I kiss her hair, rocking us gently. “You go ahead and cry all you like, love. You’re crying for both of us.”
For a few more final moments, we hold each other.
And then it’s time to let go.
I kiss her softly, deeply. And as I look into her beautiful eyes, I remember words from a lifetime ago. Words that comforted me when I needed comfort more than anything.
I press my palm to Sarah’s cheek and smile. “We’re going to be all right, you and I. Yeah?”
She takes a deep breath and gives me a smile back.
Three years later
HENRY KEPT HIS PROMISE. He wrote me a letter a day, every day that we were apart, and it turns out he’s a fantastic writer. Most were romantic, naughty—the kind a typical soldier would pen to his girl back home. A few were heartbreaking, a place for him to find solace, to pour out his grief after a difficult battle and the losses that all too often accompanied them. Some were philosophical, a way to sort out his own thoughts and beliefs by conveying them to me. And there were others that were hopeful, that spoke of the future—our future, as well as the future of our country and people and the kind of leader he aspired to be.
And I matched him letter for letter. I found I was bolder, dirtier, in my writing . . . although with Henry’s instruction, I’ve come pretty far on the dirty talk front too. In the moments that he needed my comfort, when the words were too difficult for him to write and he needed my open arms but I wasn’t there to hold him, I would send him pages and pages of I love you’s—because sometimes there’s nothing else that can be said. Other letters spoke of the work I did, the children I met and how all children are the same, no matter where they live or the language they speak . . . they all have the enormous capacity for resilience and hope and to give and receive love. And there were the letters that I wrote of my own dreams for Henry and me, for our children, and the source of strength for our people I hoped one day to be.
All of our letters, his to me and mine to him, are stored in the private safe at Guthrie House. It’s odd to think that one day, many years from now, someone could read our letters the way George and Martha Washington’s are studied, as a part of history. For us, they were simply words from Henry to Sarah and back again—but we now understand and accept the place we’ll one day fill in the world. It’s who we are, and we’re at peace with it.
When Henry’s enlistment was up, he surprised me—found me and came to me—where I was stationed with the BCA. To others, he looked like any rugged, bearded soldier, but I knew him in an instant. Those eyes, that smile—I ran and threw myself into his arms, and that’s when we were both reassured that two years apart had only deepened our passion for each other.
These days, Henry lives at Guthrie House, already working with Parliament and the Queen, to change and better Wessco. And I have my own flat here in the city. Mother complains about the crowds and the noise every time she visits, but she comes anyway. Penny’s had a few small parts in several moderately successful television shows and one hugely successful commercial for tooth-whitening cream. She’s on a billboard in LA for the same product—and she takes a picture of it at least once a week and sends it to me, because she still can’t believe it.
I spend my days working in the Palace library, and as a member of several literacy-promoting charitable organizations. I still struggle with new people and places, but it doesn’t hold me back—and like I once told Henry, we all have our quirks.
As for Henry, he gets my nights. Almost all of them, all the time. It’s different here in the city than in Castlebrook—the paparazzi are relentless, and there’s nothing they’d like more than to get a shot of Henry or me doing the walk of shame in the morning, after having spent the night together. We have to be sneaky.
Lucky for us, sneaky is still Henry’s specialty. They haven’t caught us yet.
In fact, I was just with him last night, talking about the speech he’s giving to Parliament right now. I told him if he was nervous he should just picture me naked, and he said he needed a refresher . . . and there wasn’t much talking after that.
I now sit with Prince Nicholas and the Queen, and listen as Henry gives the position of the House of Pembrook on Wessco’s potential military engagement. He writes the speeches himself, in coordination with his grandmother, and as I said . . . he’s quite the writer.
As he concludes his remarks, Henry slowly meets the eyes of each seated MP.
“This is not an action I take lightly. I have seen the cost of war, and I ache for the loss of every soldier as if they were members of my own family—because they are.”
And then his voice changes. Surges in strength and resonance.
“But the world is not always gray. There are moments in time when the line between right and wrong is stark and clear. And each of us must make our choice. It has been said that evil flourishes when good men and women do nothing. And so I ask you to stand with me today, beside me and beside the sons and daughters of Wessco as we declare in one resounding voice, I will not do nothing.”
The chamber fills with a cacophony of clapping hands—thunderous applause—and every member of Parliament rises to his feet. To stand with His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Henry.
Later, Henry steps from the platform and makes his way through the throng of chattering Parliament members, shaking hands and nodding as he goes. When he arrives at our seats, his brother immediately embraces him, smiling broadly.