“Mr. Fraser, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” I responded, shaking her hand quickly.
Claire settled on the sofa and I sat down next to her. She looked tired, hair pulled back with a few stray curls loose, around her face. She was making eye contact with Dr. De Rohan.
Nerves set in. I was anxious to hear about how Claire had been doing, if she was getting better.
“Well, Jamie, may I call you Jamie?” Dr De Rohan began.
Clearing my throat, I nodded.
“Jamie, Claire has made tremendous progress. I know this entire ordeal is difficult for you both. Grief is always a beast no man or woman can beat down. This setting is uncomfortable, I know. To you it might seem like a stranger sitting in on a conversation between a husband and wife. But, just know this comfortable space Claire and I have built is largely because of you.”
Furrowing my eyebrows momentarily thinking of Dr. De Rohan’s meaning. Because of me? What had she meant by that? My mind began to come up with countless explanations, fingers tapping on my knee.
“Claire, do you want to begin?” Dr. De Rohan piped up.
Refocusing my thoughts, I look over at Claire. Her hands clasped in her lap, fear all over her face as she stares at Dr. De Rohan.
My face softens at the sight of her. I slowly place my right hand over hers, hoping she wouldn't reject me. She simply stares at our hands for a moment.
She takes a deep breath and looks up at me.
I give her a reassuring smile and a slight nod.
She began, “It had been what felt like a normal day at the GP. I saw a few of my patients and got some paperwork taken care of. I was adjusting to being back and work, but I was informed on a few of my patients' status by Dr. Randall...
“Dr. Fraser, may I see you in my office to discuss matters regarding one of your patients.”
Rolling my eyes, I followed him. While I respected the work that Dr. Randall did, he never missed a chance to criticize mine.
He questions, “Are you caught up and aware of the status of your patients?”
His piercing eyes were staring intensely at me with a slightly amused look upon his face that could also be heard in his voice.
“Yes, I am all caught up, no pressing issues.” I responded sharply.
“Well I regret to inform you, one of your patients died a few days ago from a fever. While another one is in the hospital.”
Glaring at him I respond, “What are you talking about, if any of my patients were in critical condition or one of them had died, I would’ve been notified.”
“You were notified. I forgot to relay the message to you. Considering you’d just returned, I thought that was best to wait a bit to inform you.” he explains nonchalantly.
Confusion began setting in for me, he continued, “Both patients were in primary school. Based upon their charts, both were rushed to the A & E, presenting symptoms such as: Tachycardia, Hypertension, body aches, cough, and a fever that resulted in febrile seizures.”
I slowly sit down in the chair opposite him. Realization setting in and making my breath come short.
“Are these not symptoms your daughter presented, Dr. Fraser?”
I snapped my head up at him but I could no longer concentrate on what he was saying.
“From what we have been told the strain these children have been infected with primarily targets those in adolescence. Was anyone else in your daughters school ill, around the time of her death?”
I looked down at my hands, suddenly cold and growing more numb by the moment. I was shaking. I clasped them together at an attempt to get control of myself.
“No, no one else has gotten ill.” I explain not taking my eyes off of my hands.
“Well that’s quite odd. How about your other daughter, has she fallen ill?”
“Umm… no, she….no.”
Tears brimming in my eyes, blinking them away. I take a deep breath. The last thing I need is to see Randall of all people, see me emotional.
I needed to detach and compartmentalize. Pushing my feelings deep down, I sat up straighter and tense my jaw as my heart ached, beating inside my chest like a drum.
“Dr. Fraser, you don’t find this situation alarming?”
“Of course, I find this alarming.” I spewed at him, raising my voice louder than necessary.
He narrowed his eyes at me and continued calmly, “Two of your patients and your own daughter, have fallen ill with a virus that appears to infect young children and young adults. There is no other explanation for the outcomes all three children have faced. Perhaps, there are some things we need to take into consideration here.”
I gave him a small reluctant nod to proceed.
“Perhaps…” he paused, shrugging slightly.
“...This was you. You appear to be an asymptomatic carrier.”
I stared into his dark eyes, my throat getting thick at the implication of his suggestion.
“I will say, one of your daughters who is perfectly alright appears to be lucky, much luckier than her sister.”
“Don’t you dare talk about her, either of them” I said through clenched teeth.
He glared at me, with a hint of a smirk on his lips.
“Dr. Fraser, I need you to provide me with the list of patients you saw leading up to the days you saw these two patients. When did your daughter present symptoms?”
“I will provide you with the list but I can look into this myself. I will no longer need your help with the matter.” I respond.
“You see, Dr. Fraser…” he began as he stood up.
Making his way around his desk, to lean against it to my left.
“I have a strong feeling, the last thing your patients and any of us need is for you to be spreading the virus, you might want to consider isolating yourself for a time till this gets sorted.”
“I know I can handle this entire matter myself and I will make sure my other patients are well.
Don’t you say another word about my family.” I say through clenched teeth, rage surging through my veins.
I quickly leave his office.
Trying to catch my breath I ran to my office to gather my things.
“Fraser, where ar—“ Geillis began as I rushed past her.
Slamming the car door, I let out a sob with my hands gripping the steering wheel.
Tears filled her whisky colored eyes.
“So you see, it’s my fault.”
Reaching for her, I gathered her in my arms and she began to sob. Head on my shoulder, I rubbed her back holding her as close as I could.
“Mo nighean donn, this isna your fault.” I whispered to her.
She pulled away and looked at me. Slowly bringing my hands up to hold her face, “Is this why you’ve been pushing me away? Because ye think I’d blame ye? You think she’s gone because of what Randall said?”
Using my thumb to wipe the tears, before grabbing the box of tissues sitting on the table between us and Dr. De Rohan.
“Claire, I know this was the first time you’ve told anyone this story. And we both understand how difficult that was for you. Jamie, what are your thoughts on what Claire has revealed?” Dr. De Rohan encouraged and questioned.
I gave Dr. De Rohan a soft smile and turned to Claire, taking her face in my hands, “Sassenach, it isna your fault. And The only way we can carry the weight of what has happened, is by carrying it together. Thank ye for opening up to me.”
We pulled into the driveway. I put the car in park and put up the garage.
“Claire, I need to get back to work but I will be back later. To talk if ye’d like.”
She gave me a slight nod still not looking in my direction as she unbuckled her seatbelt.
As she moved to open the door she stopped, staring at something in the distance. She turned pale and her whisky colored eyes disappeared as tears filled them.
She places her hand over her mouth before she begins to sob.
I grab her other hand and follow her line of sight and saw Bree--
Bree’s helmet sitting in the left corner of the garage atop bags full of old things that were meant to be donated.
I squeezed Claire’s hand as my heart began to ache for our daughter.
“I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry” she repeats over and over shaking her head. I quickly unbuckle my seatbelt and come around to her side of the car. Opening her door I kneel and gather her into my arms.
Holding her tightly, I rub my hand on her back.
She stops for a moment and I help her out of the car as she grips my arms tightly trying to stand upright. I place one arm around her back and the other under the back of her knees. With her securely in my arms, I carry her through the garage door.
Closing the door behind us with my foot, I proceed to carry her up the stairs, into the bedroom.
Laying her down gently on the bed. She’d stopped sobbing, but stray tears still ran over the bridge of her nose hitting the pillow her head was laid upon.
Out of instinct, I climb into the bed next to her, tucking loose strands of her hair behind her ear.
I reassure her, “I’m here mo chridhe, we'll get through this together”.