In honor of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser’s birthday–October 20, 1918– here’s Claire’s first scene from WRITTEN IN MY HEART’S OWN BLOOD. (NO, I don’t have pub date for this book. I’m not done _writing_ it, for heaven’s sake. When it’s done, I’ll tell you, OK? (I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER and Jamie will perhaps help tide you over–that one comes out next month–November 29th))
WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD
Copyright 2011 Diana Gabaldon
Mrs. Figg was smoothly spherical, gleamingly black, and inclined to glide silently up behind one like a menacing ball-bearing.
“What’s this?” she barked, manifesting herself suddenly behind Jenny.
“Holy Mother of God!” Jenny whirled, eyes round and hand pressed to her chest. “Who in God’s name are you?”
“This is Mrs. Figg,” I said, feeling a surreal urge to laugh, despite–or maybe because of–recent events. “Lord John Grey’s cook. And Mrs. Figg, this is Mrs. Murray. My, um…my…”
“Your good-sister,” Jenny said firmly. She raised one black eyebrow. “If ye’ll have me, still?” Her look was straight and open, and the urge to laugh changed abruptly into an equally strong urge to burst into tears. Of all the unlikely sources of succor I could have imagined… I took a deep breath and put out my hand.
“I’ll have you.”
Her small firm fingers wove through mine, and as simply as that, it was done. No need for apologies or spoken forgiveness. She’d never had to wear the mask that Jamie did. What she thought and felt was there in her eyes, those slanted blue cat-eyes she shared with her brother. She knew me, now, for what I was—and knew I loved—had always loved–her brother with all my heart and soul–despite the minor complications of being presently married to someone else. And that knowledge obliterated years of mistrust, suspicion, and injury.
She heaved a sigh, eyes closing for an instant, then opened them and smiled at me, mouth trembling only a little.
“Well, fine and dandy,” said Mrs. Figg, shortly. She narrowed her eyes and rotated smoothly on her axis, taking in the panorama of destruction. The railing at the top of the stair had been ripped off, and cracked banisters, dented walls, and bloody smudges marked the path of William’s descent. Shattered crystals from the chandelier littered the floor, glinting festively in the light that poured through the open front door, the door itself hanging drunkenly from one hinge.
“Merde on toast,” Mrs. Figg murmured. She turned abruptly to me, her small black-currant eyes still narrowed. “Where’s his lordship?”
“Ah,” I said. This was going to be rather sticky, I saw. While deeply disapproving of most people, Mrs. Figg was devoted to John. She wasn’t going to be at all pleased to hear that he’d been abducted by–
“For that matter, where’s my brother?” Jenny inquired, glancing round as though expecting Jamie to appear suddenly out from under the settee.
“Oh,” I said. “Hm. Well…” Possibly worse than sticky. Because…
“And where’s my Sweet William?” Mrs. Figg demanded, sniffing the air. “He’s been here; I smell that stinky cologne he puts on his linen.” She nudged a dislodged chunk of plaster disapprovingly with the toe of her shoe.
I took another long, deep breath, and a tight grip on what remained of my sanity.
Mrs. Figg,” I said, “perhaps you would be so kind as to make us all a cup of tea?”