“Mama, you can’t be seriously thinking about cutting off his leg!”
I watched our daughter’s face turn red. A scowl reached across her face and I could see the tips of her ears burn red in tandem with her cheeks. For a moment I felt a flush of endearment; Bree had always been a “daddy’s girl” but “daddy” was Frank to her.
Jamie was Da. In some ways, he was more special to her than even she could realize.
Both men had had special parts in her life and heart, but in all my years I had never seen nor felt her so protective over Frank. She was Jamie’s flesh and blood and to see it firsthand was something I had spent years yearning for. Yet, this was not the circumstance in which I had hoped it would happen.
“You bloody well know that I am!” I slammed my hands down onto the table in the surgery. The vibrations of the encounter rattled my tools at the opposite end. I faintly heard the door creak open and in my peripheral vision saw Roger join us.
“Uh, Claire, he was askin’ for ye…” Roger’s voice was calm and even yet, I could see the small hint of fear in his eyes. I recognized it from all the families of patients I had tended to during my years in Boston- the fear, anguish, and uncertainty that became of them while they waited for their loved ones.
“He had better be asking for me! I’m the only one this side of the Mississippi who would even put up with his nonsense.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, rocking my heels back and forth.
“Mama…He asked you not to do it.” Brianna took a breath and stepped into my field of vision on the other side of the table. I could see a fierceness in her eyes, one only to match her father. I knew better to argue with a stubborn Fraser, but in all reality, I didn’t know what else to do.
“Brianna Ellen.” I felt a terseness in my voice I hadn’t remembered using since she was a toddler. It stopped her in her tracks.
“Bree… Ye ken this isn’t about the leg, right?” Roger stepped towards her side and placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned her face towards him and then looked back at me.
“Is it not?” She asked either him or me, I couldn’t tell.
I wiped a tear from my eye and took a breath. Until Roger had said it, I hadn’t realized it myself either. As a doctor, I was trained to make decisions like this. Whether it was life or death, I took an oath to save people and always had- no matter what the cost might have been.
With Jamie, things were different. They were always different with him. I always had a lapse in judgement when it came to him. He had made the choice, without even asking me what I thought, what I cared, what I might want. He had chosen to die before having to possibly live his life without his leg. Deep down, I knew why this was. He had watched Ian live his life with his leg having been cut off from their time in war in France, and Jamie couldn’t, rather wouldn’t, subject himself to that. Yet, in the midst of all of this, I found myself angry at him. He hadn’t even thought to ask me if I would be okay letting him die. He hadn’t even thought to have the discussion with me.
“I see what you’re referring to, bloody Scot! The whole lot of you.” I murmured to myself, all of this becoming that much clearer. I heard Roger let out a laugh and I looked up at him, giving a small smile. “I’m talking about you and Jamie at the moment.
“I kent it would take ye a minute. I figured Bree would be the one to see it first between the two of ye, given the circumstances.”
I could see the plain confusion over my daughter’s face. “Is there something I am missing?”
“Bree, darling…” I took a breath and sat down on a stool. “I am currently just angry at your father.”
“That’s no secret, Mama.”
“You see, your Uncle Ian, you met him back in Scotland. He and your father were soldiers when they were younger, long before I met Jamie. Ian had a wound to his leg and they amputated it. Your father felt, probably still feels, a small pain of guilt over that. Jamie also saw how it affected Ian’s life- and that bloody, miserable, stubborn, Scot just won’t let it happen to him too!”
“So… It is about his leg, but it isn’t about his leg?”
Roger leaned against the table and titled Bree’s head up towards his face. “Bree, how would ye feel if I chose to die without telling ye, without giving ye a warning, especially knowing it was in yer power to fix me so I wouldna die?”
I watched her process her own husband’s thoughts and closed my eyes, methodically rubbing my temples.
“I would be pissed. Especially since you wouldn’t have to die in the first place, but what does this—OH.”
I opened my eyes and saw her mouth gaping open. “He made the choice and didn’t even ask you.”
“This isn’t the sixties. It’s not like Da left a will with what he would want to happen to him and his estate…”
“Precisely.” I agreed. “After all we’ve been through… After all the times we’ve almost lost each other, it was never something that might have been avoided. I can plainly save his life, and he won’t let me.” A flash of heat rose through me and I could just feel my cheeks turning red. "He knows I took an oath, but that doesn’t matter… And if he does die and I do nothing….”
I took another breath and wiped a tear from the corner of my eye. “We haven’t had enough time yet. I’m not ready to let him not. It’s not time.”
“Oh.” Bree whispered. It was all making sense to her.
I had the power to save him. I wanted to save him. He didn’t want to die, but he wouldn’t live without his leg.
And the worst of it all, I wasn’t ready to let him go. I would never be ready to let him, not like this. Not when the circumstances were within my control.
I felt the tears rising to the surface, helplessness washing over me once again.
Bree rounded the table and placed her hands on my shoulder. “Mama, what are we going to do?”
I looked up to see the tears in her eyes too and shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. I bloody don’t know.”
Truth was, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I did know I needed to talk to my husband.