Well, I just have to say that if I cried while writing the last chapter, I certainly bawled for the making of this final one. :(
Enjoy the final chapter of So Changed, everybody!
OOO Three Weeks Later OOO
The flowers had been surprisingly easy to find. Even though the funeral was being held in the end of January, even though the sky was gray and the grounds were damp, the flowers still came in plentiful numbers despite their being out of season. Their vivid purples and reds and yellows and whites were a contrast to the dismal mood that was thickly lining the atmosphere, and Lucy took it to task to find the prettiest flowers of them all and place them in the buttonholes on Peter and Edmund's suits and in Susan's hair. Susan took one or two daisies herself and wove them through her younger sister's locks, the two of them laughing despite rather derogatory glances thrown toward them from others attending the burial service.
"Let them stare," Edmund remarked as the four of them stood slightly away from the crowd in the graveyard, their flowers clearly visible. "They think we're mad, anyway."
"Just because we aren't weeping all over the place like everybody else?" Lucy asked incredulously. The slight wind hosting the event rippled through her hair; a petal or two from the daisies in her curls gently floated away.
"Don't let it bother you, Lu," Peter said, smiling swiftly. "And anyway, I'm sure those old ladies and their daughters and granddaughters are just jealous because we've got the two loveliest girls in the world among us."
Lucy blushed at the compliment and Susan laughed. "The two coldest girls in the world, rather," she amended, for she and Lucy were shivering in their dresses, despite their new coats and mittens and hats. "And that's not something to be jealous of."
"So modest," Peter teased her and Edmund snorted. An elderly couple talking solemnly—apparently their great-aunt's daughter-in-law and her husband—glanced over at them with scowls. "Their own father," the four siblings heard the man mutter reproachfully as they walked away with their noses in the air. "And those children are acting immature."
"'Tis a shame the children hardly care," sniffed the old woman, then they were gone.
Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy looked around at one another as the two relatives faded from sight, the atmosphere between them suddenly darkening.
"Dad wouldn't want us to be sad, right?" asked Lucy quietly. "He'd be glad that we're not miserable like everyone else here, wouldn't he?"
Peter smiled at Lucy's intentness. "I think he would," he assured her, and Lucy's face brightened. "I think we've mourned for him too long."
"But that doesn't change anything," shrugged Edmund, looking at the ground. "He's still… you know. Dead."
"It changes our attitudes," Susan said gently. "I think Peter's trying to say that Dad wouldn't want us to be so unhappy now… and now is the time to move on. And Dad has inspired us to do that."
Suddenly Lucy began to laugh, her eyes shining as she covered her mouth, trying to stay quiet.
"What is it, Lu?" Edmund questioned, and Susan felt an urge to laugh herself. Lucy's joy was contagious when it was released.
"Remember Wendy? The girl in my class at our old school I told you about?" the girl said, still giggling. "She said to me once that Dad didn't inspire someone if he was dead. And I just remembered what I said to her after that."
"Which was—?" said Peter.
"That the term dead meant 'forgotten' to me," Lucy said happily. "But if I remembered him—he was still alive." She reached up and caught the daisy that had been slipping out of her hair, fingering the petals gently. "I wasn't sure if I even believed what I said then. But I do now."
Susan kissed her sister's forehead. "I'm proud of you, Lucy."
Lucy snuggled into her embrace. "You think Aslan would be, too?" she asked, hugging Susan tightly and quickly letting go when Susan winced. "Sorry Su… I keep forgetting…"
The siblings were silent again, pondering her question.
"I think that where we are now is where we're supposed to be, Lu," said Peter finally, "and Aslan would be pleased at… at how we're handling things."
There was a pause as the others nodded their heads in agreement.
"And do you think they're pleased at how we're handling things?" Edmund asked innocently with his lips twitching, nodding toward their dramatic funeral guests.
