Love your compilations of certain themes throughout the books! Have you done one regarding Claire's jealousy yet or interested in doing one?
Hi anon - we actually don’t see Claire jealous very often throughout the Books. But when she *does* feel jealousy, it *always* has to do with Jamie, and the other people in his life.
On the one hand you can say that this is a bit ridiculous - because she knows just how deeply he loves her, how he always puts her first, how he is always faithful to her.
But on the other hand you can completely understand - because they did spend those 20 long years apart. Many people came into his life at that time. And clearly she struggles with the consequences of that, fearing that perhaps those relationships could diminish his love for her.
But of course we know it doesn’t - in fact, I think it makes their love even stronger.
Dragonfly In Amber
“Well,” I said, “when one’s husband comes home covered with bites and scratches and reeking with perfume, admits he’s spent the night in a bawdy house, and…”
“And tells ye flat-out he’s spent the night watching, not doing?”
“You didn’t get those marks on your leg from watching!” I snapped suddenly, then clamped my lips together. I felt like a jealous biddy, and I didn’t care for it.
The Governor was quiet for a moment. Then he looked up with a bleak smile.
“That was the first time that he ever touched me willingly,” he said quietly. “And the last — until this evening, when I gave him the other copy of that miniature.”
I sat completely motionless, the brandy glass unregarded in my hands. I wasn’t sure what I felt; shock, fury, horror, jealousy, and pity all washed through me in successive waves, mingling in eddies of confused emotion.
Drums of Autumn
I lay still, wondering exactly what was the matter with me. Or rather, not what, but why. I knew by now what it was, all right; it was jealousy.
I was indeed jealous; an emotion I hadn’t felt for some years, and was appalled to feel now.
I rolled onto my back and closed my eyes, trying to shut out the murmur of conversation. Lord John had been nothing but courtesy itself to me. More than that, he had been intelligent, thoughtful—thoroughly charming, in fact. And listening to him making intelligent, thoughtful, charming conversation with Jamie knotted my insides and made me clench my hands under cover of the quilt.
You are an idiot, I told myself savagely. What is the matter with you? I tried to relax, breathing deeply through my nose, eyes closed.
Part of it was Willie, of course. Jamie was very careful, but I had seen his expression when he looked at the boy in unguarded moments. His whole body was suffused with shy joy, pride mingled with diffidence; and it smote me to the heart to see it. He would never look at Brianna, his firstborn, that way. Would never see her at all. That was hardly his fault—and yet it seemed so unfair. At the same time, I could scarcely begrudge him his joy in his son—and didn’t, I told myself firmly. The fact that it gave me a terrible pang of longing to look at the boy, with that bold, handsome face that mirrored his sister’s, was simply my problem. Nothing to do with Jamie, or with Willie. Or with John Grey, who'd brought the boy here.
The Fiery Cross
I had not met many of Frank’s women—he was discreet. But now and then, I would catch a glance exchanged at a faculty party or the local supermarket—and a feeling of black rage would well up in me, only to be followed by bafflement as to what, precisely, I was to do with it.
Jealousy had nothing to do with logic.
Laoghaire MacKenzie was four thousand miles away; likely neither of us would ever see her again. Frank was even farther away, and it was certain neither of us would ever see him again, this side the grave.
No, jealousy had nothing at all to do with logic.
An Echo In The Bone
“How‘d you like it if I were jealous?” I asked the crown of his head.
“I‘d like that fine,: he replied, breath warm on my exposed flesh. “And ye were. Of Laoghaire.” He looked up, grinning, eyebrow raised. “Maybe ye still are?”
I slapped him again, and this time I meant it. He could have stopped me but didn‘t.
“Aye, that‘s what I thought,” he said, wiping a watering eye. “Will ye come to bed wi‘ me, then? It‘ll be just us,” he added.
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood
“It was just the once. It didna last very long; I—it had been a long time,” he said, and a faint flush showed across his cheekbones. “But … I needed it, verra much. She held me after, and … I needed that more. I fell asleep in her arms; she was gone when I woke. But I carried the warmth of her with me. For a long time,” he said very softly.
That gave me a quite unexpected stab of jealousy, and I straightened a little, fighting it back with clenched hands. He sensed it and turned his head toward me. He’d felt that flame ignite—and had one to match it.
“And you?” he said, giving me a hard, direct look.
“It wasn’t tender,” I said with an edge. “And it wasn’t sad. It should have been. When he came into my room and said he wouldn’t mourn you alone, and we talked, then I got up and went to him, expecting—if I had so much as an expectation; I don’t think I had any conscious thoughts… .”
It would be a waste of a perfectly good ducat, he had told her.
Besides, he added, it would likewise be a waste of the hot water, and a waste of the farm-wife’s labor, too, were neither of them to make any use of it. And so, with little warning or consideration for her modesty, he had pulled his leather jerkin back from his shoulders and began to strip himself of his clothes.
Rosaline had gasped and averted her eyes; she was a little ashamed at that – she, who had boldly demanded entrance to a brothel – but then it was hard to feel quite so bold when faced with the prospect of the Montague, of all people, baring himself right in front of her. She had waited until she heard the gentle splashing of water before she finally moved – pointedly ignoring the small groan of pleasure that must have come when he fully immersed himself – and found herself a place to sit and wait, her back to the tub.
It did not escape her attention that she was sitting on the room’s single bed.
