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If I ever leave this war alive

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Dear Thomas,

I'm not sure wether you still remember me and my messy handwriting. I stopped writing you a while ago and I'm sorry for that but life got in the way and to be honest I didn't really know if you wanted to hear from me any longer as soon as you stopped replying to my letters.

 

It's me, your old firend Jimmy Kent. I guess you must be surprised about this letter from me and frankly, I'm surprised too. You know that I'm usually not much of a writer but that seems to have changed lately.
I hope you still work at Downton and the letter finds you, because I feel like you're the only person who might understand what I have to say and I always wanted to make contact again so I thought I might as well do it now before I get shot and it’s too late

As you might already have guessed by the stamp on the envelope, I'm writing you from the trenches in France where I have been trying not to get shot by a bloody Kraut for several days now. After what they did to London during the blitz, I felt like it was my duty to fight the Germans and after a long time being stationed in britain here I am now. Covered in dirt and the blood of fellow comrades who's names have been forgotten long before their corpses even grew cold.

Can you imagine me feeling obliged to do anything? I bet you can't. But I no longer am the caprisious, stupid young man I was when I left Downton. Not only did I grow old, I like to imagine I grew a little more mature through the years.

I decided for a life as a musician as soon as I left my life as a servant finally behind and I must say I lived a good life. I never got rich and I never good famous but I had all I needed and more until the blitz came and killed all other members of the band I played with. My best friends.

I should have died with them that night but I was late - as ususal - for our gig at the pub where we used to play once a week. When I finally got there, the pub no longer existet. I searched the ruins for hours until I found the bodies of my three best friends and understood that I was now alone in this world.

I never settled down for several reasons and I don't have any family. My friends were all I had so when duty called for men young enough to fight - I joined the armed forces.

I thought killing Germans was going to be easy. I thought I was tough enough. I though war was like one of the games I liked to play. I was wrong. I’m still not sure how I managed to survive the landing at the normandy. Half of the people on my boat were killed before we even reached the shore. I guess I just was incredibly lucky. I wonder how long that kind of luck will stay with me.

You of all people are the person I have been thinking about mostly ever since I've first been shot at. I never really forgot about you, there’s rarely ever been a day when I didn’t think of you ever since the day I left but most of the time when the Downton past crosses my mind, it leaves me smiling and I just go on. It’s different now that all I have is my past. I'm sorry we lost contact over the years Thomas, I really am. You always were a good and loyal friend to me even though I know I was an idiot at least half of the time. Until this day I regret those times I treated you like shit. I never really apologized for it so here I go, even if it’s way to late for this: I'm sorry. You deserved better but I was young and stupid and scared for no reason.

 

So why am I so suddenly remembering you? Maybe because I wish I could go back to being the careless young man I was when I last saw you. Maybe because you are the only person I know who served during WWI and might still be alive. Maybe because the fear of death gives people courage.  At least I hope so. I mean I really have no idea how old you must be now Thomas. I guess you are about ten years older than me so in comparison to Mr. Carson you always seemed young to me. Anyway, I hope you are alive and well and I hope you finally got to be the butler. If anyone rightfully deserved to follow Carsons footsteps, it was you. 

So how is life at Downton? Are the Crowley’s still incredibly rich and is the household still running? Did Lady Edith finally find someone to marry? Is Lady Marry still turning the men's heads? And are Anna and Bates still disgustingly happy? I would love to hear all about it because funny enough, I really miss Downton. 

I never thought I'd ever feel that way, but I do. I do miss you lot and the tasks and the boredom and even the family. I miss places and people away of this misery that is war.

Thomas, during your time in the field, did you ever feel like you couldn't go on? Like those screams and all the dirt and the fear would eat you alive and swallow you? Did you ever feel like you were going to drown? Because I do. And I cannot tell any of the lads here with me because once one of us admits being afraid I know we'd all fall to pieces. I know I am asking a lot and if I never hear from you, be sure I understand. But if you can, please write me and let me know how you got through this. You're the only friend I got left out there. At least if you still consider us to be friends.

I hope you are fine and your hand guarantees that you will have to stay out of this messy war. You're not missing out on anything here, trust me.

Kind regards,

Jimmy

P.S.: If you should answer me but never get any reply from me it's not because I'm being impolite. I might already be dead. Sorry for the inconvenience then.