"Oh, hush," Peter said, pretending to throw a punch at him and Edmund pretended to fight back, flailing his arm dramatically. Susan and Lucy laughed again while they saw their mother emerge from the crowd, making her way toward them while gracefully fighting off relatives with hankies.
"There you are," she said. She had a small, square package in her gloved hands. "I've been looking for you lot for ages…. We're all going to head back to Aunt Shirley's, just to let you know. She's serving early dinner before everybody heads back to the train station and before the five of us have to get back home."
"Why is it that we've never heard of any of these relatives and friends before and now they're suddenly swarming us?" Edmund asked.
"Because this is your father's funeral," Mrs. Pevensie answered him. "They loved him… of course they're going to come and pay respects to him."
"They don't seem very happy with us," Lucy said, brow wrinkled with anxiety.
"Oh, don't be silly," Helen laughed, tapping Lucy's nose. "And anyway… everyone has been so kind today. I've been receiving cash all day from your father's friends and our family. They all wish us the best."
"Did they give you that?" Peter asked, nodding to the package in her hands.
Their mother looked down and gave a little start. "Oh! I was going to put this by the grave… I'm afraid I haven't been thinking clearly—"
"What is it, Mum?" Susan asked.
"I found it after the fire," Mrs. Pevensie explained, smoothing down one of the creases on the wrapped thing. "It was buried under some of the pieces of wood. I… I thought that your father would have liked to have it, close to him. By the place where he's at rest."
"But what is it?" pressed Edmund.
Mrs. Pevensie opened her mouth but the small crowd was slowly shifting toward them, headed back up to where the cars were parked, and a woman came and touched their mother's shoulder before she could speak.
"Are you ready, Helen? We're just going to rally up there and figure out who's going with whom. Shirley's leaving to buy the food now."
"All right," sighed Mrs. Pevensie looking at the package in her hands. "This can wait for another time, I suppose."
The four siblings glanced at one another. "Can we stay here?" Peter asked, speaking for them all. The relatives were shuffling past them in various states of mourning, headed up the hill toward the cars. "I mean, you can go back to the Aunt Shirley's and we can be home by dark…"
Their mother was nodding. "If you would like to," she gave her consent. "But make sure you're warm. It's rather cold out right now…. Oh, and children, since you're going to stay would you put this by the gravesite for me? I'd do it myself but I suppose I've got to run…"
She handed the square-shaped parcel to Peter. "You can set it down into the ground… and put it right against the tombstone, all right? Just so it doesn't blow away?"
"Here's a few dollars…." Their mother reached inside her coat and handed some folded bills to Susan, "for your fare home. And stop by the marketplace and get yourselves some hot chocolate, all right? I don't believe the shops have run out of milk yet."
"Can we look at what we're putting by Dad's grave?" asked Lucy.
Mrs. Pevensie smiled. "You've seen it before," she said, eyes crinkling with warmth as she drew them close to her and kissed their cheeks. Instead of hurrying with the crowd she stayed there for a moment or two, looking at them silently.
"Be safe, all right?" she asked them, and they nodded. "And be back home by six. Our new landlord is dropping by the house to make sure nothing needs to be repaired and I'd like you lot home by then. Just in case you see something I don't." She kissed them again and was about to walk away before she stopped and turned back.
"Oh, and Peter, Susan? Remember I want you to be packed by tomorrow night. The train leaves for the schools on Tuesday and I want you to have plenty of time to get ready."
"Su's already packed, Mum, and I can be ready in about an hour," Peter said.
"We'll be fine," Susan reassured her, "and besides, Edmund and Lucy's things won't be here from their old school until Monday."
"And we can pack fast, don't worry," added Edmund and Lucy nodded, seconding this.
Mrs. Pevensie smiled. "I won't worry anymore," she said softly, and she hurried after their relatives, stopping at the top of the grassy hill to blow them a kiss and to mouth, "I love you," before vanishing. The siblings waved after her as the wind picked up again slightly; soon their relatives and their father's old friends disappeared over the hilltop with their mother, leaving the four of them alone in the grassy, empty gravesite.
