Last night Notre Dame de Paris opened again with its premiere in Paris! I’ve loved this musical ever since I discovered it five years ago, and I can’t express how excited I am about the new production! Here’s a small tribute in honor of the day.
Previous installment:Protocol(Jamie and Claire enjoy a last night out on their honeymoon )
I jolted awake and looked wildly for the alarm clock, heart racing. 12:43 AM. I’d agreed to do morning shifts for my first week back at the hospital, but even so, I didn’t need to be up for hours, yet. So, why…?
Jamie. The absence of him next to me on the pillow.
Several nights on the Cape, I had awoken to find him in the throes of some terror, or gone from the bed and clinging to the window frame, letting the cold air brace him. He’d barely spoken, in those times, either stayed away from me entirely, or letting me soothe him back into sleep. It was like Paris all over again, and thought of that made my heart seize. We hadn’t yet spoken of Culloden…but I knew that there were terrors from that day, and horrors that followed, from which Jamie was far from free.
A quick search of the house, though, revealed him sitting comfortably on the living room sofa. I instantly breathed a sigh of relief: he looked a bit pale and was staring off into space, but looked serene and peaceful…unmistakably happy…andin a very familiar way.
He raised a can of beer to me in salute. “Care to join me?”
I crossed to him eagerly. “In sitting, yes. I’ll pass on the drink, since I’ve got to be up for work in a few hours.”
“Suit yourself.” He shifted his legs to make room for me. Perhaps hoping to prevent future “bum Da” incidents, he was wearing the nightshirt I’d bought for him. In terms of construction and coverage, it wasn’t much different from the long shirts in which he’d habitually slept in the eighteenth century, but I had to suppress a giggle at sight of it. Just give him a sleeping cap and a scowl and he’d make the world’s most seductive Ebenezer Scrooge.
Suppressing the urge to reflect further on the absurd scenarios such a thought conjured, I kissed his cheek and said, “Trouble sleeping, love?”
“Indeed, though I dinna ken how, for I’m bone-weary. Achy and pealy-wally from the drive home, I suppose. Hoped a draught might help settle me.”
“Home,” I murmured as I snuggled against him, feeling a thrill run through me at the word. “I like the sound of that.”
“As do I, my Sassenach.”
His voice was warm, still sweet with his smile, though I didn’t think the prospect of living under the same roof was what he’d been thinking of when I’d walked in. “Were you thinking about Bree, just then, by any chance?”
He gave a small ha! of impressed surprise. “Either you’ve picked up a knack for divining thoughts, ma dame blanche, or I’ve lost mine for inscrutability!”
“The latter, I think,” I said feeling the happy glow of him spreading to my own body. “At least where Bree is concerned, anyway. You get this look about you when you think about her…or hold her…or look at her.”
That very look spread once again across his features: the sweetest smile of contented joy.
“Couldna help it even if I tried,” he said, squeezing my hand. “Though I never would. Just the fact that she exists–yours, and mine, a new person God created from our love…” He shook his head in wonderment. “It’s the simplest fact there is, that bairns typically result from coupling, but the miracle and gift of it hits me deep…and I still sometimes canna believe I have you both to care for…to love.” He set down his drink and pulled me closer with both arms, kissing my forehead. “I’m a verra blessed man, indeed.”
“We’re blessed. All of us.” I kissed him softly on the neck. “That’s what you were thinking about, then?”
“Aye. That and…well, specifically, I was thinking of what Brianna must have been like when she was first born. I’ll wager she was a bonnie one, aye?”
“She was, indeed,” I said. “Bonnie and loud and perfect.”
“Tell me about her?” he asked quietly.
“Of course,” I said, rubbing his arm. “Would you like to see, as well?”
“See?” His eyebrows drew together for a moment, then raised in excitement, comprehension dawning. “You have PhotoGraphs?”