Of course, being the Montague, he seemed to have no trouble idling away the goodly part of an hour, using the bath not as a chance to quickly and efficiently wash away the grime of the road, but as an opportunity to indulge in his characteristic pursuit of hedonism. The point at last came when she felt compelled to tell him as much – and while she was not surprised to hear him at first attempt to make excuses for himself, she was pleased to finally hear him begin to move, water jostling against the sides of the wooden tub.
Yet what Rosaline could not begin to explain at that moment was the strange and powerful compulsion that urged her to turn her gaze further and further into the center of the room, her heart pounding roughly somewhere in
the vicinity of her throat, until he at last came into view. Some small part of her mind – whatever it was that remained of her maidenly virtue – cried out for her to stop, to look away, but it was impossible. Perhaps she had spent too much time at the bawdy house after all.
She should not have been entirely surprised by what she saw of him as he stood calf-deep in the water, drying himself off with a nearby cloth. Theoretically, she could have said exactly what parts she expected to see, parts that could easily be guessed at when they were covered by layers of clothing.
It was the reality of it that had her mouth dropping open, a
sudden heat rushing to her cheeks.
He was well-formed – she had to give him that, at least – with trim muscle rippling across his shoulders and his back and down along the sturdy columns of his legs. His pale skin was smooth and unblemished, even with a light dusting of hair across the backs of his thighs, and she found herself wondering what it might feel like against her fingertips. From his narrow waist flared two muscled indentations that sat just above his hips, and from there curved back and down into perfectly rounded hemispheres–
Suddenly his lower half was covered by the cloth, and Rosaline knew her eyes could linger no more.
But even as she turned and faced the rough stone wall once again, she felt an unbidden smile blossoming on her lips, a tiny laugh – of wickedness or delight? or of something else entirely? – spilling into the settled quiet of the room.
They spend their first night under the moon, riding their horses to exhaustion. There is no time to stop and sleep, no place to lay their heads. The royal guard will not rest until they have Benvolio, and Rosaline knows if Livia does not discover her note first, there is no hope that her family will not come after her immediately.
So they ride at full speed, traitorous moon illuminating them on the unsheltered road. Benvolio had given her little choice with his teary eyes and the desperation coloring his voice. Her chest aches when she thinks at the way the both of them have been treated by their city, their families.
New York’s first comprehensive slave code, adopted in 1702, underscored the association of slavery with black skin by banning the enslavement of Indians and defining indentured servitude as a condition for whites only. It granted masters nearly unlimited powers of correction, set up special tribunals to try slaves accused of crimes, and authorized a Common Whipper for the city. Subsequent enactments by either the legislature or Common Council confirmed that slavery was heritable through the female line, prohibited more than three slaves gathering together at a time (twelve for funerals), restricted the movement of slaves after nightfall, banned slaves from selling food or other goods in the streets (a practice known as “huckstering”), and eliminated conversion to Christianity as grounds for manumission. Innkeepers couldn’t sell liquor to slaves, and severe penalties were decreed for whites who helped slaves break the law or failed to take appropriate action when they did. In 1738 Elizabeth Martin was “Reputed a Common Whore as with Negro Slaves as to others and a great Disturber of the Peace.” Declared a “very Low Notorious Wicked Woman,” she was ordered out of city. When she refused to go, she received thirty-one lashes and was chased out.
It proved next to impossible to enforce such laws. Slaves moved about the city almost at will in the course of their work and were often unsupervised by their masters for extended periods of time, even at night. Despite the profusion of statutes, therefore, municipal authorities were inundated year after year with demands to stop slaves from illegally congregating, brawling, breaking curfew, playing in the streets on Sundays, and drinking at “bawdy houses” whose white proprietors were suspected of keeping prostitutes and fencing stolen goods. Their brazen defiance of whites was notorious. In 1696 Mayor William Merritt ordered a group of noisy slaves to disperse and got punched in the face; half a dozen years later Governor Cornbury expressed alarm at the “great insolency” of slaves in the city. Everybody complained about runaways, especially as it became known that fugitives could find refuge with the Seneca, Onondaga, and other Indian tribes to the north, or the Montauks, Shinnecocks, Massapequas, and others of eastern Long Island.
I’m reading this excellent book, Sex Among the Rabble: An Intimate History of Gender & Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia, 1730-1830, by Clare A. Lyons. I already made one post about it here. But this part I’m reading has gotten me to putting Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds in the context of 1790s Philadelphian sexual culture.
An extremely permissive, widespread, and public sexual culture developed in Philadelphia after the Revolutionary war.
Extramarital sex and adultery were ubiquitous across all ages, social classes, genders, and races.
Long-term monogamous relationships, casual hookups and one night stands, paid sex, mistresses, and forms of “seduction” that were actually rape were all common.
Adultery was often very public– a married person would openly set up house with their lover, or entertain them in public places, etc.
Many people made absolutely no effort to hide their lover from anyone but their spouse.
Even though everyone knew, no one told the authorities, and, more importantly, the wronged spouses. Thus, there were very few prosecutions for adultery, and couples could stay married for many years before the wronged partner finally found out.
Extramarital relationships were so common that they were unremarkable, and people either simply didn’t care, or chose to withhold moral judgement.
The astronomical number of children born out of wedlock is one indicator of the enormous amount of extramarital sex that was happening. However, no one made strong distinctions between legal and illegitimate children. Fathers who didn’t voluntarily pay child support could be forced by the courts to pay it, and that was that.
