(July)



Heart, we will forget him!
You and I, to-night!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me,
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging,
I may remember him!

- Emily Dickinson





It was the time of year for flowers, although none could be seen in the spartan campgrounds. Dust was in the air, hot and stifling in the midday sun.

Julia's agent was a petite woman, fidgeting nervously with a glass of brandy. Julia was reading a lyrics sheet set on one of the tent's many tables, projecting an image of youthful serenity that clashed with the sterile barrenness of the reserve camp. She had been reading her lyrics throughout the day, using them to block out the rest of the immediate world--the rough soldiers, the bare accommodations, and the drab colors which pervaded the scenery could all take second place to her lines, scripted words which she had sung over and over again, in as many different milieus as she had time for.

Lately she had been doing a tour through the Army camps, partially at the request of the government and partially out of a desire to search for... something. She needed something out here, and she felt that she was needed, as well. That was enough--it had been enough for the last three months.

(Same old songs, just once more.)

She hadn't been producing much new work, recently, but it didn't matter. Soldiers on patrol weren't too particular about the entertainment they received, on the rare occasions that they received any. And she didn't know what else she could write--her inspiration was dried up, dry like the dust she had been working in, dry as it had been before she had ever met--

(No.) She wasn't going to think about that.

her agent said, glancing up. It's about time to get dressed. You have everything you need?

Julia organized the lyrics into a rough pile, feeling the familiar butterflies making halfhearted flutters in her stomach. I'm all ready, she said. I'll just get changed.

All right, her agent said, granting her a quick smile. I'll get Giles ready. Knowing him, he's misplaced his guitar by now.

Julia smiled back at her, shooing her out of the tent as she left--back to her tent to get the same old dress, to ready herself for the same old routine. Three songs, an intermission, two more--

(And no time to remember.)

Just like she wanted--(Wanted?)--it to be.



The stage was an unimpressive affair, as most of the stages were. There was barely enough room for Julia and Giles--and, once more, she was reminded of how smart her agent had been in insisting that she find someone to make a few competent guitar arrangements for her songs instead of leaving them all for piano.

Feeling lackluster as always, she stepped forward to start the show.

she said, taking on a pleasant smile as if it was a ballroom mask. Her voice was unevenly amplified by the dusty microphone, but at least it carried through the rest of the tent.

There was a light rumble of answering greetings, a few raucous cheers, and then silence again. She widened her smile for a moment before moving into the next bit of her scripted performance--exactly as she had time after time after time.

I'm glad to be out here tonight. I'm glad that I can be here for all of you, to help however I can with the war effort. There's a lot of talk back home about the War, you know--it's on everyone's mind, and we're all indebted to you for going out, risking your lives to fight the good fight. I know you miss Galbadia, and I hope you know that Galbadia misses you--but tonight, I hope you'll enjoy the little piece of Galbadia I'm brining out with me. Thank you for letting me sing.

There was a round of applause for politeness's sake, but it was obvious that most of them wanted her to cut the small talk and get on with it. She acquiesced tot he unspoken demand, nodding to Giles to begin the chord progression for the first song.

From there on, it was automatic. They had done the routine so often that Giles needed no instruction; they moved easily from song to song with only the requisite pause for clapping in-between. Everything flowed out of Julia effortlessly--pitch, dynamics, rhythm, words--everything was well-rehearsed, and automatic.

She got to the intermission before she thought she would.

Her agent had set up at a small table near the stage, and Julia joined her as Giles proceeded to do something impressive and immemorable with the guitar. Her agent was giving her the look that told her that she hadn't given it her all--but she wasn't going to say anything because she had stopped trying to rebuke her a long time ago.

Julia sighed. What company is this? she asked.

K and L Companies, her agent responded. Kingfisher and Lion, I think.

Ah, yes, Julia said. I remember now.

There was a wistful silence.

Excuse me, someone said.

