Stage 1: Shock and Denial
The carriage came to a slow halt as it drew into the courtyard of the Fraser’s Paris lodgings. Claire looked out the window with a detached sense of reality, like the world around felt washed over with a blanket of fog. Her mind was occupied yet empty. She didn’t realize they had arrived at their home until Jamie put a tentative hand on hers.
“We’re here Sassenach” he said, his voice delicate and soft. She briefly snapped out of her stupor recognizing the sudden stillness in motion and change in sound. She concisely this time looked out the window, all the servants were lined up in neat rows with their hair immaculately tied back and their clothes crisp and clean. Claire wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. None of that stuff mattered, not with her daughter gone.
Magnus opens the carriage door for the two Fraser’s. Jamie’s the first to step out, holding his hands out to Claire. She looks down at the drop from the carriage, her eyes widening at the distance to the floor. She looks at Jamie, pleading with her eyes to send the servants away. She will not be humiliated in front of them. Jamie understands, whispers to Magnus to leave them alone. Magnus bows his head and orders the servants to withdraw from the courtyard.
“Do ye want help, Sassenach?” He asks gently. Claire’s eyes sharpen, anger flashing across them.
“No. I’ll be fine.” She dismisses as she tries to get out of the carriage. Claire hisses as a shooting pain stabs her uterus making her feel nauseous at the intensity of the pain with the sudden movement. Jamie rushes to her side putting his hand around her to keep her upright. She begins to tremble which automatically makes Jamie put his arm underneath Claire’s armpit to support her. His bicep lightly brushes her breast causing Claire to cry out in pain at the slight touch. Jamie, completely startled at the fragility of his wife. His heart broke at the sight of her. Her vulnerability only made her angrier.
He decided that the journey to their bedroom on the top floor would be too arduous a journey for her so they would sleep in the guest-chamber on the bottom floor. This way she would not have to see Faith’s room that the lad and himself had spent months preparing. He shook the thought from his mind, he would have to deal with his grief later, he must be there for Claire now.
It took them about twenty minutes to arrive at the nearest guest chamber. Claire was sweating and moaning in pain at the constant motion. She felt sick and nauseous like she was about to throw up any minute. He helped Claire onto the bed. She let out a slight moan of relief at the stillness, which didn’t last long as her face began to drain of all colour. Jamie reached for the chamber pot and held it in front of Claire as she was violently sick. He rubbed her soothingly after each violent hurl. After she was done, he took the chamber pot out of the room and went to place it just outside the door.
He caught the eyes of his godfather Murtagh who was watching him put it down. His eyes were heavy with grief too.
“How is she?” Murtagh asked, more out of wanting to fill the silence. He already knew the answer.
“Hurt.” Jamie choked, the words coming out strange, his own voice sounding foreign to him.
“I dinna know how to help her Murtagh” Jamie admitted, the shock of his words only starting to filter from distant thoughts to conscious realization. The admission filled him with panic. He always felt like he could protect her and help her through anything. But this? He had no idea at all what she was going through. He had never seen her so fragile or her body suffering so much, he didn’t know what he could or couldn’t do. He’d never seen the effects of a late-term stillbirth. His own mother had died in childbirth. His stomach flipped at the memory of hearing his mother in labor and the cries of Claire during her own. He began to shake as his breathing became rapid and heavy. Feeling the loss of his mother, his brother and his daughter overwhelm him. Murtagh came to his side and pulled him into a tight hug.
“ I need her back.” Jamie sobs clenching his fists on his God father’s shoulders.
“Your daughter is in the heavens with yer mother now. There is nothing you can do about it. Claire is not. She’s alive and she’s whole. Ye must do whatever it takes to make sure she remains so.” Murtagh says his voice is strong and matter of fact.
Jamie pulls apart from his Godfather, wipes his eyes and prepares himself to enter their new bedroom.
Claire was sitting in the exact same position she had been left in. The only difference was that the top of her chemise was soaked with milk and had just been loosened. Claire’s eyes were wet with tears. She had known the milk would come within the next few days. She had felt it fill inside her, swell around waiting for her baby girl.