There wasn’t a huge stigma attached to having illegitimate children for either men or women, nor was it a huge stigma to be an illegitimate child.
Men and women of both lower and upper classes had tons of extramarital sex, but there was a pattern of difference. The lower classes publicly started keeping house as a married couple, and ended their previous relationships when they did so through self divorce or, after divorce laws were liberalized, legal divorce.
The lower classes saw adultery as fundamentally incompatible with marriage, so they became serial monogamists. The upper classes, on the other hand, had more secretive liaisons alongside their legal relationships.
Women took secret lovers, and men hired prostitutes, kept mistresses, and pursued casual sex with women in taverns, parks, or with the servants in their own homes. They regarded sex as an activity to which they were entitled regardless of marital status- single men and single women alike didn’t necessarily abstain just because they weren’t married.
Bawdy houses were literally everywhere, and half-dressed prostitutes with their breasts and legs exposed literally hung out of doorways and windows enticing men. Prostitutes, along with anyone else who didn’t have a private space, had sex in public places. None of these places were segregated into some kind of seedy “red light district”. Many bawdy houses and areas of public debauchery operated in the same neighborhoods that rich, and morally upright people lived.
When Hamilton met Maria Reynolds, many, maybe even most of the men he knew, and possibly quite a few of the women, too, may have been having extramarital sex of various sorts. He would’ve seen innumerable instances of sex in the streets… everywhere. He may have had some extramarital sex himself, though later I’ll explain why I think he was probably not as experienced in this regard as some imagine. For men of his social stature, having a mistress, hiring prostitutes, and debauching or raping servants, were taken for granted.
We only have his word for how the relationship started, but in this context, I think it’s pretty easy to see how both Maria and Hamilton would’ve interpreted her showing up at his house out of the blue, in distress, as carrying an implicit expectation that sex would be involved. This sort of situation was neither unusual nor something incredibly incompatible with marriage for an elite man, and not even very hard to hide from a wife. Moreover, elite wives wouldn’t dare divorce their husbands for a casual dalliance with such a common woman as Reynolds– not only did they stand to lose a lot, but it was beneath them. Elite wives who knew that their husbands cheated on them probably had to either simply accept it or do some cheating of their own to save face and get revenge.
However, Hamilton was even more elite than most elite men at that time– He was Treasury Secretary. He had a lot of political enemies and let’s face it, in any divorce he was bound to be the big loser. Eliza would go back to her wealthy family and he would be left with nothing but his connection to George Washington for political capital. His father in law and his relationship with George Washington were the two main cornerstones of his political career. Lose the father in law, lose the socioeconomic and geopolitical basis of most of your power and when Washington’s gone, so are you. This made Hamilton very susceptible to blackmail, and James Reynolds knew it.
I suggest that perhaps Hamilton considered publishing all the lurid details of his affair with Maria Reynolds to be less damaging to both his marriage and his career because the permissive sexual culture of Philadelphia had normalized extramarital sex to the point where he thought people would look through that part to what he regarded as the obvious political conspiracy. In his world of elite white male sexuality, women, whether as wives, lovers, or whores were secondary to the political motives of men, and I believe he thought everyone would agree with him. Obviously, he was wrong, but I’m just trying to make sense of the whole thing in the cultural context of the time. (Joanne Freeman’s book about dueling also offers a compelling explanation of why he felt he had to publish the pamphlet that goes more into male honor, but is actually pretty compatible with the ideas I have here.)
I spent a lot of time finding and reading contemporary reactions to The Reynolds Pamphlet and hoooo boy! If you want to see Hamilton dragged, just scour newspapers of that time period. However, no one mentions any other women. No other women themselves speak out. I’ve been really curious to find allegations of additional extramarital sex, but haven’t found any. Elite men tried harder than working class men to keep their extramarital sex secret, but based on what Hamilton writes of his own actions in The Reynolds Pamphlet, it looks to me like he took only minimal precautions, at best, to cover his affair with Maria Reynolds. It was amateurish adultery, done by someone either not very experienced or who assumed he was doing what everyone else did, and that the culture of silence and male honor would protect him, even though he also knew that a lot of men would gladly use whatever they knew to bring him down– another sign of someone not nearly as worldly as he wished he was when it came to adultery.
The door creaked open as Claire wiped the tears from her eyes and looked out towards the wilds of France. The mist had lifted, leaving a damp haze coating the grass of the lawn.
“We leave tomorrow, Claire. Only a few more weeks and we’ll be in Amsterdam with Father. New plans are already afoot. You have no need to fear,” Minnie interjected, breaking the sullen silence.
“I felt her move, Minnie. Before it felt only like –bubbles; bubbles rising inside me. But this morning, well, it was stronger. More –substantial.” Claire placed her palm flat against the glass panel, her fingertips soaking up the condensation that sprung there at the introduction of her warmth.
Minnie sighed, her hands rubbing over her own abdomen where her own visitor grew day by day.
“Claire, my sister, it *cannot* be. I know how you’re feeling, but we’re not meant for that life. He’s a *Scot*!”
The way she said it sent shivers down Claire’s spine. Like he was a different species altogether.
He was hers.
Her heart beat faster, her rib cage shaking slightly, almost failing to contain it.
“He’ll never meet her, Minnie. He doesn’t deserve that. He deserved to know he was to be a father, and I’ve taken that from him.”
“You love him,” Minnie returned. A statement, not a question.
Claire nodded. The tears fell, silently, down her cheeks.
