Claire woke earlier in the morning than usual. She went about her routine as she would any other day, to be sure. Today was going to be a long day of preparation for the Reunion the next day. There was the tent to put up and food to cook, decoration and set up. She was definitely going to need some coffee.
She made her way down the stairs and towards the kitchen. She noticed voices and the smell of eggs and coffee wafting through the air from the open door. She smiled and stepped over the threshold to witness a scene that made tears well up in her eyes.
“And he was sore because you did so well?” Her husband was at the stove, cooking, his whole body was turned towards the person seated on the counter near him.
Faith’s eyes sparkled and the sunlight beamed through the window beside her. Her dark brown, curly hair was piled on-top of her head and she wore earrings with a white peasant blouse and jean shorts. She seemed to positively radiate light, banishing the shadows from her perch next to the sink.
She nodded to Jamie’s question. “I became president of the chess club when I was a senior, and we ended up going to States. Which, who’s to say wouldn’t’ve happened if he hadn’t taught me, but I wouldn’t have gone, and that’s the important part, I think.”
Jamie nodded, sliding the omelet onto a plate and handing it out to her. “No doubt.”
A small sound came from Claire’s throat, making them both look up to see her standing in the doorway, staring at them. She covered her mouth and shook her head.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Don’t get up, just stay there.”
Her husband smiled at her and nodded. “I’ll make ye an egg, Sassenach, and ye can sit with wee Faith and let her regale ye with stories of her youth.” Jamie seemed to have grown a foot taller, as if the weight of the last few weeks had rolled off him in the night.
The two women sat at the table as Jamie whistled a tune to the sound which Claire was sure was supposed to be “Garden Grow” but sounded more like a very confused bird. She smiled.
“So, tell me, what were you doing in London?” She asked Faith, bringing the young woman out of her thoughts.
She smiled at Claire. “I have some friends living there, Denny Hunter and I went to medical school together.”
Claire smiled. “Where did you go for medical school?”
“I went to Appalachia State in North Carolina for my pre-med, but then Harvard for med school.”
Claire smiled. “What did you specialize in?”
“General Surgery, I graduated a little over a year ago.”
They chatted very broadly for a few minutes. Faith told her parents about growing up in Maine and about her travels. Eventually, after their breakfast was complete, they ran into a lull in the conversation. Claire eyed her daughter as she chewed her lip. Jamie had always teased Claire for her glass face, and she finally knew the true meaning of that statement. It was clear that Faith had only one question on her mind: how did such a loving and supporting family have a child taken away from them? And when Claire asked, her suspicion turned out to be true.
“I know you probably think I’ll be upset by whatever you tell me,” Faith said. “But I’d like to know all the same.”
There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment and Faith held her breath.
“Do you want to go first or should I?” Claire asked.
“I’ll go first.” Jamie cleared his throat. “Yer mam and I met at University, at St. Andrews. At the time we were both very involved with the Scottish Independence Movement-” With this, Jamie paused a moment, gathering his words.
“A cause we both support to this day,” Claire stepped in.
“O’ course, o’ course. Well, yer mam and I, we got married just a year later. We were verra young, Faith, verra young. In our movement, ye have to understand, we met some of the best men and women to have ever walked this earth. But there were some-- let’s say, not quite as bright as the rest.” The tone of his voice made Faith’s heart skip a beat. “When yer mam was pregnant with ye, I attended a protest in Edinburgh that went verra badly. The police came, and a woman was trampled to death in the ensuing riot.” Bree held back her gasp as she pressed further against the wall. “I was arrested, and tried under conspiracy to commit terrorism.”
“But you’re not a terrorist!” Faith insisted.
“Aye, a leannan.” There was a smile in his voice and Faith bit her lip. “The charge was reduced, but I still went to prison. And yer mam-...”
“I-” Claire’s voice cut through Jamie’s somber words but then she cut herself off. “You have to understand, Faith, that I was very young and very pregnant, and, quite suddenly, very alone. They investigated all of us, and I was very scared.” She took another breath. “I started to have problems with my pregnancy on top of all this stress, and I had to be placed in the hospital.” She took a deep breath as if preparing herself for the next bit. “During your birth, there were many complications, and the doctors were very concerned that you wouldn’t survive. They kept you under observation as we both recovered, but I wasn’t allowed to see you. It was this that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My husband was in jail, as were most of my close friends, the police were at my home, I hadn’t slept in my own bed in weeks, I almost died in childbirth on top of the pregnancy hormones and, to top it all off, I couldn’t even see my newborn daughter. I had a complete mental breakdown and your aunt and uncle checked me into a mental hospital.”
