January 2, 1995, 50 years later
Faith, Bree, Fergus and William were upstairs in the attic at Lallybroch, sipping on their Da’s best whisky. They may or may not have been hiding from their children, who were currently pestering their grandfather outside throwing snowballs at him as their grandmother cheered them on. They were all home for the holidays and were thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. They weren’t often all together at Lallybroch at the same time these days.
Bree was looking for their memory boxes that Claire had lovingly made for each of them over the years. In digging through all the memorabilia stored in the attic, she ran across a box they’d never seen before. She pulled it off the shelf, blew the dust off of it and opened it. .
“Hey! Come look at this.”
She moved it out into the middle of the floor where they all gathered around it. Inside the large box was Da’s old military uniform, his medals, Mam’s white nursing uniform, her satin wedding dress, a small bouquet of dried roses, Da’s well-worn wooden rosary beads, and an old empty bottle of perfume. Tucked in the bottom underneath it all was a bundle of letters addressed to either Colonel Fraser or Claire Beauchamp, along with a picture of a man and woman in the middle of a street kissing in a crowd of people.
William said, “It looks like Mam and Da’s things from the war and when they got married. Do ye suppose those are their wartime letters to each other?”
Bree slid one out of the packet and opened it. She scanned it and promptly turned pink. She choked out, quickly folding up the letter, “Uh, so it would seem.”
Her siblings laughed at her. Fergus elbowed her, “Weel, are ye gonna share?”
Bree, embarrassed, said unequivocally, “NO.”
That earned her another round of ribbing and ribald comments.
“Alright, alright! I’ll paraphrase it because I am definitely NOT reading that to ye. Da apparently was telling Mam about how badly he…er…*missed* her during World War II. Ye know…badly. And something about a…ahem…stallion.”
“Ahhhh,” William laughed. “Good ol’ Da had a bad case of the blue balls.” He smacked his brother on the leg and they both dissolved into laughter.
“So it would seem,” Bree squeaked out.
Faith offered up, “I’m not sure we really want to be reading these. It would seem kind of … well, gross. It’s like walking in on them in the middle of them having sex.”
”GAH, Faith! Dinnae be putting that vision in our brains again! We were all scarred for life that year!”
They all chuckled at remembering that Christmas morning nearly 40 years ago when they bounded into their parents’ room to wake them so they could all go downstairs to open presents and found their parents rolling around naked on their bed. Bree, the youngest, cried thinking Da was hurting Mam. Fergus and William thought they were wrestling and wanted to join in before Faith, the oldest, grabbed them and ushered them all out the door. She was barely 10, but knew enough to know that they weren’t meant to see what they saw.
Bree wrapped the letters back up and hid them back at the bottom of the box. “Let’s all agree not to look at these, okay? I dinnae think it’s a good idea.”
William inquired, “That bad, eh?”
Bree pinked again, “Yes.”
Remembering their parents on that Christmas morning, they all agreed. Fergus picked up the picture and studied it. ”Do ye think this is Mam and Da? You can’t really see their faces.”
Closely studying the picture, they noticed the medals on the officer’s broad chest. It would seem that they matched those in the box. And it looked like Mam’s nursing uniform.
Faith picked up the empty bottle and opened it, sniffing. “Huh. This still smells like the perfume.” She passed the bottle around and they each tested out the scent.
At that moment, Da burst in the attic door, Mam closely following. “AH-HA! So this is where ye all have disappeared to! What are ye about then? Oy! This is where my good whiskey bottle has gotten off to? And here, I was blamin’ yer mam. Fer shame.”
They dropped all the items they’d been examining and looked up at their parents guiltily. William sheepishly said, “Weel, we were looking for our memory boxes but found this and were just…”
“Snooping?” Claire finished for him, her arms crossed, smirking at her children.
They all replied, “Nae!”
Jamie finally took pity on them. “Weel, if ye’re not busy then, ye can all go downstairs and take care of those bairns of yers. They are cold, wet and hungry. Mrs. Fitz has hot chocolate and cookies ready for them.”
At the mention of food, especially Mrs. Fitz’s famous cookies, the siblings took off at a run.
Jamie laughed and shook his head as Claire moved over to pick up the scattered contents of the box. “What were they looking at?”
Claire smirked. “They were looking at the box of things I saved from our war years before we were married. I couldn’t bear to part with any of it. I suspect their guilty looks came from this right here,” she said, holding up the packet of letters tied with a red ribbon.
Jamie sat down beside her and looked over her shoulder at what she was holding. He quietly laughed, knowing exactly what they letters said. “Serves ‘em right for sticking their wee nebs where they dinnae belong.”
As they held things and reminisced about those early years, they shook their heads collectively. “Claire, how did the time pass so quickly? Nearly 50 years. I cannae believe it.”
Claire quietly agreed. She held a black and white picture of them that a photographer had snapped of them in the street. Jamie had her bent over backwards in a passionate kiss surrounded by a crowd of merrymakers. She ran a finger over the picture, thinking back. Jamie had the old perfume bottle. He opened it and breathed in deeply. “The smell. It takes me right back, mo nighean.”
“Would ye like to go back and relive that time?”
“As much as I would, I dinnae think so. I dinnae want to burn like I did, ye ken?” He tapped the letters with his spectacles in his hand.
Claire’s laugh tinkled and brought him a wide smile. “Now that ye mention it, I’ve made it my mission in life to never burn like that again.”
Claire smacked him and laughed again. She leaned over and kissed him. He grabbed her and kissed her harder, leaving both of them breathless.
“Go bolt the door.”
“Why Claire Fraser! Whatever would I do that for?”
“Bolt. The. Door. I’m burning.”
He bounded up spritely, despite his aging knees and joints, and ran to the door and locked it. Then thinking again, he moved a heavy old dresser in front of the door.
“Maybe you could tell me about the time that you tried to breed that stallion and filly?”
“I’ll do ye one better. I’ll show ye.”
And he did.