Dearest Cecilia. That's how his letters would start. I'd follow the pages, transported from some godforsaken piece of land in France, with eager fingers, reading up on his latest soldier adventures, dirt, grime, blood, and gore. But I couldn't care less.
It was my only means of communicating with Robbie.
Until he return.
If he would return.
No, don't think like that, Cecilia, don't. He must. And he will.
Then our love, as he wrote, and as I've memorized, etched the words in my mind, can continue on.
Thoughts unraveled as I attempted to pen down a letter in reply, swinging my pen in hand.
Oh come on, Cee. You don't have much time. Duty at six today. Don't forget. No time to ponder. Not anymore.
Words were coming in short bursts, reminders I loathed to address, the short, brisks sentences pounding onto my load of responsibilities.
But you chose this.
But they were wrong.
All of them.
Trusting a naïve, imaginative little charlatan whom I could never forgive.
Trusting her invented worlds of words, her so-called innocent eyes adults were supposed to trust, to have seen truth in.
Somehow I couldn't bring myself to laugh at the irony.
Yes, I chose this. So what? I'd rather live off on my own than spend the rest of my life lounging in the same house, deciding what to do, with the same people who played roles in its dilapilation.
No, I wasn't doing this for Robbie. I was doing this for no one but myself. At least my life felt its necessity to continue, in living this way. Lifeless, yet hopeful.
I didn't know what hope look like. I even wondered most of the time if it even had bloody feathers like they used to all say.
There was a knock at the door. I stood up, cleaning my working space, pushed in the chair, and went to answer, heart beating anxiously at the prospects of another letter.
There was a letter alright. A pile of letters, in the hands of a man I scarcely knew. I chose not to stare at his face, but directed my eyes at the letters in his hands.
I couldn't bear to hear what he had to say if it was…
His voice called, soft, almost in a whisper, understanding, symphathetic, and, worst, foreboding.
Silence withdrew me. I took the opportunity to inspect him instead. Clothed in a dirty soldier uniform which probably had never seen water since its days in France, the man stood at his full height, his angular face whitened, a hand holding his hat, another the pile of letters.
His shuffling body allowed me to glance at what was in front of the pile he had held to my face in reverse.
A single postcard.
Depicting a white cottage atop a beach, looking over the endless sea.
And I knew.
I just knew.
But I couldn't utter out a question. I couldn't break down and cry, or wreck my body with sobs as my subconscious was instructing me to do.
A subtle fragment of words escaped my quivering lips.
The man nodded, his eyes visibly misty for a moment. It was clear to me he preferred not to mention the name or the word we both dreaded.
"Septicemia. Last day of the evacuation," he said simply, "Cap'n would have wanted you to have this."
And he handed me the letters, his lips shaping into a shaky, melancholy smile.
As my trembling hands grabbed ahold of all that was left of him, my heart seemed to have lost track of its beating. Shut down. Senseless. In disbelief.
"Thank you," was what I managed. Corporal Nettle—for I noticed his badge on the uniform—saluted, and was off.
Footsteps died in the distance, though not the persistent beating of my heart. It sped up, incessant, as if attempting to bang its escape out of my chest.
Erratic heartbeats. Turbulent, raging, like my avalanche of emotions.
I closed the door, then carried the pile onto the table. Instead of the chair, I slumped down on my bed, glancing listlessly at the pile.
Shouldn't have happened. Shouldn't. Shouldn't. Shouldn't….
A heap of shouldn'ts rushed through my mind, silly to think a bunch of words could have turned back time. But that's just me.
Septicemia. Blood disease. And last day of evacuation, to think of that. I separated the words, and the cruelness of fate still returned me its sardonic glare.
If only he had endure a little more…
If only that bus had never come…
If only Briony didn't…
If only our three lives, tangled in an indiscernible mess, weren't a series of "If only's…"
No use. Wishing. For what had been gone.
Every little mentions, warnings, signs had all been erased. Every flicker of hope, dreams, and optimism—what a pain it was to see that postcard again—was gone.
I didn't have him now.
That's it, Cee. Accept it. You're alone.
I had dreams. When he would come back and handed me that postcard himself. He'd stand at the front door, his remarkable marble eyes, though long rid of that boyish innocence I knew so well, sparkling. Alive.
Wordlessly he'd take me into his arms. Whispering. "I'm here."
But what was left for me to reply, forever, awaiting no answers, was that phrase I used to calm Briony to sleep from nightmares every stormy night.
"Come back, Robbie. Come back."
Was this what you had wanted for us, Briony, to never have a happy ending like those characters in your stories all had?
Congratulations. You've got your wish.
Your story's solidified into indelible reality.
A/N: Just had this idea for like half a year already. (If Robbie had died June '40, Cee October, then this moment must have happened some point in time. And this is how I've imagined it. No tears, Cee. Just hysteria.)
Huge thanks to all readers, reviewers, and anyone who'd just clicked by,
Lots of Love and Rock'n'roll,
Your ever humble fanfic writer :)