On the Ridge: Imagine Claire explaining to William about the "other" William - Jamie's late older brother Willie; which Jamie overhears and joins to add his own memories/insights. (I obviously love me some William - Jamie stories. I think that relationship has some real potential going forward and am eager to see what you can do with it) Love your work THANKS!!
William followed Claire to the barn with the horses and the wagon.
“I appreciate the offer of a bed for the night,” he said awkwardly, “but I don’t think–”
“Nonsense,” Claire interrupted. “There’s no way I’m letting you wander off and make a camp on your own like that when you’ve already been traveling for Lord knows how long without the comforts of a home. You’re staying at least a few days.”
“A few days?” William made a face of discomfort at the horse poking its head over the door of its stall. The horse snorted with either derision or amusement before burying its muzzle in the bale of hay waiting in the corner. William rolled his eyes and moved on to the second horse while Claire came along behind him and passed in a bucket of water for the hungry creature.
“I know it’s all a bit daunting just now,” she said apologetically. “We weren’t expecting to see Bree and Roger here again.”
“Yes, I seem to recall they were traveling somewhere distant when I met them before.” William was happy to shift the conversation from himself but felt his ears heat at the flash of curiosity he had about Brianna and her family… his sister.
“They had decided to go to France,” Claire confirmed. William looked up, furrowing his brow but Claire was looking at the horse in front of her, reaching out to rub the side of its neck. There was something off about her tone. “The war seemed… inevitable at that point and with the children… They wanted to be as far from whatever was coming and Jamie has family in France––a cousin who’s a wine merchant and one of his nephews as well. We haven’t had much time do discuss what it is that’s brought them back yet… and with no word of warning to us either.”
With the horses settled and the wagon tucked away out of the sun, Claire led William towards the big house.
“If they’re going to be staying here with you for some time, I’d hate to be an added burden,” William insisted, hoping he’d found his way to back out of an extended visit.
“You are not and never will be a burden, William,” Claire told him with firm gentleness. “The children can all share a room easily which will leave a room for Bree and Roger and a room for you. There’s the table in my surgery and even the barn loft if we need more room.”
William peeked his head around one doorway into the small front parlor to one side of the entryway then turned to investigate the larger space opposite.
His eyes widened.
“You can go in and look around if you like,” Claire said from behind him. He could hear the smile in her voice.
He stepped into the room. There was a large rectangular table in the center, long and wide enough for a person to lie down upon without the need to worry about falling to the floor. A large cauldron hung from a hook that could easily be swung over the fire when necessary. Instead of an oven for baking bread built into the bricks, small shelves had been built into the recesses and were lined with pottery containers labeled with various herbs. A desk sat beneath the light of one window and a work bench lined the wall at the other. A single chair was currently tucked into the corner of the room leaving plenty of room for moving about the space. He turned around. Books lined the lower shelves of a the wall next to the doorway while bandages and medical instruments occupied the higher shelves.
“It’s larger than the last surgery Jamie built me,” she informed William.
“He built all this?”
Claire nodded. “Well, he designed it and had help with the construction part. But yes, he built it for me.” She smiled to herself as she ran a palm along the top of her work bench.
“What does that door lead to?” he inquired before he thought of whether the question might be considered prying.
The door was next to the room’s outer wall a foot or so from the hearth.
“That connects this room to Jamie’s study next door.” They had taken to dealing with their work outdoors in the cooler air of the mornings when possible before retreating inside during the heat of the afternoon. It was a comfort to them both to leave the door open between the rooms so they could hear each other moving about; of course, it allowed them additional discretion at other times too, a level of discretion that came in quite handy with Germain and Fanny around the house. “There’s an entrance on the main hall too. The parlor and dining room adjoin similarly and the dining room connects to the kitchen at the back of the house as well.”
William nodded, his eyes still drawn to the closed door that led to Jamie’s personal space. William wondered what books lined his shelves; did he have tokens of his time as a soldier the like his father and Uncle Hal with their dress swords and pistols; what about art on the walls…
“I think I’ll put you in the room over the parlor. It’s furthest from the children,” she explained. “Roger and Bree can have the room next to them. Jamie and I are on the opposite side of the landing so we’ll be fine too.”
