There was snow falling, outside in the night, but Claire was as warm as a wee coal under the blankets and even warmer between her legs. She had her work in the morning, an early shift, but her sleepy moan when he touched her was eager, wanting. She had just surpassed her eighth week, and with the worst of her Morning Sickness apparently on the wane, she had been far more eager for his touch these last few days. He would give her as much or little as she needed during her pregnancy, for he knew carrying a child was a fickle business.
But, Christ, he loved the ‘much.’
He had just pushed aside the blankets and begun trailing kisses down her (yes, visibly curved!) stomach, when—
Claire groaned, both in desire and exasperation. “Go back to sleep,” she pleaded through the closed door, urging him downward along his path by pushing on his crown.
Jamie was more than happy to oblige. He loved Brianna to distraction, but a man had to see to his wife above all, aye?
“Daaaaaddy?” Sharper, now, with just that note of wail.
“Just think,” he said against the tender skin of Claire’s thigh, “soon, there will be TWO of them.”
Claire’s curse about damned inconvenient little buggers was interrupted by another, “Daaaaaaaaa-ddyyyyyyy?” this one with a small sob that melted his heart.
He sighed and rested his cheek on her hip. Claire sighed, too, but relaxed, and ran her fingers through his hair affectionately, silent permission and understanding.
He kissed her belly, her hipbone, and then one tiny tantalizing nip between her thighs. “Later?”
“TEASE,” she laughed, groaning as she nudged him up on his way.
He pulled on his nightshirt as he walked, such that he didn’t quite hear what she said as he reached the door. “What was that, a nighean? Something I can get for ye?”
“I only said: you’re a wonderful father, Jamie.”
Brianna was out of bed in the darkened nursery, standing in her Pajamas just beside the door.
Jamie knelt and touched her cheek. “What is it, then, a leannan?”
“Da, ‘m scairt,” she whispered, trying to put her arms around his neck.
He put his arm around her but didn’t pick her up. “What is it you’re scairt of, lass?”
She scrabbled against him as she whimpered on the verge of tears. “Dat biggerl-bed.”
Jamie had to purse his lips and hug her close to keep her from seeing him laughing.
Much to-do had been made about Brianna’s “Big Girl Bed.” Her high-sided crib was still in the room, pushed to the side for when the new bairn came. Claire said they would turn the closet of their own bedroom into a place for the wean to sleep at first, only until he or she was old enough to bide through the night in the same room as Bree.
There had been some talk about whether their expanded family would require a larger house. Their home was perfect for the three of them, but it had only the two bedrooms, one bathroom, the kitchen, the living room, and the halls between. Yes, another room would be very useful, if only to have another spot to go for when the bairn needed to be changed or fed. As it was, Jamie suspected there would be many a late-night spent in the living room.
In the end, though, it was decided that since they’d more than likely be obliged to change places again when Claire should be accepted to medical school, it was best to make do with slightly inconvenient sleeping arrangements as best they could until then. Brianna’s new bed was the first step in that transition—and it was going off like wet kindling.
Jamie rubbed his daughter’s back with a gentle hand. “There’s naught to be scairt of, cub,” he promised. “Remember how excited you’ve been about getting the new bed?”
“Scary, though,” she insisted, looking warily back over her shoulder.
“Come on, mo chridhe.” He picked her up and walked over to the bed.
She squirmed and tried to get away. “Chan eil! Don’—Dinna—don’nna want to!”
Poor little love doesna ken which language is up.
He got her under the covers, in the end, with much soothing and gentle reassurances. Nonetheless, there were still tears sparkling in her huge blue eyes as she asked, pitifully, “Come’I sleep wif you’an Mama?”
It’s a right good thing we got wee Fraser started when we did, else we’d never have managed wi’ a two-year-old about.
“How about I’ll stay here wi’ you for a bit, instead?”
“Okay!” she said eagerly, scooting in toward the wall to give him room. “NO, Daddy: UNDER-cubbers.”
Jamie’s mouth twitched as he obeyed and settled in… UNDER the covers.
She turned onto her side, facing him with excitement at this treat. “Ree’me’book, Daddy?”
“No, lass, we need to keep the light off to help us both sleep. But shall I tell ye a story?” She gave a happy eeee! of excitement. “Who do ye want to hear about tonight? How about Grannie Ellen?”
“Who’s ‘at?” she asked at once, as she always did.
He laughed as he faced her, settling in onto his side. “Ye ken fine who she is.” In the dim moonlight, he could see her grin. She liked to make him start from the beginning.
“Grannie Ellen was Da’s mother, and long ago, I was her wee bairn, only a little bigger than you.”
She giggled at this outlandish concept. Jamie thought for a long moment which story to tell before deciding.
