The warm breeze billows against her cheeks, cooling her heated skin; the sun's scorching rays are trying their hardest to burn Claire Fraser's pearly, white skin. Her daughters sit next to her in a cobblestoned courtyard in Spain, enjoying refreshments and an afternoon snack. Though the heat is nothing new to them, they're still thousands of miles away from their Georgia home, enjoying the last few days of their vacation.
This week has been just the trip they needed. The girls are on spring break, and Claire had been more than happy to take some time off from the hospital.
She's been working almost non-stop for years, and her best friend and fellow surgeon, Joe Abernathy, had convinced her to take the trip to Spain she and Jamie had always talked about.
It's been six years since his death, and when Joe mentioned Spain, she knew this was a great way to honor him. They'd wanted to come to Madrid for years, always planning it but never getting the chance.
She kicks herself once more, like she's done so many times before. They'd honeymooned in Jamaica but had both agreed that Spain would've been better. By the time they were financially able to plan another long vacation, she'd discovered she was pregnant with Faith.
"Mama, are you listening?" her eight year old daughter asks.
Chuckling at Faith's bluntness, knowing full well she gets it from her, Claire ruffles the girl's curly hair, assuring her that she is. "Yes, darling." She smiles, taking a sip of her cappuccino. "You were saying you loved the Royal Palace."
"Yeah!" Faith squeals, bouncing in her seat as her eyes grow wide. She goes on, explaining, for the hundredth time, how beautiful the palace was and how she wanted to live in a big house like that one day.
"Me too!" Brianna pipes up, giggling along with her sister as they talk about the garden at the palace and how they danced in one of the ballrooms, making them feel like the princesses they wished they were.
Claire smiles, observing her daughters. After months of working without very many days off, it's a relief and much needed break to enjoy this time with them. They look so relaxed, free from the stress of school. She hadn't truly realized until this week how taxing first and third grade could actually be, especially when accompanied by the fact that their mother was a single, working mother—a surgeon, at that, with an ever changing schedule, forcing the girls to spend an abundance of time with her best friend, Geillis, and her husband, Dougal. She hasn't had a day off in a few months, and it's nice to just sit back and enjoy all this time with her girls.
It would be so much easier if Jamie was here. He's been gone for six years, though it doesn't feel like it's been that long. She still feels him every day, his presence always surrounding her. Claire sees him in her dreams at night, hears his laugh, the little Scottish noise that would vibrate in the back of his throat, and she swears she can still feel his hands on hers, holding hers in his larger one. She finds herself often daydreaming of the rich timbre of his voice, sees his blue eyes, but most of all, she sees him in their children.
Faith and Brianna both have red hair just like him; Faith's turned out curly, while Brianna's is straight as a pin somehow, seeing as she and Jamie both have curls. Their ears stick out just a little, the same way their father's did, and her heart aches, wishing Jamie had been able to see them both. Faith had only been two when he was killed, and Brianna was still in her belly, just a month away from being born.
It was the hardest time in Claire's life, becoming a widow and single mother at the age of thirty-two, and she's still haunted by the memory of a police officer showing up on her doorstep instead of her husband.
Shaking her head, Claire comes back to reality, listening to her daughters once again. They're pretending to be princesses, ordering each other around to fetch items from ballrooms and the guest quarters. She snorts, unsure of where they've picked up this lingo, but she embraces it nonetheless.
"Mama, look!" Bree exclaims, pointing to the cobblestone courtyard. There are a few children around their age kicking a ball back and forth, and the girls ask if they can go play.
She's unsure, hesitant to let them, but she looks around. The courtyard is surrounded by several cafés, including their own. There's no way for them to escape. If the ball were to be kicked too far, it would simply roll into one of the restaurants, so she relents, telling them they can but to stay where she can see them.
They cheer and hop out of their chairs, running over to the other kids. She smiles, watching as they're instantly allowed to join the fun, and Claire marvels at how easily children accept others, no matter the language barrier.
Picking up her phone, she sighs, texting Geillis back that they're having a great time, but she misses her terribly. Geillis shoots back to open up her dating app and see what men are available there, and she accompanies the text with a winky face emoji. Claire shakes her head, chuckling under her breath at the younger woman.
She knows realistically she can't. She's got Frank Randall back at home. They've been dating for seven months and it's starting to grow more serious, but, well, she's bored, and it couldn't hurt just to see these guys' ridiculous dating profiles. They always write the dumbest things, and she and Geillis have turned it into a fun drinking game on their girls nights—taking a shot every time a guy has a mirror or gym selfie, says he's not here for drama, or has a picture holding a baby that doesn't belong to him.
