His rough, calloused hand trails down her face as light as a feather. Sparkling blue eyes bore into her, spilling thousands of words of love and affirmation without making a single sound. Claire tries to reach her hand up to touch his but he quickly moves it away.
“No, Sorcha.” he whispers. “Let me look at you.” his eyes move slowly down her face, neck, and body, taking everything in. His other hand gently graces her waist above the thin fabric of her chemise.
“I love you,” Claire says, voice cracking with unshed tears. “I should’ve told you that more. I love you.” Jamie just smiles and pulls her body closer to his. His natural warmth radiates throughout her entire being, heating her up from the outside in.
“You didn’t have to. I can feel it,” he says. Present tense. He can feel it. Still does, and always will. As long as we both shall live.
“I love you,” she repeats, tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. He kisses the tears away and pulls back to stare into her eyes once more.
“I love you too, mo nighean donn.” he drops his forehead onto hers. She again tries to reach up to feel the rough stubble of his chin, but her hand moves straight through his face. Claire’s head whips up to find Jamie gone, and her standing alone in the middle of a field of rolling hills. Without warning, a screeching fills her ears and she claps her hands over her head to try and muffle the sound.
“Please! Help me! It hurts!” screams a voice. Claire looks around wildly trying to find the source but instead finds herself face-to-face with the monolith. It’s imposing height making her feel two inches tall in its shadow.
“No, no,” Claire says to the stone. “I can’t do this again. No!” she begins to feel herself pull towards the stone, unable to stop her feet from moving. Then, it’s her own screams filling the air around her.
“Claire,” a distant voice calls to her. “Claire!” her body is shaking violently, begging her to stop this torture. “Claire, darling wake up.”
“Jamie, help me!” she cries, wishing for release from the pain.
“Claire!” Franks’ face pops into her vision as her eyes fly open. Her heart pounds in her chest, and her entire body shakes terribly. “Love, you were having a nightmare. Everything is okay, I promise.” Claire bolts up from the bed, throwing on her dressing gown, and nearly running down the stairs. She can hear Frank following behind, calling her name. She ignores him completely and swings the door to the back garden open.
The humid air hangs around her like a warm blanket, but still does wonders to soothe her racing mind. She looks up to the sky, longing to see the endless expanse of stars that scatter across the Scottish Highlands instead of the light-polluted Boston night. Despite the heat, she wraps her robe tighter around herself, trying desperately to emulate the feeling of Jamie’s arms, failing miserably.
She hasn’t had a dream that realistic in months. They usually consist of fleeting moments or memories or touches. Never has she been able to see his full face and feel his hands on her body. All of the feelings she has kept repressed inside of her are dangerously close to either pouring out or choking her. She doesn’t know which she would prefer.
“Claire,” Frank appears in front of her, snapping his fingers in her face. His eyes are hard as steel, so very different from the ones full of adoration that were looking at her in her dream just moments ago. “What happened to you today? And don’t give me some ridiculous excuse this time.”
“Frank I-” she starts.
“You screamed his name out loud.” he interrupts. Claire freezes, digging her nails into her palms. “I haven’t heard you even whisper it in almost three years, but tonight you come home looking white as a ghost, say that bullshit about your daughter, and now you’re practically begging for this man to come to help while your husband is laying in bed right next to you.”
“Nothing happened Frank I promise. I just-”
“Lies!” Frank exclaims. “More lies! Just talk to me Godamnit!” he places his hands roughly on her shoulders.
“You are the one that made me promise not to!” Claire shouts back, stepping away and out of his grasp. “You said that after I told you where I was that I was to never speak of him again.”
“But here you are screaming his name in the dead of night!” his voice has somehow raised even higher, and for a brief instant she worries about the neighbors hearing, but the feeling is gone the second it arrives. “Jesus, Claire, I just want you to, for once, think about how I feel in all of this. I’ve been endlessly patient with you but… God, you’re making it incredibly difficult right now.”
Claire feels as if her mouth is full of cotton. Her brain too. Both incapable of forming a single, coherent thought. Her eyes dart all around the garden and her hands fidget with the tie of her robe, trying to keep steady.
“How… how you feel?” she stammers. Frank laughs, humorlessly.
“Has that thought never once crossed your mind? How I might be feeling in this situation?” his voice sounds hauntingly low.
“Of course it has. Constantly.” Claire whispers. She finally brings her eyes to his, only to find that his are glaring into her.
“You’ve always been a terrible, terrible liar,” Claire swears she can feel her heart shattering into millions of tiny, jagged pieces. Has that not been the reason for her inner turmoil? How Frank would feel about her return to Jamie? Still, she can’t find it in herself to tell him the truth, despite how much it pains her. To think that just a few years ago they were once a living, breathing unit, an unstoppable force of love and passion, and now they can barely look at one another without thinking of all the terrible things both done and said tears her apart.
