Disclaimer: Atonement is the property of Working Title Films and Ian McEwan. This is a work of not-for-profit fan fiction. No copyright infringement is intended.


An empty red omnibus rushed by and almost ran over Cecilia when she crossed the street in a tireless hurry, impatient to get on. St. Thomas' hospital was far away from her tiny, poor flat in Balham and she still had a long way to go. I hadn't occurred to her to take the bus or the tube – her mind was far too busy for such insignificant things.

All that mattered to her now was a little piece of note paper with three sentences scribbled down hastily, in a well-known and hated way:

"Dear Cecilia,

I didn't want to trouble you again, but I have important news for you.
Robbie has been evacuated from Dunkirk and is recently attended to here at St. Thomas', in Sister Drummond's ward.
He is waiting for you.

Your sister Briony"

She still held the note in her hand, crumpling it up involuntarily, like something disgusting she wanted to destroy, to erase. It was written by the person whom Cecilia hated the most, whom she cursed and despised, whom she would never forgive. Briony. Her little fanciful sister whose trashy stories Cecilia had never liked; who imagined herself to be a heroine of one of her childish tales and destroyed other people's lives without giving it another thought. Briony Tallis, the centre of the family, the pride and the hope of Jack and Emily Tallis. She would surely get a better degree than her snobby big sister. She mattered to them more than Cecilia.

She hadn't answered Briony's letter she had received some months before. It had surely surprised her to hear from her at all, but she would never forget why she had left home 5 years ago, after that hot summer evening. The little piece of note paper had ended up in a bin near the post box. She would not respond to any letter from her sister, but the one that he held in her fist has brought her the very message she had been waiting for so long. He had come back, back at last. He had held the promise as she had held hers.

"Come back... come back to me..." – " I will come back... I will find you..."

Cecilia had kept and learned by heart each of his letters. She remembered each line and each phrase, every shy word of affection and every funny story about the officers in Robbie's section. His last letter was longer than the others and full of tenderness, full of yet unshared moments, untasted kisses, unfelt love. As if he had known that the delivery system would break down and no more news would reach her for a long time... As if he had known about the long months of uneasiness and waiting, which were yet to come, and wanted to give her something to remember... As if he had wanted to say farewell...

No, she wouldn't think about it – after all, the terribly long weeks of dread and hope were over. He had come back. She would see him again. She would – even if it meant facing her hate once more – and she knew that meeting Briony would be inevitable. But then, she couldn't imagine Briony in a nurse's uniform, scrubbing floors, cleaning bedpans, attending to the sick and injured. No, the little, delicate girl, whose only working feature was her imagination, whose heart would never be gentle towards anyone but herself, whose little white fingers had only strength enough to push down the keys of a typewriter – no, she was the least person whom Cecilia could picture as a nurse. And so there was this hope of seeing Briony fail at work, of feeling her, Cecilia's, superiority at this simple tasks, the feeling of sweet, sweet revenge...


Author's note: this chapter is incomplete as well, but I still wanted to post the beginning to give you an idea of the structure. Reviews and suggestions for the continuation of the story would be very welcome!