Noir Nocturne Part 1 Chapter 13 Of Things Past and the Future
Claire studied the menu she had taken from the rack in front of her. What hadn’t she had in the six weeks she’d been in Scotland that she missed the most? She thought back, or was it forwards, to 1945 Britain and rationing and decided it was quantity of selection over quality, in the main, that had been lacking then. This did not take into account the dreadful food she had consumed during WWII at the Front that seemed to make regular appearances in her dreams as good, old-fashioned nightmare fodder.
Highlander food of the 18th Century was a mixed bag. Hearty, plentiful at Leoch, but consisting mainly of meat of some sort and bannocks with ale on the road. The tamale was filling, so she wasn’t that hungry, but felt she ought to order something as an example to the men.
The waitress at the counter, who was named Marie, according to her name tag, took her time about approaching them. Claire saw her eyes widen at the sight of Jamie and knew a moment of sharp jealousy that surprised her. She really needed to address her feelings about him, and soon.
“What can I get you folks?” Marie said in an American Southern accent, whilst chewing gum and reserving her smiles for the men. She was blonde, thin, but well proportioned. She wore a white starched cap along with a bright orange uniform and entirely too much makeup. Bit of a garish attention hound, Claire sniffed to herself.
“I believe I’ll have the oatmeal, hot tea with cream and the fresh fruit bowl please. My Husband would like that as well as the steak and eggs. Steak rare, eggs over medium, hash browns and whole wheat toast, don’t spare the butter please.” Claire ordered, with just enough emphasis on the Husband, as well as a hand on his arm, so as not to be misunderstood.
Jamie, oblivious to Marie’s appreciation, raised a brow in Claire’s direction and said “Thank you Sassenach. That should be fine.” He tried, but failed utterly, not to grin at the possessive touch,as he looked at it and her from under his brows with a pink hue creeping up his cheeks.
“I’ll ha’e what he’s having” was said three times down the line of stools.
“Well, Scotsmen! My word, but that accent is something.” Marie cooed while placing cups, saucers, teabags, spoons and small metal pitchers of hot water in one and cream in the other in front of them all. She served Claire last. “Haven’t seen you all in here before, I would have remembered such good-looking fellas.”
“Aye, you would lass.” Angus stated while trying to figure out what to do with the teabag. Claire saw Marie pat his hand and make the tea for him. I’ll have to explain tipping to them next, she thought and sighed.
It really was something of a burden feeling responsible for them. It left her no time to think about anything else of importance. She needed to consider what she knew about events from this part of the world pre-war. It was niggling at her brain that there had to be a benefit to it that would aide them all in some way. There was also the fact that she knew WWII was coming. Should she find a way to warn her Uncle Lamb? What about England and the world in general?
The United States wouldn’t even enter the War until December 1941 with Pearl Harbor. It was making her deeply disturbed to even think about the possibility of changing the future. What if whatever she did changed events for the worse? She could not risk that, but so many lives could be saved….
She felt panic rising in her chest and her hands suddenly went numb. She couldn’t catch her breath. There was pressure too, as if a weight had suddenly landed in her lap and was crushing her. She stood quickly and excused herself, heading for the washroom at the far end of the diner.
Murtagh saw Claire go and leaned into Jamie “Somethings troubling her lad. Mebbe ye should follow?” he nodded in the direction she went. Jamie went after her, after frowning and looking around for her. He’d obviously been too engrossed in his new surroundings to notice her small signs of distress. Could be as he just didna know her well enough yet, but Murtagh knew a bad reaction when he saw it, and was a wee bit disappointed that Jamie hadn’t caught it. The lad was usually verra perceptive. He’d have to have words with him about it.
“Did the Priest tell ye about the work then?” He asked Dougal on his right as the food started to arrive. He hadn’t been impressed with the tamale. Too spicy for his liking. This was more the thing he decided as he took in the sight of the steak.
“Aye, should’na be anything that leads to trouble I reckon.” Dougal said as he took up the bowl of oatmeal to smell it. “Ah! Finally.”
Only Angus spent the next several minutes doing any talking, and that was all to the woman who served them, Murtagh noted. He and Dougal were too busy eating to care about whatever he was saying. Jamie and Claire returned shortly after he started on the rest of his meal. They didn’t say anything though, just sat and concentrated on their food as well.
He was beginning to feel as if he could handle this day. The car, the boarding house, Mrs. Bartlett, the clothes, the talk with the Father on the telephone, the walk to the diner all had the effect of making him seem more solid in his bones. The dreamlike quality that had persisted since he awoke yesterday evening in this strange land was fading bit by bit.
