Dearest, kindest, most forgiving of Reviewers:
Surely you can find it in the deepest recess of your hearts to forgive my incredibly long absence? All I can say in my defense is that college has overwrought my life with trials and tribulations, and when Christmas break rolled around, I had naught in my head but original stories, so I worked on my own writings instead of fan fiction, save a few Twilighty paragraphs. But as I'm aching to rejoin the Narnians in my own Dr. Pepper style, for now, Peter's epic tale will suffice. And I miss working on this story; so, the inspiration has finally struck again! I return to the land of the living… fan fiction writers, haha.
I hope you've all had the merriest of Christmas-es, and a happy New Year.
2010—the year of Dawn Treader!
Further up and further in,
PS: WC=water closet. AKA bathroom.
PPS: Country junction scene, most dialogue directly from Prince Caspian text. No plagiarism to C.S. Lewis intended, I give him full credit.
Chapter 6, The End of Summer
When I woke up, it was raining.
"Summer's over," I announced gloomily, looking at the other end of the room. The wall was a faded, sage green, dotted with drawings labeled "To Edmund, from Lucy" featuring our friends from Narnia, and us dressed as adult monarchs. A suitcase and a knapsack, freshly packed, sat where Edmund should have been sleeping.
I sleepily moved from my bed to the window as if I walked through molasses. I yawned and wiped the tired tears from the corners of my eyes. Well—it was a given that it rained exceedingly in England, and Finchley was no exception.
But there was something horribly gloomy about the brown-gray weather the morning you knew it was time to leave for school.
"Good, Petey, you're awake," Lucy's head poked through the open door.
I yawned again, stretching, and popping my knuckles.
Lucy's eyebrows squirmed. "Packed yet, are you?"
I looked down at my suitcase—packed, yes, but still open. My knapsack lay next to it, a bit of my uniform scarf sticking out of the flap.
"I suppose?" I mumbled, unbuttoning my shirt. "Lou. Give a fellow some privacy."
Lucy rolled her eyes. "Well—you should have been dressed an hour ago. Mum's packed the sandwiches already. I'll be eating my breakfast!" She shut the door quietly, for which I was grateful. On a particularly groggy morning, it was painful to hear any loud sounds.
I put on my school uniform; relieved to be rid of the gray I was forced to wear last year. Last year was fuzzy—I was in a play, wasn't I? I must've been daft bimbo—I would never, ever do something so stupid ever again. Even if it WAS for a class project and I couldn't refuse the assigned part.
Edmund opened the door. "Navy blue." He said shortly, nodding. "Good colour for us. Brings out your eyes. Makes my skin look flawless." Then he slammed the door as loudly as possible.
"Oh well spotted!" I called after him. "Navy blue, indeed!"
I'd been referring to it as dark blue since we'd purchased them that weekend, and as always, Edmund had to find something to disagree with me about. Blast him.
"You slept in," Susan said in a surprised tone when I met her in the hallway. She wore her burgundy uniform well—I felt uncomfortable with how she did her hair. Sisters shouldn't be pretty! That way we don't have to worry about them attracting all the wrong sorts!
I shrugged. "Alright."
"Another nightmare?" she whispered, her eyes darting to the stairwell. To this day, I had managed to last all summer without alerting Mum to any sort of disturbance to my sleep. It had only happened four times—so I wasn't really worried.
"Oh," I said, "Yeah. It was shorter this time. It wasn't a problem."
Make that five times.
"Made you sleep like a rock, though," Susan said thoughtfully. "I really think it means something. Maybe we will find out what someday."
"It doesn't scare me anymore, at least. The wolf hasn't been in the last few."
Susan adjusted the small parcel in her hands awkwardly. Looking down, she whispered, "I have dreams too, you know."
"Nightmares?" I asked, truly astonished. "Why, Su, you didn't tell us?"
