A/N: Here comes the last part!
For the first time in what seems like ages the sun is shining timid rays through the thick, dark clouds that have casted over the dull English sky so heavily for weeks on end. Seeing as this is the loveliest day of the week – and who knows what the rest of the month shall bring? – Helen has decided to go for a long walk, to finally catch a little bit of fresh air.
When she returns, she is a little surprised to find her youngest daughter curled up in the living-room armchair by the window, fast asleep and clutching a thick book on her lap.
For a moment Helen just stands there and watches Lucy silently. She is such a sweet thing – just looking at her like this, her hair unruly, pretty features all relaxed, makes Helen want to hold on to her and never let her go again.
But Lucy will go. She has turned eighteen in this spring, finished school and is about to be leaving for university after summer – and then Helen will see as little of her as she does of her older brothers these days.
Quietly, Helen finally passes by her daughter's seat, meaning to slip into the kitchen unnoticed, where dinner needs to be cooked, when a sleepy voice holds her back. "Mum?"
"Oh dear." Helen turnes and smiles at her. "I didn't mean to wake you up, Sweetheart."
Rubbing her eyes with her knuckles Lucy sits up straight and yawns. "I wasn't supposed to fall asleep, so I'm glad you did wake me."
"Are you alright, darling?"
"Perfectly fine, Mum. Just a little tired from reading, is all."
"Maybe you should allow yourself a break then," Helen suggests, sitting in the armchair opposite her daughter. She inspects the tome Lucy is still holding on her lap. "Human medicine? Lucy, are they expecting you to have learned the human anatomy by heart before you even start college?"
Scrunching up her small nose, Lucy shrugs. "I'm not silly," she says. "I know, there will be a man's world waiting for me out there. So I wanted to get a headstart on all the blokes who will think that a girl can't compete with them. And, of course, everything's different here …"
"What do you mean, here?"
"Oh, er … nothing really." Lucy blushes and puts the book on the windowsill.
Helen bends forward a little so she can touch her daughter's knee. "Lucy, are you scared of going to university?"
Her daughter shrugs, avoiding Helen's eyes in an uncharacteristic manner. "Sort of … a little bit, anyway." She seems to think about it for a moment, then she adds, "well, not scared really. More like timid. I don't know …"
"You'll do great!" Helen says encouragingly. "Haven't you always been the most courageous of my children?"
"Have I?" Lucy looks genuinely surprised. "I don't know … with two big brothers – and a big sister too – how does a girl need to be courageous?"
"Now now, don't sell yourself short, sweetie."
Lucy smiles shyly, and Helen is almost a little worried. When did her gay little girl get so subdued? Is it the prospect of growing up? The fear of finding herself in a world where she will have to prove herself without the constant assurance of having her elder siblings looking out for her? Whatever it is, Helen is sure that she will find out, sooner or later.
There is no better way to create the perfect atmosphere for getting someone to talk than offering a hot cup of tea and a nice piece of cake. One look at her youngest tells Helen that Lucy is indeed in need of both.
When she has organised everything neatly on the small table, which is placed next to the armchair Lucy is perched in, Helen sits back down and decides it is a good time to ask Lucy something she has meant to talk about for a while now. "Sweetie, do you think you could maybe have a word with your sister about that visit to the Professor's you're all planning?"
At the question Lucy looks sincerely surprised. "Why would I?"
"Because you mentioned several times you would have liked her to come – and when I talked to Peter about it –"
"You talked to Peter about it?"
"When he was here, last weekend, yes," Helen says, giving her daughter a curious look. "Why? Should I have not?"
Lucy shakes her head. "Well … I don't know. Peter's a little on the outs with Susan lately … we all are, really."
"But whyever would you be?"
Sitting on her heels in the small armchair, her feet buried under her skirt, teacup in hand, Lucy regards her mother thoughtfully. "She's headed in the wrong direction, Mum. We tried to talk to her, but she doesn't want to hear it. I think she's lost her faith."
Sipping on her own tea, Helen asks, "lost her faith? In what?"
"In us, Mum. In the four of us. We've been through so much together, and now she just keeps looking the other way."
Shaking her head Helen has to admit that she can't make much sense of her daughter's words. "But Sweetheart, why would she have lost faith in you? She loves you all so much."
"Does she?" Lucy raises a brow.
Before Helen can say more, her daughter waves off her own proposition. "Sorry Mummy, that was uncalled for, I know. It's just that it is so frustrating talking to her these days."
"But couldn't you make her go with you? Your father and I will spend the weekend away as well, see? And would hate to know she'd be here all by herself. She seems so unhappy all the time and I don't want her to feel left out."
The cake is gone and the tea is all but drunk, as Lucy reaches for her book once more. "As I said Mum, I tried before. She's unhappy because she looks for happiness in the wrong places. And she doesn't want us to help her look in the right ones." Suddenly her eyes seem a little glassy and she rubs her nose with the back of her hand, a gesture that strongly reminds her mother of her second youngest.
Helen offers her her handkerchief, but Lucy shakes her head. Finally she says, "Susan wants to be a grownup. I mean, I know we all have to grow up. But it's not nearly as easy as Susan pretends it is. I … I am not enjoying it so far. And I don't think Peter and Edmund are, either."
"It's normal to be a little anxious, dear."
"I know." She sniffs and wipes her nose once again.
"And your brothers are doing quite well. Most of the time, anyway."
"And so will you, dear."
Through her tears, Lucy smiles at her mother. For a moment she looks as if there was a lot more on her mind to say, but then she just settles for, "I love you so much, Mummy."
"I love you, too, Sweetheart, I love you, too. Whatever the future will bring, do not ever forget that!"