In answer, I leaned forward and plucked up the photo album from its niche under the coffee table. Jamie sat on the edge of the sofa, his greed apparent. I perched beside him and opened the book to lay across both our laps.
The first page held four pictures, all taken unbeknownst to me by a kindly, perceptive nurse. The winter sun was streaming through a window onto my face. I was in a white hospital gown, my hair unbelievably messy in a cloud around my head, but I was oblivious, beaming down at a swaddled bundle in my arms: my daughter, who I was holding for the first time.
I’d gotten to see her immediately after the cesarean, I explained to Jamie, but only for the barest moment, with scarcely enough time to kiss her forehead before she was whisked off to the intensive care unit. Her lungs were not functioning as they should. Her skin held a blue tinge, made even more alarming in appearance by the pasty vernix that still coated her face. With tufts of copper hair and her ears…those precious, wing-like ears, she was so like Faith, so small…and so still…I began screaming as soon as they took her away. They had to put me under full anesthesia to close the incision.
I awoke from medicated nightmares, alone in a bleak hospital room…with no child to be seen. I’d not screamed further, too weak for the task, but I had shaken and sobbed until my bones were sapped of all energy, my soul of any desire to move or speak. The doctors were kind and soothing, telling me that everything would be fine, but giving me no concrete, medical news of Brianna to reassure me. I hadn’t had anyone there with me at the hospital. Father Gentry had come by a day or two later, and would have come sooner if asked, but on the first night of Brianna’s life, I had been completely and truly alone in the world. In that darkness, I’d mourned for Brianna. For Faith. For Jamie. And I’d made contingency plans for how to end my life.
But then, I’d woken to a gentle shaking and a warm, red, squirming bundle being placed in my arms.
I couldn’t have said how long I held her. Laughing. Weeping. Kissing her. Nourishing her with my body. Making promises to her. Talking to her about Jamie. Talking to Jamie about her.
The real, breathing Jamie pulled me closer to him. “You were all alone, mo ghraidh.” He leaned his head against mine, voice thick with weeping. “It… truly breaks my heart….that I wasna there for ye either time. I’m so verra sorry for–” His voice broke.
“You couldn’t help it either time,” I said, though my voice was tight with pain. I reached a hand up to draw him in for a kiss.
The notion that had been growing in my heart this last week stirred once more. Was this the wrong time to voice it? Or…
“If someday there should…be a third time…?”
The transformations that came over his face were breathtaking, a coup of utter joy, immediately followed by terror. “But you said yourself that both of ye could have died. Surely you canna put yourself at risk again.” When I didn’t immediately respond, he shook his head, hard. “No. I willna lose you, Claire.”
It would be dangerous to conceive again, the doctors had said. At the time, I’d assured them the point was entirely moot. Now… “You won’t lose me, Jamie,” I said, with far more certainty than I felt. “I want another child with you. Not at once, perhaps, but…”
I trailed off, unable to express how strongly I felt this need– to bear a child of ours in happiness and peace. I could live without it, in the same way that I could live without….without ever going to medical school…but in just the same way, I wanted it. And it mattered.
Jamie could see something of this in my face. He was quiet for a moment, then took my hand and squeezed. “When the next bairn comes, then,” he said, and though there was still a quiver of fear in the sound, he was smiling, “whenever it comes, I’ll no’ leave your side. Not for a moment.”
I knew any hospital would do their best to dissuade him, to keep the father away from the operating room or delivery suite. I’d bloody like to see them try.
He bent his head and kissed me, very gently, cradling my head in his hands. He broke the kiss with a small laugh, beaming. “Another bairn…when my heart is already full to bursting… Jesus, will this embarrassment of riches never stop?”
“No,” I said, beaming back. “At least, I certainly hope not.”
Jamie turned the page of the album. “Oh, just look at her, then,” he said, lightly touching the paper that showed Bree, two or three weeks old, yawning hugely on my lap. “So tiny… and such a bonny, sweet face.”
