Beside the Seaside: Ch 5


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Their summer by the seaside moved delightfully forward. They spent their sunny afternoons at the beach, with Fergus taking turns building sandcastles as big as he was and running into the water to cool off. Claire would bring a book, usually one she’d discovered in the study at Fairy Hill, and stretch out under a large umbrella to read in sight of where Fergus played.

The two of them made a game of finding new cafes or pubs for their meals, having not had to return yet to the same location with the plethora of options. And they were eating well, which was fine for being on holiday, but Claire began to dread trying to get Fergus back into healthier eating — and her own cooking — when their time here was up. But she’d never, in all the time she’d known him, seen Fergus bloom right before her eyes like he was in this place. The sun and the salt-sea air seemed to lift an immense weight off his young shoulders.

And of course, there was the Fairy Hill to return to at the end of the day, a home away from home. Claire was pleased for Jamie Fraser to see a steady flow of guests cycling through the inn — young families and sweet older couples, mostly. She never could keep track of the names and faces of the other guests she would bump into in the hallway or strike up a conversation with in the study, but little Faith Fraser became fast friends with every guest, and an eager playmate for the other children. She was the darling of Fairy Hill, though Claire was dismayed that Fergus still seemed reluctant to make friends with her — or anyone else, for that matter.

There was only one person in their bright, summer-warmed orbit at Nairn who didn’t seem to be basking in the same glow. With Jamie, ever hardworking owner with a welcoming smile, Claire began to see the cracks in his facade. Most mornings lately, he would greet her kindly but with a shadow in his eyes — and it wasn’t just a look of lost sleep shared by many a parent to young children. She’d been to war; she was well familiar with the horrors that could haunt a man. Hard as he seemed to be trying to keep things under wraps, she’d caught him off-guard on more than one occasion, and saw a glimpse of the terror just below the surface.

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