Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops
Lucy leaned her arms on the windowsill. She rested her chin on them and stared dully at the sleety street, perking up only at the sound of motor car slushing past. None of the cars stopped at the house, though, and each time this happened she sank a little lower.
"I do wish that if it was going to be cold it could at least be pretty and snow," she sighed, even though she was alone in the room.
"Ugh. I know," Susan said from the hall as she donned her coat. As usual, she had glided down the stairs with such a silent grace that Lucy hadn't heard. "The cold is so biting when it's wet like this," she added. She shivered at the thought as she pulled on her gloves. This distracted her, and she spread her fingers and inspected her hands. "I do hope Mum and Dad get me a muff for Christmas. It would be much more fashionable, and I so love the feel of fur."
Lucy was on the verge of murmuring agreement, but she was cut off. "But if your hands are all snuggly, however will you get your beaux to warm them for you?" Edmund inquired from the doorway.
Susan narrowed her eyes. "Ha ha, very funny."
He leaned against the doorjamb and smirked. "What's this? Are you actually going to be ready for your date when he comes calling?"
"For your information, I'm going out with the girls tonight," she said with a toss of the head.
"I see, and there's no need to keep them waiting." He winked at Lucy and looked at Susan's feet. "My, and you're in heels too. Better make sure you don't slip and fall into some handsome stranger's arms."
Susan turned very white and pressed her lips together. Lucy spoke up from her spot on the couch. "Ed, don't keep on at her like that. Of course Susan wouldn't wear her Wellies. They'd look awful with that coat."
"See? Thank you, Lucy. It's something that a boy wouldn't understand." She stuck out her chin and picked up an umbrella. "Now if the inquiry is over, I'll see you later." She unlatched the door, and Lucy could hear the thwap of her umbrella opening and the bump of the door closing. She watched Susan tap her way down the walk, the sleet shining on the pavement under the streetlights.
"Why are you being so hard on her?" Lucy asked.
Edmund came over and sat on the back of the couch, resting his feet on the cushions. Susan scolded him for this all the time. Lucy looked at him askance, but she didn't chide him. "She's always got someplace better to go, hasn't she?" Edmund said with some bitterness.
Lucy laid her head on her arms again. She hated to speak ill of Susan, but she privately agreed with Edmund.
He continued glumly for a moment. "We used to be enough for her. She used to want to spend time with us—at least once in awhile. Now she acts as though she's so different. So much better." He sighed, noting his sister's expression. "I'm sorry, Lu."
Lucy turned her head so she could look at him, though she didn't pick it up. "Don't tell me, tell Susan."
He scoffed. "If she'll hear me."
She sensed he needed to sulk, so she let him be and returned to her watch at the window. After a few minutes and three false alarms, Edmund said "Watching in case Peter comes home?
"University exams just ended today. He's not due till tomorrow, you know."
"I know. He might come home early."
"He might," Edmund agreed. "If anyone would find a way to come home early, it would be Peter. Still, a watched pot never boils, they say. Perhaps I can tempt you out to the cinema? Saturday night is date night, and I couldn't bear the humiliation of being seen alone." He finished with a canny imitation of Susan.
Lucy giggled. "Are you sure it's better to be seen with your sister?" she asked shyly.
"No girl I'd rather be seen with," Edmund replied with a grin. "Come on, I'll treat. Let's you and I escape for a bit."
"Alright," she said, her face splitting into a grin. She climbed off the couch and ran into the vestibule to pull on her boots.
"Are you sure they'll look good with your coat?" Edmund teased.
"Pooh. It's freezing and disgusting out there," Lucy returned, wrinkling her nose.
Edmund grabbed an umbrella and they both set off. He offered her an arm as they walked to the Tube, and Lucy remarked "This is just how Mr. Tumnus and I set off together that first day in Narnia." She shut her mouth immediately, for the last time she mentioned Narnia in public Susan gave her a reproving look. Edmund only smiled.
When they came out of the Underground the sleet was letting up, so Edmund steered them to Covent Garden, where he declared one could find the best Cornish pasties. He bought one for each of them and they headed back to the movie theater near Piccadilly Circus. Lucy hadn't been out in London very often, and the throngs of people and twisting streets confused her. She could find her way blindfolded through the Shuddering Wood, but London was a very different kind of forest. She kept close to Edmund and relied on him to guide her.
