Chapter 1: A simple Saturday
YOU ARE a LIAR! A FUCKING LIAR!!
The door slammed shut, reverberating in the door frame. Wails from a startled awake Brianna echoed along the hall. They drew my attention from the front door through which Frank had just left after yet another blazing row.
The roar of the car engine drew my attention back towards it, as tyres squealed along the road outside our home. I could hardly call it a home really, I lived here in body but my mind and soul where not here with me.
The cries from Brianna once again shifted my attentions and I stepped onto the stairs hurrying to lift her, calm her, sooth her.
She was stood both hands clasped on the crib side, red hair disheveled, sticking out at various angles as the tight curls fought and twisted on themselves. Her face, red and tear streaked from crying. On seeing me her little arms stuck out towards me, hands opening and closing, seeking me.
I grabbed onto her, choking back the emotions, lifting her to my breast I cradled her and rocked her as I walked. She had been a great baby and was a great toddler rarely crying unless something was actually wrong. Such as being rudely awaken from a nap, I lamented.
At two and a half years old she was already taller and bigger in build than all the other children in the street of a similar age. I struggled to carry her for any distance, often resorting to simply sitting in a chair with her cuddled to me.
“Shh, shh little one. It’s ok Mama is here, I’ve got you, you are safe. Daddy was just leaving the house he didn’t mean to bang the door so loudly.”
I wished beyond all measure that that was the truth but it was far from it. The arguments with Frank had gotten worse over the last few months, well if I was being honest since Bree was six or seven months old. I knew the agreement I had made with him on my return from the past, he reminded me off it regularly enough. I had kept it, I had tried so hard to come back to him, to be a wife to him. I understood that he had waited for me, searched for me, never given up. I couldn’t say that, I had given up or rather I had chosen. Chosen Jamie over him and for that I could not be sorry.
I had returned under duress, made to go back because of that damn foolish rebellion, my arrogant thought that I could change history! Stop it, save Scotland! Utter foolishness and now I was paying for that. Yes my child was safe and loved. I could not deny the love Frank held for her, but I could never get over the thoughts that it should have been Jamie holding her, settling her, changing her nappies and watching her grow.
It was due to these thoughts that the rows so often happened. Frank being disappointed in me, me being closed off and cold towards him but the grief, oh Lord the grief that just wouldn’t lift, shift or go away! I tried everything to distract my mind, to make my focus on the here and now but I just couldn’t.
It was why I had joined medical school the September before Bree’s first birthday. Frank had been surprisingly supportive and used his influence as a professor to help me get a place. I was sure that he hoped it would be a fanciful, fleeting folly of mine, that he would be comforting me a few weeks in when the work became too much for my delicate female mind or the other students were rude and inconsiderate towards me due to being a woman, mother and over the age of twenty two.
But I had hunkered down, steeled my mind and succeeded. I was top of my class that year and didn’t intend to lose that position any time soon. I was only a few weeks from finishing my second year.
Bree had settled back to sleep and I held her tight to me as I rocked her in the chair. She was so like her Father in so many ways, the same slanted cat like eyes in bright blue, auburn hair with so many shades running through it, curls, though I could be equally responsible for that. She was tall and well built, I knew from only a few weeks old that she would have he height of her Father and prayed she would wear it like a queen, just how I imagined her grandmother would have.
She not only looked like her Father but also had so many personality traits like him too, the head tilt, tapping her little hand in frustration and not to forget the formidable Fraser temper.
I had laughed for probably the first time heartily since returning through those damn stones at Frank desperately trying to appease an eighteen month old Bree, hell bent on getting ice cream before her dinner.
I had tried to interject to stop the coming tidal wave of rage I knew was mere seconds away but Frank insisted that we not bow to her every whim, we must hold strong and be the parent.
His harden stance against this formidable foe ended with Bree getting her ice cream, while a shaken Frank tried to soothe her and get into her good books again. I had snorted into my coffee cup trying to school my face, that had resulted in me receiving a withering look of derision from Frank accompanied by a hopeless “well I couldn’t do anything else!” and a shrug of the shoulder which set me into full on fits of giggles.
We on reflection, were only happy when parenting Brianna. We painted on the facade of happy family and used Brianna as a barrier between us. Little to no affection was shown between us, even hand holding had stopped. On first returning my high risk pregnancy and the clear depression and grief that showed on my face kept us in twin beds, but a few months after Brianna’s birth I realised that a plutonic marriage was not going to be enough for Frank. I had tried, really tried he had made me happy once. He was a handsome man and a good lover, generous and ensured my own pleasure was achieved but something had shifted, changed irreversibly and our love making had been cold and distant.
I couldn’t even really call it love making to be fair, But to call it for for what it actually was, merely sex, a means to a release, only sought when desire and desperation aligned made me feel no better than a common whore. And not surprisingly we simply stopped trying really, using excuses and avoidance until a need so primal struck that it was bearable to allow the touch.
I could never shake the feeling that I was betraying Jamie. I often thought of him after the deed, imagining a large Scot climbing onto me, his hands and mouth travelling the length of my thighs, touching and caressing me to climax. I could bring my release just imaging his touch and could still feel his warmth on me at night.
But Jamie was gone, dead over two hundred years, lost in that wasteland of a moor. He had wanted me to return to Frank, wanted to ensure mine and our child’s safety when he knew he couldn’t and I had returned.
Frank had been the love of my life, once. It really shouldn’t have been that difficult, he was handsome, well educated, had a stable job that could ensure his family was provided for and he adored Brianna. He was also kind and caring and had taken me back, even moved to Boston to allow a fresh start and avoid me having to deal with rumours, side glances and judgemental stares. The marriage minded misses would no doubt have him at the top of their lists with qualities like that. However that didn’t seem to make a difference in our marriage and so the rows continued.
Today was Saturday and should have been a peaceful relaxed day, it had certainly started that way. After returning from my walk in the park with Bree I had made lunch then afterwards put her down for an afternoon nap. Frank, as was his usual routine, was in his study, door closed. A short time after Bree’s nap had started he had come barrelling out of the study, rooting through papers and books in the hall and living room.
“What are you looking for darling? Perhaps I can help?”
“Help? You don’t even know what I need.”
The tone had been aggressive and I knew with finals coming up he was under pressure in work so let it slide. I remained seated on the winged chair reading my book, trying but failing to ignore him as he continued his flight from room to room.
“Where is it!?”
He was angry now, hands running through his hair and eyes darting around the room.
“You, you moved it, didn’t you?”
The tone was accusing and heated. His face redden and I could see a vein on the side of his left temple pulsing.
“I don’t know what it is you are even looking for to know if I moved it?”
I pleaded with him, hoping my confused face and tone would snap him out of this. He didn’t answer just continued rummaging around. He then stilled and turned to me, it was a slow movement as though he was collecting his thoughts.
“You’d help him, wouldn’t you?”
The tone was cold and clear aggression was entwined within it. I had no clue where this was coming from today, things had been calm between us the last few weeks as we both had sunk deeply into our work. He marking end of term papers, me studying for my year end exams.
“Frank I don’t understand what you are talking about, I have offered to help you look but I don’t know what it is you are looking for!”
My voice was raised and I stood, moving towards him determined to end this nonsense. As I got closer to where he stood I could see he was shaking with rage, fists clenched and face flushed.
“You still love him don’t you?”
“What? Frank I mmm er I don’t think this is a topic of conversation that we should be engaging in.”
“And why ever not? You did run off with another man! Lose your heart to him, while he spread your legs!”
“You bastard! I told you everything that happened between me and Jamie. I give you the choice! You didn’t have to take me back. You! You were the one told me to NEVER speak of him again! And now? Now you want to full discussion about it?”
“Is that why you don’t want to speak of him? Because of some agreement, some vow you made to me to never discuss it again?! Shame you forgot so easily your other vows to me!”
He practically screamed the last words. I stood, rigid not daring to move as I wanted to throw something at his head. This was his arrangement, his rule, not mine. I didn’t speak, afraid that if my mouth tried to form words that what came out would betray my hearts truth. I merely nodded.
“YOU ARE a LIAR! A FUCKING LIAR!!”
And that had been it, quite simply. How so many of our rows had erupted and ended. The other party left standing bemused and confused wondering what to do next. The aggression and anger within the words spoken did not often match the topic at debate and yet they stung and hurt none the less.
Bree was now sound asleep again and I placed her gently in her crib and crept out as silently as the wooden boards of her room’s floor allowed.
Back downstairs I stood, hands on hips as I scanned the rooms. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking at or for. The afternoon sun was streaming through the large windows, casting pools of light on the wooden polished floors. I found myself simply standing staring, mind gone blank. I should have been grateful for this timely rest from anxious thought but I wasn’t, Frank still had not returned. While arguments and strife were common place within our marriage, the periods of silence and length of time for walk outs seeking solitude were short. He should be back soon. No, I corrected myself, he will be back soon, I convinced myself and turned towards the kitchen to begin preparing dinner.
Chapter 2: Whiskey and tea
Dinner came and went and still no sign of Frank. It really wasn’t like him to stay away for so long. The row while very heated hadn’t been any worse than previous and if either of us had stomped out to cool down it had usually been only a few hours at most.
Bree had been put to bed for the night, asking only once where Daddy was. Thankfully the explanation of he was working late due to exams coming up, settled her.
I now sat as darkness enclosed the house, a lone light bulb burning in the hall way and the steady whorls from the ice machine cutting through the silence. My half drunk whiskey glass clutched tight in my hand as I stared into nothing. It was strange, I felt nothing, no emotions, not anger or resentment towards Frank for this row or storming out. Christ I didn’t even feel worry over where he was! I simply felt nothing.
I had buried my emotions, tramping them down with skill over time and now on reflection I felt nothing. An empty vessel, a ghost, merely existing. I had promised Jamie I would go on, that I would survive, live and I would, but I realised I had not promised to forget him nor to be a slave to wayward emotions. So overtime my mind had simply on appearance of any emotion tramped it down, defeated it, deflected it away.
With this revelation of my mindset I downed the last of my whiskey and made my way up stairs for a relaxing bath.
Sleep came easily, my muscles relaxed and soothed from my long bath and no doubt a generous amount of whiskey. The road noises lulling me off to sleep.
It was around one o’clock in the morning when I jolted awake, aware of noises downstairs. Grabbing my dressing gown and using the moonlight instead of switching on lights, I crept out of my room.
The sounds echoed up the stairs, a crash of something hitting the floor, causing me to freeze. I was here alone with a toddler, no way to summon help bar the phone in the hallway. Stilling my breath I moved as silently as I could, each step paused and deliberate. Once on the third step from the top I heard a familiar voice, Frank cursing to himself and the loud pour of whiskey into a crystal cut glass. My panic now gone I moved with purpose down the stairs.
He was stood at the bar caddy, whiskey decanter in one hand, glass held to his mouth in the other, gulping the amber liquid down. The unsteadiness of his legs and movements testament to his inebriated state. Tiny sparkles glittered across the wooden floor, catching the lone hall light and moonlight that poured into the room. The crash I heard, a broken glass, scattered across the floor.
“Don’t you think you have had enough?”
As he paused mid pour of another glass.
“Awh my beautiful, beautiful, faithful and true wife!”
He raised the glass towards me in salute, while nearly stumbling backwards into the drinks caddy.
“Do you care to join me?”
Offering a glass towards me. I shook my head no, still standing at the bottom stair tread holding onto the banister. I was unsure what else to say. I didn’t want a repeat of the row and certainly did not want Bree woken so suddenly again.
Frank simply shrugged, filled his glass and moved to the sofa. Dropping onto it with a loud sigh, glass held in his left hand, he rested his head back against the sofa back.
“Make sure you clean up that mess, I don’t want Brianna cutting herself on glass.”
I turned to go back up the stairs seeing no real point to continuing to speak, especially with him being so drunk.
“You still love him, want him, miss him don’t you?”
I froze at this comment, one foot on the next stair tread. What could I possible say to that? Except maybe admit the truth? Yes I did with all my heart. Turning very slowly to face the sofa he was lounged in.
I offered no further explanation or excuse. It was the simple truth, I loved Jamie with all my heart and soul and not a day goes by when I don’t think of him. I held back my emotions about it for the sake of my child and the promise I had made to Frank.
“I wonder did you miss me as much? Grieve for me the same way? Or did his presence help you through?”
The words were stark and raw, Frank never spoke Jamie’s name. Simply using ‘him’ to refer to his existence in my life.
“You utter bastard! This isn’t a competition, I tried to get back to you, tried to return. You know how that worked out for me, I told you about your sadistic, perverted relative did I not? I didn’t wish to fall in love with another, it just happened. I have tried Frank, good Lord, I have tried since I came back but yes, yes I do miss him and I do grieve him. I can’t look at my child and not imagine him and it kills me inside! Is this what you want to hear?!”
I was angry at his tone but surprisingly was not emotional with tears. Though I raised my voice to match his accusations and tone towards me
“Tried? Did you? not very hard! I’m sure you played the grieving widow so convincingly for the time. Until opportunity put you in his bed, then no doubt you played your staring role of common wench with gusto!”
Frank I was convinced had never fully believed my time travelling tale. It was fanciful at best, I knew that, but I had never lied to him, I had always been truthful so it had hurt a little at the start, that he had a small part of him that disbelieved my ordeal. But for some reason his wording made me feel he had changed his mind and for what reason I did not know.
“I was Jamie’s wife! Not a common whore. I did not lay with him until I was wed and again for the last time I hadn’t intended falling in love. Am I to be punished everyday for the rest of my life for that? Is it not enough for you that he is dead and gone?”
“Not in your mind he isn’t! He is a ghost that hunts the space between us Claire. I’m competing with a ghost! How do I ever win, against the memory of a man I never met?”
I couldn’t disagree with him, it was the truth.
“Would you have ever returned if he hadn’t made you?”
This was a simple one word answer but I knew the impact it would have. I couldn’t lie, I needed to speak the truth no matter the outcome.
I turned and began walking up the stairs, not wishing to hear or see his reaction to my answer.
“I don’t think I could have been as brave as he was, I do not think I am strong enough to let you go. Watch you disappear before my very eyes.”
I stumbled on the stair tread I was about to step upon. His voice had been calm, clear not rippled with inebriated slurring. He still sat, lounged on the sofa, legs stretched out in front. I couldn’t think of any words to say, I could hear the heart break in his voice, how heavy it had weighed on him to speak it even drunk. I returned to my stair climb. Letting him sleep off the whiskey on the sofa as I neared the top of the stairs one last comment followed me. So silently spoken I wasn’t sure I had really heard it.
“I found him. He’s still alive.”
Chapter 3: A picnic in the park
Thanks to everyone who has started reading this little fic of mine. Hope you enjoy this chapter.
The words bounced around my head as I tried to fall asleep. Were they true? Had Frank found Jamie in history, mentioned somewhere. I could, if I went down to Frank, demanded to know, confirm what he had said. But I hadn’t and I didn’t know if it was partly due to fear that I had misheard heard him and partly because I feared he, when challenged would lie to me. Withholding the truth to watch me suffer more, punishment for my crimes of falling in love with another.
Plus Jamie couldn’t be alive! He had been so sure, determined to die on that god forsaken moor. I couldn’t give purchase to any thought that he had survived. I had spent so many months, stopping myself from thinking of him alive or just thinking about him at all. Though failed as I often did, I had tried. Not to mention the efforts it took to dampen down my emotions, to hide them, to try and shield myself from them, becoming a shell in the process, empty and void. No I couldn’t and wouldn’t dwell on this comment. Frank was drunk, words slurred and I was over half way up the stairs, it was simple, I had misheard him.
Disrupted sleep did eventually come. I battled huge monsters across open moors, constantly seeking and trying to catch up to a kilt clad man with flaming hair. I never could reach him, he was always just beyond my reach or shout.
Sunlight crept silently into my room, passed the small crack in the curtains where it hadn’t fully closed. The sunbeam bright and warm across my body on the bed. It was a new day but the same old heaviness of the last still rested upon me.
A tuneless “Mama! Mama! MaaaaMmmmaaaa!” Called out along the hall. Duty calls or rather bellows I thought, swinging my legs out of the bed and reaching for my dressing gown. The cheerful smile on Bree’s face was enough to lighten my spirit. The joy of being a parent the only thing holding me to the now.
I reached into the crib and lifted her high into the air, then brought her to my chest to cuddle in tight. Little giggles rose up from her chest and a big broad smile was the full of her face. Changing her nappy and dressing her for the day. Potty training had begun with Bree but unsurprisingly the stubborn Fraser streak had slowed progress. However a nappy was now only needed at nighttime. I decided against dressing myself before going downstairs. I planned for a lazy Sunday, preparing breakfast for my girl and me. I pushed any thought of Frank and where he was now out of my mind, he probably had went to his study or the guest bedroom. I hoped he hadn’t slept well.
Lifting Bree from the changing mat I walked her hand in hand slowly one step at a time down the stairs. Bree was fiercely independent and wanted to walk everywhere by herself, this included the stairs. Heedless of safety or danger, holding my hand was the compromise I had made, much to the chagrin of Frank who insisted we still carry her.
Descending the stairs with a loud thump at each tread my focus had been on Bree alone. I hadn’t taken in the tided room and breakfast smells wafting from the kitchen, it was only a jolly voice that broken my focus.
“Oh theres my two best girls! I have breakfast ready, toast, eggs and bacon. I’m just waiting on the coffee brewing. Come on, eat, before it gets cold.”
There was a jolliness to his voice that I hadn’t heard in so long, well before the war if truth be told. His face beamed and Bree giggled and stamped her little feet in excitement to get down to her Daddy. Carefully down the last few steps she toddled off towards him, as he now returned to the kitchen. Squeals of delight filling the air as he lifted and spun her round.
Casting my eyes around the hall and living room, the glass, broken last night had been tided away. The drinks caddy restocked and tided. Cushions and throws fixed and placed neatly on the sofa and chair. Entering the kitchen the table was set for a lovely family breakfast. I stared for a few moments trying to take it in, reconcile the events of yesterday to the scene before me.
“Sit, sit, I’ll get your plate now darling.”
Placing a plate of delicious looking breakfast in front of me, he smiled and moved to sorting out the coffee. I helped Bree with her breakfast, watching as she shovelled scrambled egg into her mouth, while I cut up her toast. Breakfast was enjoyable and Frank appeared in good form, not incapacitated by a hangover as I would of thought.
“Well darling what about heading to feed the ducks at the park? We could pack a picnic, it’s a fine day for it? I’ll find the picnic basket it’s around here somewhere am sure.”
“Yes that would be lovely.”
Taking the last sip of my coffee as I nodded again in agreement. He was being jolly and kind using his moniker of darling for me, something he hadn’t done in a while. Though as had become the norm he made no effort to touch me or kiss me. Once breakfast was finished I rose from the table to clear the dishes from it and wash them.
“No, no I’ll sort them, you go and dress it’ll speed up us leaving for the park. Can’t have our girl waiting much longer to feed the ducks.”
He turned to tickle Bree under her arms, then started to collect the dishes moving them to the sink. I left the kitchen and headed upstairs to get ready for my day. Ascending the stairs seem to take all the strength I had, my feet felt like lead weights. Each step required focus and determined effort. What on earth was that about this morning? I had fully expected to see him either out for the count on the sofa or sequestered in his study until Monday morning.
I should be grateful, happy even that he was in such a good mood and was up for a family trip out to feed the ducks, Bree loved that and with work pressures for Frank, he had been absent a lot the last few weeks, never mind the constant rows. No this Frank was good, a lovely change, I will embrace this. Washing and dressing quickly I skipped down the stairs to join my family.
It was warm and sunny in the park with the mid morning sunlight being dappled on the ground by the trees. Bree had been delighted to feed the ducks, eagerly throwing the food to them. Squealing in horror when one errant bird snuck a little too closely to her toes. Frank had rushed to her side lifting her high into the air, as the squeals blended to giggles. She was such a happy child and so like her Father. I choked back the bubble of emotion rising in my throat. No I won’t allow thoughts of him to cloud this day. A mantra I had often silently chanted.
We had set up the picnic blanket at the base of a large tree, glad for its protection from the sun. The sunlight fell in small light pools across the blanket and on Bree’s hair streamed out behind her as she lay curled into herself asleep. As always she lay between me and Frank, a comforting barrier. She had exhausted herself with the ducks and of course the swings. After eating her sandwiches Frank had went in search of ice cream for her. Leaving us both plonked on the rug. Leaving me time to let my mind run wild. The words, so softly spoken still echoed in my head, he’s still alive. Could I have misheard, did my heart want to believe it true, is that why I heard it? How could I possibly bring this up with Frank? So much for not allowing myself to dwell on it.
My thoughts had been interrupted by Frank’s return, three ice cream cones in hand.
Smiling gratefully I took one handing it to Bree who was sat up straight as a rod in eager anticipation. Thanking him for mine I greedily began enjoying my treat.
Once finished I had cleaned Bree’s hands and face, surprised at how little had been wasted. The heat from the sun helped to lull her to sleep and gentle snoring sounds fell from her slightly parted lips.
I stroked her hair, running my fingers through the waves, losing myself in the moment. Frank was sitting staring intently at a stray acorn from last autumn. The wizened shell, dark with ageing and decay. Both of us lost in our own thoughts, silence between us. After what seemed a lifetime Frank finally spoke.
“About yesterday and last night.”
His voice was uneven, a slight shake evident in it only because of the stillness of the air around us. He cleared his throat several times before he continued.
“When I asked if you missed him and still wanted him, do, mmm, did you mean it? Your answer? Is it still the same, unchanged?”
I had expected many different comments from him, a bland apology even, but this? Firstly I was shocked he remembered the conversation he was that drunk and secondly he rarely ever discussed my past. After I had returned and told him the full truth he had never willing brought it up, only mentioning it in a passive aggressive comment during an argument. I could only stick with the truth, it was all I had with Frank to justify our marriage, the simple truth.
“Yes I do miss him and want him still. I’m afraid I’ll want him until the end of time.”
Each word struck him, square and centre and I could see the pain he was trying to hold in. He continued staring ahead and swallowed audibly before speaking.
“Do you, maybe if, I, do you think with more time though you could put him behind you? Be happy with me?”
“That amount of time doesn’t exist. I am afraid that won’t change. Frank I do love you and I am grateful to you for taking me back but”
“You feel stronger for him, love him differently?”
It was spoken softly and quietly but it was the truth. I could not deny it despite the hurt it would cause. I continued staring at my hand rested on the blanket, not wanting to see his face and the clear hurt that must be on it. I went to speak to apologise, he didn’t deserve what happened, me being sucked into a standing stone, delivered to another time, to fall in love with another. I could see him steadying himself, deep breaths in and out, schooling his face. I went to speak but he interrupted me.
“I have loved you, missed you, searched for you. The pain and despair often my only comforts. But yet I can’t begin to imagine how you and Jamie must feel. What you have both suffered these last years.”
“Both suffered? I did hear you correctly then.”
My voice was small and quite, still not quite believing, but his face was confirming the truth. My heart stopped and I felt shivers running up my spine despite the heat. Jamie was alive. It was also the first time he had uttered Jamie’s name or acknowledged the hurt I must have felt on my return.
“I tried to give you time and space to heal, recover, come back to me, but it’s never going to be enough, I am never going to be enough. I want you to be happy Claire, it’s time for me to be brave, strong enough, like him, to send you back. He sent you to me, to be safe and cared for. I have done that, I’ve seen you safe and Bree but now I have to give you that same choice he did. Do you want to go back Claire, back to Jamie?”
Again I could only offer the truth and it was but one single word.
Frank merely nodded, swallowing hard, he reached for his light cotton trench coat. Pulling a roll of papers from the inside pocket, unrolling them he placed them on the blanket between us. They were copies of various documents from my first glance at them.
“When you first returned with a tall tale of time travel and magic stones, a man from the 18th Century, I thought you mad. I struggled to believe it as true, I’ll be honest I wanted it to be untrue. But you Claire are an honest woman, an honourable woman too and I’ve never known you to lie.”
“Yes Jamie always said I had a glass face.”
I laughed this out then saw his face, casual mention of Jamie was still too much to soon.
“Yes indeed, well I looked into it, searched for any records I could find to prove your story. I found this first of all. Your marriage certificate.”
His voice wavered just a fraction as his hand glanced over the document.
“At least you didn’t use my name to marry him, I suppose I should be grateful for small gestures of the like.”
I went to speak, to try and apologise, to explain how it had been, but he waved me off with a dismissive hand and returned to the documents.
“Having the names and the details you had provided during your story I was able to look for him, for Jamie. I found the deed of assign for the estate of Lallybroch, the trail ran a little cold then as most often the case, the records only reflect the direct descendants and immediate family. I kept looking though and I found out about a legend, a rumour, a tale if you will of a Laird who fought in the ‘45 who hid on his lands, in a cave, the Dun Bonnet. Give quite the run around to his majesty’s best.”