“Do you really not have a single thing to say?” Frank says. It’s at that moment she realizes that minutes have passed since she last spoke. All she can do is shake her head and move her gaze away again.
Another minute passes before Frank turns on his heel and goes back inside the house. She later hears the sound of their car engine revving, then speeding away down the road. The outside air soon becomes stiflingly warm, so Claire goes back in, locking the back door behind her.
She stands in the living room staring at her bare feet considering what to do next. Knowing that she won’t be able to fall asleep again tonight, and selfishly not wanting to look at her daughter in fear she’ll burst again, she just stands.
It could be seconds or hours later that she discovers her feet are moving again. She’s halfway to Franks’ office when she realizes where she’s going. This might be the only time she’ll have to find out as much as she can.
The door is locked, as always, but Claire knows where he keeps the key. She stands on the tips of her toes to reach the crown molding above the door and slides her hand along until the small brass key falls to the rug. With the door unlocked, she slowly steps inside. It’s not that Frank forbade her from coming in, -the door being locked was mostly for Briannas’ safety, after all- but he had never explicitly told Claire she could.
The bookshelves are lined floor to ceiling in books, and various stacks of papers litter the entire room. Unsure of where to start, she first steps to his desk and rifles around for a bit. Finding mostly essays from his students, she begins to turn away, until a folded paper catches her eye. She carefully picks it up and unfolds the well-handled parchment.
I have completed the research you mentioned in your previous correspondence. While some insight as to why I needed to find this information for you would have been appreciated, I have done so nonetheless. Below you will find everything about one James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser after his time at the Battle of Culloden that I could easily procure. It’s not much, mind you, but it is a start.
James Fraser appeared to be the only one of five officers from Simon Fraser, 11th Lord of Lovat’s’ army to survive. He spent many years hiding away in an estate called Lallybroch where eventually he was captured and taken to Ardsmuir prison. Here is where I begin to lose track of him. The prison closed for some reason or another, and the next time I find his name in full is years later on a muster roll for a militia in North Carolina, circa. 1770. He appeared to be their colonel.
His name appears a number of more times as a colonel, and even once as a general at the Battle of Yorktown. He apparently resigned his post as general after that battle for an unknown reason, but it was stated in correspondence by General George Washington. I’m curious to know how you came to hear of this man, as his military history is nothing particularly spectacular or noteworthy, and likely wouldn’t add any substance to historical text.
I seem to lose him completely after that. No marriage licenses, death certificates, passenger logs, or anything of the sort. Not quite an enigma, but fairly close. I personally believe he likely perished at some battle during the Revolutionary War and either the certificate was lost to time, or was never recorded in the first place.
Please let me know if I can be of any more help.
Reverend Reginald Wakefield
Post scriptum: I performed a touch more research after completing this letter and can confirm I have indeed found a death certificate, however, the nature of it is rather puzzling and I cannot figure it out.
The certificate states that on January the 21st, 1770, James Fraser and his wife Claire Fraser both perished in a blaze at their home on a settlement called Frasers Ridge in North Carolina. However, this predates the Battle of Yorktown, where he clearly fought and made a name for himself, by over 10 years. While I could have found a different James Fraser, I highly doubt that there were two men, both hailing from Scotland, bearing the exact same name, living in the same colony, and being high-ranking military officials. I have provided the death certificate as well as a copy of a newspaper article entry with this letter in hopes that you can perhaps see something that I am missing.
If you can solve this puzzle please inform me of the answer at your earliest convenience,
Post scriptum #2: How ironic! Upon further review of the article, I have discovered that James Frasers' wife was also a healer named Claire. My first thought was distant ancestor, but as your wife hails from the United Kingdom, I find that rather unlikely.
Please let me know in your next post how your wife and daughter are doing. It lightens my heart to hear she is now attending medical school. Give her and wee Brianna my sincerest regards.
Claire stares down at the letter from the Reverand trying to organize her racing thoughts. Not only has she again found further confirmation that she does indeed travel back to find Jamie, -and will eventually die there- Frank knows that she does. After checking the post date on the letter, she discovers it was sent nearly four months ago.
Claire rifles through the mountains of papers on the desk before finally coming into contact with the aforementioned death certificate and article.
The Wilmington Gazette April 18 1770
News from the country today, landowner James Fraser, along with his wife, a notable healer, Claire Fraser, have perished in a fire at their home on Fraser’s Ridge on January 21st, 1770. The cause of the fire is unknown. James and Claire Fraser leave behind no known children.
Her world begins to spin so violently she crashes down onto the leather chair behind the desk.
“That bloody bastard,” Claire says out loud. “That bloody, fucking bastard.”