Anymore Neighboring love?
Jamie pulled me in close, tucking my head under his chin as he rocked us from side to side.
“Are ye alright, mo nighean donn?” He whispered into my hair. I could hear the strain in his voice.
I nodded with a mumbled yes into his chest. The tension in his body seemed to melt away with my simple answer. I felt him press a kiss to my head, just before he pulled back to survey my face.
“Christ, it’s good to see and hold ye, Sassenach. If he–if he–” his eyes closed as he breathed angrily out his nose. “I couldnae stand it if he’d done anything to ye.”
I cupped his face and he leaned further into it my touch as I said, “You stopped him. Nothing happened because you were here. Even if you had not showed up, he wouldn’t have gone far. If he had tried to pull me close, my knee would have forcefully become acquainted with a particularly sensitive part of him.”
Jamie tipped his head back with a roaring laugh. “I wouldnae doubt ye for a moment, Sassenach. And remind me to ne’er get on yer bad side.” He said with a wink.
I smirked as he wrapped an arm back around my shoulders and guided me to the big house.
“We need to be quiet, Claire, we dinna wish to be caught.” He said with a wink, holding a finger up to his lips. “I wish to keep ye to myself for a while and the moment my meddlin’ family discovers I’m in the house it’ll be hours before I can just hold ye and talk wi’ ye.” He looked over to me and gave me a grin that made my stomach feel full of butterflies. “I just want to be able to talk wi’ ye wi’out a crowd.”
“If you’re so worried about being caught, why don’t we stay out in the garden or go for a walk to the mill?” I countered.
“Because,” he said, “I cannae give ye the wee baubles I brought back for ye at the mill.”
“You didn’t have to–”
“I ken fine I dinnae have to get ye anything, but I wanted to.”
I nodded and followed him with light footsteps through the empty kitchen and up the back set of stairs towards my, no his bedroom. A room I would have to give up, a bittersweet sadness washed over me. I didn’t want to leave the comfort of that room, of Jamie, but he was home now. The need to be separate until the wedding would overshadow every other need that may arise. God, I hoped it wasn’t too much longer. A year already and before then the stupidity of my shyness kept us apart, and now…now I wanted nothing more than to never leave his side and let the feelings that have been building take over. I wanted, no, needed these emotions, these overwhelming sensations to be sated and content. He was the man I could let myself genuinely feel and not be afraid of what was to come. I’d heard enough over the last year from Jenny, the women I helped in childbirth, and old Granny McNabb to know what was to come for the marriage bed.
“Claire? Claire?” Jamie said, shaking me slightly. “Where did ye go mo nighean donn? I’ve been saying yer name…” He trailed off when I started to shake my head and smile.
“I was thinking about what this room means, to you, to me…us.” I took a step and buried my face in his chest, then continued. “This is your childhood room, your home. But, when you left it became this empty shell, waiting for your return. Nothing out of place, everything exactly as you left it, until I moved in. It was hard at first, however, this room became an extension of you, a place where I felt closer to you. This room, this house, it became my home, more so than any other place I’ve lived.
I felt his arms tighten around and a smile bloom across his face. “Aye, well then I’m sure my letter was of comfort to ye in my absence as well?”
“Mmm hmm. They were. Although I did wish for more of them.”
He laughed, “I wish I could have written more as well.”
Taking a moment to himself, Jamie pulled away taking in the familiar surroundings, his gaze seemed to linger on the small bundle of his letters.
“I am curious, Claire.” He said, brows furrowed.
“Why ye dinna wear the bauble I left ye.” His voice was soft, almost somber in tone.
I furrowed my brow, trying to think back to any bauble I may have received or misplaced. My hand instantly went to my neck where the fine gold chain securely held Jamie’s ring.
“I don’t know which bauble you’re speaking of, Jamie.” My wrist twisted and rocked from side to side, moving the ring rapidly across the chain. “The only thing close to a bauble I can recall is this ring. I never took it off. I’ve worn it either on my finger or on the chain everyday since you gave it to me.”
Jamie’s hand gently grabbed my own, halting the nervous fidgeting, and lifted my hand to his lips for a tender kiss. The stubble of his beard tickled the back of my hand, as his lips lingered against my skin. “No,” his mumbled words a whisper across my skin, “I dinna mean the ring. Although ye canna ken how elated I am to see ye wear it. I wish for it to never leave your finger, but I understand how ye dinna wish to tarnish the gem with soil from her wee herbs or blood from yer tending. No, I mean the wee bauble I wrapped in a letter for ye before I left.”