Julia glanced up, into the warm brown eyes of a soldier. He was standing at her shoulder, holding out a glass of water. It must have been cold--the sides were slick with condensation.

Colonel Philip Caraway, he introduced himself. In charge of these boys, since about last Friday.

Julia smiled, accepting the proffered drink. Won't you sit down? she asked civilly.

Thank you, Philip said, sinking into a canvas chair. He motioned to Giles, nodding appreciatively. Your man there is quite talented, he said.

Julia nodded. Yes, he is, she agreed, reaching for something else to say. It wouldn't do to be considered rude, now, would it?

I wanted to thank you for coming out here, Philip said, saving her from having to formulate a response. I know it can't be what you'd want to do with your time.

Julia glanced at him. Well, I did choose to go on tour, she rebuked softly.

Philip smiled at that, to her moderate surprise. To the best of my knowledge they haven't begun to draft singers yet, he said. You could be up in Deling City, making yourself rich. But instead you come out here, trying to brighten up our lives a bit. There's something remarkable about that, I think.

Julia smiled softly. It's nothing, really, she said. We all do what we can to help.

Philip leaned in slightly, catching her eyes. Not everybody, he said. Most of these folks were drafted, you know. For every ten of them here there's probably one running away from the War somewhere else. We'd all like to think that all the soldiers are gung-ho fighters, ready at chomping the bit to fight the good fight.' But most of us would be much happier if we could curl up by the fire at home and have a good night without worrying about anything, heroic or not. They'd probably be fools not to. Heroism has a short shelf-life on the front lines, sorry to say.

Julia stared. I guess that never occurred to me, she said.

Philip gave her a forgiving smile--a real one, without any shade of bitterness or a condescending air. Most people don't think of it that way, he said. But that's what makes people like you the heroes.

Julia shook her head slightly. I don't know, she said. I didn't really come out here because of any sense of duty.

Then why are you here?

Julia hesitated. I knew a soldier once, she confided. I guess I wanted to see him again. ...but I think I realized a long time ago that that wasn't going to happen.

Philip's smile was kindly. Then why are you still touring?

Julia looked up. I don't know, she admitted. Maybe it's because... maybe it's because I saw that all these soldiers needed me, in a way. I mean--I don't want to sound presumptuous, or--

It's all right, Philip interrupted. You're quite right. We do need you out here. If anything, I think we need more of you.

Julia blushed slightly at that. Can I ask you a personal question?

Of course.

Julia leaned forward. What are you doing out here? Were you drafted, or--

he answered. I volunteered.



His eyes went distant, and he looked down slightly. To be honest? I didn't see a choice. I figured that if Esthar wasn't going to back off, and we weren't going to roll over, the war was going to come to me sooner or later. And I figured that the more people signed on immediately, the sooner this thing would be over.

It didn't go how you expected it to, did it? Julia asked.

Philip shook his head. No. It didn't. We were all expecting the War to be over in a couple of months. This will be my third year out here.

It must be hard, Julia said.

Sometimes. But we all manage well enough. ...we don't have so much of a choice.

She smiled wanly. I guess none of us really do, she said.

Philip cleared his throat slightly. I've always liked your songs, he said, with a kind of dignified awkwardness that was really quite endearing. They remind me of... well, they remind me of my first year. Back when I was only just finding out that the War wasn't going to be over at the drop of a hat.

I'm sorry, Julia said before she really heard what she had said.

I know, it's a strange thing to like to be reminded of, Philip said. But it helps me remember how it felt back then. Before the drudgery set in.

Julia tilted her head ever so slightly. Wouldn't you rather remember all the times before the War?

Philip gave an enigmatic little smile, and a small shrug.

Julia's agent tugged at her elbow. Julia caught her eye and excused herself from Philip with some generic words, slipping halfway back into the pattern she was so used to. She stepped back up onto the stage, thanking Giles with her eyes--the thanks were genuine, at least. He rested for a moment as she took a little bow for the crowds, and began her song--the same old songs, one more time.