“I was the youngest of the weans and ye might think that would mean I needed the most tending, but Uncle William and Auntie Jenny liked to squabble and cause trouble, and Grannie Ellen always seemed to be up to her ears in dealing wi’ their troublemaking. But one day, I remember Mam filled a haversack, picked me up, and said, ‘Come on, wee Jamie, let’s the two of us go adventuring, aye?’”
“Adventuring? It means…going on a long walk through the mountains.”
“Can WE have it’venture?”
“‘Course we can. But not tonight, aye?”
“Oh, aye,” she conceded, in a manner so Scottish it made him ache for his homeland; for her to know it, too.
He cleared his throat. “Anyhow, Mam walked us far, far, far from our house, and we picked fruit and ate it wi’ the bread and cheese that she’d brought.”
“I like cheese,” she piped eagerly in Gaelic, and it was only then that he realized he HAD slipped into his native tongue.
“Me too, sweetheart,” he replied, loving sharing these sounds with his child. Speaking Gaelic was still an exciting challenge for her, though, and so for the sake of everyone’s sleep, he reverted to English for the rest of the story. He took up a slow, gentle pattern of rubbing her back, his usual way of coaxing her toward dreams.
“We must have been talking of Jenny and Willie, for I remember—” He paused, startled by the vividness of the memory, though he could have been no more than four years of age at the time. “I asked her if I could have a wee brother of my own to play with.”
“Brum-therr,” Brianna repeated contemplatively, as though she’d never heard the word.
“Or sister, I wasna altogether picky, just wanted someone little of my own, since Jen and Willie had each other as a pair. But Mam said, Aye, maybe someday, mo chridhe, but that she would be sad not to have ME as her weemost bairn, and that—”
“Can we have one, Da?”
“Aye, lass, when the spring comes and the weather gets warm, we’ll go on an adventure, I pro—”
“Noooo, abBAIRNNN, Daddy.”
“Oh, well…” Jamie had stepped right into THAT one. He thought for a moment about just telling her—the cradle was there across the room; but he knew Claire would wish them to share the news together. Another month or so, then, after the new year.
He hoped Ellen Fraser was grinning to hear him tell his own small child, her namesake: “Maybe someday, mo chridhe.”
“Okay, but now, though?”
“No,” he laughed, “not now.”
She nodded with decision. “I’m go’ get one.”
“Oh, aye? Where do ye think ye might find a wee brother or sister, cub?”
“Market,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“Well, ye should know that only Mamas and Daddies can get those. Just be patient for a time, aye?” She sighed dramatically. “D’ye want to hear about the rest of the adventure wi’ Grannie Ellen?”
“Oh, yeah!” she said, but gave a huge yawn as she began to get comfortable.
“Right, then….Well, I must have fallen asleep in Mam’s arms, for when I woke, the sun was just starting to set and she was whispering in my ear that I should look up. And there, up in the sky, was the largest flock o’ birds I’d ever seen.”
Bree was getting sleepier with every moment and her, “Ohhh,” was swallowed up in another yawn.
“I dinna ken what kind they were, but they took on all the colors of the sun as they dipped about. And there was one bird far away from the rest, lost. He kept circling about, like he couldna see the others, and I thought surely he was scairt of being left behind….” Bree’s eyes closed. “….But then a whole great part of the flock broke off and flew back to encircle the wee one…. “ Jamie rolled gingerly onto his back to shift out from under the covers. “….and they all made their way back together to rejoin the rest.”
He was just about to sit up and tiptoe out, when Bree gave a sleepy moan and crawled atop his chest. He opened his mouth to tell her no, but then closed it again, and pulled the coverlet atop them both.
“And my mother said, ‘see all those sweet souls, Jamie? How happy they are, all together?”
He felt Bree’s breathing drop into that slow, steady rhythm of sleep. He let his palm rest on the back of her head. “’Souls need to have their family about them, be it the ones born to them or ones they found along the way,’ she said, ‘and so they’ll always find each other, no matter what.’”
And in a life marked by much tragedy, that knowledge had always been joy.
sometimes I like to think that the stereotypes about Wisconsin can’t possibly be true, but then I remember that I live in a town with four cheese factories and a gigantic cow statue that we all affectionately refer to by name
4. “Do you…well…I mean…I could give you a massage?”
[This quickly spiraled away from having much to do with massages - not that sorry]
“UGH!” Judy groaned loudly, startling the silence of their office. Nick didn’t flinch. Something he’d learned pretty quickly from being around Judy was that his bunny partner was a firecracker of emotions and thoughts. They’d be silently working when she’d suddenly gasp or squeal, having discovered a new possible lead in their case. They’d be waiting in line for coffee when she’d suddenly jump up and down and tug on his tie, excitedly going on about how she knew exactly what they should get Chief Bogo for his birthday. To others, it was surprising, unpredictable. To Nick, it was just another thing he loved about working with her.