“Tomorrow, Claire. We *must* leave. No matter what.”
The door closed solidly behind her, leaving her alone once more.
Minnie was intent on her destination. Claire knew that she’d fallen for Hal too, but as it was, a force more powerful than love was in play.
No matter her feelings for Jamie Fraser.
No matter the babe growing steadily inside her.
Duty was the only option.
She’d made her choice long ago, and now, with horrid finality, she’d be forced to carry it out to the end.
Child or no.
Cold gripped her as her forehead fell against the pane, wracked sobs flowing through every inch of her.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
And to their unborn child.
The rain had let up somewhat as Claire pulled the cowl tighter around her shoulders. Small bursts of noise jumped forth as the tavern door opened and closed, allowing various drunken patrons to stumble out into the night.
Claire had no real idea of where she was going, only that she had a list of public houses where various Jacobite traitors met to converse.
Being the better French speaker, Claire had been volunteered to seek out the Scottish rebels. She’d also a basic knowledge of Gaelic, something Minnie didn’t understand, as yet.
Unsure of what she’d find beyond, Claire steeled herself and walked, purposefully, towards the rowdy inn.
The place smelled of putrid beer, the floor lined in a layer of spilt alcohol, but the patrons seemed mostly in control of their facilities.
The night was still young, but she’d been scouting the streets for weeks all to no avail. Tonight, she hoped, it would be different.
A buxom lass behind the bar quirked a brow in Claire’s direction as she made her way inwards.
*Whisky, please, neat* Claire asked, testing out her more polished French linguistic skills. It seemed to be acceptable, and the maid poured her a large dram and passed it over.
Placing the strange coins on the counter, Claire picked up the tiny tumbler and scooted over to a chair in the corner, turning her back on a crowd of rowdy men, her side facing the blazing fire.
The last public house on her route, Claire had marked this particular venue out to tackle last, hoping to find the Scots in one of the others. Sadly, that had not been the case and so, looking as harmless as possible, she had ventured into a very well known bawdy house. Having been raised privately, Claire had very little real knowledge of some *peculiar* night time proclivities. Paris, however, was quickly enlightening her on these.
The tavern itself was…mostly harmless. A small smattering of drunkards and thieves littered the external bar area. But this was not what Claire was interested in.
Behind the scenes, in a partitioned area of the inn, was a rather large, very active brothel.
The ladies, heavily painted with very little clothing, sauntered about behind her, flashing skin to gain interest from random passing public. Men who’d inadvertently wandered in from the inky black Parisian night found themselves lost to the allure of the (extremely expensive) prostitutes, all to the amusement of the landlady who seemed to grow more and more excitable with each new customer.
The sudden appearance three rather large men snapped the buxom lass behind the bars attention away from the unfortunate quandary of some passing dock workers (very far from home, no doubt so far inland).
Her Gaelic was rudimentary at best, but Claire was still able to pick apart the undercurrent of their conversation. Amongst the group, standing tall at the centre, stood the one man she’d spent the last few weeks seeking out.
Jamie Fraser was as described. Broad and imposing with a glorious mop of vibrant red hair. His eyes, even from a distance, penetrated her to the core. Twisting her head, Claire chose to pull her direct attention away, not wishing to blow her cover the moment they walked by.
Sweat prickled on her brow as the group grazed passed her, the scent of whisky hanging in a heavy haze around them as they pulled a velvet red curtain aside and slipped behind.
The draught of the closing curtain swirled around her ankles, chilling her legs as she pulled the damp plaid wrap from her shoulders and draped it over the back of the chair. Her plan had been to sit close enough to the group as to remain unseen. But, as it was, with the men hidden out of sight, Claire began to reimagine her original idea.
Tugging at the laces on her bodice, she began to subtly expose herself, careful that she didn’t cause too much of a stir in the main portion of the bar.
Running her fingers over the tops of her newly freed breasts, Claire let her hair loose and dabbed away the remaining stray raindrops from her bare skin. Pinching at her cheeks, she hoped it would be enough to seduce him.
Sliding a fresh billet across the bar, Claire held her finger to her lips and whispered a hushed sound whilst winking conspiratorially at the shocked landlady before slipping herself behind the curtain.
Holding her breath, she slid along the wall, keeping herself in the shadows as she counted the beats of her heart. The room was pitch black, filled to the brim with a light smoke that scented the place nicely. Girls hung around the periphery in various stages of undress. Realising her own outfit seemed quite…conservative in comparison, Claire tugged at the fine fabric, hoping to lessen the difference in appearance.
Two strong arms gripped her, suddenly, her legs almost hovering above the floor as she was thrust unceremoniously into a tiny alcove.
“Ye dinna belong here, do ye lassie?”
Gulping back the fear she felt crawling up her throat, Claire prepared herself, her portion of the deception clear in her mind as she faced her captor for the first time.
“…and what makes you think that?” she taunted, her eyes narrowed to slits as she stood her ground, keeping eye contact as she squared her shoulders.
James Fraser stood, his hands keeping hers held still, a slight quiver on his lips as he tried not to smile.