Frank’s voice had now taken on the tone of history professor. He was enraptured in this tale and the telling. Showing me copies from old books that spoke of the Dun Bonnet and the cave.
“But how do you know it’s Jamie? It could have been any amount of men, legend could have grown over time to make it a Laird”
I was growing despondent, Frank hadn’t shown me anything of note that I wasn’t already fully aware of. This legend, this story, he was telling me was possible exaggeration, Scotland after all was renowned for superstition and stories. Frank turned to look at me fully for the first since beginning this conversation, a gleam within his eye.
“The only place the story is known or recorded is the area of Broch Mordha, the village near Lallybroch.”
His words felt like individual blows upon my heart. I couldn’t speak, only stare at him willing him to have told me the truth, terrified that it was lies, a cruel horrible joke being played on me.
“So you see it drew my attention and interest so I continued looking. Then I found this.”
He spread another page of paper out, a roll of names.
“Ardsmuir prison, seems after seven years, your Jamie has ended up arrested and imprisoned for treason. Of course I couldn’t be sure of this being the same James Fraser but then I looked in the ledgers for the prison and seen mention of Red Jamie and his position as de facto leader of the prison inmates. In 1756 the prison closed, to be honest it was more a works camp than prison. The inmates were transferred to the Colonies as indentured labourers. The trail goes cold then, I couldn’t find him mentioned until.”
He cleared his throat and looked intently at the roll of names in front of him. The emotions I had tried for two years to force down were erupting to the surface. To see his name, to know he was alive with no way to know I and his daughter where safe, it all became too much and I felt the heat of tears trailing down my face. Silently dripping from my cheeks, as I gently caressed his name on the prison ledger. Frank cleared his throat breaking into my rumination.
“Until, well until this report.”
He slid another page towards me, a newspaper article.
“In January 1776 a house burns down on a property at a place called Frasers Ridge. This is the death notice for one James Fraser and his wife Claire previously of Broch Mordha.”
His voice caught on the last words, emotion now clouding his face. I read over the article, a short piece only a few lines long but evidence that Jamie and I died together.
“So you see when I got this, seen it, read it. I knew you returned to him eventually, that he was alive. I don’t know when you should have went back but I’m giving you the chance now, I’m giving you the choice.”
My heart broke in two, to have the dream of Jamie surviving and the chance to go back was beyond my wildest thoughts. Frank willingly telling me I could make this choice. But could I go? Could I leave this world with so many opportunities, safety for me and Bree? Oh Lord did this mean Frank was allowing Bree to come with me or did he plan on keeping her? Sudden panic flooded me at that thought, I couldn’t leave her, I’d lost one child already, I wouldn’t walk away from another! My glass face must have betrayed my thoughts.
“Bree would go with you. I have to return you both to him. I can’t have children of my own and she, well she is my only hope of knowing Fatherhood. I can only thank him for the time that I did have.”
“Why are you doing this? Why let me go?”
I knew Frank loved me, he had taken me back and while the agreement of never speaking of Jamie or telling Bree the truth while Frank was alive was not an easy one, I could understand it, I really could.
“I was so delighted when you returned, shocked but delighted. I made my way to Inverness straight away. I’d never given up hope. The police, they kept telling me you had ran off with a lover from the war. I pushed and pushed for them to investigate but alas you returned without their investigative genius! I couldn’t wait to see you, hold you to me, but the broken little thing lying half starved in that hospital bed shocked me to my very core. You recoiled at my sight, the fear in your eyes, it nearly broke me. The doctor was kind and understanding, I could tell he didn’t want to mention the pregnancy, took him about five tries before he could say he words.”
He laughed this out and cast a glance towards me.
“I’d told you before that I’d love you no matter what you did and I meant it still in that hospital. It was never a question of not taking you back. Only I didn’t get you back, I got a shell. To see the grief on your face, the pain you were trying to keep hidden. I wanted to hold you, reassure you that you were safe, make it all go away but I knew, just knew in my heart that it wasn’t me that could take that away. It wasn’t me that could heal you.
Do you know the first time we made love after your return, you called out his name?”
“What?! Am so sorry! Frank I..”
“Awh no need, my darling, no need. I went out and drunk myself into oblivion, that’s when I decided to research him. I wanted him to be dead, to show you proof, have you realise that you only had me. But as I searched and found out more about him, your tale weaving its way through the history pages, I came to see him for an honourable man. I was tempted on many occasions to burn the lot, pretend it didn’t exist but I’d be lying to myself and you if I had done that. So the choice is now yours Claire, I know you want to go back but wanting and doing are two very different things.”
He turned expectant eyes upon me, awaiting my response. This was all I had or could ever have dreamed off. I hadn’t wanted to return to this time. I would have happily died with Jamie on that battlefield, but he lived. Returning had been a futile endeavour, we could have been safe, been together, rising Bree. Then again my delivery and pregnancy had been high risk, no doubt I wouldn’t have survived the birth or possibly Bree. No Jamie had done the right thing, sending me back to a time where I was safe.
The newspaper article flashed into my mind. Stating that we had died leaving no family. Did something happen to Bree? Do we have no other children? I again felt panicked once more and again my glass face did nothing to help hide my thoughts.
“We stack the cards Claire.”
“My only condition for you returning is that you go back prepared. I won’t risk your safety, and especially not Bree’s. That article, I don’t know when you would have went back previously, maybe Bree was older and stayed in this time, I just don’t know. But if you go back, you go back with knowledge and skills to help you and your family. Is that agreed?”
I nodded my head, still partly stunned at the revelations made on this picnic blanket.
“Good, well then we will start planning immediately.”
Chapter 4: Prior preparation prevents poor performance
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Preparation and planning started in earnest. The last of the examinations for my studies ended the following week and Frank’s marking and reports were completed not three weeks later. The plan was simple, we would use the summer break and Frank’s sabbatical for his book research to spend time together as a family and research my return. Brianna and I would attempt the crossing in October at Samhain. A time when the stones should be most powerful, according to what I could remember from folklore and Mrs Graham.
The following weeks and months were spent with heads buried in books and maps. I learned the routes too and from towns and villages in the Highlands and Lowlands, studied military dispatches, fort locations, patrol routes and memorised the names of various fort commanders from the time period I expected to return too and the years after.
Frank had concerns about my lack of a convincing backstory if stopped and questioned, he schooled me through a full history and story, helping me to know what details to tell and how to hide my glass face. He really hadn’t been joking when he insisted I return only if fully prepared.
I read about the history of what was to happen in Scotland, England, Europe and the Colonies over the coming decades. Frank wanted to ensure I would know best where to be and when.
Most surprisingly Frank wanted me to know self defence. Something that was most unladylike and improper for a professors wife. He did though point out that I was technically the wife of a Highland Warrior.
“You will be on your own, no one to protect you for possibly weeks Claire I can’t in good conscience send you back unable to look after yourself.”
“But I will find Jamie and my family at Lallybroch.”
“Yes but you need to get there first, safely. Claire, darling, this time your not going with little knowledge of the time or attitude of the people there. You were attacked before, you will have our daughter with you, I need to know you can keep her safe.”
There was a despair to his voice and I could hear the emotion being choked back.
“I told you if you return, you’ll return prepared this time. I cannot, I just cannot bear the thought that something would happen to either of you.”
At this the emotions did flood out, tears that had been held back with will of thought alone now slowly descended his face. He cleared his throat aggressively, while turning away to wipe the tears. This was not easy for him, he was doing this because he loved me and wanted me to be happy.
In this time Frank could easily have refused to allow me. Women did what their husbands told them and even with my fierce independence I knew I couldn’t manage without Frank’s support.
“Very well then, when do my lessons begin?”
A small smile quirked his mouth
“Tomorrow. I’ve an old war buddy who just happens to be visiting the area, he was a commando.”
It was said with glee, like his mischievous plan was coming together, I could almost laugh.
The next day I met with Clarence Beaufort, an eccentric man of around thirty years old. He was tall and handsome with an aristocratic grace that worked well against that eccentric flare. He regaled me with tales from his time in the war, of his training and of his fun times with Frank and his colleagues. I didn’t know much of Frank’s wartime story, he spoke little off it in the months after my return from the front, then, well, I’d disappeared for three years. Since my return from that time we had spoken little of our pasts at all.
Frank approached the two of us, me laughing heartily at a ridiculous tale Clarence was telling me involving a cow, two SS soldiers, his troops and a parachute. He handed me a small knife and the laughter suddenly died in my throat.
“Ammm what’s this?”
I was slightly confused as the weight of the blade became familiar to my hand. Memories of having been taught to defend myself with a Sgian Dubh by Rupert and Angus flooded my mind and then I froze remembering the dead weight of the redcoat deserter on top of me, his life snuffed out at my hand.
“I told you I want you to be able to defend yourself. You will need this.”
His hands curled around mine still holding the blade. He was right, the 18th century was a difficult and dangerous time. I had had clear brushes with it myself, my own safety only barely protected by the likes of Jamie or others. Frank was right to be content that I could defend myself and Brianna. This time going through the stones would be very different I would have a small child to protect and care for but this time I was going to be fully prepared, Frank was seeing to that.
“Alright then, shall we begin?”
I didn’t know it was possible to be sore in some of the places I felt pain. Frank looked at me with some sympathy and scurried upstairs to draw a bath for me. I wondered if it was even possible for me to climb the stairs and collapsed onto the sofa until the bath was ready.
“Baths ready! Can you make it up the stairs without help?”
Frank shouted down to me laughing at my poor state. Clarence had been full on, no airs or graces given to me for being a female. He pushed and pushed me, repeating drills until my body just knew how to react.
“No I am fine, thank you very much! I am sure I can make it up a few stairs. I will not be defeated!”
I laughed back but winched as pain stabbed me in the ribs. Perhaps some help wouldn’t go amiss?
Frank clearly being more aware of my limitations than I was prepare to admit, had come down the stairs. Moving towards the sofa he pulled me to my feet, linking his arm around me and supporting me up the stairs.
The bathroom was filled with steam and the soothing smell of lavender and camomile wafted from the bath water. Clean towels had been laid neatly on the toilet seat and my robe was hung up on the back of the door with a fresh nightgown.
“I was proud of you today, darling, you did really well with Clarence.”
The words were spoken softly and he lingered in the bathroom, steam circling around his head as it escaped into the hall. I began undressing, oddly comfortable under his gaze. Up until the discussion around me returning to Jamie I would have hidden from him, dressing before he was up or waiting until after he was gone. Now though it didn’t seem to bother me and I striped off my clothing, sinking into the hot water, allowing it to sooth and caress my aching muscles.
Frank stood for a few moments before turning and leaving me to relax in peace.
I felt renewed after my bath and on thumping down the stairs went in search of Frank. He was as predicted, ensconced at his desk, study light blazing. I smiled into him and continued to the kitchen to make some tea. I would continue my studies after a nice cuppa. Carrying the tray into the study piled with a fresh pot of tea, cups, saucers and some homemade cake. Homemade of course not by me, but our lovely neighbour Mrs Jackson.
She had been a resounding level of support to me over the last years. Stepping in to look after Bree when I was at university or needed time to study. Of course she loved looking after Bree, as a widow with no children of her own she had delighted in being able to take Bree everywhere with her and show her off. Bree had become a firm favourite with Mrs Jackson’s bridge and book clubs. She was a lovely kind woman and boy could she bake!
“Is that Mrs Jackson’s lemon drizzle cake?”
Frank looked up as the smell of fresh brewed tea and lemon drizzle cake reached his nose. I merely nodded and smiled brightly raising the tray in triumph.
“Mmmmm I do love her cake! How does she get it so tasty and soft?”
Taking another big bite after a refreshing sip of my tea.
“When did she say, she would bring Bree home?”
“Oh I think she said something about visiting with Mrs Miller, her daughter was calling with her new baby or something or another.”
Frank shook his head in dismissal to the question and picked up another stack of historical documents. I assumed research for his new book.
“I am sure darling she will be home soon. Do you feel up to some more studying?”
“Yes I think I am, but only if it involves reading, my poor body can take no more!”
We both looked at each other and laughed out loud. I grabbed a book of old world maps and began flicking through it, the accompanying book for this listed sea journeys. Well it wasn’t the most interesting of things to read and learn but it would be valuable to know what ships sailed when and where and possibly of most importance who captained them.
Silence filled the study the only sound the gentle turn of a page. Frank who was just visible to my periphery, suddenly tensed and scrambled through the documents he was looking at. Scholars by nature tend not to be excitable so it drew my attention.
“What have you found? Something exciting for your new book?”
A smiled over to him, but his face was frozen, a page still clasped in his hand.
“Ammm what was your brother in law called again?”
His tone had worried me, a slight quaver to his voice as he turned to stare full at me.
“They arrest him, for charges relating to harbouring a traitor.”
He stood now in front of me, page held out for me to read.
“I have seen his name several times in the ledgers for the Tolbooth. That’s what made me wonder if, well if he was the same person but it does seem to be. He is never charged, only ever held for weeks or months at a time. Seems the English were none to concerned about due process.”
I stared in horror at the page, willing the name to disappear or change, but no matter how hard I stared the name still glared out from the page, as though highlighted in bold.
“How many times?”
My voice was broken, I was unable to control it or hide the quiver. My heart now racing thinking of Jenny, alone for weeks and months at a time, a house full of children, no man to protect them. A silent tear fell, trailing down my cheek.
“I’ve seen at least five entries so far spanning a few years at the beginning of the clearances.”
“What do we do about it? I have to do something Ian is a good man, a father, a husband! He needs to be at home.”
It was sobbed out and partially incoherent. Frank didn’t answer at first, instead he walked over to his well stocked bookcase, scanning the titles on the book spines. He selected one, checking the cover and walked back over to me, handing the book into my outstretched hand.
“You learn the law.”
Chapter 5: Time to say goodbye
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The suitcase was lying open on the bed, rows of items neatly folded and stacked ready to be placed inside it. I surveyed the scene, taking stock of all before me, this would amount to my life’s possessions when I would go through the stones. It was merger to be sure but I couldn’t be sure what I could take with me, what would actually survive the passage.
I gathered up my skirt and petticoats re rolling them, I had gotten outfits for me and Bree made by a local dress maker to ensure we fitted in. The skirt a thick navy wool, the bodice was dark green, it was going to be cold after all. I had a spare dress frock for Bree and several pairs of thick stockings. The cloaks for us both had been lined on the inside to waterproof them, essential I thought given the unpredictable weather of the Highlands.
I hadn’t much room in the leather satchel that I was bringing, just enough room for the spare stockings, extra shift, Bree’s spare frock and a medical kit. I had often waxed lyrical to Jamie about the merits of modern medicine. Unable to bring a complete doctors bag of items I had selected the most important. Items I had often thought to need the last time I was in the 18th Century. The small leather kit bag contained a few scalpels, a selection of needles, surgical sutures, two different forceps and two syringes with accompanying bottles of penicillin and a few bars of soap. I would return and continue my fight to save lives, of that I was sure. Plus Jamie couldn’t possibly have changed that much and stopped being so accident prone. That man could do injury to himself sitting in the ground I laughed to myself.
Placing the medical kit into the suitcase I lifted a small leather purse next. The coins within jingled. Frank had spent the summer months while we had holidayed or as the locals would say, vacationed. Stopping at every second hand or antique store we passed, he gathered up coins from the time period, old gold and silver jewellery. Secret pockets had been sown into the skirts and petticoats to hide the most of the coins and jewellery. The jewellery he said could be sold for a good price when it was needed. He knew the hardships facing the Scots at this time and he was true to his words of wishing to ensure mine and Bree’s safety.
“I know Jamie will protect you both, I know that, I do, but you have to get to him first and you need to support Lallybroch too. It’s not safe for a woman and child to travel alone you need to hire a man servant to escort you.”
“What? A man servant? Don’t be ridiculous, I know the route, I’ve had my defence classes every week for months, I can look after us, I know I can!”
But it had been a futile argument, he would not be swayed on this point and so the coin collection grew.
As I placed the last few items into the suitcase and closed the top Frank walked into the room. There had been a strange air of finality between us this last week, the flight was booked for tomorrow to take us to firstly London then on to Inverness. This was the last night I would stay in this house, this was in a sense the last point before no return.
Frank wore an expression of melancholy that clouded the very air around him. He sat at the vanity table letting out a sigh, paperwork held tight in his hands. I wished for words to say, my own emotions now a mix of excitement and dread.
I was overjoyed at returning to Jamie, imagining how he and Jenny and Ian would react to my reappearance, the looks when they laid eyes on Brianna for the first but also of dread, having to face those stones once more. I also had sorrow, thinking of how I’d never see Frank again, how he had done so much to help me return, how it must be breaking his heart. I’d never wanted to hurt Frank, I’d hoped, prayed that when I choose to stay with Jamie that he would move on eventually and I supposed now that I was returning, he could do that. It however did not make it any easier on my heart to know I had to say goodbye.
Frank sat silently watching me. I was looking around the room, taking in all the last bits of it, burning it to my memory. The moment was ended when he finally spoke.
“The time is finally here Claire, it seemed so far away when we first discussed it, started to plan and yet it has arrived.”
The very real, very tangible plane tickets waved in his hands. We had spent everyday together as a family since my decision to return had been made. Frank had taken countless photographs of us all over the summer break when we had travelled. He had said himself those would be all he had left and he wanted as many as possible, so I had acquiesced to be photographed constantly.
Another set of papers sat across his knees and he glanced to them, lifting it as though diseased.
“I can’t quite figure out the words to say, I’ve pondered over them for days, so I think it best I just say it. I am giving you your freedom, helping you to return to Jamie. I wonder would you give me mine?”
The papers he held out to me had written across the front in bold lettering DIVORCE. I was partly taken back, I’d been so focused on my own journey that I hadn’t thought of Frank and his life after Bree and I would pass through the stones. How selfish of me but yet I was still shocked at seeing these papers, seeing the indicated parts for me to sign and seeing Frank’s name already signed. Looking at my face he interjected.
“Claire I would keep you forever but I know your heart does not belong with me. It’s killing me having to let you go back to him, but I know the love that you each have and I want a chance at that. I will never forget you but I want the chance to move on, marry the one who loves me as you love him.”
The words were spoken softly but with much care, he had thought this over. In honesty, as my mind caught up to what was before me and what he said, I knew it to be true, to be the right course of action. I had to let him go. Without speaking I lifted the fountain pen and signed as needed. Handing them back, his hand brushed mine then grabbed onto it, we both instinctively moved towards each other. Pulling him into a tight embrace, the sobs shaking from both our bodies as our tears mixed where our necks entwined.
The loss of the years, the reality of the ending all weighing heavy on each of our hearts. As the tears dried and darkness crept in the room, we reminded clinging to each other, neither of us wishing to break the hold just yet.
The cold biting wind that reaches your very bones greeted us as we disembarked the plane. The fresh Highland air I thought I’d never breath again flooded my nostrils. Pulling my scarf higher around my face, then pulling a hat firmly onto Bree’s head as she cuddled into Frank’s arms I began the short walk to the terminal.
Bags collected we sat on the bus, Bree placed between us rumbling along the road towards the town centre and Mrs Baird’s B&B. I’d been unsure, no, nervous about staying here again but lodgings were slim pickings. It had been slightly worn and dated when last we had stayed and in the intervening years had not been updated. But as before it was clean and homely and Mrs Baird was friendly and welcoming. If she recognised us she passed no comment.
We had decided that Bree and I would make the journey through the stones in two days time. This give Frank some more time and allowed me and Bree to recover from the long flight. Frank was out again with his camera clicking away at me and Bree. I smiled over to him and saw in him a repressed look of sorrow as he stared at Bree. This was breaking his heart. Bree played with her rag doll on the floor, babbling away in toddler speak as though the doll understood every word.
“Are you alright Frank?”
Shaking his head as though resetting his thoughts he turned to me, breaking his stare on Brianna.
“Yes, yes am fine.”
He smiled but his eyes still held sorrow. Clearing his throat and shaking his head again.
“Well not fine, I’m, I’m going to miss you both, of course, but to not see her grow.”
His voice caught and he swallowed hard to stop himself crying, though tears welled in his eyes being held back by sheer force of will.
“I know, it’s hard for me too. I’ve been so focused to the plans and preparing, I’d quite forgot what it actually would mean when we arrived here.”
“Quite true. Well enough of this snivelling, we are British my dear, stiff upper lip and all that, think we have been too long in the States, too in-touch with our emotions! Let’s go visit Reg?”
We both beamed at each other. Turning to ready our coats and gather Brianna and of course her rag doll. Once suitably dressed we headed to the manse.
The reverend and Mrs Graham were both delighted to see us, if some what disappointed that it was a fleeting visit. Frank explained that we were leaving the day after next, headed on further research for his book. This was not a lie, Frank was indeed continuing his research just without Brianna and I as we would be in 1749 if the plan worked.
After supper Frank and the Reverend retired to his study to catch up and no doubt discuss research points for Frank’s up and coming book. Mrs Graham and I sat in the front room enjoying a wee dram, Brianna asleep on the sofa beside me. I was fond of Mrs Graham, she had been a silent comfort to me on my return three years prior. A pillar of strength helping me to readjust. I wondered what she would make of the revelation that the stories of the stones were true and that I was intending journeying through them once more?
“Ye seem content lass, like a happiness has claimed ye again?”
I nodded in reply. It was the truth, I was happy again. I never thought I’d get the chance to see Jamie again but now here I was on the cusp of returning to him once again. It was all down to Frank, it was in his searching for the truth of my tale that he found Jamie alive. He didn’t have to tell me the truth but yet he did, that man who had been my first love, my husband, was prepared to let me go for my happiness, not just me but Bree too, his chance of fatherhood gone in a blink.
Mrs Graham leaned forward and patted my hand, a small sly smile creeping into her face.
“Am glad ye have found yer happiness again and I wish ye all the verra best with yer husband again.”
I couldn’t be completely sure but I could swear I saw her wink, and I new deep in my heart that she wasn’t talking about Frank.
The following day was spent as a family. Frank had borrowed Mrs Baird’s car and so we took in some of the sites in the area. Frank regaling me with historical facts, testing my knowledge too in truth. His final opportunity to impart his knowledge and satisfy himself that I had indeed taken in enough information to survive the last of the 1740’s.
The day was surprisingly filled with laughter as we watched Bree throw stones into the lochs and chase seagulls at the shoreline. Frank ever present with his camera. We stopped for lunch, a picnic packed by Mrs Baird. Sitting on the blanket wrapped up in our coats and scarfs, staring out over the rolling landscape at the breathtaking Highlands, I was reminded of that day Frank told me the truth of his findings. That park in Boston seemed so long ago but also not, time seemed to have moved so quickly and here we are our last day together as a family.
I chanced a glance at Frank, his jaw set hard, eyes vacant holding back his emotions. He turned flashing the briefest and smallest of smiles to me.
“I will be fine and so will you and Bree. Thank you Claire.”
“What? I’m the one who should be thanking you, you have done so much for me!”
Emotion spilling over in my response, a forced smile on my face as tears began to fall.
“Shush shush, Claire it’s all right, no tears, please, no tears. I was thanking you for the last few months, for letting me be a father to Brianna, for trying to be us again, for just being you. I wish I’d been enough, I really do. I want you to be happy but will you” he cleared his throat “can you tell Brianna of me?”
“Yes, of course” tears streamed down my face now “I’ll make sure she knows who her Daddy was, who helped her when she was born, how much you loved her.”
I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror. The navy skirt and green bodice were warm and cozy and complimented my complexion well. I had a knitted snood and arm warmers as well as my thick cloak I would hopefully be well protected from the unpredictable Highland weather. Taking one last look I realised I finally felt like myself again, as though I recognised who I was again.
Frank was stood at the door, the suitcase packed into the car he had again borrowed from Mrs Baird. The plan was after leaving me and Bree to the stones he was travelling on to Edinburgh by train returning the car before heading to the station. He handed me a parcel of food, meat, cheese and bread to see us through until we found lodgings at Inverness.
He stared, stalling his movement before reaching into his waistband hidden by his jacket, he pulled out a pistol, a Colt M1911 his old sidearm from the Second World War. He’d been part of the intelligence service and had worked closely with the Americans, the pistol had no doubt been won at sometime.
“Frank? I can’t possibly take that with me? What if someone found it?”
“There’s a hidden section in the leather satchel, it’s only one pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition. I told you I wanted you to be safe, the knife will only go so far. But promise me Claire, promise me! If anyone threatens you or Bree, if you are in danger, at risk, that you won’t think twice, that you’ll do it, that you’ll use the gun!”
