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A Fortuitous Donation

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Claire met Joe at the university library.

“I can’t stay long,” she warned. “Frank will be home with Bree in about two hours and as bad as my cooking is, his is worse.”

“No worries Lady Jane,” he said. “Just a quick review session should do it. Honestly, it’s more for peace of mind than anything. You’re gonna ace the exam no matter what.”

“Is there a quieter spot?” Claire glanced around at the other students, most of them male, pale and glaring disapprovingly at the two of them. She did not have the energy to deal with them and their stares after the fight she’d had the night before with Frank.

“There’s a small wing near the back that no one really uses—except lovers meeting for a tryst,” he added awkwardly then raised his eyebrow, questioning.

Claire sighed. “Here’s fine,” she conceded, opening her book. If that’s what the space was “used” for, going there with Joe would only make things worse for both of them.

They packed up their books an hour and a half later.

“Thanks again, Lady Jane. I hope you won’t be too late getting home,” Joe said, slipping into his coat.

“I’ll stop on the way back and pick something up,” Claire shrugged. “See you tomorrow and good luck,” she said as he walked off.

She finished gathering her own belongings, pulling the strap of her purse higher on her shoulder and looking around the library. It was mostly deserted but she saw a flushed couple giggling off to one side. The girl was straightening her sweater and patting her hair. A lovers’ wing, Joe had said.

Curiosity piqued, Claire wandered along a series of shelves that led toward the back of the library. The corner was dark which suggested it was the right one.

Sure enough, she found an open space leading into a small and seemingly forgotten wing of the medical library. She didn’t hear anyone nearby so hopefully she wouldn’t be disturbing anyone if she poked around to see what resources it contained that made it so convenient for those seeking intimate privacy.

Searching for a light switch, her fingers encountered a small, engraved metal plate. When she finally discovered the switch itself and had turned it on, there was barely enough light cast through the entrance to illuminate the worn etching on the plaque.

Fraser Wing

Dedicated to the memory of James Fraser and his wife, Claire. Founded in 1763, Fraser & Sons Printing House was the earliest contracted printer associated with the Medical College. Mr. & Mrs. Fraser were also regular donors in the college’s early years and many of the library’s earliest medical texts were gifted to the college from their private collection in 1798.

Claire gripped the door frame until the roaring in her ears abated. Glancing at the few shelves in the wing—a generous designation, really, given the space was only about the size of a walk-in closet—the books appeared to be quite old and the titles revealed how outdated and backwards the medical theories contained therein must have been. It was little wonder medical students spent so little time in there for academic purposes. They needed to learn the latest and most advanced knowledge and techniques. It was only historians who would have a vested interest in the books’ contents.

When Claire was certain she could walk without stumbling or fainting, she made a beeline for the front of the library again, nearly toppling a librarian returning wayward books to their assigned shelves.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” the librarian remarked though Claire knew her own distraction was at fault. “Did you find everything you were looking for?”

“I…” Claire stammered, still reeling from that plate and what it might mean. “Actually… I noticed the plaque on the wall by the Fraser Wing. It said he was a donor back in the 18th Century… Would there be more information on him here in the library or… in any of the university’s collections?”

The librarian looked more startled by the inquiry than when Claire and run into her. “The university has extensive records of past donors. It would take some time, but I’m sure I could find some information on the Frasers if you’re interested. There’s always at least one member of the history department on campus who specializes in the history of the university and those who’ve contributed to the community here.”

“You would look into him for me?” Claire asked, amazed and more than a little dazed. She could feel the rapid fluttering of her pulse.

“Of course. I’ll just need to take down a few details so that I can reach you when I have enough to share,” the librarian explained, leaving her cart of lost books between the stacks and leading Claire toward the front desk. “I’ll need you to start by giving me your name and student identification number.”

“My name is Claire Randall.” Claire set her purse and textbooks down on the edge of the desk, prepared to wait however long was necessary to get the search for Jamie underway.

There were no doubts in her mind the plaque referred to her Jamie, that somehow he must have survived the battlefield that awful April morning in 1746. And her name was there beside his, which meant somehow or other, she was going to find him and go back. She couldn’t let herself think of the other words and dates in the inscription and the possibilities they suggested. It would be too overwhelming. She must focus and not get ahead of herself. There was an exam she needed to get through in the morning and Brianna needed a costume for some skit they were performing at school near the end of the month…

“Where was it ye said it would be?” Jamie asked as they paused in the road and looked over to where workers were digging a foundation for the new medical college’s library. It would likely take several years to complete but Claire could still picture the familiar façade with the stonework around the entrance and flanking the steps, could still smell the ink and paper of the books inside, the lingering smoke and tobacco scent from so many students’ and librarians’ cigarettes.

“Near that back corner,” Claire told him, pointing with one hand while she kept the other looped through his, a firm hold of his coat. “It won’t be too large but it will be big enough for students to… enjoy,” she said with a light laugh. “It won’t be dedicated as the Fraser Wing for more than a hundred years, though. The university will go through a nostalgic phase where various parts of the campus are rededicated for former donors and prominent alumni.”

“And when was it ye said we’ll get the contract with them? I’ve a new press that needs paying off,” he joked.

“Not for another few years. Once Willie’s old enough to help you and Fergus properly in the shop.”

They resumed their stroll, eager to get back home and out of the hot summer sun.

“Do ye think ye ever would have discovered the truth without that wee plaque?” Jamie asked, a hint of fear in his voice. “I ken I didna think ye’d ever come back to me but it’s been long enough now that I almost cannae recall what it felt like to think that.”

“I think whatever force it was that brought me through those stones to you in the first place was what lead me to you again. If it weren’t the plaque in the library, it would have been something else—seeing your Fraser & Sons emblem in an old book or perhaps Frank would have found you and told me… We’re meant to be together so whatever it takes, we will be.”

“Aye, Sassenach,” Jamie murmured, leaning to press a quick kiss to the sweat-dampened curls of her crown. “We will be.”