Susan shrugged. "I didn't really want to share them. But, after all, I mean—well, you had another dream last night. I thought I might as well let you know that, um; you're not a freak or anything. It happens to me too. That's all."
She turned to walk away.
"Well, wait, you can't leave me HANGING," I whined with curiosity. "Can't you tell me what they're about?"
"Later," she said shortly. "The WC is mine!" she called loudly.
"Ugh," I said in annoyance. "You're not putting on make-up, are you?"
"Why shouldn't I?" she whirled around, her eyes flashing.
"Well, uh," I backed down. "You're pretty enough without it."
"Puh-lease," Susan pfft. "I'm not pretty."
"Yes, you are," I argued. "And you don't need the… uck… the powder, and the rouge, and the—cough—lipstick."
"I never wear those," Susan waved a hand.
"Because you don't need them," I replied.
Susan unwrapped her parcel. "THIS is what I'm using. See this? This is mascara. And this? This is eyeliner."
"It's a matchstick."
"It's a BURNT matchstick."
"It's eyeliner, PETER. You simply outline the eyes—it gives them shape, makes your eye stand apart from the rest of your face. It's very flattering. All the girls use it. And you just wipe it off when you're at home. When I start working in the seamstress shop near school, I'll be able to afford real eyeliner. They make them into little pencils now. It's an art form."
"Is any of that supposed to matter?" I asked, aghast. "It sounds about as useful as a hanky full of bogies."
Susan turned, without a word, and went into the loo. She slammed the door.
Annoyed, I stomped all the way downstairs.
"Hello, sleepy head," said Mum. She handed me a sandwich. "Pack that before you forget. I can't loan you the money for lunch on the way to the junction—so if you lose that, well, best not be hungry until supper tonight at school."
I put it in the pocket of my long coat. "Packed!"
Lucy sat at the table, staring at her breakfast. It was untouched.
"I thought you said you'd be eating breakfast," I teased her.
She didn't find it quite as amusing. "Not hungry," she said lightly.
"Dear, I know you're nervous—about being in boarding school for the first time, and all," Mum knelt down next to her. "But Susan will be there. And you can phone. I could visit some weekend, too."
Lucy's lower lip trembled. "I don't want to eat my breakfast."
"It's a long train ride, Lucy," Mum said firmly.
"I couldn't possibly stomach it!" Lucy replied. Mum got up, wordlessly. She was almost in the same mood—she didn't want her youngest daughter to leave home, either.
I sat down next to her and spooned a ladle-full of oatmeal into my bowl. Ugh—why does sugar have to be rationed?
I added a little milk instead, and tasted it. "Best you've ever made, Mum. It reminds me of Christmas." Christmas at the Scrubb's, maybe.
Mum winked. She knew it wasn't very good.
After a moment—as I watched from the corner of my eye—Lucy hesitantly began to eat. She grimaced every so often, for though it didn't taste too horrible, I knew her stomach churned with nerves.
I drove the car to the station. As we parked a block or so away, the raining dribbled to a stop, and the sun came out. The mid morning shine glowed in an unearthly light against sparkling wet stone streets. The sky remained a brown-like, smoky gray, but the buildings and anything made of metal shone gold.
"Now, the train doesn't leave for a half-hour yet," Mum said. "But—I can't stay. I'm sorry. My appointment is in almost ten minutes, I will already be late. I just—I wish I could see you off, is all…"
"Mum, we'll be fine," Lucy said, suddenly plucking up some bravery. "We could wire you later if you want!"
Mum looked pained. I couldn't really understand the feeling of sending ones children off to live at a school for the term, but I could imagine well enough that is was most difficult and heartbreaking.
We all took turns embracing and telling Mum we loved her. Tearful, she dabbed her eyes and got into the car, then drove away.
Lucy wiped her eye discreetly. "Shall we go inside?"
"Yes, let's," Susan said practically. "We can claim a bench right on the platform if we hurry."