His voice was so impassioned, his heart breaking at the thought of our demise I could only give one answer.
“Yes, I’ll do it.”
“Right then time to be going, we want to be there before sunrise.”
With that he turned and walked out of the room, pausing only to lift Bree who had curled up on the rug by the fire and fallen promptly to sleep.
I cast one last look around the room. The last time in this century and walked out to join Frank and Bree.
The buzz of the stones were already effecting my ears and Brianna’s, who had her hands clamped firmly to them and her head buried in Frank’s shoulder. The climb was made in silence and at the outer edge we both stopped, staring towards the centre stone. Frank setting Bree down gently, he pulled her into a hug telling her he loved her, that he would never forget her, that she was going to meet her real Daddy that he had just been standing in for him but her Mama knew how to find her real Daddy now. It broke my heart to hear this goodbye. He rose still holding her little hand in his. He moved to me grabbing me into a hug.
“I love you Claire, be safe. If it ever gets too much or isn’t safe come back, I’ll look after you both, I promise.”
And I knew instinctively that he spoke the truth.
“I love you too Frank, thank you for everything. Please be happy, find happiness.”
I kissed him gently on the lips and moved back, lifting Bree to my chest I walked towards the centre stone. Frank was just behind me, I reached out with Bree’s little hand grasped in mine the ringing of the stones deafening. One final glance at Frank, the noise of the stones stilling as if they were allowing the last goodbyes to be heard and then the swirling vortex consumed me.
Chapter 6: Memories and familiar places
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The headache and nausea overwhelmed me, I struggled to conscious thought, blinking my eyes trying to take in the world around me, a solid heavy weight on my chest. Gasping in clean, clear air I rolled to my side pushing upright. A sudden panicked thought rushing into my mind, is Bree ok?! I reached to her, still unconscious but breathing, thank you Lord, thank you! My second thought, did it work? Did we travel? I glanced around the circle, no sign of Frank, a stillness evident in the air that wasn’t quite matching to the 1950’s. The scenery while distinctly the Highlands again didn’t match the one I had just left. We had travelled, I was sure to the 18th Century but I still wasn’t certain of the exact year. Well only one way to find that out I thought. A quick check of my leather satchel to ensure all had arrived safely within it and I lifted Bree in my arms and began the steady slog towards Inverness.
Any parent will tell you no doubt, in any century that travelling with a nearly three year old child is pure torture. Bree was not a whinny child by any scale but when weighed with travel through a magic stone, leaving Frank, being cold and hungry and having to walk, whinny was the most generous word I could think to describe her. If I said “we are nearly there” once, I must have said it thousand times. Each time it was a blatant lie but I needed to keep going and avoid a Fraser temper tantrum.
Her whole world had changed inexplicably in one moment and I needed to be patient, to allow her to adjust to this strange new world and not allow my tiredness to make me snap at her. I was desperate to get to Lallybroch but I knew that I had other matters to take care of first, Jamie would have to wait just a little longer.
The road was long and weary, I think a few country singers wrote songs with lyrics like that am sure? but no truer words had ever been spoken. The muddy tracks making each step difficult and resolving to my mind the wonders of modern road systems. Thankfully the weather was mild and it wasn’t raining, one couldn’t hope for much more than that while travelling in the Highlands. I tried to focus on taking just one more step not thinking of the distance to go. I was now carrying Bree wrapped to me with a shawl, it was hard going, she was heavy but it was quicker than trying to walk with her.
It was drawing into night by the time I finally reached Inverness. Cold and tired, my stomach was starting to rumble, the food Frank had given us long gone. Bree was tired, half asleep against my shoulder and I knew I needed to get a room at the tavern and some supper.
Pushing open the door at the Roving Sailor I was struck by the heat from inside, I hadn’t realised how far the temperatures had fallen but was glad for the warmth radiating over my body. The tavern was not overly busy a few patrons gathered at a long wooden table, ale tankards full. It was the sorry state of all of Inverness it seemed, the British patrols ensuring the Scots didn’t venture outside too far or too often, even in what was a busy port town.
Moving quickly to the back to speak to the landlord about a room and food, I heard a loud gasp and the quick movement of feet, headed straight for me. I turned quickly, sliding Bree further round my body to shield her expecting an attack, what I got instead was grabbed into a firm bear hug, the air forced out of my lungs.
“Maggie! What on earth?”
I couldn’t get the words formed, shocked at having ran into someone who recognised me so soon. Maggie had been a young wife who had followed her husband into the rebellion, joining me in the makeshift hospital. My mouth continued to open and close like a demented fish, no words being formed. Maggie lifted her finger to her mouth to silence me, though it was a moot point as I couldn’t form words. She half dragged me into the tavern’s kitchen, shutting the door firmly. The fire was still blazing in the grate and the warming heat cocooned me, slowly melting the coldness that had worked itself into my very bones. The smell of baked bread and stew wafted in the air and my stomach growled loudly. Bree still held to my side was clinging on for all she was worth, eyes bright and round as her wee head darted around the room taking it all in.
“Sit, I’ll fetch ye and the lassie some food and drink. I just canna believe my eyes!”
I sat as commanded, Bree resting on my knee. Maggie had two plates filled and a pitcher of ale with a small cup of milk set afore me in minutes. She spoke no words until I tucked into my food, helping Bree to eat some of hers. It was a beef stew but was heavy on the vegetables. Maggie was stood with her back to the fire, just watching us, a warm smile across her face. I took her presence in, she was a pleasant looking woman, slightly built, and now just a little too thin for her frame. Her dirty blonde hair was neatly swept up but her gray eyes were dull, nearly lifeless. There was an overwhelmingly sorrowful pity within her whole manner, despite the smile. This right here is what that damn foolish rebellion had created. All the while that idiot of a prince was lording it up still, it was these people right here, the Scots who were paying the price. Once Bree and I had finished our food, Maggie sat down at the table, just staring in near disbelief.
“We thought ye dead Mistress, thought the Redcoats had got ye. We, we tried to carry on ye ken, tried tae do what ye taught us but there were sae many, it, it.”
She broke into tears, the memories of that terrible time and place flooding her. I reached out my hand and took hold of hers.
“I know you all would have done your very best, the battle was already lost. We could never have won. Did Samuel survive?”
I spoke his name on a whisper terrified of the answer I’d hear.
“Nay, he died out there alone. I never did get his body.”
The sorrow in her voice at the loss she had felt spoke straight to my soul. I had thought the same for so long but Jamie had survived, he was alive.
“Nay guesses needed for who this wee lassie’s Da is!”
Maggie reached out and stroked Bree’s cheek, getting a big smile in return. The fact that Maggie saw Jamie in her warmed my soul, breaking my face into a smile. For so long to I’d had to listen to Frank’s colleagues wives ooh and Awh at Bree’s hair and eye shape and colour, asking awkwardly who she took after. Clearly seeing no resemblance to Frank within her features. The be-muddled response about her taking after a distance Aunt on my side hastily barked out, oh you should see a photograph of Great Aunt Dottie, you would think them one and the same! I’d learn this response off pat and had nearly come to believe it!
But now, now at this very time I had people who knew Bree’s father and most importantly saw him in her. Just as I did each and everyday since she had been placed into my arms.
“How did you come to work in the tavern Maggie?”
“Well after the rising failed I’d nay husband, nay home, nay anything really. I came into town hoping for work and there was a position opening up here, sae I took it without another thought. Married the landlord that same winter. Widows dinna have much choice, ye ken that herself. Did ye marry again?”
The question caught me completely off guard. Frank had ran through plausible stories with me, schooled me on answering convincingly, picking out the right details to emphasise. This however, this scenario, this question right here, was not one of them. The schooled and drilled stories focused around my answering questions from those I didn’t know, officials of some sort, soldiers. Maggie knew me and knew of Jamie I needed to think quickly and pray I could be convincing.
She hadn’t mentioned that she knew Jamie was alive and I thought best that the fewer who knew this was probably best. What do I tell her? Swallowing hard to fight back the panic that had risen at the those innocuous words. I prayed my glass face would not betray the white lie I was going to have to tell.
“No, I didn’t remarry I just couldn’t move on from Jamie.”
Not a complete lie, I was technically already married to Frank. Plus Maggie seen the love and relationship Jamie and I had, refusing to marry for love of him wouldn’t seem strange. I hoped.
“Before the battle I had got separated from Jamie as he headed to the battle front to his men. The place was in chaos.”
Again not a complete lie.
“I saw Redcoats coming and blocking my path to where we all were and so I fled the area. Headed for the port and made my way to France. I didn’t know what else to do.”
I looked down shamefully, Maggie and the other women had needed me, never mind the soldiers. I had simply abandoned them all, for a promise made to Jamie long before. I hadn’t wanted to go but had been made to, for my safety and Brianna’s but yet it had been for no reason! Jamie had lived and I had existed, but now, now thanks to the sacrifice of Frank I had returned. We could pick up our lives again, move forward, be a family, but for so many Scots things would never be the same again and I was staring into the face of that reality before me.
Maggie had grabbed onto my hand and was looking at me with sympathy I didn’t think I deserved.
“Ye and yer man were a love match anyone could see, nay surprise ye never moved on. Am glad ye returned Claire. I’ll show ye tae yer room am sure ye both are tired.”
With a small smile and a reassuring pat on my hand she rose, heading into the main tavern room. I followed close behind, Bree half sleeping in my arms.
The room was comfortable and warm. I settled Bree on the bed and striped some of my layers off. Once my head hit the pillow I was asleep in seconds.
The next morning dawned bright. I lay on enjoying the warmth of the woolen blankets and the heat from Bree. The noise of the tavern below reduced and I rather thought it was time to rise and obtain some breakfast. The next part of my plan needed to be commenced and quickly.
“Maggie thank you for the wonderful hospitality. Brianna and I will be moving on today.”
“Ack so soon? Will ye be back this way? I suppose ye dinna ken.”
“No I am hoping to be. I have a letter I am sending, well I would be hopeful for a reply when I return to Inverness. I am unsure how long my business will take where I am heading so.”
“So you need me tae hold on tae any post for ye?” Nay bother Mistress.”
I smiled brightly hoping she wouldn’t continue to ask questions. Handing over the payment for our room and food, I said one more goodbye and headed for the door.
Inverness had changed a great deal in the few short years since I’d left. There was a dullness overcasting it and the people were subdued, distant almost. The happy cheerfulness seemed to have been sucked from them. It was understandable Redcoat patrols were everywhere, moving through the streets with authority and purpose. I was glad my cloak had a large hood to hide my face and Brianna had a woollen hat pulled down tight.
I didn’t wish to linger in the streets of Inverness, moving instead with pace to the coach post to buy passage to Edinburgh. Bree was taking everything in, wide eyes scanning all around her in silent wonder. She had said every little since our trip through the stones, only asking once where her Daddy was and when we could go home.
I debated telling her the truth against a small white lie to settle her, Frank and I hadn’t made much effort to explain what was happening or rather what was going to happen. She knew we would be going to find her real Daddy, but beyond that we had explained little. I couldn’t be sure whether it was to protect her or us from that conversation. In the end I went with the truth, telling her we would be staying here and would find her real Father. Hugging her tightly to myself I told her how we wouldn’t forget Daddy, ever, how he had done so much so we could come find our family. She had looked curiously at me, with that little head tilt then promptly said
“So Daddy’s like a hero? Like the man who saves the princess!”
“Yes, just like the hero who saves the princess darling.”
I couldn’t help but smile in agreement, blindly blinking back tears that fought for release.
The Edinburgh Coach left right on time. The lunging of the carriage as it bumped along the cobbled streets, taking me sometime to get used to again. The coach was full and Bree was sat on my knee staring out the window enthusiastically pointing out what we passed by. I had ignored Frank’s plea to obtain a man servant to travel with. I had things to do, business to take care of that I didn’t wish others to be familiar with. People talked and in this time anonymity was my friend, I needed to keep a low profile, stick to my cover story and identity. Thankfully Frank had schooled me enough on my story that I was confident to engage in polite conversation. Bree as a small child still learning her own voice and words, was however a slight liability but I had went over and over topics not to be mentioned ever and any slips, I hoped, could be put down to innocent child babble.
The coach made a leisurely pace to Edinburgh and the passengers over the three day journey changed, all but one. A formidable elder lady by the name Mrs Stirling. A few hours into the journey she had befriended Brianna and by the first stop we had become firm travelling companions. Mrs Stirling was attending to a matter at her son in law and daughter’s estate on the outskirts of Inverness. He, she informed me was travelling on business and her daughter was residing with her in Edinburgh awaiting his return. Her daughter Iona had two children, a son of eight called George after his Father and a daughter Lydia after herself. Lydia was nearly four years old and according to the elder Lydia would just love Brianna.
“Ack I just love having the bairns about the house, helps keep ye young, ye ken.”
“Indeed though it must have taken some adjusting having a full house again?
“Well as a widow I like the company.”
Mrs Stirling was a wealthy widow of a textile merchant. Her son now ran the business but had property at the outskirts of Edinburgh, his wife preferring the countryside to the town and with five children under seven I could understand why!
I had remained coy about my reasons for visiting Edinburgh, thankfully as a woman used to a world of business and trade she pressed no further when advised, I was attending to some personal business. Though she had insisted that I stay with her.
“Oh I could not possibly impose on your household, especially when you are already hosting your own family.”
“Oh it’s nay bother my dear, it would be my pleasure plus I canna let a gentle bred lady such as yerself stay in a tavern!”
“Really it’s no trouble at all, Bree and I are used to taverns and I’m not sure how long I will be in Edinburgh conducting my business. I simply could not put you out for any length time.”
“Ye are welcome to stay as long as ye need. My Iona would relish the company of a woman near her own age. My son ye ken is away on business in Italy with the whole of his family, have been since Spring and there’s no as many folk about her age that she remembers from before. Most of the lasses she grew up with have moved away once married. It would be a pleasure to offer ye the use of my home.”
“Well if you insist but really if it becomes too much, then.”
“It’ll no be any problem I can assure ye. I have a cook, butler and maids as well as a nursemaid for the bairns. I’ll make sure ye are well taken care off.”
She cut in before I could finish my sentence, a wide, bright smile on her face. I could only nod in agreement at least it would save me finding somewhere suitable and save some coin.
As the coach pulled into the coach house and slowed to a stop, I braced myself for my first look at Edinburgh since the rising.
The noise of the streets rung in my ears. Porters and delivery boys ran too and fro across the cobbled yard, whistling for assistance, thumping trunks atop another, dashing off into the street. The smell and noise of the bustling city reverberated on the carriage, that chorus of noise a consuming crescendo, bringing me right back, memories flooding my system.
“Ack come along dear ye canna stand there all day with yer mouth hung open.”
Mrs Stirling waved towards me, a cane in one hand and an impatient look on her face. I smiled and moved towards her as she barked instructions to a Porter regarding her trunks. It was going to be an interesting stay.
Chapter 7: Say nothing until you speak to your solicitor
Thanks for the likes and comments. For those wondering why Claire was headed to Edinburgh this chapter will reveal the reason.....
Also glad so many enjoyed the change for Frank. I think it is easy to write him as a villain simply because he isn’t Jamie. I do believe he loved Claire and there was evidence he wanted to care for both Claire and Bree on their return to the past. He just wasn’t prepared to let them go however I do wonder if perhaps there are hints in his books? And Claire’s avoidance of anything from the past stopped her seeing them 🤔 as she never read them. Maybe book 9 will tell.....
Mrs Stirling’s house was a large double fronted stone town house. Trees lined the cobbled street and wrought iron railings adorned the fronts of the properties. The stone steps rising up to the front door were swept clean and the door knocker and knob gleamed, shining bright brass against the painted woodwork.
We had barely reached the top step when the door swung open, a smartly dressed man bowed to Mrs Stirling welcoming her home.
“Roberts this is Mistress Claire Beauchamp and her daughter Brianna. They will be staying we me, as guests while attending to business in Edinburgh. Can you ensure the guest bedroom is made up for them.”
Without so much as a pause, Roberts turned to me bowing in welcome and moved to inform one of the maids of the lady’s request. Another maid appeared to take our cloaks and ushered us into the drawing room.
“Mistress Stirling do ye wish for tea to be brought in?”
“Yes, yes that would be delightful and where is my daughter? Is Iona not here?”
“Yes Mistress I’ll inform her of yer return straight away.”
With a slight bob she was out the door in a flurry of apron strings. The drawing room was large and well appointed, a pair of matching settee covered in rich green fabric and chairs sat in precise locations within the room. Interspaced with tables and sideboards, the walls showcasing paintings and portraits. It was a grand room but still somehow felt homely and welcoming.
The door opened and a beautifully dressed women entered the room. She was a younger version of Mrs Stirling I knew this was Iona without any introductions. Her dress was pale green with delicate embroidery along the bodice and skirt edges. Her hair a dark brown that matched what her mother’s would have been, was sleek and elegantly pinned back. I nervously ran my hand up to my own locks, conscious that they were anything but sleek and elegant. Mrs Stirling beaming at her daughter interrupted my hopeless ministrations to introduce us. I moved gingerly towards the women.
“Iona my darling ye look well. Let me introduce ye to Mistress Claire Beauchamp, Claire, this is my daughter Mistress Iona Rutherford.”
“It’s my pleasure to meet you Mistress Rutherford.”
I curtsied politely, catching the happy smile on Mrs Stirling’s face
“Claire and her beautiful wee daughter Brianna will be staying with us while she completes some business in Edinburgh. It will be welcome company for ye Iona.”
The smile widen as though delighted her plan had worked to find a friend for her daughter.
The heavily ladened tea tray was brought in and we settled into easy conversation. Enjoying the delightful dainty sandwiches and biscuits. Bree was entertained by Iona’s two children and they played surprisingly well in the corner of the room. Iona was a pleasant and well educated lady who had travelled in her younger years with her Mother and Father as part of the business. I enjoyed telling them tales of my own travels with my uncle.
Soon it was time for dinner and I was surprised and slightly taken back when the children including Brianna were being ushered to the nursery by the nursemaid for their meal.
“I am sorry but don’t the children eat with us?”
“No of course not dear, that’s why I have hired the nursemaid for them.”
Mrs Stirling looked shocked as though I had asked a most ridiculous question, while Iona tried to hide a small giggle. She whispered that her and her husband always ate with the children but shrugged as if this was how her parents had been.
“Brianna will be fine with the other children. A more pleasant bairn Iona I couldn’t imagine, and such a delight to have on the journey, not one tear or temper!”
I smiled as enthusiastically as I could hoping it showed genuine on my face. Brianna was great with strangers, my old neighbour had seen to that, a woman ahead of her time with views that children should be brought everywhere and included. But I feared being separated from her in this still strange to her time. I was a guest here and so had to follow the house rules.
Dinner had been delicious, after tavern and coach house food since I had arrived I welcomed lean cuts and gently cooked vegetables. The conversation had thankfully not strayed into uncomfortable territory and I had made a shopping ally with Iona after saying I wished to purchase new outfits and some items to bring back to my family. Iona was enthused to bring me to her favourite dressmaker in town.
I climbed the stairs to the nursery, longing to see Bree and hug her close. I had missed her at dinner but on opening the nursery door saw that she had been more than content. Happily playing with a doll and pram, her rag doll tucked into the crib beside a stuffed dog. A big grin plastered over her face at seeing me and a high pitched squeal of Mama. I lifted her into my arms hugging her tight.
“Did you eat all your dinner up?”
“Yes Mama, all up!”
She raised her arms above her head as she exclaimed this, then giggled uncontrollably, her little body shaking.
“Shall we go to bed?”
A very child like thing to say I thought.
“Well Mama is very tired and I think I will need you to help me sleep, do you think you could do that?”
The words were strung out and I could almost swear I heard a slight sigh from her. Oh my work was going to be cut out with this little lady, good job your Father will be around to help I thought.
The nursemaid was slightly put out that Brianna would not be sleeping in the nursery but there was no way I was missing out on bedtime snuggles with my girl.
By the time I had retreated to my room and prepared us both for bed, sleep was not long in arriving.
The morning dawned bright and dry, once readied for the day and breakfasted. I excused myself to start my first tasking for my time in Edinburgh.
As I moved through the busy streets I was grateful for Mrs Stirling and her household, Brianna was safely with them, leaving me the ability to focus fully on the Herculean task ahead of me.
Checking the small piece of paper for the address once more I looked up to the painted wooden sign, confirming it was one and the same place. Deep breath in to calm my building nerves I pushed the heavy wooden door open.
The room stretched out before me, dark and dusty, light streamed in from the street through windows high above, though they did little to brighten. Steps ran down to the main room, desks lined along the sides, piled high with books and paper. Candles burning intently, wax dripped and hardened along the candle holders. Men sat at each desk, bent to task, quills briskly crossing pages. The only noise being the delicate rasp of quill tip on paper or the gentle tap against the ink pot.
My eyes were scanning the room when I was approached by a young man, clearly an apprentice or perhaps a legal clerk.
“Can I help ye Mistress?”
He stood reverently, hands held at his front awaiting my reply.
“Yes, I do hope so, would Mr Ned Gowan work here?”
The young man straighten a little at this, before clearing his throat.
“Yes Mistress he does. Can I enquire as to the nature of yer call?”
I didn’t like the tone in which he spoke or the slight movement he had made at my request. He stood now, eager anticipation etched on his face as to my reply. I wasn’t giving him anything more than I had already said. With a coolness to my voice that would have no doubt impressed my hostess Mrs Stirling I replied.
“I’m afraid not, is he available to speak with and if not when could I book an appointment to do so?”
There was enough of a hint of irritation in my voice that he actually bristled a little and redness flushed his cheeks.
“Yes Mistress, right away he is of course available.”
Then leaning in so others could not overhear he whispered.
“I meant no offence Mistress but ye ken he is but a legal clerk? If yer in need of a solicitor I suggest ye speak to Mr McAdams.”
A legal clerk? Why on earth? My mind could not adjust to this information. I could not speak and had to force my mouth shut and merely nodded as I followed the man into the depths of the room.
At the back, to one side of grand double doors was a small desk, piled even higher with books and paper. The small crouched over figure of Ned Gowan on the chair.
“Mr Gowan, a lady to see ye.”
The man turned and walked away leaving me staring in disbelief at this broken man before me. He looked up, adjusting his eyes for a second, before realisation and recognition lit his face. He rose, mouth slightly open and didn’t speak, instead he ushered me into a small side room and closed the door.
“Mistress Fraser? Is that really you?”
There was a hollowness to his voice, that cool calmness and dare I say it, cocky edge that I had seen and heard on MacKenzie lands now gone. His eyes too, lacked any spark or life. He was but an empty shell and I off all people could relate to that.
“Yes it is I but am using Mistress Beauchamp again, well am sure you’ll understand why.”
I cast my eyes down not sure how much more to say, Frank had warned me to say very little about Jamie, the less who knew he lived the better and I was inclined to believe him.
“Oh yes, yes of course my dear. Well it was a pleasure to see you again but I have a busy day ahead I am afraid. Perhaps we could speak another time?”
“No I didn’t come to simply say hello to you, Ned, Mr Gowan I need your help.”
I pulled the paperwork from my satchel, setting it down on the desk with a resounding thump.
“Ian Murray, my brother in law is in prison, here in Edinburgh on false charges. He, he has a family who needs him. I need your help to free him, I think there is a good case to help him.”
I started to spread the papers out and go through them, Ned’s hand came to rest upon mine.
“I am sorry Claire but I simply cannot . I am a legal clerk, no a solicitor now and I cannot help you.”
His voice was broken, distant and drenched my enthusiasm like a tidal wave. The jaunty, confident little solicitor I knew was not there anymore. The rising had claimed yet another victim, not by death but by sorrow and loss of hope.
“But Ned, please you are the only person I trust, you have the knowledge and skills still to do this, I know you can. Please help me, please help Ian?”
“I can recommend you speak to Mr McAdams he will be able to help you am sure. As I said it was lovely to see you again.”
He turned to leave the room, his shoulders slumped. I could see the heaviness of the loss from the rising on him, he had left the confines of Edinburgh for the freedom of the Highlands, had found purpose with the Mackenzie’s and Pledged himself to them for all those years. He now saw no purpose to his life, the clan ways now gone and had resigned himself to this lesser existence.
“Please don’t go! I know it has been difficult the ways of Scotland changed for ever, but you can still make a difference. There are people out there suffering Ned, everyday for no crime other than being born a Scot in the Highlands! You know these people, you lived among them, helped them, loved them! You can help them again, protect their husbands, their lands. You can help them dare hope and dream once again.”
I had reached out to him, taken his hand in mind as I pleaded with him. He hadn’t even looked at me, still staring ahead at the door.
“The people of the Highlands are better off without me, I told you, I cannot help.”