“You think they’ll cause trouble?”
“Oh, I know they will,” Claire said with a laugh, turning to leave the surgery for the stairs. “Germain and Jem especially. It won’t take long for them to get reacquainted and both have a knack for it. I shudder to think what they’ll accomplish when they combine their efforts.”
Claire led William to his room opening the windows to air out the space. It hadn’t been used yet and the scent of the sawdust still undercut the sharper odors of the paint Jamie had used on the walls.
“Depending on how the crops do this year, we were talking about looking to order wallpaper for some of these rooms––the parlor and dining room first, but then a few of the rooms up here.” Jamie still had so many plans for the house though he was happily setting them aside to enjoy the fruits of his labors since it had finally become habitable. “You take your time settling in up here. Rest if you need it. I’ll be down in the kitchen fixing something to eat when you’re ready.”
She left him alone then and William spent some time poking around the spare room and wondering what he should do about staying or leaving.
Every inch of him crawled with discomfort at the thought of staying and it made him ashamed to admit it to himself. He knew it was useless to even pretend that being away from Jamie Fraser made it possible to pretend nothing had changed and yet, a piece of him wished that were the case, that he could go back to that time before simply by getting away from the players in that revelation.
But he wasn’t a coward. And he was curious, especially about his sister and what she made of everything. How much did she know? And when had she learned the truth? She must have known when they’d met before.
There was also Fanny to consider. He had no doubt that she was well cared for but he needed to be sure for her sister’s sake and she would want to see him too.
So then, how long did he have to stay until it was no longer impolite to leave? A few days, he decided; a week at most. He should be sure that Dottie settled in with her sister-in-law and… Ian Murray. That was the other reason he wanted desperately to get away. The prospect of encountering Rachel and Ian made his stomach bottom out. He wanted Rachel to be happy and he knew Ian was a good man… but seeing them happy together… He wasn’t sure he was ready for that yet. The longer he stayed, the more likely it became that he would find himself in one or both of their company for some length of time.
He didn’t know how long he’d been up there pacing about and musing to himself but he finally built up the courage to go back downstairs and find Claire.
It must’ve been some time because she had tea, warmed bread with honey, and some heated ham ready for him on a tray set near the hearth in her surgery. The chair from the corner had been pulled over to the table in the middle of the room but she stood at her work table threading curved needles and assembling suture kits for future use.
“It’s tedious work,” she said, looking up into the window where he suddenly became aware of his reflection, “but having these prepared ahead of time can be enough to save a life. You should eat something,” she remarked, setting her work aside to face him.
“I’ll stay but only for a week,” he blurted. “I need to be sure Dottie settles and then I’ll be on my way again. You’ll have enough going on with your daughter and her family.”
“They’re your family too,” Claire insisted, gently. “I know you may not be ready to hear it or to accept it, but it doesn’t change the fact that as far as the rest of us are concerned, you are.”
William walked over to the tray Claire had prepared and lifted it from the floor to the table, wincing at the heat of the handles even as he was relieved to look away from Claire. Her face showed everything she thought––and clearly she thought he was behaving like a petulant and stubborn child––but he also couldn’t shake the impression that she noticed everything about him with her piercing amber eyes. It made him feel like a trapped insect.
“It would mean a lot to Jamie and to Bree if you stayed for a while––start with a week, but please consider staying longer. You might be surprised by how much it grows on you.”
“How much what grows on me?”
“Being a part of a family.”
He looked up at her then. “I have a family. Papa, Uncle Hal and Aunt Minnie… I have my cousins…” But he knew that, while what he said was true, what he’d witnessed between Jamie, Claire, Ian, and the rest of them, however briefly, was different. He gobbled a slice of the honey-soaked bread and enjoyed the feeling of it sticking to the roof of his mouth, preventing him from having to say anything.
“I think you should have a talk with Brianna,” Claire said with a nod and amused smile that confused William. “She reacted about as well as you did when she learned the truth about Jamie being her father.”
William swallowed hard, the honey on the bread sticking to his throat as it went down.