Jamie hand embraced Claire’s and she smiled sadly at him as she sniffed.
“And they took me away?” Faith asked.
Jamie nodded. “Ye were placed with the McTavishes while yer mam was recovering. I was released after a year and we fought for the next several years to get ye back, but- ‘twas not to be. The crime of association cost us everything but each other.” Jamie sighed and held his wife closer. Faith reached out and took his hand. He smiled at her. “But, ‘twas not long after that, Fergus came to us, needing a home, and we had Brianna and William. And we were able to restore my father’s old home, Lallybroch. Life went on, though a small piece of us was missing until now.” He squeezed her hand and she smiled back at him.
“Yes, we have so much,” Claire said. “But what we lost-...it wasn’t worth it, in the end. Faith, you are our blood, but not our daughter. What we could’ve had is gone.”
Faith reached out her other hand to take Claire’s. “I cannot say what could have been, and there isn’t a lot of use for it.” She took Claire’s hand in both of hers and gripped it tightly. “I am here now, I am alive, I am so glad to know you, and I am thankful for everything you have done for me. I will be here for you all, no matter what. I know I haven’t been here long. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that this is where I belong.”
Brianna stepped away from the kitchen doorway and went back up to her room. Roger was still on the phone in the hallway with the head professor. She touched his shoulder on the way back to her bed. Her parents had never kept the story from the children of what happened to them in their youth, but she had never heard it in such detail before. How much pain had they carried all these years and never spoke of?
It was 8:30 am and Bree was already exhausted. She hadn’t been able to sleep well after the events of the day before, and then Roger was woken up by a call from the lead professor on his team. It was looking like he would have to go home early. There was so much on her mind and she just wanted a damn cup of coffee for heaven’s sake. What she’d gotten was a lot more information than she was sure her parents wanted her to hear.
A part of her wanted to be mad at Faith, blame her for disrupting the status quo, but she couldn’t find it in her to do so. What would she have done in her shoes? Probably something much dafter, Bree thought ruefully to herself.
“Did ye get some breakfast?” Roger asked, poking his head into the door. Bree shook her head. “Well, best head down, don’t you think? Lots to do today so I hear.”
‘“Good morning to you all,” Jamie began and there was a chorus of greetings in response. “It is a great honor to have ye all here today at what will hopefully be the First Annual Fraser-Murray Reunion at Lallybroch.” He paused for applause and cheering. “As many of ye know, it has been a dream of our family’s to restore our ancestral home of Broch Turach, more affectionately known as Lallybroch, to its former glory. I stand here today, proud to announce that this goal, which has been a dream of my father, and his mother before him, has been completed.” Another round of cheering and whooping accompanied this and Jamie himself grinned at the smiling faces before him. “Yes, it is a very great honor to stand here today, to say those words, and to welcome my family home.” He paused a moment.
“Though most of the hard labor has been completed, there is still much work to be done in regards to upkeep and running of this once mighty estate. This task is not something one person can bear, but I have every faith that we can bear it, together.” His eyes sought out his wife and each one of his children as he spoke. “Today, however, we celebrate our success, our bond, and the chance to be a whole family, for the first time in history.” His voice broke at the end but he swallowed and soon recovered, wiping his nose quickly on his sleeve. “I would like to propose a toast-” A cacophony of sounds occurred as everyone stood and raised their glasses with Jamie. “-to Lallybroch and to Family.”
“To Lallybroch and to Family,” everyone echoed and fell silent as they drank.
“Let the festivities begin!”
A cheer erupted. Kitty wrapped an arm around Faith and the two girls embraced. She held up her glass of Mrs. Bug’s famous lemonade and cleared her throat. “To you, Faith, and the long winding journey ye took to get here. Better late than never.”
Faith laughed and linked her arm through her cousin’s, drinking from her own glass.
Though the party was to celebrate Lallybroch and the family, most of the activities centered around Faith. Everyone wanted to talk to her, but most just settled on being near her. She never faltered under the attention she was receiving, only showed love to everyone.
She met Murtagh properly, along with his fiance, Jocasta--who embraced Faith and promised to tell her all about the MacKenzies and the Frasers at a later time. Murtagh was clutching a package that was hastily wrapped in Christmas paper and presented it to Faith. She thanked him and grinned at the scrawled
“Welcome home, Faith” on the front as she undid the ribbon. Inside the package was a knitted blanket of forest green. It smelled freshly washed, but was very old, from what Faith could tell.
