Jamie set his coffee mug down onto the counter and sighed in resolution once that clock showed six. It was time to start the day. He lifted himself from the kitchen chair and quickly climbed the stairs to make sure his son was up and ready. It was an important day and they couldn’t afford to be late. Jamie knocked on the door a single time before swinging it open to reveal a blue-covered room. In the middle of the blue carpeted floor was a boat-shaped bed that held the sleeping body of a 7-year-old boy.
Fergus absolutely loved the water. Unlike most kids, Jamie had to drag his son out of baths instead of into them. Fergus would happily spend all day in any body of water; decorating his room to resemble an ocean with a pirate ship for a bed was Jamie’s way to reassure Fergus of his stature. He was loved and cared for. And as long he had his Da and his pirate ship, he was home.
“Fergus?” Jamie gently shook the small boy. “It’s time to get up, mon fils.” Jamie smiled as Fergus let out an overdramatic yawn and stretched his arms.
“Good morning, Papa.” Fergus smacked his lips.
“Are ye ready? It’s yer first day at the new school.” Jamie sat onto the blue linen-covered mattress.
“No,” Fergus shook his head moving to sit up. “Why do I have start a new one? Can’t I stay with you? School is…” Fergus paused trying to find the word. “bête.” He finished unable to think of the English equivalent.
“School is important, laddie, ye need an education. Now, c’mon. We’re behind as it is.” Jamie leaned forward and placed a kiss on the middle of Fergus’s forehead. “I ken ye're nervous, but it’ll be all right. I’ll be wi' ye.” Jamie promised standing up and extending his hand for the young boy.
“You promise, Papa?”
“Ye have my word, always.”
Fergus decided that his father’s word would have to be enough and begrudgingly took his hand. After his words of reassurance, they settled into their daily routine. Fergus dressed in the clothes he’d picked the night before while Jamie returned to the kitchen to make a balanced breakfast. Precisely fifteen minutes later Fergus would walk down the stairs fully dressed with his backpack in hand and then sit into his designated chair. Today, Fergus wore a purple polo with horizontal green stripes, blue jeans, and his sky blue Converse.
He would eat the meal placed before him while Jamie did his best to wrangle the thick curly brown mop that Fergus called hair. By this point in time, Jamie was very skilled at brushing out the curls with little discomfort to Fergus. He would brush the tangles out before once again trying and failing to convince Fergus to wear his hair in a tie.
“I want to be like you, Papa. You wear your hair down.”
“My hair isna as long as yer’s.”
Jamie could never actually manage to tame Fergus’s curls. The only goal Jamie had in mind was to keep the hair from tightening into knots, besides that the hair was free to do whatever it pleased; typically sticking up to the point where you couldn’t even tell Fergus had his hair brushed at all.
Jamie put the hairstyling supplies back into their appropriate container before sitting down and joining Fergus for breakfast with his cup of coffee. Jamie would listen as Fergus talked about anything and everything. It was often nonsense and Jamie struggled to keep up with his son’s wandering mind. The boy couldn’t focus on one topic for more than a few seconds at a time. How Fergus started with dinosaurs and twenty seconds later ended up with trains Jamie had no idea. He found his son adorable and entertaining so he didn’t mind the rambling and constant content switches.
By seven, Jamie was locking the front door as Fergus waited patiently by the car. Jamie placed his travel mug on the roof of the car and helped Fergus buckled himself into the booster seat. Fergus knew how, of course, he’d known for a couple of years but Jamie always checked to make sure it was done correctly. Once he was satisfied, Jamie took his spot in the driver’s seat and they began the journey to school.
The ride started as it did every other day. Fergus continued his conversation from breakfast while Jamie drove and chimed in when he could. But once the school came into their sight Fergus went uncharacteristically quiet. Jamie knew he was nervous. He was always nervous when he moved classrooms, but this time he was changing schools. Jamie’s heart broke at the look on his son’s face.
Fergus had been labeled ‘difficult’ by the teachers of his school as well as the district of Broch Mordha. All of the teachers at this point refused to have Fergus in their class. They claimed he required far more care than they could give and that it wasn’t fair to the rest of the class. Jamie knew it was their polite school-political way of saying they just didn’t want to deal with Fergus. With everyone unwilling to take him it was firmly “suggested” that Fergus move schools.
Not knowing what else to do Jamie turned to his uncle, Colum MacKenzie. Colum was his mother's brother and the headmaster of a small school located twenty minutes from their home and was more than willing to expedite his great-nephew’s acceptance into the school. He had a new teacher whose skills he wanted to test and Fergus needed a school. Colum figured the situation was a win-win.
