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The Life We Always Wanted

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It was a long, hard ride back to Lallybroch from Culloden. Not only was the terrain rough and the weather wild, but her heart was broken. She had left Jamie to die on that battlefield, and despite the reasoning behind leaving, she couldn’t help feeling as though she’d betrayed her husband by heading for safety while he fought on that bloody moor. Claire had expected that her morning sickness would have only worsened her journey, but oddly enough, it encouraged her. The nausea acted as a reminder for why she left. It reminded her of the child that she was protecting, and the child that was waiting for her back at Lallybroch.

Claire had missed her daughter fiercely while on the warfront. Jenny wrote often of Faith and her new developments in growth, but all the letters in the world couldn’t fix the ache in her heart that longed to be with her daughter. She had left her only four months after her birth, which Claire knew would be difficult, but nevertheless, nothing could have prepared her for the pain that she felt being away from her sweet Faith.

The day she arrived at Lallybroch, the weather had taken an unexpected turn for the better. The sun was rising bright in the early morning sky, the air was warm, and the breeze carried the scent of home to her nose. It had taken about two months to find her way back from Culloden with no map or guide, and she had long since run out of money. She was weak, dehydrated, and hungry, all of which she knew were less than ideal for the baby growing inside of her.

Arriving at the arch, she dismounted her horse and tied the reins to a post. Claire hurried to drink some water from the well, reveling in the instant relief the water brought to her dehydration. When she stopped, she looked about the yard of her home, strange not seeing any servants, children, or tenants milling about. But it only took a moment before she saw Jenny taking clothes down from a hanger.

“Claire!” Her sister in law exclaimed loudly, the surprise and relief evident in her voice as she dropped her laundry and ran to embrace her brother’s wife. As Claire wrapped her arms around her sister in law, she began to wonder why her husband’s sister was working in the yard so early. Yet she quickly found that she knew the answer, that Jenny Murray would never spend a free moment idle in the house when she could be waiting for Jamie to walk through the arch at any given moment.

“Jenny,” Claire whispered before tears began to well up in her eyes. A moment later, Jenny pulled away and began to search her face.

“Jamie?” The Scottish woman started, hoping beyond hope that her brother had survived that bloody battle. Claire barely shook her head before she collapsed into her sister in law’s arms, shaking with each sob that escaped her lips. The English and Scottish women knelt to the ground, both of them weeping for the man they lost.

After a long while, when the tears stopped running and their throats hurt too much to cry out any longer, Claire stood up.

“Take me to Faith. I need to see her.” Jenny stayed kneeled on the ground, not responding, an empty shell of grief. Jamie has been the last of her born family, and now she would be expected to soldier on. A sudden fire began to burn hot in the English woman’s gut, anger and rage clouding her better judgement. Claire grabbed her sister in law by the shoulders and began to shake her.

“Janet Murray, you will get up and you take me to my daughter. You’re strong, you are not weak. Don’t you dare let his death consume you because it’s already consumed me and I know that’s the last thing that Jamie would want for either of us. So get up and let me see my child!” Claire knew that she was lashing out at her, but she couldn’t find the energy to care. Her husband was dead, and her children would grow up fatherless. She deserved to lash out.

Jenny stood and slapped Claire across the face. The English lady said nothing, no tears left to pour out onto her cheeks. Her husband’s sister paused, not knowing what to say or do. Then, in that moment, the two women looked into each other’s eyes, understanding each other in a way that they never had before. They both knew in that moment that it was time to set aside their despair and carry on. Jenny’s brown eyes fluttered shut, as if she were allowing herself one last moment of grief before she looked at Claire once again.

“Come now. I’ll show ye to yer bairn.” The two women took one another by the hand and slowly walked into the main house, headed for the nursery where little Faith was sound asleep in her crib.