A/N: This is a little something that started out as something completely different and ended up like this. It was supposed to centre on Lucy finding a Wishing Well in Narnia and wishing that they never had to leave. It became a girl watching Lucy discover a Wishing Well in England and realising that everyone is connected by the desire to go home. I hope it makes sense. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Narnia or the Pevensies. I just give them hope. Nell Cooper and the Wishing Well are mine.
Nell Cooper was a regular at Mr. Flanagan's dry goods shop, walking over every week to do her shopping in the morning, before the crowds flooded the little London square, sweeping the locals up in their hurrying paths. Mr. Flanagan expected her every Tuesday morning, as he had since she had moved to London from the country. Thus he was surprised one spring Tuesday when she did not arrive at the usual time.
Nell had been detained that morning by a visit from her aunt, who was up from the country for a visit, and Nell had been desperate for all the news from home, and had spent the morning sunk deep in longing for the country she had so abruptly left. This, Nell explained to Mr. Flanagan when she came into the shop that afternoon, breathless from fighting the crowds. He smiled at the young woman, and gave her the usual draw of sugar for half price, leaving her enough coins to buy a pastry at the bakery across the square. She thanked him profusely, over and over again, before he shooed her out, saying that he had enough sympathy with a homesick girl to do nothing less.
Breathing in the delicious scent from the warm apple turnover in her hands, Nell made her way to the centre of the square, and perched on the rim of the public well left over from the medieval days before running water. Her bags of groceries balanced precariously on her knees as she savored each bite of her turnover. She loved to sit at the well in order to watch the people passing by. But she thought that was an excuse she had come up with to spend time sitting on the well that looked so like the well back home, the one surrounded by the copse of beech trees that whispered in the wind.
She sighed with homesickness and stood to leave when she saw a small girl tugging her hand out of her elder brother's grasp and running towards her. Nell was confused, sure she had no idea who the girl was, when she realised that the girl was not aiming for her but for the well. She moved to one side, but did not step into the flow of traffic, curious as to why this girl had such interest in a thing most Londoners ignored the very existence of.
"Peter," the girl said excitedly as her brother followed exasperatedly out of the crowds to the peaceful space around the well. "I think it's a wishing well!"
"Oh, Lu, come on!" the brother said, rolling his eyes. "There's no such thing as wishing wells."
"Well, fat lot of faith you have," the girl said, turning to him in a huff. "Of course there's no such thing as wishing wells in England." She put a curious amount of emphasis on the last two words, and Nell was puzzled by the look of sudden understanding that dawned on the boy's face.
"The well just south of the Dancing Lawn, hidden in the copse of beech trees! Everyone said it was Aslan's gift to the beeches, because they so feared water, but also needed it. They said it sprang from the beeches wish for a safe source of water that wouldn't sweep them away in a flood. It was the first Wishing Well."
Nell had no idea who Aslan was, or how beech trees could wish for anything, but she found herself hanging on every word he said. Perhaps it had something to do with the curious feeling that came over her when the boy said the name Aslan. It was almost as if summer had come early, as if she were back home in the country lying on her back in the tall grass. Nell felt more awake and more alive for hearing that name, and there was also a deep sense of longing that hung in the air long after the sound of the name had faded. She saw the feeling reflected in the boy's eyes, and wondered what power this Aslan had, to cause two people so wholly unconnected to feel the same thing at the mere mention of his name.
"But Lucy," the boy said, "the Wishing Well There wouldn't work Here."
"The Wardrobe was Here, and that worked," Lucy said earnestly. Nell could hear the capital letters.
"But that was a link to—to There." Peter stopped himself, as if he had been about to give away a terribly great secret. Nell found herself edging closer to the pair, intrigued.
"What's to say this isn't a link to There?" Lucy asked, tapping a finger on her chin as she thought. "What's to say that if we drop something down this well, it won't come out of the Wishing Well There?"
"Are you saying we could communicate with—everyone there?" There came the hesitation, the pause as he fumbled for the words that would not give away the secret. There was a shining hope in his eyes, and a terrible longing in his voice, as if he wanted to drop down the well himself and see if he would come out There—wherever There was. Nell knew the feeling. She often wondered if her well was at the other end of this one.
"I don't know," Lucy said, the same longing in her voice, coupled with sadness. "I don't think so, though. You know the time differences and everything."