Claire’s will faltered as he gravitated towards her, his nose sliding along her cheek as he rested his mouth against her ear and spoke…
“A sassenach, eh? Now I ken fer sure that yer no’ part of this establishment. Plus,” he added, a hint of humour in his tone, “ye dinna have the scent of a hoor…”
Letting her legs part, Claire used her knees to hold him tightly against her as she whispered her response, a feral edge to her voice as she rolled her hips against his, “That’s where you’re wrong, sir,” she crooned, adding a subtle French lilt to her tone. “But I don’t think that you can afford me…”
So very happy with the wonderful feedback you
gave me for the first part of this story. I’m having kind of a writing high and
because of that – and because I want to make up for lost time – here is Part II!
See you on the other side, with much love!
The plan was simple, really – I needed to show
Jamie how little Geneva knew him and in the process highlight how I, on the
other hand, knew him better than anyone. It should be easy, as they only knew
each other for a few months, which they had spent mostly arguing.
“Where are we going?” I asked Jamie for the
tenth time, watching the blur of the streets fly by through the car window, as
he drove us to an unknown destination. “If we’re going to a strip club, I must
warn you that extends way over my best woman duties.” I said jokingly, knowing
that Jamie Fraser would sooner eat tar, than to secretly place a foot on a
“Nay.” He laughed. “You’ll see in a moment.
Thank you for doing this for me, Sassenach.”
“What wouldn’t I do for you, darling?” I bent
my head in a playful manner, but the truth of my words resonated between us.
“Has Jenny gone completely mad, once she found out she only has six weeks to
plan the weeding of her dear younger brother?”
“Ach.” Jamie made one of his signature Scottish
sounds. “We are not to be wed at Lallybroch. Geneva’s dream is to be married at
her home, on the Lake District.”
What about your
dreams? I thought,
sadness creeping through my anxiety and annoyance. Does she know how you always dreamt of taking your wife across the
threshold built by your ancestors? How you craved to love her on the home of
“I’m sorry.” I said gently, my index finger
slightly brushing his hand on the steering wheel. “I know how you wanted it to
be there. To have your mother and father… close
on that special day.”
“It’s alright.” He smiled, but it didn’t quite
reach his blue eyes. “I’m sure they will be there on some capacity. I’ll still
be wearing my Fraser colours.”
“How did you propose to her, anyway?” I asked,
drawing a crooked heart on the hazy glass. I bit my bottom lip, fighting the
urge to add a “J + C” inside the
heart – instead, I hurriedly cleaned it up with the palm of my hand, feeling
the moistness of erased hopes on my skin. “You didn’t really tell me that
“We were eating take away – Mario’s – and I had the ring inside my
pocket. She was telling me how she’d like to go on a vacation to Jamaica and
I…spilled it out.”
“So, you popped the question over a pepperoni pizza?” I asked, incredulous. That
notion disconcerted me beyond anything I’ve heard until that moment – and I had
been pretty fazed at the thought of Geneva, uppity and stubborn as a hound,
managing to conquer the right to marry the best man I ever knew. Jamie Fraser
was a hopeless romantic – he had actually teared up watching “Nothing Hill” and “The Notebook”. He probably had envisioned his own wedding more
vividly than most girls I knew (including myself). And, suddenly, this man of
grand gestures, always wearing his heart on his sleeve, had mad the ultimate
question without a minimum of effort or ambiance? Is your heart really into it?, I thought.
“It had olives.” He replied shortly. “We’re
I peeked through the windscreen. Jamie had parked
outside a small warehouse, painted in red and black, with a luminous sign
twinkling – “Fitz’s Ballroom Academy”.
“Do I even want to know?” I whispered in
“Usually the married couple opens the reception
dancing a waltz.” Jamie said, clenching his jaw. “I’d rather not make a
complete fool of myself.”
“Shouldn’t you be doing this with your bride?”
I asked, darkly looking at my sneakers and the reprehension certainly awaiting
me beyond those doors.
“Geneva already knows how to waltz.” Jamie
smiled, raising his eyebrows. “Perks of attending reputable schools, ye ken. I
wanted to surprise her on the day. Besides,” He grabbed my hand and linked our
arms, as if we were about to enter a debutant ball. “Ye’re far more patient
Oh, Jamie. Shouldn’t
that tell you something? I protested mentally.
“Perhaps you need someone more…disreputable, then.” I suggested,
pinching his arm, my heartbeat racing.
We were greeted by a stout and plump middle-aged
woman, who examined us with a trained eye and – of course – clicked her tongue
in disappointment at the sight of my used sneakers.
“I’m Glenna FitzGibbons.” She introduced
herself, guiding us to a room with dim lights, where couples were standing
talking in low voices. “You may call me Mrs. Fitz. You told me ye wished to
learn some waltz basics for your wedding, is that it Mr. Fraser?”
“Aye.” Jamie nodded. I saw by the corner of my
eye as multiple women turned their heads to look at him, tall and handsome even
in the shadows. It was a recurrent effect – I was used to be outshined by Jamie
and took great pride in it. “This is Claire, she…”
“Ah!” Mrs. Fitz nodded in my direction. “Ye’re
going to be verra happy, I can see that.” She smiled and the gesture robbed all
the sternness from her features, making her look younger and tender. “A
beautiful couple, very much in love.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not the bride.” I murmured,
my cheeks and neck flushed. “Just helping a friend.”
“Are ye sure?” She gave Jamie a narrow look, as
if urging him to reconsider. “Well, if you say so…”
It wasn’t uncommon for people to mistake us for
a couple – as a matter of fact, sometimes we wouldn’t even bother to try and
explain our unusual connection. I remembered with a pang an occasion in which
Jamie had actually put his arm around my waist and kissed my hair - “I’m a very lucky man.”, he had said.