It was somewhat exciting to see all the changes time had made. Everything was so big, bright and noisy though. The level of racket in the diner alone was enough to make his ears ring with it. Everyone around them spoke loudly and quickly. He saw several of them reading newspapers while eating and even that rustling was too much on top of the singsong behind the counter.
It wasn’t like the great halls he’d been in. All the sound seemed concentrated on top of him in this much smaller area. There was nowhere for it to go he realized.
“I can barely hear myself think.” He said to Jamie when the meal was over.
“I ken. Tis strange. It seems as if they all ha’e hearing problems in here. I canna understand half of what they say either e’en though I think it is English.” He replied in the Ghalidgh.
Happy to switch back to his native tongue he answered, “Is she alright then?” while watching as the woman put small bits of paper with writing in front of each of them. It was the bill for the meal.
“I do not know Godfather. She wouldna’ tell me what the trouble was, only that she felt overwhelmed all of a sudden like and had to wash her hands and face. I didna’ press her for more as it was no the right place for it. I just waited for her to come back out.” Jamie continued in the old language, keeping his voice down so the others wouldn’t hear.
“Aye well, she’s likely to be worrit o’er all this. Go easy lad. She’ll need seeing to as much as us. Only I dinna think she’ll allow for much of it. She’s strong and smart though, she’ll do.” He stood and picked up the bill by his plate.
“Where’s this cashier then Mistress?” he asked Claire.
“Oh, there is a cash register over there by the door. Just use one of the dollars I gave you to pay. There will be change and you leave a tip from it for the Waitress Marie where you were sitting.”
Dougal, whose reactions were much the same as Murtagh’s, although he couldn’t know it, paid his bill and waited for the others by the door. He was anxious to get to the employment center the Priest had told him about.
Father McDaniel had told him to just relax and listen to the men he encountered while going about his day. He had assured him that no one would take particular notice of them if they didn’t talk much or make their presence known in obvious ways. That meant no fighting, pushing, or horseplay he gathered. Just pay serious attention to the details taking shape around them was his best advice.
He knew himself to be a man of action. He needed work if he was going to survive this with his mind intact. It really didn’t matter so much what it was as long as it was doing something that made him feel in control again. He hated being dependent upon anyone, always had. It was not in his nature to follow.
Claire pointed out the center, which was across the street and up the road from the diner. There was a long line of mostly men leading to the door. Several of them appeared shabbily dressed and had a hungry look about them. Something downtrodden about their countenances Dougal thought. He was used to summing up men quickly. This lot looked defeated.
“Why are there so many of them Claire?” he asked her when they all got in line at the end of the que.
“It’s the Depression Dougal. Many hundreds of thousands of people will be out of work before it’s all said and done here. Although we have been very fortunate to have Father McDaniel pave the way for us, we will be lucky to keep working at a steady rate in the near future. I can only hope that we make more good connections in the days to come or we will be hard pressed indeed.”
“Well, we’ll take what comes Lass. Tell me, while we wait, if ye would, what has become of Scotland? I fear that I willna’ like what ye have to say on the subject, but I must know.”
Claire bit her lip and huddled them all closer together in the line by pulling on each of their sleeves.
“The Rebellion failed. Scotland is still a part of Great Britain, a very important part, but still allied with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. King James across the waters, never returned, nor any of his progeny. The Clan system was destroyed after the battle of Culloden Moor and Protestantism pretty much took over the combined countries. The current King is George V. He renamed the dynasty the House of Windsor during WWI. He is descended from George II but it’s a bit complicated all the way around. If anyone were to ask you all if you fought in the Great War, say yes, for a Scottish Regiment and leave it at that, except for you Jamie. You’re too young. Veterans are important, the world over, so we will have to do some research on it in case it becomes an issue. My war doesn’t start until 1939…” She had been nearly whispering while telling them all this and stopped cold there.
Not one of them knew how to respond to this news he saw. It wasn’t conceivable at any rate. He would have to find out more, and determine whether or no she was lying on his own. It felt like she must be, but, why would she?
“You’ll be explaining that further, but no right now. We need to concentrate on this aye?” He said giving her his most fearsome look possible. She appeared ill somehow and no wonder. If It was true it was heartbreaking. Disgusting to his very marrow.
“You’re right Dougal. I’m so sorry.” Claire said with tears starting in her eyes. Something was definitely wrong with her. He felt flummoxed by it. She was no weakling whatever else she may or may not be. He never could stand a woman’s tears, unless he caused them, and never expected to see them from her.
“Just leave it go.” He said turning away from her and facing the door and the stranger’s back in front of him. The line was beginning to move.
TO BE CONTINUED