It was quiet. The wind rustled the nearby trees quietly, swishing Susan and Lucy's dresses and their hair; above them the gray sky swirled as the clouds drifted, but otherwise nothing else moved or made a sound. It was such a peaceful silence that lingered after the chatter of the funeral crew that none of them could find the motivation to say anything for a long time.
"Well," Peter said finally, looking down at the package in his hands, "I suppose we had better get this done."
The other three nodded, rousing themselves as though they had been in a trance, and they set off together back toward their father's grave, where the coffin had been lowered not one hour before.
Their father had been given every honor a dead soldier could have received. British soldiers—though there were few—had marched solemnly beside the casket as it was carried to the burial grounds, their reversed weapons gleaming even in the weak sunlight. Despite their acceptance of the events that had occurred, the honor that everyone had bestowed on their dead father had been enough to make them break down during the morning. Peter and Edmund had received so many remarks: "My goodness, you two resemble him so much… such sturdy young men… you'll grow up to be just like him…" and eventually the two had crumbled, biting their lips in front of their relatives but crying openly on their sisters' shoulders once the siblings had been left alone. Susan and Lucy, having had their own comments to deal with ("Such beauties, aren't they…? Poor dears… who will walk them down the aisle when their time comes…?"), found that their own cheeks were wet with tears once their brothers had submitted to their grief.
Out of the church and away from their weeping relations, however, they had realized that they found no reason to cry. Instead they had filled their time by remembering their father through means of telling stories, reliving memories, sharing laughter. It wasn't exactly the preferred behavior the rest of their relatives would have obviously preferred—but it made them feel better.
"You know," Lucy said presently as they walked slowly down the hill again, toward their father's grave, "This hillside has a Narnian look to it, don't you think? Even if it's cloudy and dull right now I think Dad would have liked it here."
"I'm sure he was here before," Peter said softly. "I'm sure he would like it."
"The trees are even dancing," Lucy said with delight, pointing to the trees that swayed from the breeze. Edmund chuckled quietly in amusement, and Susan took her sister's hand, a grin stretching across her face. "Within the contents of your soul…"
"There lies a secret song," Lucy joined in cheerily and they sung their way down to their father's gravesite, Peter and Edmund close behind them. They wove their way through the various graves before they reached the one they had stood around previously, the one that still had fresh dirt scattered around it and fresh flowers waving around in the wind.
They stopped in a half-circle around the tombstone. Even though they already knew it by heart they read it again, savoring the line that read, "Beloved father of four." The four siblings stood gazing at the tombstone as though they hadn't seen it an hour before, until Peter broke the silence again.
"Well, let's see what this is, then." He was looking at the parcel in his hands.
"Yeah," Edmund said. "Open up."
Peter slowly unwrapped the package as Susan, Lucy, and Edmund crowded close to him so they could see. They all reached out to touch the parcel with one or two fingers as Peter held it, removing the worn cloth together. What was wrapped among the fabric stunned them.
Even though the frame was slightly burnt around the edges, even though the glass was broken in one or two places, the picture that they now gazed at silently was not harmed. The four could make out their own faces gazing back at them, their faces as they were when they had been one, three, five, and six years old.
"It's our picture," Lucy said with wonder. "How…?"
Her voice trailed off and they stared at the photograph, taking in their intertwined hands and looking at how they all leaned toward each other even when they were so young, from Edmund reaching for baby Lucy to Susan resting her chin on Peter's shoulder. Seeing the photograph that had hung on one of their dirty walls in the shack they had lived in, and previously above their fireplace in the home they had lived in before the war, flooded their minds with memories. Good times, bad times, despite what impossibilities came into their lives… the world still shrunk down to the four of them—and their picture summed that up in a way no words could describe.