He moved now to the door, opening it to leave. Grabbing the paperwork from the desk, I bundled it together. Thrusting it into his hands.
“I will be going to the prison tomorrow morning, I have been informed that the governor, Mr Campbell, will see callers between nine and ten in the morning. I will be there at nine sharp.”
I walked passed him through the door and didn’t look back. I hoped he would call out, having changed his mind but the noise of quill on paper and the rustling of my skirts were the only noises following me out of the premises. I didn’t think he would refuse to help, I hadn’t planned for that. I would need another solicitor but first I wanted to speak to the governor and request permission to see Ian. Then I would do what I needed to get him freed.
I spent the rest of the day holed up in my room. Eyes scanning the documents and paperwork which Frank had copied painstakingly in thrice. After dramatically thrusting the paperwork into Ned’s hands I was glad Frank saw fit to do this. As a woman in this time I was severely limited as to what I could achieve. The governor could deem it too dangerous for me to be even on the prison grounds and could refuse an audience. I had no hope without a solicitor to even get the matter before a judge but could I trust another solicitor? Would another be willing to risk taking on a case like this? Challenging the might of the English? I just didn’t know, I slumped in the chair dropping the pages to the desk. I sighed out a long breath of frustration.
I seemed to be facing an impossible task but I had once broken into Wentworth and helped Jamie to escape. This time I was armed with information and facts, I could do this. No more defeatist thoughts, I straightened in my chair and lifted the pages once again.
I stood resolutely at the imposing gates of the prison. I had excused myself from breakfast with Mrs Stirling the night before and headed early to await admission to the prison. Thankfully there were no others seeking an audience with Mr Campbell and so I awaited the guard returning with the governor’s decision.
I had rehearsed time and time again what I would say, how I would say it. Using the techniques Frank taught me to school my features and remain in charge. I was once again lost in this thought when I heard my name being shouted from across the street.
“Mistress Beauchamp! Mistress Beauchamp!”
Turning I was shocked to see Ned Gowan running across the street. He stopped in front of me, a large leather satchel, stuffed with papers clutched to his chest. He seemed to have changed over night, a gleam and twinkle in his eyes, his posture more sure. He was breathing heavily, gasping for breath.
“Ned, I, your here? I didn’t think you would help me?”
I said a little pointlessly as he now stood in front of me.
“I know Mistress Beauchamp and I wasn’t, I haven’t practiced law since the ‘45 but after you had left I did read over what you left behind. There is a case I believe to be made and well I felt, well if I can’t help the MacKenzie’s now perhaps I can help their kin, Mr Murray is after all Kin.”
We were interrupted by the guard returning, his gruff demeanour only increased due to the need to now escort me to the governors chambers.
“I am Mistress Beauchamp’s solicitor and will be accompanying her to speak with Mr Campbell.”
The guard merely grunted in reply and walked off, Ned and I following close behind. The prison was large and imposing, cold dark stone rose high along the boundary walls. Guards and redcoats moved around, positioned on the portico and gates. The air was dank and depressing within the prison and the wall sconces did little to brighten. The stench of thousands of men held within the walls permeated the air adding to the overall oppression of this building. This plan had to work, I had to get Ian out of here.
“Mistress Beauchamp allow me to do the most talking with Mr Campbell, he, well, he isn’t the most open minded thinker, ye ken.”
I nodded still stunned that he was here and relief that this would be all right and would work out perfectly washed over me.
Mr Campbell was a small round man with a wig pulled far down on his head. A large bulbous nose took up half his face, drawing the eye instantly, only assisted by the redness of it and diminished only slightly from notice by the rosey redness of his cheeks. A clear fan of too much wine and rich foods.
The study was extravagantly decorated, lush fabrics covering the chairs and settee. Rich thickly lined curtains swagged from the windows and a large oak desk stood proudly in the centre. The smell of a sumptuous breakfast hung in the air and it madden me that not ten feet from where we stood men suffered and went hungry.
Taking the offered seat, Mr Campbell moved around his desk taking up his own. A casual, dismissive attitude displayed by his ungentlemanly posture.
“So ye wish to speak with me Mistress Beauchamp regarding a prisoner?”
The words were spoken as though speaking to a child. I cleared my throat to begin when Ned jumped in to take up the conversation in my stead.
“Yes we are here to arrange a meeting with one Ian Murray, I have been instructed to act on his behalf regarding the charges against him, which have brought him to be held in this fine establishment of yours.”
“Mr Gowan, I thought ye were a legal clerk, ye expanding into soliciting now too?”
Ned dismissed the comment derision evident within his voice
“I was always a solicitor Mr Campbell, I can assure you of that. Now about Mr Murray when can I expect to be able to consult with my client?”
There was a gleam in those eyes and a slight cock to his head. He spoke with ease and confidence and was taking command of the room. Ned was back, this was the man I so fondly remembered, this was the man I had placed hope in for saving Ian.
“Er, mmm, well, we don’t just let people in to converse with prisoners. I have a prison to run.”
“Well I understand that noblest of duty that you have Mr Campbell but I am not here to merely converse. I am here to consult with him regarding his on going incarceration, at your establishment. I also doubt it will not have escaped your keen eye to detail, that my client is currently residing here without official charge or trail date?”
His eyebrow on one side raised slightly to emphasise his point. It clearly had sunk home to Mr Campbell despite his probably still slightly inebriated state, his face fell and eyes widen with realisation that as governor theses matters should not be overlooked.
“Absolutely Mr Gowan. Jones!”
He shouted out and a redcoat private came busting through the door. Stumbling to attention as he stood awaiting his command.
“Jones please escort Mr Gowan and Mistress Beauchamp to the interview room. Mr Gowan, I will have your client brought up to you.”
The interview room was sparse, a single wooden table and two chairs on either side. Ned sat and began removing the paperwork from his satchel. I paced nervously, what would Ian say? How would he react to me being here? Would he be cross or angry? I certainly deserved no less, as far as Ian and Jenny were concerned I had just disappeared off the face of the earth. What had Jamie told them? Probably nothing or very little and most definitely not the truth.
The door swung open and two soldiers entered, Ian sandwiched between then, manacles on his hands. Pushing him forward they exited closing the door hard behind them. I was stood, frozen in place in the corner, just out of his line of vision. He hadn’t changed much, thinner without doubt, his face taught and gaunt against the bones and his hair was lank and lifeless. His clothes hung on his body as though not his, but he was still Ian, I could see it in his posture. He wasn’t letting this break him.
“I hired nay solicitor sir and if yer here on behalf of ma wife ye can go, fer we have nay spare coin to pay and as well she kens it!”
His focus was solely on Ned, who continued calmly sorting his paperwork.
“Mr Murray my name is Ned Gowan”
“Yer name dinna matter, I didn’t request ye, and I told ye ma wife had no place either.”
Ian interrupted still starring transfixed on Ned, whose calm unsettled demeanour was still at the fore.
“Mr Murray please take a seat, I am here to represent you not on the request of your wife but your sister in law.”
He pointed over towards where I stood, Ian slowly turning mouthing the words Sister in Law as though trying to work out who he could possibly mean. His eyes landed on me and he visibly reacted, stumbling back, colour draining from his face. He fell heavily onto the chair, mouth gapped open.
“Claire?! But yer dead? Ye died? We were told ye where gone?”
The words were jumbled out in one long string, his hand coming to cover his mouth in shock. I moved forward slowly as if approaching a skittish horse.
“I know it’s a lot to take in Ian, but we don’t have much time, Ned is going to look at your case to get it thrown out of court and get you freed. I know I owe you an explanation but can you hold off for just a little longer?”
“Aye lass I can, I’ve managed this long with nay explanation other than ye where gone, I suppose I can wait a while longer. I canna believe ye are here! Alive!”
I moved closer wanting to hug him, check him over but feared him rejecting me. As I drew near he rose from the chair and pulled me in for a hug, whispering into my ear.
“He will be that pleased tae see ye.”
Tears welled to my eyes at the mention of Jamie and the familiar embrace of Ian. I pulled back looking into his eyes, understanding passing between us of his meaning. I then began checking him over, hands running through his hair for cuts or bumps, pausing to press gently at a fading bruise around his eye.
“Aye the redcoats are no so careful with us Scots on route tae prison.”
I sucked in a sharp breath of anger and continued checking his throat and glans. He was warmed but not fevered. Setting him down onto the chair I knelt before him and pulled out cheese and bread and some cooked meat from my bag. His eyes widened and he ate greedily. I also had a small bottle of whisky for him from which he took a healthy swig.
“I’ll try and visit as much as possible until Ned sorts your case out and bring food.”
His hand reached out to grab mine and his eyes filled with tears. He couldn’t speak but I knew exactly what he was trying to say.
While he continued devouring the food, I stood near the door, planning to distract the soldiers should they enter, that Ned could hide the food. It wouldn’t have been looked upon favourably if seen by them and no doubt I would never be permitted entry to the prison again.
“So Mr Murray your case is most interesting indeed. Arrested several times, held for weeks without trail and released again. You are being held this time on charges relating to harbouring a traitor and inciting rebellion? Mmm interesting indeed.”
“Aye I’ve been carted off countless times. The redcoats have searched the house and lands since Culloden looking my brother in law.”
Ah yes Mr Fraser, fine man indeed. I take it that they have not found him?”
“Nay so much as a trace, he died on Culloden ye ken.”
He shot a little look towards me then continued eating.
“Yes indeed, well I do believe I can assist you. We will need a trail date set and I will need to consult with you regarding the case over the next few days and weeks but yes, yes I do think it’s possible to get these charges removed.”
He smiled brightly while tidying the paperwork together. Ian had finished the last bite of bread when the door swung open and the two soldiers poured in.
“Times up, back to the cells.”
Grabbing Ian by the arms they lifted him from the room. I looked to Ned hopeful for encouragement or a response to the manner in which Ian had been removed, but nothing just gentle shuffles of paper.
“Well it won’t be easy, we need to follow the letter of the law and Mr Murray is going to have to be very honest in his views on the rebellion and Lallybroch’s involvement. Distancing himself and Lallybroch from the actions of his brother in law. But I think it is achievable. Now the next thing I need to arrange is a court hearing but unfortunately my dear you won’t be able to attend that is solely gentlemen’s business.”
Ned escorted me back to the Stirling residence, he was then headed for the courts to lodge a request for a hearing and write to the British commander requesting evidence to support their charges against Ian. This could take weeks if not months but I prayed that this would be over soon and on a positive Ned required access to Ian regularly which meant I could visit and bring food and tend to him.
Entering the house I was greeted by Iona and Mrs Stirling standing in the hall, looking at me intently. The blood froze within my body, icy shivers ran up my spine.
“Claire do ye mind coming to the study to speak with us.”
Chapter 8: Trial and redemption
Thank you for all the likes and comments. Glad that you have been enjoying this little fic so far.
Iona stood rocking between her two feet, nervously fidgeting with a handkerchief while looking at the ground. Mrs Stirling was sat in the chair as though the queen awaiting an audience. My blood had frozen on the first word of the request and hadn’t thawed, I had no idea what this conversation would entail and tried to calm myself and school my features.
“Claire we know who ye are. I’m I correct in calling ye Claire Fraser? Red Jamie’s wife?”
If my blood had frozen when asked to accompany them to the study my heart positively stopped at this statement. It was still early in the days after the rising Jamie’s wife would still be a sought after prize for the English. It was why my relationship to Ian was not disclosed to the governor.
“Yes you are correct. I mean no harm to you or your family Mrs Stirling but I can leave right away if you wish.”
No point in lying I thought, better to make myself scarce. It would put pressure on Ned to move along Ian’s case as no doubt my identity in Edinburgh would not remain hidden and what of my return to Lallybroch, would that mean I couldn’t risk it? I wanted to cry but swallowed it down, I’d worked too hard and planned too long and risked too much to give up!
“No no! Don’t leave!”
The panic evident in her voice as she rose as though moving to stop me walking away.
“We ken your working with a solicitor, have been in the prison. Are ye helping someone? Yer husband maybe? Did he live?”
“How did you know I’d spoken with a solicitor and went to the prison? Are you following me?”
“No of course not but one of the maids seen ye when she was out doing messages. If yer helping someone ye know to get out of prison perhaps ye could help my daughter?”
I could have just grabbed Bree and left, been gone from Edinburgh that very day. Hopeful that Ned could secure Ian’s release without me and I could see him on his return to Lallybroch. But there was desperation in her voice, a pleading tone so I felt compelled to ask.
“Iona? Why who is in prison?”
“My husband, he was arrested three months ago for being a Jacobite. He wasn’t ever! Never fought or supported but we had land and a fine house so they took it.”
“That’s why I was in Inverness when I met ye and Brianna. I recognised ye from the rising, never forget a face. When ye said ye had business to attend too in Edinburgh I had thought it might be at the prison and I hoped ye could maybe help. I’ve heard the rumours ye ken? That red Jamie lived.”
I was shocked, taken aback and unsure how to answer. Frank and I had never envisioned this scenario. We both thought here I would be anonymous, able to help free Ian then return to Lallybroch to be with Jamie. How ever was I to proceed? Of course I felt for Iona and her husband, but how could I help?
“Iona am so sorry for what has happened you. I’m here for my brother in law. He has been arrested and held several times but never charged.”
“My husband is the same but he is unwell I have to get him out but no one will help. The solicitors have all refused and I can’t get into the prison even with money to bribe!”
“I sorry really I am but I don’t know what I can do to help?”
“Ye got into the prison and convinced a solicitor to act! Please can my husband be represented by the solicitor? Can ye tend to my husband as ye do to your brother in law?”
Iona was pleading, tears slowly falling down her cheeks. It was clear from the desperation in her voice that they had tried everything. They had money, to be sure but even that didn’t seem to sway in the face of these charges.
“Yes I will help in anyway I can. I will need to speak to Mr Gowan of course but you need to gather any information you have regarding your husband’s case.”
“Thank ye, thank ye so much”
The relief that this new hope brought, filled the room. Mrs Stirling reached out to take Iona’s hand, a loving, motherly touch of assurance.
“The nursemaid can look after Brianna, she seems to be getting along well with my two grandchildren. That will allow you both time to work with this solicitor and visit the prison, it’s no place for bairns.”
The last was said with authority, it was clear that our primary and only focus would be this endeavour. I prayed that Ned would be willing and that he could save both men.
Ned Gowan sat, spectacles perched on the end of his nose. A page in each hand, eyes darting between, every so often mmms and aaahs erupting from his mouth. I sat stoic in the chair, eyes trained on Ned, not daring to look away. Iona paced and sat and stood and paced, hands wringing, tears trickling lazily down her cheeks, her hand wiping them clear. It seemed an age before Ned finally looked at us and spoke.
“Well it appears everything is in order Mistress. I think I can help Mr Rutherford alongside Mr Murray. Now it won’t be easy but I will vow to do my very best.”
Iona lost all control of her emotions, sobs wracking her body as she sank to the chair, hand clasped to her mouth.
“Thank you Ned, you have given Iona hope once more. Do you think I could accompany you to the prison when you visit Mr Rutherford? Iona said he was unwell I want to see if I can help him.”
“Yes of course my dear, we can attend tomorrow morning.”
He smiled over to me, gathering the paperwork to place into his leather satchel and stood to leave.
“Mrs Rutherford I will attend the courts today to see if I can add your husband’s case to the one I lodged for Mr Murray. I bid ye both good day.”
He bowed politely and then left the room. It all rested on Ned and I prayed he was capable.
The next few weeks seemed to drag along. The weather matching my morose mood.
Iona was withdrawn, quite and even the effervescent presence of Mrs Stirling did little to brighten the air within the home. The court hearing was this morning and sat at breakfast all three of us merely pushed the food around our plates. All our hopes were pinned on this moment, all resting on Ned and his ability to sway the judge to his thinking.
The commanding office for the area Lord Michaels had failed to respond to Ned’s request for evidence to support the charges against Ian or George. Ned had pressed ahead, demanding an hearing and the resident magistrate fiscal had been generous of heart allowing it. Lord Michaels had been summoned to attend Ned doubted that he would dare to not show, which according to Ned was all part of his plan to show the judge the falsity of the accusations.
All we could do was wait, and wait we did. Watching each hour tick by slowly, the clock hands moving impossibly slow. Every movement in the street, eliciting head turns and craned necks, but alas it was futile, it never was Ned.
At half passed three, I set down the book I had been making efforts to read. To be honest I had read and reread the opening page a dozen times and not taken in a single word my mind miles away in the court room. Standing from my seat to pour a fresh cup of tea a dark figure caught my eye moving passed the window. Ned! It was Ned!
I couldn’t get the words out, simply running for the front door, Iona and Mrs Stirling rising, calling out behind as my hand reached the front door. Wrenching it open as I breathed out finally, not realising I’d been holding it.
Ned was jauntily striding up the steps towards the front door, he stopped on the second to last on seeing me, my glass face clearly telling him I needed to know and now.
“Well Mistress Beauchamp, oh Mistress Rutherford and Stirling too. Well, very good, let’s get in the house and I’ll tell you how it went.”
Iona and her mother had appeared behind me, worry and hope etched across their faces. Ned give nothing away as he walked passed me into the hallway. Roberts appeared and took Ned’s coat, advising that he would have a tea tray brought up right away.
It was a slow death like walk into the drawing room, I sat on the edge of the chair, hands wringing together on my lap. Iona and Mrs Stirling sat on the settee, hands grasped tightly together, eyes widen. Ned stood at the fireplace, commanding the room. He had given no indication as to how the hearing went, I held my breath once more as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Well I’m sure ye are all anxious to hear how it went today?”
He looked around the room between us all, I felt myself edge forward on the chair.
“Well Mr Rutherford and Murray by my calculations should be being released as we speak.”
He had looked casually at his pocket watch while speaking. Now looking at us all as his words hit home.
“You won? We won?”
I was on my feet, stood ridged to the spot desperate for confirmation.
“Yes, yes we won indeed. It appears that Lord Michaels was unable to produce any evidence to support this arrest or indeed the numerous others against either man. My case on both accounts was simple, if no evidence could be tendered then all charges were false, mere accusations if you will and with the previous arrests resulting in prolonged prison stays I requested full pardons.”
He had removed his glasses, cleaning them with a little linen cloth while regaling his court win. The cocky head tilt and gleam in his eyes, he had loved every minute of this I could tell. Stopping his diligent cleaning of his glasses he moved to his leather satchel, rifling through it.
“And I was granted them.”
He held the papers aloft in triumph. Sobs sounded from Iona as she hugged her mother tightly, tears of joy streaking her face.
We were back to sitting waiting impatiently. Mrs Stirling had ordered the cook to make a grand feast, insisting that the men would require it and Ned deserved it. A bed chamber was prepared for Ian and baths and a change of clothing set aside. The time ticked slowly by. Each quarter hour lasting a lifetime. Eventually two figures passed the window the distinct laboured walk of Ian confirming who it was. Iona and I raced to the door to greet them. George barely made it through the door before Iona was wrapped in his embrace.
Ian stood slightly behind them only moving into the hall when Iona practically dragged George still held tight in her embrace, into the drawing room where their children awaited.
“Sister! It’s good to see ye”
Ian pulled me into a tight embrace, tears flowing from both of us as we stood, hugging in tear filled silence.
“Thank ye, truly thank ye Claire. I’m a free man because of ye.”
The words were spoken softly and emotion choked out between each word. I felt a tug on my dress and turned to see Bree, arms held up to be lifted. Smiling I bent and lifted her to my hip. Ian looked stunned, mouth hanging open in shock.
“Is that? It canna be? Is she, is she Jamie’s?”
“Yes, this is Brianna Ellen Fraser. Jamie and mines daughter.”
I smiled at him, as he continued to simply stare, mouth opening and closing as though trying to speak further, but just looking like a strange sort of fish.
Brianna was looking intently at Ian, as though studying his features. Her little head tilting and turning, eyes pulled together in an odd little quirked way. Suddenly she was wriggling, trying to get down from my arms. Sliding down my body until her feet struck tera firma. I watched her then look up at me then step forward towards Ian, he uncle Ian I reminded myself. I didn’t speak only watched. She looked up at him, then at his feet before moving closer and planting a noisy kiss on his stump, singing “kiss better!” Before reaching up her arms to be lifted by him. Ian with practiced ease of fatherhood stooped, lifting her to his hip.
“I’m yer Uncle Ian Mo Leannan.”
Pulling her tight to his body in a warming embrace.
“Yer Da is going tae be beside himself with joy at ye.”
Tears ran uncontrollably down his face as he looked at me, still clutching Bree tightly.
“Oh Claire, he will be overjoyed, ye and the bairn, ye’ll restore his soul.”
My heart snapped, it physically snapped at these words. I knew from Frank’s research that Jamie was hiding in a cave but until I saw Ian’s face change at seeing me and then now seeing Bree I hadn’t really thought or taken in what that would mean emotionally for Jamie. How it would effect him. I had struggled through three years without him, believing him dead, lived half a life, Bree was the only reason I kept going. Jamie had had none of that.
Dinner that evening was an elaborate celebration. George and Ian had bathed and changed clothing. Iona sat one hand gripped in George’s, dinner table etiquette be damned! I couldn’t blame her I think I will be the same on reuniting with Jamie. Fear that if my hold loosened he will be ripped away from me.
Ned joined us for the meal, Mrs Stirling was ever grateful for his assistance and glanced upon him as if he were a king.
“Ned what are your plans now? Surly you cannot go back to being a legal clerk? Will you continue practicing law?”
My question was hopeful, almost pleading. Ned only truly came alive when faced with legal challenges. I shuddered at remembering that lifeless, broken little man sitting at the desk, before me now was the man I knew from Castle Leoch.
“Yes, well Mistress Beauchamp I believe I will continue practicing the law. I think a return to the Highlands must be in order, I imagine there are a few who could do with my assistance there perhaps?”
He raised his glass towards me in salute and I could only smile and nod. Ned Gowan was back and taking the fight to the English.
The fire in the study burned hot. I could feel the heat against my legs as I stood in front of it. My mind burned also at how to begin my conversation with Ian. I could stick to the story concocted by Frank and drilled into my mind to the point that it blurred with the truth. But this was Ian, my brother, and somehow telling more lies and half truths just felt wrong. I didn’t know what Jamie had told Jenny and Ian, but going by Ian’s visceral reaction to seeing me alive, I could only conclude that both understood me to be dead.
Ian sat in one of the leather winged chairs, a glass of whiskey held in hand. His face, expressionless as he watched me intently, awaiting his promised explanation. I breathed in deeply and began at the very beginning. Ian listened without interruption, face devoid of expression, he raised his glass to his lips several times throughout my impassioned telling but never once actually took a sip.
“So you see Ian that’s the whole truth, I’m from the future, Jamie sent me back to be safe, to protect our child. I did promise him I’d stay, forget him, live my life but I couldn’t when I found word of his survival I had to return, I just had too.”
The last spoken on a whispered breath, Ian had shown no reaction, even anger and I feared that the truth of my leaving and sudden reappearance would now be met with indifference and dismissal and to be truthful I didn’t think my heart could take that. If Ian rejected me here and now how could I possibly return to Lallybroch?
“Aye it’s a tale and a half Claire, I always thought there was something different about ye. Couldn’t put ma finger on it, but aye it makes sense. Aye it does.”
He spoke as though agreeing on my assessment of the weather not discussing a near impossible revelation!
“Trust Jamie to fall for a faerie.”
He started laughing and shaking his head in mirth.
“So you believe me? You believe I’m from the future?”
He paused in his laughter, sipped from his glass and looked me square in the face.
“Aye, I believe ye.”
I swallowed audibly, it had been said with a definitive air only achievable by the likes of Ian who had been spent years of his life coming up against the formidable and unmoving force of the Fraser’s.
“Thank you Ian.”
“No thank ye Claire. Ye saved us, telling Jenny to plant potatoes, save gold, telling us how to heal and then this, ma pardon. Lass I dinna know how to ever thank ye enough. I can only thank the Lord in Heaven that he made a fierce, stubborn unbid-able woman such as ye and then saw fit to send her to wed ma clotheided brother!”
“Do you really think that Jamie will be glad to see me again? Does he still love me?”
The words were painful to speak, the answer terrified me. I had returned based on my feelings alone praying and hoping that Jamie felt the same but how had he changed in these years? Would he still love me? Want me? Ian held all my hopes in his next answer. My breath stilled and the world stopped as I waited.
“Aye he does.”
But there was something off in his voice that I couldn’t quite place.