Every photo, captioned only with a date, captured a moment in Brianna’s life.
(December, 1948). At six weeks, on her christening day, gawping skeptically up at Father Gentry.
(February, 1949). At three months, sleeping peacefully in her crib, curled up against her stuffed rabbit.
(September, 1949). At ten months, taking wobbly steps toward the camera.
(November 23, 1949). Covered with the icing of her first birthday cake.
(March, 1950). On my lap, the both of us careening down a hill on a sled toward Mrs. Byrd.
(June, 1950). Snuggled against my shoulder, half-asleep, one fist grasping my hair as I stroked hers.
Without warning, Jamie stood up and walked out of the room. I didn’t have to ask what he was doing.
Less than a minute later, he returned, holding a pajamaed Bree against his shoulder. She was still waking up, and was grumbling vague, fretful interrogatories, her curls a frenzied pouf around her face.
“Whisht,” Jamie shushed softly against her hair. “Go back to sleep, lass. Whisht, now.”
“Hab-beffist?” she asked croakily, rubbing her eyes.
“Nay, it’s no’ yet time to have breakfast, a chuisle,” Jamie said, his own voice rather hoarse as he sat, Bree on his belly, facing him. He tightened his arms under her, smiling, but blinking hard. “Da just…needed to hold his wee bairn, s’all.”
“Beebair?” she said, straightening and looking intently back at him.
“Aye, that’s right,” he said, as he kissed her tenderly and lightly cupped her face, “you, sweet one, are my own wee bairn.”
A look of glee suddenly stole over her sleepy features. She screwed up her brows fiercely, waved both hands, and growled out a tiny, “rrrrroahhhh!”
“Oh–OH MY–” I laughed, “there’s a scary, ‘weeBEAR’ in here, Jamie!”
Jamie shook with laughter too, but played along, rearing back in mock fear, “Stay ye BACK, foul beastie!”
Bree, triumphant, gave another roar which turned seamlessly into a mighty yawn, her would-be paws coming up to rub her eyes again.
Jamie stilled and brought his arms around her, voice low and soft with love. “Come lay your head, now, sleepy cub.” He turned to lay on his back. She resisted for a moment, trying to push up with her hands, but Jamie’s soft Gaelic and gentle touch brought her at last to settle against his chest. Jamie held out a hand to me, and while the sofa was scarcely wide enough, I curled against him, holding them both.
When I woke a few hours later, the dawn light as good as any alarm clock, I had a screaming spasm in my neck and my back was sore. But Jamie and Bree were still sleeping peacefully, she tucked protectively between him and the back cushions, her round cheek smushed against his shoulder. Jamie felt unusually warm to the touch, but I still pulled the afghan from the back of the sofa and tucked it around them. Turning to head for the shower, I paused at sight of the album on the coffee table.
I went to the hallway where my beach bag still sat, and rifled in it until I drew out the camera. The shutter made a satisfying flackk as I captured the scene.
Years after their chance encounter, Cass and Jyn meet again in Paris. There, she is working for an environmental firm and he is on tour for a book that is based on their one night in Vienna. Initially meant to be a quick hello for Jyn after she heard Cass would be at her favorite bookstore for his tour, it quickly turns into another series of conversations and a walk around the city. But once again, Cass will need to catch a plane by nightfall to get back to Mexico and his committed life. So in the couple of hours they have left, both will relive the connection they experienced together…but will they also relive the same mistake?
Though she faced heated pushback from the teachers’ union and a related group, Hillary largely won over lawmakers in the end.
Political operatives in the state still laugh about the thunderstruck reaction that Rep. Lloyd George, a colorful state representative with a syrupy drawl, had to her presentation: “I think we’ve elected the wrong Clinton!”
Though Bill Clinton received most of the credit nationally for the reform package that he signed into law, Skip Rutherford, who has served for the last decade as the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, said it was Hillary who “took Arkansas to a completely different level educationally.”