She was concentrating so hard on staying with Edmund that she didn't realize they were at the theater until he announced "Here we are."
Lucy looked up at the marquis expecting to see a new film, but this movie house was playing second runs: Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, and
"The Wizard of Oz!" she cried, clapping her hands. "Oh Ed, do let's see that one."
He grinned, looking pleased with himself. "It's our kind of film, isn't it?"
"Only Dorothy needed a tornado instead of a wardrobe," Lucy said as they stepped into the queue at the box office.
A few places ahead of them there was a high-pitched thrill of girlish laughter. Lucy peered down the line out of curiosity, and what she saw made her nudge Edmund. "I say—there's Susan!"
"There she is," he said grumpily.
"Shouldn't we say hello?"
He scowled. "She might say hello to us."
"Perhaps she doesn't see us," Lucy suggested.
"She sees us alright. She looked right at me a moment ago, and she turned away."
"Oh," Lucy said, sounding hurt.
A little ways away Susan was declaring gaily "It must be Gone with the Wind."
"No, no!" one of her friends said with a little laugh. "Casablanca. Humphrey Bogart's so handsome."
"I'd take Clark Gable any day," Susan declared. "And the clothes! I remember what it was like to dress so fine every day."
Her friend squinted at her. "You remember?"
She put her hand to her face in a gesture vaguely reminiscent of Scarlett O'Hara. "Is that what I said? Goodness, I'm losing my head tonight! I meant 'imagine what it must be like,'" she said with a nervous little laugh.
Her friends didn't even blink. A redhead glanced at her reflection in the glass of the ticket window and patted her hair. "When is your brother Peter coming home?"
Lucy noticed that Susan smiled, but not with her eyes. "We expect him tomorrow."
"Oooh! See if you can get him to come dancing with us!" the redhead said. Lucy didn't like the greedy look in her eyes when she talked about Peter.
"Yes," said her other friend, "But make sure he doesn't bring your sister. She's a little odd."
Lucy watched Susan anxiously. She gave her friends a fixed smile, but that was all. No words of defense or chastisement. She was suddenly so miserable she barely noticed the collective dismay of the girls when they discovered their movies were sold out. She felt tears spring to her eyes, but before they could fall Edmund put an arm around her shoulders. "You are not odd," he declared fiercely, "And don't be foolish enough to listen to empty-headed girls who say otherwise." He snorted. "Peter wouldn't look twice at them to begin with."
Though Susan's failure to defend her stung, Edmund's loyalty cheered her a little. She smiled at him. "Thanks, Ed."
Predictably, Edmund grew a little uncomfortable. He didn't like for anyone to recognize his affectionate gestures when he did go so far as to make them. Lucy giggled and nudged him gently with her elbow. "So are you treating to popcorn too?"
"Well if I didn't do the thing properly I'd never hear the end of it from Peter, would I? He's terribly proper when it comes to the rules of chivalry and all that." Edmund grinned, more at ease in the familiar territory of poking fun at his brother.
"I suppose that's why so many of Susan's friends like him," she said thoughtfully, chewing the nail of her index finger.
"And why he doesn't care two figs for them," Edmund put in. "He'll only spend his time with real ladies—hence why he favors you."
"Edmund! You're so complimentary tonight!" Lucy exclaimed, pretending that surprise could cover her delight at Edmund's kind words. Even though they had become a lot closer since the Dawn Treader, flattery from Edmund was still rare.
"You caught me on a good day, Sunshine," he returned, whistling as he took out his wallet to pay for the tickets.
A few minutes later they were settled in their seats, popcorn and Coca-Colas in hand. Edmund even bought some chocolate, though Lucy suspected that was more a treat for himself than her. She liked that Edmund kept his old sweet tooth, comforted by the idea that some things didn't change after all.
Lucy usually liked to sit down below, as close to the screen as she could get. That way she felt almost as though she was in the movie. She let Edmund choose the seats though, since he was being so nice. He favored the front row of the balcony so he could watch the people in the theater and put his feet up, thus satisfying his love of comfort and his curiosity at the same time.