Lucy put her fingers to her lips and kissed them, then reached back toward the picture and placed them on the frame momentarily. Susan, then Peter, then Edmund, followed suit. Then Peter stepped forward and gently placed the picture into the soil, propping it against the side of the tombstone and setting the frame into the ground so that it wouldn't blow away. Susan handed him the cloth and he wrapped it tightly over the picture.
Again they stood and gazed at the grave, but only for a moment. Lucy unexpectedly walked forward as Peter had, but instead of bending down to adjust the picture she kissed her fingers again and laid them tenderly on the stone. She whispered to the tombstone, eyes closed and lips moving soundlessly, for a minute or two before stepping back to rejoin her siblings; then, as silently as they came, they turned around and began to walk back toward the top of the hill.
"What'd you say, Lu?" asked Edmund when their father's grave was some distance behind them. But the girl simply gave him a smile, eyes dancing, and after a moment she began to sing again.
"Within the contents of your soul there lies a secret song, a song that falls and grows at times as your life lives on…."
Edmund joined in their Narnian song, singing off-key, and Peter looked back to Susan, waiting until she caught up with him. "You all right?" he asked as they followed Edmund and Lucy. "You haven't spoken much today."
Susan nodded. "I haven't had to," she said softly and Peter put his arm around her. They—at the same time, as though they had planned to together—began to sing quietly with their younger siblings as they started climbing the hillside that would lead them out of the graveyard, Susan laying her head on Peter's shoulder gratefully as they walked.
"…Whether it is high or low, loud or soft or sweet, the accuracy of your sweet melody means the most to me…. Sing to all with honesty, sing for those who don't know truth, sing with faith and don't lose heart; sing the song that lives in you."
When they approached the top of the hill something in the air changed swiftly; it was not much of a physical change… it was more of a different sense that came to them and made them stop suddenly. In that instant their cold skin tingled with sudden warmth; the gray, cloudy sky suddenly swished faster and made way for a light that shone through to the ground onto them like a golden mist. The hillside sprang to life; the grass shone and the trees brightened and swayed as though they really were dancing. The gray sky began to fade, making way for a deep, rich blue that the beautiful bright sun pierced through.
The siblings stood, soaking in the unexpected warmth with utter happiness; then suddenly Lucy gasped. If her face had not held shock at the sun's reappearance, blissful astonishment rested in her features now. Her gaze was on the trees in the distance.
Silently Edmund and Susan and Peter turned around and looked to where Lucy's wide eyes were fixed. And what they saw for a brief, wonderful moment—gazing back at them through overwhelming eyes, wisps of golden light blowing from his mane—made their hearts soar higher than they would have dared to let them fly.
The Lion gazed at them for an amount of time that in no way could have been recorded. Then in a single, flawless movement he was close to them and the four were on their knees, and the air was sweet with his breath as each Pevensie felt the warmth of a Lion's kiss on their foreheads. Each of them heard the words they had been aching to hear—though they did not know it until then—rumble from his great mouth.
My kings. My queens.
Then he was gone, vanishing in the brightness that shone from his presence. And the siblings rose to their feet with their hands intertwined, standing together in the golden sunlight that remained.
Within the regions of your heart an answer surely lies
Its vastness and its majesty will lift you to the skies
Your questions live for reasons – they make your wisdom last
Never doubt that you will never learn from what has past
Sing to all with what you've seen, sing and let your voice ring true
Sing with faith and don't lose heart… sing the song that lives in you
Well, there it is!
I wrote the final lyrics to the song Susan and Lucy sing throughout the entire story and was going to weave it into this chapter somehow, but for some reason they seemed to fit better as an after-piece.
I guess all that remains for me to do is respond to your reviews for this last chapter (hint, hint :D) and to thank you guys again for your support and encouragement. I honestly would have never finished this story if it wasn't for your reviews; in writing So Changed I feel that my writing has improved greatly, and that would not have been possible if I had not received advice from my readers.
I'm currently working on a couple of Narnia one-shots as well as my other multi-chapter fic, so don't think this is the last you'll hear from me! :D
Thank you all again!