“I made that blanket with my own two hands,” Murtagh told her, jabbing the yarn with his fingers. “As I did for all of yer parent’s bairns afore they were born. Never got the chance to give it to ye, and I guess I could’ve given it to yer sister, but, it didna feel right to give a bairn a blanket meant for another child.” He shrugged. “Must’ve been intuition, for I’m giving it to ye now. ‘Tis a wee bit small- oh!” Murtagh gasped as the young woman threw her full weight against him in a tight hug. “There, there now, lass,” he said as she sobbed into his shoulder.
“Thank you.” The words were muffled by his shoulder but they made him smile all the same.
There were games to play and food to eat. As the day turned into night, the young people had all gathered at a table and were talking and laughing. After a song from Young Jamie (who was about one whisky away from proper drunk), Young Ian asked Faith about her tattoos. With a wary eye to the older people not far away, Faith stripped off her flannel shirt to stand in her tank top, exposing most of her tattoos.
“I got each of them after something important in my life,” she explained, pointing to some writing on her bicep. “My mom used to always write me notes on my lunch box, so I got it tattooed. ‘Tha gaol agam ort, a nighean.’ The thistle is for my dad.” She pulled the neck of the garment down to expose the single stalk of thistle placed right over her heart. “He died of cancer five years ago. The foxglove is a matching one I got with a girl in MSF in South Africa. The first one I got when I applied to school when I was 17,” She pointed to caduceus on her opposite shoulder. “I was really nervous about getting it.”
“Scared it would hurt?” Ian asked and Faith shook her head.
“Nah, I can stand pain no problem. I was worried because I was still waiting to hear if I’d gotten into the pre-med program, and if I hadn’t then it would’ve been very embarrassing for me.” There was a laugh as Faith put her shirt back on and sat down.
“Were you thinking of getting one, Ian?” she asked.
Ian’s ears turned pink but he nodded. “Aye.” He fished his phone out of his pocket and pulled up a picture to show Faith. “I was thinking of getting this.”
“Did you draw this?” Faith asked. “Kitty, look at this.” She took Ian’s phone to show it to Kitty beside her. Kitty looked to see a minimalistic drawing of purple heather with the words “Je suis prest” in black in.
“Prêt is spelled wrong though, just so you know, before you get that on you.”
Ian let out a laugh. “Ye dinna ken yer own family motto, lass. That’s how it’s supposed to be spelled.”
“What?” Faith grabbed the phone back from Kitty to look back at it again. She stared at it for a long while, before giving it back to Ian.”
“Who were you planning on getting it from?”
“There’s a lad in the village who says he can do it for me.”
“Do you mind if I get it too?”
Ian’s eyes lit up and he nodded ecstatically.
“Me too?” Kitty asked.
“Oh, I dinna ken, Kitty-”
“Och, shut up, I’m getting it and that’s that.”
Bree sat forward in her seat and held out her hand. “Let me see it.” Ian passed her the phone and she scrutinized the drawing. “I think I’ll get it to.”
At Bree’s approval, most of the younger generation all had a look at the drawing and decided to get it done as well. Even Jamie, who had hitherto been unapproving of tattoos said he would be willing to consider it, but that Willie was not allowed to get one until he was 18. They made a plan to go the next day to Ian’s friend and see about getting the tattoos done.
Claire stayed out of the discussion mostly. She didn’t feel comfortable butting in on the young people’s plans and passed on the opportunity to get a tattoo. She smiled as Faith sat beside her and brushed their shoulders together.
“Mam,” Faith said, softly.
“What is it, my darling?” She pushed a bit of hair out of her daughter’s face and tucked it behind her ear.
“I’d like to get a tattoo for you, if that’s alright.” Claire blinked a bit and nodded.
“What did you have in mind?”
“Well, actually, I had an idea about matching one for the two of us, if you’d like. ” Claire listened as she told about her plan and agreed with a small tear in her eye.
The next day, she was holding the hand of her husband and watching as Ian’s friend worked. Though the words would now be permanently visible on her skin, the idea had always existed in her heart. When they were done, she placed her right hand, wrist up, next to her daughter’s for a picture.
When placed together, the tattoos made up the first law of thermodynamics: “Nothing is lost...Only changed.”