Dear Mrs. McTavish…
Claire’s fingers hovered over the keys, shaking with agitation and nerves. The easy part was done with, at least, as well as most of the hard part, she’d like to think. How long had she been waiting for this moment? Since yesterday when she got the confirmation email but was too busy (not nervous, absolutely not nervous) to adequately draft this message? Six months when she first called the adoption agency? A year when the idea first popped into her head.
27 years, three months, and 14 days. She shook her head. Best not dwell too long on that. Blinking back tears, she started the next line-
I am a Doctor in a town called Broch Mordha-
She repeatedly tapped the backspace key while shaking her head. That made her sound like she was conducting some sort of experiment or clinical trial. She couldn’t think of a better way for her message to be immediately deleted.
I lost my daughter-
Backspace, backspace, backspace. Too strong, much too strong. There had to be some sort of middle ground between sounding like a bureaucratic robot and Emily Bronte.
She took a deep breath and started one more time.
27 years ago, you adopted a young girl in Scotland-...
Jamie saw the car to the garage and whistled his way up to the main house. He followed the path worn into the land by generations of Frasers, a slight grin on his face. Though five o’clock had come and gone and the Printshop was now empty, there was still much to do before he saw to his bed.
“I’ve promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,” he whispered to himself as he crossed the threshold of his house.
He entered to witness a typical picture of life at Lallybroch. The smell of dinner pervaded the air as he walked down the hallway, passing by the pictures of his family and those who came before. Mrs. Bug was bustling in the kitchen to finish the family’s supper before she headed home, and the fire was steady in the main sitting room where his son sat on the couch with his nose buried in a book. Jamie rustled his brown hair and tried not to sigh when the boy jerked his head away from his father’s touch.
“Willie, mo bhalach, did ye do all that I’d asked ye this mornin’?” He leaned over the couch so that his face wasn’t far from the boy’s.
Willie didn’t look at him. “Aye, I did.”
Jamie quirked an eyebrow. “Oh ye did, did ye?”
“So, I’ll walk upstairs and find suitable rooms for our guests come Saturday?”
“Aye, ye will.”
“Clean sheets and everything?”
Willie’s face colored and Jamie knew he had him. “You’d let Brianna, Roger, Fergus, and Marsalia sleep in old sheets?” He tsked.
“It’s no’ as if they werna changed after the last time. Those sheets are still clean.”
“Those beds have been restin’ in their own dust for three month or more now. Would you want ta sleep in musty sheets when you come home for a reunion? It’s the first time the whole family’s been together for god-knows how long. Go up and change ‘em quick, before supper.”
Willie groaned and roused himself up to the upstairs. “Bold of ye to assume I’d even come home for a reunion.” The words under his breath stung but Jamie didn’t say anything. Bree, Willie’s elder sister, was much the same at his age and she turned out just fine. He was a patient man, but lord did this boy test him.
Supper was a family affair. He was able to give his wife a quick kiss and a smile before they sat down, and though she smiled, he could tell something was on her mind. Best ask about that later. They chewed silently for the most part.
“All seems to be ready for Saturday,” Jamie said finally, chewing his meat. “Auld Alec has been kind enough ta lend us his tent for the weekend.” A grunt from Willie and a nod from Claire was his only response. “I didna check the weather yet, but I think I willna be goin’ too far out on a limb to assume it’ll be rainin’ once again.” The same response. Jamie squared his jaw and continued to eat.
“That was nice of Alec,” Claire commented. Jamie smiled at her and nodded.
They sat in silence for the rest of the meal. When excused, Willie jumped up and ran to his room to carry on with whatever tomfoolery he was like to get up with.
Jamie picked up his and his wife’s plate, eyeing her. “Claire, what’s troubin’ ye, lass?” He walked to the sink and put in the plates to be washed. As he turned on the hot water and began to scrub, she took up her usual spot beside him with a dish-towel. Jamie eyed her as she picked up a wet dish, but her eyes remained downcast and she worried her lip with her teeth.
“Claire, mo chridhe, I canna read your mind.” He reached out and gripped her hand through the towel.
She looked up at him and he was struck by the torment in her eyes. He tried to steady his breathing and prepare himself for anything.
“I have to tell you something, but don’t know how to.”
“Well, start at the beginning, if ye please.” He turned back to the sink and placed another dish for her to dry.
She cleared her throat. “I know we don’t like to talk about-- our troubles from after we first got married, but- it’s been weighing on my mind recently.”
Jamie’s eyes downturned and he squared his shoulders and jaw.
“Are you alright?” Claire asked.
“Aye, I am. I must confess that I’ve had similar thoughts a time or two.” He couldn’t think of a day he didn’t think of what may have been had he not been such a foolish youth--thinking himself invincible with conviction and passion.
They finished the dishes and Claire wrung her hands, struggling with the next part of her confession. “Six months ago, I contacted St. Anthony Children’s Services.”
Jamie’s heart stuttered in his chest and he gripped the counter. “That’ll be- that’ll be the place- the people that-”
“Yes. It is.” She leaned against the counter next to him and crossed her arms over her chest. “I didn’t expect to hear anything. After all we- we already proved we couldn’t take care of her properly so-” He looked up to see tears glistening in her eyes and he reached out to her. He was stopped by her hand. “No, I need to get this out.”
“Ye heard from them?”
Claire nodded. “She- she moved to the US with her family, it took awhile for them to find information but I was able to get an email address for the mother and-”
Tears flooded his vision and his breathing was heavy. “Ye mean- ye can contact her?”
“That’s it, Jamie. I did. I emailed her and I’m sorry, I should’ve talked to you I should’ve written it with you-”
He finally reached out and embraced her, shushing her. She wrapped her arms around him tightly and he felt her body shake with sobs. “Oh, mo chridhe, it’s alright. Dinna weep. I trust ye to present us well enough.” He pulled back from her and wiped her face with his thumbs. “Did ye hear anything back yet?”
She shook her head and sniffled. “No, I just sent the email, just now before supper. I don’t even know if I will receive an answer. They haven’t been in contact in years.”
He rubbed her arms. “Well, whatever happens, we’ll weather it together, aye?”
She nodded and accepted his kiss.