That was before Geneva – before I had to stop pretending I was in possession of
another place in his life, that wasn’t only that of a dear friend.
Music started to drain from the speakers, as
all the pairs in the room took position – it was “The Second Waltz” playing and we all might as well be wearing
puffy dresses and gallant uniforms, drifting across the floor of a Czar’s palace,
lit by hundreds of fragrant candles.
“Go on.” Mrs. Fitz instructed us, not-so-gently
pushing me to Jamie’s arms. “Ye have to lead lad, dinna worry, she won’t bite
unless ye want her to….”
Following her directions, Jamie placed his
right hand on my waist, as I put my left hand on his right shoulder. Our free hands
were soon clasped together and our bodies pressed in a tight embrace.
We swayed together, at first focused on trying
not to massacre each other’s toes. But everything had always been easy with
Jamie – to talk, to walk beside him, to sing along with his tuneless voice, to
read aloud for him while he was half asleep, to find my will to smile inside
his laugh – and dancing was no exception. There was an easiness in our shared
space, in the way our bodies touched, that made me dizzy with the idea of
making love to him. We became a little more daunting, venturing on doing some
whisks and spins, and relaxed until we almost melted together.
I could feel the slight brush of his fingers on
my waist, the way he rubbed my hand with his thumb while he guided us through
the room. A waltz is not a tango – it wasn’t supposed to be that intense, that
arousing. But dancing requires a shared intimacy only comparable to sex – hence
is used so frequently as foreplay. I was burning, sweat dripping down the back
of my neck – was it my imagination or Jamie’s grip was getting even firmer, his
body acknowledging mine, seeking contact? His eyes were dark, his face fierce
and his lips were slightly ajar, his breathing coming hot and fast.
The music stopped and I reluctantly increased
the space between us, smiling as he bowed down to me in a whimsical curtsy.
“Jamie…” I licked my lips, about to ask him if
he ever had felt like that before - If Geneva made his blood boil like an
active volcano, about to produce something capable of changing the face of the
“Do ye think Geneva will be impressed?” He
“Yes.” I sighed, turning my back on him to hide
my disappointment and the threat of tears on my lashes. “I think she will.”
“Hello, my love!” I greeted Adso, patiently
sitting close to the door when I entered my apartment. “How was your day?
Better than mine, I hope.” He meowed in response, coming to brush his back against
my legs in a demonstration of both love and cleverness, knowing that I would
shower him in tasty food afterwards.
I poured him dinner and stayed around, watching
him lick the fancy cat mousse, remembering the day Jamie had appeared at my
door, holding inside his folded coat a tiny grey ball with big imploring eyes.
“A cat!” I said,
inspecting him closely. “Thank you, but I’m not hungry.”
“Aren’t ye a funny
one, Sassenach?” He smirked. “I ken ye like wee cheeties. I found this lad in a
bush outside my house. I’ve been watching and his mother wasna around.”
“And you thought my
maternal instincts would kick in?” I frowned. “He will ruin my rugs, curtains,
books and eat all my herbs.”
“You woulna be a
proper Ban-druidh without a cat.” He rubbed the cat’s neck and he immediately
started to purr. “Besides I ken ye’d like the company.”
“Why don’t you keep
it?” I tried one last time, but was already stretching my arms to grab my new roommate,
a smile plastered on my face.
“He needs a good home.”
Jamie touched my cheek. “And I couldna think of one better than the one he
could have with ye”.
“Jamie is a fool.” I whispered to Adso. “I’m forbidding
you to lay on his lap the next time he comes around. We don’t like him so much now.”
My phone vibrated inside my jeans’ pocket and I
took it out, my hand shaking when I read the identifier on the message – “Geneva Dunsany”.
“Hello! Going to do
some dress shopping on Friday. Can you come? Would like your opinion, plus the
chance to get to know you better. XO”
I bit my lip, playing with the phone on my
hands. Adso was now starting his daily bath routine, which always left me thoroughly
fascinated and slightly disgusted.
I would rather spend a Friday lancing boils in
the ER than hanging out with Geneva, particularly if it involved watching her
try on wedding dresses to marry the man I loved. But it gave me an opportunity
to enlighten her on the failures of her relationship with Jamie and sow some
doubt. I unlocked the phone and quickly typed “Count me in! See you then.”
The rain was tapping on the window, like cold
fingers demanding my attention, luring me in. The alarm clock marked 2 a.m.,
which meant that soon it would be useless to try to sleep anymore. My white
phone was strategically placed on my nightstand, always available to warn me of
any emergencies coming to the hospital. It buzzed with a light sound – I looked
to the screen for a long time, until I almost forgot where and who I was, but
eventually answered it.
“Is everything alright?” I said softly.
“No.” Jamie whispered back. “That nightmare
again.” I knew well enough the dreams that haunted him – of the terrorist
bombing on the subway that had left him almost dead, his back shredded beyond
the ability to fully recover. “I usually don’t feel…anything. I don’t remember
any pain – only afterwards, in the hospital. But this time…it hurt.”
“I’m here.” I watched as Adso got up from his
usual place at my feet and stood watch, his eyes glowing in the dark, like
beacons against my unseen demons. I could visualize Jamie, wearing his battered
sleeping pants, curled on his huge bed like a little boy, his hair moist and
tousled. Afraid and alone. “It’s gone, Jamie. It can’t hurt you anymore. The
pain ended then – and it will again.”