Inside, it was crowded and chaotic. I spotted an empty bench miraculously in the hustle and bustle of the wide lobby, where hundreds of people jostled to and fro.
"Let's snatch it!" Edmund voiced my thoughts exactly. Laughing, we made a run for it. Susan beat us there. We all sat down, huffing, and noticed a group of boys looking disappointed that we took up the entire seat.
"Ha ha!" I chortled. After a moment or two of catching our breath, boredom set in.
"Well, you boys can stay with the luggage," Susan announced, standing. "I'm going to have a look at the magazines at the display outside."
"Magazines of what?" Edmund moaned. "Beauties and pageants and all that rot?"
"Social activities," Susan corrected, miffed. "Don't be so superficial." She turned abruptly and trounced away.
The last three of us looked at each other, sighing.
"Is this what you do every year?" Lucy asked. "All this waiting?"
"I guess so?" Edmund said. "Don't worry Lou. Soon you'll forget all this. Going to school is a little like going to Narnia. It's a different world. The parents aren't there, you've got your friends, and you work really hard every day."
Lucy smiled a little. "Thanks, Ed."
I had never thought about it that way—but I suppose it was kind of true. I began to take off my coat. "Well," I sighed again, "I suppose if we are going to be here awhile—might as well be comfortable."
"Hoy, Peter, is that you?" called a voice. I looked over and saw Reginald, flanked by two boys I didn't recognize.
"Reginald," I greeted, nodding politely. I turned back towards my siblings.
"Well, who's that?" Lucy asked pointedly.
"Ah, Reginald," I explained, not really wanting to go into all that. "He and I were in a play for class last year."
Edmund snickered. "AND you kissed Leyli—er, Lizzy."
"Oh, you mean that Elizabeth girl?" Reginald chuckled, coming over and standing in front of us. "She left on the earlier train. Said if I saw you to give you a message."
"Oh really?" I asked, interested.
"She says, ahem," Reginald went into falsetto. "Hullo, Your Majesty, hope you are well, maybe see you at the Library."
"That's funny," Lucy let out the fakest laugh I've ever heard.
"You do that girl voice far too well," Edmund muttered under his breath.
"What'd you say, Pevensie?" Reginald stepped forward.
"Reginald," I said threateningly, "Don't even think about starting anything."
Reginald held up both hands. "That's a fine way to treat a school fellow!" he nudged his thick-muscled friends, mumbling, "See? See what I mean?" and the three of them disappeared out the exit.
"Gosh, he is annoying," Lucy declared. "I see what you mean!"
Edmund burst out laughing.
"Why don't you two stay here, I'll go get us some—I don't know—water, or something." I chuckled, getting up.
"I'll watch the bags I guess," Ed grumbled.
"You can't blame him for wanting to stretch his legs, they are unnaturally long," Lucy chided. Edmund gave her an odd look.
I moved away from the bench into the crowd, checking the time posted on the wall for our train. Twenty minutes till. I looked about for a fountain but didn't see any. I stopped by the entrance to the underground, where a train would take us to a junction, and then two different trains would take us our separate schools. The tiles leading down were faded yellow and dark green. The effect was altogether drab. Well—
Suddenly, I nearly fell over. "Hey, look out," I cried, startled. I looked behind me to see who'd try to shove me down the stairs.
Reginald's two friends were standing there, grinning absently.
"Oh, you two," I felt heat in my cheeks. That little temper of mine, though flaring whenever I least wanted to lose it, began to take shape. "I'll uh, just be going now…"
One of the boys stopped me with an arm across the chest. "Hold up, you clumsy oaf," he sneered. "You haven't apologized."
"Neither have you!" I replied shortly. "Now if you'll EXCUSE me…"
"Apologize. First," said the other boy. "Then you can go."
"Thank-you, but no," I said angrily. "You deliberately shoved me. Now if you won't let me pass, I'll simply go… downstairs." I liked improvising. If I walked down the platform, I'd come to a second stairway that led back to the lobby. Susan would be proud of me avoiding the situation.
