5. Chapter 5
"The truth, he thought, has never been of any real value to any human being - it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths. . ."
Edmund stretched a little, and lifted his head off the back of the chair. The Heart of the Matter slid off his face onto the floor. He heard his neck crack and he winced; he'd forgotten exactly how painful sleeping in a chair could be. And of course, chairs in England were nothing so comfortable as the chairs in Narnia.
Lucy was still asleep, which was a good thing. She mumbled softly, safe in a dream Edmund hoped was better than the reality they were both living. How late had it been when he'd carried her up to bed – three, maybe four o'clock? Sometime after he and Susan had had that lovely chat. Susan. . . even just thinking about her made his stomach turn.
The events of last evening still wore heavily on his mind. Lucy, those men at the party. . . and what she had whispered to him in the stillness – about Caspian, and what might have happened between them – he sighed, kneading his stiff neck. Then Susan had come home and made everything worse. He may have made mistakes, he thought, but at least he wasn't as bad off as Susan. He hoped. And at least he was trying to make up for it.
Edmund trooped across the hall, put on his pyjamas and dressing-gown, and went downstairs again. He tidied up the bathroom and checked the sitting room, and even went out to the car for good measure. Everything was set, so he headed back to his bedroom again, intent to wait until everyone else rose. On the way, Edmund paused in Susan's doorway and peeked into her room for a moment. She was sleeping peacefully. Her black hair was loose across the pillows and her face was free of any make-up, and Edmund thought she much better like that. More like the sister he remembered.
Sunlight streamed through the curtains. Birds were chirping and twittering outside the windows, but their sweet song seemed out of place to Edmund. Yesterday burned fresh in his memory, and he felt like today's blue skies completely defied the chaos that had been last night. He tried to picture mornings like this one at home in Narnia, but it was difficult. The memories were as clear as ever – they never faded, which was partially why Edmund was so angry that Susan pretended they did – but it became harder and harder to relate to them. Were they ever that happy? And how could they hope to match such a life here, in dreary England?
Edmund spent the rest of the early morning finishing the last few chapters of his book, musing over the question that had bothered him the night before: Was pity inapplicable to oneself – selfish and redundant, or necessary for one's own redemption? Even by the time Lucy was stirring, though, he still hadn't come up with an answer.
He watched her rub the sleep from her eyes from the uncomfortable chair in the corner. He was back in Lucy's room again, after he'd had breakfast with his parents about two hours ago. Father had gone to work and Mum was off at the market, and he hadn't moved from the spot since.
"Ed?" she said, sitting up and looking round the room.
"Shh. . ." he answered, getting out of his seat and moving to the edge of the bed. "You've had a time."
"Wha. . . What's happened? I feel perfectly dreadful."
Edmund cleared his throat. "Erm. . . Last night, you went to that party with Susan. . ."
"Well, yes, I remember that," she said. Then her face twisted and she said, "But I don't remember coming home. . . What happened?"
"You had a bit much to drink, so I went and fetched you," he told her.
He hesitated. She knew him too well, to know that he was concealing something. Edmund very much wanted to lie, but after everything he'd been through, he knew he couldn't.
"You – you were rather upset. And you were talking about Narnia to few people."
She looked horrified. "What? Oh, Edmund! What did I say?"
"It's all right," he assured her. "I don't think they took you very seriously."
She was quiet. He battled with himself for a minute or two before deciding to ask.
"Lu," he began tentatively, "last night, while you were – er – sick, you mentioned a few things that I'd never heard you talk about before. About Narnia, and Caspian, and I've been thinking. . ." He met her eyes and uttered it quickly. "Did you get back to Narnia, and not tell any of us?"
She bit her lip and shifted her gaze away from him. From years of training and experience, Edmund knew the signs of lying well. What made it disconcerting was that he'd never seen Lucy exhibit any of them.
"I – I – " she paused and closed her eyes, and Edmund thought she looked hollow. Empty. She looked down at her hands, and whispered, "I did go back. I was there with Caspian. . . and we had our son. My son."
Though he'd already suspected the possibility, her confirmation floored him all the same. His mind was flying six ways at once, searching for the flaw in her words that would prove them untrue, but he could find none. He could barely speak, too amazed at this secret to find his voice.
"Wha. . . you. . . How? When did it happen?"
"A few weeks ago, remember, when I went out with Susan and Roger? That. . . that night. I went back, and I stayed for nearly ten months. And – and Caspian had been married, Ed, so we –" she gave a mighty sniff, and tears began falling in earnest. "We kept it secret. . . and I lived the whole time in that little room – remember it, Ed, the one near the armoury? And we had the cordial, and Aslan brought me home when it was over – and I looked exactly the same – only I wasn't. I feel horrible all the time, Ed, because two pieces of me – are still there. . ." and she gave herself up to the sobs shaking her slender shoulders. She covered her face with her hands and cried like he had never seen before.
Edmund jumped off the bed again and went towards her. His hand hovered over her shoulder – every knightly instinct in him was shouting to comfort her, but such gestures never seemed as natural in England as they had been in Narnia. Last night was quite different; Lucy hadn't really been aware of what was happening. Now though, when he was needed as a real source of comfort and consolation, Edmund's insides squirmed. Peter always had an easier time with this sort of thing. For his brother, kingly grace translated from Narnia to England as naturally as spring into summer, but he had not adapted so easily.
