Claire was standing at her dresser on a Saturday morning, putting the finishing touches on her makeup and making a last-ditch effort to wrangle her curls.
A headband perhaps? She knew she had a black one around here somewhere… Or perhaps she should try to straighten it? But no, they were rushed for time, and with the humidity… She leaned her elbows on the dresser top and dropped her head into her hands with a sigh.
God, why did this have to feel so complicated?
It wasn’t her hair that was bothering her, not really. It was… it was everything else. She didn’t know why she felt so damn nervous. It was just Pride, for goodness’ sake, she knew what to expect. She had tagged along with Geillis numerous times over the years, there weren’t going to be any surprises.
But no, that wasn’t right either. This time was different. It was the first time she was going since she came out. Jamie had known, and had accepted her without question, since they started dating, and Geillis had known since a drink-fueled night of vulnerability back in uni. But no one else, and not publicly.
Today would be different than those other times. She would be going to Pride – out – with her husband, her baby, and her best friend. Her mind kept stubbornly tracking back to the assumptions that people might make about her, about her appearance, about her marriage.
Her insecurities would apparently be along for the ride today, whether she liked it or not.
She had taken first shift that morning with Bree while Jamie got ready, getting breakfast in the girl and her hair braided, and then had passed toddler-teeth-brushing-and-dressing duty off to Jamie. Before she had done so however, Bree had run back to her room to get a “present for ye, Mama!” and then had come careening back into the kitchen to press a tiny temporary tattoo, in the colors of the asexual flag, into her hand.
“Is yer colors, Mama, gotta wear ‘em!”
Claire had strangled back a laugh at that, thanking her daughter with a kiss on her newly-braided hair.
“Thank you, baby, my colors are perfect. But where on earth did you get it?”
“Auntie gave ‘em to me!” Bree had wiggled away from her mother, nearly running into Jamie in the hall as she dashed back to her room. “Gettin’ ready, Da, c’mon!”
She could now hear Brianna’s tiny chattering from across the hall, interspersed with the quiet rumbling of Jamie’s voice. Bree, at three years old, was measurably more excited than either of her parents to be attending Pride this year. She didn’t understand at all what all the fuss was about, but she adored parties and parades with her entire heart. And when her Auntie Geillis was explaining to her some of what she would see, she had immediately insisted that she needed her own “raim-bows, Auntie, I gotta have th’ raim-bows.” Geillis had gleefully obliged.
Claire wasn’t exactly sure what a three-year-old was supposed to do with so many rainbow-colored plastic necklaces, but she supposed if the necklaces and the temporary tattoos were the limit of Geillis’ mischief for the day, she would count herself lucky.
“Sassenach?” Her husband’s voice jolted her out of her thoughts as he came through the door into their bedroom. “Have ye seen Bree’s pink socks with the wee white hearts on ‘em? They’re no in the laundry, are they?”
“I don’t believe so,” she said, gesturing over her shoulder. “Check that basket there, I haven’t gotten around to folding those ones.”
A soft grunt came from behind her as he started to rustle through the clean clothes.
She tried to lighten her voice, tried not to let her own circling thoughts – and doubts – intrude on the day as she checked her mascara and asked, “How’re the raim-bows coming along?”
She really thought she managed it fairly well, all things considered.
“Och, they’re lovely. Don’t think she’s ever practiced her colors so willingly before. Though she’s none so happy right now that I’ve got pink on my plaid and she hasna got a pink necklace.”
“Ahh. Hence the pink socks.” Claire smiled a bit. Brianna was certainly their child; she had an opinion on everything under the sun and made sure that everyone was completely aware of it.
“Hence the pink socks, indeed,” he chuckled. “She’s insistin’ she needs some pink and white so she can match Mama and Da, ye ken. She’s got her purple shirt on, and I tried tae tell her that that could do for matching the both of us, but she wouldna hear it. Insists she needs all the colors she can get her hands on, and only the socks will solve things. Ah hah!” Claire glanced in the mirror to see Jamie kneeling on the floor, triumphantly holding up two small socks. Pink socks, with white hearts. “Here they are, and crisis averted.”
She smiled faintly at him and his theatrics. “You’re a true hero, darling.”
He gave a small bow as he stood and said, “Aye, I do try my best. And how are ye coming along?”
Her eyes caught his in the mirror and she let out a sigh, his concerned gaze letting her know that he could see right through her. As usual.
She apparently hadn’t managed that light tone very well at all.
Her husband’s arms wrapped around her from behind, reading her mind and her insecurities in the gentle, seamless way he always did.
“You’re no still nervous, are ye?” He planted a loud, smacking kiss to the side of her neck, turning what was usually a tender gesture into one to pull a grin. “It’ll be alright, just as I’ve told ye.” Jamie placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her, taking a step back to get a better look. “And you’re looking lovely, mo nighean donn. Verra festive.”
She fiddled with her purple, white, grey, and black earrings, letting her nerves escape in a slight chuckle. “You don’t think it’s too much, is it?”