I turned and went down the stairs. When I reached the bottom, suddenly someone caught me by the back of my shirt and knocked me over. I landed with a huff on my hands and knees.
"Really now," I mumbled, standing and trying to fix my shirt. I glanced up, and noticed Lucy standing at the top. She looked at me, then at the boys, wide-eyed. Discreetly, she mouthed, "I'm getting Susan!" and disappeared.
"I still haven't heard that apology," said one of the boys. They had both followed me down.
"And you won't," I snapped, glaring at him. "You're just asking for trouble! I'm through with all that!"
"Heard you've got a bit of a rep, though," said one. "Fought that Hugh fellow, didn't you?"
"The rat bait kid," the other boy clarified.
"He's not rat bait," I corrected, balling my hands into fists. "Watch your words."
"And the grocers' son," added the other.
"It was his SON?" I laughed.
"So it's true," said the boy.
"More or less," I replied tersely.
"And," said the second boy, "You have a right gorgeous sister too, now, don't you?"
I clamped my mouth shut. I wasn't expecting THAT.
"Aw, you think she's ugly?" said the first boy. "You're a horrible brother."
"Tell you what," said the second, "If you apologize to us for your clumsy behaviour, we won't go upstairs and talk to her."
"She doesn't pay attention to swine like you," I growled, a little worried she would, if they played their charm right.
The first leaned forward, a malicious smirk about his chapped lips. "She doesn't need to pay attention—just be physically attractive. She doesn't even need to be conscious for us." The implication was as obvious as it was dirty, wrong, and disgusting.
Everything inside my heart, brain, and soul exploded at once in a desperate, almost clawing, anger. I threw myself at him, knocking him against the wall. Within a moment, we were fighting blatantly, fist to mouth, kick to shin, and tackle to shove.
With cheers of "Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!" kids from all over the place heard the sounds of our miniature battle and surrounded us, cheering us on lustily. I could hardly pay attention to anything—I was trying to fight off two muscular boys, whom clearly Reginald had paid off to cause a ruckus. I shook myself out of their grips, and looked up into the crowd. I immediately made eye contact with Susan—she was shaking her head, disappointedly.
They grabbed me back and threw me against the ground, kicking me in the ribs. I cried out and grabbed an ankle, jerking it out from under them. The second grabbed me by the hair and shoved my head forward. Instead of contacting floor like I expected, I looked down into the tracks, lying dark and rhythmic against gravel. If a train were to screech and appear from the end of the tunnel…
I heard Lucy's small cry of "Edmund!" and suddenly, I was not fighting two boys, but one. Edmund had thrown himself at the other.
It only lasted a moment, though. Soldiers appeared from nowhere and grabbed the boys off of us, throwing them one direction, picking Ed and I up by the collars of our shirts, and shoving us the opposite direction.
"Act your age," one growled in my face.
Almost as quickly as it had begun, the fight was over.
I felt disgusted with myself. Act my age, indeed. Sure! I had acted my age, if I had lived in Narnia.
The fact of the matter is, having a soldier tell me to act my age made me ashamed. Maybe I shouldn't even be returning to school. I should be joining the army or something, where I could fight for a reason other than defending Queen Susan the Gentle's honor.
Silently, I followed the crowd of jeering kids, that were now hushed and eyeing the soldiers. The soldiers shook their heads, annoyed, and disappeared. Susan and Lucy stayed ahead, almost acting as if they didn't know us.
Within moments, we had collected our suitcases, and placed them alongside an empty bench at the underground platform. Wordlessly, all of us could agree that it would be better to wait closer to the train than go back up in the crowds, and possibly run into any more trouble makers.
Dreary, the feeling of school terms beginning to cause a dreadful mood, everyone sat down heavily. No one really looked at me.
Edmund gave me a look, as if trying to communicate with me mentally. I raised my eyebrows.
