean, white shirt from his dresser before sprinting back down the stairs, tugging it over his head as he went.
He entered the kitchen cautiously in case she should have already come back and was relieved to find it empty. What would Claire do? Tea. He should make a pot of tea, it would give him something to do with his hands if nothing else.
He crouched by the stove, packing in wood carefully to make sure it stacked evenly and as he worked, calm began to descend. The familiar task was gratifyingly soothing to his nerves and as he struck the flint over the little pinch of kindling fluff, Jamie felt the last of the tension leave his shoulders and heard the back door ease open.
Bree had paused by the window watching him work on the stove and as she watched him, her heartbeat slowed and she felt a small smile tug at the corner of her mouth. He had put a shirt on and was building a small fire, most likely for tea judging by the kettle on the table. Whilst she wasn’t exactly used to seeing people stoke fires just to make a cup of tea or coffee, it was the sort of domestic chore that was familiar enough to normalise most situations and if she helped, it would give her something to do with her hands if nothing else.
“Hi, sorry about that.”
Bree noticed that when he smiled at her over his shoulder, the smile reached all the way to his eyes and it relaxed her slightly more.
“Would you like me to fill the kettle?”
“If ye would, aye. That would be a help.”
Bree nodded and lifted the heavy black iron, carrying it over to the sink where Jenny kept buckets of water from the well overnight ready for the morning. She filled it halfway and carried it back toward Jamie who had finished with the fire and was now standing again.
As he took it from her, their hands brushed and Bree was shocked by how warm he was despite the slight chill in the kitchen. He was as warm as she was.
Jamie gave her another one of those eye-smiles and Bree found herself returning it without even thinking.
“This is strange, is it no?”
Jamie gestured for her to sit at the table and Bree did so, picking up a small saltshaker and rolling it between her palms, absently.
“Yeah. I mean, it is strange for me but it must be for you too. I hope you don’t mind me being here, this is your home and I …”
Bree trailed off shrugging
“Whatever is mine is also yours, Brianna. As to ye being here, no I dinna mind at all. Quite the opposite. I am truly glad to meet you.”
Bree brushed her hair behind her ear and smiled shyly
“Thank you. I … ah … I’m really sorry but I don’t … I don’t know what I should call you?”
He seemed to consider this for a moment, his brows drawing in ever so slightly and his fingers drummed once upon the table, something Bree herself did when thinking she realised with a small start.
“Weel, ye may call me ‘Jamie’ if ye wish, most people do but if you would like, and if it wouldna be too presumptuous of me, maybe ye could call me ‘Da’.”
“Da? Is that Gaelic for father?”
Bree asked and saw his chest swell and his lip quiver ever so slightly as he said
“No lass, it’s only simple.”
Jamie held his breath as Brianna considered the options he had given. Her hands were gathered neatly around the saltcellar and Jamie desperately wanted to reach out and fold his fingers around hers. To try and convey through his touch everything that he felt but he forced himself to remain still, he didn’t want to frighten her or force anything upon her.
“Da? Is that Gaelic for father?”
Jamie swallowed the lump which bobbed in his throat and tried to control the tremble of his lower lip.
“No lass, it’s only simple.”
She repeated the word as if testing it and then smiled brightly at him and to Jamie it was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, the light of it warming him from the inside out.
“I don’t know how I pictured meeting you but it wasn’t like this. It’s fine though, just different.”
She shrugged again and Jamie grinned despite himself
“Aye, I must have imagined it a thousand score times and maybe more over the years, but I was never looking such a dolt as that in my dreams.”
Bree nodded, eager to join in with his joke
“I wasn’t expecting to be carrying my pee a chamber pot.”
Their eyes met across the table, the last of the tension left them, and suddenly they were both laughing.
“I’m sorry, Brianna. Truly for the first impression ye had of me and for scarin’ ye half-to death.”
Jamie reached his hand across the table in invitation and Bree placed her own hand over his as if it were the most natural thing in the world and really in a way, it was.
“Don’t be. It was fine. Mama will think it’s hilarious!”
“Och! Aye no doubt she will.”
Jamie nodded in agreement and squeezed her fingers.
“I daresay everyone has been commenting on how similar ye and I look, and we do. But I would like to tell ye also that you have so much of your mother about ye. I often … over the years I often thought about you and what ye might be doing and I knew ye would be beautiful and canny but I never could have imagined just how perfect ye truly are, Brianna.”
Jamie watched the tips of his daughters ears glow pink with pleasure at the compliment and was glad to have made her feel so.
“Thank you … Da.”
Bree squeezed his fingers back, and just like that, everything was simple.