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Dear James,

I feel like I no longer really have the right to call you Jimmy, or do I? Of course I still consider us friends. I’m happy to hear from you, though your letter’s tone worries me. Are you alright, James? Because frankly, you don’t sound like yourself. I know war does that to people but I hope you’re not planning on doing anything stupid.

It feels like a lifetime has passed since I last saw you. I have to admit that I was very surprised to receive your letter. I never thought I would ever hear from you again, even if I always hoped I would. But rest assured, I am very happy that you wrote me and Miss Baxter sends her kind regards as well. She caught me reading the letter and as nosy as always, she could not keep her mouth shut when she saw me smiling like the idiot I am.

 

I am very sorry to hear about your loss. Losing friends is always bitter and I know no words could ever provide any comfort. I still have to admit that I wished you had written me before joining the military. I would have advised you not to volunteer. I once made the same mistake and there is rarely a day when I do not regret it. You asked about my war experiences. They were exactly what you are describing now. I guess wars never really differ. The trenches always look the same, no matter where they are. And the screams all sound the same, no matter who shouts them. When I was a soIdier, I felt like drowning every second of the day and fear did in fact eat me up with every minute that passed. You now I'm not the bravest man, so it cannot be much of a surprise to you that I might not be the shining example you hoped for. 

You write that you don’t know if you can go on. I know war can make you think the darkest of thoughts but believe me if I say it does get better. Try to think about the day when you return home and all the horrors are behind you. You have to believe that you can make it out of there. As you now I am clearly not a man of faith but I pray you come home alive and well. I know far too well that one can find the thought of ending his own life seductive, but I also know that there is always another, a better way. You are never really alone in this world. I bet your fellow comrades feel the same. 

 

You can always write me. I promise I will always be there to listen and provide as much comfort as I possibly can.

When I was in the field, the letters Sarah O'Brien used to send me always cheered me up. She is a devil of a woman but she knew how to gossip and make me smile so I will provide you with as much Downton gossip as you could possibly bear.

Carson and Mrs. Hughes have retired nearly fifteen years ago and Daisy went away to make something of her life as she put it. We haven’t heard of her since. Anna and Bates are still disgustingly happy with their three children and their own hotel in rippon. Anna and I have tea every now and then and I try not to roll my eyes to much about her annoying smile. Mrs. Pepmore left us three years ago. Her knees were too weak to carry her weight all day long at the kitchen and she retired. Mr. Molesley unfortunately died two years ago, much to Miss Baxter‘s regret. I think the two were in love but never managed to tell each other about it. I am the butler of Downton now and Miss Baxter is the ladies‘ chambermaid. We are trying to find footmen, but nowadays nobody wants to be a servant anymore so apart from Baxter and me there is nobody but a gardener, two maids who do not live with us and a cook. On bigger occasions, we get some men from the village to help us out during the dinner but their manners are usually so bad I can barely keep myself from turning into Carson and fire them on the spot. I’m so desperate to find qualified servants, I would even accept an idiot like Alfred. Or a way to free spirit like the one you’ve once been. Of course Downton’s glorious days are over and I bet Mr. Carson would be turning in his grave if he knew. He died in his sleep a couple of years ago.

Upstairs, a lot has changed. Master George has just returned from Oxford and is now slowly taking over the heritage from Lady Mary and her husband. He has grown into a fine young man and already assured me that I can stay and work at Downton as long as I wish. I fear that he thinks about volunteering for the war. Lady Mary, her husband and I are trying to talk him out of it but I do not have a lot of hope that we will be succesfull. Branson and Sybille are currently living at Downton too. Branson seems to hope that Lady Mary will have a good influence on Lady Sibylle’s wild young spirit, but I do not really believe that she will succeed. His lordship and Lady Cora are still living with the family, but his lodship’s health is starting to fail, I think. Lady Edith is living in London with her husband, her daughter and their two sons. Lady Rose is happily married as well and I heard that her husband joined the military so if you should ever cross paths with a man named Atticus Aldrige, that might be him. The countess died only a few years after you left and to be honest, I kind of miss her. She was a force of sarcasm, that women.

I think those are the most important things you missed since you left fifteen years ago. I would love to write you more about my rather boring servant-life, but I have to get back to it and choose a wine for dinner.

Just one more thing, before I have to finish this: Take care of yourself, James. Do not try to be brave and do not do anything stupid. You can pull through this, I am sure. I know you might feel alone in this world, but you are not.

Feel free to always write me if you feel the need to talk.
Oh and to answear your question: I’m not fifty yet, but not far from it either.

Kind regards,

Thomas