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Still in the Realm of the Sun

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Dear Julie,

I've never really stopped thinking about you, of course, and I'm sure I never will, but I always think about you more at Christmas. It was Christmas when I finally went back to Craig Castle, of course, and nearly Christmas when I married Jamie, and December the first time we all went to visit you, on the riverbank under your roses. We go almost every year, since the war's been over.

Ormaie is beautiful again. You should know. The flowers are back in the square and they never rebuilt the Chateau de Bordeaux. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks it's better that way.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't think it matters that you won't really get to read this letter, because I like to believe that you will, somehow, the same way I like to believe that you know we visit you. And it ought to make sense. Or at least as much sense as I can manage. It was a long long time before anything really made sense to me when I came home from France.

That's why I took your mother up on her invitation to come to Craig Castle for Christmas, 1944. Over a year without you. I kept flying, but I'm not really sure I was living. Jamie was in the same boat, even more than the rest of your family. There is still a Julie-shaped hole in Craig Castle, for them. (As for me, I'm glad we never managed to be there at the same time. I've always felt you there, but as I've never actually seen you there, I miss you less, not more, when I am in your home. Your mother kept your window open for such a long time, you know. It was Jamie who closed it, finally, and then all the lads went to the pub and spent the night in drunken remembrance of their mad little sister. He told me about it later. I think you would have approved.)

Anyway. That year I saw Jamie a lot, of course, at the Cottage. I can almost hear you laughing at me when I write this, but beyond a few kisses I swear nothing ever happened between us there. Usually we spent most of our time talking about you. (I know you're still laughing.) It wasn't until that Christmas that we realized how much we needed each other.

You'd have laughed even more at how it happened. When Jamie asked me, "Do you want to get married, Ma Cherie?" I very stupidly asked if he meant married to HIM. As if he'd ask me to marry someone else! He was just so dead casual about it.

It was perfect, really.

We didn't mean to have much fuss over it, but your lady mother thought otherwise. She had the idea that a big party was just what everyone needed. Something to celebrate. I never thought she was wrong about that, exactly, but God. I did not enjoy being the center of all that attention.

You would have loved it, Julie.

Actually, I'm sure you were there. I'm not afraid of any ghosts in Craig Castle, because I've decided that if it isn't you, home for a visit, you've spoken to the others by now and they aren't to be afraid of anymore. A consensus of the Craig Castle Irregulars agrees with me. (Of course your mother kept Jock and Ross after the war ended, orphaned as they were. They're growing up into such nice boys. Haven't ever forgotten that you were kidnapped by pirates, either. You are a mythical figure to them still.)

My grandad passed away last year and Jamie and I moved to Stockport, to keep Gran company and the bike shop running. Only, somehow we seem to have got ourselves in the business of fixing airplanes, too. Jamie just keeps finding them, broken things no one else wants. (Such a Beaufort-Stuart thing to do.) We buy them and fix them and we fly them and then we sell them when we can and it's really a lot of fun.

I suppose I ought to get to the point. I'm still sometimes a bit boggled at having unlimited blank paper to write on, and endless ink. Also, I have missed talking to you. I could probably babble on here forever, but I won't. I had a reason for writing this letter to leave for you. Even though I really am sure you already know, nothing really seems real until I've written it down. I know you understand what I mean.

This is the first time we've come here since she was born. Our Julie. Of course we named her after you. (Julia Eva, to be precise, because Jamie thought it clever. Your family is ridiculous, and I do love having been kept by them.) She's just turned two, blonde as her father and she never stops talking. She's brave and bold and very silly.

It's as if she's already trying to live up to her namesake. I'm not at all sure that I want her to try to be anything but herself, to be honest. After all, how could anyone live up to you? What we've made of you, I mean. The cool, heroic goddess Jock and Ross think you were, not the real Julie that I knew. I suppose I'll have to make sure she knows the truth more than the legend. The truth is the part I miss most, anyway.

Of course the world needs heroes, but I need my friend more. At least I still have your words, your Great Dissertation of Treason as you called it. You're still alive there, in the larger of Craig Castle's libraries where your lady mother has tucked it all away. Your recipe cards and sheet music and lovely hotel stationary, and my Pilot's Notes and the exercise book I took from Etienne. (I cannot bear to think of the Thibauts now, and so I will not tell you here what happened to them. It isn't as though they were the only ones lost, and this note is meant to be a happy one.)

This letter won't join the rest of our words, because I will seal it up and find it a place in the ground among your roses while a small fair girl runs about the garden chasing butterflies, and it will crumble into the damp here instead of there, but you live in both places so I don't think it matters.