“Too much? Claire, we’re going to Pride, there’s no such thing as too much.”
She rolled her eyes and avoided Jamie’s gaze, as much at her own self-consciousness as at her husband’s blatant efforts to cheer her up. “I know, but still…”
“Ye’re perfect, love,” he said, his tone changing from playful to a gentle seriousness. “And ye belong there just as much as anyone else. Just as much as I do.” He caught her chin and held her eyes with his own for a moment. “Dinna let yourself think otherwise for a moment.”
The earnestness in his tone was enough to bring tears to her eyes, and so she merely nodded as she turned back to the mirror.
If she blinked extra hard a few times, and if there was wetness sparkling in her eyes that had nothing to do with over-ambitious eyeliner application, Jamie was gentleman enough not to comment.
Claire went back to taming her hair, trying to tuck it in behind the headband when her husband’s large hand stilled her.
“Let yer curls be, lass. They’re bonnie. And they’re you. That’s what today’s all about, aye?”
“I know,” she said setting the headband down slowly, “I do, Jamie.” To her complete horror, and outside of her control, her attempted composure was lost in the croak of her voice and the wetness in her eyes that started welling up and over.
“Och, come here, love.” Jamie turned her again, pulling her to him in one smooth motion. “It’s alright. It’ll be jus’ fine, I promise ye.”
That soft promise was the thing that finally tipped her over the edge.
Pulled into the shelter of his arms, tucked into the body that had always given her comfort and love and care in exactly the way that she always needed, Claire let her bottled-up fears and anxieties come pouring out. He was her safe place, and no matter what turbulence was going through her heart, she knew that she could give them all to him and meet no judgement.
He was rocking her gently, holding her close and rubbing her back, murmuring quiet shushing noises and Gaelic endearments into her hair.
Her small storm had come on suddenly, but like many sudden storms it passed just as quickly, leaving her a bit limp, but still just as supported as ever. Jamie waited as her tears slowed, then began speaking again as he held her even closer.
“It doesna matter what anyone thinks of us, mo chridhe,” he said, with his cheek resting against her hair. “It doesna matter what they assume, or who they think we are. We may be a tad bit unconventional, aye, but we know who we are, and we belong there. You belong there. And I’m so verra proud of ye.”
Claire snuffled a moment longer into his shoulder before peeking up at him. “You just said that whole thing so you could slip a ‘pride’ reference in there, didn’t you?”
He quirked a brow at her, that cheeky grin she so loved spreading across his face as he leaned back to run his hands up and down her arms.
“Aye. Maybe I did. But every word of it is still as true as it can be.” His eyes turned serious. “But truly, Claire. It’ll be alright. I am proud of ye, and I love ye, more than I can say. Do ye ken that?”
She was still snuffling a bit, and she was sure her mascara had run, and her insecurities weren’t magically gone. But she had her husband by her side, and if she knew nothing else in this world, it was that he loved her, he was proud of her, and he would stay by her side, no matter what.
So she looked him in the eye, and nodded.
“Good. Now come on, lass,” he smacked another kiss on her forehead and nodded to Bree’s little tattoo present still sitting on the dresser. “Put your wee flag on yer face and let’s finish getting ready. We’ve places tae be, aye?”
She smiled up at him – a little wobbly, but still a smile – and picked up the tattoo.
“Aye,” she said, “we’ve places to be. I’m almost done here, I’ll be in to help with Bree in just a second.”
Jamie snorted. “Hmph. Ye’d best bring evidence of all yer colors, Sassenach. She’s on the war path to make sure we’re all properly decked out.” Their eyes both darted to the hall at the sound of a slight crash and giggle. Jamie looked back at her, raising his eyebrows. “Ye may have to do some search and rescue for yer puir husband; I’ve left our wee hellion in custody of those necklaces for far too long. She’ll have them strewn all around the room by now.” A sudden grimace crossed his face, “Geillis sounded a bit too happy givin’ them to the lass yesterday, did she no’? Ye don’t think she’s put something in one of ‘em, do ye?” He shook his head as he started backing towards the door. “I’ve a mortal fear of glitter in the hands of a toddler, Sassenach, and that woman kens it.”
Claire nearly choked on a laugh at that, giving her husband a gentle shove to the hall.
“Well, you are free to give Geillis a lecture on appropriate toddler gifts when we meet up with her later. I’m sure she’ll have a brilliant explanation for her present.”
She heard a grumbled, “Aye, I’m sure she will,” as he rounded the corner into the hall, and then a louder “Alright, a leannan?” as he entered Brianna’s room.
The grin that he had put back on her face got even bigger as she heard him groan dramatically as he picked Bree up.
“Well, have ye caused enough chaos so we can get yer auntie in trouble fer it yet? Aye, lass, I see all yer colors, good job. Let’s just –”
Claire turned back to her mirror again, smiling widely now, surrounded by the sounds and celebration of her own colorful wee family. They were hers, and she was theirs. And damn if she wasn’t proud of that. So she fixed her makeup, put her wee flag on her face, and went out to join them.
And very decidedly left her headband behind.