Lucy observed with amusement as he leaned back and looked at the audience with as much interest as if it were a film. She waited for him to start commenting at the people he saw, but all at once he jumped, and a small cascade of popcorn showered the audience below. "By the Lion!" he swore, and leaned far over the railing.
"What? What is it, Ed?"
Edmund shook his head as if to clear it. "I thought—there's a boy down there who looks a lot like Caspian."
"Where?" Lucy asked immediately, leaning over the railing and scanning the crowd.
"It's not him."
"I know, but still," she answered. Edmund pointed the boy out, a tall specimen with golden hair and a free and open manner and very charming dimples. "Oh," she sighed wistfully, "He does look like Caspian."
Edmund didn't reply to this—he was already laughing at something else. "Look," he said, pointing. She followed his finger with her eyes and saw Susan and her friends just below them, bits of popcorn clinging to their hair and clothes. Lucy burst out laughing. "Oh no! Edmund, we ought to tell them."
They were saved from this inconvenience by Susan herself, who plucked a kernel off her redheaded friend's coat. She held it between her thumb and forefinger and frowned at it, then smoothed her own hair so a shower of popcorn fell into her lap. Lucy couldn't stop her giggling, and next to her Edmund was laughing so hard he slapped his knee. "So much for her polished perfection!" he crowed.
Lucy didn't know if Edmund's laugh carried that far, but Susan turned her face up to the balcony and looked right where they were sitting. She gave them a frown of disapproval. Edmund shrugged winningly in reply, but Susan only shook her head and turned away. She didn't even give him the half smile that usually accompanied her eye rolls. Lucy realized with dismay that she looked both angry and embarrassed. That anyone could be ashamed of Edmund cut Lucy very deeply. She chanced a glance at her brother and saw that his face had darkened. She took his hand. "Ed—" she began tentatively, but he shook her off and leaned back.
"Never mind," he said a little shortly. "The film's starting."
Lucy understood his brusqueness, and she let him be for a minute so he could lick his wounds. After the newsreel, though, she rested her head on his shoulder and peppered his jumper with a couple of pieces of popcorn. He laughed a little through his nose and put his arm around her shoulders.
Then the film started and Lucy lost herself in Dorothy's story—her plain and dreary life in Kansas, her wishing for something more. She made Edmund be quiet until her favorite part was over, until Dorothy stepped out of her house into the rush of color that was Oz. With one part of her mind she watched the glittering Technicolor recreation, but with another she saw a lit lamp post blazing in a clearing, the bright but sad ruins of a castle under a summer sky. She felt the cold shock of falling into seawater that was blue to the touch. Even though Aslan himself had told her it wouldn't happen again, in that moment Lucy liked to image that she could open the door with Dorothy and find herself in Narnia again.
Edmund drew her out of this wistful dream by nodding his head toward the Munchkins dancing on the screen and inquiring "Did Mr. Tumnus do a song and dance like that for you?"
Lucy laughed so hard she had to cover her mouth to muffle the sound. She was glad to have something to distract her, and the thought of Mr. Tumnus singing "We represent the lollipop guild" did just the trick.
She and Edmund sang along with "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" under their breaths, and then when the Cowardly Lion leapt out from the trees, he murmured. "Look, it's Peter."
Lucy giggled again. "If that's Peter, who are you?"
"I'm the Scarecrow. I've always had the brains in this outfit."
"The Scarecrow is looking for brains," Lucy corrected. "That's fairly accurate."
"Haha. That's pretty good, except that the Scarecrow had brains all along. Shows how much you know."
Lucy stuck her nose in the air.
After the movie Edmund declared he was hungry, so they headed to a café. On the walk there, Lucy swung her arms pensively, mulling things over. "If you're the Scarecrow and Peter's the Cowardly Lion—"
"A lion was his coat of arms after all," Edmund interjected.
Lucy swatted him. "That was a different Lion."
He grinned. "Obviously. So what was your question?"
"Who's Susan? And who am I?"
"Well," Edmund said, scratching his chin, "I suppose that makes Susan the Tin Man."
She dropped her eyes and watched the glistening pavement at her feet. "Maybe she'll find her heart again one day, then."
"Maybe one day," Edmund agreed. He studied her carefully and chucked her on the chin. "That's why you're our Dorothy. Always dreaming that things can be better."