Smirking, she opens up the app, then looks out to the courtyard, smiling as Faith kicks the ball to a little boy, while another girl high fives her.
Bree glances over to Claire, giving her a thumbs up. Claire beams in her direction, giving her her own enthusiastic thumbs up right back.
Looking at her phone, she swipes through the profiles. There's Saint Germain, very odd first name, and he's got crazy eyes. He would probably murder the first woman to swipe left on him. She grins, swiping to the next. He's a handsome guy, this Jack Wolvertine, and has a strong jawline, but reading his profile, he sounds like the biggest douche she'd ever meet. The next is a blonde guy, pretty blue eyes, named Stephen, but based on his pictures all at bars and with his arms around other girls, he seems to be a player.
Rolling her eyes, she closes out of the app, deciding to delete it all together. She has no need for it anymore anyway with Frank; she's not even sure why she kept it this long.
Frank. She smiles softly at the thought of him.
He's a sweet guy. He came so unexpectedly into their lives two years ago, but she's so glad he did. He's always been a wonderful friend, helping her live life once more after Jamie and supporting her in whatever way he could. It wasn't until recently that she discovered he had feelings for her, and she'd hesitantly agreed to go on a date after Geillis promised her it wasn't wrong in any way to start dating again. It was strange, and confusing, especially because they were such close friends by then, but he had turned out to be a decent boyfriend as well. Frank cares deeply for her and the girls, and he was honestly a godsend when Geillis introduced them.
She'd been at a dinner party at Geillis and Dougal's house, and Frank had come in. Her friend introduced them, saying she'd met Frank a few weeks before at her yoga studio and the two had gotten to know each other. Claire was all smiles, shaking his hand, and his eyes set on her in a way that drew her to him. He was handsome and a great conversationalist, and it was the first time since Jamie died that she felt some sort of connection to anyone.
He is well-educated, kind, and loves her. It'd taken her a few months to warm up to him enough to say I love you back, but she had after learning how to love again in a new way. It was never the type of love she'd felt for Jamie, but she doubted she'd ever feel like that again for anyone. Frank was a gentleman, though, and someone she could see being content with for the long haul.
She listens to her girls laughing and having a good time, and as she finishes her warm beverage, she looks out at them again.
The sun catches on their red hair, and she smiles once more at how much they resemble their father. Their ears and noses are all him as well, while they both inherited Claire's fair complexion and bone structure. She suspects Brianna will turn out to be tall like Jamie, seeing as she's already almost as tall as Faith.
Faith looks the most like Jamie, her eyes the same color of ocean blue, while Brianna's shine a beautiful golden whisky just like Claire's. She's always loved that she can see herself in those eyes. It's just about the only attribute she can take credit for, so she accepts it gratefully.
Jamie had always joked about Faith looking as if he spit her out on his own, and though it was a running joke, she's thankful now that the gods above decided to give both girls Jamie's genetics so that she can still see him every day.
Brianna squeals in delight as the ball is kicked to her by one of the boys, and she quickly attempts to kick it over to her sister. She's not as coordinated as the older kids, but she holds her ground, and Claire quietly cheers them on, not wanting to disturb the other patrons in the outside café.
Their laughter, like so many other things, always reminds her of Jamie. He had this deep belly laugh that could make her smile even when she was angry with him. She would always get frustrated, claiming if she was mad, she wanted to stay mad, but he would just do something ridiculous to make her laugh even harder, and their fight would be forgotten. God, she missed that. Missed him.
Her heart breaks a little bit more thinking of her husband. Years may have passed, and she's learned to not think of him every second of every day, but sometimes, like today, thoughts of her red-headed Scot consume her.
She dwells upon that fateful night, when she was eight months pregnant and craving cookie dough ice cream.
She'd begged Jamie to go out and get her some, claiming she wouldn't be able to sleep until their baby had some dessert.
"Aye, alright, alright," he'd sighed, playfully rolling his eyes as he slid out of bed. His broad chest glistened from their love making, and she bit her lip, suddenly contemplating if she wanted the ice cream or him more.
Jamie laughed when he turned back around, slipping his shirt over his head. "I ken that look, Sassenach," he teased, "Ye can have yer wicked way wi' me when I return."
She laughed into the kiss he pressed to her lips, groaning, "Mm, sounds good."
Smirking, she tugged him back down for one more kiss. He trailed his head down, pressing a kiss to her large stomach. "Ye take good care of yer mam, aye? And then I'll be back wi' yer ice cream, lass."
Snorting, Claire slapped at his shoulder, telling him to leave so he could come back sooner.
