Fraser's Ridge, North Carolina
The word sounded absolutely stupid coming out of his father-in-law’s mouth, which (infuriatingly!) made ROGER feel the foolish one. “C’mon, ye know. Poofy? Like—voluminous?—”
Jamie Fraser snorted violently into his lunch of bread and pickle and Roger felt a wave of anxiety. Was the word somehow offensive in this time?? But surely ‘poofy’ was more easily misconstrued than—
But Jamie—seated on a log next to Roger’s boulder—came up grinning, still coughing on crumbs as he choked out, “Ye mean to say there was a time when Claire’s hair was MORE voluminous than it is NOW?”
They both laughed and Roger drank in the relief of the camaraderie, flimsy as it might be.
“Christ almighty,” Jamie swore with feeling as the laughter subsided, shaking his head in genuine incredulity, “however did she manage THAT?”
“I dinna ken exactly,” Roger admitted with a hopefully-easy shrug, passing the stone bottle of cider, “Claire’s was sort of—” he made a swooping gesture overtop his own crown “—um...I dinna ken how to describe it.. Kind of—”
“A bouffant,” Brianna interjected helpfully, plopping down next to Jamie (well, as much as a six-foot-tall woman with a sleeping baby strapped to her front could ‘plop’) and doing a quick sketch in the dirt with a stick.
“Oh, aye, a *bouffant,*” He grinned, leaning over to kiss his wife and son, grateful for the buffer. “I definitely knew that’s what it was called.”
“How does—? But—where do the curls go?” Jamie kept tilting his head from side to side like a puppy as he peered down, clearly having difficulty translating the rough illustration to his wife’s head. “And how in hell did she get it to stay all rounded and puffed up?”
“HAIRSPRAY,” he and Bree said in unison, though he left the task of explaining aerosol cans and their uses to the engineer.
By the end, Jamie was grinning like a fiend. “Claire would glue her hair into place every day for fashion??”
“Yep!” Bree laughed, expertly cupping Jem’s head as she bent forward to reach for a hunk of bread, “unless she was doing an operation that day, obviously. Not much call for style under a scrub cap.”
Shaking his head in gleeful wonder, Jamie turned back to Roger. “What else was different about ‘Sixties Claire,’ to your eye, other than the hair?”
“Oo, her groovy makeup!” Bree said through a large bite.
“Gr–? Cosmetics, ye mean?”
“Aye, just so!” Roger said, hoping to win some son-in-law points, meagre as they might be. “And ‘groovy’ just means daring in an admirable way.”
“Well, that sounds like Claire, right enough. Does every woman wear the Greuvvy Makeup, then?”
Bree shrugged. “Pretty much.”
“I tell ye what, though,” Roger said emphatically, seeing the opportunity and seizing it, “Claire certainly didna need all that. Not one bit.”
It was like a horror film.
Two identical faces swiveled on tall, twin necks, fixing him with identical expressions of amusement. Or possibly menace. Either way, absolutely TERRIFYING.
“What?” he snapped, his face flushing as he looked back and forth between them.
Jamie’s eyebrows were raised. “Why should Claire not have needed the cosmetics?”
Bree raised hers to match, her lips quivering with suppressed laughter. “Yes, Roger: do tell!”
He made a scoffing sound. “Well, no, I mean—”
“If ‘pretty much’ all women wore it,” Jamie asked, face completely inscrutable, “why should Claire have been any different?
“No, she’s—Well, I mean she IS—” This was not going well. “All I was trying to say is Claire’s very—She’s got very lovely—”
The movie had shifted into one where the out-of-control-robot car had locked you inside and was accelerating top-speed into a canyon. Cannot—BRAKE—
“OH. MY. GODDD!!” Bree whooped with glee, making Jemmy jump in his sleep and thump his forehead against her chest.
Jamie said nothing and only sipped his drink, but damn him, there was an effing GLEAM in those cats’ eyes.
Bree coughed through her giggles and waved her hand in a ‘hold on, hold on’ gesture. “So—wait: when we met in Inverness....were you checking out my mother’s ‘skin’?”
“I wasna CHECKING HER OUT,” he insisted with a mocking tone to show what a ridiculous suggestion it was (but SHIT if he didn’t sound all kinds of guilty AND if he didn’t want to fling himself into a hole and never come out). Pull yourself the fuck together, MacKenzie.
“Look,” he sighed, “Claire’s a very attractive woman, and—”
“So we’ve gone from verra lovely to verra *attractive*, have we?”
“It—I—” Damn that fucking ginger hide: Roger couldn’t tell if the man was poking fun or literally about to bash his head open against a tree.
“Wait, wait, didn’t—oh JEEZ, it’s too much—” Bree was clutching Jem tight, dying with laughter, and was NOT giving this up. “Didn’t you tell me once that Mama reminded you of Anne Bancroft??”
“Who’s that?” Jamie demanded, his narrowed eyes snapping to Roger.
Yep, it had now become the kind of horror movie where the supporting actor looks at the camera and gets in that *one great scream* for their reel right before they get eaten alive to thicken the plot for the protagonists.
Bree was on a roll. “A famous, very *sexy* actress! She was in a—play (sort of) with Dustin Hoffman who has the role of this university boy who is seduced by an older wo—”
“—S’QUITE ENUFF’A’THAT!” His voice cracked on the panicked outburst (can a man not catch a BREAK???), at which his wife dissolved into further spasms. “Oh for God’s sake, Bree, it was YOU that I checked out, if ye need reminding!!”
“And just why were ye ‘checking out’ an unmarrit lass?” Jamie said, turning expertly on the conversational dime, “A guest in your home, no less? MY daughter?”
“I wasna—I ABSOLUTELY did NOT—Oh, for fuck’s SAKE!”
They were both quaking with laughter where they sat.
Roger threw up his hands up and stormed to his feet. “You two bloody deserve each other, ye know! Twisting a man’s words, ‘til—Oh, willye shut up and LISTEN, THE BOTH OF YE!”
They knocked heads as they slumped against each other, tears streaming down their ruddy cheeks.
Roger made huge, sweeping gestures to left and right for emphasis. “CLAIRE IS VERY BEAUTIFUL. BRIANNA IS VERY BEAUTIFUL. WE’RE ALL FAMILY NOW, CAN WE BE *DONE* WI’—”
“What on EARTH are you lot bellowing about!?!”
He whirled around to see Claire, flushed and dirt-streaked, gathering basket in hand, her eyes wide. “Is everything alright?”
Roger gave both redheads a sidelong glare that HE would have said could have melted steel, but just make Brianna shake even harder. She was suppressing outright cackling only by pressing her lips into the top of Jemmy’s fuzzy head.
“Nay, all’s well, mo nighean donn,” Jamie said, surprising Roger by getting to his feet. He came over to put a hand on his wife’s waist and kiss her on the cheek. “Roger Mac, here, was only singing the praises of your great charm and beauty, mo ghraidh, much to the credit of ye both.”
“Oh! Well!” Claire flushed, sounding both surprised and pleased. “That’s very sweet of you, Roger, dear, thank you.”
Roger, stunned, scraped up enough presence of mind to give her a smile and a little self-deprecating bow.
She didn’t bother to suppress a grin as she went on her way toward the drying shed. “I rather needed that, today.”
Once she was out of earshot, Roger met Jamie’s eye and inclined his head with a sincere, "Thanks.”
“Think nothing of it,” his father-in-law said, clapping him on the shoulder in passing as he headed back to the woodpile “…Dustin.”