Chapter 23

Wartime

World War II exploded over the next year and a half, bringing death and destruction that was too numerous to keep track. The Pevensie children awaited any news from their father, but the letters were very few and far between.

Peter, now fourteen and a half going on fifteen, was nearly completely well. He was allowed to return to school in September of 1940, but the constant threat of bombings was too great, so the children were sent home to be with their families.

When the German air raid attacks on London were considered immient, parents began contacting relatives who lived in the countryside to take their children away to safety. Mrs. Pevensie called everyone she knew, and when it had been a good stretch of time before she heard anything, Peter helped his mother build a bomb shelter to protect them in case. It was made of strong steel and wood collected from the local junkyard, and took them hours to construct.

Susan and Lucy helped bring food and canteens of water in there for storage, and they were constantly on the alert.

One afternoon in late April, while the weather was still fairly chilly after the long winter broke, Mrs. Pevensie sat at the living room desk flipping through her address book. Peter came into the room from having finished making Lucy lunch in the kitchen, and watched her sadly.

"Mum?" he asked in a quiet voice, and Mrs. Pevensie turned to look at him. "Have you had any luck?" he coughed and made his way into the living room, peering over his mother's shoulder. He'd been pretty well at school, and appreciated the condolences given by his classmates over Ethan's passing. "It must have been very hard," they said. "We really liked him." Now of course, Peter felt as though he were coming down with a cold, something he didn't want to deal with at this point.

"No," she replied. "I don't know what to do." she took Peter's hand, squeezing it tightly. "You're frozen," she added, and reached up to feel his forehead. "Are you feeling all right, dear?"

Peter shrugged, rubbing his nose, and stepped back a pace. "I guess," he answered, just as Lucy came into the living room, having finished eating her sandwich. "Hi," he greeted, and shook his head with a smirk…Lucy had a bit of a jelly mustache around her face, and he went to wipe it off for her with his handkerchief.

"Urgh!" she groaned, her entire face screwing up as he cleaned her up, and she gave a heavy sigh. "I'm bored," she whined, sitting down after he joined her in the kitchen again, where Susan was drinking from her cup of milk.

"Has Mum had any luck yet?" Susan asked, and Peter shook his head.

"No," he replied. "And she's pretty worried. I don't blame her, either…she's been looking for the past two weeks."

Lucy bit her lip, glancing out the window. It was a beautiful spring day, and she'd been outside romping around the yard for hours since breakfast ended. Even though the sun was hot, the breeze was comfortably cool, as long as you were in the shade. Edmund was nowhere to be found, but Peter had a feeling he was walking repeatedly past the local candy shop, which was only a couple of blocks away from the house. He tended to do that when things got a bit too stressful.

Speaking of the devil, Edmund came in, his hair tossled by the wind, and he carried a small paper bag in his hands.

"Where have you been all this time?" Susan asked, and he shrugged.

"Around," he replied, and brushed past them, heading up to his bedroom.

"Oh, he's impossible," Susan groaned, and Peter smiled at her, having to sneeze a short while later.

"Bless you," Lucy giggled, and he leaned his chin in his palm, wanting to go to sleep.

"You sound like you have a cold, Peter," Susan pointed out, and he made a face at her. "We could hear you coughing all night." she nodded to Lucy; the two girls were the only ones who had to share a room, but they didn't mind at all.

"Sorry," he apologized, and at that very moment, the telephone rang. The three children jumped, and Susan went to answer it as she was closest, her eyes raising when the person on the other end identified him/herself.

"Who is that?" Lucy asked, her eyes wide as well, and Peter jumped when Susan called their mother into the kitchen.

"Professor Kirke's on the phone, Mum!"

Mrs. Pevensie came rushing into the kitchen, and thanked her eldest daughter after taking the phone into her hand. Peter held his breath while he heard his mother talking, and felt his heart racing when he saw her lips break into an enormous smile.

"Oh Professor Kirke, I would be in your debt…" she gasped. "No, it's been impossible, quite honestly…I was starting to give up hope. Are you sure?"

Lucy wet her lips, and Susan was grinning, turning to Peter with sparkling eyes. "Tuesday sounds wonderful. Thank you again, Professor. Goodbye." she hung up, and let out a cry of delight, throwing her arms around Peter and squeezing the life out of him.

"Muuuum…" he gasped, and she kissed him, eventually pulling Susan into a hug as well. "who was that?"