Lucy gave him a thin smile as he held the door open for her. They had barely taken their seats at the counter when the tap of heels made Lucy look up. Susan was there too, dancing by the jukebox with her friends while a group of boys admired them, nudging each other and looking hungrily at her graceful curves and pretty face. Lucy didn't know whether she should take comfort in the fact that Susan was still drawn to the same places as them.
She frowned up at the fluorescent lights. "What I don't understand is why Dorothy always wanted to get home so badly," she frowned. "Coming home is the worst part."
"I think she left too much behind," Edmund commented. His eyes grew dark as he too looked at Susan. "It's the opposite for us. Here we lose things."
"Ed," Lucy said suddenly, gripping his hand. "I've just had an awful thought. What if we lose Peter too? He's taken not going back to Narnia hard."
Edmund shook his head as he stuffed his mouth with ice cream. "It won't happen," he said thickly. Just then, though, Lucy thought any awful thing seemed possible. If Susan could turn her back on them, what would stop Peter?
Lucy realized she was spoiling the evening, and she hated to do that when Edmund had been so kind. She sipped her lemonade and begged Edmund to tell his funniest stories. This act cheered them both immensely, for Edmund loved to be the center of attention, even if his audience was only Lucy. His canny imitations always made her laugh. He began with stories about school, but soon he progressed to reminiscing about Narnia. Before long they were both laughing so gaily the other diners were smiling at them. Lucy even thought she saw Susan look in their direction as though she would like to join them.
They kept up the stories the whole way home. Even as Lucy unlocked the door, Edmund was imitating Peter. "As it is, we pardon your folly," he declared in regal tones.
"Nice," said a voice from the living room. "Though you wouldn't exactly be mistaken for the High King of Narnia."
Lucy let her coat drop to the floor. "Peter!" she cried. "You're home early!" She ran into the living room and leapt into his arms.
"Yes," he said, hugging her. "Though an empty house makes for a bleak welcome."
"I knew you would come home tonight!" Lucy continued. "I was sure of it, but Edmund said a watched pot never boils, so he took me to the cinema. Oh Peter, I'm so glad you're home!"
Peter held her tightly and grinned over her shoulder at Edmund. "Hullo, Peter," was all he said, but Lucy could tell he also meant "It's good to see you" and "Welcome home."
"Hello, Ed," Peter answered, and Lucy knew from the extra squeeze he gave her that he would have liked to hug Edmund as well.
One of the things Lucy liked about Peter was that he always let her cuddle him as much as she wanted. Edmund was very fussy about stuff like that, and she was actually still surprised he had put his arm around her shoulders that evening. Susan always hated for her dresses to be messed—or at least that's what she said. Lucy also suspected she was a little embarrassed of being so openly affectionate. Peter, however, told her quietly "I missed you, Lu," and then kept her on his knee as he asked them about their evening.
"I took her to the Wizard of Oz," Edmund said, perching next to them on the arm of the sofa.
"Good choice. Where's it playing? I might go myself," Peter said.
"Over in Piccadilly Circus. Have you got anyone to take with you?" Edmund's question was casual, but his eyes were shrewd. He and Lucy were both a little afraid of Peter getting a girlfriend. Boys were part of what pulled Susan away from them.
Peter smiled and shook his head. "Only Lucy, but I hear she's taken up with someone else now." He winked at her and she giggled.
"Yes, and Edmund makes a very good escort. The whole evening was his treat. In fact…I had a really lovely time. Thank you, Edmund," Lucy said, leaning forward to peck her brother's cheek.
Edmund rubbed his cheek but didn't look very displeased. "If you're going to get all soppy about it, I shan't take you again."
Peter threw his head back and laughed. Lucy loved to hear him laugh; the sound of it warmed her all the way to the tips of her fingers and toes, and she smiled contentedly as she leaned her head against his shoulder. "Susan was there too," she said, feeling safe enough now to talk about it. She didn't look up at either of her brothers. One of the buttons on Peter's shirt was only halfway through the hole, and she spent a minute adjusting this and patting his chest.
"Course she wouldn't deign to be seen with us," Edmund added sourly.