"I'll be back, and then we'll spend the rest of the night drawing out those wee squeakin' noises I love so much."
"I do not make squeaking noises!" she protested for the millionth time in their marriage, grinning as Jamie smirked, chuckling at her as he closed the door softly behind him.
Two hours later, after a few silly texts to Jamie to hurry up before the ice cream melted or she fell asleep, she was stirred from a light slumber by the ringing of the doorbell. There was a police officer at her door, ending her world right then and there.
Jamie had been shot. Killed. Never coming home again.
Claire felt as if the world around her was spinning while her body was completely frozen to the ground where she stood. She couldn't comprehend the officer's words, her hand rubbing her rounded belly and shaking her head, not believing what the man was telling her.
Clearing her throat, Claire wipes a lone tear from the corner of her eye.
Since she's apparently a glutton for pain today, she scrolls through the list of texts in her phone, reaching the bottom. Jamie's text messages.
She bites her lip, reading over his last text to her that she ever received, her eyes misting over at how simple, how mundane it was.
Angus got into some whisky at work. He's hammered lol highly amusing but Murtagh is annoyed and Dougal is not pleased, of course. Be home later to explain more. Love ye
After that, it's just a string of texts from her while she waited impatiently for her ice cream, not knowing that at the time, he was being taken from her for good.
Hurry up! Lol and then another, hope my ice cream isn't melted, baby will be sad… and twenty minutes later, a more worried, where are you?
She remembered falling asleep soon after that, only to be awoken by the doorbell.
She regrets those texts, has spent years beating herself up over them. Why'd she ever ask for ice cream? He could've stayed home and stayed alive. She's punished herself time and time again by reading over those messages, but never bringing herself to erase any trace of him from her phone. The photographs and videos that filled her camera roll would be worn out by now, too, if it were possible. Thank god for technology, for being able to have those reminders of him right there at her fingertips.
Claire focuses back on Faith and Bree, willing her mind to quiet down. This vacation was supposed to help her relax, not bombard her mind with thoughts of her husband and the night he was taken from them so suddenly.
Her eyes roam from the girls to the other cafés around the courtyard. She has this odd sense that someone is watching her and it makes her uneasy; she can feel the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end.
There's a young couple by the fountain taking selfies, a brunette man across the way reading a book, and an older couple sharing a laugh at the café next to hers. Nothing out of the ordinary.
She can't shake the feeling, however, so she trains her eyes back on the girls. Her phone vibrates with a text, and she glances down to see Joe has sent her a picture of her empty office, claiming he misses having her there to yell across the hall to when he was bored. She snickers, snapping a picture of their table and her empty cappuccino cup, saying she wishes he was here.
That's just rude. He responds, causing her to grin.
Before she can reply, she hears Faith's little voice call out in glee, "Daddy!?" and Claire's head whips up, looking toward her children in confusion.
Her eyes focus on the girls, then over their heads in the direction they are looking. Faith and Bree run back to her, Bree appearing more befuddled than anything while Faith is teeming with excitement.
Claire pulls Brianna into her lap, wrapping one arm around Faith's shoulders to hold them close.
"Faith, what did you just say?" she asks, and Faith looks at her as if she had two heads.
Her little hand points in the direction they just came, declaring, "It's Daddy!"
Shaking her head, Claire wonders if they just simply saw a red headed man. The girls have spent their whole lives looking at pictures of Jamie, and Faith has just a few memories of him, really just flashes of his large body or red hair holding her, but sometimes when they would see large redheaded men, they'd associate him with Jamie.
"Sweetheart…" Claire's starts, shaking her head sympathetically as her eyes glance back across the courtyard.
She catches the gaze of that brown-haired man from earlier, his blue eyes piercing her own, and her breath catches in her throat.
She'd know those eyes anywhere. But...
Standing, Claire takes the girls' hands, her breath shaking as she makes her way over to the other café. Her body is moving as if drawn like a magnet, his body the opposite pole pulling her toward him.
The girls have let go of her hand at some point, trailing behind her. Claire can feel her breath coming out in heavy pants, and she feels as if everything is moving in slow motion around her while her heart beats so ferociously against her sternum that she thinks it may stop beating all together.
When she reaches the other side, she's dumbstruck. Unbelieving. Confused. Her eyes are wide, brimming with tears as her head tilts to the side. Her mouth falls slightly agape when he looks from the girls behind her up to her eyes again, a small, uneasy smile gracing his lips as his eyes fill with tears.
She squints her eyes, then blinks, trying to make sure she's seeing what is truly before her.
Licking her lips, she breathes out shakily, "Jamie?"
Thoughts? Please review!