“How’s Granny?” Mandy asked as Brianna came back downstairs.
“Resting,” Brianna said, removing her glasses to rub the bridge of her nose. “Da’s with her. How could this happen?”
“Everyone keeps asking that,” Jay said, resting her elbows on the kitchen table. “But what good does asking “why” do? It happened, but me and Mom didn’t poof out of existence, did we? So what does it matter?”
“It matters ,” Brianna said. “We know from experience that my mother made small changes in history wherever she went, but they were still changes . We may not even know yet the full weight of what this has done. Now that they know they’d be faced with twenty years apart when they didn’t have to be, there’s no way they’d do it willingly !”
“Would you really ask that of them?” Mandy asked. “I know you loved Grandfather, but imagine how it might have been for you, raised by Grandda.”
“It’s not just Daddy,” Brianna said, sitting down. “If Mama doesn’t go back to the twentieth century, she’ll never become a surgeon, and that was always such an important part of her life. Even she admitted that to me. And you both are forgetting the very important point of me meeting your father! Maybe I could live with giving up my life with Daddy, but I can’t give up my life with Roger, or you, and Jem. And the Mama and Da I knew wouldn’t either.”
“But they’re not the parents you knew,” Mandy pointed out softly. “They’re a pair of scared, tired young people who have nothing left in the world except each other and an unborn baby.”
Brianna sighed. “I know. God, at first seeing them, seeing them so young took my breath away, but then I looked closer, and saw how thin and gaunt they are, especially Mama. I knew from what I was told that the march to Culloden was hell but…”
“Can we at least try to put away all the “what-ifs” of this whole situation for a while?” Mandy asked, covering Brianna’s hand with her own. “As far as we can tell, you’re safe until she gives birth. She’s only around four months along, so there’s time. She needs rest, Mom. Rest, and nourishment, and safe place to have it. So does Grandda for that matter. Speaking as a nurse, I can’t ask them to make any sort of decision until they’ve had a chance to recuperate.”
“No, you’re right, of course,” Brianna said. “I don’t think Mama even can travel right now, not safely. But we can’t wait too long either. I have no idea what effect the stones would have on someone who’s heavily pregnant.”
“Damn,” Jay said, shaking her head. “This sure is convoluted.”
Brianna whipped around to her granddaughter, eyes narrowing. “Yes, it is, and I am going to ignore your language, but you and I are about to have a very long talk about you running off in the middle of the night with a strange man.”
Jay gulped. “Mom?”
Mandy smiled serenely. “Don’t look at me, darling. I told you your grandmother was going to have something to say about this.”
I heard a rhythmic knocking on the door, a beat I didn’t recognize but thought it must be a song. “Come in, Jay,” I said, sitting up in bed.
“How’d you know it was me?” she asked, opening the door and skipping into the bedroom.
“Lucky guess,” I chuckled.
“Nana told me to come wake you guys up for supper.”
“Supper?” Jamie asked, propping himself up on one hand and rubbing his eye with the other. He looked out the window. “Christ! The day has gone!”
“My mom said your bodies are recuperating,” she said, then gave a yelp and spun around when Jamie started to push back the covers and they fell off his bare chest. “ Please tell me you’re not naked!”
“He’s wearing pants, Jay,” I laughed. “But be aware for next time that normally he doesn’t.”
Jay turned back around and froze, and I knew without having to look, that she’d caught sight of Jamie’s back. “Whoa.”
Jamie looked over his shoulder at her, then pulled on his shirt. “Dinna fash,” he said. “Doesn’a pain me.”
“Looks like they had to at some point,” she said, then shrugged. “They look pretty cool now, though.”
Jamie gave her a curious look and Jay came and plopped down on the bed beside me. I smiled at both her reaction to Jamie’s scars, and her easy nature around us.
“I was hoping to go explore Broch Mordha with you guys tomorrow,” she said.
“I’d like that,” I said. “What do you think, Jamie? Think you can handle it?”
“I think there’s little left that can surprise me,” he said with a smirk.
“I was hoping ,” Jay repeated. “But Nana grounded me.”
“Grounded?” Jamie asked. “What d’ye mean by that?”
“She means she’s being punished,” I explained, arching a brow. “For running off with that boy, I assume.”
“Well, you’re her parents!” Jay cried. “Can’t you make her let me off?”
“Would ye rather a thrashing?” Jamie asked. “Be over a lot faster.”
“A what now?” Jay asked, blinking slowly.
“A spanking,” I said. “And he’s joking...sort of.”
With a long sigh, Jay rolled over and pulled her phone out of her pocket. “If only Leanne could have heard that one. Smile, Grandda!”
Jay held up her phone quickly, and I could see her capture Jamie’s bemused expression.