Colum had only given Jamie a brief description of the new faculty member. Their name was Randall and they came with many recommendations. Randall wasn’t just a teacher but also held a degree in psychology making them equipped to handle children like Fergus, children with ADHD. Colum assured Jamie that Fergus’s classroom would be smaller with half as many students as normal. Fergus would be able to get the one-on-one time he needed with a teacher while not being completely isolated.
Jamie parked the car and together they stared at the playground full of children in front of them. Jamie took a deep breath and a final sip of his coffee before exiting the car and helping Fergus do the same. Hand in hand they walked to the front of the school.
“Look lad, it’s yer uncle Dougal.” Jamie pointed to a figure waiting for them by the entrance. Dougal MacKenzie had been thrilled when Jamie told him Fergus would be joining the school. Though Jamie suspected Dougal wasn’t fond of him, Dougal seemed to love Fergus and that’s all Jamie could truly ask for.
“Fergus!” Dougal held up a hand for a high-five which Fergus happily reciprocated with a loud, hard smack. “Will ye be joinin’ my team? I could use such a braw lad like ye.” Dougal was talking about his famed junior football team. As the physical education instructor, Dougal led all the sports activities on campus and he was the only person, besides Jamie, to openly encourage Fergus’ hyperactivity though to an extreme degree.
“Let him get settled first, Uncle, then we’ll see,” Jamie answered opening his hand for Fergus to take once more.
“Oncle?” Fergus asked, looking up at Dougal as they entered the school.
“What’s my teacher like? Is he nice?”
Dougal gave him a nod and whispered to Jamie, “She's verra nice and she’s a looker as well, if I didn't ken she was a teacher I might o’ thought she was a whore.” Jamie gave his uncle a pointed look in response. “Och, well, good luck Fergus. I’ll see ye later.” Dougal disappeared without another word much to Jamie’s relief. They walked towards Colum’s office and Jamie sat Fergus down on the bench outside.
“I’m goin’ in to speak wi’ Colum. Ye stay put, ye hear?”
“Oui, Papa.” Fergus nodded. Jamie kissed the top of Fergus’s hair before knocking on the office door and shutting it behind him once Colum ushered him.
Fergus sat alone on the bench and swung his legs back and forth. He wasn’t tall enough for his feet to firmly plant on the ground but enough for the bottom of his shoe to graze the tile. He stared at the brightly colored walls around him as he waited for his father. He closed his eyes and leaned his back continuing to swing his feet out.
He jumped when a body hit his legs and landed on the floor with a curse.
“I’m so sorry!” Fergus shouted jumping off the bench and scrambling to gather the papers scattered on the floor. “Please don’t tell my Papa. He hates when I kick.”
“I agree with your father and wait…” The woman looked up at Fergus with wide whiskey eyes. “Is that a French accent? Do you speak French?”
“Oui, Madame.” Fergus nodded. “Je suis vraiment désolé de vous avoir fait tomber.” (I’m so sorry for causing you to fall)
“Comme c'est merveilleux,” she responded. (How marvelous)
“Thank you," he said, switching back to English.
“Very interesting,” The woman sat on her knees with a wide smile. “You have both a French and Scottish accent.”
“I am French, but Papa is a Scott,” Fergus explained. “I suppose I have to have both.”
The woman chuckled, “And what’s your name?”
“Ah, so you’re Fergus? My name is Claire Beauchamp, I’m going to be your teacher. It’s very nice to meet you.”
“Oh, Lord in Heaven, Fergus.” Jamie sighed seeing his son and Claire on the floor. “I’m so sorry, Madam.”
“It’s all right, I just accidentally slipped and your son was kind enough to help me.” Claire winked at Fergus and accepted Jamie’s hand to help her stand.
“Papa!” Fergus jumped up to stand next to Jamie.
“Madame Beauchamp speaks French and she’s a Sassenach!”
“Sassenach?” Claire frowned looking at Jamie. “Isn’t that a derogatory term?”
“Fergus,” Jamie hissed, grabbing Fergus’s shoulder to pull him closer. “He means no offense, Madam, a Sassenach is an Englishmen or outlander at most. He truly dinna mean it in a bad way, ye ken.” He bit his lip. “James Fraser, ye’ve met my son, Fergus.”
“I have,” Claire smiled down at Fergus. “Your son is quite a character and I’m looking forward to getting to know him this year. I’m Claire Beauchamp, his teacher.”
“Beauchamp?” It was Jamie’s turn to frown. “No, his teacher is Randall.”
Claire sighed, “Randall is my married name, I’m trying to get away from it if you get my meaning.”
“I do.” Jamie nodded.
“Wonderful,” Claire smiled at them both. “Would you like to continue this in the classroom?” She motioned down the hall.
Jamie stood rooted as Fergus began following Claire to the classroom. Dougal was right. She was absolutely stunning, but very much not a whore.