Chapter 9: The long road home
Thanks for reading and supporting my fic. Hope you enjoy the new chapter
The journey to Lallybroch was slow and laborious. We had purchased a wagon and mule to travel in and carry the various items I had obtained to help out Lallybroch, and if I was honest I had hope that the purchases would endear Jenny to me. Ian had been forgiving and supportive, listened to what I had to say and believed me without question. Jenny however was a tougher nut to crack. I worried that she would not be happy to see me and if I knew Jenny, if she wasn’t pleased to see me I would know about it.
The wagon was filled with bolts of fabric, linen and wool, needles, thread, chickens, salt, flour, cured meats and seeds. All items I knew Lallybroch would need and use. All items I knew would help Lallybroch in this disparate time.
The highlands had changed dramatically in the years I had been away. That solid air of resolve, the friendly helpfulness toward neighbour, kin or stranger seemed snuffed out. A dreaded sense of fear and distrust rang out, even the cleanness of the air seemed some what tainted and the ruggedness of the mountains darker. Scruffy young children, filthy and in no more than rags scurried along the tracks and paths. Dark sunken eyes soulless with despair.
At each bend and turn I saw evidence of the clearances, burnt out cottages and abandoned crofts. Lands which should have been full of crops and livestock scorched and lying baron.
It was one thing to read about it, to see painted depictions, to know that it had taken place but to actually physically see it, smell the charred remains, see the fields burnt and empty. That was something else entirely. Lives ruined, destroyed and worst of all hope snuffed out.
I felt raw tears meandering a lazy trail down my face, this all around me was further evidence of my failure, my inability to be able to change the future. Ian reached over and took my hand, squeezing it tight in reassurance.
“Dinna let it bother ye. Claire, ye and Jamie tired, sacrificed so much for Scotland.”
“But yet it made no difference, history played out exactly how it always said it would.”
“Aye, mabbe so but no for Lallybroch. Ye both saved it and it’s people.”
He looked to me with a comforting smile. Jamie and I had failed, had suffered for it but yet there was truth and hope within those actions. Lallybroch had been saved. Perhaps I was powerless to stop the horrors that time would confine to the history pages? But with my knowledge, I could perhaps “stack the deck” as Frank put it and save my family and save Lallybroch once more.
We rounded another bend in the track. My knowledge of the Redcoat patrols and timings, meant we had avoided them successfully on our journey from Inverness. A grand achievement given the wagon of goods we had with us. If we had been stopped by a patrol, I had no doubt the wagon and mule would have been taken. Ian had told me of the countless times Lallybroch had been visited by the Redcoats, always taking something, even when they came with the purpose of searching for traitors to the crown. This meagre wagon load of goods would see Lallybroch thrive for years to come. So long as Ian and I could get it there in one piece.
My nerves had increased the closer we rolled to Lallybroch. I fidgeted, and cast my eyes around looking for clues as to how far away we were. My mind raced with thoughts, how would Jenny react? Would Jamie be at the house? When could I see him? Would he be pleased? Would Brianna settle? Be excepted? Would I?
I must of been betraying my inner turmoil through my damn glass face, as Ian turned to me.
“Lass have ye ants or piles? Sit at peace! We’ve less than five miles to go.”
We would be there, Lallybroch, the only place I had ever called home before midday. Ian had been quite the last few days of the journey, I thought he was contemplating his return home. He sighed heavily twice before turning slightly towards me.
“Lass ye ken am delighted yer home? Canna even begin to thank ye for what ye did to get me out of prison. Returning me to ma family, the time in that hell of a place, I missed out on so much. No that I’m complaining of being there ye ken? I’d do anything to save Jamie, ye ken that too?”
He looked at me hopeful that I was following his meaning. A slight nod to me with wide expectant eyes before continuing.
“Jenny ye understand is the same, she loves Jamie more than she can utter into words. She is protective off him, dinna wish to see harm come to him even it if means watching her own husband be carted off by the Redcoats. It’s a sacrifice we both have made. When Jamie was returned from Culloden,he, well, he was half dead.”
His voice quivered and broke as he spoke. I held my breath, scared that even the sound of it would distract from this moment. Ian had spoken little of Jamie since we had been reunited, except to tell me he did still love me and that he would be pleased to see me.
I knew or suspected bits of Jamie’s life after Culloden, such as him living in a cave and that he had been seriously injured prior to being returned home.
I remembered reading and re-reading the missive from the Earl of Melton, the Colonel of the 46th of finding officers and men from the Lovat regiment hiding after the battle, how one man, an officer of the name Fraser had been returned home, suspected to die on route from his wounds. I had known it was Jamie and almost laughed at the dismissive thought that the Earl suspected he would die, they knew nothing of that man’s strength of will. But again reading about it, imagining it is nothing like the reality which Ian was now sharing.
“Ye have seen the stubbornness of a Fraser afore? Well Jamie returned with a gash near the length of his thigh, down to the bone, infected, weak he was from fatigue and blood loss. Aye, I dinna think he would make it through that first night.”
I breathed in a sob.
“He spoke little, we asked him where ye were. He just kept saying ye where gone. That’s why we thought ye dead. He kept asking to be let to die. Jenny refused to give up, with iron will alone she sat with him day and night, forcing broth into him, cleaning the wound. Everything she could think to do. By a week in she brought in tenants to hold him down, cut into his rotting flesh and poured boiling water into the wound to clean the infection. Packed it as she knew ye would and stood to tell Jamie what she would do and wouldn’t do and him the same and dying wasn’t one of the options. She saved his life Claire, but.”
He trailed off his words lost in his own thoughts. I should have been here! It should have been me saving his life, why did I agree to leave? Jamie had needed me and so did my family. Ian was still staring ahead paused, as though trying to imagine the words he needed to say.
“But, well she couldna save his soul.”
The words while spoke gently and almost reverently struck me like a punch, each and everyone of them landing fully and squarely on my chest. I had seen the aftermath of battle wounds, treated them all too often but it was the damage to the mind, the soul that was harder to see and heal. Was Ian warning me that the Jamie I knew and loved, had return for, was no longer there? That he was but an empty shell? Or was he forewarning me of Jenny’s reaction to me? My heart was breaking and my mind was racing.
“Mabbe ye can save his soul Claire, mabbe he has just been waiting for that missing piece to return to him. I can see the same loss in ye.”
I had spoken nothing of my life in Boston with Frank except the bare essentials. Perhaps the anguish was clear on my face? Ian did know the love Jamie and I had shared. He had also the benefit of seeing Jamie in the years after and that had maybe been enough to surmise what my own fate had been, how living without each other had impacted upon us. I could not reply, I simply did not have the words. Instead I sat in quietness, staring ahead, Brianna’s sleeping form clutched tight to my breast, as the miles trickled by and eventually the all too familiar archway came into sight.
Chapter 10: Fishing
Thank you for the comments and sorry about the cliffhangers at the end of the chapters. I promise it wasn’t intended I didn’t realise it was reading like that 😂 but then I have the advantage as the writer of knowing what I’m writing next! This is a short little chapter focused on Jamie. Hope you enjoy
A noise of a twig snapping drew my attention. A foot step firm and sure. I froze, not daring to even breath. The midday sun was high in the sky, though it did little to diminish the cool bite in the air. Redcoats hadn’t been through here in weeks but I could no allow myself to be complacent. My life and Jenny and the bairns lives depended on my discretion and keeping hidden. Listening for every noise and watching for every movement.
I was living like an animal in a cave, hidden from sight, from family. How I longed for the touch of another. It was all I deserved, this suffering here and now, I cheated death both on that battle field and on that table as Jenny stood hands on hip demanding I live. I had sacrificed myself for her, my Sorcha, my Sassenach. For her and the bairn “that they may be safe.”
The quite prayer my mind sent up when thoughts drifted to them, and they drifted there often.
I could still recall the features of her face, the whiskey of her eyes, those little freckles that looked as if sprinkled across her nose. I could conjure to mind the swell of her breast and hip and the feel of her porcelain skin in my hand as I abused myself alone in the cave.
Christ to see her, to hold her just one last time. Alas that was impossible, I would never lay eyes upon her again. I dinna wish to either, Claire deserved better. I had given her better when I sent her back. I would live my lonely life with just her memory.
I knew that Jenny longed for me to be well, to no be distant, lonely. She mentioned marriage time enough, telling me I was young enough to have bairns yet, that I should take another wife. How could I tell her? How could I voice the words that Claire lived and so did our bairn?
Plus I was a wanted man, a traitor, hunted. I dinna wish to bring that to the door of any woman and I couldn’t betray Claire. But Jenny could never no the truth! I dinna wish to speak if it, to share it, that was my eternal punishment, mine to bear alone.
My mind spun to an imagine of Claire, laying naked on a blanket, another man wrapped around her, pleasuring her. The man, Frank, with the face of Black Jack Randall. Ifrinn!! How! No she could never allow it, but he loved her, would keep her safe, protected. That’s what I wanted above all else, that was why I sent her back. She told me he was nothing like Black Jack, he was not him, he would love them both, care for them.
That was why I returned Claire to him, I trusted he would do the honourable thing by her. But I never thought to live to deal with the consequences, the reality of her loss. To ache each day and night, to yearn for her and her touch. But yet I dinna wish this life, this cave on her, no she was better without me. And as time and time before I pushed these doubts, these thoughts out of my mind, praying for her safety and the bairn’s. “that she will be well, she and the child.”
Another firm placed foot step to my left, my breath still held. I was hidden a hundred yards from the cave entrance, the density of the trees preventing me from seeing who approached. A snap of a branch as it caught on a garment. If they continued on this path they would surly see me. Twenty feet away another firm step, any movement, no matter how small could now be seen. I reached for my Dirk holding it steady, ready to attack as they broke cover. No other footsteps, just this one set. Another firm step and then a string of Gallic curses. Fergus! What was he doing out here? I wasn’t due at the house for near a month and Fergus wasn’t due to call for at least a week.
I whispered loudly
“What are ye doing sneaking about out here!? Is everything alright at the house?Where ye followed?”
“Oh no no! Milord! I wasn’t followed I always follow what you taught me when I came out here.”
He beamed up with pride at following to the letter my instructions. He hadn’t answered my question though.
“Well that’s all well and good but what are ye doing out here in the first place.”
I stood arms folded across my body, looking down at him. He had grown over the last few years, tall and lanky, scrawny even. Lallybroch did have food, more than some estates at this time, all thanks to Claire. But even at that it wasn’t as plentiful as previous years and the Redcoats still took their fair share even when they saw the bairns starving. It showed on Fergus and Jenny too. It broke my heart that my own family were just about surviving. I had failed them in so many ways. I hunted and fished when I could but with so many mouths to feed it wasn’t enough and the hunting was becoming scarce.
I returned about once a month to the house, I knew Jenny kept the best of the meat for then to fill me with a home cooked meal. The guilt of eating it though, Christ the shame of what I’d brought to my family and what I had become!
Fergus shuffled on his feet breaking my thoughts.
“I came to see you Milord, I was lonely. Mr Murray is still not returned from prison and Rabbie well he is off with a girl.”
He rubbed his heel into the dirt nervously. I missed the lad. Though my body pulsed with the sorrow it felt when I looked at him. I had failed him too, yet he looked at me as though I hung the very stars, I was broken. Caire and I had brought him with us to Scotland, taking him away from a life of despair and destruction. Or so we thought, leaving him instead to half starve and fend for himself without us. I knew Jenny and Ian looked out for him and welcomed him as part of the family, but Ian was in prison and Jenny had bairns of her own and another on the way.
“Did ye do all yer chores for Jenny?”
“Oui Milord! I did.”
I dinna like leaving the house unprotected, Rabbie was away to Lord only knows where and Ian he wasn’t here either. I felt guilt at what Ian and Jenny were suffering. Their family being pulled apart because of my actions, my failures. Fergus was but a boy but he had grown up so fast, no thanks to yet again my failings. He knew though how to protect the women and children. I should send him back, maybe half an hour with the lad would do no harm? It would be a month or more before I was back to the house.
“Aye come on then. I’m headed to the river to fish ye can help catch something for yer supper, Jenny will like that aye?”
“Oui! She will! We haven’t had meat or fish for weeks.”
“I ken lad, I ken. Come on then let’s catch some fish.”
Placing my arm around his shoulders I pulled him into my side and we walked towards the river. Lord let there be fish to be caught, the Lord kens we need it.
Chapter 11: The Prodigal
Thanks for all the continued support for my story.
The wagon rolled to a gentle stop in the dooryard. Dogs, yapping and barking ran along the sides and between the mule’s legs. I cast my eyes around taking in the familiarity of it all, little had changed and that in some odd sense reassured me.
Brianna was, despite the dogs best efforts, still sound asleep in my arms. Ian groaned loudly as he stretched himself and turned to climb out of the wagon.
“James Murray! Ye better have that door laying open for a good reason!”
I turned towards the all familiar raised voice, that motherly chastising tone. Young Jamie stood still as stone on the top step to Lallybroch. Eyes wide and fixed on Ian as he lumbered out of the wagon. Mouth slightly hung open in disbelief at what he saw before him. The purposeful footsteps of a mother in motion stopped, along with the uttered threats against Young Jamie, Jenny’s voice trailing off as her hand rose to her mouth.
“Ian! Yer back! How?! Oh I canna believe it!”
Jenny and Young Jamie both stood still, immobile with shock as Ian moved swiftly to them. Pulling both into a tight embrace. I stood with the wagon between me and this happy familia scene, feeling like a voyeur, a stranger watching a private moment that should not be shared. Yet I was unable to turn away or tear my eyes from them. I saw the tears falling from Jenny’s tightly shut eyes, the wracking sobs vibrating through her body.
Eventually the three pulled apart and Young Jamie busting with emotions, hoping back and forth between feet turned and ran into the house shouting loudly that he was getting his brothers and sisters.
“Yer home! Returned to us, how did ye get out this time?”
Jenny had Ian’s face held in both hands, eyes darting over his whole body. Checking him for injury and changes, he had been gone for months.
“Ye look well Ian, did they feed ye? Oh come in, come in Mrs Crook will be beside herself yer back. I’ll get something to eat fixed up for ye.”
Jenny was speaking at a rate of knots, words tumbling out one after the other, the smile never leaving her face. I still had not moved, too scared to break cover from the wagon. Jenny was with an arm wrapped around his waist pulling him towards the door to enter the house.
She stopped mid stride looking up to Ian’s face.
“I had some help to get out of prison this time ye ken? I received a full pardon.”
He reached into his pocket to retrieve his copy, Jenny mouth agape in shock was struck speechless as her eyes darted over the paperwork.
“How? Who? Ian I dinna ken?”
“Yer dear sister, Claire.”
Ian turned and pointed towards where I stood, still as stone. I went to move, come round the side of the wagon closer to them, closer to my home but the look that flashed across Jenny Fraser Murray’s face as her eyes travelled the distance and landed on me stopped me dead in my tracks.
The look was gone in an instant, hidden behind that masked face, those Fraser cat like eyes betraying nothing. It had only been the briefest of moments but I had seen it and knew that Jenny was not pleased at my return.
“Claire? Yer back? We thought ye dead?”
Her arms now folded across her body, as she looked down upon me from the upper step. I moved from behind the wagon, Brianna still clutched to my chest asleep despite the tiredness and soreness in my arms. I couldn’t put her down, I held onto her like a talisman.
“Jamie sent me away, he thought he would die at Culloden. I left but found out recently he had survived so I.”
“Returned? Like a stray cat with her kittens?”
Jenny arms still folded interrupted my reply. One perfectly winged eyebrow raised as though daring me to respond.
“Ye dinna think to write? Let us know how ye faired? Family writes ye ken, family looks out for each other. Ye only found out that Jamie lived, well if ye had bothered to care about what had been left of yer family Claire ye might have known sooner. Perhaps even been here to help heal him. Have ye any idea?!”
“Jenny! Claire saved me from prison, got me a pardon we should be grateful.”
“Grateful ye say? Well, thank ye Claire for helping out ma husband, who was only in prison trying to protect yers, but ye wouldn’t have ken that what with ye off having bairns to other men! How long before ye remarried? Did he throw ye out and do ye have no where else to go? Is that it?”
The words were spat out with bitterness, her eyes narrowed and stance defensive. She was hurt and angry thinking I had abandoned Jamie in his time of need.
“Janet Murray! Enough!”
Ian shouted, moving towards his wife who was stood stoic and unmoving. Her eyes levelled squarely on me.
“Jenny please? I didn’t know Jamie survived until a few months ago, I came back because, I never wanted to leave in the first place but he made me go for my safety and our child’s.”
I pulled the blanket down that was covering Brianna to reveal her red hair, tumbled down in curls. Jenny gasped, but remained unchanged in posture.
“Aye well, Jamie’s no the only red headed man in Scotland.”
I could feel anger burning my cheeks, how could she suggest such a thing? I knew she was angry, expected her to be cool towards me but this?
“Janet I said enough! I’ve seen the bairn, she is Jamie’s. Ye ken fine well she would no lie about such a thing and the bairn is the double of your brother, God have mercy upon her, I’ve seen her and if ye cared to mind yer manners ye would have seen it too.”
Ian looked to me with a reassuring smile, his eyes pleading for me to tell her the truth but she was too angry and enraged. I couldn’t risk it, what if she handed me over to the Redcoats. Jamie was still a wanted man and no doubt, I as his wife and the infamous Stuart witch would still spark interest. No I couldn’t risk it yet, I shook my head dismissively at Ian, he merely nodded in understanding, a sympathetic look across his face.
“Very well then if that’s the case, I suppose ye best come in and eat. What’s in the wagon and where did ye get it?”
The last directed towards Ian. Her tone was still cool and reserved, I had a long way to go with Jenny Murray before she would trust me again. I knew that I had let them all down. She thought I had abandoned them all, in truth I had never went a day without thinking of them, despite my best efforts to forget the past. At this a thunder of feet echoed down the hall and small children along with two babies held by Mrs Crook surrounded Ian and Jenny.
Brianna finally awoke as I collapsed into a chair in the drawing room. The room was unchanged and on entering the aroma of the wood fire burning, the waxed floor and home cooking smells transported my mind back to that first day I arrived with Jamie. I swallowed a flutter of laughter in my throat, Jenny had been equally unhappy to see me then too I reflected.
Jenny sat in the chair opposite, eyes never leaving me. Ian was still in the hallway, hugging and kissing his children. Delighted giggles and squeals ringing out around the house. It warmed my heart that I had been able to return him home and hopefully protect him from further arrest. He was a family man, needed here with his wife and children. I looked to Jenny, still staring intently at me and Brianna, a cold wall between us. She spoke no words, offering nothing to me as a lead in to conversation. I fumbled and flustered under the stare, grasping at anything to break this icy silence.
“I, am, I see you have added to the clan? Twins as well?”
A cold one word response, eyes never moving from my face. I swallowed hard, opening my mouth to speak, no doubt desperation evident in my voice.
“This is Brianna Ellen Fraser.”
I turned Bree around to face Jenny, hopeful that she would see the resemblance of Jamie. I couldn’t look at Bree without seeing him, the hair, the slant of those cat like Fraser eyes, the blue of them like a clear blue sky, the sharpness of her nose and the gentle curve of her mouth, all identical to her Father.
Frank had once rowed with me because of it, insisting that I saw Jamie every time I looked at Bree. It was true I could never deny it, my face give it away. Bree had given me hope each and everyday. She had helped me live and from what Ian had disclosed to me about Jamie since Culloden, I had a feeling Jenny wouldn’t be so forgiving for allowing, in her eyes, her brother to suffer, by keeping his child away from him. Even if he had been the one to insist I leave.
Jenny gasped in a breath, bringing her hand to her mouth as her eyes transfixed to Bree.
“Blessed Michael protect us.”
It was whispered on the exhale out and I saw tears dampen the corners of her eyes.
“She is his double, just like Mam.”
“That is your Aunty Jenny, Bree, she is your Father’s sister.”
Bree tilted her head and cocked a quizzical brow. The chatter in the hall was being to still and I suspected soon that all attentions would be on the new arrivals and I feared that Bree would be overwhelmed.
“Do you want to go and say hello to your Aunty Jenny?”
Bree, still with eyes fixed to Jenny nodded her head very slowly. Loosening her hold on my hand she took a slightly unsteady step towards Jenny. Pausing only momentarily to rebalance, she then strode the four steps with confidence, that Fraser confidence. Right into the arms of Jenny, who embraced her as if she had known her her whole life and not mere minutes. I looked up to see Ian stood at the door way, a bairn in each arm, the others at his sides. He smiled softly, reassuringly towards me.
“Awh Mo Leannan, ye are so welcome home. Just wait til yer Da sees ye.”
The tears could not be held back by Jenny any longer. While she may not be pleased to see me, she would never turn blood kin away.
“I’m away to unload the wagon, Young Jamie can help, we will no be long.”
“Aye, where did that come from?”
“That would be me, I had saved some money”
Jenny rolled her eyes and hmphed
“As I said I had some money and thought I could bring some items to help you all out.”
“Ye mean buy us over? It’ll take more than a wagon load of goods to smooth over the hurt ye caused.”
With that Jenny stood, lifting Bree to her hip.
“Well Mo Chuisle do ye want to go and meet her cousins and Mrs Crook? We’ll get ye a wee bannock to chew on, ye’ll like that Mo Leannan.”
Bree was taken out into the hallway and the raised giggles, high pitched squeaks of hellos rang out as my daughter was introduced. Jenny had made it clear, Bree was part of the family, I was not. Sighing loudly I stood, fixing my skirts, I walked out passed the moving mass of delighted children to the dooryard and barn to help Ian.
“She will come round Claire, ye ken that? Just give her time. Ye see how she is with Bree, just give it time.”
He patted my hand where it rested on the wagon side.
“I know, it just harder than I imagined. Right, no point dwelling on it. I will give you a hand to unload. Where do we need to store these things?”
The midday meal had been delayed due to our sudden return and now we sat at the dining table in pained silence. Ian tried to lift the mood and encourage conversation.
“Claire I canna thank ye enough for getting me out of prison and for the provisions for Lallybroch. Jenny did ye see the bolts of fabric, needles, thread and seeds. Those alone will keep us going for years!”
He smiled a wide open grin, it was genuine reaching right up to his eyes.
“Aye it’s grand to be sure. Thank ye Claire.”
Once again there was no warmth to her tone and she barely lifted her head to acknowledge me when saying it. I was desperate to ask of Jamie, to see him but with the cold reception I had received and the excitement of Ian’s return I had not felt right bringing it up to ask.
“I can see ye sitting restless in yer seat Claire, I ken what it is yer after and I’ll make myself quite clear on how it is.”
She sat up straight in her own chair and turned towards me and then Ian.
“Ye will no be going anywhere near ma clotheided brother, ye ken. He is hiding on Fraser land, he dinna come to the house bar once a month if even and I’ll no have ye or anyone running about the lands looking for him and bringing the Redcoats to ma door.”
Her face was stern, eyes cold and vacant. She lifted her finger at me and then Ian.
“Do I have yer understanding? There’ll be no sneaking behind ma back ye ken and no telling Fergus or Rabbie to let Jamie ken she is here. I’ll no have him charging about the land down to the house and risking his neck and all ours with it. No for that Sassenach.”
The last spoken with a snide hurtful tone. I was well aware of what that word meant, how it was usually applied and emphasised by the Scots. Jamie however had made it his, turned it to a loving, warm embrace of a name. He had made it uniquely mine. On this occasion it most definitely was not intended in any gentle manner. Jenny would not be swayed on this. I should have just nodded in agreement, I should have left it until the next day but the insults and disregard towards me sparked an outrage from deep within me.
“He is my husband! I have returned for him, I thought he was dead, I didn’t just give up on him. I love him and nothing you do will ever change that or stop it!”
Despite my outburst and the anger clearly evident in my voice, Jenny didn’t so much as blink an eye. She stared as though trying to see through me and simply replied.
“Some wife ye were leaving him behind to die.”
She stood, pushing her chair back and gathered the plates from the table. Leaving the room for the kitchen as though she had been having a conversation about local flora. I looked at Ian and breathed out loudly. This was not going well.
Chapter 12: When I see your face
Thanks again for all the continued support for this story. Please read the notes at the end
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The weeks rolled around and I settled into a routine at Lallybroch. Fergus never far from mine and Brianna’s side. Our reunion has been perfect. I had wondered where he was on my return with Ian but given Jenny’s clear displeasure at my presence I had not dared to ask. After being left alone in the late afternoon in the small parlour I had heard the familiar Gallic tones of Fergus ringing out in a cheerful melody. A low muttering from Young Jamie and then a loud inhale followed by thunderous footsteps and the door swung open, banging against the wall.
Fergus stood, a line of little fish clutched in one hand, mouth hanging open in near mirror image of them.
“Milady?! It is you, you are return?”