“Jayme, stop that,” I said.
“I’m not sending it to anyone!” she said. “But if you guys don’t stay here forever, I want something to remember you by.”
“And Jamie frowning at you from over his shoulder is what you want to remember?”
“It’s called candid ,” she said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “I can take more of you, real ones if you want, and print them out so you can take them with you.”
I smiled. “I’d rather some of you .”
“Easy!” she exclaimed, rolling back over my legs. “Selfie!”
“ What ?” I asked, trying to dodge away from what I thought was another TikTok .
“No, no, smile!”
With a roll of my own eyes, I leaned around her head and smiled, watching the image captured in a second.
“We could take a bunch more,” she sighed dreamily. “In Broch Mordha.”
Sighing deeply, I nudged her off me. “I’ll talk to them.”
Jay squeaked excitedly and kissed my cheek. “Thanks, Sassy!” she called as she bounded out.
“Every time she leaves a room, I get the uncanny feeling that I didn’t understand a thing that happened,” I said. “Is that how you feel with me sometimes? And what did she just call me?” I looked over at Jamie, who was laughing. “What?”
“ I’ll talk tae them , ye said. She did wrong, Sassenach, and she does deserve tae be punished. Ye’ll no’ be able tae discipline this bairn at all, will ye?” he pointed at my stomach.
“You don’t know that!” I said defensively. “These are extenuating circumstances, and we don’t know how long we have to spend with them! Jay can be grounded later .”
“Ye’re verra fond of her,” Jamie said, still smiling.
“Of course I am! She’s my…” I trailed off, realizing what I was about to say. Obviously it hadn’t escaped my husband how uncomfortable I was with acknowledging our relation to the three women downstairs.
“Oh hush,” I scoffed, whirling about to head downstairs.
“How are you feeling?” Mandy asked as we came downstairs.
“Better,” I said. “Dinner smells good.”
“Roast, vegetables, and potatoes,” Brianna said. “I thought something a bit more... traditional was in order after Da’s experience with pizza last night.”
“Ye might be right,” Jamie said. “But it was good.”
Brianna smiled at him. “Yeah, well, I also made brownies.”
“Dinna ken what that is,” he said. “But if it’s as good a Pizza , I’ll eat it.”
I sat down at the table next to Jay, who was giving me a meaningful look. “Jamie and I thought we’d like to see Broch Mordha,” I said. “See how it’s changed.”
Mandy gave me a skeptical look. “Are you sure about that? I don’t know if you’re ready to be let loose on the world.”
“Well, I thought Jay could take us,” I said.
Brianna narrowed her eyes. “Jay’s grounded.”
From the corner of my eye, I saw Jay start to speak, and I laid a hand on her knee. “Now, isn’t this her vacation? And God knows how long we’ll be here…” I trailed off, then squared my shoulders. “I want Jay to take us,” I said more firmly.
Brianna, Mandy, and Jamie all exchanged a wide-eyed look.
Brianna stared me down a moment, before her faced relaxed into a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”
“It worked !” Jay whispered, and I hissed at her to shut up.
“It always did,” Mandy said, resting her chin on her hand. “Back when Jem’s kids were growing up, what Nana said went. Unless Granny was around, of course.”
“And what of Grandda?” Jamie asked indignantly.
Brianna put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you really need to ask?”
He looked at me. “No. What Granny says, goes, aye?”
“Do you really want to go to Broch Mordha, Da?” Brianna asked. “I thought maybe you’d like to go hunting tomorrow.”
I grinned at the way Jamie perked up. “Wi’ you, ye mean? Are ye saying ye hunt, lass?”
“Oh, well, it’s been some years, but yeah, of course! I checked, and our old rifles are still locked up in the storage shed.”
Jamie looked to me hopefully, and I put my other hand on his knee. “You go,” I said. “Jay and I will be just fine on our own.”
“Are you sure you should be traipsing out in the woods, Mom?” Mandy asked.
“I’ll have you know, my doctor gave me a full bill of health just before I flew here,” Brianna said, her chin tilted up.
“I’ll look after her,” Jamie said softly.
Mandy smiled at him. “But that reminds me, I want to make an appointment with a doctor here, for Granny.”
“But ye’re a healer,” Jamie said.
“I’m a nurse, but I don’t have the equipment here necessary to see to Gran’s health.”
“She’s right, Jamie,” I said. “Better safe, than sorry. But what about all the questions we won’t have answers to?”
“I’ll see to it,” she said evasively.
“What will you do tomorrow?” Jamie asked.
“I think I’ll just stay here and do some tidying up,” she said. “And maybe enjoy some peace and quiet and hope my mother and daughter don’t get you two into trouble,” she took a sip of her wine, muttering under her breath as she did so. “Or vice versa.”