Lucy felt Peter's chest rise and fall as he sighed deeply. She wanted him to laugh again so that the sound of it could fill the hollow pit forming in her stomach, but she couldn't think of anything cheerful to say. Indeed, it seemed that none of them could think of anything cheerful to say, and they all fell silent. To keep herself from crying, Lucy started to hum "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" softly and a little brokenly, keeping her face hidden against Peter.
"Oh, Lu," Peter said, tightening his arms around her. He sounded as sad as she felt.
"Edmund said that Susan's like the Tin Man," she offered.
"And Lu said that maybe she'll find her heart again one day," Edmund continued. "I hope so."
Peter kissed her forehead. "That's our Lucy. Ever hopeful, like Dorothy."
"Why, that's what Edmund said!" Lucy cried, picking up her head to look at both of her brothers.
"Yes, and I suppose he made me the Cowardly Lion, didn't he?" Peter said a little wryly, glancing between Edmund and Lucy.
Lucy giggled, and both Peter and Edmund smiled when they heard her. "So did you like the movie otherwise, Lu?" Peter asked.
"Of course! Only I don't like the end, when she comes back to Kansas. I never have. I never wanted to come back to England when I was in Narnia. Even the last time—I missed you and Susan awfully, but I wanted you to be with us on the Dawn Treader."
"I would have given anything to be there," Peter answered softly. Lucy noticed that Edmund was watching him carefully.
She chewed her lip, further considering the matter of the ruby slippers. "I rather think that all the time I'm here, I'm following the Yellow Brick Road trying to get back to Narnia. I don't want to be back here—I'd do anything to get home."
"Me too," Peter said, and this time there was a resonance to his voice that made him sound like the High King again.
"Well hang on—maybe there is a way," Edmund said, leaning forward.
Peter frowned. "But Ed, Aslan said—"
Edmund shook his head. "I don't know what he told you and Susan, but he told me and Lucy that we could meet him here, and that he would show us—"
"He would show us the way to his country!" Lucy cried, her eyes shining. "Perhaps it is like Oz, because the things that are in Narnia are here too. We shall always have Aslan, and you shall always be High King, Peter. It is in your trick of speech and your manner even as you're sitting here. We just have to be wise enough to see things for what they truly are and we'll be sure to get home."
A new light crept into Peter and Edmund's faces, and Lucy could see the hope she felt reflected in them. They stared at each other, and the kind of gladness that makes you very quiet stole over them. Perhaps this wasn't an exile after all, but merely the way to Narnia. That was enough to keep Lucy going.
After a few minutes the doorknob turned and Susan came in. She saw the three of them sitting together with the same expression on their faces, and she looked a little nonplussed. She forced a smile as she hung up her coat. "Why Peter! You're home." Before coming into the living room, she bent to pick up Lucy's coat.
Peter gently pushed Lucy off his lap and stood up, opening his arms to Susan. For a brief second Lucy thought she was going to rush over to him and give him a huge hug, but the expression melted from her face. She clicked her way over to him serenely and leaned in to kiss his cheek. "It's good to see you," she said. Lucy noticed that he looked distinctly disappointed that she didn't ruffle her hair and clothes and embrace him.
"Hello, Susan," Edmund said pointedly.
She gave him a "look" and pursed her lips. "You ought to talk to these two, Peter," she said. "They behaved like children at the cinema tonight."
"What, because we were having fun unlike you and your stuffy friends?" Edmund retorted, getting a shade paler.
Peter put out his hand. "Ed," he said gently. "I'm sure they were just having fun," he told Susan. His voice was easy enough, but there was a bite to it underneath that Lucy and all of them knew meant not to argue with him.
"I'm sure," Susan said doubtfully. She faked a yawn. "Well, I'm going to bed. Goodnight," she said. She gave Peter one last kiss and went upstairs. Peter followed her to the foot of the stairway and watched her ascend. He stood there for a moment even after she had closed her door. Edmund and Lucy exchanged a look and got up from the couch to go to him.
Edmund put his hand on Peter's shoulder. "Susan will understand. One day."
Lucy slipped her hand in Peter's, and old confiding gesture from her childhood. "She just needs to find her heart."
Peter gave her a sad smile and ruffled her hair. "I need to see that movie with you two. It sounds like quite the experience."