This is one of the what-if-stories, more to the point it is a "what if Jem had died instead of Walter"-story. Hope you enjoy.

Forgive me

Where are the tears of yesterday night?
Where is the snow of the year gone by?
- Bertolt Brecht

She buttoned her wedding dress, took up Rosemary's old veil and cast a look at the mirror. Saw the lines around her eyes, wondered when exactly time had elapsed and sighed softly. She was in her late twenties and today was her wedding day.

She should have been happy, that she knew, but on a day like this she could hardly help but think about the past. And how could anyone think back without remembering the war? The war, that still caused all of them so much pain, even now, even six years later.

They all had, of course, found the strength to go on, somehow, had searched their happiness and had found it to be sure, but the old injury still hurt much too often and it seemed as if nothing and no-one could ease this pain.

But as they said, life went on and looking back she knew, what they meant by it. Back then, just after the war, all of them had been eager to live.

Rilla and Ken had married first and already had two children. Next had been Carl, her baby brother Carl, now father of a little girl and with another child on the way. Nan, too, was pregnant with her and Jerry's third child, whereas Di and Shirley had a daughter and a son, respectively.

Walter... well, Walter was downstairs in the manse's living-room, waiting for her to come and marry him after all those years. And her sister... she sighed again and desperately pushed the rising guilt aside.

Nothing had been easy after Jem's death. After this terrible day in September, when Dr. Blythe had gotten notice of his eldest son being killed in action.

She still remembered it as vividly as if it had happened only yesterday. Remembered the Doctor, who seemed to have shed several years in a mere second. Remembered Mrs. Blythe and the broken look evident in her eyes.

Remembered Nan's anguished cry and Di's face, deadly-pale and horror-stricken. Remembered Rilla and her never-drying tears, her never-ceasing sobs. Remembered... no! No. It hurt too much. This memory more than anything else.

Back then people in Glen had wondered much and talked a lot and in the end had been almost sure, that the Blythes would ever get over their loss, but somehow it seemed as if time had proved them wrong.

"Did we get over it? No, we never did and we never will," Rilla had reflected two years previously, "but we learnt to cope with it. It was horrible, but it was a clean cut. It healed, though a scar remained."

A scar. Every day she prayed for it to really be only a scar. But she knew it was none. It was a wound, as fresh as it had been nine years ago, still bleeding, still paining too much to be healed.

And now she had to go out there and celebrate the happiest day of her life.

Her thoughts drifted to Walter, her bridegroom. He had come back so changed, so very changed. The ever-present fear, the all-consuming ugliness, the inconceivable cruelties and Jem's death, of course, had changed him – and not only him, but all of them.

Still, Walter had managed to go on and shortly after his return had started to court her. It had been a surprise to her, but everyone else had seemed to await this.

Countless of people had tried to convince her that he had always loved her and only her. It had been hard for her to believe and even today, as grateful as she was for his love, she couldn't quite understand, grasp, take in.

It had taken much time until she had finally given in to him, for she had even declined his first proposal. Many had deemed her crazy then, had failed to understand the motives, that were so clear and logical to her.

She had thought of Jem, of her sister and had been sure, that she could not do this, not ever. And still she stood here today, in her wedding dress, about to do the one thing she had thought to be the uttermost betrayal possible. Betrayal of the one person she had always loved most.

A lot of people had tried to make her marry Walter, but in the end it had been her sister who had managed to change her mind, her sister to whom Walter owed the pleasure of marrying the woman of his dreams, the woman that still deemed her doings an inexcusable betrayal.

Just then the door opened and a golden head bobbed in. "Your groom is waiting for you, Una," Faith reminded gently.

Una nodded. "Yes. Yes, I... I'll be down soon."

A soft smile, hardly visible at all, tucked at the corner's of Faith's mouth as she nodded, then withdrew and softly closed the door behind her.

Una didn't stir, just starred at the spot where her sister had been only moments before and suddenly was ashamed of herself.

Ashamed, because her dreams were about to come true, when Faith's hopes had been shattered by a bullet nine years ago. Ashamed, because she was happy, when it cost Faith an enormous strength to manage a mere smile. Ashamed, because in spite of all her prayers she would never be able to help.

Ashamed, because it was the look in Faith's eyes they had broken and not the one in her owns.