“What do you––She didn’t––Why?”
“I thought Jamie died at Culloden. I was already carrying Bree when it happened… I remarried and he wanted to raise her as his own. It wasn’t until after he died and I learned that Jamie survived that I told her.”
William blinked and reached for the cup of tea. It gave him something to hold while he thought about what she’d told him.
“Is that why it doesn’t bother you? Whatever there was between him and my mother?”
Claire’s expression went hard for a moment and color flooded her cheeks but she took a deep breath before answering and her tone remained controlled. “It does bother me but not for the reasons you think… and some of those reasons as well,” she conceded. “But none of that affects my opinion of you or how I think of you,” she insisted.
“You look at me and see him,” William guessed.
“I look at you and see the son he and I were supposed to have together… the son we would have had together if circumstances had been… more forgiving.” The smile she offered was small and a little sad. “The first time I was pregnant and we discussed baby names, we thought about the name William if it was a boy, for Jamie’s older brother… he died of smallpox when Jamie was just a boy.”
William blinked in surprise but could only think of questions that he knew it would be indelicate to ask. What did she mean by the first time? How many half-siblings did he have?
“Part of me was thrilled when I heard they’d called ye William,” Jamie said from the doorway to the surgery, startling both William and Claire.
She was only half surprised they hadn’t heard him come through the door. William nearly dropped his cup of tea and was profoundly thankful he’d finished the contents. He set it down gently and pushed the rest of the tray away but stayed where he was.
Jamie’s face was flushed from a combination of self-consciousness and the hasty walk out to Ian and Rachel’s followed by his equally hasty walk back.
“I couldna claim ye as mine but knowin’ ye had my brother’s name… it made ye feel a bit more mine nonetheless. I cannae say was it down to me or no, but I called ye Willie every time I saw ye as a babe. As ye grew and yer grandparents and yer aunt and nurses started callin’ ye that too…” Tears pooled in Jamie’s eyes but he held them in check as William and Claire waited. He blinked them back and cleared his throat, looking to Claire for reassurance. “Yer cousin left something behind and I said I’d come fetch it. Ian and Rachel seem pleased to have her and the bairn stay wi’ them as long as she needs. I left Bree and Roger talkin’ with Jenny. I’ll tell ye the rest later tonight, mo nighean donn, and I’m to be sure ye ken ye’re welcome to come and join the festivities tonight too,” he addressed William.
“Thank the Murrays for me,” William said stirring from his spot at the central table, “But I think I’m going to go up for the night a bit early. I’ve been pushing myself to keep vigilant with Dottie and the baby. Between that and Minnie’s crying in the night, I’m afraid I’m dead on my feet.”
Jamie stepped back from the doorway to let William pass and head up the stairs.
Claire was at his side and squeezing his hand until they heard the bedroom door close above them.
“He’s agreed to stay at least a week,” Claire whispered. “And I’m pretty sure he’ll reach out to Bree.”
Jamie nodded and then his lips twitched. “He’ll have a devil of a time trying to avoid her if he doesn’t.”
Claire felt the chuckle rattle through Jamie’s chest as he pulled her against him and rested his chin on her head.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Jane Morris, nee Burden, who’s elegant and remarkably unique face was forever immortalized by her lover, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Though born into poverty, her “discovery” selling violets at a theater in 1857 by Rossetti and his pupil, William Morris, changed her future. Although it is believed that Jane and Rossetti had feelings for each other, Rossetti’s previous attachment to Elizabeth Siddal prevented their relationship from going further at the time, and Jane ended up marrying William Morris instead. Following Lizzy’s suicide in 1862, Rossetti and Jane began to carry on an affair. Morris, a wealthy businessman, artist and social activist, allowed them this freedom. Jane sat for many of Rossetti’s most famous and beautiful paintings, including Prosperine, The Salutation of Beatrice, and Pia de’ Tolomei.
Opera Company of Philadelphia “The Pearl Fishers” with William Burden and Nathan Gunn on May 4, 2004. Director: Kay Walker Castaldo, Conductor: Jacques Lacombe, Scenery/Lighting: Boyd Ostroff, Costumes: Richard St. Clair.