He stood unmoving, I could see the emotion swelling in his face that he fought to keep in. I could not form words, the lump in my throat preventing me, so I simply nodded and opened my arms to him. He dropped his line of fish and ran, embracing me tightly. We hugged for what seemed forever. I stood back to take in the changes within him. He had grown and his face was beginning to lose that cheeky boyish shape, starting to show the promise of the handsome man he would become.
“Fergus I am so glad to see you, I have missed you so much. I can’t wait to introduce you to Brianna, mine and Jamie’s daughter.”
I smiled at him warmly, his face went through so many expressions settling finally in shock.
“A daughter? Milady really?”
His voice rose and quivered slightly, his eyes never leaving mine.
“Yes, yes a daughter Fergus.”
He had fallen in love with her on sight, and was never far from either of us. Though that could also be down to the outright ban Jenny had placed on him for visiting Jamie. I saw the weight this burden placed upon him, while I had had Brianna in the years apart Fergus and Jamie had had each other. Their often Father and Son like relationship being the light to help them through. Jenny however was unwavering in her command, in this household no one, not even Ian, would go against her when it came to Jamie.
Jenny continued to be distant from me, avoiding me when possible. I had kept to my room and often visited tenants in the area. It had taken several weeks before I could get so much as a good morning from them. They too of the view that I had abandoned their beloved Laird. Eventually I had won a few around and was able to treat the injuries and illnesses. I needed to keep a low profile so never ventured outside Fraser land. There was also a small part that hoped or wished I would stumble across Jamie. But alas it never happened.
Ian just kept telling me to be patient but seven weeks in I was struggling to see any light. I still had not told Jenny the truth, it was odd as time had ticked on I just never seemed to get the right moment. Plus at the back of my mind I feared her reaction, Ian had taken it all in good faith, would Jenny do the same? I knew she would see no harm come to Bree, but of myself? I couldn’t be so sure and so I kept my tale for another time.
This evening with the children all abed. Bree insisting on sleeping with the rest of the children from about the second night here, Kitty and her becoming fast friends and allies against the others.
I was sat in the drawing room, contemplating bed due to the late hour, sipping a glass of wine. My efforts to knit stockings failing miserably as usual. Ian was out tending to the little livestock that Lallybroch had left along with Rabbie. Jenny sat opposite me darning some old stockings. The warm glow of the fire was soothing and along with the candles bathed the room in a rich yellow light. However it did little to counter the coldness of Jenny. I could feel her eyes on me and I tried to not react or be put off, but an angry Fraser staring straight through you is hard to ignore.
“Jenny seriously are we ever going to move passed this?”
“Move passed this? Ye mean yer wilful abandonment of my brother? Is that it?”
“That’s not fair! You know the truth of that I didn’t want to leave him, he made me go.”
“Aye did he now? The same wife that sat upon those steps out there, staring into nothing awaiting his return? That same wife that rode through the night to find him? Broke him out of prison?! It seems ye changed a lot Claire in the time of the rising. I’ll no have ye reeking havoc on his heart, when ye up sticks and leave again.”
“I’m never leaving him again, I won’t Jenny please it’s been weeks since I arrived. I just want to see him. He has a right to know his daughter.”
“Well ye should of thought of that before running off to some new happy life for yerself. Coming in here with yer fancy garments and stocks of supplies! We have barely had enough to fill our bellies each day, ye dinna see him when he returned. Ye dinna stand beside his bed praying day and night for him to live! No ye were making a fancy new life until ye felt guilty, felt the need to return? Is that the way if it? No word, no letter, no anything. We thought ye dead, mourned for ye! But it wasn’t the case at all, ye fell out of love for the lot of us. Seems we all meant little to ye!”
Jenny words filled with rage, anger and hurt crashed against me. Ian had been excepting, understanding of my return, grateful even but Jenny, well, Jenny was a completely different person. She saw my return as proof of my wilful abandonment, as evidence of my lack of regard for the family. This return was never going to be viewed as a triumphant prodigal found. No I was going to have to deal with Jenny as a stubborn Fraser.
Standing from my seat, I glared at her. Walking with firm sure steps to the table where my leather satchel lay I grabbed it roughly, turning and walking back to stand before Jenny.
“I was made to leave, I didn’t want to go, I would have gladly died on that battlefield beside him. He sent me away because he knew I was with child, he knew that child would be all that was left of him in this world. He planned to die on that battlefield. He would not abandon his men. I have told the truth of where I was to Ian, he believes me. You will listen to all I have to stay before you utter a word, do I have agreement?”
My forceful tone and stoic stance appeared to unsettle her and she nodded in understanding, eyes wide.
“I couldn’t write to you, or let you know I was safe from where I was because I was two hundred years in the future. I was born in October 1918. In the year 1946 I travelled through the stones at Craig na dun and met Jamie and the MacKenzie’s. After the witch trail I told him the truth of it, he believed me. I was married in my time, to a man called Frank Randall before I fell through time.”
Jenny sat unmoving and unblinking in her chair. I paused for a moment before continuing.
“I knew of the rebellion, of what would happen at Culloden and the clearances that would follow. Because I had read about it, seen the battle site. I wanted to stop it, save the people of Scotland from such misery. Stupid, arrogant fool that I was. Jamie used the time in Paris to befriend Prince Charles. That fool of a man who with childish ideals and dreams forged ahead with his plan to restore his family to the throne. We wanted to keep you all safe and protected. It was for nothing though! All for nothing! That fateful day did rise and Jamie and I both knew the cause was lost. So he sent me back to Frank. So I would be safe, me and our child.
I never forgot Jamie or any of you! I grieved for you all! Jesus H Roosevelt Christ I came back!”
Jenny sat rigid in the chair, hands grasp on the arms. Her face was blank though, all emotion hidden behind that mask.
“I will admit I never wanted or expected to fall in love with Jamie but I did! It broke my heart to leave, I grieved and mourned for him in silent torment. I didn’t want to leave him.”
I broke into a sob, the memories of that time after returning to 1948 gripped my very soul.
“Did ye still love this Frank? Did he take ye back?”
The softness of her tone shocked me, I stuttered a little in response.
“Ye ye yes he did. He is an honourable man. He agreed to raise Brianna as his daughter and we even moved to Boston to avoid any scandal or gossip. I cared deeply about Frank, I really did but the love was not there. My heart and soul belongs to one man, your brother.”
I paused allowing the words to sink in.
“That’s why when I found out he lived I had to return. I know you love him Jenny, I can never repay you or thank you enough for the what you have done to save him, keep him alive. Though I know you would fight the very devil for him. But please so would I.”
I reached into the leather satchel and began removing items. Identification documents for one Alexandre Beauchamp, Brianna Beauchamp, Elizabeth Beauchamp and Claudel Beauchamp. I placed them into her hands along with a bottle of black hair dye.
“I have a plan Jenny to save him from a life on the run, living in a cave. I will not be apart from him any longer and I swear to you no one is taking my husband from me ever again. Frank made sure of that.”
With that I set the handgun in front of her. Standing back, arms folded.
“Is this enough to prove my worth to still be called his wife?”
Jenny in typical Fraser fashion hid her immediate thoughts behind that mask. She studied the identity documents, Frank had had them made up by an art historian associate of his. They were flawless, all part of the grand plan Frank and I had concocted.
“Ye have a plan then? Ye ken how to get him out of Scotland?”
“Do ye think it’ll work? I’ll no risk my brother’s safety, he can bide his time here in family land until this blows over.”
I interrupted her, tired and frustrated.
“Jenny of course it will work! I saved Ian and I can save Jamie too. I have seen how this pans out. If he stays here he will be betrayed, turned over to the Redcoats in 1753, he will be imprisoned in Ardsmuir. I won’t have that!”
My words hit hard on Jenny. She kept repeating imprisoned and shaking her head.
“No one here would betray him, the tenants are loyal. It wilna happen!”
“But it does Jenny. I will not let it happen but you have to trust me, I know you think I betrayed you all, but can you see that it wasn’t the case. I did what Jamie asked of me, I’m here now to help him and you all.”
“Like ye did before with the doctoring and telling us to plant potatoes?”
“Yes! Exactly like that. I tried to stop the rising with my knowledge but I failed. I have paid the price for that but I will not fail this family or Jamie again!”
Silence fell across the drawing room, I stood still scarcely breathing. Jenny was lost in thought, no doubt processing all I had said. I was waiting on questions, hurtful comments and point blank refusal to let me see Jamie. The cracking of the fire was painfully loud against this silence. Should I move? Speak? Ask her to say something, anything? I cleared my throat, drawing her eyes to me.
Slowly she stood and stepped a pace closer.
“Do ye mean to bring any harm to us?”
“No Jenny of course not! I am just plain old Claire, I am not magic, just from the future.”
“Aye, alright I believe ye, there’s truth in yer eyes.”
There was a slight pause though I knew she had more to say.
“He’s due to the house tonight.”
Before I could say anything in return the drawing room door slammed open. A dishevelled Fergus, with panic in his eyes stood, arms braced on the door frame. I heard Jenny utter Redcoats under her breath.
“La petite’s are gone! I was passing their bed chamber and the door was ajar. When I looked in they were gone.”
“Who? Fergus, which little ones?”
“Kitty and Bree”
My heart stopped, looking to Jenny the same had happened to her. Instinctively we reached our hands out to each other. Hands clinging together drawing strength. My practical mind fighting to make sense and plan, as my racing blood thumped through my head.
“They can’t have gone far, they are only three! We need to search the house.”
Jenny nodded in agreement. Heading for the door at rapid pace. We needed to find them and fast.
Searching the house from top to bottom, time seemed to stand still. I could hear no other noise or movement, focused as I was in this task. They were not anywhere in the upper rooms of house. I stood moving frantically back and forth on my feet before descending the stairs, feet thumping onto each stair tread.
It was cold out, it hung heavy in the air. I was making my way to the house. I hadn’t been there from the cave in well over two months but I had snared a few rabbits and I wanted to check on Jenny. Rabbie had told me Ian had returned. With the weather turning it would at least keep the redcoats away for a few weeks, leaving him in peace. It broke my heart to know he was carted off because of me, my stupid arrogant pride! That I thought we could change history, stop a rebellion. Instead I get swept into it, my own life mattered little but to have witnessed and seen Claire half starved and then bringing this to Jenny and Ian’s door? I said a silent prayer for Claire and the bairn, swallowed the bitter bile burning at the back of my throat and walked on.
I took a different route each time to the house. Redcoat patrols had trailed off but still I couldn’t be too careful. Giggling? Did I really just hear giggling? The night was still and calm, with the heavy weight of coldness and the dark. Sound could travel easily. This though sounded close and like bairns. I knew Rabbie was courting a lass but that sound was no lass.
I moved slowly towards the noise, careful purposeful steps. There in the clearing near a mile from the house was Wee Kitty and a red headed lass. There was no one near them, it was dark and cold, Christ the stramash in that house when Jenny finds her gone! And who is that lass with her?
Must be one of the McGormley’s bairns I thought. Neither had a care in the world, playing in the clearing, spinning around and giggling. Jenny will thrash them both. Shaking my head I climbed the stone wall to them.
“What are ye twa wee lassies doing out here! Eh?”
Both stopped dead and turned slowly, looking up and up until their eyes landed on my face. I was scruffy, unshaven with hair loose covered by my bonnet. I must have looked a fright in the darkness, only a sliver of moon to brighten. The red headed lass gasped and stepped back, arms rigid at her side. Wee Kitty trying to be brave, stood her ground but I could see her shaken.
I dropped to my knee and called to her.
“Kitty tis yer Uncle Jamie, what are ye doing way out here? Yer Mam and Da will be beside themselves when they ken yer gone.”
“We want to see the faeries!”
“The faeries ye say? What do ye ken of them mo Leannan?”
“They live on the hill, that’s where she came from!”
It was shouted with glee like any fool should know this.
“Who do ye mean?”
“The lady in the house, Mam dinna like her.”
She lent towards me to whisper the last. I covered my mouth to stifle a laugh. I’d little to laugh about these days but spending time with Jenny’s bairns helped to remind me. They saw little off me so I scared them more than enough but still to hold a bairn in yer arms, Lord it felt good.
“Right ye twa the adventure ends here. Yer Mam’s will be beside themselves with ye both gone and it’s too cold out yonder to be wandering ye ken?”
I had stood up and used my best I’m in charge voice. Both lassies to their credit simply nodded and reached up their wee arms to be lifted. One cradled in each arm I strode off towards the house.
“So do ye have a name lass?”
“Mama calls me Bree.”
“Aye yer that for sure! Lass”
I chuckled to myself. They certainly will have caused a bree. The solid weight of both was a comfort, as their heads heavy with sleep from their adventure thumped on my shoulders.
“Jenny! No sign of them upstairs I checked all the rooms. Where could they be? Please let them be safe.”
“I checked the second floor, right ye check the study and parlour I’ll check the kitchen and dining room. Then if they are no there we, well, we’ll start outside. No point panicking the men just yet.”
Jenny whirled off towards the dining room, a flurry of skirts rustling behind her while I went to the study. Checking under the desk, behind curtains, the same in the parlour. Jenny was just through the kitchen door. I ran towards her pushing it open. Hearing a gasp of shock from Jenny as I entered. My eyes followed the floor towards the door to the kailyard and there he stood, as tall and broad as ever, with both girls clutched in his strong arms.
“Well Jenny I found these twa lassies out for an adventure. Thought I’d return them, whose this wee lassie’s family?”
His eyes were fixed on the two girls, my voice was lost in emotion. Jenny’s hands were clasped to her mouth in shock and I could see tears welling in her eyes. To see Jamie holding his own child, his daughter though he didn’t know it. My body was locked to the spot, legs so heavy I couldn’t move and sound could not be formed. Bree lifted her sleepy head and seeing me, called out an excited Mama!
Jamie’s eyes lifted from both girls for the first and travelled to the back of the kitchen. I knew the exact moment he realised and recognised me, the word Sassenach forming in his mouth. He stumbled forward, grip loosening on both girls. Jenny with the dexterity of a cat sprung forward, extracting both from his arms as he with elegance and grace fainted on the kitchen floor.
My medical instincts kicked in spurring me forward to his side. Jenny had both girls held tightly, both asking loudly why he was laying down. If my focus had not been on Jamie and my heart not hammering in my body at this reunion I would have found it funny.
Gently checking his eyes, neck and limbs, raising his legs slightly. I lifted his head onto my lap to allow him to slowly come round. His eyes flickered behind their lids. Nerves coursed through my body, he had been so shocked to see me I had caused him to faint. He blinked his eyes open slowly and reached out his hand, as if to touch me, as though unsure I was real.
“Yer here? I have seen ye so very often Sassenach.”
He half laughed
“I never thought to see or feel ye again.”
His eyes never left my face, tears were now running uncontrolled down my face. I heard Jenny mutter in the background about taking the bairns up to their beds. I couldn’t focus on her words, so transfixed in this moment.
“I am here now Jamie and I am never leaving again.”
Panic flashed across his face as he bolted into upright, then into his feet.
“Why are ye here Sassenach? I sent ye away to be safe? Why did ye return?”
“Why? Are you not pleased to see me? I thought you would be glad to have your family back!”
I stepped away from him crossing my arms in a protective stance and swallowing back the hurt and tears that threatened to swing from joy to anger.
“It’s no safe for ye or the bairn. The little red headed lass, she is yours?”
“Mine?! Jesus H Roosevelt Christ! Jamie she is your daughter, our daughter! I came back when I found out you had lived. It is not safe in any time Jamie there are always dangers!”
“My daughter? I have a daughter?”
He seemed confused, distracted.
“Yes Jamie you sent me away because I was pregnant, right before Culloden you sent me away. It was Brianna I was pregnant with. I named her for your Father like you told me too.”
“A daughter? Sassenach I canna believe it, ye both returned to me?”
It was muttered, head shaking. He seemed shocked, unbelieving of what had happened and the fact I stood before him. He was walking, pacing really, back and forth, hand drumming on his leg as he did when stressed or thinking. He didn’t look at me, just paced. I scanned my eyes over his body from head to toe. He was the same in so many ways, but changed. I really looked at him, he was haggard, hair long and dirty. His frame while large was thinner than it had been, his breeks hanging on his hips, his face gaunt under the beard. He looked disheveled and utterly broken.
Jenny appeared at the door, basin, soap and razor in hand. She poured hot water from the fire into the basin setting it on the table. Then moved to my side. Taking my hand in hers she pulled me towards the door.
“Jamie get yerself washed up and fed, there is stew on the fire for ye.”
Leaving the kitchen hand held in Jenny’s vice like grip I was speechless. Mouth hanging open and tears burning. Bringing me to the drawing room she handed me a dram and sat.
“My brother has been closed off ye ken. I never got telling ye how he was cause I was so intent on making ye leave. I wanted to protect him, help him. When he arrived back to here, half dead and burning with fever already I thought I’d loose him. He dinna speak of ye, only said ye were gone. Twas why we thought ye dead. He had given up ye ken, so broken. He has never got much passed where he is now.”
Ian’s words echoed in my mind, she saved his life but not his soul. Jenny’s words were being forced out as she tried to remain in control, the emotions just bubbling at the rim ready to overflow.
“He’s no used to being around us nay more. Been in the cave by himself, except for maybe once a month when he comes here. Give him time to adjust, wash himself and eat. Ye ken he won’t do well half starved.”
It painted a tragic picture. I had seen the effects of battle fatigue I had expected him to be different but not this.
“How Jenny do I reach out to him? How do I help him.”
“He burns for ye Claire, he was devastated when he returned. A sadness only those who have grieved can understand ye ken? He has been so long like this, I dinna ken if he can find his light again.”
I could understand, I had existed in that same sea of grief, never getting my head above the water. But I had had Bree, a reason, hope, he had had nothing only memories and dreams.
“Claire, ye helped him from darkness and hopelessness afore. I ken ye are the only one who can help him now. Just give him time.”
She rose patting my hand gently and reassuringly, before walking towards the door, closing it softly behind her. I sat sobbing now uncontrollably, whiskey glass in one hand, eyes staring into the fireplace. I heard Jenny calling out his name as the back door to the kailyard slammed shut. The grip on my whiskey glass faltered and it smashed to the floor, crumbling into shining little pieces like my soul.
I’m sorry!!!!! Really I am!!! But please please stay with me!!!! I know this wasn’t the reunion you most likely expected or wanted but I do feel it’s realistic. Jamie at that time in the cave was broken think of him after Wentworth, he feels guilt, hopeless, broken. He needs time and help to heal and we all know who does that best! Even in the books when Claire goes back he doesn’t fully heal until after she has been with him a while. There are more chapters, as I said at the start this work is already complete.
Chapter 13: Damn stubborn Scot
The next morning my mood was still morose. My heart hurt and I couldn’t eat. Bree was already sat at the table, large cloth tided around her neck, spooning porridge messily into her mouth. She held the spoon up in the air and smiled happily at me. I bent, kissing her soft head of hair, so like her father’s I lamented.
She had settled so well into this time. Her friendly charm making her a firm favourite and she had made fast friends with Kitty. I was glad she was happy here, especially with how the reunion had went with Jamie. Frank had said I could come back if it didn’t work out but my very soul ached to stay. I had overcome so much to return I will not leave unless he makes me go. He can bloody well march me to the stones and shove me through! I felt my inners resolved to this new thought.
Jenny appeared at the door, stopped momentarily in her tracks. Then sighing out loud pointed at the table.
“Eat! Ye look as though yer fit to collapse. I’ll no have another grieving patient on ma hands.”
Her hands where placed on her hips and despite her small stature I knew she meant business.
“Maggie, can ye take Bree and Kitty to collect the eggs. Now be careful lassies, gently place the eggs in the basket.”
She spoke with the stern voice of a well versed mother. I managed a slight quirk of my mouth. But as the children skipped out the door my mood returned.
“So ma brother can be a clotheided fool, at the best of times and a complete numpty at the worse. I’ve seen him in grief afore, but never like this. Claire I dinna ken the answer but I do ken men and they dinna do well on their own. And they dinna do well without purpose.”
As she had been speaking she packed a basket, with bread, cheese, cured meat, ale, blankets, soap and a razor. Handing it to me she finished speaking with.
“I’m taking ye to the cave, stay with him til he sees sense. I ken he will. The wee lass will be fine here with us.”
Once again I was stunned to silence. Jenny wasn’t one to dwell on hurt. If she forgive you that was it and clearly now she had done that with me. Now I needed to focus on getting my Jamie back.
The walk to the cave was long and laboured. It was cold out, a bite to the air that pinked the cheeks and made you wrap a cloak that bit tighter to you. Jenny spoke little, I didn’t think I could have held down a conversation.
“The entrance is just up that hill, near thon rock, do ye see it?”
It took a few moments but eventually I could see what she meant. The cave was well off the beaten track and disguised from view. Jenny smiled to me and give a reassuring hug before turning to head home. Breathing in a fortifying breath I began the final climb.
Pushing into the cave mouth, my eyes blinked adjusting to the dimness. Jamie on having heard what most likely sounded like an entire battalion climbing the hill, had sequestered himself, Dirk in hand at the side of the cave entrance. My eyes fell on him, fearful. On realising it was me a brief flash of something crossed his face, love? Recognition? though it was gone as soon as I saw it. It did give me hope however.
I set the basket down, a sudden awkwardness coming over me. I felt an intruder as my eyes scanned the cave, adjusting to the dim light.
“Jenny packed a basket for me, she brought me here to see you.”
“Aye, I guessed as much.”
“Do you wish to sit?”
He made that throaty Scottish noise that could mean anything from agreement to anger. He motioned to the narrow pallet bed for me to sit. Sinking down onto it, the smell of Jamie surrounded me, that distinctly musky smell that was just him. I’d tried to remember it so often as I lay in bed, but simply I could not bring it to mind. Jamie did not speak, instead he stood at the back of the cave, looking at the floor.
“Would you like to hear about your daughter? I have some photographs to show you from when she was born. They are like paintings, capture the likeness of a person.”
I kept my tone quite and light. I wanted to let him see his daughter again, know her but I also wanted to be with him. The way he was now, so broken and frail that could not happen. At this point I did not have the same faith I could save him as Jenny had placed upon me. Could I leave him again if he rejected me? I didn’t think I had that strength. Having seen that smile on his face with the two girls in his arms last night, it give me hope and a way forward perhaps to help him heal through learning about his daughter.
“Come sit with me.”
I patted the space beside me, the pictures wrapped up on my knee. Jamie moved slowly towards me, sitting as far away from me as he could. I swallowed down the hurt refusing to allow myself to cry.
“This was her just after she was born, on 23rd November 1948. She was perfect in every way. Little tuffs of ginger hair, slanted Fraser eyes. I fell in love with her that very moment.”
I handed the little black and white photograph to him. He breathed in an audible gasp and I could feel his body shaking. Raw emotions fighting within him, after so long being held back or not acknowledged. He was a shell, a ghost. But I’d fought the very devil to bring him back once before. I resolved I would do everything I could to do so again.
“This was her first visit to the park, she was only a few weeks old. She loved the ducks, still does. Jenny has her helping Maggie collect the eggs.”
Jamie did not speak as I continued to pass out the photographs. They charted her young life to date. The last was a picture of her in the mountains during the last few months with Frank. She was climbed atop a rock beaming ear to ear with the widest grin I had ever seen. Her hair had loosen from its binding and was blowing gently in the breeze and those blue Fraser eyes gleamed so bright.
He stopped at this photograph, large thumb caressing and smoothing back and forth. Tears dripped down his still shaved face, suddenly he lent forward, sobs loud and unyielding rocking his large frame. I reached out grabbing his hand and rubbing his back in soothing circles.
“She is so beautiful Sassenach, perfect and I’m, well look at me? So sure of herself, nay fear, strong willed, wasna put off a bit by me. Just like her Mam.”
“Just like her Father.”
“Aye, I’m nay father hold up in a cave, afraid to be seen, hunted like an animal! Why’d ye come back Sassenach to this!”
He cast his arm out wide, body tight with tension. His face was redden and that vein in his neck sat out pulsing. I moved back from him, hands clasped on my lap.
“I should of died! I meant to die!”
“But you didn’t die, you lived and I have returned with our daughter. Why do you turn away from me?”
The sobs shook his body, I moved to reach out to him. Longing to pull him into an embrace
“Christ Sassenach I saw the bodies of my men. They led them out to be shot, I lay there waiting my turn but that bastard Grey, refused, sent me packing. I dinna want to live in a world without ye.”
“I am here now, I don’t want to go anywhere. Please just let me help, let me in. You are not alone.”
“Did ye leave Frank? Did he no want ye anymore?”
His mind was erratic, jumping between different points that yes, did need spoken off but not all at once. It was all too much for him but I had to let it flow from him. He had had no warning of my return, no time to prepare. I had to be understanding.
“I returned of my own choice.”