She flowed through the songs with--surprisingly--more feeling than she herself had expected. And, upon finishing them, she glanced back to her table--to see Philip still smiling at her.

There was a moment as the people in the tent rose to applaud, and Julia turned to Giles. Do you have the music for On And On memorized? she asked.

Giles glanced up, giving her a paternal smile. Of course, he said.

I want to premier it tonight, Julia said.

Giles' eyes widened slightly. he asked.

Yes. I think so.

People were waiting for her to take her final bow and exit off the stage, but she turned and motioned them back down. I would like to sing something now, she said, only halfway wishing for the familiar comfort of a scripted speech. It's something I've been working on for a while now, and you'll be the first to hear it. It's a little song I call On And On. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Her agent made a little squeak, uncomfortable about the sudden change of plans. Julia had the feeling that she would be hearing about this, later--but it didn't matter.

She hadn't practiced this nearly as much as she would have if she knew it would be premiered that night, but it didn't matter. She knew the words, and she trusted Giles to know the music.

She waited for the introduction, and took a breath.

For once that night, she sung from the heart.

There are some little moments I'll never forget:
Your eyes, the flowers, and the sun-set
I don't want to keep on waiting now, and yet
There are things I have to say
And words I have to know:
When all is said and done
I just don't want to go.

There's a little blue book I've never yet opened,
And a small box of powder for a black weapon
And a trail that leads from my door:
It leads on and on, off to the distance,
On and on, on and on evermore.

There are lights in your eyes that I'll always remember:
They're warmth in the wind chill of middle December,
As faraway fire as one living ember,
But fires fade away
And kindling them is slow;
When all is said and done
I just don't want to go.


She was rocking softly, moving with the melody and the feel of the words on her tongue. Her eyes drifted down to Philip's, and she smiled.

There are dog-tags on the mantle-piece
And echoes in the hall
And a trail that leads far away from my door:
It leads on and on, off to the distance,
On and on, on and on evermore.

There are things in my mind that will stay there forever:
Your footsteps, your joy in whatever, whenever,
Your way of implying you never said never,
But I haven't seen your face
Since a long time ago,
And when all is said and done,
I know I must let go.


She faltered, ever so slightly. Giles covered for her, strumming in a brief interlude as she swallowed the lump in her throat.

There's a notice on the table by the old clay jar
And a space on my desk where a letter should be
And a trail that leads away form my door:
It leads on and on, off to the distance,
On and on, on and on evermore.

On and on, on and on, evermore.


The song ended without a guitar solo, the last notes fading into the dry air. Julia gave a deep bow, stepping off the stage before she could tell if she was losing her composure.

Philip approached her, but her agent got there first. she snapped. Please. Tell me if you want to change the program for the night--we should have had you rehearse that, more--ohh, we should have had someone here to write up the premier for the newspapers--

Philip had disappeared, probably not wanting to interrupt what appeared to be an important conversation. Quietly, Julia resigned herself to the lecture and then to the mandatory mingling with the soldiers that followed it.



It was later than it seemed when she was finally able to return to her tent. She was tired--more tired than she usually seemed to be after these performances.

She was so tired that at first, when Philip appeared at her elbow, she mistook it for a trick of the light.

That was a lovely song you finished with, he said. Everyone was surprised.

Thank you, Julia said. I... I don't think I ever really planned on premiering it. It came as a bit of a surprise to me, as well.

Well, it was a pleasant one. He cleared his throat. I wanted to thank you again. I assume you'll be heading out tomorrow.

Julia nodded. I'm afraid so, she said.

There was a moment without words, neither of them knowing what to say.

Julia said at length. Maybe we'll run into each other again some day.

Philip nodded. I hope so, he said.

Her hand found his easily, and she gave a little squeeze. His parting smile was warm as he disappeared back into the darkness.

Julia slipped into her tent, falling into bed without bothering to change. She was asleep almost immediately--a smile on her lips, for the first time in ages.

She slept soundly.