"Who is Professor Kirke?" Susan added, and Peter raised an eyebrow at her.

"He's your father's old teacher from university years ago, and they shared quite a bond of friendship after Daddy graduated," she explained. "Professor Kirke lives in a great mansion in Coombe Halt, which is out in the country. He has agreed to take you four in until the war ends, or the danger in London ceases."

Susan covered her mouth with her hands, and Lucy bit her lip.

"When are we leaving?" she asked, and Peter had to sneeze again, stepping away again.

"Bless you dear," Mrs. Pevensie chuckled, and he blew his nose with a napkin, sighing heavily. "He said he should be ready by next Tuesday. His housekeeper is on vacation right now, and will be back this weekend; he wanted to make sure she was forewarned of your arrival before you came."

Susan sighed with relief, and hugged her mother again, glad it was working out.

"Oh good," she said. "

"Where is Edmund?" Mrs. Pevensie added. "Honestly, whatever has gotten into your brother, I have no idea."

Peter pointed up at the ceiling. "He's in his room," he replied. "Looks like he used some of his allowance on candy again."

Mrs. Pevensie clucked her tongue, and excused herself so she could go and tell Edmund the news. When she was out of earshot, Lucy let out a soft "oooh," and Peter hugged her tightly.

"He sounded like a nice gentleman on the telephone," Susan pointed out. "Very quiet, though."

"I've never heard of him," Peter admitted. "Don't you think Dad would have told us about him if…"

"Maybe he didn't have a reason to," Susan suggested. "Dad doesn't usually talk about his friends, anyway. He's usually too busy with the publishing house."

That was true, but Peter wasn't sure how comfortable he felt going into the home of a complete stranger for who knew how long. Still, it wasn't as though he knew anyone that lived out in the country--but he had been holding onto the tiny bit of hope that he might be able to spend that time with Mrs. Hunt at the seashore.

"I'm glad we're going to be safe," Susan added. "I mean…nothing's happened yet, but…" she shrugged. "I'd rather be away where there is no threat."

Lucy took Peter's arm. "Can we work on the fairy house?" she asked, and he glanced at her, realzing they hadn't done much on that in a while.

"I don't feel too well, Lu…I might go and lay down," he replied, and she stuck out her lower lip in a pout. Susan put a hand on his shoulder and encouraged him to make his way up to bed.

"I can help you with it," she suggested, and Peter paused on his way out of the kitchen, glancing over his shoulder. Lucy looked uncomfortable; it was a project she and Peter worked on together alone…their time to spend with each other.

"That's okay," she replied. "I'll just go and pick some flowers instead."

Susan looked a little hurt, but decided not to press matters. She went into the living room to read, and Peter headed up the stairs to his bedroom. He could hear his mother talking to Edmund in the room next door to his own, and it sounded more like an argument than a discussion.

"Why do we have to go away?" Edmund cried. "We're not babies!"

"You're not understanding the danger of this, Edmund," Mrs. Pevensie replied sternly, and Peter shook his head as he pulled off his shoes, laying down on his bed.

"But the country is BORING! And I don't want to live with some old man who'll probably have tons of rules and not let us do anything!"

Peter rubbed his nose and burried his face against the pillow…he hated how his younger brother made everything so difficult. Eventually he drifted off into a light doze, only to be awoken by his mother a short time later after she was through with Edmund. She checked his temperature again, frowning when she realized he had a bit of a fever.

"Mum?" Peter croaked, coughing into a fist, and she smiled faintly.

"You'll feel better soon, love," she replied. "Let me get some cough medicine for you, and just rest, all right?" she brushed his bangs away from his forehead, and kissed him before heading to the medicine chest for the dreaded dark bottle. She gave him the medicine, which tasted horribly bitter, and then went to make dinner for the rest of the family.

The rest of the evening continued on as normal; Lucy was sent to bed around 8:30, and she peeped in to check on her oldest brother, worried about him. Peter continued to lay still, trying to ward off dizziness, though the rumbling noise in the distance wasn't helping his headache. Susan and Edmund were still awake, and he could hear their voices from downstairs in the parlor.

"What's that?" he heard Susan cry as the rumbling grew louder, and his heart leapt into his throat. It was getting late, but there was still hints of sunlight in the sky.

"Sounds like an airplane or something," Edmund replied, sounding rather excited.

"Mother…mother, d'you think they could be ours?" Susan asked, and Mrs. Pevensie turned on the radio, feeling her heart fill with fear.