“He let ye go?”
“Yes he found out you lived and eventually told me.”
“Ye should have stayed with him.”
“Stay with Frank? I didn’t love Frank the way I love you. Have you any idea what it was like for me to return?! To leave you knowing you to be dead, to have to live each day with that grief? Have you!”
“I told ye to forget me to live yer life! And aye I do ken what it is to grieve. I’ve lay here night after night not knowing what happened ye or the bairn! Where ye were, did ye have a happy life? Imagining ye in the arms of another, being taken by that bastard! I struggled through it all.”
“We are here now! I couldn’t forget you! It would be like forgetting my very soul. Frank and I did not work, we were happy raising Brianna that was all. I could never get over you, no matter how long I had.”
“I canna protect ye, or the bairn. It’s no safe, ye ken that. Ye need to go back.”
I had been trying to be reasonable, understanding up to this point. But now he stood before me telling me to go. I’d seen the look flash in his eyes when I entered the cave. My Jamie was still in there, I was going no where. Moving a step closer to him I pulled myself to my full height.
“I am not ever going back. You are my husband and we have a daughter together, who needs her father. I made my choice about Frank many years ago on that damn hill when you give me it. I choose you then and I’ll choose you now. I am here to stand with you, you damn stubborn Scot! I don’t need you to protect me and Brianna. Frank seen to that and we both ensured that I had enough information and skills to get us out of Scotland to safety.”
I moved to my satchel. Snatching it up roughly and pulled out the gun, dropping it on the cave floor at his feet.
“No one, and I mean no one is taking you from me.”
I pulled a roll of papers out and threw them to him. The identity documents for the Beauchamp’s, a French merchant family. Then the coin bag followed clunking loudly as it landed.
“I didn’t come here to give you word of our daughter. I came to be with you, to build a life together that was robbed of us. Jamie I know it’s been hard here in this isolated cave, but I struggled too! Everyday I thought of you and grieved for you. I couldn’t look at my daughter and not see you! We are together now, there’s the three of us.”
I reached out to take him into my arms. Pulling his tense, tight body against mine. I felt the moment he melted into me, the tension floating away like birds in the air. Tears fell once again as I breathed deep his scent and felt his warmth radiate into mine.
We stayed locked in the embrace, not speaking for what seemed days. I could feel him coming back to me and I refused to ever let him go again.
“Sassenach how can ye bear to stay with such a wretch like me?”
“Because I love you, you are blood of my blood and I vowed until this life be done and it isn’t for either of us yet.”
He stiffen in my embrace, eyes clouding as he pushed away from me.
“Sassenach, I sent ye away for yer safety and my bairn. Ye should have stayed in the future. I have too many demons., I have nay right to make ye and the bairn suffer through it”
His voice was broken, fragile but the words struck my heart as though shouted with full force. I felt suddenly like I had no breath left. It was getting too much for me. I needed to leave, to go, get out of this cave as it closed around me, suffocating.
Grabbing my things in a hurried panic, fighting to hold back the tears. I refused to cry in front of him. Bolting for the cave entrance, I needed to get away.
“This was a mistake me coming back! I’ll go.”
I felt broken and rejected, how many times and ways could I tell him? My mind could not take any more, I needed to go. I couldn’t look at him, I didn’t want my last memory of him to be this right here. I reached the entrance, the cool fresh air whispering over my damp cheeks. Damn it I didn’t want to cry! A large hand gripped onto my upper arm, pulling me back.
“Dinna leave! Sassenach I dinna think I can bear to see ye leave again.”
“I told you I don’t want to leave, that I was here to stay but you, you bastard keep pushing me away! Building a wall to keep me out. Let me help you, let me love you!”
“How can you have me like this?”
“I told you once before Jamie Fraser, I’ll have you anyway I can.”
Suddenly the air changed in the cave. His lips crashed to mine with hungry possession. Hands drawing me closer yet. I hadn’t expected that but my body reacted and responded to him as it always had. My need for Jamie had always been visceral, even in the years apart I had yearned for him that why. We had shared and forged a bond that went beyond mere marriage vows. And now that his mouth was claiming mine, his hands gripping and caressing, my body was renewed.
He pulled at my bodice laces, loosening it from my body and pulled it down to release my breasts. His rough calloused hand brushed lightly over the sensitive nipple of my right breast. It puckered with a combination of the coolness of the air and his ministrations. My body not used to these sensations bucked and arched into his hand.
His lips now trailing kisses down my jaw and neck. I cried out as his lips sucked onto my nipple and his other hand broad across my back pulled me closer. I pulled his shirt lose, running my hands up his bare skin, the familiar scars like ridges on his back, telling the story of his hardships. I ran my hands all over his upper body and head. Feeling for myself what was the same and what had changed.
He had untied my skirts and they now billowed to the floor gently. Leaving me in just my shift. My hand ran across the front of his breeks, his desire straining for release.
An animalistic growl sounded deep in his chest as I pushed his breeks down. His cock springing free, hard and heavy. My hand grasp his length, eliciting another deep groan which I swallowed with my mouth. I tugged at the ribbon holding the shift just about on me, Jamie’s rough hand still rubbing and caressing my breast. The shift shivered down my body to the floor leaving me naked save for my stockings. Lifting me up my legs wrapped instinctively around his waist. His hard length pressing into my soft intimate parts. The desire pooling in my core, rushing my blood and heart rate as I sought to gain purchase on him and claim him as mine once more.
He lay me on the pallet, lining himself up at my core.
“Sassenach I canna be gentle.”
It was growled out on a half breath, I pulled him close, raising my hips to him.
The thrust filled me completely, sheathing himself to the hilt. A groan of pleasure bubbling from my chest as I arched from the pallet like a Phoenix rising. I was being renewed, restored and reconnected with each thrust, deep and sure. It was rough and animalistic. We tore at each other, devouring and claiming, in wild abandon. The hurt and anger of being sent away, the pain of survival and loneliness each of us had, being taken out in carnal lust.
Jamie thrust once last time, spilling himself deep within me as I cried out in completion, pleasure shaking within my body.
We collapsed to the pallet, his heavy weight pining me. Our breaths ragged and hearts beating at pace. We lay just breathing, locked in the embrace still joined. The unfamiliar sensation of completion slick on my core.
“Sassenach I’m so sorry.”
He sobbed it into my neck, tears moist on my skin cooling with the gentle breeze rushing the cave.
“For sending ye back, for being a wretched wreck when ye returned, for trying to make ye leave and for taking ye like that. I’m no an honourable man, I’m no the man ye thought ye knew.”
“I don’t care Jamie.”
“I said I don’t care.”
I sat upright, wriggling out from under him. Reaching for my shift I pulled it over my head and stood. Some conversations were best not done in the nude.
“I’ve already told you I didn’t love Frank anymore the way I should have. When I found out you had lived it was right for me to return with our daughter. I love you Jamie, you are my heart and soul. I know you have suffered and struggled, faced unbelievable loss and tragedy. You can continue to stay lost and alone in your cave, Bree and I will leave. You can lose out on knowing her, raising her because you don’t think you deserve us. Is that it? Well you don’t get to tell me whether you are good enough for me and our daughter, I get to decide that!”
I stood fixed to the spot, Jamie still lay on the pallet a blanket covering his lower half.
“Plus I know what your future holds if you stay here. In a few years you will be betrayed, sent to prison, to Ardsmuir. Then possibly the Colonies as an indentured worker. The trail did go cold after the prison closed. Perhaps that would be enough suffering for you? Would that make you think yourself worthy of my return then? Because the records showed I did return, we died in a house fire in 1776. Is that a suitable life for you? Would that one suit better than I one I am trying to forge with you now?”
Standing with arms folded across my body, allowing the residual sparks of anger to just cloud my face. I watched his reaction.
“Sassenach no please dinna leave.”
“I had no intention of ever leaving you again, but I will not be pushed away. And I will not have my daughter’s heart broken she has already had to say goodbye to a Father. The only one she ever knew. Do you understand me?”
“Aye I do. I dinna ken how I will do it but I promise ye Sassenach I’ll try. Having ye restored to me, bringing my bairn, my daughter to me, I owe ye my soul for that alone. For never in my wildest dreams did I ken ye would be standing here afore me. Ye saved me once before, give me strength when I dinna have it. When ye are beside me Sassenach I ken all is well with the world. But will ye be patient with me? Give me time?”
“Jamie we have all the time in the world.”
I crawled onto the pallet again, wrapping myself in his warmth.
“I dinna deserve ye Sassenach, I never have but as God is my witness I have wanted ye, burned for ye from the moment I laid eyes on ye. In that wee white shift of yers. There is something between us, that I dinna ken but it’s still there.”
“Yes, it’s still there.”
This time our joining was simple and pure. He loved me gently and reverently, worshipping my body, drinking me in. Our body’s joined together, relearning our ways. The time before had been fevered, carnal, all consuming. We took from the other what we needed and laid claim. Now we mapped each other, tracked the lines and swells of the other, eyes linked together and locked.
The passion and desire spilled into the longing and love we had. This was reconnecting us, reviving that lost hope. Spent we collapsed onto to each other, lying entangled in blissful satisfaction.
Jamie was slowly returning to me, I knew it would take time but together we could do it. I drifted off to sleep with renewed hope, glad to be home again in his arms.
Chapter 14: My Bairn
Thanks for all the comments and support. I’m glad everyone is liking the regular updates. I will always try to ensure anything I post is complete before I start. Hope you enjoy the next chapter!
“Will she like me Sassenach? Will it no confuse her?”
“She will love you Jamie. Bree is a charming, friendly child. My next door neighbour looked after her often and she spent so much time meeting different people. She isn’t shy or strange around those she doesn’t know. In fact when she met Ian for the first, she wriggled out off my arms, stood looking up at him then moved towards him hugging his leg and kissed it! She thought she could make it better.”
I was laughing as I told the story, it had warmed my heart and Ian had been enamoured with her from that moment.
“I canna believe it! What a wee lassie she is. Kind, caring just like her Mam”
He turned to me his whole face lighting up with a smile. His arm was draped around my shoulders as we walked slowly towards the house. Jamie was going to be introduced properly to Brianna. He was nervous, I could see it in him.
We had spent three days together, reconnecting, talking, planning and making love. I couldn’t manage another one day without seeing Bree. So when I had told him I would be going back to the house in the morning, he had asked to join me so he could meet his daughter. I knew this was a big step for him and I hoped it would go well and help him on his road to recovery.
He insisted on bathing and changing into clean clothes before meeting his daughter. The cave was not equipped with wash facilities, Jamie almost embarrassed at how he had lived. Only shaving and changing his clothes when at the house. Now with me and his daughter restored he wanted this to be different. He now had reason and purpose to his days. I had followed him down to the river that morning, the icy chill of winter biting all around.
I had thought him mad to even consider washing in the river but the stubborn fool had dived straight in. Emerging shivering and practically blue, his cock retreating within the auburn curls between his legs. I had laughed, it certainly was cold enough to snap it off. Once washed and clean he had dawned a clean shirt and breeks, the steam rising from him. Anyone else would have had hypothermia I scoffed but not my furnace like husband. Warming in front of the fire to allow his hair to dry out we cuddled together, arms and legs entwined. Gentle kisses and caresses between us, that love and desire we felt for each other had never been lost.
His hands had wandered and roamed skimming over the familiar plains of my body, as mine had done the same. His hands gaining purchase between my legs, a strong, thick finger stroking my intimate parts the other hand gripping my arse as his lips locked to my neck.
“Christ Sassenach yer so wet for me already. I’ll never tire of feeling ye come and hearing yer wee noises.”
He growled out into my neck.
“I don’t make wee noises!”
I aimed for haughty derision but it came out on a breathless moan.
“Aye ye do and I canna live without them now ye are restored to me.”
He continued kissing down my neck and chest, his free hand sliding my skirts up over my legs. His lips locked to my pelvic bone as his hand stilled. I cried out his name in begging for him to continue. A rubble of laughter filled his chest, I felt it on my legs as he lay against me.
“Impatient Sassenach? Tell me what ye want?”
“You, I want you.”
I could scarce form words the tension building within my core rendering me powerless.
His hand moved pulling back out of me as his lips and mouth devoured me. I felt the heat within me rush my body, my nipples straining to attention as I drew his large hand towards my bodice, cupping my breast with his hand. Pulling my bodice lose my breasts spilled out, my nipple tweaked between his thumb and forefinger as I arched to him. His other hand pulled me closer to him as his mouth and tongue sucked and licked and flicked, bringing me to completion in a breathless roar.
I reached to him, needing to feel him in my hand. His straining length fighting against his breeks as I released him. Running my hand up and down his length feeling his balls drawn up hard against his body as a growl echoed in his throat. I pushed him onto his back straddling him in one swift move. I sank down onto his length allowing him to fill me, feeling his balls pushed tight against my intimate parts as I pushed both of us to pleasure. Feeling his hips rise with one final effort as he collapsed to the ground as I felt the last of my release shake through my body. We lay embraced in each other’s arms enjoying the heat from the small fire and our love making to warm us both.
“Dinna leave me ever again Sassenach?”
His voice held desperation, I could have pointed out that it was he who made me go but instead I found myself answering.
“I promise Jamie I won’t.”
Jamie and I had talked through all that had happened since we had parted that fateful day. He had told me of Culloden, the battle forged by the Highlanders. He spoke of seeing his men cut down as they swung swords, canons blasting through their ranks. He wept as he spoke of Murtagh and the men who had hidden out with him in the cottage. I saw his eyes go blank as he uttered each word, forcing them out as he fought to regain his own mind in the telling of this horror. I wept with him for the lost cause, the unnecessary sacrifice and suffering that encompassed it all.
I too shared my story, the grief that had blinded and weighed on me each day. The chasm that had existed between Frank and I. How I could not breach that, no matter how hard I tried. I told him about medical school and my dreams and ambitions to be a surgeon. He had hugged me close, telling me he was sorry I couldn’t finish it but that I was always that in his eyes.
And most importantly I told him of Brianna, of her birth. I knew that I wouldn’t have survived her birth in this time. I was grateful in a strange way that Jamie had sent me back, it had saved my life and our daughter’s. I spoke of her early life, her first words and learning to walk. But what I loved the most was telling him all the ways she was just like him. The mannerisms, the looks, just the ways of her that mirrored and echoed her father. The one thing I didn’t speak off was Jenny’s reaction to my return. I had been hurt and blindsided by the ferocity of her anger towards me but when I had opened up to her we had moved passed it. After all it was Jenny who brought me to the cave, believed that I alone could actually heal her brother. No some things were best left unsaid.
Pushing the rear door open into the kitchen the warm homely smells assaulted my senses. Lallybroch had become home to me, a place I felt I belonged. I could feel myself as part of the structure, the very bones that created it. This was not something I had ever felt before, a sense of belonging. My early life of travelling from dig site to dig sites with Uncle Lamb, the years during the war, even my time in Boston I had never felt I truly had a place.
Yet I knew that in a few short weeks I would need to say goodbye to Lallybroch once more, it seemed destined to never be a functioning home for me. Instead taking the role of a metaphoric home for my heart.
It was not possible for us to stay here, the Redcoats were still actively searching for Jamie. We had to leave as soon as the weather improves to enable easier travel to Inverness. My plan, no Frank’s plan I thought was in the final stages.
The kitchen was empty on stepping inside. The fire’s steady peaty flame heating a large pot of what smelled like rabbit stew. The kitchen table which functioned as a work bench for preparing the days bread and bannocks was still covered in a little flour. Three small stools lined up along one side indicative of the helping hands Jenny and Mrs Cook had had this morning.
Gentle shouts and happy giggles of children at play echoed into the room. I felt Jamie stiffen and still at this, our daughter no doubt in the middle of this joyous childish riot.
The door swung open and Jenny entered carrying a basket with peat bricks and logs. Stopping as though paused, on seeing us.
“Brother! Yer here?”
Her eyes scanning him, never leaving him. A small wry smile creeping onto her face for a briefest of moments.
“Good to see ye again so soon. Are ye hungry the both of ye? I’ve stew prepared.”
Setting the basket down at the fire side, she began filling two bowls with the steaming stew. An air of happiness across her face as she did so. Her eyes caught to mind and her hand stilled on my shoulder as we sat to eat. A silent thank you.
“Jenny, I thank ye for the stew.”
His voice caught just slightly and he coughed to clear it. Pausing for a second, eyes fixed to his bowl, spoon in left hand.
“Aye, Jenny I owe ye thanks for more than the stew sister. Thank ye for saving me, thank ye for bringing Claire to me. I should apologise to ye for withholding the truth of what happened to Claire but I dinna wish to speak of her at the time it pained me so.”
He swallowed hard, tears gleamed in his eyes the fire glow reflecting within them.
“Yer ma brother Jamie. I ken the truth of Claire now, I ken why ye dinna speak of her. Ye should have trusted us Jamie, we could have help ye, grieved with ye. Dinna ever hold back on us again aye?”
She pulled him into a tight embrace, holding him close to her. Her eyes met mine and wordlessly she asked me if Jamie was returned. As though Jamie had heard her words within his own soul he spoke.
“Jenny I ken I’ve a bit to go, I’ve demons to fight I dinna even ken how to. But my family has been restored to me and I’ll do everything I can to restore myself to them.”
“I ken ye will brother, I ken ye will.”
She patted his shoulder as she moved to leave.
“Eat yer stew, ye dinna want it cold. The bairns are playing in the hall, when yer ready to meet yer daughter officially.”
The door swung closed as she breezed out without a backward glance. Jamie’s hand reached out to grip mine, a gentle squeeze of reassurance. We heartedly tucked into the bowls of stew. Both of us setting the spoons down, finished at the same time. I looked to Jamie with a question of are you ready for this on my face. He nodded and rose from the seat. This was it, this was the moment I had been working towards, dreaming off since Frank had uttered those fateful words those many months ago. This was the moment I would have my family back.
I stood, drew a deep breath and walked to the door. The chatter and giggles flooded around me as I pushed through the door into the hall. Bree and Kitty sat crossed legged playing with their dolls. Childish incoherent babble bubbling between them, their little faces animated with the story they were unfolding. On seeing me Bree squeaked with delight and shouting Mama! Dropping her doll and scrambled to her feet to run towards me. I dropped to my knees and pulled her into a big hug.
Jenny appeared and lifted Kitty, plonking her into her hip she motioned to the parlour and ascended the stairs.
Sitting with Bree on my lap, the fire roaring in the grate beside me and sunlight, rare at this time of year, streaming through the large parlour window. The rose bush blown by the wind tracing shadowed patterns on the rug. All the while Jamie sat, knee bouncing in nervous euphoria. It all seemed surreal.
Bree had been told by Frank and I the truth that he was not her real father. Real, I thought, and half laughed, he had been the only father she had known. Young as she was the concept and understanding of fatherhood was based solely on who cared for you in that named role. For Bree that role until a few months ago had been Frank. Now I was about to introduce her to Jamie. The man who she was the double off, who mannerisms she had without knowledge and who she had never officially met. I was nervous and despite months of planning, practicing and imagining the moment, going over the words I would say, I couldn’t think how to begin. This picture before me, this scenario was most definitely not what I had conjured. My hands were clammy and sweat was pooling along my back. Right Beauchamp just get on with it.
“Sweetheart do you remember Daddy and I”
She interrupted, eyes wide with expectation.
“No darling remember I said Daddy couldn’t come here.”
A little nod of agreement, eyebrows now furrowed together as she looked intently at me.
“Do you remember when we told you Daddy was not your real daddy? That he wasn’t your Father? And that Mama was going to bring you to see your real Father?”
It was said with a slight confused tone but she hadn’t become upset at my mentioning of Frank so that was something.
“Well your real Father, your Da is right here.”
I pointed towards Jamie, he had stilled his bouncing knee. He was now staring in nervous anticipation, I could see the fear in his eyes. Fear of being rejected and of possible tears and tantrums that he wasn’t her daddy.
Bree turned on my lap to look at who I was pointing at. I felt her little gasp of breath in and her body tense slightly. I pulled her just a fraction closer to me, bending my head to lay a kiss to her cheek and whisper in her ear.
“Do you want to say hello?”
Another little nod, mouth wide open as her head tilted to the side. She slowly slid off my knee, hand still on my arm. Her eyes fixed on Jamie, his on hers. I knew he was scared to even speak, I could barely draw breath. Without looking back to me she stepped forward, arms reaching out towards him. Jamie raised his head to meet my eyes, a silent communication between us of reassurance that this was alright. He reached to lift her, bringing her onto his knee. Bree looked up to him, as Jamie swallowed hard, the shimmer of tears in his eyes picked up by the sun. Her little hands grabbing onto his hair, the strands that had escaped its binding.
She giggled and pulled at her own hair, one hand still clasped in Jamie’s as she looked between us both with a big smile on her face. I breathed out, heart rate slowing. This was going well.
“Do ye want to go see the animals in the barn Bree? Yer Da will introduce ye to them?”
“Yes see the animals!”
Jamie stood lifting Bree, her arms wrapped around his neck. As he turned to walk out off the room, he glanced to me a shy smile on one corner of his mouth. He chatted to Bree about the animals in the barn, the chickens and eggs as he strode out. The two ginger heads leaning into each other, the sunlight haloed from their hair as they left the room. Yes all will be well I sighed, as I followed behind my two redheads as my heart felt fit to burst.
I stood leaning against the doorframe watching my tall, broad, red headed, Highland warrior sit on the parlour floor playing tea party with Kitty, Bree and their dolls. Their afternoon together had went so well. I felt an arm around my waist, Jenny appeared beside me.
“It warms yer heart to see him like this, his own bairn. Claire I canna thank ye enough for what ye have give him.”
Her voice was clogged with emotion. I wasn’t surprised I knew if I spoke mine would be the same.
“Is he himself again Claire?”
“Well he is improved, we have talked, he has told me of the battle of Culloden. I’ve seen men with battle fatigue before, Jenny it’s a difficult thing to overcome but it can be done.”
“Jamie will do it for ye, I ken he will.”
“Yes having Bree and I here with him will help but it’s a long road Jenny. We have to be patient, he needs time and routine and little stress.”
“Hmph in this time? With yon redcoats sniffing about?”
“I know but we can still do plenty to ease this time for him.”
Her nod in agreement told me all I needed, Jenny Murray would ensure everything in her power to help her brother would be done. I had brought renewed hope along with Bree and for the first time in as many weeks I looked to the future with honest held belief that it would all work out.
Chapter 15: Fare thee well
Jamie stood staring into the looking glass, odd little noises emitting from his throat as he turned and paused, catching his reflection. The early morning spring sun bright and strong within the window. I stood with my arms folded, leaning against the door frame. My face unmoving save for my eyes which darted about taking him all in.
“This will work ye reckon Sassenach?”
“Yes it will”
He had turned to face me, arms held to his side and eyes cast down nearly dejected. He looked like a scolded school boy.
“Oh for crying out loud Jamie! It’s hair dye! It’s not permanent. You will have your lovely red locks back in no time, but you know we can’t risk travelling to Inverness with your hair standing out like a beacon.”
I knew the redcoat patrols would not be back in the direction of Lallybroch lands until mid April but I couldn’t risk them seeing us in Inverness nor have the risk of someone turning him in as he still had a price on his head. The temptation was too risky. The black hair dye changed Jamie so much, I barely recognised him and Jenny had physically balked at him. Thankfully Bree had merely looked at him oddly before being lifted into his arms and holding his face with two pudgie hands while staring into his eyes. Once content it was indeed her Da, she had kissed him on the nose and wriggled down his body to the ground.
She had taken to him like she had never not known him. Big smiles and squeals when she saw him come into the house and followed him like a shadow until he had to return to the cave. The weeks since our reunion had seen good progress for him. I stayed in the cave with him at least four nights a week, despite my pleading that redcoats wouldn’t be through this way until April he refused to stay in the house. He felt there could be smaller patrols that maybe weren’t mentioned in reports and point blank refused to risk it. This was especially so with Jenny’s pregnancy continuing to advance.
We needed to leave soon and I was distraught at having to go and not be here to assist Jenny with the birth.
“Sister ye forget I’ve birthed four without ye I will be fine, plus ye have checked me over as much as ye can. I just need ye to get that clotheided brother of mine to safety.”
“I’ll write as soon as we get to France and you must let me know of the birth.”
Tears were forming in my eyes as I spoke, the thought of leaving Lallybroch and Jenny again tore my heart out. Even though this had been part of the plan all along it still didn’t remove the heartache.
The plan to bring us to safety was now in motion. We would leave in two days time. While in Inverness I had written to Jamie’s cousin Jared and asked to come to him. On my return to Inverness with Ian, Jared had replied. He had been overjoyed that I was safe and was delighted to be of assistance. I had avoided mention of Jamie encase the letter was intercepted or lost. However it was clear from his reply that he had read between the lines, so to speak. Providing details of his captain who regularly sailed the route from Inverness to France and the offering of a house and work to support my family.
