Because good must triumph over evil, so we would triumph over them. How could we have known that war never trades in such certainties? For where nothing is unthinkable... anything can be true. Even a lie.
~ Charlotte Gray
“Charlotte,” she corrected, and Julien nodded, ashamed of his mistake. They said nothing, both knowing that he would make it again. He had always known that Dominque was not her name, as she had known that Octave was not his, but their time together had been forged in a fire, in secret messages and blowing up trains, in hiding Jewish boys and fearing the Nazis. They were caught up in something intense and life-altering, in war and rebellion. His mind had connected that name to her.
Her mind had connected that name to her.
Her trainers had told her to remember who she wasn't. She wasn't Charlotte Gray. She was Dominque Guilbert.
She had been that woman to both of them, to Julien and herself.
Sometimes it was hard to forget that she wasn't Dominique.
War makes us into people we didn't know we were, Peter had told her that before she left, and he was right in ways she could not have understood then. Now she did. Now she could never go back.
I can't go back. I'm sorry.
I wish you'd listened.
Then I wouldn't have been myself.
Sometimes she didn't know who she was. Or what she expected to do now that the war was over. She had thought returning to Julien was the answer, that she could find herself, the part that had been missing in London, the part that belonged to Dominque.
She was supposed to be Charlotte again. Her name, her life. The war was over, and they all had to rebuild. The people, the land, everyone was working on finding their way again.
Julien took her hand, and she gave him a smile, wrapping her hands around his. She let herself lean against him, watching the fire and missing his father and the way the old man had cooked for them.
“Could you forgive yourself if you'd been part of something terrible but didn't know?” she asked, looking at him as she repeated words she'd spoken to his father.
“I know what I was a part of,” Julien said, his voice troubled. “You know what I did, what I am. The coward and the murderer.”
She almost told him it was war, but that did not take away the guilt. “You would have saved me.”
“You thought that wasn't enough.”
"You did your best."
"Don't say that," she ordered. "My best? How dare you say that to me? You don't know what I've done. You don't know who I am. You don't even know my name."
“Those words were no comfort to you. Most of them were stupid and angry and said out of fear of losing the only thing I had left,” he said, remembering the same conversation she did, reaching up to touch her face with his other hand. “I shouldn't have—”
“You were in trouble. More than that you were grieving and guilt-stricken and we'd just lost everything despite what we tried to do. It wasn't enough,” she said. “I still had to find something to set against it.”
“You did. You found it, and you did it. I didn't. I ran.”
“Will anything ever be enough for you, Julien?" She asked, her own voice quiet and full of concern. "Will you ever be able to stop punishing yourself for the past?”
“When I can't even remember to call you Charlotte?” He shook his head, one of those rueful and boyish smiles on his face. “I do not think so.”
“Did you love Dominque?”
“I think so, if love can come in a time like that when everything is chaos and wrong.” He shook his head. “Listen to me. I am being a fool all over again—yes. I loved the woman who comforted me when I had done the worst, the one I thought I lost when I had to flee.”
“And Charlotte? How do you feel about her?"
“Who is Charlotte?” Julien teased, this smile one of amusement. She smiled back, and he leaned forward to kiss her forehead before sitting back to answer her. “Yes, now that I know her, I think I do."
“You know I am both of them. Charlotte and Dominque. She had a cover—”
“For specific details,” he interrupted. “Those things belonged to her. The other parts were you. The way you were with my father. With the boys. That was you. No one else. The things I loved about her are the ones I love about you. Your name doesn't change that.”
“My name is Charlotte Gray,” she said, but she wasn't just reminding him. She was reminding herself. She had lived through that, it was not just Dominque who had known the war or him. She had. She still did. They carried guilt together, guilt that others did not understand, even if they would have done their best to try.
“I know it is,” he said, leaning his head against hers. “I may forget sometimes, but that does not change how I feel about you.”
“And if I forget?”
“You can call me Octave.”