"German fighter planes sighted a mile away from London…"

"Susan?" she began in a calm voice, though the look in her eyes showed just how anxious she was. "Go and wake your brother, and tell him we're to report to the shelter right away."

"Oh my God," Susan gasped, and Edmund stood up, his mouth hanging open. Susan did as she was told at once, dashing upstairs just as they heard what sounded like an explosion in the distance. The entire house shook from the force of the noise, and Lucy immediately awoke in her bed, screaming out in horror. She clutched her little stuffed dog in her arms…it had been a gift from Peter for her birthday, and lay rigid with fear.

"PETER!" Susan cried, and she didn't even have to wake him, for he was already out of bed and putting on his shoes.

"Susan…what's going on?" he cried, and the two of them peered out the window of his bedroom, watching as a street in the distance blazed with the orange light of flames. Susan covered her mouth with her hands as she saw a swarm of dark figures flying towards their town, which just hours before, was peaceful.

"We're being bombed," he gasped, and Susan immediately tore from the room, reaching the one she shared with Lucy, and saw her youngest sister laying there with her arms covering her head.

"MUMMY!" Lucy cried, and Susan picked up a flash light sitting on her dresser, shining it at the little girl's face.

"Lucy, it's time to get up…" she ordered. "We have to go."

"Peter…where's Peter?" Lucy choked as Susan practically drug her out of the bed, and Peter peered in at that moment, his face brightening as another explosion caused flames to shoot up nearby once again. Even though the bombs weren't hitting their exact location, they were close enough to exert that kind of force.

"Lucy?" he called, and Lucy leapt into his arms, still wearing her nightgown, and clung to his neck as he carried her down the steps, finding his mother dashing this way and that, grabbing blankets, pillows, and their coats.

"Oh Peter," she breathed. "Quickly…we have to get to the shelters…not much time."

Peter nodded, setting Lucy to the floor, and told her to follow Susan outside at once.

"I won't leave you," Lucy sobbed, and he touched her shoulder, promising he would be out as soon as they had everything they needed.

"Come on, Lu!" Susan snapped, grabbing her little sister's hand, and pulling her towards the back door. Edmund stood in the living room, watching through the front doorway as the bombs continued to explode around them. It was an awesome sight, though positively terrifying at the same time. He couldn't tear his vision away from outside, even though he heard his family panicking as they prepared to leave the house.

"EDMUND!" Mrs. Pevensie finally saw what he was doing, and dashed over to the door, grabbing him by the shoulders. "Get away from there!"

He jumped and turned to face her, in a bit of a daze. "Peter…I think that's all we need…get to the shelters, NOW."

Peter agreed at once, and demanded that Edmund come with him. Edmund scowled…he hated being pushed around by his older brother, and normally would have retorted would it have not been for his mother's panicked voice.

"Come ON!" Peter grabbed Edmund's arm with his free hand; the other held a pile of blankets from the linen closet. "We're leaving!"

"Get OFF," Edmund snapped, wrenching away from his brother's grasp. "I'm not stupid…I'm coming."

A moment later another explosion occurred, and this one was only a street away from their own. Peter tripped on the way out, falling on all fours to the front lawn. He choked on a cry of pain as he hit the ground, and Mrs. Pevensie picked her son up carefully, asking if he were all right.

"I'm fine," he squeaked, grabbing the blankets, and prepared to run for the shelter again. He barely made it a few feet when Edmund decided to bolt for the house again, realizing he'd forgotten his father's picture.

"DAD!" Edmund shouted, and tore for the kitchen door, causing Peter to drop everything in alarm once again.

"EDMUND, don't!" Mrs. Pevensie screamed; Susan and Lucy were watching through the shelter door, their faces white with terror.

"I'll get him!" Peter promised, and before his mother could protest, he dove into the house after his brother, while another bomb struck, this time hitting their street. Peter could feel the heat from the flames as it billowed out from the front of their house, and shielded his eyes as the windows blew in, showering them with tiny pieces of glass. Edmund snatched Mr. Pevensie's picture from the desk; it had fallen over, and part of the glass had cracked as a result.

"Come on, you idiot," Peter snapped, his voice growing hoarser because of his cold, and Edmund blinked. "Run!"

He managed to grab his younger brother's free hand, and drug him through the kitchen door, finally making it outside. Mrs. Pevensie waited for them in the shelter doorway, and encouraged them to hurry in at once. Peter shoved Edmund through the tiny doorway, watching as he fell to the floor inches from his mother. Susan held Lucy under the table, and she was crying from all of the loud noise.