The plan was simple, we would travel to Inverness in two days time, avoiding the redcoat patrols who wouldn’t be operating in this area at this time. Once in Inverness we would embark on the journey to France with Jared’s captain. I had learned the sailing dates for several ships including and especially Jared’s. I had thought Frank mad at the time but now with Jamie still recovering and the pressure of discovery I was beyond glad that Frank had insisted I knew every ship and captain that left Inverness for a six month period!
I had one more task to do before our journey began. Wandering through the house and barns I finally found him. Busy as usual, raking up hay. The early morning bustle of the farm routine well underway. I loved the pale sunlight at this time, though I wasn’t an early riser by choice I did enjoy that stillness that existed in dawns early light. I stood for a few moments just watching him, he had grown so much, dealt with adult issues and problems at such an early age. Here at Lallybroch he had found a home, a sense of stability. Could I rip him away from it all as Jamie and I had done before? I just didn’t know but I had to give him the choice, I had to let him know he was part of our family and welcome to come with us. Perhaps returning to Paris would be a joyful event, perhaps it would bring back painful memories he only wished to forget. That was certainly true for both Jamie and I, as I shuddered at the flood of memories that hit me like a tidal wave. Alas I needed to give him the choice.
He stopped raking and turned towards me.
“Ah Milady! Are you well?”
He walked towards me, rake dragging behind him, a look of concern etched in his face. I knew he could see the emotion I was failing to hide on my face.
“Yes my love I am well. I just, well I just wanted to talk to you about France. I know you lived in Paris until we, that is Jamie and I brought you here. You like it here, at Lallybroch? Don’t you? But I’m sure you have often thought of Paris. I don’t want you thinking oh I mean we never wanted you to forget where you came from.”
He was looking at me with a confused head tilt, eyebrows scrunched together as if trying to work out what I was saying.
“Oh I’m terrible at this! I just don’t know how to say it, so I’m just going to say it. Fergus do you wish to come with us to France, to Paris? You don’t have to but we consider you.”
I didn’t get finishing the sentence, he crashed into me, arms locked into an embrace. Sobbing Oui Milady repeatedly. Tears pricked in my eyes and I found I could only hug him close to me. While the scrawny little orphan had been hired by Jamie for his pickpocketing skills, he had in truth been the child that made me a mother. I pulled the identity documents from my pocket, smoothing them out I showed Fergus.
“See I have an identity document for each of us. We will be pretending to be the Beauchamp family, a French merchant family. Jamie and I both speak French and with Jamie’s hair dyed it should be easy to fool any redcoats in Inverness or at the docks.”
“Oui Milady it will work! I know it will. What are we to do when we arrive in France?”
A concerned furrow appeared in his brow.
“We will sail to Le Havre then travel onto to Paris. Where we will stay with Jared again.”
He nodded slowly taking it all in.
“Very well I will go pack my things.”
And that was that I thought as he scurried away. I knew Jenny and Ian would miss him terribly. He had been such a good help and support to them but they both said he belonged with Jamie and I.
The last supper, I often wondered at the thoughts that must go through peoples minds. The emotions and memories that are remembered and fought back as they sit with family for what could be the last time. Even the most intrepid adventure must surly still pause a moment in wonder as they sup that last meal before a great journey? It was most definitely the case for me. I watched each Murray, memorising their faces, the expressions so unique to each. I never wanted this night to end as I knew what the new dawn would bring.
Jenny had a painted on smile, but her eyes betrayed the reality of the sorrow she felt.
“Ye will write often? To let us ken yer safe and well?”
“Of course we will write and you must write to us. Jenny I will miss you all so much. Lallybroch has always been a true home to me, the only place I have ever felt that.”
“Jenny ye ken it won’t be forever? Ye ken Claire and I we will return someday.”
“Aye brother, ye promise me ye will. Ye have done it before.”
She nodded her head resolutely, sniffing back tears. Ian smiled over to Jamie and I. It was a smile of appreciation, it was words he knew Jenny needed to hear. The rest of the meal and evening was spent in jovial reminiscing, laughter filling the whole house. It warmed my very soul to have this time, these memories. My initial return to Lallybroch was most challenging, Jenny cold and closed off, unwilling to listen or build a relationship. Then my failed reunion with Jamie and the hurt I had felt and seen within us both.
The last number of weeks had helped to heal and restore both of my relationships with the Fraser siblings. I could be truly grateful for that.
Jenny had taken a quite morning a few weeks after Jamie and I had reunited. To speak to me and apologise for her behaviour towards me. She had been angry as she seen me on my return as whole. Jenny knew Jamie was anything but and rightly felt that most of that was due to losing me. The protective nature of her towards her brother clouded her mind against me. She feared I would never forgive her. I had been angry and hurt at the time, but now it was all in the past. I had my future to look forward to with Jamie by my side, that was all I was concerned about.
As is always the way the night dawned into morning and our journey needed to begin. My heart despite the joviality of the previous night hung heavy. An air of finality wrapped around the house and my mind flew through so many scenarios of how we could stay and make this work. But alas Frank’s words echoed in my mind at each thought, Jamie betrayed, imprisoned. Stack the deck, that was the agreed action, Frank wanted me and Bree to be safe and protected. Staying in Lallybroch would not ensure that. This I reminded myself was for the good of my family.
We had little to bring, my trusty leather satchel and two other saddle bags. We forwent the cart, opting instead for two horses. These would then be sold on arrival at Inverness adding to our purse. I had fashioned outfits, or rather Jenny had, for us all to change into on arrival at Inverness to help with the ruse of the French merchant family. The clothing refashioned from the dresses and clothing Jamie and I had adorned on our last Paris trip. I had been shocked they were still here but Jenny had informed me that Jamie told her to leave them, so she did.
The horses were ready and so were we. The last laboured and heartbreaking goodbyes now needed to be said. I hugged Ian tightly, trying but failing to hold my sobs. Ian gently wiped the tear river from my cheeks, kissing me on the forehead and thanking me once again for all I had done for him and all at Lallybroch.
I moved to Jenny, my eyes now blurred with tears. The embrace was all encompassing, our sobs reverberating off each other. I wished this moment could last but I knew we had to make haste. Our schedule to meet the ship was tight as I didn’t wish to stay in Inverness for longer than necessary. By the careful planning Jamie and I reckoned we would arrive in Inverness with time to simply board the ship prior to setting sail. Meaning no requirement for a tavern and the opportunity for people to recognise us.
Kisses and goodbyes given out to Bree and Fergus completed, we mounted the horses and rode off. Jenny, Ian and their children all waving after us until we turned on the track out of sight. Once they had disappeared from my view. I could no longer hold it together, not, as Fergus pointed out, that I had been successfully doing that in the first place! The blunt comment and Gallic shrug that accompanied it broke the mood, I laughed, really laughed and hugged into him tighter. I was now riding towards my future, a future with my husband and my children. I said a thankful prayer for this chance and a thank you to Frank who had made it possible.
The journey to Inverness was uneventful and I was ever grateful for that. As we arrived into Inverness right on schedule, I noted once again that the place was bustling but subdued. Several redcoat patrols moved passed us as we rode along the cobbled streets, the clip clopping of the horses echoed loudly. I schooled my face running through the story practiced with Frank a legion of times. A quick glance to Jamie offered reassurance, his face, masked with stoic resolve. Dressed now in our refinery we attracted little attention.
Stopping at one of the coach houses near the docks we removed the saddle bags and myself and Fergus asked to speak to the head stable man to complete the sale of the two horses. I was surprised at how quickly it was sorted out and within half and hour we were headed to find the Louisa the ship owned by Jared.
Walking along the dockside scanning each ship I spotted finally the Louisa at the very end. Cargo was being loaded and the men were shouting and barking orders in what seemed a chaotic manner. Yet the items were being hauled and stacked in almost perfect order, with no one getting underfoot of another. The gang plank to the ship was thirty feet from us, the Captain standing at its dock side end waved on seeing us approach. I breathed a sigh of relief, we had done it, made it here safely. Soon we would be setting off for France, free from this dreadful existence of hiding.
“You there! Stop in the name of the King!”
Chapter 16: Freedom
Second to last chapter, thank you to all who have been following along.
I froze mid step, grabbing onto Jamie and Fergus’ hands. I knew from the clipped English accent and tone that the voice belonged to one of his Majesty’s finest. Turning slowly, praying as I went that my face would not betray me. I smiled sweetly towards the two redcoat soldiers stood now on the dock fifteen feet from us.
Jamie had stiffen, Fergus had moved slightly to my side and to my front. Bree thankfully still in her Father’s arms did not move.
“Lieutenant how can I help you?”
I spoke as politely as I could, smiling as warmly as my panicked state would allow. Not all soldiers were vile and I reminded myself that these two were not Black Jack Randall.
The Corporal bristled and stepped forward.
“Can your husband not speak for his family then?”
“Oh am most terribly sorry but my husband is French and doesn’t speak a lot of English.”
Jamie could speak fluent French but he had no chance of hiding his Highland brogue when conversing in English.
“Didn’t stop him getting an English wife?”
“Am sorry Lieutenant but I don’t believe that question from your Corporal is polite or appropriate to ask a gentle bred lady.”
I glared at the Lieutenant, purposely ignoring the Corporal. My unimpressed tone and dismissive attitude to his rank and question causing him to redden in the face.
“Now can you please tell me what we can do to assist you fine gentlemen? I assume you have purpose in stopping us boarding our ship home?”
I spoke with the firm tone of a hospital matron, a tone even Mrs Stirling would be impressed by. Raising one eyebrow as I crossed my arms, awaiting his response.
“Terribly sorry madam, Corporal Clifford did not mean any offence. My most humble of apologises.”
He fumbled a slight bow towards me, before continuing.
“We are merely seeking to check identity documents for those travelling from the docks. I trust you have your documents madam?”
He held his hand out awaiting them. I nodded in agreement that I had the required documents. Rifling through my satchel I pulled the four pieces of paper out. Slowly handing them over accompanied with an impatient sigh. The Lieutenant scanned his eyes slowly over each. Once satisfied he folded them and handed them back to me.
“So Mistress Beauchamp where are you heading to?”
“I have already said we are returning home.”
The Lieutenant began asking another question however Fergus being the rather clever young man that he was and having had several years practice of outsmarting the redcoats, had spoken to Jamie in French relaying what the young Lieutenant had been asking throughout the exchange. He of course had been doing this rather loudly and with over animated Gallic gestures for added effect. This somehow seemed to have put the Lieutenant slightly off and instead of continuing his questioning or conversing in French directly to Jamie. As I no doubt knew he most likely spoke the language himself. He instead bowed towards me and wished us a pleasant journey home. Turning he barked at the Corporal before stalking off at a quick pace along the dock.
I finally released the breath I had been holding. Turning I grabbed onto Jamie and Fergus’ arms and walked with purpose to the ship. My face must have spoken volumes as neither uttered a single word. The Captain with shocked face welcomed us on board, showing us to our cabin. He assured us we would be under way inside the half hour. The men had the ship nearly loaded.
I scrubbed my hand across my face, drawing in restorative breaths. Willing myself to calm.
“That was too close, what if they had persisted? What if they had thought the documents false? I just, oh, I just, Jamie.”
He grabbed me into his arms, pressing me into his large, warm body. Whispering soothing words of comfort in Gaelic.
“Hush now Sassenach we are safe, ye did it. Ye were so fierce and yer plan it worked.”
He kissed the top of my head.
“Oui Milady you were fantastic! Marvellous! You showed them who was boss.”
The glee in his voice was palpable.
“You helped too Fergus, so clever putting them off with repeating everything to Jamie in French.”
“Well I figured that if Milord was really French and didn’t speak much English, it would only have made sense for me to have assisted as such.”
He shrugged in that Gallic dismissive manner.
“Well it certainly worked my clever boy.”
I pulled him into our embrace. We stood for a few moments locked together, until a certain little person felt left out. Tugging at my skirts and her Da’s breeches, we all laughed, Jamie lifted her into his arms and she joined in the impromptu family hug. We stayed embraced together until the Captain knocked the cabin door informing us we would be setting off now. He had pushed the schedule ahead aware of the risk of the redcoats.
Climbing up into the deck, we stood arms wrapped around each other watching Scotland disappear. The ship catching both the current and wind as it moved with speed into the channel. Jamie so far had not been sea sick, a miracle of the highest order. I was however prepared this time with more than just ginger tea. I had brought some sea sickness tablets. I was glad of them as the last of Scotland disappeared from view and my large Scot turned green.
“Here take this Jamie.”
“What is it Sassenach?”
“It will stop the sea sickness”
“Awh Sassenach it better no be like thon ginger tea of yers, it dinna help a bit!”
“No it’s not, these are from my time and we’re given to the soldiers during the war to help with the sea crossing.”
I smiled trying not to laugh but he did take the tablet.
The rest of the journey was plain sailing, no pun intended. The tablets helped Jamie and the weather was with us the whole way to Le Havre. Disembarking I looked all around the familiar port town. We would remain here for today before making our way to Paris. Entering a tavern we requested a room and a meal. The tavern was not the worse, it looked relativity clean and the food smelled wonderful. The ships crew had recommended this establishment so it must be good. I sat heavily on the bed breathing a sigh of relief. We had done it, we had gotten to safety, to France. I had my family together, finally.
After a hastily ate supper Bree and Fergus had crashed on the bed, out cold. I tucked the blanket around them placing a gentle kiss on each of their heads. The landlady had brought a pallet up for an extra bed. It was small but Jamie and I would make it work. I had slept on worse over the years. Stripping down to my shift I washed myself of the travel grime and sank onto the pallet bed. Jamie did the same and we lay wrapped in each other’s arms.
“Sassenach I dinna think I’ve thanked ye enough for all ye have done.”
“Jamie you have nothing to thank me for, you would have done the same for me.”
“No Sassenach I do have to thank ye. And I dinna ken if I could have done the same.”
I turned now in his arms to look at him.
“After ye had left, after Culloden ye ken I was half a man ye seen that yerself. I dinna think I would have ever had the reason to go on, to live again if ye hadn’t returned. If ye hadn’t borne my bairn, fought for me with steeled will and all this. This plan ye had in place, saving Ian, supporting Lallybroch, saving my very soul. Sassenach I’ll never stop thanking ye. I promise ye that everyday I’m with ye for the rest of my days I’ll always be grateful to ye. I’ve told ye before but I’ll say it to my last breath Lord ye gave me a rare woman and I love her well.”
And he did, right there on that pallet bed, softly and tenderly he showed me the depth of his love, claiming me as his for time again and time to come.
Chapter 17: A ghost from the past
The last chapter, thank you again to all who have read, commented and liked this story. Hope you enjoy this last instalment we jump ahead a few years and change POV.....
I do have another fic in progress but again will not start posting until it is all completed. It’s a fun little happy tale set in the style of Bridgerton!
The warehouses loomed high above me as I walked along the dockside. Men hurried about, dashing around me on route to complete urgent tasks. I had dressed formally for this occasion and felt out of place. I hadn’t been out of my military uniform for many years but since my tenure at Ardsmuir, that god awful posting in Scotland had ended, my service to the Crown had shifted. Top secret intelligence work, the war with France was just gaining traction and relations between France, Britain and Prussia were at best strained. There was also the shadowy threat from Jacobites. The rebellion had been successfully squashed in 1746, I knew that, having been there to witness it. Plus I had had the pleasure, or was it misery of dealing with the last of the Jacobite prisoners arrested in the aftermath of Culloden. I shuddered at the thought of having to listen to Tom Christie one more time. I never relished seeing men broken by circumstance but I had delighted in seeing him marching off to the Colonies on the closure of Ardsmuir.
Now I was in Paris for a message exchange between myself and a Prussian officer. Doing important work for the war office had given me purpose. It had also kept me quite busy and away from home. Hal my brother was a Duke and Colonel in charge of a regiment. I was still part of that regiment ranked as a Major but of recent months had been involved in clandestine operations across the continent. This one was rather simple, deliver a missive and then I could enjoy some of the sights and delights of Paris before returning to London. This could be a rather enjoyable trip I thought as I smiled to myself.
Continuing along the dock I was struck rigid, unable to more. My mind racing as it tried to reason with what my eyes had seen. No it simply couldn’t be, it mustn’t be, how? But the large red headed man shouting out in a strong Scots accent could only be one and the same, James Fraser or Red Jamie. Suddenly I was back now to the eve of Prestonpans, the cool Highland air chilling my body. Were as a foolish boy I had tried and failed to kill him and then save an English woman from those Jacobite barbarians. I shuddered and rubbed my arm instinctively, which he had broken at the time in the struggle. My young solider body useless against his powerful toned warrior strength. My traitorous body though remembered that large Scot pressed against me, the heat coming from him and the musky masculine smell. Stop it Grey! Get it together before you have a cockstand to contend with on a dockside full of warehouses and people!
Fraser was still working, shirt sleeves rolled up showing his fine muscles flexing, no wait stop it! I shook my head to clear the thoughts. He hasn’t seen me thankfully and would have no reason to recognise me. But my Lord he was handsome and breathtaking. I looked away, focusing on two sailors arguing over a large crate being loaded onto their ship, in efforts to clear the explicit thoughts running through my head. As I cast my eyes back in Fraser’s direction I wondered how he had ended up here. He was at the Culloden battle of that I was sure, several witnesses had seen him on the battle field. He would have been difficult to miss, over six feet tall, broad, red locks gleaming in the sunlight, kilt swinging with each movement, sword drawn. Now really I must desist. The fluttering in my breeches needed no encouragement!
Fraser despite being bent to task in moving various barrels and surrounded by warehouse workers stood out. He held command, leadership. They all looked to him for direction and I could see the workers held him in high regard. Despite his state of undress, jacket and waistcoat removed, I noted that the clothing was of fine material, well made and fitted to his muscled body perfectly. Coughing to focus my thoughts I scanned the warehouse and saw the Fraser wine sign. Ah that’s it!must be a family member. Fraser wine was a popular supplier of the finest wines and brandies across London. Fraser despite doing the lug work was after all well dressed, to well dressed to be a mere member of staff.
I moved to the side of the dock closer to a warehouse front to continue my observations undetected. For a large man he moved with grace and ease. I watched imagining what his life had been since Culloden. When had he come to France, was he married, settled with a family? So many questions, many which in a few seconds from when they were formed received an answer. A woman appeared to one side of him, dressed in navy blue silk with lace trimming. Her rich brown hair pinned loosely so than bits fell around her face in a most becoming way. Her eyes even at this distance were rich and shining as she gazed upon Fraser. She rose on her toes to lay a gentle kiss him.
Oh wait! No it can’t be! That woman, she was the prisoner, the English woman I tried to save! I could feel my face flush, no doubt with both rage and embarrassment, I had been played for a fool. I wanted to stride over and demand an apology. Instead I stood rooted to the spot watching them interact. She had a young boy on her hip, maybe three years old, the same gleaming red hair as his father and a carbon copy of the man too. Another child, a daughter, maybe ten years old maybe younger? It was hard to tell she was tall and had the same long red hair curling loosely down her back. Again there was no escaping who her father was. I chuckled to myself some shires stamped their gets unmistakably.
I watched the family interactions, the clear love that Fraser held for his wife and the joy he had in fatherhood. The young boy now safely held in his Father’s arms, had squealed with delight at being tossed into the air and caught. The daughter, beaming with a wide smile that matched her Father’s watching them both. Before being pulled into an embrace and lovingly kissed on the top of her head. His wife throughout engaged in animated conversation with him. Her face radiant.
Jacobites were not hunted down with the same tenacity as years before. But this was Red Jamie. James Fraser who had been a Captain, led a company of Highland warriors, been part of the young pretenders inner circle. I was an officer, a loyal citizen to King and country. No I would have to report this to my superiors, it was my duty after all. I glanced at the Fraser family once more, watching as Fraser lead his wife and children wrapped in his embrace into the warehouse. The contentment in her face and the relaxed manner of her body as he held her choked me.
The docks were a bustling busy place. Ships being loaded and unloaded, carts and delivery boys scurried back and forth. I was stood close to the walls of a warehouse spying, no not spying, I was observing and gathering information for the Crown on Fraser, when I heard the loud cry and crash. A dray cart loaded with crates had toppled over, shouts and screams echoed out all over the dock as time seemed to still.
Suddenly I was there beside the chaos, no memory of how I got there or of having consciously moved. A dock worker was trapped screaming in pain, pinned to the ground by his leg.
“We need to lift the cart off him!”
I shouted in English I realised, in a French dock area. Bodies however where soon surrounding me, assisting in lifting for all we were worth. The man to my left was barking orders in French, the heat radiating from his muscled arms as they brushed against mine. It was him! It was Fraser! How had he got to this in that time? I had seen him walk away and how had I ended up beside him? Kill me now I thought to my self. The cart was raised and moved away from the injured man.
“Sassenach, can ye get to him? Help him?”
His wife, the healer, the Stuart Witch? It was all making perfect sense. She moved to the man’s side, assessing him from head to toe. The man was crying out in pain, his right leg clearly broken and bleeding. The crowd was thinning out. I thought both due to needing to return to work and due to the squeamish nature of most people.
The woman moved with poetic grace, focused on task and indifferent to the dirt and filth on the ground.
“I need to move him to the surgery. You there help my husband.”
Pointing to me with the authority of a Sergeant Major I jumped to assist. Taking hold of one side of a large wooden board. Continuing to hold command with the assistance of myself, Fraser and two other males, the injured man was placed onto the board. In a swift movement we where off headed toward the Fraser Wines warehouse.
Stopping the mad dash in a small room to one side of the entrance doors. The room had a long bench at the rear, stacked with bottles and vials. A table stood in the centre with a medical caddy on wheels to one side. How genius I thought. This clearly the surgery she had spoke off. The man was transferred to this table and I stood back to watch. The other two men hurried off after a respectful tug of their forelock to Fraser.
His wife began asking for items, as she and Fraser washed their hands. With clear practiced ease he began gathering and passing the required items. I was still stood rooted to the spot.
“If you are intending to stay Sir I could use your assistance.”
“Me? Oh yes of course, I do beg your pardon.”
“No apologies needed Sir, just wash your hands and come around this side. I need to force the bone back in and reset the limb.”
“You are not amputating the leg!”
I was most shocked in a military hospital with that level of injury amputation would have been the only choice for a military surgeon. I was quite sure this woman was not quite as skilled as a trained surgeon! The aghast must have shown on my face as Fraser who was dosing the man with laudanum responded.
“Claire never takes a limb unless she has to.”
Claire! Of course that’s her name. I remembered a few of the soldiers who had been treated in the Jacobite camp after Prestonpans spoke of her. They also spoke highly of her care and knowledge come to think of it. Right I must focus on my task. Holding the man steady I watched her work. Her movements precise and elegant. The limb was realigned and stitched neatly up. Cleaned down with whiskey and wrapped with very clean linen. The limb was then splinted.
I looked around this makeshift surgery, it was clean, the bench spotless, glass bottles and vials gleaming. Her assortment of tools and equipment shone. This I realised was no makeshift surgery, this was a work area that was cherished and well kept. The man was now sound asleep on the table.
“Thank you for your assistance Mr...?”
“Oh where are my manners, Lord John Madam.”
I bowed towards her, pondering if I should have given my name. Curtsying back to me she replied.
“Lord John your help was very much appreciated. This is my husband James Fraser and I am Claire Fraser.”
“A pleasure to meet you Mrs Fraser and Mr Fraser.”
He had finished tidying the items used in this impromptu medical emergency.
“You are a fine healer Mrs Fraser, I am sure the dock workers are most grateful for your assistance.”
“It is a busy surgery to be sure, dock workers are forever in need of treatment.”
“Indeed they are, well Mr and Mrs Fraser I must bid you good day I have a matter than requires my attention.”
With final bows and curtsy I left the surgery and the warehouse.
Thoughts clashed in my head, a moral dilemma. I pondered, taking one last look back as the Fraser family disappeared into the darkness of the warehouse. No, I believe I have been mistaken perhaps, it was a great many years ago and I was young and it was dark. I simply couldn’t have remembered his features correctly and it would be most dishonourable of a gentlemen to falsely accuse without the full information and evidence. Yes quite, a hunch that I recognised someone from a long forgotten war was most ungentlemanly indeed. I quietly moved along the dock back and away from the warehouse. Heading in the direction of the city. I did after all have an important missive to pass along, I could not delay. A missive regarding yet another war, I sighed. James Fraser and his family would be safe, the shadowy ghosts of a war from time long past.
“God speed James Fraser, perhaps in another life we could have been friends.”