"What?" I mouthed.
"You're welcome," he said out loud, sarcastically.
"I had it sorted," I said shortly, standing back up and focusing on the tracks. I was a very flawed person—Edmund didn't need to join in fights simply on my account. I didn't want Susan to be angry with him as well.
"What was it THIS time?" Susan asked.
"He bumped me," I replied.
"So you hit him?" Lucy exclaimed.
"No!" I protested, turning around and looking at her. "After he bumped me, they tried to make me apologize." Not exactly the truth. I grimaced. "Then I hit him."
"Really is it THAT hard to just walk away?" Susan drawled.
"I shouldn't have to!" I declared passionately. "I mean… don't you ever get tired of being treated like a kid?"
"Uh, we are kids?" Edmund guessed.
"Well I wasn't always," I sighed heavily, shaking my head. Back in Narnia, I was treated like an adult—allowed to use my own instincts, allowed to defend my sisters if I wanted without being labeled immature.
"It's been a year," I murmured, sitting down with them again. "How long does He expect us to wait?" Lucy linked her arm through mine sympathetically. She always understood.
"I think it's time to accept that we live here," Susan said, a tone of despair in her own voice. "There's no use pretending any different."
During the pause that followed, I contemplated her words. Did she really think I was only pretending to believe we'd return? I really did believe we were going back, I was just getting impatient. But I'd stopped looking for opportunities. I had long stopped checking wardrobes.
"Oh no," Susan said softly. "Pretend you're talking to me," she said urgently. I looked at where here gaze was directed. A rather pompous, brainy fellow was walking towards us, but he hadn't appeared to be looking at Susan at all.
"We are talking to you," Edmund said dryly.
Susan gave him a look. From the darkness of the tunnel came the sound of a whistle, and a roar of an engine. Within seconds, the train appeared, it's headlight blinding us for a moment before switching off. With a lone cry, the train chugged to a halt. With a screaming hiss, steam was expelled, and the doors opened. We stood, gathered our things, and waited for the rest of the passengers to disembark.
The brainy-looking boy beat us to the door. He turned and looked at Susan, called, "Aren't you coming, Phyllis?"
I glanced at her, confused. Edmund looked puzzled as well. We boarded the train and found seats just as the doors slid close and the huffing began again. Soon, the train was moving quickly into the tunnel.
The brainy boy sat a few seats behind, staring forlornly at the back of Susan's head.
The fight was forgotten—and even the awkward presence of "Phyllis's" admirer wasn't noticed. We became cheerful again. Traveling on the train, all together, seemed like part of the holidays. Almost—but not quite—like an adventure. We talked and laughed, enjoying the time together before we would split apart.
After an hour or more, the awkward boy moved up a seat.
"Oh, Phyllis?" he asked casually. Susan turned around in her seat, but she looked completely uninterested.
"Yes?" she asked.
"Are you and your sister getting off at Wayside Junction?" he asked hopefully. "I mean since, after all, St. Finbars and Hendon House are so close, I mean, that's where I am stopping."
"Us too," Susan said gloomily.
"Is it the noon train?" he asked hopefully.
"Sorry, no," Susan said, brightening. "See we promised Lucy she'd be able to send her very own wireless, so we're going to going to stop in town a moment or two. Then we're walking to the station. I'm taking a later train."
"What time?" the boy asked sadly.
"Don't remember," Susan said shortly, turning around. After staring at her hair, pouting, the boy moved back a few seats again.
"I get to send my own wireless?" Lucy whispered excitedly.
"Apparently," I shook my head, laughing. Susan had this thing about improvising successfully.
Soon, we stopped in Hutch, the small country town. It had one of the last stops of the underground. When we departed the train and went upstairs, the boy waved to Susan, and began to trudge in the direction of Wayside Junction in defeat.
We went to the post and let Lucy spell out her own telegram. I admired the tiny, well-fitted entry, wishing we didn't live in the city. It was very quiet in the town—barely any motorcars. The storefronts had a cottage quality to them.