He held up his hand to silence me. “I thought I would be clever and leave the letter hidden so only ye could discover it, but it seems I did my job too well.” His eyes glittered with mischief. “So it only seems fair now that I find it for ye, yes?”
I nodded as he shook his head contradicting himself. “I’ll give ye a clue, mo nighean donn, and then it’s yer job to find it.”
I huffed out a laugh. “Well what’s the clue?”
Jamie kissed my hand one more time before stepping back and leaned against the closed door. “I’ve already given it to ye.”
“What? How? When did you do such a thing?” I asked flabbergasted.
He grinned like the cat who got the canary and nodded slightly, but not in any definable direction. “Ye ken how and when. Surely ye read yer letters thoroughly or watched me when I entered the room. What did you read, Sassenach? Think.”
“James Fraser!” I exclaimed with a wave of my hand. “How am I supposed to decipher something I didn’t know existed?”
“Weel ye ken now, so think and decipher.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, causing him to bark with laughter but not reveal any more cryptic clues.
“Okay, letters and body language,” I mumbled to myself turning to face the room. “We walked it and he looked to the window, then to the trunk at the end of the bed. The pile of letters neatly stacked…He looked there multiple times, but there’s nothing in there unless–unless he had hidden clues in their contents? But then why would he look over…oh!” and like a flash, a ridiculous notion came to me. Many times in his letters he mentioned his desire to draw me in close to his heart, and the heart was on the left side, the same side he wrote on, the logical side where a small bedside cabinet with drawers filled with baubles, a heavily used Bible and a rosary. Swiftly I removed the contents of the bedside cabinet and desperate to see if a letter was hidden.
“Well, that was a long shot,” I mumbled.
Deflated I sat on the bed and looked around again, my eyes landing on Jamie as he portrayed nothing but absolute indifference.
“You only looked at two places,” I said loud enough for him to hear.
“Och, did I?” He smirked.
“Aye, ye did.” I laughed, exaggerating my speech to mimic his accent.
“Then what does that tell ye, Sassenach?”
“It means you either stuck the letter in the ground, or it’s in your trunk.”
He shrugged but didn’t say a word.
“Fine,” I sighed, walking over to the trunk I had taken to using for my own clothing, and began to pull out my belongings one by one. It didn’t take long until the trunk was empty and nothing lay at the bottom that resembled a letter, nor was there one stuffed somewhere inside the various possession I had inside.
“There’s nothing here.” I said gesturing to the trunk. “Look see there’s noth–” My words stopped as I noticed a small, yellowing scrap of fabric that seemed to be wedged into the inside lid of the trunk. My hands shook as I gently tugged on the fabric, pulling it until my fingers scraped against metal. A hidden latch that opened a hidden compartment rattled at my touch, then easily opened. Inside, pockets of wood and fabric lined panes similar to a bookshelf were revealed. Inside the middle pane lay a perfectly sealed letter.
The letter had my name scrawled in Jamie’s beautiful script, my fingers traced the letters, then popped the ball of red wax sealing the sides together. White and gold slithered out of it’s confinement and into my awaiting palm.
“They were my mother’s pearls.” Jamie’s voice was low and husky from behind me. “She said to give them to my future wife.”
Tears sprang to my eyes as he reverently placed the strand around my neck.
“How long?” I couldn’t finish my thought, but he knew.
“I wrote this letter the day I found you in the meadow outside the mill.” His fingers traced the pearls and my neck with a light touch sending chills down my spine. “I knew then I wanted ye for my own, and I couldna and wouldna let ye go. I sealed the letter with the pearls just before I left for University.” My eyes closed as his lips brushed the nape of my neck. His forehead leaned against my skull and we sat in silence, taking in the moment.
“Y-You knew? I thought, oh God Jamie!” I turned in his arms, throwing my own around his neck and burying my face in his chest. “We lost so much time before.”
He lifted my chin, “No we didna, it wasna the time or place to begin. Our lives are twined together,” Jamie grabbed my hand, intertwining our fingers in illustration, “and when we say it is the right time, it is. I knew I wanted ye and ye proved on Quarter Day that ye too wanted me. That’s why I gave ye that ring, to symbolize my commitment to ye, and wrapped up this necklace for ye. It’s an outward sign of what we already know. We’re bound you and I and soon, very soon, if ye’ll have me…”
He nodded eyes brimmed with tears. “I am.”
“You already know the answer you insufferable Scot!” I sobbed with a laugh.
“Say it, please Claire.”
“Yes, I’ll be your wife.” His eyes closed and shoulders shook in silent tears as he pulled me in tight, his lips finding mine in a clash of teeth and salty tears.