“I’m sorry.” He seemed embarrassed. “For
calling ye so late. I dinna even noticed the time – I just needed to talk to
you. To hear the voice of another living soul and know that I survived it. Ye
can always make the pain go away, mo
I almost sobbed against the phone, the pain created
by his words too great; daggers piercing through skin, muscle and tendon, until
they reached the core of what made me his. He demanded only what I had given
him freely in the past, but I had changed – I knew now that a man couldn’t have
two masters and be whole still.
“Does Geneva know that this happens?” I said,
my throat burning. “Perhaps you should call her and talk to her. She is your fiancé, after all.”
hesitation on the line, heavy and meaningful. “You’re right.” He said finally
in a hoarse voice – hurt but decided. “I should.”
And the silence extended between us, until it
filled the night with its void, leaving me cold and tired beyond my years.
The wedding preparations were well and truly in full steam. The date had been set - the eve of Hogmanay. Being a small wedding, Jenny elected to be in charge of the food and all the nitpickier details. Invitations - few as they were - had already been sent out. Lallybroch was being prepared to host the 30 or so guests, some of whom would be spending the night - if not a couple. Jamie already had his outfit sorted, which he infuriatingly refused to show Claire - again.
“If I canna see yer wedding dress, then ye canna see what I’ll be wearing neither!” he’d said smugly. To which Claire would punch his arm in response.
That, much to Jenny’s frustration, was the only thing that hadn’t been touched upon ye - not even a little. Claire’s wedding dress. She had wanted to pick her own, but as of yet could not find the time to go shop for one. “And looking at pictures on yer laptop, dinna count!” Jenny admonished. And with her pregnancy, she just didn’t think she’d find one now that’ll still fit later.
“Dinna fash about tha’. I can always adjust it for ye closer to the day. Plus you’ll not be but hardly three months gone, ye’ll barely be showin’!” Jenny would repeatedly assure her. After a fair bit of nagging, Jenny finally took matters into her own hands, and leaving the wee ones in Ian’s hands for the day, headed up to Edinburgh early one blistery November morning (knowing Claire had the Saturday off), fully intending to get Claire to pick a wedding dress by the end of the day.
Claire knew she needed help - dress shopping didn’t exactly come naturally to her - and if anyone could get it done in a day, it’d be Jenny. Still, the prospect of shopping all day was not something she was looking forward to.
Jamie sat at the kitchen table, toast in one hand, Claire’s shirttail gripped in the other as she leaned back against the table, cradling a cup of ginger honey tea, both watching Jenny mapping out their route for the day. She had at least five shops in mind to visit, but Jamie hoped for both Claire and Jenny sakes, they wouldn’t have to visit them all. Claire had started getting rather violent bouts of morning sickness, and tended to be a little weak for a couple of hours after - even though she hated to admit it - and didn’t want her tiring herself unnecessarily. He knew though he needn’t worry, she was in safe hands with Jenny.
“Now, if we’re quick about it, we can make it these two or three shops here before lunch, if need be,” Jenny was saying in a business-like manner. Claire had roughly described to Jenny over the phone and out of earshot of Jamie, what she had in mind, so it was just a matter of quick google searches to find the boutiques that could have what she was looking for. “We’ll find what ye’ll like. And if not, we’ll just get it specially made. I know a lady who for a wee bit extra, can get it done in a pinch.” A wee bit extra, Claire knew, was Scots for bank breaking.
Leaving Jamie grumbling about losing a whole day with her, Claire and Jenny made their out for their girls-only day, her spirits lifting as they stepped out into the crisp air, settling her stomach. Jenny was determinedly one track minded, but to Claire’s relief, she found it rather steadying.
The first shop they went to was a complete bust, spending only a half hour there before admitting they wouldn’t find what they were looking for and quickly moved on to the next. All the dresses Claire tried on were either too poofy, too busy, the trains too long, the neckline too low-cut, too much lace, not enough lace, and so on. Nothing felt right.
“All I want is something simple, Jenny. None of these are gonna work for me,” she said, unenthusiastically examining herself in a gaudy, strapless, plunging V-neck.
“I ken fine well. The colour’s completely wrong for yer skin tone too,” Jenny walked around her inspecting her.
“And it’s wrong.”
Claire grumpily trudged back to the dressing room to try on yet another gown, her stomach rumbling. It was almost half past one and they were still at the second boutique, with Claire more than ready to call it a day, when Jenny caught up with her, gown draped over her arm.
“Think I found it! Found what it is yer looking for!” she said, a trifle breathless, but thoroughly eager.
It took Claire longer to get out of the one she was currently wearing than it did to put the new one on. But the moment she did, she knew. It was the one.
“D’ye like it?” Jenny asked tentatively.
Claire was silent for a moment, she couldn’t speak for the lump in her throat. She swallowed a couple of times, clearing it. Turning from side to side, regarding her reflection in the mirror. It would definitely need a few minor adjustments but…
“It’s perfect,” she finally said simply.
Jamie was in a quiet mood. Claire had left him with a hasty kiss and a sympathetic look, off to complete the final piece in the puzzle of the wedding preparations, leaving him at a loss with what to do with himself. Finally, after aimlessly flipping through channels for a while, he decided to call Murtagh and the lads to see if they were up for the footy match at the pub later.
