Part One, Chapter Nine: Calman Geal
Huzzah! We have come to the end of the Prologue! Now for the good stuffs.
You can find links to previous chapters here.
April 16th, 1746; Craigh na Dun
I stood at the outer edge of the circle of stones and could go no further.
Now that I had seen what love, what life, was truly like, how could I go to a time without it?
Turning on my heel, I blindly walked straight into Jamie. He pulled me into his arms and whispered in my ear, “I dinna ken how I’ll let ye go either, Claire, but ye have to.”
Bloody man. He could always read my mind.
“For the sake of the bairn.” His hand traveled to my hips, coming to rest just above my womb. “He will be all that’s left of me. Ye, and the child ye carry.”
And there it was. The single, solitary reason why I could not stay.
Why now? My mind screamed. Why, when I had longed for so many months and years to be with child, must it be clear now? Why couldn’t it have been even a few weeks ago, when we might have had time to get away?
The logical and rational portion of my brain reminded me that even if I had, even if we had known of the child months ago, Jamie would not have left. He was destined for Culloden Moor, to stand with his men, to fall with the fate of Scotland.
Death didn’t frighten me.
I had watched too many people die to fear it. While, it was true, not all the deaths I had witnessed had been of the peaceful sort, I feared living without the people I loved far more than the end of my life.
Neither my husband nor my daughter would live to see the sunset. I couldn’t save either of them. I had tried. God, I had tried.
But I had failed. I couldn’t stop the rising tide of Scottish independence, the ebbing flow of Julia’s life. And so, here I stood: neck deep in waters I could never hope to swim in without something to grab hold of. About to return into the life I had left behind, the life I no longer wanted.
A life without either of them.
“Sassenach,” Jamie’s voice interrupted my thoughts, his hands echoing the desires of my heart.
Nestled in my arisaid as well as Jamie’s plaid, Julia was well protected from the wind and damp ground in her place beneath a nearby tree. Jamie stooped and gathered her into his arms, burrowing his face into the folds of wool beside hers. He rocked slowly back and forth as he spoke to her in Gaelic.
All the breath left my lungs as I caught some of what he was saying.
“Tha gaol agam ort, mo beag calman geal.”
I love you, my little white dove.
“I will be with her soon,” he swallowed hard as he placed her into my arms, “to watch over ye and the bairn.”
He made no attempt to stem his tears, only to be sure I understood his words.
“Name him after my father, aye?”
“I promise.” My voice sounded strange. Distant, almost detached.
The roar of the stones was growing louder by the second, shaking me to my very core. I knew Jamie was moving us slowly towards the center stone. My back was to it and I tried not to think of how close we were, how many more steps it would be.
I looked down at Julia. She lay motionless in my arms, save for a minuscule rise and fall of the blankets with her every breath. A sudden thought shattered what little semblance of self-possession I had left.
What if she couldn’t go thru with me?
“Promise me, Jamie.” I pushed at him, moving away from the stone. “Promise me you’ll stay with her. That you’ll lay her to rest somewhere safe. Promise me!”
Jamie’s eyes grew wide with shock, not at the suggestion he’d do anything but honor our daughter until the last, but with the idea that she might not be able to leave with me.
“She’ll go wi’ ye, Claire.” His voice was unwavering, sure of this as the only possible outcome.
“But what if she can’t,” I sobbed and pulled my daughter closer. “What if she can’t hear them like you, Jamie? Promise me!”
He straightened slightly, taking my face in his hands. “Then, aye, I promise ye, Claire. If she stays, she will be at rest beside my parents.”
“They’ll take care of her, won’t they? Your parents and mine.”
“Tha’ they will.” Jamie smiled wryly down at Julia, “It may take St Michael himself to keep her from turnin’ the place upside-down, though, aye?”
I gently placed a kiss atop of her head, another on each cheek, and the tip of her nose.
Pressing my forehead to hers, I said goodbye to my daughter.
I woke face down in the grass, arms empty.
Scrambling to my feet, I desperately searched the base of every stone.
She was gone. I was alone.