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that." There was a silence, and Nell shifted closer still. The boy looked at her sharply, his hand groping at his side for something that was not there—a sword? Nell smiled slightly at him, showing that she meant no harm. He turned away, but not before she saw the glare fade and tears standing in his eyes.
"Come on, Lu," he said, despair in his voice. "We're not getting back, so we'd best get used to England again."
"You did it again, didn't you?" Lucy looked up from her contemplation of the well. He nodded helplessly, and she took his groping hand gently between hers.
"I don't think I'll ever get used to Rhindon not being there," he said, straining to control what Nell was shocked to recognize as anguish.
"It'll be okay," Lucy said quietly. "I reach for the cordial every time I see someone hurt, and Edmund tries to twist his non-existent signet whenever he's nervous, and Susan still tries to lift her skirts when going up stairs. We've all got stuck with these silly habits that don't make sense in England."
Peter suddenly hugged his sister fiercely. Nell was surprised by the depth of affection betrayed by the pair, and by the fact that they did not notice or care that other people were staring at their sudden display of that affection.
"We'd better get going," he said releasing her and glaring at Nell again. "Mum's going to be wondering what's happened to us. And people are getting curious." Nell said nothing, but turned so that she was not quite so obviously listening to them.
"Wait a moment," Lucy said, and reached behind her to tug one of the bright ribbons from her hair. "You can't leave a Wishing Well without making a wish." She smiled, and stepped up tilting her head to one side, as if deciding what to wish for. She leaned over the edge of the well, and whispered her wish into the deep water below her. Then she dropped her red ribbon in, and watched as it fluttered down and floated on the water until it became saturated and sank.
Peter worked the button at his cuff loose and ripped the threads that held it to his shirt. "Mum won't like that," Lucy said with mock innocence. He shrugged.
"This is more important." He did not pause to think, but whispered his wish quickly, almost urgently, and dropped the button into the depths of the well. He stepped back and grasped his sister's hand. She smiled up at him.
"There," she said. "Now we can go." She smiled at Nell as they stepped away from the well, and when their eyes met, Nell felt almost as if she were sharing a secret with the younger girl. She smiled back and the girl nodded—she had known the whole time that Nell was listening, and had not objected to her knowing about the wishing well that her brother seemed to find part of their secret. Why? As Nell puzzled about his sister, the boy asked, "What did you wish for?"
"I can't tell you!" Nell heard her say indignantly as they were swept into the hurrying crowd. "Then it won't come true!"
Nell sat back down on the edge of the well and thought. The pair was decidedly odd, but there was something so real about them that made her believe every word they had said. She felt as if she knew their Aslan, and had some inkling of a place akin to the place they had only referred to as There—both places were home. She felt as if she had known that this Wishing Well was a link to home, just as the children knew this Wishing Well was a link to their home. Three Wishing Wells in three different places, one connecting the other two by whole-hearted belief in the magic of a wishing well. Nell suddenly understood the little girl's silent communication, suddenly knew the connection and what she had to do.
…Because you can't leave a Wishing Well without making a wish…
Lucy knew homesickness when she saw it, and the girl perched on the edge of the wishing well was homesick. Lucy wondered if the Well could give the girl the same comfort it gave her, the comfort of knowing that maybe there was a similar Well at the other end, at Home, that would hear a wish and work towards making it come true. So she had met the poor girl's eyes and tried to tell her that it was okay to wish, that the Wishing Well was no secret. As Peter pulled her away from the Wishing Well that reminded her so much of the one in Narnia, she glanced behind her to see the girl pulling a faded blue ribbon out of her hair, leaning over the edge and letting the ribbon slide through her fingers. Lucy smiled, hoping that the other girl's wish came true, just as she knew hers would…
Far away in the English countryside, and even farther away in Narnia, two stone wells in the centre of two copses of beech trees gurgled quietly to themselves. On their surfaces floated a red ribbon, a small button, and a faded blue ribbon. The beech trees waved gently in the wind that brought them the whispered words of three wishes that were startlingly the same. But I can't tell you what the three wishes were. Because then they won't come true…
A/N: Let me know what you think of Nell. Writing someone like her is unusual for me, in Narnia fiction. I tend to stay canon, so I don't get opportunities for characters like Nell. I would appreciate a bit of feedback on her. Thanks so much!