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A Beautiful, Wild Country

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I stood with my back to the mountains, facing the crowd of people sat in front of the main house, their eyes intent on Murtagh and Geillis, standing in front of them with their hands clasped together. An amazing sense of calm came over me as I watched two of the most important people in my life stare into each other’s eyes, the ever present glint of mischief almost goading each other to shed the first tear. The Celebrant, a lovely woman called Judith, had done an amazing job with the ceremony so far and she carefully laid two sashes of tartan over their hands and smiled at them, raising her voice to address the crowd.

“These sashes represent two lives becoming one, shown by the tying together of the Duncan tartan and the Fitzgibbons tartan,” she spoke as she began to tie a knot just under their hands. “A knot to symbolise Geillis’ love for Murtagh, a knot to symbolise Murtagh’s love for Geillis and a final knot symbolising the new journey that they are taking together as husband and wife.”

I tried not to puff my cheeks out as I bit down on my tongue to stop myself from completely losing it. The day had gone so well up to now, Geillis’ warning of a hangover lasted all of five minutes before she began bouncing around with excitement. The hairdresser and the make-up artist had descended on both of us, managing to make me into an impossibly polished version of myself and Geillis was just glowing. Her fire red hair loosely nestled at the nape of her neck and her pale cream dress fell to the floor like water, making her look like she was floating. And she might as well have been.

Feeling a tear escape down my cheek, I forced myself to look away from them, my eyes scanning the crowd for the familiar face that I had been desperate to see all morning. Almost immediately, I found Joe and he beamed a huge smile at me before sending me a wink and mouthing ‘you look hot!’. My dress was a simple green chiffon that I had been told matched the colours of the Duncan tartan. I tried my hardest not to roll my eyes and settled with looking back to the ceremony, my eyes resting on the man stood directly behind Murtagh. He smiled warmly at me and I felt my chest tighten.

The morning had been so busy and hectic, having to deal with getting Geillis ready and talking her down from her numerous bouts of hysterical happiness, I hadn’t remembered that I’d at some point in the day be rubbing shoulders with the beautiful redhead from the night before. Suddenly nervous, I smiled back at him and turned my attention back to the ceremony as Geillis and Murtagh drank out of a small silver bowl. Murtagh had explained to me previously that there would be many traditional elements to their wedding ceremony, including the couple drinking whisky out of something called a quaich which was meant to symbolise the cup of life. It wasn’t something I’d ever seen at a wedding ceremony before, nor the handfasting that had just taken place, but looking into the crowd, I saw that nobody was perturbed by the events, not even when the Celebrant held out a fairly large stone and Geillis and Murtagh placed their hands on it.

Their vows to each other were simple and heartfelt. More than once, I found myself hastily wiping tears with the back of my hand to stop from obscuring the view in front of me. The view of two of my favourite people on the planet joining together for the rest of their lives. My heart jumped as I realised that true happiness wasn’t impossible, it was standing right in front of me. Geillis and Murtagh were the perfect embodiment of two people who were made to be together however far apart they seemed. The sun of their love had caused the branches of their lives to grow towards each other, now twisting around, pulling them closer, making them both stronger as one. Their lips touched as the bagpipes started their drone and everybody erupted in a deafening cheer.

***

After the ceremony, the now husband and wife were crowded with people offering their congratulations. I had kept myself close to Geillis should she need anything else but she was in her element, not allowing any distance between her and Murtagh as they both sipped their prosecco, both of them with one arm tightly wrapped around the other. I made it my mission to find Joe in amongst the hundred or so people that were milling around in the sunshine. Popping onto my toes to see over the group that had amassed outside the front door of the house, I was suddenly unsteadied by a tap to my shoulder.

“Sorry lass, didn’t mean to scare you. Thought ye could do with one of these,” a silky Scottish accent made me turn around, my stomach immediately dropping into my feet.

He was even more beautiful this close up. The mouth that had held my attention so thoroughly the night before split open and showed me his perfectly straight white teeth as I realised, again, that I was staring at his mouth. He held out a flute of prosecco for me.

“Oh, thank you. Very much appreciated,” holding the glass up to my mouth before I could say something stupid, I took a fairly large drink and he held up a hip flask to me in a toast.

“Ye’ve done a fine job corralling Geillie today, the whole thing’s gone off without a hitch. Slainte.”

“You said that last night. What does it mean?” I asked, taking another sip to steady my nerves. I could feel the hairs on my arm standing on end and hoped he didn’t notice.

“Oh, just a wee toast. Good health and all that,” he said as he rocked back on his heels before slipped the hip flask into a furry pouch thing that hung from a chain belt across his hips.

“What else are you hiding in that thing? Does Murtagh know his best man is drunk on the job?” I teased, painfully trying to be flirty. God, I was out of practice.

“I imagine he's counting on it. I would wager all the men here have a flask in their sporran,” he grinned cheekily, setting parts of me on fire that had been frozen for quite some time. “I’m sorry we haven’t met before just now, I’m Jamie Fraser. Best man, for my sins,” he stepped back in an informal bow, held his hand out to me and I placed mine in his.

“Claire Beauchamp. It’s very nice to meet you although to be honest, I had thought of myself as maid of honour and best man in one tidy little package.”

He blushed and in my peripheral vision, I noticed his fingers tap against his the material of his gorgeous kilt that was resting on his thigh.

Shifting his weight that little farther back gave me allowed me to take in the full view. A man in a full traditional kilt was quite a sight to behold and he wore it incredibly well, tall and strong. The brown tweed jacket fitted his shoulders beautifully and I noticed the colours of his tartan on his kilt, a claim to his family name. Most men at the wedding were wearing kilts but not a single one was wearing it the way Jamie Fraser was.

“Aye, Murtagh was quite upset that I havenae been here for the whole of the planning. I was away, ye see. But I don’t doubt you have done your utmost to keep the both of them happy, Mrs Beauchamp.”

“Let me assure you, it’s Ms Beauchamp,” I tried not to sound too bitter. His eyebrows raised for an infinitesimal moment and then became determined, his eyes slightly narrowing on me.

“Well, that’s good to know, Ms Beauchamp. I wouldnae want to be causing any friction between lovers when I ask ye to dance later on,” his eyes sparkled.

“Geillis told me about the dancing yesterday. I have to say I’m quite nervous, I’m really not very graceful at the best of times,” I admitted, my words somehow permeating my limbs as I awkwardly moved from one foot to the other.

“A ceilidh isn’t really a dance as much as it’s a contact sport but dinna fash Sassenach,” a couple in the crowd fought their way past us towards Murtagh and Geillis and he was forced to push himself closer to me, his hand coming to the small of my back to keep me steady and his breath inadvertently landing on the side of my neck, sending shivers down my spine. “I’ll look after you.”