Maybe she would come back, Claire thought. Maybe her milk was a sign that there’s still life to nourish and feed. She smiled to herself, seeing her perfect daughters little button face and cat-like eyes the colour of a Caribbean ocean staring up at her as she suckled and put her tiny little hand on her mama’s breast. The image in her mind brought tears to her eyes as she focused on it with such clarity as she gently self-expressed her own breasts, imagining it was the warmth of her baby rather than the cold hands of a grieving mother. She hummed a lullaby her mother used to sing to her and closed her eyes and gently swayed. It comforted and calmed her.
She heard the sound of a shoe scuffing against the floor which made Claire jerk out of her peaceful state, completely alert. She caught Jamie’s eyes watching her. She grunted painfully as she stopped self-expressing. She abruptly pulled her soaked chemise up over her breasts.
Jamie looked away guiltily at her movements. They stood and sat still in complete silence, neither one really knowing what to say to one another.
“I’ll go fetch you a new, er, chemise” Jamie stated awkwardly, clearing his throat no longer able to bear it. She nodded at him, her eyes still not meeting his. He gave her an awkward bow as he left again.
Claire ran her fingers through her hair, letting out a loud irritated sigh. She hated Jamie tip-toeing around her like she was a glass ornament destined to break and fall apart. She hated his overbearing protectiveness and careful behavior. She was not fragile, she would allow herself to fall apart like that. She wouldn’t.
She felt the cold chemise touch her skin though, and the reality of just how alone she was started to settle in. The cold feeling of the milk made her want to fold into herself so she and her baby were both wrapped safely in the quiet warmth of her womb forever.
She knew the closet thing she would get to that kind of warmth would be a bath. She heard Jamie's loud footsteps approaching and she looked up and saw him carrying a new chemise, a bar of soap, and a washcloth. She smiled genuinely at him, her heartwarming at the sight. He clearly had read her mind and knew exactly what she needed. She felt suddenly guilty of her angry and rash thoughts against him earlier. She knew he was trying. They both were.
“I thought ye might want to wash. I know how much it helps ye sleep” Jamie said politely putting the washcloths down next to her. He hovered for a second unsure whether to stay or go.
“Thank you.” She said, grabbing the bar of soap next to her and held it in her hand. “Can you get Suzette to fill the tub?”
“Aye, I got her started on the water. Wee Fergus is helping out too so the water should be here in no time.” He informed her as he drummed his finger against his leg in thought.
“Will ye be needing any help with the washing Sassenach?” Jamie asked cautiously, regretting it as soon as he said it.
She shook her head slowly. “No, I’ll be fine on my own. Thank you though, Jamie” She added softly, giving him a smile that melted Jamie from the inside. He felt a small weight lift off of his shoulders. They would be okay, eventually.
The moment fleeted as soon as it came. Suzette and Fergus came bursting through the doors cheerfully with the hot water.
“Bonne après-midi Milady!” Fergus announced cheerfully, his little arms carrying a pot of boiling hot water way too big for him to carry with ease.
“Please do be careful Fergus!!” Claire said doubt crossing her face as she watched the boy nearly slip.
“Do not fret Milady I have done this many times for the ladies at Madame Elise’s. I will make you the best bath you have ever had!” Fergus exclaimed bowing elegantly as Suzette shooed him away to go and grab more hot water. Claire chuckled at the little boy, her heart feeling warm at his attempt to cheer her up and lighten the mood. It clearly had a similar effect on Jamie for he too was laughing. She watched him, noticing the changes in Jamie. His shoulders seemed heavier than usual. His hair was tangled up into a horribly messy plait he had clearly done without help. His eyes were droopy with dark lavender smudges underneath them. She could see he was exhausted.
“Go sleep Jamie,” She said as he was rubbing his hand across his face. He looked over at her shaking his head like a ragged dog.
“Nah, I’m fine Sassenach.”
“Jamie go sleep, now.” She repeated. Not taking ‘no’ for an answer. She needed to be alone, at least this way she knew she would properly be alone without disturbance.
“If one of us can actually sleep I think take the opportunity as it comes.” Claire reasoned. Jamie nodded, noticing that she wanted him out of the way for the moment he quietly left the room, hoping Claire would find the solace she needed, alone.
After a few more trips getting water, the bath was finally ready. Fergus had grabbed Claire a new silk bathrobe alongside some bath salts and flowers he’d bought for her at the market. Well, stole for her more like but she was so moved and touched by the gesture to scold him for the stealing.
