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Photographs - The Beginning

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"This is early on," she said, laying the photograph on the table, her eager granddaughter leaning in for a closer look.

"Wow. You- and Granda…" the girl ducked her head, suddenly shy.

"What?" Claire Fraser chuckled, resting her hand on Mandy's back. "What were you going to say, love?"

"You're both just so… smitten. Is that the right word?"

Claire thought for a moment, her husband's blue eyes staring up at her from the picture. They'd been in their early thirties there, blissfully unaware of things to come: their separation, the birth of their two daughters, then grandchildren. It had been only them, then.

In the photograph, she beamed up at her Jamie, tall as he was, with eyes that were only for him, it seemed. His auburn hair was cut short, his olive green beanie covering most of it. She wore her floral print dress, with violet Forget-Me-Nots embroidered on the collar. It was her favorite, and Jamie's, too. Claire was sure he loved the way the dress flowed, like liquid down her back, so if she bent over, he could make out the shape of her arse - one of many favorite bits of her body.

She chose not to share this small detail with Mandy, but pointed out the ring she wore - a silver ring, plain as anything - but special. It had been a surprise, that ring; Jamie's promise to return to her in one piece, the promise that they'd be married as soon as possible, that they'd be okay.

Some of it remained true, after all was said and done, and Claire smiled to herself as she twirled the ring on her finger now. She watched as Mandy moved onto another photo. This one was a photo of Jamie next to a small crib, bent over, affectionately smiling at the baby that laid inside.

It was Mandy's mother, Brianna, a wee thing of six months or so, smiling back at her father with boundless joy. Mandy couldn't tell from the photo, but Brianna and her Da shared the same red hair, wavy and wild.

Mandy put her finger over Brianna, then, chuckling.

"She looks like you, Grannie."

"Huh, everyone always said she took after her father," Claire responded, surprised by what Mandy apparently saw in the baby's face.

"Well, she loves Granda a lot, too. See her grinning?"

Claire only nodded, then looked out the window, her ears picking up the sound of a car on the gravel outside.

"Your brother's here, Mandy. Let's go welcome him inside."

Claire stood, brushing her dress down so the wrinkles were smooth again. She followed Mandy outside, the dogs barking and scurrying around as Jemmy got out of his car.

"Grannie! How does it feel?"

Claire gave her grandson a warm hug, then kissed him on each cheek.

"Ah, you know - it doesn't feel like 50 years,' she said, turning to see Jamie and Brianna coming from the barn.

"Feels longer, Sassenach," Jamie called, his hands dirty from the newest project for the farm.

"How's the new chicken coop coming, mum?" Jemmy asked, his mother brushing sawdust from her hands.

"It's… it's a frame. Haven't gotten as much done as we would have liked before dinner." She smiled at Mandy, who danced ok her feet, eager to get back inside.

"Have you seen Grannie's old photos? Granda, come look," she said, pulling her grandfather inside, the rest of them following.

"I'm sure I've seen them all before," Jamie chuckled, though he happily sat down to examine them.

Shuffling through them, he smiled, touching one every now and then. He paused at one longer than the others, then shoved it into his coat pocket.

"Whaf, what was it? Let me see!" Mandy pleaded with him, though he wouldn't relent.

"I dinna ken how that got there, but this one's for me." He gave Mandy a sly smile, then stood, surreptitiously patting Claire on the bottom as he headed for the sitting room.

The photo in his pocket was over 50 years old, he knew, and he wasn't sure anyone else knew the story behind it. He sat in front of the fire, the memory swimming into view.

He'd met Claire at a dance, a fete of sorts, for the war effort, and they'd danced together more than once, seeking one another out, unabashed and fearless.

The photo in his pocket was one of Claire, her hair up just so, a braid at the side, her heels dangling on her fingers as she waited outside for her uncle.

Jamie's friend had snapped that first photo, the one he'd carried with him all these years.

She hadn't gone home to her uncle that night. Instead, she'd found her way into his heart, both of them falling so hard a damn World War couldn't tear them apart.

They'd been married 50 years today, but Jamie knew it had been much longer. He'd sold his soul that first night, that first kiss by his truck, her heels falling to the ground as her hand became preoccupied with the hairs at the nape of his neck.

No… this photo was his, that beautiful brown-haired lass smiling as she bent to catch a glimpse of him, just one more time.