"Dearest Mum," Lucy narrated. "Arrived safely STOP. We love you STOP." She paused and looked at Susan. "All is well, write soon," Susan concluded, handing over the appropriate change. When they finished, we stepped out into the sun, and breathed deeply. Such nice, clean air out here.
"Shall we walk to the station?" Edmund suggested. "I'm getting kind of hungry."
I checked my pocket watch. "It's after noon. That boy's train would've already come and gone."
"Excellent idea, Ed," Susan declared, taking the lead. We gathered our things where they had been on hold at the underground, borrowed dollies (with instructions to leave them at the junction for the porter to pick up later) and with some difficulty, traversed down the main street with our entire luggage.
When the road turned to gravel and the buildings disappeared slowly, now we passed mills and smiths set sparsely through the countryside, we began to feel the weight of the baggage. Not half a mile out of the town limits, we saw the single box-like slab of cement that served as the platform. A few steps led up to it, a single bench sat upon it, and a wall with half a roof served as a bitty shelter and notice board.
"It's very peaceful," Lucy commented, as we all lugged the suitcases and play boxes up the stairs and let them fall where they may around the bench.
Sighing, the four of us sat down in unison.
It was a very sleepy country. The sun was out, the weather had warmed gracefully, and only the grass remained damp. Birds sang in the trees ruffled by breezes. It was boring, but in a good way.
But inside, we felt our school gloom descending again. We'd all have to leave too soon.
"Ouch!" Lucy cried suddenly. We all looked at her.
"What's up, Lu?" asked Edmund. His face changed to one of shock. "Ow!"
"What on earth," I began to ask, fighting laughter. Something suddenly grabbed my arm and gave a frightful squeeze. It was like being clamped by a vice. "Susan," I snapped, "Let go! What are you doing!" I stared at her. "Where are you dragging me to?"
"I'm not touching you!" Susan cried. I glanced down. Nothing visible was near my arm. "Someone is pulling me!" she added. "Oh, oh, stop it!
I looked back at Ed and Lucy. Their faces were pale white.
"I felt just the same," Edmund added breathlessly. "As if something was trying to drag me along! A most frightful pulling—Ugh, it's beginning again!"
"Me too," added Lucy, beginning to shake off whatever seemed to have hold on her arms. "I can't bear it!"
"Look sharp!" yelled Ed suddenly. "All catch hands and keep together. This is magic – I can tell by the feeling. Quick!"
"Yes!" agreed Susan. "Hold hands!"
I caught her hand tightly in mine, Lucy grasped mine and Edmund's.
"Oh, I do with it would stop," cried Susan.
Suddenly everything around us simply vanished.
The sleepy country platform, the luggage, the wind, the cloudy sky, the sun, the sounds, everything dissolved into trees, blue sky, and a leafy forest floor. In an instant, we stood in a cleft of woods, quite breathless and magic-free. The trees of gray and brown flecked the mild incline, where bushes and ferns trailed about. There were leaves, birds, and—rocks, actually.
It was perfectly horribly ordinary.
We couldn't possibly be anywhere else, but—the plants seemed so dead. Everything was quiet. Where was that magical Narnian air? The air that refreshed your soul and caused fear to evaporate?
Perhaps there were other worlds, and Narnia was long part of our past.
"Oh Peter," Lucy whispered, "Do you think we can possibly have got back to Narnia?"
"It might be anywhere," I said doubtfully. Aslan wasn't exactly an active participant in our lives, why would he bother to give us anything we'd wished for? "I can't see a yard in all these trees. Let's try to get into the open—if there is any open."
Together, we began to trudge through the bramble.
Hey guys! Hope the chapter was lengthy enough to satisfy you! I stayed up till 5:30 in the morning to finish, and then I worked for another 2 hours this afternoon. Haha.
Please favor me by leaving a review! Thankyou!