"Why can't you think about anyone but yourself?" Peter yelled, once he'd gotten in. "You're so SELFISH!" tears streamed down his face…he'd never been more furious with his brother; well, the last time he'd been this angry was after he'd come home from the hospital following his near death experience. He swung the door shut so hard that the shelter trembled a little. "You could have gotten us killed, did you even think of that?"

Mrs. Pevensie knew it was best not to involve her opinion, not at the moment anyway. She knew Peter needed to get his feelings off of his chest; he tended to make himself feel worse if he hid his emotions. He took deep breaths, clenching his fists at his sides…he wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand, and collapsed onto the steps, burrying his face in his lap.

Edmund snuffled, his lower lip sticking out…Mr. Pevensie's photograph sat beside him.

"Peter," Mrs. Pevensie soothed, releasing Edmund from her embrace, and went to sit next to her eldest son on the steps. Peter sniffed, rubbing his nose, and leaned against her. The explosions were still going on around them, and each one made the ground feel as though it were going to open up and swallow them. "I understand you're upset, but raising your voice never helps." she kissed his forehead, and he gazed into her eyes, looking a bit sheapish.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "Edmund just makes me so mad sometimes."

Susan let Lucy sit up…she'd been laying across her lap for a while, and the little girl crawled out from under the table.

"I am here you know, Peter," Edmund growled. "you don't have to talk about me as though I'm a piece of furniture."

Peter glared at him. "You don't want to know what I want to say to you in person," he muttered, and Mrs. Pevensie squeezed his arm in warning.

"Go on, Peter," Edmund growled. "Tell me what you think of me. I'd probably get a good laugh over it."

Peter started for his younger brother, but Mrs. Pevensie held him back.

"This is NOT the time for bickering," she said. "Let us just try to get through the night alive."

Lucy crept towards Peter, unsure if he wanted her nearby or not. He caught sight of her after a moment or two, and reached out for her.

"Lu," he whispered, and she took his hand, sitting down on his lap.

For hours they sat in silence, except for Peter's sneezing and coughing every now and again. Susan dozed under the table, and Edmund sat with his back to his siblings, his knees drawn to his chest. Lucy fell asleep against Peter, and he wrapped a small blanket around her…it was hard to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, knowing the danger they were in.

The explosions were quite regular through the night, and the silence only came around 9:30 the following morning. Peter had finally fallen asleep when that occurred, his joints sore from the uncomfortable position he had to rest in. When he finally opened his eyes, he saw his mother checking their supplies, making sure everything was in order for breakfast.

"Mum?" he asked, finding his nose to be completely stuffed up. Lucy shifted her weight next to him, and licked her lips, which were dry.

"Good morning, dear," Mrs. Pevensie greeted, offering him a fresh handkerchief. He accepted it gratefully, blowing his nose, which caused Lucy to jolt awake with surprise.

"Sorry," he apologized, and she blinked wearily, looking at him.

"Are we still alive?" she asked, noticing that Susan was still asleep, curled into a little ball. Edmund was still resting as well, stretched longways on the rug.

"Yes," Mrs. Pevensie chuckled. "And the bombings seem to have stopped for the time being."

Peter eased Lucy off of him, and stood, massaging his neck. He coughed into a fist, feeling terrible, and wanted nothing more than to curl into bed and sleep for a month.

"D'you think we can go outside?" Lucy asked, letting out a whimper. Her hair was all over the place, and Peter smoothed it gently for her.

"I think we might be able to take a peak," Mrs. Pevensie replied with a sad smile, and Susan made a small grunt, turning over at last.

"Where'm I?" she asked, and Peter sniffed, opening the door to the shelter. What he saw made everything in his body freeze. The roof of their house was blown off, and the entire base was charred.

"Oh my God," Mrs. Pevensie breathed, covering her mouth with her hands as she followed her son to the lawn.

Peter blinked as he stepped forward…his bedroom was on the second floor, so he would have been killed had they remained inside during the bombings. He felt his mother grip his shoulder for dear life, and he held onto her hand, giving her a comforting look.

"Mummy…" Lucy began to cry as soon as she saw what had happened, and Susan reacted in pretty much the same manner.

"I'm surprised the whole house didn't fall down," Edmund pointed out, and Peter rolled his eyes.

"That's real nice, Ed," he retorted, and Mrs. Pevensie blew out her breath.

