Jamie admired the morning sun coming in through the windows of his study. He reveled in these quiet moments of the morning when the ridge was just starting to wake for the day. Turning towards the fire, he pulled the kettle from its hook over the coals, pouring the water into the shaving bowl on his desk. The sunlight caught the steam as it rose from the bowl, mimicking the fog that rolled over the slopes just beyond his window.
The smell of frying sausages drifted in to his study from the kitchen down the hall. He heard voices coming from there as well, Claire and Mrs. Bug greeting Brianna and Jem. The simple domesticity of the morning reminding him of his childhood at Lallybroch. Jamie bent and pulled his shaving bag from the bottom drawer of his desk. He took the contents of the bag out one by one, neatly arranging them on his desk.
Jamie looked up at the sound of little footsteps in the hallway outside his study door. The door nudged further open a moment later by a small mop of golden auburn hair followed by two deep blue, inquisitive eyes. A smile spread across Jamie’s face.
“Jeremiah,” he said in a mockingly harsh tone, “Does yer mam know where ye’ve run off to?”
At his grandfather’s acknowledgement of him, Jem came fully into the study.
“Oh, aye, Grandda. She’s in the kitchen wi’ Grannie and Mrs. Bug fixin’ breakfast.” Jamie nodded at that, and turned back to his preparations. Jemmy shuffled his way around the large oak desk to stand next to his grandfather.
Pushing himself up on to his tiptoes, elbows on the desk, chin in his hands, Jem watched Jamie closely as he prepared to hone his razor. Attaching his strop to the small hook on the corner of his desk, Jamie began the rhythmic movement of pulling the razor back and forth across the leather. He stifled a laugh at the site of his grandson’s head swaying back and forth with the movements of the straight blade.
The razor sharpened to his liking, Jamie set to mixing his lathering soap, placing the bar Claire had made for him into a smaller gourd bowl. He swished it about until it was the smooth, foamy consistency he liked. Jemmy was still watching him with the same anticipatory fascination that all young boys do when observing the rituals of older men.
“Grandda, can I shave too?”
Jamie peered down at him, taking the little boy’s chin in his hand.
“Shave what, a bhalaich?” He said turning Jem’s chin from side to side in an exaggerated motion and playfully squinting, searching it. “Ye no have any hairs to shave.”
“Aye, I do! Right here,” Jem pulled his chin from his grandfather’s grasp and proudly lifted it high in the air, pointing to the dimple that resided there. “Mam even says so! She says I’m as furry as a wee piglet, but they’re so light ye canna see ‘em.”
“Mmphm. Weel, those are hairs that dinna need shavin’ just yet. And I wouldna be rushing to take up yet another daily chore if I were you.”
Propping up his looking glass against the set of log books on his desk, Jamie began lathering his face with the bone handled hog’s hair brush. His eye caught the flash of another mop of red hair at his door. Brianna looked at the two of them and leaned casually against the door frame with her arms folded across her chest. The warmth and adoration emanating from her gaze brought a smile to his face.
With a flourish of brush movements, Jamie finished the lathering of his own face, and swiped a dollop of suds onto Jemmy’s nose, eliciting a delighted squeal from the young boy. Jamie saw the same grin that pulled at the corners of his own mouth reflected on Bree’s face. Picking up his razor, he crooked his head to left and ran it down the side of his cheek. Jem’s eyes grew large with astonishment at the delicate swipes his grandfather made with the straight blade.
“Ye have to be verra careful so as to nae cut yerself.” Jamie instructed Jemmy as he continued removing the golden whiskers.
“Who taught you to shave, Grandda?”
“My own da. I used to watch him, just as ye have been watching me.” Jamie brought the razor down and twirled it about in the large bowl of water.
“Barber, barber, shave a pig,” Jamie chanted as he drew the razor down his cheek again, “How many hairs to make a wig?” Jemmy giggled at the silly idea. Jamie looked towards Brianna’s as she too giggled at the silliness.
“I learned that wee rhyme from him too.” Jamie said, failing in his attempt to wink at Jem.
“When the two of you are done shaving pigs, breakfast is ready for you.” She told them, pushing herself off the door frame and turning towards the kitchen.
Jamie smiled to himself and realized that the moment was entirely familiar to him. He remembered mornings spent with his own father. Watching him carefully draw his own blade down the sides of his cheeks and around the edges of his chin. White soap scraped from the skin, taking the black hairs with it. He and Willie had watched their father with the same delight that Jemmy had been watching him.
The thought of his brother sent another memory bolting to the forefront of his mind. Another wee lad with those same slanted blue eyes and wavy hair, a soft chestnut instead of Jem’s blazing auburn. William.
He suddenly recalled all the mornings he had spent shaving in the reflection of the stable’s water trough with Willie by his side. The way he would prepare himself just as he had done on this morning, teasing Willie with his shaving lather, the boy staring up at him in fascination, and chanting the same silly rhyme. It was those memories of his son that he carried so closely to him.
Jamie’s heart wrenched as he looked down at Jem, who was swirling a finger around in the bowl of water, and thought of the small moments that he had missed in William’s life. He was thankful for the opportunities he had with Jemmy, but mourned the loss of the ones he didn’t have with Willie. He would have given anything to have had the lad there with him now, sharing in the simple pleasure of remembering old times, telling him of his own father. Jamie wondered if Willie too would ever fondly recall standing by a father figure and sharing such a chore and a laugh.
With a final stroke of the razor down the far side of his neck, Jamie rinsed the blade and set it aside along with his thoughts of Willie. After patting his face dry with the bottom of his shirt, he turned to Jem and placed a strong hand on top of the boy’s head.
“We’ll clean this up later. Come, let’s go get our breakfast, a chuisle.”