Now the door was shut firmly behind her she could breathe. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her curls were all over the place, messy from the vomiting earlier. Her skin was chalky white and grimy from the constant sweat and tears over the past few days. Her face had started to hollow as she lost the glow pregnancy had given her. She now looked like a sad old, motherless woman. She had failed. She reluctantly took the chemise off herself slowly, moving delicately so not to cause herself too much unnecessary pain. She stared at herself in the mirror. She sees the stretch marks lining her stomach and her stomach bulging out empty and hollow on the inside. Her body had changed rapidly. So much she didn’t recognize herself. She turned away unable to look at herself. Why did her stomach have to bulge so just like her breasts, giving her the impression she was still pregnant. It felt like her body was laughing at her for biological failure. She shuffled over to the hot bath and with as much speed as she could muster allowed herself to sink into the bath and cleanse herself and her mind.
She washed herself with the same feeling of detachment and shock she had felt in the carriage early. Her mind was foggy but active as she cleaned meticulously. Why me? Why us? Why our sweet baby girl? Where was she now? It kept going around and around her mind over and over. She dropped the cleaning cloth into the now lukewarm water. Her hands came to her head and her breathing quickened. She flattened her body fully into the water so the water was fully over and she just allowed herself to simply scream and let it out.
Jamie woke up from his nap with a searing headache. He dreamed of Faith. Of rocking her to sleep after Claire had fed her. It was just the three of them simply being.
It must be the late evening he thought as he looked out the window. The sky was nearly pitch black. He must really have been tired.
He came out of their old bedroom and wandered down the grand staircase toward Claire’s bedroom. He knocked on the door.
“Come in” Claire called. He opened it slowly. Claire was sitting at the vanity with Fergus plaiting her freshly washed hair. The room smelt like roses and salts. She was wrapped up tightly in a silken dressing gown. She looked a lot more like herself. Her skin was rosy and pink from the bath. It looked like it relaxed her. Fergus’s company was having a calming effect on her too.
“Good evening milord!” Fergus perked up as he finished plaiting Claire’s hair.
“Aye, good evening lad. Go fetch some food from Suzette and go get some rest laddie.” Jamie said kindly, beaming at him.
“Oh, milady, and I ate a little supper here earlier. I made sure of it!” Fergus said, offended at the suggestion he would not have considered Milady’s health!
“Wellhead off to bed then,” He said ruffling Fergus’ hair. Fergus giggled, gave Claire a bow, and ran out the door beaming at Jamie’s clear approval.
“How are you feeling Sassenach?” He asked, loosening the collar of his shirt. The room was very hot.
“The bath helped thank you. Fergus got me all pampered and ready for bed.” She chuckled, pointing her hand to the multiple, oils, salts, brushes and creams on the vanity.
“Christ, where did he get it all?!”
“Where do you think?”
“Ohh..” Jamie’s face perked in acknowledgment at the realization. They both laughed at the young boy. Once a pickpocket always a pickpocket.
“It’s getting late, I hope you don’t mind if I sleep?” Claire said as she rose slowly from the vanity. Jamie knew better now than to offer her the help. The bath had seemed to loosen and warm up her muscles as she walked with a little more ease than earlier.
“I could quite happily sleep for another year Sassenach, I am that tired. I’ll go put out the candles shall I?”
She nodded, her lighter mood suddenly declining at the thought of sharing a bed with her husband. They hadn’t slept in the same bed since Faith…
She crawled under the sheets, wrapping herself tightly in them. She kept her dressing gown on for extra comfort from her insecurities. She did not want Jamie to see her body.
After putting out the candles, Jamie tentatively crawled in the bed next to her and just lay there hoping the nervousness would ease. The room was dark, the sounds of the night around them. They were both listening to one another breathing, both Not knowing what to say. Finally, Claire decided to speak.
“My body hurts, Jamie. Everything just hurts.” She confessed. He felt tears well up in his eyes. He sniffled and put his hand out to find hers.
“I know it does. Can I hold yer hand, Claire? Let me help you.”
She didn’t answer but instead held his hand out to hers. He linked his fingers and brushed the ring against his thumb. He rubbed his thumb back and forth along her hand soothingly. He felt Claire start to drift off to sleep. Her tension relaxed and her body slackens as she breathed so peacefully. He whispered prayers of Gaelic to her. He prayed to God that they would be okay, eventually.