"Well, brick doesn't damage that easily by fire, but the roof was never very sturdy," she replied. "Thank God we're all safe. I'm not sure how easy it's going to be to get your things out so we can go to Professor Kirke's but…"

"Didn't he say Tuesday, Mum?" Peter asked, sniffling, and she looked at him.

"Yes, but he told me if things took a bad turn with the bombing threats, that we were to report to him whenever we had to."

Peter rubbed his arms as they stepped over pieces of fallen debrees towards the house, and what he saw next made his heart break. The fairy house, the one that he and Lucy had worked so hard on the past couple of months since his illness, lay shattered in pieces on the front porch.

Lucy wailed, clinging to his arm helplessly, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"Shhhshh," he soothed, kissing the top of her head. "Lucy, we can always rebuild it. We might even be able to do that at Professor Kirke's…being as he's out in the country."

Lucy snuffled, rubbing her nose, and hiccoughed for a few minutes. The house itself was mostly intact inside, but of course due to the roof being off, the upstairs had a huge hole in the center of the hallway floor where the implosion had come. Furniture was overturned and glass was everywhere…Peter suggested that the girls stay outside where it was safe, and he go in to start packing their things.

"I'll be all right, Peter," Susan insisted, her voice very quiet, as though she were a little nervous about crossing her brother.

"Susan, Peter's right," Mrs. Pevensie continued. "Just tell him what you think you'll need, and we'll go in. It's not safe if all of us go at once."

"My fairy book," Lucy spoke up, and Peter smiled at her. "Find that, can you, Peter?"

He nodded. "I'll try," he replied, and after Edmund was allowed in as well, the two girls sat outside on the front lawn, watching as their neighbors wandered about the street, tring to help one another. They were both together when Aunt Anna came down in her little motor car, and immediately hopped to their feet when she climbed out.

"Oh, oh thank God…thank God," Aunt Anna breathed, embracing both of her nieces. "You're safe…"

"We all are," Susan replied. "Mum, Peter and Edmund are inside trying to bring out our things…we're going to the country soon."

Aunt Anna shook her head sorrowfully at the state of the Pevensie household, and kept her hand in Lucy's.

"There is a train for children going out to the country first thing tomorrow morning," she explained. "I've come to offer my house as a place to stay until then. I've thank heavens remained untouched…my street in its entirey were lucky."

Mrs. Pevensie eventually came out to see her sister with her daughters, and the two women embraced, breaking down in quiet sobs. Peter struggled to carry a couple of suitcases worth of clothing for his sisters, and Lucy beamed when he produced her fairytale book.

"Oh thank you," she exclaimed, hugging him tightly.

"Peter, dear…are you all right?" Aunt Anna asked, and he nodded.

"Except for a cold, he's just fine," Mrs. Pevensie answered.

"Oh dear," Aunt Anna clucked. "Well, as soon as we go to my house, we'll get you into bed and with a cup of hot tea."

Peter smiled gratefully as Edmund stumbled out next, carrying his own things. The family piled into the small motorcar; laps had to be shared, but that was perfectly acceptable given the circumstances, so no one complained. Peter fought several urges to sneeze, not wanting to do so on Lucy's head as she sat nestled against him.

It was true…Aunt Anna's neighborhood had barely been touched by the air raids, which was a pure miracle.

"All right, dears," Aunt Anna announced once everything was out of the car. "In you go."

Lucy bit her lip…the last time she'd been here was when Peter had the measles, and she felt her stomach twisting with worry at the sound of his cough. Rollie the cat lay across the doormat as they opened the front door, and she shooed him off with a small kick.

"Stupid cat," Lucy growled, and Peter touched her shoulder, before being directed to the spare bedroom upstairs.

"So tomorrow we'll go to Professor Kirke's, then?" Susan asked once they were all seated in the parlor, sipping tea and nibbling on krimpets. Aunt Anna had already brought Peter a mug upstairs, and returned shortly afterwards.

"Yes," Mrs. Pevensie replied. "It's two days early."

"You're welcome to use my telephone, Helen," Aunt Anna offered, and her sister went into the kitchen to do so at that very moment. While the two women were gone, Susan, Edmund and Lucy sat by themselves, silent. It was so strange to think that just the day before, everything was perfectly normal.

"Oh dear," Susan breathed, sipping from her mug…for their lives would never return to normal again after this. In fact, she didn't know how it could possibly be.