They came in their usual rowdy fashion, each donning their team jerseys. They’d finally stopped teasing him about his new flat, which always carried the earthy scents of herbs in the air, the softer “feminine” tones and far more comfortable furniture. Of course, he’d brought some of his own things over when he moved in, but the apartment, as it was, was small and there was only so much they could fit into it. He hadn’t cared though. Neither had Claire. The things had never mattered to them.
Now, the lads had found a new thing to constantly pester him about. something he’d vehemently discouraged, but that never stopped them.
The stag party.
“Come on, Jamie! It’s yer God given right to have a stag night! A beer in yer hand and a hoor in yer lap!” Angus insisted, grinning his toothless grin, as the whistle went for half time.
“I’ve told you already, a wee gomerel! I’m no’ having one at all, let alone the one ye have planned in that filthy mind of yours. I dinna need nor want it!” Jamie adamantly replied.
“Ye do need one, even if ye dinna know it yet,” put in Rupert. They’d finally gotten past the whole Laoghaire affair, to which Rupert had held a bit anger towards Jamie for.
“We won’t go to a bawdy house if that’s what worries ye,” Murtagh said helpfully.
“Just drinks, then. At World’s End. Ye can invite anybody ye like - that isna the lass!” Murtagh hurriedly said, seeing the look on Jamie’s face.
“Aye, how about her doctor friend?” Angus said. “Her maid of honor,” for some reason he found the notion beyond hysterical and took a while before regaining his composure.
Jamie was just about to say no again, but the idea of a chilled night out with his mates sounded rather appealing. Maybe he could get Ian up for the night as well.
“Aye,” he said finally. “I’ll talk to Claire-”
“Oh aye, please do, ye mustn’t forget to ask for her permission. Dinna need-” Rupert began flippantly, but was neatly cut off by Jamie’s sharp look.
“Aye, we’ll arrange something. A good lads night out sounds fun,” Jamie said genuinely, just as the second half kicked off.
Claire and Jenny, having decided the dress will go back to Lallybroch with Jenny (so Jamie couldn’t take a wee peek), with final fittings to be done closer to the date, they decided to go out for lunch, conversations shifting to general topics. A weight Claire didn’t realize she carried lifted, as she couldn’t help but gaze at her dress draped on the chair beside her - their extra shopping bags with bits and bobs on the floor beside them - tidily put away in its black garment bag, a step closer towards sealing her life with Jamie forever.
“Finally sinking in, no?” Jenny said, amused.
“Yeah. It honestly feels like a whirlwind. Feels like just yesterday when I decided to leave my husband. When I realized I had feelings for Jamie.” Claire said, giving Jenny a shy smile. In truth, it had been five months since she’d been to Oxford, and in about a month she’d be married once more.
Everything about marrying Jamie felt different to when she’d married Frank. For one, hers and Frank’s marriage was a simple civil union with a couple of witnesses - both colleagues of his - and a quiet dinner after. She had loved Frank well enough, had wanted to be married and was thrilled when he’d asked, but everything about their time together had been demure and - for lack of a better word - refined, even their lovemaking. Yet however passionate she thought she felt with Frank, paled in comparison to what it was to be with Jamie.
Everything with Jamie was shattering. Every emotion, touch, whisper spoken and promise unspoken shattered and reformed her. She felt him viscerally reverberate within her, constantly an unconscious extension of herself. So much so, that she’d come to stop fighting it, and always let herself disintegrate as she may, knowing that she was safe with him. As he was with her.
“Odd, is it no’?” Jenny said, watching her. “Giving yer life to another as they give their life to ye. Though, I suppose ye know the feeling. Being married once before.”
Claire took a sip of her tea, thinking. “It’s funny, you know. It wasn’t the same with Frank. I look back now and see the differences. Subtle as they are.” She looked up to find Jenny earnestly regarding her. “I could live with Frank, and be happy. I could also live without him and be just as happy - if not more so sometimes. I didn’t really… need him. I thought I did, once. But, I didn’t. Jamie…” she swallowed, trying to put into words pure emotion. “Jamie’s an invariable part of me now in a way I didn’t think was possible. To be completely vulnerable yet completely safe all at the same time. I thought I knew what love was with Frank. Turned out, I knew nothing.” she finished with a bit of a laugh.
“Aye, I ken all too well that all consuming feeling. I dinna ken what I’d do without Ian by my side,” Jenny said, shrugging. Then brushing away the sentimentally threatening to turn them both to mush, deftly changed the subject. “Now,” she said matter-of-factly, “about yer hen night.”
The 1668 Bawdy House Riots took place in London following repression of a series of annual Shrove Tuesday attacks against brothels.
Samuel Pepys records the events in his Diary 24th to 25th March mentioning that they were perceived as an anti-Royal demonstration of working class apprentices centre on Moorfields with echoes of the Puritanism of the Cromwellian era and specifcally targeted at the immoral behaviour of King Charles II and his court, who had been engaged with a series of extra-marital affairs with high profile courtesans, noting; “ how these idle fellows have had the confidence to say that they did ill in contenting themselves in pulling down the little bawdy-houses, and did not go and pull down the great bawdy-house at Whitehall.”
Madam Creswell (died circa 1698), Bawd and brothel keeper
By G. Barrett 1688
Madam Creswell was one of the most notorious brothel-keepers of the late 17th century. Her success allowed to her to maintain two houses in the city and one in the country, at Camberwell. Due to her political sympathies, not to mention her client list, Creswell had considerable influence. She counted no less a person than the Chamberlain of London amongst her friends.