He sat down behind her and draped his arm awkwardly across her shoulders.
Edmund knew it really wasn't the proper time, but his analysing nature couldn't help itself. "But – how?" he asked. "What about Aslan's word?"
She gave a loud half-groan, half-sob, and Edmund wondered if Susan would come to Lucy's bedroom if she heard her crying. Probably not.
"He said – he said it was Magic beyond his," Lucy said. "I didn't even understand it, because it was only Susan's horn – Caspian blew it again, and it was my fault too because I wanted it. I wanted to be called, because I loved him even here, even in England and when I knew he'd been married and then I was there and we – and we were together, and I knew it was wrong but I didn't care, I didn't! And then I ruined everything for Caspian, and Aslan. . ."
Edmund was at a complete loss for words. Never before, in either of his lifetimes, had he been so unable to find quick and clever words to fit a situation. It was strange, to feel instead of think. He had never understood something so deeply or completely. Her heartache was redoubled; it pulsed sharply in his own chest with each uneven breath she drew. He stroked her hair softly.
"I. . . I wanted to be a mother so badly, Ed. . ." Her voice was very quiet, muffled by her hands.
"You – you are a mother," he answered uneasily. The words felt strange and foreign in his mouth. His seventeen-year-old sister was a mother. Queen Lucy, the Heart of Narnia, innocent, pure, always-good Lucy – had had a child of her own. His baby sister was a mother. . . he was an uncle, for heaven's sake! It was too incredible, yet here he was, holding a sobbing girl in his arms. And as much as he wished for disbelief, Lucy was no liar, and his faith in her had been unshakeable since he had followed her into a snowy wood years and ages ago.
"No – no, I'm not," she said. "She is. Ramandu – Ramandu's daughter gets to be there for everything, with Caspian, when Rilian grows up. . . She'll be the only mother he'll ever know, and I – I won't be anything at all, because we swore never to tell anyone – " Lucy choked a little, and said with renewed tears, "There's another promise I've broken, Ed, I've went ahead and told you. . ."
Edmund had no idea how to reply. His mind was churning, juggling so many emotions that he could barely sort them out. Lucy didn't deserve this! No bad should ever come from a love like Lucy's: she was too good. It was Lucy! She never did any wrong, especially compared to him – and he was barely punished for a crime much greater. Surely everyone knew how much she would suffer because of it.
He was angry with Caspian, whom he had loved like a brother on the Dawn Treader, and whom he charged with caution towards Lucy. How cowardly to disregard the promise of marriage, and the word of one king to another! But even as he thought it, Edmund knew he could hold no anger or grudge. After all, he was guilty of nearly the same sin.
And Aslan, Aslan had gone against his own word. Was that even possible? Could there be a reason, an explanation. . . ? It didn't even matter! How could he have allowed it? Wasn't Lucy his favourite, in all of Narnia? She was always good. And she deserved to be loved, the way heroines were loved in the great, sweeping romances. But of course, those stories never ended well for young girls seized by passion.
Lucy had drawn her knees up to her chest. Edmund held her small frame close to his body, wrapping his arms all the way around her. He was glad that they were nearly back at their proper sizes now - because for some reason, he felt very small. Like they were two tiny fish in a great ocean, with no say in where the rough waves would take them.
Edmund could feel her tears seeping into his sweater. He'd never felt so close, so connected to his younger sister. For of course, he had been in quite the same position, consumed with a love so undeniable it broke every vow he'd ever made.
Not for the first time, his mind wandered to his own lost love. . . maybe he did have an heir living somewhere in Narnia. But no. It couldn't – mustn't – be. And anyway, if it were so, it was exactly as she said. It was done. Whatever there had been, however he had felt. . . that life was over.
"It hurts, Ed," she croaked. "All the time. I dream of them. . . And it – it – it doesn't even matter. They're all dead anyway," she finished bitterly. Edmund hated the tone in her voice, so separate from her usual cheer. It only outlined what seemed an inevitable end in this world, spending their whole lives mourning what had been lost; or else, like Susan, wasting it searching for the next closest thing.
He hugged Lucy tighter and closed his eyes. Self-pity, or regret? Or neither?
Happiness in England had never seemed so far away.
A/N: Thanks everybody for staying with me. These last few chapters did contain some elements of Edmund's character from my other story, Lily's Eyes, but hopefully they didn't overshadow his role here.
Thank you, of course, to Francienyc, author of Caspian's Queen. That wonderful story inspired me to write The Call of the Horn, which led to this story.
To Graham Greene, author of The Heart of the Matter, for the quotes that frame the chapters.
To Google, which I use to research everything from hangover cures to postpartum depression to bathroom architecture in the 1940s.
To my dear friend Sophie, for the unforgettable experience of caring for a drunken pal. Thanks for the lessons in gibberish!
To Mitzuko-chan, whose constant stream of encouragement was a big help in writing TCotH.
And lastly, to all the readers and reviewers for their feedback and support. You guys are awesome!